When you think of sales, you think of the front end of the customer lifecycle — the stages where your team focuses on prospects, leads, and opportunities. What we often neglect when we think of sales is what happens after deals are closed won.
Renewals, cross-sells, and upsells are just as important to growing businesses as new bookings are. For SaaS companies, renewals are arguably the most important selling that happens, and Sales Operations has a role to play in supporting that effort.
Most companies follow a Seeds, Nets, and Spears sales model to some degree — Marketing casts a wide net and captures as many qualified leads as possible, outbound prospectors and account executives hunt down opportunities, and then customer success teams nurture and grow closed won accounts.
The mistake a lot of companies make is focusing their sales enablement efforts exclusively on improving the nets and spears. The renewal and upsell processes are left ill-defined and hard to follow, which leaves reps bogged down searching for expiration and renewal dates and hassling customers for various pieces of paperwork.
At best, your customers will grudgingly fill out agreements and get them back to you. At worst, the constant hassling will turn them off to your service altogether. Either way, they won’t feel like they’re receiving good customer service, and your company’s reputation suffers as a result.
So what role does Sales Ops play on the back half of the customer lifecycle? What can Sales Ops contribute to facilitate customer retention and ease the upsell and cross-sell process?
1. Minimize Paperwork
Reps in charge of managing customer accounts sink a lot of time into tracking which accounts are up for renewal, and then putting together contracts and getting them back signed and approved. Sales Ops should step in and cut back that work.
Many of the same processes and tools that streamline sales on the front end also have enormous potential at the back end of the sales process.
Electronic contract services like DocuSign and TinderBox go a long way towards streamlining the renewal interaction with the customer, and towards simplifying the process of recording and tracking information about the renewal. Even something as simple as creating alert notifications for when contracts are up for renewal saves reps a lot of time rooting around in the database.
Aside from supplying tools that make it easy to facilitate renewals, Sales Ops also contributes to customer retention efforts by coordinating resources from all the departments involved in drafting and approving contracts — namely sales and finance. By putting a consistent process in place for developing and approving contracts, Sales Ops eliminates a lot of the friction that takes time away from the salesperson supporting and selling customers.
Any tool or process tweak that reduces the effort required to renew contracts contributes to reps’ ability to secure renewals or upsells, because it gives them the time they need to perform the true sales or customer support activities that bring in revenue.
2. Make Selling Easy
The real work sales reps or customer support reps want to be doing is selling to their customers. They do that by understanding how the customer is using your product, identifying the needs of each stakeholder within the organization, and then tailoring their outreach to promote the specific offerings of your product that each stakeholder most benefits from.
Sales Ops helps reps focus their time on this aspect of the job by removing the burden of paperwork, but they can also help by facilitating those three core functions of retaining and developing your customer base.
Performing projects like customer profiling, analyzing product usage data, and organizing and prioritizing account contacts all help reps to access the information they need about specific customers more easily, and subsequently helps them deliver timely, relevant outreach.
The goal of all Sales Operations efforts is to relieve sales reps of duties outside using your product to fulfill customer needs.
Remember, the sales cycle doesn’t end with a closed-won deal. Learn how to arm your reps with the information they need to deliver a compelling message to your customers, and you’ll end up with happier customers and more money in the bank.