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Sales and Customer Success executives are under pressure to hit their bookings targets, even as the COVID-19 crisis is causing their customers to slow or halt their discretionary spending. They also face the question of how hard to push their customers to make or renew their purchases, wrestling with both economic and human issues. Perhaps the answer lies in one of TSIA’s core beliefs: Helping will sell. Selling won’t help.
In our conversations with TSIA member companies dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, certain best practices are beginning to emerge. This post is the second of a series called “The COVID-19 To-Do List for Revenue Leaders,” and will compile and present some of the top insights from TSIA researchers and members, as they deal with the problems of the moment, and look to emerge stronger on the other side.
At TSIA, “helping will sell, selling won’t help” is more than just a clever phrase. We have argued for years that Sales can be the natural outcome of helping the customer solve their problems. And right now, your customers are having problems the likes of which they’ve never seen before. The first reaction of your Sales, Services, and Customer Success teams should be to empathize and do everything they can to help the customer deal with their current crises.
However, if you do indeed know that a customer needs help, and you have an offering that can help them, then getting them what they need to solve the problem is the correct course of action, even if that means they need to spend more money. If your support cases indicate, for example, that the customer is struggling with capacity, or they have not configured their implementation correctly, then it is NOT inappropriate for you to sell them something that will solve their problem. In fact, it’s the right course of action.
That doesn’t mean it’s time to be opportunistic. And your communications to your customers need to be very, very focused on their interests rather than your own. However, if you have an offering that can truly help the customer address their immediate needs, then it is the correct course of action to make sure the customer knows about it and that you can partner with them to address their challenges. Help the customer, no matter what form of help that may take. You would want them to do the same for you.
Here are three ways you can put “Helping will sell, selling won’t help” into practice:
As TSIA speaks to its member companies through research and interviews, they’ve consistently told us that they are busier than ever. This seems counterintuitive, as much of the global economy has screeched to a halt. However, certain segments of the market are not only still spending, but are desperately in need of help and are looking for not only your offerings, but for your guidance as subject-matter experts in your market segment.
Anyone who is trying to deploy and support remote workplaces is seeing overwhelming demand. Your company’s Sales and Delivery teams who are focused on healthcare and government sectors are likely overwhelmed with requests to increase capacity.
Consider redeploying your sales, customer success, and delivery resources to these critical areas of need, even if it means shelving or postponing existing projects. Your other customers are likely to understand and empathize if you’re focusing your efforts on these critical customers who are helping everyone and on the front lines of the crisis.
As much pressure as this crisis will put on your own business models and infrastructure, it will be even more detrimental to many of your channel partners. Channel partners typically have less cash on hand, and it is critical that they can continue to deliver the value required by both you and your customers during this crisis.
Ensuring channel partners have telemetry into the customers’ adoption progress, support tickets, and renewal schedule is critical to their success in continuing to keep business functioning and keep your channel healthy. XaaS and cloud computing give the technology vendor tremendous insight into what’s happening with the customer, but if this information isn’t shared with the partner, they don’t know what next steps to take with the customer. This is a critical oversight, as they may be the best party to roll up their sleeves and help in a crisis due to their local proximity and familiarity with the customer.
Create an engagement model to regularly and openly communicate with your partners 24/7. Lay the groundwork to establish a regular and sustainable communication cadence with them with an avenue for feedback. Partners will value and invest in the vendors who take the time to engage and communicate with them. Keeping relationships healthy and having an attitude of service toward your channel partners will serve vendors well in the post-crisis world.
At TSIA, we often use the term “touchpoint calculus” to illustrate the fact that your services professionals and Customer Success Managers interact with your customers at a rate 5 to 15 times as often as your sales team. If you’re going to grow revenue efficiently in any XaaS or services environment, you simply have to leverage these interactions to find and package new opportunities with existing customers. In fact, it’s clear that companies who engage basic sales motions with services and customer success grow their customers dramatically faster than those who do not.
During this crisis, your services people will play an even greater role in customer outreach, and will be the first line of communication. They will be able to uncover all kinds of qualified pipeline, if you have the infrastructure in place to help them do it. So, how can services and customer success teams safely help sales without compromising their status as trusted advisors? TSIA offers this primer on “Engaging Services and Customer Success in the Sales Process.”
We understand that our member companies, the technology industry, and the world at large have been impacted by COVID-19. Now, more than ever, we need to work together to get through these challenging times. TSIA is committed to providing visibility as quickly as possible into the changing industry trends and practices that come as a result of COVID-19. Visit our Rapid Research Response Initiative resource page for more information.
If you have any questions related to how COVID-19 is impacting your organization, we’re here to help.
Post Date: April 21, 2020
Steve Frost is the vice president and managing director of revenue research and advisory for TSIA. He also serves as TSIA's vice president of subscription sales research. 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 grow their services, subscription, and XaaS revenue by optimizing their practices for growth throughout the customer lifecycle.
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The Technology & Services Industry Association (TSIA) is dedicated to helping technology and services organizations large and small grow and advance in the technology industry. Find out how you can achieve success, too. Call us at (858) 674-5491 or we can call you.