March 27, 2023
5 min read
A couple of weeks ago I made an analogy about sales and billiards. But I couldn’t let it go. The correlations just kept spilling out. So here’s a continuation of it.
When the relationships with sellers are strong, support teams can be seen as a valuable gateway to more sales opportunities. In the pool (billiards) analogy, support teams can open up a new kind of shot that couldn’t be done without them.
Think about the role of support teams as another ball in the shot-line. So now instead of a two-ball shot to the pocket, there are three.
Let's say for the sake of example that the support team is now the cue ball, the 5-ball is the seller, the 9-ball is still the customer and the corner pocket is still the sale. So it’s the support team to salesperson, salesperson to the customer, customer to the sale.
It’s a combo-shot.
This gives the seller the potential to make a shot that could not have been made before, but it's a high-precision shot.
Imagine a marketing support specialist helping a sales rep craft a focused email specific to a campaign and customer within the seller's book of business. This could open an opportunity that may not happen if the seller were to craft the email on their own. Marketing (cue ball) helps the seller (5-ball) make a connection with their customer (8-ball) to move them towards the sale (corner pocket).
Having the ability to make a combo-shot can be exciting for both the seller and the support team, but it comes with a major caveat.
Support teams are at least, once removed from the actual customer conversation.
If they are invited to play on the table, it's important to recognize that they are playing a much harder shot. One that requires unforgiving alignment. Being off slightly with the five-ball increases the error on the nine-ball shot dramatically. It multiplies the mistake.
Imagine if that marketing email didn’t highlight a campaign that was relevant to the customer, or if it felt generic or spammy.
That could hurt the perception of the seller to their customer. After all, the email looks like it's coming from the seller. That’s moving the seller further away from the customer on the table making the next shot much more difficult
Remember, the real game is always in the setup for the next shot. Combo shots are risky because if they don’t work, it often leaves a bad setup.
Knowing this, support teams need to invest time in showing, in painstaking detail, exactly how their suggestions match the shots on the seller's table.
Present a use case for a product with an enterprise success story, and a small business seller will reject it - even if the product will work for small businesses too.
If the qualifying questions feel more appropriate for a business development manager than a front-line seller, no one will ask the questions - even if they are great questions.
If the training focuses on c-suite conversations and the sellers just work with IT and procurement, no one will attempt the conversation strategy - even if it would work for an IT manager.
If the materials say “business solutions” but the sellers focus on government - they won’t attach the materials - even if the content is also relevant to government.
It’s very difficult for them to make larger connections; in the same way, it's difficult for customers to imagine possibilities for solutions beyond what is presented.
Any slight misalignment tells the sellers “you don’t know the shots I am making.”
That's why, more often than not, sellers won’t even attempt the advice given to them.
They won’t even attempt it.
Those in supporting roles giving the “advice” need to think strategically and present it in such a way to sellers so that they believe the combo-shot can actually be executed.
How can support teams better understand the table of their sellers?
Of course, asking the sellers themselves is an important first step.
But the intent of the conversation with sellers isn’t as much about learning their business as it is relationship-building.
There are all kinds of support teams vying for sellers’ time and attention, from marketing to vendors to their own sales leaders. Each has its own agenda - which is often conflicting.
Marketing may want sellers to focus on tracking leads to a particular campaign.
Vendors want sellers to push a particular product.
Leaders want metrics lifted which may or may not help a seller's paycheck.
All claim that they are there to help sellers sell more. For that sentiment to be sincere the seller needs to know that their support teams really care about knowing their business. There is no shortcut here, it takes real conversations and 1-on-1 time.