The Relationship Between Sales and Customer Support

Jun 20, 2019

Sales reps and customer support agents actually have much more in common than many may think. They shouldn’t be fully separated apart as two autonomous teams on two separate islands. For any business to achieve its highest levels, sales and customer support should work together in a cohesive existence.

A sales team and support team are similar in that they are both overtly customer facing. Both teams aim to make the customer happy. So, ideally, both sales and support teams work to develop a rapport with their customers to provide them with the best level of support and products to suit their needs. This has actually been proven to increase sales numbers based on the fact that your company will be known for providing exceptional customer service even after the sale.

In today’s digital age, it’s important to know that your customers actively hold the power to control what the internet thinks, good or bad, about your company. Aside from that, as soon as a customer starts to feel like their needs aren’t being met or are not happy with your product or service, they will not hesitate to look for other options.

Therefore, in order to be the most successful, continually provide a higher level of customer interaction, and build meaningful relationships, understanding the common similarities between sales and support can be huge.

“Customer service is the new sales engine.”

Micah Solomon, renowned customer and business author

What is the Sales and Customer Support Relationship?

As a customer support agent, the main goal to complete the job successfully is to solve a customer’s issues as quickly and completely as possible. In addition to that, it is important to aim to build relationships with the customers to show them that their time and business is valuable to you and the company. Similarly, a good sales representative would demonstrate parallel skills in building relationships and providing solutions through the products or services. The key here is that the sales rep builds the foundation of the relationship with the customer, allowing the customer support agent to build upon that throughout the life of that client.

Photograph of a diverse group of people holding hands in a circle
Source: SME South Africa

Clear and Detailed Communication

It is very important for clear and detailed customer notes and communication notes to be maintained on both the sales side and the customer support side. This will ensure that everyone involved always has a complete and clear centralized picture of the customer so that they can provide the most relevant and helpful solutions at any point.

Sales automation platforms and CRMs can help make it very easy and quick to maintain detailed notes for each customer or prospect. Detailed customer notes and record of any communications should be started by the sales agent from the very first interaction. This sets the stage for the entire relationship with the customer. A clear picture of the customer, as well as their needs and expectations, will help ensure that everyone remains on the same page. The last thing you want is unclear expectations that can severely damage a relationship with a loyal customer.

One very important aspect of this clear communication is awareness of any roadblocks along the way so far. If the sales agent encountered any resistance or roadblocks during the sales process, this needs to be shared with the customer support team as soon as possible. These kinds of problems can greatly impact the future relationship between your customer support colleagues and the customer. You don’t want your customer support agents to be caught off guard if something were to come up and an avoidable strained customer relationship start to form.

Illustration of two businessmen shaking hands
Source: The Brooks Group

Sales Involvement After the Sale

Once a sale is made, the sales agent’s role in building and maintaining the customer relationship is not over. To maintain the best relationships, the sales rep should continue to act in a supportive role to the customer support agent and help continue to build the customer relationship.  As a sales rep, being proactive will help reduce the need for customer service to have to deal with future customer problems reactively. It will also help your customer support team by building a complementary touchpoint between your brand and your customer.

It is very important though, that the sales rep focuses on building and maintaining a genuine organic relationship with the customer. One where there are no obvious expectations or motivations for future upsells or cross-sells. The most profitable business relationships are based on mutual understanding, trust, and respect. Upsells and repeat sales will happen more frequently organically based on a solid relationship versus trying to squeeze sales out by faking a connection.

By maintaining a genuine relationship with customers, sales professionals can communicate and better align with their customer support colleagues. This will also allow your company to easily build a loyal tribe of followers and supporters of your brand. Social media will allow your brand to easily communicate and interact with your tribe and motivate them to work for you in increasing brand and product awareness. These customers will spread the word about your product offerings, recommend your company to family and friends, and be more understanding and agreeable when it comes to price increases or product changes.

Social Selling

One of the ways sales professionals start to effectively build solid relationships is by utilizing the strategies of social selling. Commonly done by using social media channels, social selling is a technique whereby salespeople use their existing relationships with customers and build rapport with prospects rather than only using the commonly used cold calling technique. It ends up being a form of referral selling. The social selling technique provides for better sales prospecting and a better lead generation process. It also almost eliminates the need for traditional cold calling. Building and maintaining relationships with your prospects and customers is always easier within the network that both you and your customer trust.

While cold calling is most definitely not dead, it does not lend itself to finding out why the customer needs your product and then tailoring your sales approach to suit that need. Social selling allows you to provide solutions to prospects who are already eager to hear what you have to offer and trust you based on the rapport that you have built already and the network you are in. Then, the customer support agent can work from the foundation that has been built, continuing to show the customer that they are valued.

Illustrations of checklist icons
Source: Salesforce

Anticipate Customer Needs

When companies take the time, both on the sales side and customer service side, to continue to make the customer feel valued they are more aware of customer feedback, concerns, and needs. Being able to anticipate customer needs, with customer support and sales working cohesively, will generate more upsell and cross-sell opportunities than you may have ever imagined. This is often referred to as anticipatory customer service. This results from the combined efforts of alert and empathetic sales reps and customer support agents, along with customer-first designed technology. Anticipatory customer service takes the sales and customer service processes from reactive to proactive. This is an extremely productive way to build a tribe of loyal customers.

If done effectively, the customer support agent will know what the customer may need next even before the customer knows for themselves. They will learn to anticipate, recognize, and respond to the actual needs of the customer. But, this will only happen if a solid foundation for a relationship has been built by the sales agent in the beginning and the customer support agent actively continues to build on this after the sale. Anticipatory customer service can help to continually drive your sales revenues higher.

Illustration of men holding up line graph
Source: Kexino

Wrapping It All Up

So, sales and support teams definitely do have an impact on each other and can benefit from the same relationship building skills with their customers. Ultimately, if sales teams successfully implement several techniques based on customer support to their existing sales process, as the prospect is moved through the sales funnel, won, and ultimately passed on to the support team, support teams can then build on the existing relationship to strengthen it. This will ensure that the customer’s needs are met so that they remain a happy customer. It should be a positive working relationship between sales and customer support.

This in itself will have a direct correlation with customer retention and will also attract new clients through word-of-mouth. In today’s business and sales economy, it is crucial for sales and customer service to work cohesively on their shared mission to acquire and retain customers through better alignment and clear communication. With the same values driving both sales and customer support, the end result will always equal exceptional customer experiences.

When the two teams work together and both believe and share the goals of the company, it will always result in the best outcome. Your company can be confident in knowing it provides quality products or services that provide solutions and exceptional customer service. You’ll see not only increased customer loyalty but also sales revenue.