How the Pandemic is Reshaping Sales and Service

Reza Soudagar

The pandemic drove many businesses to quickly realign. Some sales organizations saw their pipelines disappear overnight, so they began to reevaluate processes in an attempt to preserve them. While some businesses had already invested in digital transformation and were in better standing than others, their weaknesses were exposed – and they took a hit. 

It was a common practice pre-pandemic to measure each business area with different KPIs, metrics and compensation models designed to optimize each area of operation. Still, the traditional siloed approach to sales and service created systematic discord that jeopardized customer experience (CX), shadowed cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, lowered renewals, reduced overall account value and made it difficult for sales and service teams to meet or even exceed performance goals. 

Now, as businesses begin to adopt new technologies and solutions to recover and rebound, they must avoid overlooking their biggest asset: their customers. Aligning sales and service teams will better position an organization to engage with customers throughout their journey and achieve mutual success for themselves and their clients. 

Pandemic-Induced Approaches 

Companies should deploy customer-centric business models to deliver outcomes rather than just products. As companies adopt these models, the lines of sales and services begin to blur. Sales resources became more involved in serving customers, while service resources create more value from customer relationships. 

The need for connected systems is crucial, as customers cannot typically differentiate between sales and service interactions – for them it’s all the same. At the onset of COVID-19, single cloud platforms that allowed the integration of CRM solutions and effective analytics offered a light of hope for sales and service representatives that realized customer success depended on how they serviced them rather than just relying on siloed solutions. For example, traditionally, teams have worked off of outdated or incomplete data repositories, which prevented them from having a holistic view of their customers. 

Consequently, the sudden closure of businesses prompted many clients to flood service representatives. To service customers accurately, organizations deployed self-service capabilities and AI-enabled chatbots to reduce the load on their service agents or rather the lack of service agents. They were also able to use analytical and predictive tools to determine which clients or prospects were most at risk and better develop mitigation plans. Finally, organizations leveraged customer insights to rapidly create new offerings, product packages and pricing that were more appealing to their clients and prospects.

Adapting and Shifting with New Processes

With new models and solutions aligned with customer expectations and needs, sales professionals are focusing on high-value activities that directly impact their customers and are using automation and digital channels to move the business forward.  

For example, today they can collaboratively work on a quote for a customer and then use e-commerce platforms for the last mile of booking orders. In other cases, they are actively engaging with the back-office operations team to ensure that the mission-critical products are routed to the right customers on time. Sales professionals are staying fully informed of their accounts’ service requests and issues. This allows them to identify unmet needs that translate into new opportunities or propose new solutions to customers based on their emerging needs.

Often the most damaging aspect of disruption in a sales organization is fear and today teams are approaching uncharted territory with clear communications and sales strategies to bridge sellers’ pay while reducing risk. Sales leaders in conjunction with sales operations and finance are evaluating quotas, incentive compensation plans and sales processes to identify issues and proactively take steps to reassure sellers.

In today's digital-first market, disconnected interactions are signs that a company is not capable of delivering the holistic, "always-on" relationship that customers expect. Companies continue to digitally transform in hopes of becoming industry leaders. However, the siloed internal processes departments continue to use are hindering these essential transformations and impacting customer relationships.

The ability to drive sales growth in the face of disruptions has become a critical competency for sales and service organizations. Companies are expected to create stronger customer relationships and accelerate customer success, loyalty and retention – today and far beyond the pandemic. 

Reza Soudagar is head of product marketing for sales and customer service solutions at SAP Customer Experience. He also is the author of “The Customer Experience Edge.”

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