Calvin was beyond frustrated. Six months prior, he had taken a job with a small IT managed service provider. The plan was simple: he was responsible for finding new customers to help the company grow. Things had started off well enough, but then quickly eroded to the point where he barely wanted to come to work in the morning. It wasn’t that his coworkers or colleagues weren’t good people; he had a great affection for each of them. The problem was that his sales efforts were largely wasted by the fact that the technical team simply didn’t have the resources necessary to support the business he was bringing in.
Early on, the new customers had great experiences with the support desk and the network engineers. But then a new customer would sign a contract and there wasn’t enough time in the day to provide the same care and service to older customers. Eventually things got so bad that Calvin would go days without making a single sales call. He didn’t feel like the technical team could support any more customers and he was tired of looking foolish when he promised customers a level of service that he knew the company couldn’t deliver.
Calvin’s situation is far from unique. Salespeople for technical organizations are tasked with making promises and they count on their technical teams to keep those promises. Technical teams support the salesperson as much as possible, but in the end they count on the salesperson to set reasonable expectations with clients, or else every project is destined for failure.
Who is right? Who is wrong? When the customer is upset, does it even matter? The sad reality is that communication between sales teams and technical teams at IT service providers is often lacking at best, and toxic at worst.
The Root of the Problem
Salespeople are paid to bring in new business. Hardware, software, services, project work, licensing, you name it – great salespeople are wired to not just take orders, but also to build relationships so that business increases and never lulls. The capacity to take purchase orders and sign service contracts is limited only by their ambition and activity.
Conversely, technicians, engineers, and administrators can’t create more time in the day. Technical work is detail-oriented and exacting. A salesperson that adds more and more work for the technical team isn’t bringing extra capacity with him. As a result, technical teams work on issues of importance and urgency and no prodding by salespeople or management is going to create a new efficiency.
What This Means to the Customer
By nature, salespeople get into the business of saying “yes.” From promising delivery dates to setting expectations, salespeople know that their business relationships will flourish if they keep customers and clients happy. Salespeople often commit to something that makes the client happy and then try to chart a path to deliver on that commitment. Great technicians are often the exact opposite in their work. Rather than commit to a specific timeline or deliverable, most technicians prefer to do the work first, with the understanding that arriving at the end result is a process that can only be hurried along so much.
These two different dichotomies often place the customer in an unfortunate position. While salespeople and technicians are busy butting heads about deliverables and commitments as compared to the actual capacity for work to be performed, the customer is often left confused or frustrated. Their view is that something was promised and isn’t being delivered. While the salesperson and technician may be blaming each other, the client likely doesn’t care who is at fault; they simply want a resolution.
What’s the Solution?
Simply telling salespeople and technicians to “communicate” better isn’t likely to lead to the desired results for your organization or your customers. More specific planning is required if your technical teams and sales personnel are to start working together to exceed customer expectations. Here are a number of ways to increase communication between technical staff and sales makers in a way that should lead to increased customer satisfaction:
- Share a space. Increasing communication between technicians and salespeople can be as simple as having people in both roles working in the same office and in proximity to each other. Sharing a workspace naturally leads not just to better communication, but also a greater understanding of the work each team is doing.
- Review accounts. Both sales departments and technical staff should be performing regular reviews of accounts. Sales teams discuss upcoming opportunities and forecasts, while technical personnel review tickets and technical issues. Why not combine the two on a regular basis and allow all involved to give each other candid feedback? Doing so will increase the chances that small problems in both departments are fixed long before they become issues.
- Come together. Allowing technicians to avoid customer interaction completely is a mistake. Even if you are only doing so occasionally, there are great benefits to sending members of your technical team out with sales people to visit clients. The client will appreciate being introduced to more of your team while your employees learn – together – about the customer’s perspective on the relationship.
- Empathize and adapt. Obstinance won’t work to your company’s advantage. Technicians and salespeople that refuse to change their ways and be part of the greater team are an anchor that will drag down the entire organization. Solicit regular feedback from your team members in each department to gauge the relationship. It won’t be hard to see if there is tension or frustration between the two departments, which will allow you to address it quickly before problems get out of hand.
Improving the relationship between your sales department and your technical team is a worthy task and vital to your long-term success. Your entire organization is counting on both departments performing at a high standard, but it’s all for naught if they aren’t working well together. Managing technical teams or sales people isn’t just about those individuals, but also about managing their places within the greater organization. To learn how Mosaic NetworX has built a team that works together to succeed, contact us today.