The Seven Deadly Sins of Post-Sales Engagement
While we were sitting around talking about content for the blog, especially around the Halloween season, it was easy to get pulled into thoughts of the spooky, ghoulish, and scary. One of the topics that came up was the seven deadly sins. More specifically, we thought it would be interesting to review them in the context of post-sales engagement – or rather – the mistakes folks make after the contract is signed.
So without further ado, here are the Seven Deadly Sins of Post Sales Engagement: what they are and how to correct them,
This kind of starts before the sales, but certainly, it impacts post-sales as well. The promises made to get business don’t match post-sales reality. To put it plainly, it’s what we can call the Fast Food Quandary. You see a delicious Big Mac, you buy one, and when you open that bag at home to eat yours, it looks nothing like the picture.
The corrective action: Keep track of the things that don’t match reality and educate the sales team so there are no surprises in post-sales.
This is something I have seen many folks fall for too. Be it community managers or customer success folks, they are trying to do all the things without asking for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of maturity and strength. You cause more harm trying to get things done because either it won’t be done to your full ability (and hence be sloppy) or you will take so long to get through your list that it can cause frustration and delays.
The corrective action: I found using an agile methodology with Scrums and sprints has been effective at Higher Logic. Essentially you track effort points for tasks in two-week blocks. At first, it was hard to get used to. Eventually, you can gauge your capacity to complete your weekly tasks. Asking for help becomes easier. You can quickly see the tasks you can finish on time and the ones that require asking for help. I can’t recommend it enough.
I don’t think this is done with malice, but some companies make success hard because they nickel and dime the customers and prevent their success. What do I mean by that? One time I bought some email marketing software, and I spent over 80K on the solution. When I wanted to track the link clicks with Google Analytics (which is free to use), I was told I would have to pay another 8K to do so.
I’ve also had this happen with pay-as-you-go service credits, being used up on issues caused by the vendor that should not have been used up.
The corrective action: Look at the offers and packages to realistically ensure customers have what they need for success. Don’t have gotchas. Also, be mindful when pay-as-you-go service credits get used. People will remember “greedy” companies and avoid them – and they likely end up going out of business, like that email marketing company in the example above.
We’ve done much research on feedback and the importance of responding. Especially in community building and support communities, there is a level of speed people expect for a response. Generally, most communities have a 24/48 hour rule (during business hours) to ensure someone gets a response. Also, we found with most product ideas, people expect feedback from the company within a business quarter. People will not stand for is slow or no responses. Even folks considering your brand will take note of this. If your post-sales engagement is slow to answer questions and feedback, your customer retention is likely a very low number.
The corrective action: Have a written standard or SLA (Service Level Agreement) with clear ownership or response and escalation. Don’t let things sit in your support or CSM inbox site for days because of a lack of process or clear procedures for simple things, such as not having out-of-office coverage or a clear path for assistance when answers are taking too long for a customer.
Nobody likes to get bad reviews or horrible feedback. The more immature organizations will remove, ban, and respond angrily to negativity. In the community, they will want to moderate every comment for fear of something nasty sneaking through.
It’s easy to let one negative comment ruin your day, but you must learn to let the anger and feelings of seeking revenge dissipate. You can’t make everyone happy, and the world is unfortunately full of people who are easily irritated, angry or upset despite your best efforts.
The corrective action: We know from our research that a significant portion of your potential customers look at how you deal with negativity. They are also suspicious when there is no negative. Let the negative happen respectfully – it’s one of the reasons community guidelines are so important. Your focus should be on creating a playbook for handling negative comments or feedback. Who responds, how they react and what the escalation procedure should be? It’s best to plan for things like this before a crisis.
Sadly, this one is more common than you’d think. People in a company spend too much time worrying about what the competition does, pre- and even post-sales. It can be easy to get into a fit of envy about what others are doing with their post-sales engagement. Usually, this envious reaction leads some companies to copy their competitors wholesale – without their own unique twist.
The corrective action: Each company is unique and has its own DNA – and while knowing what competitors do is important, you and your company should focus on the best version of your own authentic brand. I am not suggesting you ignore what competitors do, so much as don’t copy – bring your own culture to whatever post-sales engagement should look like and align it with your company’s values.
It’s easy to be complacent and believe you and your company is perfect and has no room for improvement. I’ve sadly seen organizations whose motto is that old saying: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If the NPS score is acceptable, the churn rate is reasonable, and all things seem to be okay – the thought is they have hit perfection.
The corrective action: The most significant mistake for post-sales engagement is leaning hard on lagging indicators, so you miss when things are going south and it’s too late. Please consider looking at leading indicators such as satisfaction with onboarding, product and adoption usage after onboarding. Also, I would challenge you if you think there is no room for improvement; this is precisely when you suffer from pride and need to look closer.
Did you see your company represented in these seven deadly post-engagement sins? Sometimes it could even be more than once. Don’t despair; no company is perfect, and we all have room for improvement. However, I think if you took the time to read this and are aware of the issues you face, you’re halfway towards solving them.