As the legend goes, early in Google's storied history, the founding team was in a meeting with some of their early investors who asked them how they were planning to make money. The answer seems obvious now, but at the time, it was quite revolutionary. When people search for something, Google could show them ads based on what they were searching for, exactly at the moment they were thinking about it. It was a conversation and a concept that has revolutionized entire industries.
I was privileged to be one of Google's first 700 employees, and heard this story first-hand from the founders. They were committed to the idea that a company could make money without being "evil" about it, and that advertising could indeed be helpful if presented in the right way and at the right time. The AdWords program, and its underlying algorithms, were optimized over time so that the most useful advertisements were promoted to the top of the page. Google prioritized helpfulness over short-term gain, building a fiercely loyal audience, along with the world's most valuable brand, and made billions of dollars along the way.
Unfortunately, salespeople still carry this stigma of being "evil". Well, maybe not "evil", but pushy, sleazy, self-serving and untrustworthy. Recent studies have shown that perceptions are changing for the better, but we still have a long way to go before buyers across the spectrum start to see sales as the helpful, informative professionals we are training them to be.
Services professionals, on the other hand, have largely maintained their status as trusted advisors to the customer. Whether they are in customer support, professional services, field services, or managed services, these professionals are largely considered "problem solvers" and customers are far less defensive in opening up to services professionals about the challenges they are facing, both in the context of the supplier's products and beyond.
So, if the services team is indeed plugged-in and trusted by the customer, why haven't they become a better source of sales leads? After all, TSIA studies have shown that adding a sales motion to an existing services rolegenerates new leads from existing customers at a cost of around 5% of what it takes to generate a lead from a new customer. Leads provided by services people are of fantastic quality as well, converting into qualified opportunities at a rate of around 75%, according to several leading companies within TSIA's extensive membership community. This isn't surprising, given that the leads are taken by people who understand the customer and the product or service being sold, and communicated in the context of helping the customer solve a problem.
The key to making this work is mindset. In TSIA's book, Complexity Avalanche, the authors introduced the idea that “Helping will sell, selling won't help.” Engineers are, by nature, problem solvers, and the solution to a customer's problem may very well involve a new or different use of the company's products. Perhaps they need to update to a newer version of their router or add capacity to their connection. Perhaps they are misusing the product and need better training, or another feature might better address the business outcome they are trying to achieve. In the context of solving the customer's problem, new opportunities generally arise. There's no need to be pushy or aggressive when your goal is simply to help the customer achieve the outcome they were hoping for and receive value from their original purchase.
It's not just about leads and revenue, though. In a recent TSIA Field Services case study called, "Aligning Field Service Productivity Models with Adoption and Consumption," which is available to TSIA Field Services members, our research found that adding a cross-sell/upsell component to Field Services personnel's responsibilities not only had a positive impact on revenue growth and profit margin, but was also tied to a 14% increase in customer satisfaction. This may come across as surprising at first, but remember that satisfied customers are the ones who are getting value out of their investment and having their problems solved.
This concept is called Expand Selling, and TSIA is leading the charge in taking it to the technology industry. TSIA will continue to research and provide insight into best practices into how leading companies can use their services team to drive low-cost, high quality leads and sales for their companies, while still increasing customer satisfaction. TSIA provides best practices on lead-flow and feedback loops, organizational structures, compensation plans and more.
Selling can be done in a way that is helpful and contextual. Google proved this with AdWords, and the concept is every bit as applicable to the B2B market. As long as helping customers remains the number one priority, the natural result will be higher-value transactions and better business outcomes for all.
Post Date: November 3, 2016
Steve Frost is the vice president of expand selling research for TSIA. Throughout his career, he has held various leadership and business development roles at companies like Google, Netscape, and Loudcloud, helping them define their go-to-market strategy and business development tactics. Steve is dedicated to helping technology organizations understand and implement new sales approaches that are both helpful and contextual to their customers, as well as utilize services touchpoints to drive new leads, increase revenue, and provide better customer outcomes.
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