Software consulting companies face many challenges. One of the most difficult is when friction develops between the software sales team and the implementation team.
Particularly during software implementations, you often end up with division between the team that sold the project vs. the consultants who are actually doing the work and implementing the project. These people are often called implementation consultants, solution consultants or execution consultants.
Most companies incentivize their software sales staff with commissions. While this structure makes sense, it can sometimes lead to software sales teams making promises — or overpromises — to win a deal.
Sometimes, this is good as companies might need to oversell to win business. But where does the friction between the sales and implementation teams come from?
When a sales team drastically overpromises. Then, they sit back and collect their commission while the project gets dumped on the implementation consultants to actually make it work.
Often, it’s the consultants who have to tell the client, “Actually, what those salespeople told you is wrong, and this project will take longer and cost more.” We've seen multiple prior consulting projects where the software sales team sells a project as one thing, and the consulting/implementation team is left having to tell the client it would be $500 - $1M more dollars than they expected.
That’s not a fun conversation to have.
So how can you avoid this friction? How can the sales team confidently do what they need to — without overpromising or promising things that aren’t possible? But also maintain the flexibility they need to say “yes” to customer requirements?
Reducing friction between the sales and implementation teams comes down to your sales team learning how to sell without overpromising and underdelivering. Here are three strategies that can help companies reduce this friction, helping increase their credibility, efficiency and productivity.
First and foremost, sales and implementation both need to be aligned around goals — specifically, company growth. The leaders of both the sales group and implementations group need to align their teams with the organization's overall goal, which could be improving customer success, increasing company revenue, etc.
This conversation extends to how teams are incentivized and compensated. Shifting from the traditional model of sales teams getting their commission upon close of a deal could transform to sales teams getting half of their commission on deal close but the other half doesn’t come until project goes live. This way, sales teams are incentivized to oversell knowing they get a commission once the deal is closed. Companies can also incentivize their implementation staff with bonuses (monetary, extra vacation days, recognition/awards, etc.) once project go-live.
Your company can set these programs to best suit your needs and people. But it all starts with aligning goals.
Next, both sales and implementation need to be aligned with product/service strategy.
Regardless of whether your company offers a product, a service or both, your company should have a long-term strategic vision that guides your product/service. And both sales and implementations need to understand this plan and what it means for new offerings/features. It’s not a salesperson's fault if they oversell when they’ve never seen the product/services roadmap to understand what is in and out of scope.
Similarly, it’s sometimes hard for an implementation team to understand why they’re doing a specific task or project. Your vision/roadmap brings everything and every team together.
Finally, you need people who are empathetic and cross-trained with other team members’ roles. Your sales team needs to understand your offerings in great detail.
Again, whether you offer a product, service or both doesn’t matter. Your sales team needs to understand what you’re offering and what it takes to implement a project. This helps sales teams know how much effort the implementation team will be required to put in from a customer’s request. That way, the sales team can give more accurate sales pitches.
Similarly, your implementation team needs to be able to think of the customer’s use case from a sales point of view.
They need to answer:
These answers help implementation teams understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and where to look for areas of improvement or recommendations about the project.
There you have it. These powerful strategies can help your software sales team keep selling — without overpromising and causing friction with other teams.