Why Small Businesses Should Align Sales and Support

Anyone who’s ever owned or worked at a small business knows you have to come to work each day expecting the unexpected. When you’re part of a small team, assigned roles and responsibilities sometimes go out the window in favor of doing whatever needs doing at a given moment, all hands on deck style. Even if you work in “Sales” or “Support,” when you do it at a small business, you’re bound to get a taste of most parts of the operation at some point.

That said, there’s a big difference between expecting everyone on staff to pitch in as needed, and thinking strategically about getting the various parts of your business working together regularly. Aligning sales and support is a great place for small businesses to start.

Even — or, perhaps, especially — if your sales and support departments are teams of just one, getting them on the same page and sharing key business data can be a big boon for your entire company.

Sales Informs Support

Start by getting sales and support sharing the same customer data. For starters, the information that comes out of each sale can provide invaluable context for delivering great post-sale support.

Let’s look at an example:

  1. Your retail business offers a 30-day return policy on everything you sell.
  2. A customer buys something from you, and then contacts you a few weeks later requesting a return and refund.
  3. The person fielding that request — your “Support Team” — needs to know when the item was originally purchased.
  4. If it was 30 days ago or less, they can initiate the return and refund process. Otherwise, they can offer other support options.

When sales and support are aligned, this is easy. The relevant customer data (in this case, a receipt, invoice, or another record of sale) is easily accessible to both teams, the support rep can reference it, tell the customer about their options, and move forward. But if your support team can’t find out when the item was originally purchased, things might get complicated in a hurry.

Alignment Makes Awesome Service Easier

Aligning sales and support becomes even more valuable in a more complex scenario, like B2B sales. Imagine a small software startup selling to other businesses — even if the company only sells one product, its customers are going to be installing and running that product under different circumstances:

  1. One customer might be a business with five users all working remotely, on the same network, on the same model laptops, each configured the same way.
  2. Another could be a thirty user operation using a variety of different model computers: Some old and some new, some Mac and some Windows, and so on.

You get the point: Sales are a little more complicated here than at the retail business in our first example.

In order to offer the best customer service possible, everyone in this startup’s support department needs details gathered during the sales cycle. What kinds of computers is the software being installed and run on? What other systems is the customer using, and how might they impact our product’s end-user experience?

Details like this are key when it comes to offering awesome customer service around more complex product offerings. And again, whether your sales and service departments are teams of one or ten, making sure they’re sharing key customer data and otherwise aligned makes a huge difference.

Plan Some Hat Switching

Like we said at the top, everybody working at a small business is going to step out of their normal role from time to time. But what if planned “hat switches” were part of your normal process? Specifically, how might it benefit your entire organization if everybody put the “Support Hat” on every so often, on a regular basis?

At the very least, getting more of your team talking directly to customers is a good thing. Nothing tells you how your products and services are faring in the real world like talking to real customers and prospects. Give your entire team some basic training in customer service best practices, and assign them short, regular shifts working the channels. Follow it up with all-hands check-ins and see what new ideas surface.

Making customer support a regular part of everyone’s job can be transformational. Tales abound of companies who found their next great product, innovation, or strategy by having engineers answer the support phone, or giving the design team a turn answering customer inquiries on social media.

Of course, nobody’s suggesting you take a great employee and thrust them into a new full-time role doing something entirely different. But bringing the designers, engineers, and other specialists who build your products into direct contact with the customers who use those products can spark fantastic ideas. Mixing things up a little from time to time can help make the workplace more fun, too.

Technology That Keeps Teams Talking

Business technology that helps data flow across your company is one of the best and easiest ways to align sales and support. Customer relationship management (CRM) tools help you build better customer relationships by keeping track of important customer-related information, from basic contact information to details about all of their interactions with your sales and support teams.

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