Aligning Sales & Services: How We Recalibrated 2 Key Orgs for Greater Success
Salespeople are like martians—literally—marvels from another planet. When I first began working in services at WalkMe, they were so foreign to me that after I met with several account executives, I wondered if we even worked at the same company.
What I soon discovered was that this discongruity was not just the result of my newness. Lack of alignment between sales and services departments in SaaS is, unfortunately, the status quo.
Does this exchange resonate with you?
Services: Joe—you told them we could do what?
Sales: You can do that, right? Well, that’s what the customer is expecting.
Services: We can’t deliver that. It’s beyond our ability in scope, in schedule, and effectively budget now, too. How am I supposed to manage this AND help the client see success?
Sales: Look, the deal is done. It’s on your side of the fence now to get it done.
The above conversation reverberates in almost all companies, especially in the startup world of tech, where the goal is continuous growth.
What keeps companies from aligning Sales and Services?
Upon some introspection, we were able to identify three main pitfalls that contribute to misalignment between these two critical business units. We think all SaaS companies can relate to them.
- Using services as a closing tactic: Salespeople often resort to “tossing” in services or discounting services as a negotiation tactic to get the deal done.
- Not scoping the size of the work: Even the most sophisticated technology has its limits. Overpromising before checking what’s really possible can be detrimental.
- Failing to engage the customer stakeholders responsible for driving implementation: If the customer delivery project team is unprepared for the scope or demands of the implementation, they will be unable to drive a successful roll-out or positive ROI for the client.
After identifying our own areas for improvement at WalkMe, we were able to create a plan for better aligning Sales and Services to ensure the greatest possible success for our customers.
That outcome was a dynamic change in organizational structure and culture of the business, which brings us to the current day where we can reflect on what those changes have manifested in the past year.
The emergence of two new organizations
The biggest change brought upon by our restructuring was the subsequent development of two new organizations in post-sales.
Account Managers: The creation of account managers solidified strategic commercial alignment within the post-sales team as they shifted under the revenue organization.
The account managers now have majority relationship (renewal) responsibility, are partnered with account executives for expansion, and essentially are the driving force for retaining and growing ARR. We brought in outside leadership experience, determined a market segment approach, trusted our people’s knowledge, and invested in development to set our Account Managers up for success.
Emerging Services: The post-sales counterpart became “Services,” a cost-neutral organization where the focus is efficient and quality delivery of onboarding implementations and ongoing services.
The team consists of two critical roles, Digital Adoption Consultants and Solution Engineers, both of which are highly strategic and consultative in delivering value with the product.
Services’ goal is to optimize customer engagement with Services by offering more pillars of value that extend beyond onboarding, including training and enablement, implementation expansion, multi-application rollouts, health scans to optimize build and Quality Assurance for system upgrades and maintenance.
The post-sales team of Account Manager and Services working in tandem has proven to be scalable and agile for our customers, especially in terms of offering a robust digital adoption solution.
How restructuring helped us achieve close alignment between Sales and Services
Typically, change originates from sales, from which the ripple effects flow downstream and force product innovation and delivery because customers demand it. In this case, restructuring post-sales catalyzed a shift in the sales organization, because the change actually helped them craft a stronger narrative.
Because of WalkMe’s diverse capabilities and opportunity of impact within an organization, we realized our customers needed greater guidance on how to create infrastructure to support the tool. Moreover, they wanted to understand the scope of the implementation and ongoing service during the pre-sales cycle.
This created a new opportunity for Services to be part of the conversation earlier in the customer lifecycle and therefore internal alignment became a necessity. Those silos quickly began dissipating as larger deals came in the door and Services’ time-to-value shortened.
To help sustain this positive change, we hired an Engagement Manager Director that bridged the gap between Account Executives and Services. Sales began inviting Services to calls in the pre-proposal phase of the deal cycle and customers gained confidence in our product, methodology, vested interest in delivery, and overall culture of operating as a partnered account team.
How did Sales respond?
Even though bridging this gap and restructuring the pre-sales cycle imposed changes on the Sales organization, they responded positively to the new system.
Prior to the change, account executives had a hard time understanding and positioning the value of services because it was never previously part of their role. Many didn’t fully grasp all of the aspects of the implementation, but our product had evolved and so did our organization. Soon, it became clear that the lack of alignment that kept Sales and Services in disparate organizations wasn’t working for us.
Account Executives were receptive and thankful to have another voice supporting the customer through the journey and instilling confidence with customers that we hope to be partnered with for years to come.
The golden rule to remember? Expectations, expectations, expectations. We incorporated the needs and perspectives of all of our stakeholders, both internal and external, which has helped each role become trusted advisors to one another here at WalkMe, and more importantly, for our customers.
What are the steps for aligning Sales and Services?
Creating alignment between Sales and Services requires each department to take certain steps, sometimes independently and sometimes together. Here are the core steps to know.
1. Understand the challenges of each internal role
Sales has many stakeholders to influence and faces incredibly difficult procurement negotiations. Services is a cost-neutral organization with efficiency and delivery KPIs that depend on early expectation setting. It’s important for leaders and team members from each department to understand how one another functions, and what challenges they face.
2. Help the client understand the full scope of resourcing
In sales, the economic buyer is most critical. Within Services, the client’s project team is most critical. Ask for the project team to meet with services in pre-sales so the client can really understand the full scope of resourcing.
3. Map out the desired outcomes during the discovery phase
Master discovery and prescribe exactly what connotes a desirable outcome for both teams. Services should consult with the Sales team to understand important client dynamics before getting on calls or client visits during the ‘dating’ phase.
4. Create a plan for every scenario
Be confident and communicate all of the known knowns and known unknowns, and have a plan in place with solutions.
5. Keep Services in the know
Does services know what’s coming their way? I love when AEs give me a call and say “Hey Paige, this is coming your way, what do you think? Input or conversations to be had?”
6. Celebrate wins and provide feedback
What worked? What was challenging? What was preventable? How did we manage the impossible?
7. Be friends! You’re on the same team
Once you form a solid relationship between Sales and Services, it’s much easier to be empathetic and crush those deals! The intent is partnered success.
The payoff of greater alignment is worth the hard work
In reflection, the journey to collaboration and alignment is not going to be easy among any cross-functional team within a business. However, the outcome is a harmonious and rewarding relationship that elevates the ultimate goa—client success.