In talking to businesses that sell to consumers (B2C), a theme that recurs often in conversations with customer service leaders, marketing professionals, and Customer Experience managers is the marginal role of the sales force in the customer relationship. The sentiment is not dissimilar in businesses that sell to other businesses (B2B). Sales people, in the minds of these other departments, are lone wolves, absorbed with quotas, commissions, leads and pipelines. They don’t play well with others, don’t share information outside of their department unless it benefits them, and don’t contribute much in the way of new ideas on how to better serve customers.
There does not appear to be much data readily available to prove or disprove this impression, but we can just look around most businesses and see that there may be something to this. Marketing is not paid against a quota. Customer Service, Technical Support, Logistics, and Billing are not given commissions and quotas. They often are measured against new customers brought into the funnel (marketing), on client/customer retention, customer satisfaction, and Net Promoter scores.
It is a bit ironic, given the perception of the isolation of the sales force, that there is also a strong impression that the term “CRM” primarily relates to selling and the sales process. It may explain some of the negative sentiment attached to “CRM” in many quarters. We’ve tried for a dozen years to explain that CRM is a business process wherein the business/university/government body seeks to do its best to act in such a way that customers have a sense of trust in the organization. Trust in the marketing processes, sales processes, and service processes. Trust in the authenticity and transparency of the institution, product and/or services.
Selling, like the sales force, is anything but irrelevant to the customer relationship. It is an integral component of the brand promise. There is a lot more that can be done to integrate sales teams into the overall customer effort. There is a macabre but funny expression amongst Sales Process consultants that there are three ways to change a sales person’s position/approach: 1) light them on fire [just a metaphor, folks], or 2) show them Nirvana or [if all else fails] A and B together. Some enlightened companies hold back a portion of a quota, bonus or commission until a customer passes through 18 months without defecting. Sales people behave the way they do because they must. Sometimes there are ‘Hunter/Gatherer’ teams where the new account sales people (or hunters) do what they always do, but the ‘gatherer’ team – focused on expanding the reach inside of an account – nurtures the customer.
We have three research analysts writing about sales software, process and methodology, and increasingly their work is shared amongst other parts of the organization like marketing and customer service.
We’d love to hear about your initiatives in blending marketing, sales, and service.