A large company typically has many interactions with its key customers across its sales and service functions over any given period of time, particularly at the high and complex end of its customer base.
If these touch points (i.e. sales and service) with the customer are not proactively ‘joined up’ in terms of service development and account development planning (and execution), then the company is likely to:
- Miss strategic opportunities to sell, up-sell and cross-sell benefits that create greater mutual value over the short, medium and longer term;
- Miss (or even expose itself to) current and potential threats to both its existing business and the opportunity pipeline;
- Cause customer frustration because of repetition or inconsistencies in communications, which can result in a failure to deliver solutions on a ‘right-first-time’ basis.
As the size and complexity of the customer base increases then, of course, so does the number of interactions with each customer and, hence, the risk (and cost) of failure if service and sales development activities are not aligned.
On the positive side, each customer interaction is an opportunity in its own right for developing insights into the threats to, and opportunities for, growing revenue and reducing the cost of sales and service. Customers often trust service people more than they trust sales people because of their underlying motivations. This means that senior decision makers are often more willing to share insight into their future plans with the service function.
If service managers and service development managers are proactively aligned to the sales strategy, they can support and enable the sales function by developing a customer relationship environment that:
- Frees up the sales team’s time by taking a significant proportion of their activities away from fire-fighting;
- Gives the sales team broader and deeper insight into their customer which, in turn, enables them to sell differentiated solutions and gain commitment faster, as well as systematically (and efficiently) up-sell and cross-sell to transform the value (and profitability) of key accounts;
- Is recognised internally for its contribution to growth, instead of being viewed as an expensive cost of failure.
Regardless of customer size, both sales and service should have a joined up plan for transforming the value and efficiency of the customer relationship. Both functions should take a proactive, consultative approach to proposing and implementing improvements, as well as a common methodology that will facilitate and accelerate joint working across the virtual sales and service account teams.
Forward-thinking, large companies are implementing joined up sales and service development programmes which enable their virtual sales and service account teams to develop more effective and efficient processes, as well as the necessary competencies, collective will and ongoing commitment to systematically:
- Share and develop their insight into opportunities for creating value at the decision maker level in key target accounts;
- Gain sponsorship from existing contacts for engagement at a more strategic level;
- Obtain accelerated access to strategic business decision makers and influencers across the business;
- Connect with and tap directly into their world to gain hidden insight into their strategic business goals and their short, medium and long-term priorities;
- Align their own company’s sales and service capabilities directly to the realisation of the customer’s short, medium and long-term business goals;
- Gain agreement to the allocation of customer resources for taking mutual, strategic improvement opportunities forward with urgency (Note: These opportunities should encompass both organic improvements to existing business solutions and the development of brand new service-based solutions);
- Lead the joint (sales and service) business development process proactively and quickly to deliver accelerated results.
By developing and embedding a joined up approach and a common set of skills and behaviours across the virtual sales and service account teams, the teams will collectively achieve a shift towards proactively developing high margin business both inside and outside of their normal touch points that:
- Delivers measured strategic benefits and value ‘right-first-time’;
- Delivers much greater measured return on investment than separate development programmes.
By joining up the sales and service development programmes, a company can create a joined up commercial development and service delivery strategy for each of its major customers. This, in turn, can enable and accelerate ongoing high-margin business development and a lower cost to service.
Written by: Steve Eungblut, Managing Director at Sterling Chase