• Bill Leinweber

  • About Bill Leinweber

    Bill Leinweber's mission is to help businesses and organizations grow by combining efficient processes with great customer and employee experience.

    Bill is the Chief Experience Officer & Owner of Landmark Experience LLC, a consultancy, where he loves to help business leaders walk in their customers' shoes and devise memorable and meaningful experiences for both customers, guests, visitors, employees and business partners. After all, have you ever heard of customer loyalty and business growth without GREAT customer experience?

    Bill's 30 year career spans retail and office products distribution operations in both small, family-owned and global mega-businesses. He has managed customer service operations, sales support, customer on-boarding and business intelligence teams while also serving as an internal consultant and subject matter expert. Bill has helped his past employers improve their customer engagement processes and achieve their goals of customer experience excellence and loyalty.

    Bill loves to talk and speak about customer experience as well, so don't be afraid to ask!

    Bill Leinweber
    Landmark Experience

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As a Customer Care Leader, You Must Partner With Sales

In my years in B2B customer care, I’ve seen and heard every cliché about “Sales Reps.”  There’s the, “Oh, those reps will say and do anything to make a sale,” the conversations that begin with, “You promised WHAT to the customer??,” and of course all the high-fiving and self-congratulatory gestures that go along with closing a sale.  However, if your customer care team ducks their heads or tries to hide when they see a sales rep coming, then it may be time for a culture shift.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with my share of “strong personality types” in various sales departments.  The truth is, those qualities that may rub you the wrong way are the same qualities that help sales people to succeed.  Tenacity, perseverance and extraversion serve most sales people well.  Sales Reps get a lot of doors slammed in their faces and have to pick themselves up and knock on the next door.

Winning new business and retaining current customers is how companies grow and remain strong.  In the current economy more than ever, sales is a critical part of your business.  So the incessant focus on sales is legitimate.  If you ask yourself my two guiding principle questions – What is best for the customer?  and What is best for the company? – then, “I must partner with Sales” is one logical answer.  Here are some suggestions on building that partnership.

Get A Seat At the Table

As a customer care leader, intend to be a voice at the sales table, not only to learn about current events and strategies but also to offer your expertise to help the sales organization achieve their goals.  If this type of collaboration is foreign to your culture, suggest a meeting with your sales leader.  Explain that you’d like to form a stronger partnership between customer care and sales.  As a first step, you would like to attend the monthly sales meeting.  It’s not uncommon for customer care to be “left in the dark” about important initiatives so this is your chance to turn on the lights, so to speak, and be better informed.  I’ve never known sales people who weren’t eager to be heard!  They’ll appreciate your interest.

Understand the Sales Targets, Goals and Quotas

It’s important for you to know what’s in the current sales pipeline or funnel.  What critical accounts are your sales reps working to win?  What accounts are at risk of being lost and why?  If your team is dealing with the at-risk accounts, it’s vital that they be informed.  It wouldn’t be far-fetched for a yet-to-be-won client to contact your customer care team just to evaluate the experience.  Having an overall understanding of your company’s sales goals puts you in a better position to Do What Is Best for the Customer and Do What is Best for the Company.

Don’t Keep It To Yourself

Once you get engaged with the sales organization, if you keep what you’ve learned to yourself then you’re not doing anyone any favors.  Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Infuse your team with the sales strategy information and even individual or team sales goals.  Your team members will appreciate being better informed and I bet you may be surprised with the serendipitous collaboration that will occur when you least expect it.  Depending on the size of your organization, encourage your sales counterpart to work with you on team-building exercises.  There are plenty of ideas for activities to mix the sales and customer care teams in ways that are meaningful and fun.  When the defensive walls come down, it’s amazing how open the team members are to their counterpart’s challenges and achievements.

It’s Not Only About Sales

Finally, relationships are give and take, right?  No, no – not you give and they take!  We all have to have “skin in the game” as they say so it can’t ALL be about sales.  Whenever I’m asked to invest my collateral, I ask for something in return.  If there is something your team needs from the sales team to better do their jobs, ask for it from a position of partnership.  Here’s an example.

Ed, a VP of Sales came to me once and wanted his sales team to be able to temporarily bypass our usual customer set-up process.  Our customer management system was very, very flexible in the way in which we could structure customer data.  However, that flexibility made the setup process somewhat complex, requiring the sales reps to fill out numerous online forms.  I asked Ed, “Why do you need a temporary shortcut to the setup process?”  Ed explained that they were planning a “Sales Blitz” and the Reps were going to go out for five days and really pound the pavement trying to win new business.  Of course, I couldn’t resist.  I said, “Ed, don’t we usually just call that Tuesday?”  But I digress.

Ed wanted his reps to be able to phone-in new client set-ups to my Account Implementation Team.  The account could be set up on the spot and the customer able to place orders right away.  From a customer experience and sales perspective, it made a lot of sense.  However, it was a far cry from our standard process and being ISO certified, I had to be cognizant of the impact to our business.  I also knew this.  If I could do for one week what Ed was asking, the logical question was why not do it all the time?  (If I were Ed, that would have been my next question!).

The long story short is that we did come up with a permanent process for phoning in a customer setup.  Of course, a rep couldn’t call and say, “Hey, I just won the IBM account and want to set it up over the phone!”  There were parameters for qualified phone-in customer setups.  The process was approved by our Credit department and documented for ISO purposes.  In exchange for Ed’s request, I asked for the Sales Reps to be “certified” in the process.  They would have to go through training so the Rep would understand what my team needed in order to efficiently and successfully set up the account.  Ed agreed.  It was a marvelous win-win for everyone and we were able to set up mid-market accounts in a fraction of the time.  This accelerated our sales cycle and made raving fans of the sales reps and customers.

Partnering with your Sales Team is a must.  Be sure to both listen as well as be heard.  Good Luck!

3 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bill Leinweber, Gloria Cheung. Gloria Cheung said: RT @BillLeinweber: Collaboration between Customer Care and Sales – How important is it? http://wp.me/pY0fv-3j […]

  2. I liked your story about the sales people getting certified. Pulling in sales people for training is a good trick. Getting them to use the system is even better.

    • Thanks for your feedback and I’m glad you liked the sales team story. I’m cut from an “operations cloth” but am akin to sales folks and love when they succeed so helping sales teams to succeed is always something on my radar. You’re right, it’s usually a challenge to get the commitment to train sales staff and then herding them into a training room and keeping their attention is both an art and a science! However, the rewards are reaped across the entire company by having a better trained, more “operations-aware” sales team. Thanks again for your comments!

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