Every company has to discover the meeting point between customer and product, what customers need, what they expect, and what sales and market strategy drive the best results. Even if you think you've figured it out for one product or target audience, the process could be very different for a different audience or market.
“If [customers] don’t trust you… they’re not buying from you because they want to buy. They’re buying because they have to… The person might buy what you sold them, but they don’t go away feeling good about it,” said Keith Dugdale, founder of I Owe U International and The Business of Trust, at the Strategic Account Management Association Annual Conference a few years ago.
You haven’t been able to put your finger on it, but you know something is off.You feel like your team isn’t making the most of its time and isn’t collaborating well enough. You also see that they consistently fail to reach their sales goals. They tell you that your expectations are too high, and after a while, you start doubting yourself, but you can’t help but wonder if improved account management efficiency could make a difference. At the very least, could it get them closer to the goals you set? We ran the numbers so you won’t have to.
It took you a lot of work, but you managed to secure company buy-in to invest more in your current customers. You’ve shown the c-suite the numbers, and everyone on your team is excited to secure up to 1,300% higher revenue.You work hard on your relationships with your existing customers, you make sure their experience with your company sets competitors way behind, but now it’s time to do good on your word and deliver that great revenue.How do you identify upsell opportunities?
Step 1: Set Upsell Goals
As in anything in business, before you send your team to identify upsell opportunities, figure out your goals.Some companies set monetary goals (as in, we want to grow our revenue by this or that amount this year). Some companies decide on products they want to get into the market more, or new products they want to launch. Other companies choose what type of customers they want to focus on – vertical, company size, geography, or any other metric that matters to you.Either way, make sure you’re not part of these scary stats the Harvard Business Review reported, where almost 50% of senior executives don’t know what their companies priorities’ are, and other team members know even less. To make sure you reach your upsell goals, get everyone in the company working together.Here’s how Rick Haviland, CEO of MarketSource, a company that has generated over $6 billion in sales, sets strategic corporate goals to ensure a holistic cross-organizational growth in the same direction:
Source: SBI TV via YouTube
Step 2: Analyze Revenue Sources and Account Potential
While goals are critical to staying focused, you want to make sure that your upsell strategy is based in reality. You might want to sell the premium subscription version of your marketing automation software, but your target audience might prefer getting more of your “do it for us” service. Or maybe the market segment you’re targeting is already max out on number of seats or services.That’s why it’s recommended to look at what’s brought you most revenue in the years, and how many times your customers have renewed. According to Harvest CFO Consulting, “analyzing sources of revenue can yield a wealth of information, which results in more targeted and more efficient deployment of resources, capital and decision making and, therefore, increased returns on investments in sales and marketing.”Analyze your client pie to find out which is your fastest growing customer segment, and if possible, segment it further to find out which products are making the biggest impact on which market. You’ll see that different upsells could work for different segments. For example, if you know that your account has 100 seats but you have only sold 50, you know there is a chance to double your sales through expansion. Perhaps the 100 seats is growing 20% year-over-year, then you can actually triple the sales over a two-year period.
Step 3: Analyze Customer Data Across Departments
Analyze customer data you already have across departments. See what complaints customer service gets, what tech challenges IT has been asked to improve, what great results customers told your customer success managers about.Use online data, too. Review discussions about your company and products on social media, review interactions with your social media platforms, blog comments, article shares, page views, email open rates, webinar attendance, questions your audience sends your way, etc.Here’s a webinar about online methods to find out what your customers really think:
Source: Mike Gingerich via YouTube
Doing this work will help you discover what customers still need from your company. If you segment your audience and can identify paying customers’ interactions with you, it will make it easier for you to identify upsell opportunities.Something else that could help you is discovering anything you can about client companies – especially any changes going on there, like hiring, firing, getting funding or otherwise expanding, changes in focus, etc. If they’re expanding their marketing team, for example, it might mean their marketing organization is maturing, and they might soon be ready for your premium marketing automation software solution.To find out what’s going on with clients, set Google alerts, so you can know when your top accounts are mentioned across websites, follow companies on LinkedIn, and make sure your customer success managers keep in touch with their top contacts at the client companies.
Step 4: Talk to Your Customers (But Don’t Upsell Yet)
According to Derek Halpern, CEO and founder of Social Triggers, a multi-million dollar company, your effort to communicate with existing customers needs to start right after they buy something from you.Specifically, he believes this communication needs to start with the question “Why did you invest? What’s the one thing you can’t wait to take advantage of?”Halpern explains in the following video that, even though we sometimes think we know every possible reason customers buy from us, “there’s always some weird reason why somebody chose to buy something from you, and when you uncover those weird reasons, it can be worth millions of dollars to your bottom line.”As you can see in the video, Halpern explains how you can leverage this new knowledge to gain new customers.
Source: Derek Halpern via YouTube
… but that’s not the only reason.It’s crucial for your team to understand what every customer is looking to get from the product, because it will impact the customer success metrics you’ll set for them, as we’ll discuss in a bit. When you get to know your customers and know what matters to them, it’ll be easier for you to track their progress and identify upsell opportunities that can actually convert into more sales. That’s much more effective than approaching them with a generic proposal that doesn’t align with their own goals. To make your upsell proposal even more accurate, stay in touch with clients and ask them every so often how’s the product working for them and if there’s anything missing, or anything they’d like help with.According to the Huffington Post, “only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain” and “91% of unhappy customers who are non-complainers simply leave.” If that happens, you’ll lose any opportunity for upsells.Don’t let that happen to you.Proactively reach out to your customers. When they respond, it might turn into an immediate upsell opportunity if you have an additional product that can close a gap for them. But be prepared for it being “only” an opportunity to improve their experience and results with the current product. Customers value companies that improve their experiences, so making the effort now could open upsell opportunities down the road. Remember, this is a long term game.Now, what if you have tens of thousands of customers?You can still talk in person with your key accounts, but if you want to identify upsell opportunities, strive to find ways to communicate with the rest of your customers as well. Pat Flynn, founder of the $1+ million a year Flynndustries (best known for his Smart Passive Income brand), ran a survey that got 5,000 responses. Through the survey, he discovered, for example, that 80% of his audience of entrepreneurs and wantopreneurs earn less than $500/month. That clearly impacts what products he can sell and upsell to most of his audience. But he also discovered which segment of his audience was open to which type of communication, and which types of products – including who would be willing to pay $1,000 for 1 day of in-person mentorship.
Step 5: Define Customer Success Metrics and Benchmarks
Once you know what matters to customers and what they want to achieve with your product or service, make sure they know what success looks like. Then, break overall customer success goals into milestones, to help you see where you can help along the way.Some milestones will mean they’re ready for an upsell. You can approach them and say that this is when most of your customers choose to add this or do that.Other times, if you see customers aren’t reaching their success milestones in a reasonable time, you could check in with them and see how you can help, to ensure their success, so they can reach upsell-worthy milestones. Alternatively, if you have an additional product that can help right away, it might be a proper upsell opportunity.Either way, Greg Johnsen, CMO of GT Nexus, which processes $100 billion a year, told Cornell University that he recommends that companies encourage customers to be the ones that define their success metrics, so they can own them, be proactive about them, and increase chances of reaching them:
Step 6: Ask for the Upsell
Chris Sanderson was once a realtor that needed to show a house to a couple. He wasn’t excited about the house, and couldn’t imagine who would possibly want to buy it. He assumed the couple felt the same way.But then he asked for the sale anyway – and this is what happened:
Source: Chris Sanderson via YouTube
You already have the “no” if you don’t ask. Sometimes, the best way to identify an upsell opportunity is to ask the client for the sale.
Bonus Step: Get Your Team Ready for Growth
Upselling is not just about growing revenue. It often means a greater volume of work for your company, or a higher level of service to premium customers.When you decide to step up your upselling game, analyze your organization, employee availability and skill, and cross-departmental collaboration, to ensure you can serve upcoming customer needs, keep providing stellar customer experiences, and preparing the foundation for your next stage of growth.How do you identify upsell opportunities? Share it with us in the comments.
“I know it alarms a lot of bigger companies. Customer success is viewed as sort of customer support on steroids. It’s viewed as a cost center,” said Jason M. Lemkin, investor and founder champion at SaaStr Fund, at the 2015 Gainsight Pulse conference. Lemkin was previously the co-founder and CEO of EchoSign, and became the VP of Web Business Services at Adobe Systems, after the latter acquired EchoSign.The reason it’s viewed as a cost center? Customer success usually requires a lot of investment up front, and a lot of patience to see results. You’ve got to allocate team members to nurture already-acquired clients, train your employees to collaborate with departments they only meet by the coffee machine, and transform company policies to create a holistic organization that puts long term client needs first.But according to Lemkin, you should evangelize the prioritization of customer success in your company anyway to generate growth. “There’s only one thing that’s guaranteed to work – it’s customer success… because if you make your customers happy, you’ll get more customers,” he said.Of course, to make customers truly happy, you need to make sure every department in your organization is committed to making every stage of your customer lifecycle an outstanding customer experience. Before we expand on that (and share some inspiring and funny videos to help you get the c-suite onboard), let’s talk about what you’ll get out of it.
How Adobe’s EchoSign Got 80% of its Growth Through Successful Account Management
Lemkin’s company started tracking lead sources early on. “Even as early as 4-5 million in revenue, it was clear that 80% of our growth all came from… word of mouth, upgrades, viral,” said Lemkin at the conference. He added that customer lifetime value (meaning, their first 3-5 years with your company) and product upgrades are not sufficient metrics.“You actually have to count the second order revenue [like referrals]. And when you add in that, which could be another 100%... you realize that your customers are worth 6-8-10X the first year ACV… what you’ll realize [is that] … you’re grossly under-investing in customer success. You can’t get any higher ROI,” he said.“Not only is a customer worth 8-10 times his first year ACV, if you help the organization understand this, you realize that customer success is 5 times more important than sales,” he added.Watch Lemkin’s entire presentations, as well as others on the conference’s panel about driving growth with customer success metrics:
Source: Gainsight via YouTube
Why Successful Customer Account Management is an Organization-Wide Effort
According to Lincoln Murphy, principal owner and customer success driven growth strategist at Sixteen Ventures, “customer success is a customer lifecycle initiative.”Therefore, we want you to see account management as a holistic approach. Here, we’ll take you through the various customer lifecycle stages and show you how your company will benefit if you encourage an interdepartmental collaboration.
Step 1: Lead Acquisition
Truly successful account management starts at the acquisition stage. While many salespeople still do their prospecting themselves, a growing amount of companies are transitioning into content marketing and account-based marketing.Content marketing gives you the opportunity to nurture your leads without coming off as too salesy and turning them off. Content builds trust and emotional connections with your target audience, which leads to more satisfied customers who buy more from you down the line.“Aberdeen conducted a study and found that companies that put their primary focus on content marketing increased their website conversion rates by more than 5x… Those who didn’t… saw only a meager conversion rate increase of 0.5%,” reports Neil Patel.Developing content is usually owned by marketing. But a deep understanding of who your customer is and what they need to know in order to be ready to buy from you can only be achieved in collaboration with other departments.For example, sales can bring up objections that keep customers from buying from you. Customer service and the on-site training team can identify the skills and tools clients are lacking in order to get the best results from your product. Account managers can know which clients are getting the best results, and convince them to participate in case studies.As a result, marketing can develop accurate content that actually matters to your target audience, which will help position you as an authority in your field.Doubting the importance of content in your account management and customer success efforts? Watch this documentary from Content Marketing Institute, called “The Story of Content: The Rise of the New Marketing”:
Step 2: Closing the Deal
If your company is like most companies, your sales and marketing collaboration looks something like this:
Source: Lattice Engines via YouTube
But according to a 2016 B2B Sales & Marketing Collaboration Study by the Marketing Advisory Network, “marketers at organizations that exceed revenue goals are 2x as likely to participate in customer and prospects meetings as those that miss revenue goals.”That’s not surprising when you look at Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising study. “Owned (brand-managed) online channels are… among the most trusted advertising formats. In fact, branded websites are the second-most trusted format, with 70% of global respondents saying they completely or somewhat trust these sites. In addition, more than half of respondents (56%) trust emails they signed up for,” reports Nielsen.In comparison, how much do you trust that the telemarketer who just called you has your best interest at heart?According to the Guardian, research from Harvard Business School “reveals that when your brand has credibility, reliability, intimacy and low self-orientation – then you can expect an increase in satisfied customers and improved retention – loyal brand customers who come back for more and tell others about their experience.”Customers who trust you when they make the purchase are less likely to cancel, and more likely to give your company a chance through possible deployment and onboarding challenges. Therefore, trust at the point of sale is critical to successful account management that retains customers long term.Want to increase prospect trust even more?As you move toward closing the deal, introduce prospects not only to marketing team members, but to their designated account manager as well. “For millennia… we trusted people first and the company second,” reports Forbes. Let prospects build trust not only through marketing materials, but by getting to know the person who will be their direct contact in your company.
Step 3: Onboarding
As you know, closing the sale is only the beginning.“About 60% dropped off after the first day of trial” and “a lot of customers churned after their first payment,” shared Asa Nystrom, director of customer success at Buffer, during the 2016 B2B Rocks event in Paris. But combined efforts from marketing, sales, product, growth customer support and free trial onboarding (also called Happiness) teams led them to understand which trial length and plan converted better. Moreover, thanks to this collaboration, they were able to double their prices and increase monthly recurring revenue by 50%.Watch her presentation here:
Source: B2B Rocks via YouTube
Of course, the work starts before you start onboarding or deployment. Salespeople closing the deal need to explain to customers what deployment will look like in order to ensure expectations are realistic. They need to explain how long it will take, and what access to client team members will be needed.Then, you need to train customers on how to make the most of your product. This can be done through on-site account managers, through a knowledge center, or through an e-course that marketing will drip to clients via email.Either way, trainings will be most effective when account managers work together with product managers and engineers, to get the full grasp of the product’s features and capabilities – as well as with the sales and customer support teams. After all, salespeople know what these new customers’ greatest concerns about the product were before purchasing, and customer support reps get data every day on what’s keeping customers from making the most of your product.If you work together with marketing, you’ll be able to position deployment-related content in phrases, terms and a tone of voice customers can relate to and trust.
Step 4: Retention
Now that your customers are happily deployed, your entire organization needs to come together to make sure every account is retained for as long as possible. As we previously reported, “increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits by 25-95%.”As Lemkin told Gainsight CEO Nick Metha before the 2016 Gainsight Pulse conference, an increasing amount of companies are setting “quantitative KPIs [key performance indicators] for customer success that roll up into core goals and KPIs for the company.”Watch Lemkin’s conversation – and singing – with Metha in the following video. You’ll also discover which Game of Thrones character Lemkin thinks would make the best SaaS CEO:
Source: Gainsight via YouTube
To set company KPIs and goals, you need the c-suite and business development team involved. Then, department heads can work backwards to figure out which actions each team needs to take to ensure account retention.Account managers need to check in on customer product usage and progress, and talk to their contacts to see how they can help the customer get unstuck or get better results. At the 2015 Gainsight Pulse conference, Lemkin suggested account managers make 5 on-site visits a month, and encouraged CEOs to make on-site visits at key customers’ companies too. “We never lost a company that I as the CEO visited. Never,” he said.Your product team needs to work with customer support to figure out which milestones or events will trigger which messages, which will help marketing create nurturing content that’s personalized to customer needs and segments.Meanwhile, marketing will keep track on social media comments, review sites and media coverage, to make sure the necessary department has a chance to intervene with high-risk customers before they are lost.And all departments can come together to create a cohesive brand personality that humanizes your company and makes it easier on customers to relate to you emotionally.For Unbounce’s holiday video, that even meant involving the company dogs.
Step 5: Upsells, Cross-Sells & Referrals
If your organization adopts such a holistic approach to account management, customer experience throughout their lifecycle will undoubtedly improve. According to Clarabridge, “maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys” has a direct impact on your bottom line.If you “increase customer satisfaction by 20%, [you] can lift revenue up by 15%, and lower the cost of serving customers by as much as 20%,” reports Clarabridge.One of the ways you can lift revenue up this way is by upgrading and cross-selling to satisfied customers. As we previously reported, you have a 200-1,300% better chance to convert an existing customer over a new customer, and when you do that, you’ll likely generate 33% more from the sale.Another way to lift revenue is to charge more for a better customer experience. Depending on which research you read, 55-86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience, according to Clarabridge.But it’s not just about getting a bigger chunk of your current customers’ budgets. It’s also about inviting their friends to the party.“If you talk to any… company that’s at scale… any of the big ones – Adobe, Intuit, Google, Facebook… Salesforce – you’re going to hear one metric that’s common to all of them, which is they get 80% of their customers from their old customers,” said Lemkin at the 2015 Gainsight Pulse.But for this to be your reality too, you have to have all your departments working together – or you’ll find yourself waking up in cold sweat like this executive:
Source: IBM Watson Marketing via YouTube
Think about it – a referral program alone requires the collaboration of a referral program team with account managers, salespeople, customer support reps and marketing professionals.So never forget…
The Term “Team Members” Has Never Been Truer than in Account Management
Clarabridge also reports that “89% of companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain their customers, vs. 33% of companies with weak omnichannel strategies.” True omnichannel success requires an omni-department strategy across the customer lifecycle. If you want happier customers, that stay longer with your organization and tell their friends to do the same, get department heads together as soon as possible.Together, figure out what each department needs from the others to succeed, and how everyone can work together to create holistic collaborations that give your customers a much better experience, and a much better chance at reaching their goals.What interdepartmental collaborations have worked for your company? What challenges have you seen in creating holistic account management?
I came across an HBR article from 1988 about how to measure productivity of manufacturing plants, and the formula was exactly as expected:Productivity = Units of Output / Units of InputThe simple formula above can directly be translated into revenue, and it's easy to measure (and test) productivity of one plan against another. Fast forward 30 years, the formula still applies (we track LTV as one of the metrics for Customer Success, for example), except we need to account for a lot more "unmeasurable" factors, such as communication overhead, team morale, and customer feedback. For customer-facing teams, it is even harder to measure exact productivity of each individual or teams. After all, we invest money and time into our sales teams and customer service teams, we want to make sure the teams are as productive as possible.In this article, we're going to cover a few ways to increase productivity of customer-facing teams.
Effective Communication Skills
While there are many tools that help reduce communication overhead, such as Slack and ContextSmith, people generally neglect the skill set required to effectively communicate. Think about the last time you had talk to your internet provider's customer support agent. Chances are, it was a frustrating experience because the agent was either confused or tried to upsell you another product, when the very reason you called was to cancel the service.Running effective meetings is a crucial communication skill to acquire as a customer manager. Be able to set clear agendas and keep the team on track is something that even seasoned managers don't do well. Another way to improve communication is through training. For example, learn how to eliminate back and forths by writing clear, concise and complete emails. Learning from experienced sales or account management executives is also a great way to get some quick lessons about how to communicate effectively.
Get Context Around the Customer
What folds in nicely with "effective communication skills" is that having the right context can help the team better support the customers and have more productive conversations around customers' needs. Taking your internet provider example again, the agent can help you more if s/he has information about your subscription plan, tickets, and past conversation with agents. In a B2B setting, all of these apply as well, as your Sales team can upsell better when they know how the onboarding went, number of high-priority tickets, and last conversations with the customers. This is where ContextSmith (and other Customer Success software) shine, because the tool aggregates all customer data, including your email communications with customers, into one place, automatically organized by your customers.
Good Record Keeping
Having your teams track their time and activities is a simple way to see who is optimizing their working hours and who is just putting in time. In professional services, this is standard practice to bill customers on the work done. In sales, tracking the number of outreach, emails, and calls can determine how busy a rep is. The best part about tracking these metrics is that you're able to compare historical vs now, and continuously improve your process to maximize productivity.
Use the Right Tools
Get more done with less. Operational excellence. To maximize output, employees need good tools. They need the right software, the right programs, at the right time and size of the company. However, knowing what tools are necessary and which are just causing distractions can be challenging. My previous Customer Success team used Asana for task management, Evernote for note-taking, SmartSheets for project management, Box for document management, Google Docs for collaboration, Clarizen for timesheets, Zendesk for support tickets, Slack for communication, WebEx for conference calls, Salesforce to interact with sales team, and Target Process to interface internal engineering team. 11+ tools just to manage day-to-day work! Those tool worked for us at early stages, but as the team started growing, people started using less tools and are more focused on a vertical, rather than one-person-does-everything model.
Positive Work Culture
I presented to the board once about a customer going live after 6 months of deployment and onboarding. The board asked a great question: "What did you do to celebrate?" If your answer is "nothing", you need to change it.It's extremely important to have good morale among your customer-facing teams. After all, how can they sell or make customers successful if they're not excited about their own product? A lot of things can effect company morale - bad leadership, layoffs, changes within the working routine, etc. Customer service reps can burn out quickly by working with toxic customers. Imagine dealing with customer complaints all day, oftentimes from people who are rude or even belligerent. This can really cause some havoc on the morale for the team. HBR wrote a great article about how to create a positive work culture.These are some "unmeasurable" ways to increase productivity of your Customer Success, Professional Services and Sales teams. Remember these teams are the fire-fighters and the face of the company, so it is increasingly important to make the best out of their time and move the company forward. Let us know if you have other comments or ideas!
As fifth employee and head of Customer Success in my previous startup, I learned a few tips about growing a company and making customers happy, while keeping everyone's sanity. The story I'm sharing isn't about all the perfect things we did to grow the startup from seed stage to 60+ employee Series B (it was far from perfect); this article focuses on lessons learned from what brought our team to its knees, and how we adjusted our strategy to scale our growth. I will share my experience in a two-part series on how to bend over backwards for customers without breaking your back.
Never work for free
While this seems like a no-brainer to grow business revenue, we were actually giving out free pilots left and right during our early days. As a small startup focusing on growth, we thought about ways to get more customers using our product. While giving out the software for free was great to get product feedback, it was terrible to get customers. Hence, pricing had been something we always talked about even during later stages of the company: Should the pilots be free? Are we charging too much? Can we raise our price during renewal?"Free pilot" seemed like a great idea to lower the barrier for our prospects to try our product risk-free; however, there were strings attached. The obvious disadvantage of free is the fact that we were actually working for free - burning the hard-raised money from our investors. We justified it as an investment and put in a ton of time to make the free pilots successful, in hopes they would convert to real customers. Who doesn't love free product? Assuming the chances of customers buying after the pilot is the same despite free or paid, we were willing make them free in order to lower their barrier of entry to try our product. The result? Total disaster.Looking back and summing up all the free pilots we did, none of them converted. On the contrary, our most successful pilots were all paid ones, and the chances of conversion was much higher as well. The main reason why "free" was terrible for both us and the customer was that we blindly assumed all customers love free products. "Free" basically meant that customers were actually not committed to spend the time and resources to make the pilot successful. "Free" also meant that they didn't perceive our product as something valuable. In fact, it almost felt like they were forced into trying our product, because it was "free anyway". And for us, spending a lot of endless nights at work without much appreciation was a counter-productive effort.
It's okay to ask dumb questions
Building a relationship with customers require open and frequent communication. What may seem like "dumb" questions could potentially be eye-opening. Below are some examples:
- What do you want to get out of our product?
- Can you clarify how you're currently doing [something painful that you're trying to solve]
- Who is the solution for?
These questions may seem "dumb" at first because you know exactly the answers to them, which is why your customers bought your solution in the first place. But no, do not assuming anything until you get clear answers from them.One mistake we made early on during our customer onboarding process was that we did everything for the customers without asking for clarifications or feedback; not that we assumed we knew what the customers wanted, but our thought was that taking up customer's time meant our product wasn't as easy to setup as we pitched it. I remember there were a few occasions which the audience were executives from a specific department. Even though we had a good idea what they'd like to see, the demo actually turned into a completely different conversation about an use case we had never thought of. Lesson learned here was that it was okay to ask for clarification and frequent feedback. Remember that customers want to be successful with their investment, and it goes without saying that delivering a targeted solution is much better than presenting something that the customers don't care about.This customer journey also has the IKEA effect, which states that "consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created." From my experience, all of the customers who invested time and resources helping us help them had been successful. The fact that the customers were willing to spend time and money on the pilot meant that they were serious about building a relationship together.Do these lined up with your experiences? I'd love to hear other stories, and share more about my experience growing the Customer Success team in the previous startup. Stay tuned for part 2!
Every successful project requires a cohesive team effort; however, getting people to work as members of a team is often more difficult than it sounds. Customer-facing teams such as Customer Success and Sales face an even more arduous challenge of collaborating with customers and vendors outside their organization, resulting in miscommunication and huge loss in productivity. Fortunately, advances in technology now make it easier than ever for organizations to build teamwork and bridge inter-organization communications, encouraging people to strive toward a common goal. Here are some ways that modern technology is enhancing team collaboration in businesses both large and small.
Communication that happens outside of your organization, unfortunately, is still mainly through emails. The problems with email is that communications tend to be in silos and its inability to share information easily without spamming the audience. Some smarter CRMs, such as SalesforceIQ, integrates directly with Gmail and shares them across the Sales teams, alleviating the pain of tracking communications with the customers and sharing them within the organization. Some Professional Services Automation and Customer Success tools are also integrating directly with cloud email providers. Accelo has out-of-the-box email integration as a PSA platform, and ContextSmith automatically tracks every email leaving and coming in from an outside organization. As email systems migrates to the cloud, we'll start seeing enterprise software bridging the gap of inter-organizational communications.
Bridging Location Barriers
Getting everyone together to collaborate on a project can be challenging whenever team members are scattered. Thanks to advances in technology, individuals no longer have to meet face to face with customers in order to work together. Video and web conferencing software, such as Google Hangouts make it possible for employees to “meet” regardless of location. Internally, we're using Uber Conference, which is friendlier for customers because it doesn't require any downloads or a Gmail account. The added bonus using a web conferencing software is whenever one person is unexpectedly called away from the office, as he or she can get together remotely with the rest of the group so that progress isn’t stifled. Groups are even free to meet with experts who might be across the country or across the globe in an effort to gather additional information.
File and Document Sharing
Some projects require individuals to perform certain tasks before getting together with the group. It can be difficult for everyone to do his or her part if there is only one set of documents for members to share. Cloud-based computing takes away this obstacle by allowing everyone in the group to access documents and make changes. File sharing software, such as Box, allows individuals (inside and outside your organization) to upload and share documents document and files. The best part about Box is that it tracks every single versions, so if someone accidentally overwrites important documents, those can be recovered. Google Docs is also one of our favorites that we use internally everyday, as it allows teams to edit the same document at the same time.
Enhanced Communications Through Shared Inbox
Good teamwork requires excellent communication between all the members, something that can be especially challenging when each person has a very busy schedule to juggle. Unfortunately, communicating with B2B customers still requires emails. I've personally worked with customers using various different way to centralize all communications, such as Microsoft Sharepoint and SAP JAM, but those require customers to sign up into a new software, which can be challenging if you're working with a large organization.Fortunately, some technology makes it possible to communicate with external customers easily through "shared inbox" concept. FrontApp is one of the newest kid on the block that uses everyone's inbox to build a shared communications platform to help customer support teams. Zendesk Inbox is also a new product that embraces shared inbox, and is suitable for small businesses that doesn't require a full-blown heavyweight Zendesk platform. All of these software claim to make teams more productive, but perhaps the biggest selling point is to be able to scale your customer-facing teams without important information falling through the cracks.
Efficiency and Time Savings
One of the biggest advantages of technology is the fact that it saves time and allows people to work more efficiently. Documents can be edited and uploaded in a fraction of the time it used to take, and research efforts can also be streamlined. Every piece of software that you use everyday automates a small part of an otherwise mundane or error-prone task. Not only do teams gain productivity through efficiency and time savings, I'd even go as far to argue that these tools actually also helps build team morale and team culture, something that is highly valued but unmeasurable.These are just a few of the ways that modern technology enhances teamwork, within and outside of your organization. Generally speaking, the more skilled people are at utilizing technology, the more cohesive they become and the better able they are to overcome obstacles in order to meet their collective goals.
In a world where every information can be tracked as “Big Data”, we are becoming increasingly thirsty for data to make informed decisions to grow our businesses. However, there are times that you feel like you are drowning in the sheer amount of information, especially information that is hard to keep track, such as customer communications via emails and phone. Mining these streams of conversations, however, allows you keep track of not only status of your customers, but also helps your team deliver the right service at the right time. Having clear and easily accessible records that both your sales and services teams helps you deepens your customer relationship, therefore, building a loyal customer base.In many instances, services teams suffer because they have no background information about a customer. They don’t have quick access to customers’ information and history, therefore, services team are usually working with limited information that can deliver slow or inaccurate solution to the customers. This problem exacerbates when the sales team, who may try to do a follow up sale, discovers that the customer isn't satisfied with the quality of customer service they have received. Keeping records for both sales and services teams eliminates the confusion and discontent, making your sales and services teams work together more effectively, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Why Your Sales and Services Teams Need Access to Each Other's Records
While your sales team is responsible for selling the product and your services or Customer Success team is responsible for keeping the customer happy, it's crucial that the two have access to each other's notes and history with the customers. To give a real world example, let's say you’re selling security software and your sales team just won a huge opportunity. The customer has pointed out to the sales team that IT team is hard to work with, so contact the security team instead if deployment becomes an issue. While this information can easily be forwarded to the consultant or CSM, the information actually gets lost when multiple members start joining on the project, or the project gets transitioned to another manager. This type of miscommunication during sales hand-off happens over an over again in organizations. Keeping a system of record can avoid this miscommunication, and empowers everyone in the organization to get context about the history of the customer.
Syncing Emails and Notes
With global customers and working across multiple time zones, communication becomes more and more difficult, especially keeping customers and your cross-functional teams on the same page. Having access to relevant emails and notes between sales and services team eliminates significant communication overhead and productivity when it comes to giving your customers the best experience.Going back to our security software example – instead of a sales hand off, there’s now an opportunity to upsell the customer due to its recent acquisition. The Account Executive goes back to the customer to try and upsell more licenses, only to find out that the acquisition was a hostile take-over, and the acquisition actually hurts the opportunity of the current business due to politics. This is not the right time to upsell – in fact, it’s the best time to give customers more love by offering free services in order to maintain the relationship. This information could have easily been shared with the sales team only if they had access to the email conversations that services teams, who were in the field with the customers everyday, were having with the customers. Furthermore, if there is a system that monitors the emails and pushes an alert to the sales team, such as ContextSmith, that will be the most ideal solution without going through all the noise within the conversations.Having these records that are organized in a relevant manner keeps your sales and services teams working together seamlessly. With records that are available to both teams, the communication overhead can be mostly eliminated. Everyone has the same information from the systems of record, therefore, they are able to make more informed decision in a unified way.