service and sales conflict

Jared, the salesperson for a mid-sized MSP, had been working on a customer deal for weeks. Finally, it looked like the deal was going to close, but the customer wanted one more service included before she’d sign the contract. Jared agreed to the request without consulting with the service delivery team. Then, when the service delivery team found out what Jared had promised, they went ballistic! Melissa in service delivery accused Jared of selling out the company, Jared replied that he was bringing in money to cover their paychecks. Well, you’ve probably heard this type of conflict before. It’s the age-old service delivery and sales team conflict.

How to Manage the Service and Sales Conflict

Balance the Needs of the Teams

How do you successfully balance the needs of your sales team with your service delivery team? How can you get them working together for the good of the company?

A Lack of Understanding Leads to Service and Sales Team Conflict

Any battle between sales and service is born out of a lack of understanding of what the other team does.

First of all, there shouldn’t be a conflict between sales and service teams. There often is, but there shouldn’t be and here’s why. Both teams are critical to the success of your organization. The two teams can’t really exist without each other. Without sales, there’s no revenue to pay anyone. Without a service team, there’s nothing to sell. Both teams contribute to the success (or otherwise) of your company. So, how do you get them in sync, working together for each other’s benefit?

In my experience, such conflicts usually start because neither side understands what the other really does. They fail to appreciate people on the other team because they really don’t know what the other team is doing.

Here are some solutions:

Try pairing one person from service delivery with one person from sales. Have the service delivery person go on sales calls. Initially, they’ll just observe. Later, however, you can ask them to participate in the call to support the salesperson. Have the salesperson spend time with the service delivery person as customers are supported and as systems are designed and installed.

Encourage, by your example, team members to express appreciation to other team members for even small acts,

Acknowledge what teams and individuals do to make your office a better place to work.

Set aside time at company meetings for teams to present their biggest problems and challenges. Collectively brainstorm possible solutions.

Encourage Public Unity

In all-hands meetings, repeat the importance of speaking with a single voice of the company. That helps avoid operations people hearing the dreaded phrase, “That’s not what my salesperson told me.”, a common source of sales team conflict.

Encourage sales team members and service team members to go to lunch together to help them see each other as humans, not as ogres trying to undermine each other’s work.

Sponsor company outings, selected by team members. Encourage your teams to work together to benefit the community. Furthermore, consider closing your office each quarter for a day of giving to the community. (Be sure to let your team members choose the activities for the day of giving. It shouldn’t come from management or the owners.)

Speak well of people in each group. Emphasize their individual strengths and the value they bring to the company. Remember the wisdom of praise publicly and criticize privately.

Frankly, harmony between teams is a sign of great leadership.

Some people think that service delivery and sales team conflict is natural and inevitable. I disagree. Work to ensure that all team members understand the challenges faced by other team members. Encourage team members to see themselves as support for other team members, celebrate victories in all departments, and encourage a culture of appreciation in your organization.

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