The newly named Customer Success (CS) function (replacing Inside Sales) has been growing in importance over the past few years. According to a study reported by a Harvard Business Review article, 46% of VPs of Sales reported a move from the field sales model to internal sales model*. Factors influencing this decision were cited as, business performance and profitability; technological advancements; greater acceptance of remote selling and the transition to a more mobile workforce.*
The basic distinction you can make between a CS representative and a Field Sales (FS) representative is that the former usually works from a fixed location that is remote from the customer whereas a FS person adds face-to-face interaction as part of his or her responsibilities.
Given this, I‘d like to talk about what responsibilities the CS representative has and whether the potential exists to expand his/her responsibilities in an effort to make both CS and Field teams more effective in terms of revenue and margin growth.
Having worked in the IT industry for all of my career, I’ve witnessed the evolution from relying completely on FS teams to sharing the “sales” role with a group of people interacting remotely with the customer. Often, the CS person has been given the responsibility of the renewal or recurring revenue component of a deal—basically a maintenance or service opportunity. Anything related to a new product sale has been managed by the FS or a more specialised product sales person - but is this really necessary and is this the best use of your undoubtedly more expensive staff?
Today’s CS teams are often tasked with up-selling and cross-selling adjacent or complementary products, which may or may not be complex. Given they are already selling these products or services, what’s stopping organizations from giving them more scope to sell products?
With the right technology, much of the admin work (e.g. identifying the opportunity, collecting contact info, matching purchase history and usage to a relevant offer, etc) involved in selling a standard product upgrades and refreshes can potentially be automated. Say for example, a product requires a basic refresh or swap out: the details of the new or updated technology with a list of key features and benefits and differences from the last product can easily be communicated over the phone or emailed to the customer. In a straight forward case like this, I would argue that organizations waste their most valuable field sales people just because this opportunity would be labelled as “product”.
This is not to say that CS representatives should ultimately replace FS teams; there will always be a place for them and indeed I would encourage organizations to focus these people on the most strategic, complex, multi-stakeholder, longer sales-cycle deals without the distraction of lower value, simple and straight forward product upgrades and refreshes.
What do you think?