Why Aligning New & Existing Business Sales Teams Is Essential

By: Teresa Weirich

August 21, 2018

If you were to ask someone in an organization what they think of when they hear the phrase “sales team”, their first thought would most likely be the new business sales team: the SDRs, the account executives, and the field sales reps who are fearlessly picking up the phone to prospect, moving opportunities through the pipeline, and inking fresh contracts. Afterall, in order for a startup to grow into a scaleup or a scaleup to grow into an enterprise, new business sales are critical.

But the often forgotten existing business teams are just as much sales professionals as those carrying a new business quota. These customer success managers (CSMs) and account managers (AMs) often not only carry a quota for achieving renewals within their existing accounts, but they’re also on the hook to upsell and cross-sell new products and services. According to Gartner, it costs 6 to 7 times more to gain a new customer than it does to maintain a current one. What’s more, around 80% of a company’s future revenue comes from existing customers.

With existing business sales professionals bringing in the majority of revenue over time, they are a wealth of information as it pertains to messaging, value positioning, objection handling, and so much more. And with new business sales professionals learning from constant market fluctuations on the frontline, they are experts at guiding sales conversations and getting to the root of prospective customer challenges, opportunities, and goals. By joining together (at least when it comes to the messaging aspect of sales), these two teams can discover new ways to build better prospective customer relationships while adopting best practices for growing existing accounts. In this article, we’ll look at specific skills that existing business teams can learn from new business teams—and vise versa.

What Existing Business Sales Teams Can Learn From New Business

Existing business reps, otherwise known as customer success managers or account managers, play in an entirely different ballgame than traditional sales professionals who sell to new accounts. When it comes to existing business, the customer’s eyes are wide open and they’ve been exposed to the best of the organization and in many cases, the worst. Because of this, existing business reps need to communicate in different ways which can present helpful best practices for new business teams.

Practice Transparency: For existing business reps, transparency isn’t just a nice-to-have—it’s a necessity. Customers have already been brought in behind the scenes and they are aware of what works as intended and what doesn’t. Because of this, CSMs have to speak to customers with extreme transparency and candor while remaining professional and true to the organization. New business sales professionals can learn a lot from CSMs as it relates to building trust through exhibiting transparency and openness through the sales process.

Underpromise and Over Deliver: CSMs are experts at setting realistic expectations because they know if for some reason the deadline or deliverable isn’t met, the customer will immediately know. Because of this, they’ve mastered the art of under promising and over delivering—something that can also serve new business reps well during the sales process. Jonathan Sherman, SAE at Pluralsight, serves as an inspiration to enterprise reps as he does even the smallest tasks exceptionally well, which says a lot about his character.

Advocate Internally: When something goes wrong with a customer account or a CSM becomes aware of an issue that affects the department, they go to work internally by rallying together the various departments that can make an impact or solve the problem. And while new business reps aren’t exposed to the same kinds of issues, they are certainly made aware of issues that should be resolved internally, such as the redline process, the vendor assessment response process, and so on. These reps can help move the organization forward in the same way that CSMs do by not just raising their issues, but following through with internal action.

What New Business Sales Teams Can Learn From Existing Business

Sometimes, existing business teams are jaded by customer experiences and it’s hard for them to view sales through the eyes of a new business sales rep. After all, they’re the ones that have had to work through issues of incorrect solutions being sold, product flaws or glitches, and internal communication breakdowns. But even so, CSMs and account managers can learn a lot from their peers on the other side of the sales organization: those that are constantly listening for new trends, testing out new product and service messaging, and discovering new challenges and opportunities. Thanks to these ears to the ground on the frontline, existing business reps can serve to learn some valuable lessons, too:

Test New Messaging: New business reps are constantly having to test new messaging and make tweaks to cut through the noise. Thanks to this always-learning attitude, they are often a wealth of information as it pertains to the industry and landscape. Existing business reps are sometimes so focused on the customer that they lose sight of what’s happening in the industry. By adopting some of the messaging that new business reps find success with, CSMs can test the positioning for upsells, cross-sells, and even renewals.

Properly Handle Objections: Faced with fierce competition, new business sales reps are constantly fine-tuning their objection handling skills as it pertains to budget, product, services, and so much more. As CSMs still have to face objections when it comes to renewal time or upselling products or services, they can learn a lot from their counterparts.

Share Customer Stories: New business sales reps are masters of inserting customer stories, quotes, and key takeaways from customer successes into conversations. Though existing business reps are more surrounded by customer pain points and issues, it can be hard for them to see the massive successes that customers have with their product or solution. CSMs should adopt some of this storytelling power to inspire other customers.

Test Messaging Points Across Teams—And Continually Iterate

Sales teams of all sizes and across all teams can benefit from sharing messaging points, testing them to see which resonate (and which don’t), and continually iterating on those learnings. Sales playbooks like these that can be imported into a sales playbook software that allow sales reps, regardless of their title, to stay present in each conversation and guide themselves through each prospective or current customer call by asking the right questions, handling objections, and sharing the most appropriate customer stories—all while the call is taking place. Armed with shared information, sales teams can adopt learnings from one another and be more successful as an organization—as a team that is focused on customer success from the discovery call to the renewal call.

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    Teresa Weirich

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