Why (and How) Sales and Customer Service Teams Should Be Aligned

Pipedrive and Helpscout Sales and Customer Service Teams Should Be Aligned.

Let’s talk about something important. Sales and customer service teams are often at odds. And when they are it’s your customer — and ultimately your company — who suffers.

You want sales to trust support and support to trust sales. For that to happen, both teams need to agree that their end goal is the same: a positive customer experience. When sales and customer service teams have a productive, collaborative partnership, they can make exponential gains toward that ultimate shared goal.

Alignment between sales and customer service begins with a fresh perspective on how each team contributes to the customer acquisition and development process, and with developing a process for working with customers across teams.

Why sales and customer service teams struggle to align

One cost of doing business is that sometimes companies need to accelerate their growth to a pace that requires overly aggressive targets for the sales team. The burden falls first on sales reps who want to close quality deals, but when money (and sometimes their job) is on the line, they may take on less qualified opportunities to meet their goals.

The result is an increase in the number of clients who fit like square pegs into round holes — and that burden shifts to the customer service team, who has to break the news to customers that what they’ve been promised isn’t actually possible.

This breeds resentment and resistance — sales avoids looping in support and support avoids passing items to sales. Support blames sales for selling bad deals; sales blames support for customer churn.

Meanwhile, no one is talking about what the customer needs or wants.

The missing ingredient: alignment

Sales and customer service need to look beyond stereotypes and perceptions and overcome bad infrastructure to look at the customer experience as a whole.

It’s critical for both teams to understand where the other’s specialties are required. Sales teams need to acknowledge that customer support knows how to talk to customers, get to the root cause of problems, represent the brand, create documentation, and provide self-service help. Customer support teams need to understand that sales’ role is to get to know customers, learn about their pain and internal processes, help them map out ideal solutions, get others on board with the change, and facilitate transitions.

To provide customers with an exceptional experience, sales and support need to appreciate the value of the other’s role, stay on the same page and assist each other throughout the customer development process. When you have trust, empathy, and the understanding that both teams are working toward a unified goal:

  • Everyone on both teams can have more confident interactions with customers
  • Teams collaborate and share ideas openly
  • The working environment is more amiable
  • Overall company culture improves
  • Customers have a better experience with your product or service

How we promote sales + support alignment at Help Scout

Until recently, our own support and sales teams were a bit siloed — our support team lead reported directly to the CEO, and the sales team (which we classify as “Customer Success” and “Customer Development,” since that’s what sales is about for us) reported to the head of growth.

It became clear that for the future of the business — and to be true to our values — we needed to unify customer support, success and development into one team rowing in the same direction.

Our company’s success is a result of being helpful to, and supportive of, our customers — which is why we’re building a “support-driven growth” model, versus a growth model supported by support.

To achieve support-driven growth, everyone on the growth team, which now includes support, reports into the same dashboard and views the same reports that align to each function of the business and the people who are responsible for that impact. This works because regardless of function, we believe the most important thing is to be helpful to our customers.

When support is under the growth umbrella, they’re fully empowered to have growth-related conversations with customers, and the business can take full advantage of that customer feedback.

Promote cross-team training

Regular cross-team training helps expose team members to the challenges and knowledge of other parts of the company, which results in clearer understanding and communication. Shared experiences are a great way to break down communication barriers.

Is your company training everyone on customer support? If not, consider it. Likewise, your customer support staff should be just as welcome to sit in on sales calls to gain a better understanding of the process.

When each team understands the other’s work, you’ll have more organizational energy to spend where it really counts — helping your customers succeed.

Create a process for working with customers across teams

We’ve created guidelines for support and sales so it’s clear what an effective handoff looks like, and when that handoff should be made. For example, when a paying customer with ten or more users is interested in upgrading to a certain level of service, customer support will pass that conversation along to customer success.

We’ve also outlined some best practices for introducing a customer or prospect to the success team, such as starting with a saved reply that asks a few key questions that are useful to have answered prior to that introduction:

Pipedrive and Helpscout

When these guidelines and expectations are in place, everyone is empowered to work with customers in a natural and seamless way.

Put the customer first

How you work with customers across sales and customer service teams will depend on the company, team dynamic, sales process and topic of questions. But it’s always best to optimize for what’s best for the customer, which typically means whoever can answer most thoroughly and the fastest.

At Help Scout it’s important that teams know what has been answered already, but it doesn’t much matter who answers those questions. What’s important is making sure the teams understand context and history and communicate this with each other.
Both teams need context, and to work in harmony toward the same ultimate goal. At the end of the day, it’s all about the customer.

Help Scout offer

Integrating Help Scout and Pipedrive allows your teams to stay on the same page and respond to customers faster.

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Tim Thyne

Tim Thyne is the Head of Sales & Partnerships at Help Scout. He is focused on providing customers with an enjoyable evaluation and onboarding experience. Follow him on Twitter @TimJThyne