A common mistake I see with clients is their organizational structure, often run through separated departmental silos. For example, 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.
HOW SALES FEEDS OPERATIONS
A. Obviously, without sales there are no operations!
B. 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 have their finger on the pulse of what is going right and, more importantly, what’s going wrong from the client’s perspective. Operations need to leverage that information to nip potential issues in the bud.
HOW OPERATIONS FEEDS SALES
A. The operating team typically has a closer ear to what is going on internally at a company. They pick up on interesting client information that can lead into new opportunities for the sales team. That information needs to be shared with the sales team, such as new budgets, new related projects, new needs of clients, etc.
B. Operations’ expertise often helps the sales team to close sales. So, bringing those real life past-client lessons and experiences of the operations team into sales calls is often what prospective clients look for. This proves your company has the credible team and experience for what the client needs.
WHAT NOT TO DO
A. Operations should never try to make financial decisions, implement renewals, change orders or upsells in a vacuum. Make sure the sales team keeps abreast of the client needs so they can help you 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 beyond the original contract are properly paid.
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
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. 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 and break down internal walls to make sure your departments collaborate with each other for optimal success.
This article was originally published on Red Rocket VC, a consulting and financial advisory firm with expertise in serving the startup, digital and venture community.
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