A common mistake I see with clients is with their organizational structure, often running their businesses with separated departmental silos. As an example, which I will focus on this post, they think it is the sales department's job to sell accounts, and the operations department's job to service accounts, with a clear hand-off once the sale is closed, and very little collaboration between the two. That is a big mistake which I will address below.
HOW SALES FEEDS OPERATIONS
A. Obviously, without sales, there are no operations!
B. What is less obvious is sales can actually help operations resolve issues. Your salesperson typically has a very tight relationship with the client, and can help operations in delivering bad news or guiding a client in operations' desired direction.
C. Sales typically has their finger on the pulse on what is going right, and more importantly, what is going wrong with a client execution, from the client's perspective. Operations needs to leverage those learnings to nip potential issues in the bud.
HOW OPERATIONS FEEDS SALES
A. The operating team typically has a "closer ear to the ground", at what is going on internally at a company. They pick up on interesting client learnings, that can lead into new "land and expand" opportunities for the sales team. Things like learning about new budgets, new related projects, new needs of clients, etc. That information needs to be shared with the sales team.
B. Operations' expertise often helps the sales team to close sales. So, bringing those real life past-client learnings and experiences of the operations team, into a sales call with clients, is often just the thing a prospective client is looking for, to prove your company has the credible team and experience for what they need.
WHAT NOT TO DO
A. Operations should never try to make financial decisions or implement renewals, change orders or upsells in a vacuum. Make sure the sales team is always kept abreast of the client needs, so they can help you best price it and get the most of the opportunity. From this perspective, salespeople are trained to sell, and operating people are trained to fulfill, so don't step on each other's toes.
B. Operations should never give valuable services away for free. Clients are notorious for trying to ask for "more and more" out of a current agreed upon contract, so they don't have to pay for more. But, your sales team should be the "gatekeeper" to make sure any services that are being asked for by the client, beyond the original contract, is being properly paid for.
C. Departments should never point fingers at each other, when things go wrong. Whether a sales person screws up adding the right details in a contract, or the operations teams screws up a deliverable, always remember: you are both on the same team, trying to resolve the situation together.
DOUBLE ACCOUNT COVERAGE
So, given all of the above, it is hopefully clear you need double account coverage on all clients, one person from sales and one person from operations, that are tied to the hip, and in constant discussions with each other, sharing learnings both ways. The additional benefit of this structure is the company is protected with at least one client relationship manager in place, in the event either of the client team members leaves the employment of the company.
So, take out a sledgehammer, break down internal walls, and make sure your departments are collaborating with each other for optimal success.
Be sure to read the companion piece Lesson #197: R&D and Sales Must Be Tied at the Hip (Break Down Silos Part 2).
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