February 2, 2017
Often times when we broach the concept of expand selling to TSIA member companies, the question is asked, “Why can't sales just do this for themselves? After all, upselling and cross-selling are, in fact, selling, and selling is what salespeople do.” Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Regardless of how hesitant they might be to join the revenue-generation party, expand selling initiatives have to be driven by the service delivery teams. In this post, I'll be digging deeper into why this is, beginning with the concept of “relationship equity”.
Sales departments spend millions and millions of dollars every year to train their people to be consultative. The Holy Grail of discovery calls is when a salesperson can somehow convince their prospect to divulge their key challenges and initiatives, such that he or she can tie their company's solution to their problems. Sales training programs like Solution Selling, Sandler, and others teach sales pros to ask probing questions, all in an attempt to establish some semblance of credibility and “discover the pain points.” The most effective salespeople are the ones who are able to get this information from their customers, and we celebrate their victories with high praise and big commission checks. However, most reps struggle to replicate this success.
The fantastic news is that your company is probably already having hundreds of these types of valuable conversations with your best customers. You just have to know where to look for them. Your professional services, managed services, and field services teams are able to credibly ask the questions that your salespeople can't. Having spent hours and hours helping customers solve problems, these services professionals have built up a tremendous amount of relationship equity with your customers, becoming trusted advisors in the process. Customers see them as valuable resources, and are willing to share their initiatives with them in the hopes of receiving valuable advice (that they hopefully don't have to pay for).
Customers trust services with the type of detailed info they wouldn't otherwise tell salespeople.
We would love for customers to have the same types of calls with our sales executives. Frustratingly, they seldom do, but it's not the salesperson's fault. It's human nature for someone to raise their defenses when someone is selling them something. Buyers have become wary of the sales discovery process, and closely guard information they think might be used to put pressure on them later in the sales cycle. Simply put, services professionals can go where salespeople can't.
Buyers have become wary of the sales discovery process, and closely guard information they think might be used to put pressure on them later in the sales cycle.
The challenge to turning these conversations into actionable sales opportunities is twofold. First, you need to encourage your services people to have more of them. Some members of your teams will be perfectly comfortable suggesting new products and services or asking permission for a salesperson to call them, but some won't. Those who are comfortable are a wonderful group with whom to start a formalized pilot program. For those that aren't, here's a way to get started:
Allow your services team members, within their direct hours or as part of their job description, to have an “uptell” conversation with customers, rather than an “upsell” one. Challenge your delivery teams to show the client one additional feature of your product that they aren't using right now, but should be. There's no pressure or salesmanship involved with this, but it's a way to begin to get them comfortable with the types of conversation you'd like them to have. Plus, it builds up even more relationship equity and trust. To provide an example of how well this method can work, one TSIA Expand Selling member company was able to influence over $50 million in new revenue by simply having these “uptell” conversations.
One TSIA Expand Selling member company was able to influence over $50 million in new revenue by simply having these "uptell" conversations.
Next, you need to make sure you document these interactions and get them into the CRM system. Your delivery teams probably already have access to your CRM and are able to input a lead. If not, then don't worry about creating something new. Try to piggyback off of an existing entry point for leads, coordinating with whatever team handles lead qualification at your company. You don't need to put your services pros through any sort of deep sales training for this, or subject them to a forecast review or BANT analysis. Just make sure they answer the basic journalism questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How? After you've had success with the program, you can create a more formal process, but don't get hung up on this and let it prevent you from getting started.
As with any asset, relationship equity must be spent carefully. Remember that the goal of the services delivery team is unchanged: helping customers solve problems and drive the maximum value from their technology investment. Delivery teams are not your inside sales lead generation engine, and they can't be pressured to be so. They need only to be on the lookout for sales opportunities that arise naturally out of the conversations they're already having. Once you have a process in place to document these interactions and make sure you have a plan for sales to follow up, you'll have a new avenue for not only driving revenue, but also driving better outcomes for your customers.
You build relationship equity by helping customers receive the most value from their investment.
I had the privilege of being invited as a guest to share my expertise on relationship equity and how it relates to sales, services, and expand selling on a podcast by ServiceRocket Media called “Helping Sells Radio." In this interview, hosted by Bill Cushard and Sarah E. Brown, I discuss the concepts introduced in this blog in more detail, as well as go over some of the ways sales teams can overcome their top challenges on their journey to becoming trusted advisors. You can listen to the podcast interview here for free. Thank you for having me, Bill and Sarah!
In future blog posts, I'll be sharing more ways to prepare your sales team for effective expand selling, so be sure you're subscribed to the blog so you don't miss a thing.
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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