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What’s creating the sales and services disconnect?

It’s no industry secret that the relationship between sales and services delivery comes with its share of challenges. Sales’ job is to close business and they may make some promises on behalf of services along the way. Services then has to deliver on these promises, often in a reactive mode, scrambling to realign resources and existing projects. That’s just one scenario.

Dealing with professional services opportunities and turning them into successful client engagements is complex. It demands a structured business development approach and smooth information flow between sales and service delivery. This ensures that opportunities are correctly assessed, defined, quoted, staffed, and billed. But before you can create the harmony, you need to find the core issues.  

What are the biggest sources of sales and services dysfunction? As outlined by SPI Research, they most often occur in the following areas: 

Proposals. Professional services organizations often lack clarity around which opportunities to pursue, how to create a winning proposal, or who is ultimately in charge. Ambiguity can lead to procrastination, excessive bid costs, acceptance of egregious terms, and insufficient time, tools, or resources to bring all the pieces together into a compelling value-based proposal. Without reusable proposal components that incorporate best practices and previous experiences, valuable insights into costs and pricing are lost.

Pricing and scoping. In many cases, it’s unclear who has authority for discounting and contract terms. Poorly defined or unknown requirements, weak or non-existent estimating tools, inaccurate understanding of the true cost to serve, vague discounting limits, and inadequate or no pricing or contractual reviews all contribute to mediocre financial results and unacceptable levels of risk. Poorly qualified deals may clog the sales pipeline, divert bid resources from more attractive opportunities, compromise forecasting accuracy, and incur excessive pre-sales costs.

Forecasting and staffing. Many services organizations are deficient in what it takes to move a suspect to a high-probability deal or how the sales forecast is translated into the resource plan. A lack of alignment and trust are exacerbated by incongruent sales booking and services margin goals. Unreliable sales forecasts lead to disconnected sales and resource planning processes and insufficient functional interlock regarding opportunities and required staffing. A lack of integration between sales, staffing, and recruiting results in not enough or too much service delivery capacity.  Nothing is worse for customer satisfaction than winning a piece of work only to discover the required resources are non-existent or unavailable.

Services execution. Omissions and errors in quoting and estimating lead to miss set customer expectations and delivery mistakes. Inconsistent communication between service delivery and sales regarding project status often occurs. No project dashboards, improper planning, and poor execution of scope changes and change orders lead to project overruns, nasty surprises, and unhappy clients.

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The good news, there are strategies and solutions to help you turn dysfunction into healthy practices. Let’s start with business processes.

Defining your business processes
A lack of agreement around key business processes that cross organizational or functional boundaries is at the core of dysfunctional sales and service delivery relationships. Issues are typically the result of contradictory objectives, conflicting data, opposing views of business processes, unknown or misused levels of authority, and ambiguity around decision-making and measurements. The foundation for all high-performing organizations comes from clear business process understanding and ownership tied to congruent goals and measurements and supported by integrated business applications built on the same technology platform. Let’s talk about that platform now.

Integrating CRM and PSA
By integrating customer relationship management (CRM) with professional services automation (PSA) applications, you can dismantle the barriers between sales and services. This connection ensures accurate client and project information flows consistently throughout the client lifecycle. From a visibility standpoint, executives and relevant team members can track information from the initial bid to project completion and invoicing. Sales teams get real-time insights about project status and resource availability to spot opportunities and sell the correct scope. Services teams get the visibility they need by identifying demand during the sale, empowering them to deliver the right people for the right projects at the right time.

In the end, all this helps both management and consultants to ensure high levels of client satisfaction while maintaining acceptable revenue and profit margins.

Added bonus: the integration of PSA and CRM not only helps the sales team comprehend the complete client relationship but also reveals opportunities for selling additional products and services. Sales and services can collaborate to determine whether work should be bid on and at what price to win the opportunity while meeting margin requirements.

Sales wins, services wins, customers win. Goodbye dysfunction.

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