Re-Post: Can You Deliver What You Sell?

Division of Property. Concept

Today we’re pulling this August 2010 post from our archives. Enjoy!

For a long time, I’ve been exhorting clients to be certain that the sales team is selling what the operations or implementation team plans to deliver.  In the past couple of weeks, The Whale Hunters team has been on the receiving end of that potential mismatch, which compels me to write about it again.  Here’s some context that may resonate with you as a seller (and possibly even as a buyer)!

The Setting:    Your company sells a product with a service, or a service with a product, or a customizable service or product or both.  I have seen this issue surface repeatedly in software companies, professional services companies, and advertising/marketing agencies, to name a few.

The Sale:  Let’s take software as an example.  Your company provides an enterprise software solution that requires considerable integration into your customers’ existing systems.  Your project management/account management/customer service teams believe that you are selling a product that is basically one size fits all, although it could be customized with some bells and whistles–later–when all of the initial  installation stuff is done and the system is up and running.

The Snag:  Your sales team has fallen in love with the bells and whistles.  Rather than sell the boring one-size-fits-all product, they are selling the customizable parts.  Whatever the buyers say they would like to have, the sales team promises.  In fact, the sales team leads with the extras, not the basics.

So now you are stuck.  You’ve made this sale.  The sales team celebrates.  The customer is excited about their purchase and ready for implementation.  And your implementation team is . . . . oh my goodness . . . appalled.  “We can’t do that!”  or “We don’t do this!” or “We’re just not ready for that!”

As I said, this circumstance has been brought home to me in the past few weeks.  The Whale Hunters has been working on a major build of a new website that incorporates a content management system.  We decided to go with a product geared towards educational institutions rather than corporate solutions, having been assured that the product was completely customizable.

But once the sales team handed off to the implementation team, the bubble burst.  We heard, “We can’t do that” and “They shouldn’t have told you we could do that” and “It would cost a lot more for us to do that.”  And we didn’t hear nearly soon enough about some serious deal-breaker issues that they cannot resolve.

So it’s been a very painful reminder to me that your customer is going to be very, very unhappy if just from the get-go your delivery team begins to say “they shouldn’t have promised . . . . . whatever.”

If your company has ever been in the position of a disconnect between sales and operations or implementation areas, it’s time to correct that problem now.  If you land a large account with that kind of mis-match, they can cost you a lot of money, make your employees miserable, and quite literally force you out of business if the deal is big enough to get their serious attention.

So, if you’re not positive that both sides of your house know how to collaborate on a complex sale, it’s definitely time for them to learn.

Has your company ever been in this kind of trouble?  How did you handle it?


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