The concept of pre-sales and post-sales teams is dying. It used to be that one group of people focused on obtaining new business and then handed that business to another group of people to maintain it. This method is no longer a successful way to grow a business. Using a collaborative customer journey to emphasize customer outcomes has become the leading way to engage with potential customers, through to a signed deal and all the way to successful renewals.
While Sales teams need to focus on building the pipeline and driving new business, if there is no focus on setting clients up for success, the risk of churn rises. A pivotal relationship to build in order to merge pre- and post-sales concepts together is the one between Support and Sales. There are three stages of the customer journey at which Sales and Support can collaborate to help drive new revenue:
Putting your prospects’ minds at ease goes a long way during the sales process. Prospects are more likely to buy if they know the right people are there to answer their technical questions or solve their problems when they inevitably arise. So why not introduce those people sooner?
You should start by defining Support in a Sales context. Include these details as part of the Sales pitch deck:
In many cases, Support is a differentiator between competitors. Advertise your high customer satisfaction ratings, quick first contact times and other key data points to help show the valuable assistance you provide. A slide like this shows that your company has a culture of supporting customers. It shows off how well you perform and sets an expectation of where and how to contact your team. Support leadership can help with this slide by providing training on support processes, policies, and added benefits such as technical account management. Having a sales team prepared with these details is a great way to help the prospect see more value in your offering.
It is also advantageous to introduce Support sooner. For larger opportunities, this may be an actual introduction, through a phone call or onsite visit or inviting your prospects into a private Slack channel. For smaller opportunities, this could be using Support to help answer technical queries behind the scenes of the sales cycle. Either way, utilizing Support earlier on can remove technical barriers after the sale.
For example, a customer may not be a great fit for the product or stretch the intended use cases too far. Support can help Sales set those expectations correctly given their technical expertise on the product. Having Support input into a request for proposal can also ensure there are fewer initial implementation problems. By adding Support in sooner, the customer is given faith that when something goes wrong with the product, someone will be there to help.
We’ve noticed that prospects that interact with Support are more likely to become customers. Prospects will often reach out via the chat on our site during a free trial with support or product related questions. We’ve built trust and won customers directly in the chat after giving an answer to a tricky support question.
How often has a salesperson called a customer about a renewal or upsell and been greeted angrily because a support ticket or defect has cost the customer time and money? Or how often do you have to channel switch a customer to get them the support they need from another team? You can avoid these awkward, unproductive situations through team collaboration.
Support and Sales need to share common tools or tools that integrate together. For example, Salesforce has both a Support and a Sales product and also a tight integration into Zendesk. Zendesk can integrate into Slack to send messages cross-departmentally and tools like Drift allow quicker, easier transitions during a real-time chat. These tools can send notifications to the appropriate sales rep when critical impacting tickets or defects are opened by their customers. They also can also allow handoffs of support situations that need a salesperson’s review. For example, a license issue may need Support assessment and Sales confirmation to remedy. So while the customer may open a support ticket in Zendesk, the integration to Salesforce can flag a handoff to Sales for action.
Zendesk also recently acquired Base CRM, making the combination of Zendesk and Base a solid option for teams looking to collaborate between Sales and Support.
As an account gets close to renewal, it is also essential that the salesperson has visibility into any potential objections to renewal, or technical reasons why the account hasn’t been successful. Successfully sharing this information helps the salesperson have a more educated conversation with the customer and creates a smooth customer experience with your organization.
Retaining customers is necessary, but to significantly grow your business you need to expand your footprint inside your existing accounts. Do you know how to recognize an upsell? Salespeople have an instinct to listen for important words or phrases when talking to clients. Support representatives aren’t generally trained for that skill. Tickets are opened with questions and closed with resolutions. However, significant information is shared during this process. Teaching Support how to recognize an upsell, and hand that information off to Sales is an effective way to drive revenue.
Start with teaching Support about the Sales process. A one-hour session can give Support a complete overview of how your sales funnel, opportunity assessment and qualification, and deal closing processes work. Discuss the values of your product and how and why a customer uses certain features. This summary will give your Support team clues as to what to listen for. If your Support team is ending tickets with phrases like “I am sorry, that feature is only available on a higher plan” and that information isn’t being passed on to Sales, that is a missed opportunity.
The sales training should encompass how a new opportunity is exposed and actioned and what information has value to Sales and what does not. The Support representative could fill in an opportunity item themselves or flag the information inside the ticketing system to notify the Sales representative. Either way, the information needs to reach the correct person quickly, because timing is important in these discussions.
Ideally, everyone in your organization who speaks with customers needs to understand how to recognize and report an upsell opportunity. Catching prompts for expansion in a timely and consistent manner can help your customers derive more value from the product and raise your bottom line.
The biggest winner when Support and Sales work together in those three stages is your business. With a collaborative mindset, you create a smooth customer journey that makes customers more likely to purchase your solution and continue renewing.
Recognize that Support is no longer a post-sales function. With subscription pricing models, the sales cycle never ends, and even if you are not subscription based, customer service is a significant part of the buying decision. Your organization requires a consistent handoff procedure between Sales and Support. Drive more revenue by building higher confidence in the support offering earlier in the process, having accessible communications, and sharing upsell potentials.
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Service Level Agreements are often legally binding contracts with customers, especially for enterprise software. If an SLA is breached, your organization could lose a customer, be expected to pay large fines or be sued for breach of contract. Just like uptime guarantees, support SLAs are critical for large companies working with VIP customers.