Mastering the sales-to-service handoff

| By: Geoffrey Willison

At Software as-a-Service (SaaS) companies, disjointed communication between sales and service teams can throw a wrench into operations before you know it. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that your teams are working together seamlessly to provide exceptional service and drive operations forward in a way that’s efficient, sustainable, and profitable.

One of the key moments when it’s particularly valuable for your team to work in harmony together is when you’re onboarding new clients. That’s an essential first step in your working relationship, so you want to make sure your team is making a good impression from the start. The good news is, whether you’re a small business or a company with hundreds of employees, there are actionable steps you can take to master the handoff between your sales team and your service team.

Here are some of the pitfalls many technology solutions providers (TSPs) experience in this area, and how your company can avoid them.

Your sales-to-service handoff: common pitfalls and how to avoid them

Across the tech industry, TSPs face no shortage of onboarding challenges that can slow down operations, frustrate teams, and, unfortunately, sometimes redirect clients to other providers. But by recognizing these potential pitfalls and proactively avoiding them, your business can sharpen internal operations—and rise above the competition.

Here are a few mistakes you should be mindful to avoid when it comes to your sales-to-service handoff:

  • Gaps in communication between sales and service. How do you make sure that you don’t drop the ball when onboarding new clients? By making sure that every player involved is communicating with one another. As your sales team hands off a client to your service team, there’s crucial information that they have to share to ensure that the customer’s journey is positive. Make sure that communication channels are in place early on before a deal is signed so that when any handoff occurs, your processes are a well-oiled machine.
  • Discrepancies in what’s being sold, vs. what you can deliver. When businesses are in growth mode, sales teams often find themselves working around the clock selling various services to meet their targets. But it’s crucial that the service team is actually capable of providing clients with what the sales team is promising. To ensure that this is the case, both teams need to communicate with each other and establish what is (and isn’t) within the wheelhouse of the company. By doing this, sales workers will have a better understanding of what it is they’re selling, and service workers will feel like they’re playing a more active role in outlining their own work.
  • Lack of buy-in from important stakeholders. As your business decides what services to deliver, make sure you’re involving the sales team and the service team. You want your sales team to offer input on revenue, profitability, and your targets, but you also need your service team to weigh in on feasibility and capacity. Bottom line: if you’re selling services that are beyond your company’s scope, or that aren’t profitable, your profit margins will suffer—and you could find yourself with dissatisfied employees on both teams. But giving workers the opportunity to weigh in empowers them and increases their interest in the work they do, while avoiding these challenges.
How Intrust IT mastered the sales-to-service handoff

Intrust IT is a managed services provider (MSP) that’s been around for decades. Chad Adams, the Vice President of Operations at Intrust IT, shared how they've mastered their sales-to-service handoff and improved customer experience as a result.

  • Involve both teams in pre-sales meetings. By involving service in the pre-sale process where scope is determined, Intrust IT’s various teams are better able to determine whether each sale is a good fit, as well as what the actual costs of a project will ultimately be. Before sales are finalized, at least two members of the service team verify the agreement: ensuring that they have enough information and capacity to proceed. While this slows down the sales process early on, it saves time in the long run by establishing quality partnerships. Together, the teams determine what a minimum contract should be—and then the sales team knows not to go below it. By communicating proactively, both teams offer each other information that makes for better contracts, stronger deals, and more positive client experiences.
  • Establish solid handoff processes. Intrust IT designates a client success manager (CSM) to each new client as soon as they sign. In the handoff, the salesperson who initiated the customer journey hands the torch to the CSM, who introduces clients to their team, walks them through business models, outlines expectations for the working relationship moving forward, and more. By establishing a point-person in the transition, Intrust IT eliminates many pitfalls that other MSPs encounter related to communication. CSMs are the glue between the MSP and the client, bridging the elements of their working relationship.
  • Use a game plan to stay organized and accountable. By creating and using an Onboarding Gameplan Template, Intrust IT has put their process to paper. With information consolidated in one place—from agreement details to background on the clients’ pain points—the template standardizes the onboarding process while ensuring that every team member has all the information they need to facilitate a productive customer experience. This is just one of many ways that MSPs can establish strong processes.

Whether you’re using a Gameplan template, convening proactive huddles with your sales and service teams, or strengthening your existing processes, there are actionable steps your company can take to avoid the pitfalls that many experience when onboarding new clients.