You’ve heard of the old competition – the Sales team selling services with no concern about the ability of the organisation to deliver. The delivery team gets stuck with an impossible project that they either have to work their butts off to deliver or a customer expectation that they just can’t meet. The problem with this scenario is that it’s a lose-lose all round – the Customer loses because they don’t get what they expected and loses faith in the delivering organisation and the Salesperson loses the ability to sell further services to the same customer. Even when the selling organisation is a one-off transaction based supplier they still lose, because word will get around that the organisation doesn’t deliver on their promise.
Many organisations will tell you that this doesn’t describe them, but I see it time and time again.
This scenario normally occurs because sales quotas and the remuneration of the Salesperson are not linked to job profitability – make that connection and it can help remove the impossible project scenario. Add KPI’s around long-term customer orders and that can help remove the problem with meeting customer’s expectations.
The best solution is to make the Sales team work closely with the Delivery team. I’ve seen organisations where there is a definite adversarial relationship between the Sales and Delivery teams. This is usually because of the “win it and throw it over the fence” mentality of some Salespeople. There needs to be a culture and processes to support the teams working together. Having a Delivery Manager who works well with both teams will help immensely. Having Salespeople act as Account Managers who have to be part of delivery reviews with the customer can also help them take ownership of the promise and the solution.
A common solution is to use pre-sales resources – nominated delivery people who are used by the Sales team to scope and write proposals. The problem is that the pre-sales resource usually drifts into being a part of the sales team, losing their connection (and skills) with Delivery. This can lead to future problems filling this role as other s see what eventually happened to that Pre-sales person. A nice balance is to include different resources over time to help Delivery understand the sales process and gain some ownership of what is being sold.
If you’re selling commodities, you will want to make the Sales team aware of production and delivery processes and issues. One easy connection is to make them follow up with customers to ensure they were happy with the delivered products. Delivery or production staff can be included in customer site visits to experience how customers use and order the organisations products.
If you are selling services or solutions that normally involve some form of project to produce the solution then involving the intended Project Manager and Senior Designer in the bid and scoping process will help get the ownership for when you win the work. One common problem with solution selling is under-scoping the effort required to deliver the project, especially if the scoping is left to the Salesperson. Include the Project Manager and Senior Designer (with a reasonable peer review process) and the scoping is likely to be a whole lot better.
Despite all your best efforts, there can still be a disconnect between customer requirements, the scoped project and the submitted bid. It makes sense to start any project with a “Project Initiation Document” (from PRINCE2) to ensure that everyone is still on the same page when the project commences – better that then finding out at the end of the project!
The bottom line is that Salespeople need to be mindful of delivery issues and work with the delivery team to make sure that what they are selling leads to the long-term profitability of the organisation. Having delivery resources working their butts off all the time or losing customers by setting false expectations is not in anyone’s interest.
Do you use a different mechanism to help your Sales and Delivery teams work well together?
Craig Hansom. 3 November 2009.