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How To Align Sales & Customer Service

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Jason Karaman

Aligning Sales with Service

Several weeks ago, I had the honor to be the guest speaker at the “Great Customer Engagement Goes Beyond Great Service” digital seminar. The main focus of the seminar was to look at the overall customer experience. We discussed how sales & marketing work with customer service to enhance the overall experience. The overall argument was that both departments are important to the entire experience, yet operate very differently from each other. With each department having different functions and goals, how can they work together?

It seems like the goals of each department could not be more different - sales is working towards closing new business, while service is working towards customer satisfaction and assurance. Both departments are very different, but working towards the same overall goal: long-term business success. We established that there absolutely needs to be some collusion between the departments, but the best way of doing it was left somewhat open-ended.

After the seminar, I was thinking about the topic and what the best way would be to truly align the two departments.

Is Alignment Possible?

The first question that I had was whether or not sales and customer service could ever really be aligned. I believe that it certainly can be aligned. As we stated above, the overall goal of both departments is really the same.

After the seminar, I was flipping through the TV and stopped on the sports channel. They were showing a classic College Football game. I realized that a football team is a great analogy for this topic - while the offensive line and the running back both have wildly different tasks and coaches, their overall goal is the same: to score a touchdown. The same principle works here: sales and customer service both have different tasks and different leaders, yet are working for the same goal: business success. In this sense, if the offensive line and the running back can achieve alignment, it’s definitely possible for sales and customer service to do as well.

How to Align the Two

To figure out how to achieve alignment between the two, look no further than the football example from before. 

Educate on your Professional Why

Your professional why represents the meaning behind your company’s existence. Your company does not exist to make money - the professional why is much deeper than that. Often times, you can figure out what your professional why is simply by looking at your company mission statement. This serves as your overall company goal, regardless of what department that you are in. For example, Coca-Cola’s mission statement is “To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions.” In every interaction they have, they want to accomplish those things.

In football, the overall offensive goal is to essentially score a touchdown. Everyone is working towards that goal, regardless of their individual position. It works so well because everybody knows that’s the goal. They have an understanding of their purpose. The same lesson should be applied between sales and customer service. Each department should be educated on the overall goals of the company and what they stand for.

Introductory Cross-Training

While it is true that the offensive line and the running back have different jobs, they have a general understanding of what the other one does too. They might not know the ins-and-outs of every detail, but overall, the running back know the line will block in this direction, and the line knows that the running back will run in the same direction. There is mutual coordination because there is a mutual understanding of what each other does.  In the same breath, if there is a fumble on the play, the offensive line knows to get the ball. If the blocking breaks down, the running back knows to block. If something unexpected happens, they are somewhat cross-trained to respond to the situation the best they can.

Salespeople should be able to help with a customer issue if they are presented with one. Customer service representatives should know how to recover a customer and stop them from leaving. While each one does not have to be an expert at the other, having the knowledge and skills to jump in and save the customer experience will be the most beneficial.

Constant Interaction

While the offensive linemen and the running back each have different coaches and different practice routines, they are still constantly interacting with each other. They are with their teammates, so there is a strong feeling of teamwork. Players will run faster and hit harder because they have people who are depending on them on the team. They don’t want to let the team down. This level of commitment to the team is only possible through each position type constantly interacting as much as possible. If they never saw each other, they could never work together.

Same idea applies here. The ideal scenario is to have sales and customer service in the same area/building. This will hopefully trigger a sense of teamwork and unity. If this is not possible because you are at an international company, virtual meetings and conference calls are a great way to be in constant communication. Communication technology has greatly improved in recent years, so this is definitely achievable.

Mutual Respect

The last thing to do is develop a mutual respect for each department. Offensive linemen know that the game would not be winnable without the running back. Running backs know that the game would also not be winnable without the linemen. There is no level of “that position is unimportant” in the game.

Salespeople and customer service representatives should not look at each other with contempt. They should have a mutual respect and understanding of how important the other is. Without salespeople, there would be no customers to service. Without the service, customer retention would not be possible.

Overall, alignment is definitely achievable between sales and customer service. When alignment occurs, the customer will experience the highest level of satisfaction and will hopefully help us towards the overall goal: long-term, sustained business success.