Customer relationships don’t end when deals close. Running a successful sales operation means keeping customers happy for as long as possible after you’ve persuaded them to buy.
This practice is the foundation of sales as a service, which grows profitability by encouraging recommendations and repeat business.
In this article, we explore sales as a service and its benefits for your company. You’ll also learn some best practices for implementing a sales-as-a-service strategy, from creating clear lines of communication to tracking the experience.
What is sales as a service?
Sales as a service is the practice of providing seamless customer experiences by being a trusted expert throughout the customer lifecycle.
Like customer success and account management, it involves a commitment to deliver ongoing service or working closely with an after-sales team to ensure a smooth transition from lead to customer and beyond.
While it’s good practice for any company, sales as a service is particularly effective for B2B sales teams with longer sales cycles and enterprise clients with complex needs. Many of these organizations depend more on recurring revenue than acquisition, so neglecting customer relationships often leads to churn.
Here’s an example of sales as a service in action:
Your software sales team makes communication convenient for a prospect by providing several contact options (e.g., LinkedIn messaging, email, a Slack channel and a direct phone number).
The initial call focuses on getting to the root of the lead’s issues with their current software rather than selling a new tool, establishing a trusting relationship.
Team members store the lead’s details in a customer relationship management (CRM), ensuring other sales representatives can stay up to date.
The sales team tailors their approach to address the lead’s unique needs and closes with a win.
After the sale, a salesperson onboards the new client so they continue working with a familiar person.
The team sets regular meetings to customize the tool to the client’s liking, iron out teething issues and collect feedback.
At a reasonable time, the sales team introduces their referral program and any additional products that may benefit their existing customer.
Alternatively, your business might choose to split sales and post-sale service. In this case, sales professionals can collaborate with the customer service team on new customers. The handover might include their wants, dislikes and preferences to help staff understand how to serve each customer effectively in the early stages.
Companies that use sales as a service like this consider sales to be more than a temporary situation. Instead, they commit to providing exceptional customer service that enhances sales outcomes for the entire customer lifecycle.
3 benefits of uniting sales and customer service
By nurturing customer relationships and optimizing your after-sales service, your business can create a virtuous cycle where excellent customer service leads to increased sales, customer retention and loyalty.
Here are three of the main benefits of implementing sales as a service:
Here they are in more detail.
Sales teams that strive to create an enjoyable customer experience (CX) encourage repeat business and recurring revenue.
According to a Gladly report, 72% of shoppers are willing to spend more with brands that provide a great customer experience. Delivering that outstanding experience requires thoughtful sales tactics and behind-the-scenes collaboration.
For example, customer service representatives (CSRs) can access a vast pool of feedback and insights to make sales aware of which parts of the product or service customers find most helpful.
With this knowledge, sales reps can more accurately pitch the product to different leads according to real-life experiences and uses.
CSRs, account managers and reps who implement sales as a service are also in the privileged positions to ask for reviews and testimonials from happy customers.
In its State of Social & User-Generated Content study, TINT reports that consumers trust authentic, unpaid reviews more than any other type of content. Instead of hoping customers will write them organically, your team can proactively help to encourage new business.
Increased customer loyalty
Customers are more likely to buy multiple times from businesses that consistently treat them well and meet their needs.
According to a NICE report, 95% of consumers say customer service impacts brand loyalty. More specifically, they value ease of access to digital channels, self-service options and professional agents.
You can ensure you control the quality of your service by being proactive with effective sales support, offering help before users request it.
Another PwC survey found human interaction is crucial for loyalty for a third of respondents (rising to more than half for some business types). For many companies, however, human interaction stops when sales reps convert prospects and doesn’t begin again until there’s a problem that support reps need to solve.
Sales as a service flips the priorities of CSRs and your sales team. Instead of cutting down and shortening interactions, it redefines success as having more in-depth conversations.
While sales teams typically only offer introductory deals and upgrades, they can continue to build long-lasting relationships alongside customer support teams and use these conversations to drive more revenue.
Better objection handling
Salespeople naturally come up against and have to overcome multiple objections when trying to entice new customers. For example, a prospect may say there’s not enough budget or requirement for your offering.
In these situations, preparation is vital to convince customers they can trust you and that you’re the right choice – that’s where sales as a service comes in.
Using data analytics software, your CSRs can build up a collection of helpful insights about current customers that will help them address prospects’ apprehension, including:
Features they find most valuable. Your prospect may not have considered certain use cases or benefits your product offers that meet their needs.
Most common pain points. Finding out what customers dislike about your product or service can help you improve it so others won’t have the same issues.
Why they fail to renew. Learning why customers churn can help you suggest better-fit plans and subscription tiers at the prospect stage.
Consistently gathering this knowledge from customer service activities ensures sales teams are better prepared to qualify leads and mitigate objections in the prospect stage.
Here’s how you align these teams to make customers happier.
How to align sales and service to deliver loyalty-inspiring customer experiences
To kickstart your new sales-as-a-service strategy, consider these four best practices.
1. Implement clear lines of communication
A successful sales-as-a-service model begins with establishing clear lines of communication between potentially siloed teams.
Start by getting customer support and sales management teams together for an in-person meeting to find out their current goals, challenges and understanding of customers’ needs.
You’ll likely find a gap in the middle of the customer journey where no one is taking ownership of the experience.
Gaps like this appear because typical business models and sales operations tend to split teams into “pre-sales” and “post-sales” processes.
However, combining these processes streamlines the customer journey – transforming a linear sales experience into an optimized buying cycle with ever-changing insights.
Here are a few ways to unite your support and sales forces to achieve this cycle:
Have face-to-face conversations. Technology is helpful for efficiency, but in-person talks build more genuine connections and trust.
Try cross-training. Swapping roles (under supervision) for a day can help both sides better understand each other’s processes.
Work together on a new onboarding strategy. Use insights from both teams to create an onboarding experience that minimizes friction for new customers and employees.
Share information at different checkpoints. Decide on specific instances (e.g., follow-up calls) where one team will share metrics or insights with the other.
Creating a seamless customer experience begins with blending your sales and service providers at every customer touchpoint. Once you set these up, you’ll find you get more actionable insights that enhance sales outcomes with less effort.
2. Encourage customer feedback
Sales as a service is all about putting the spotlight on your customers.
There’s often inadequate communication and information sharing between sales and customer service. As a result, customers have to repeat their issues to different representatives, meaning solutions and requests can be dropped or forgotten as they get passed around.
One Netomi survey revealed that 65% of consumers have needed to follow up twice or more to get questions resolved. To avoid this potentially damaging scenario, sales and service should strive to ask customers more questions and share the resulting insights in an accessible place, like a CRM tool.
Most companies build customer service and sales goals around efficiency. However, sales as a service is a long-term growth strategy that requires more interaction.
In practice, that means CSRs should be looking to increase the volume and depth of chats (instead of reducing them) to gain valuable insights they can pass on to sales.
The process also applies to salespeople in the early stages, passing on insights about new customers and prospects as they get to know each one.
To encourage this new intersection, it can help to establish new support and sales metrics.
For example, instead of “resolution time”, your service side could focus on “customer satisfaction (CSAT) score”. For your new sales strategy, you may swap “outbound dials” for “customer lifetime value (LTV)”.
Each of these moves the focus of both teams from short-term goals (that may have little impact) to sustainable growth.
3. Perfect your after-sales service
Your after-sales service means the actions you take to follow up with your customers post-purchase.
The aim is to keep buyers engaged and satisfied with the experience your product or service provides. That way, they’ll spend more over a longer period.
For example, your customer success team (a branch of your service business) may send an automated email campaign a few days after new customers have signed up to ask how onboarding is going.
The email might also offer a walkthrough of specific features that sales have indicated would be beneficial.
Even if you’re a new SaaS or startup company, your sales and service teams can bake the elements of a successful after-sales service into your strategy from the get-go.
Here are some tips for new and established businesses:
Go the extra mile with personalized messaging. Show your appreciation with handwritten “thank you” notes when leads convert and continue with special emails or social media messages for birthdays, holidays and anniversaries.
Remedy mistakes quickly and respectfully. When something goes wrong, apologize, get on the case quickly and go above and beyond to make it up to customers to show you truly care.
Reward loyalty with referral programs and discount codes. Offer generous perks and gifts for making repeat purchases and referring new customers.
Provide initial user training. Instantly add value to your product by offering in-depth instructions on how to use it efficiently and convey yourself as a helpful expert in your niche to build your brand’s credibility.
Identify your upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Work with your customer success team to identify key moments in the customer lifecycle when an upgrade or additional subscription would make your service even more valuable.
Even if customers find an issue with your product, a solid customer experience with a quick solution means they’re far more likely to forgive and trust you with future purchases.
4. Track your entire customer experience with a CRM
Using a CRM to store contact data can help your customers feel like they’re speaking to a unified company with its finger on the pulse rather than separate organizations.
According to Adobe research, 70% of customers believe it’s crucial that companies deliver a unified, seamless experience whenever they interact with it.
Make details of buyer interactions available to all reps so that customers don’t need to repeat the same issues or questions multiple times.
To provide these kinds of truly unified customer experiences, you need to centralize your data. Sales technology like Pipedrive’s CRM can help you connect your marketing, sales and support insights to map out every individual customer journey in detail.
Instead of frustrating siloed processes, create one conversation for customers with software that lets you:
Optimize your sales funnel. Keep track of opportunities and follow-up efforts as you track leads through your pipeline in real time.
Define your ideal customer base. Collect audience data and learn who your sales and marketing strategies should target for high-quality sales outcomes.
Build trust, relationships and loyalty. Use your CRM to get to know leads, prospects and customers at different touchpoints (e.g., through purchase history, website activity and support conversations).
Align your teams to achieve bigger goals. A CRM can help your marketing, sales and service teams achieve one overarching goal: improve customer experience to drive revenue.
Reduce time-intensive admin work. Enhance the efficiency of your sales efforts by automating repetitive sales and support tasks (e.g., lead scoring).
Our State of Sales and Marketing 2021/2022 report revealed sales professionals who automate tasks are 16% more likely to hit their targets.
In the chart below, you can see how automating the maintenance of sales and customer data, as well as the analysis of sales activities, helps salespeople hit their quotas.
How often do you hit your regular sales quota?
That’s why a CRM can help your dedicated sales team and support reps achieve more in less time.
Your sales and customer service departments know your customers better than anyone. Combining these well-informed silos can help to optimize processes from lead generation to post-purchase, ultimately increasing revenue.
Invest in a CRM tool that can automate many of these new tasks for you, bring your teams closer together and create a unified customer experience that drives more sales, loyalty and advocacy.