Having had the chance to lead Professional Services teams around the globe, let me tell you the "secret" to make a successful career out of it: partner with all the sales teams your work with!
Far too often, I partnered with or coached Professional Services associates who would not find this approach easy or even natural. If you find it hard to partner with your sales team, please give me five minutes of your time, so I can elaborate why it makes sense. If partnering with sales does not sound natural to you after reading this article, please share your point of view and let me know where the rationale failed!
Understanding the sales mindset
Let me share what I learned from the sales people I worked with.
- Sales salaries (base+compensation) may be structured so the base salaries alone are not enough to keep people around (PayScale). So, the sales team is very motivated to meet and exceed their quota, which means most sales people (the best ones for sure) look for enough opportunities to exceed their quota.
- The vast majority of customers will not buy from a vendor if the customer is experiencing problems with that vendor (Zendesk). Sometimes this is even a pressure practice to have the problem fixed quickly. For the sales person, a customer with a problem is one less customer we can sell to. As a result, the vast majority of sales associates (at any level) avoid selling items which could lead to customer problems.
Professional Services: from risk to value-added
How does your sales team feel about selling Professional Services today? If they see it a risk, they will not sell, unless they are forced to do so! It is just logical, based on the sales mindset, right?
So, whose job is it to remove this risk out of the equation? Well, it is ours, on the Professional Services side! And until we make the sales team comfortable enough and able to explain the value of Professional Services, the job is not done.
To get started, offer to help the sales person sell the value of your contribution as a Professional Services associate (Inc). This is much easier if you:
- Engage early to partner with the sales team during the sales cycle,
- Assist the sales associates in their solution selling effort, and
- Help the customer mitigate project risks.
Once a sales associate experiences the shorter sales cycle, and the higher purchase order value as a result of your consultative sales support, he/she is hooked. Other sales associates will get wind of it, and you better let your manager know that it is time to hire someone to help you!
Help sales teams make their quotas
I was fortunate enough to have been taught this "secret" six months into my first Professional Services assignment. I still live by it and today, and many of my personal friends around the globe are sales associates.
Does it mean I was able to always do everything I was asked by each sales team I ever met? Not at all. But it does mean that I partnered with sales to explore every option for us to win a deal (HBR). And when I reached my limit, I was open and honest with them. I explained our options, shared escalation procedures, and I was there with them when issues were escalated.
All in all, I did my best to help each sales associate meet and exceed their quotas, while advancing my company goals.
I encourage you to give it a try. Feel free to use the comment box below to share your experience and point of view. And please feel free to follow me, if you would like to be automatically notified when I publish new articles.
This work by Marcelo Bernardes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.