Mar 27, 2023 • Podcast

How can sales and operations work together?

Paul offers suggestions to help bridge the divide between sales and operations to serve customers better.

Show Notes

As an organization, from the shop floor to the top floor, follow this bedrock philosophy: “Do more of that which adds value and less of that which adds little or no value.” 

Conduct a “field day” with your counterpart in operations. You need to understand what he or she deals with day to day.

What can you do to make operations’ lives easier? Remember, the more good you give, the more you get. And most importantly, the customer experience will be that much better for it.

The more closely you connect your operations team to the customer, the more likely they are to go above and beyond to serve that customer better.

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How can sales and operations work together?

(Transcribed from podcast)

On today’s episode, we have an age-old question that we’re going to address. And actually, this question has come up twice in the past week with different groups. So obviously, it’s a question that merits some time and attention, and as soon as you hear it, you’re going to say, “Oh yeah, Paul, we feel that too.” So here’s the question: “How can I get sales and operations working together to serve our customers better?”

So think about this. In two recent training seminars, one of which was my public seminar I have here in St. Louis. Actually, the next one’s going to be June 27th and 28th. So, feel free to join us. But one of the sales leaders in the room basically asked, “Hey, we’re trying to grow sales. We’re trying to do this, but man, we just need operations to get on board with us to help us out. We need a little more from them to get us to where we’re going to be.”

And then a week later I was at a conference, and during my 90-minute breakout session or whatever it was, another sales leader said, “Hey, Paul. We’re pretty much at capacity. If we bring on anymore new business, we’re struggling operationally to take care of that business.” What’s interesting is how quickly there was a divide that was growing between sales and operations. So that’s what we’re going to address on today’s episode.

Before we answer that question, pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling. You know, Value-Added Selling is a content-rich message of hope, not only on how to compete more profitably based on value, but it’s built upon a unifying philosophy. And that’s one of the reasons I mentioned that book on today’s episode is because it’s really just not a sales book. It’s truly a business book in the sense that this process and the philosophy can guide both your sales team and your operations team. So pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling. It’s available wherever you get your books.

So let’s get back to it. Here’s what we know. Salespeople go out there and bring in new business. They have to fight like crazy bring in that new account, to bring in that new customer. They’ve got competitors that are promising the world and they’ve got to be able to deliver on the expectation that competitors set as well. So sales, yes, is a difficult profession and we’re constantly having to make big promises, and then we rely on operations to come through.

Now, from the other side of it, we have the operations team who has resource constraints. So operations is dealing with tough times themselves because it’s hard to find people. Resources are scarce. Product availability is still an issue in certain industries. Many times they’re operating at capacity. And so, yes, operations is facing a challenge as well. What we’re going to do in today’s short episode is we are going to offer you some tips and ideas to help sales and operations get along. Because the more you work together, the better off your customers are going to be.

I’m going to offer you four suggestions, one of which is to create a unifying philosophy in your organization. That’s why I mentioned Value-Added Selling in the opening. In Value-Added Selling, what makes this message different than most sales programs out there, than most sales training courses that you go through, is that this whole Value Added Selling Process® is built upon a bedrock philosophy. This is what we call a true-north orienting philosophy that applies whether you are in sales, whether you are in operations, whether you’re in management, finance, whatever it may be. If every person in the organization will operate with this philosophy in mind, the customer will have a great experience. And here’s that philosophy:

Do more of that which adds value, and less of that which adds little or no value.

Think about that for a moment. How simple is that? Do more of those things that add value and less of that which adds little or no value. Imagine here for a moment, if every member of your organization, I don’t care if it’s the CEO, if it’s the frontline customer service professional, if it’s an operations guy, if it’s an assembly-line worker, whoever it may be, if every single member of your organization would approach their work every day and say, “You know what? I’m going to do more of those things that add value today, and less of those things that add little or no value.” Imagine how life changing that could be, or how that could change an organization.

So that’s one thing we’ve noticed. I’ve had the privilege of working with some phenomenal organizations, and by the way, almost every organization I work with, sales and operations do tend to butt heads a little bit. It happens. But the companies that I work with, that truly embrace this philosophy, they find a way to work together, to work through these issues. So, remember that philosophy: Do more of that which adds value, and less of that which adds little or no value. You can see that it applies not just to sales, not just to operations, but literally every aspect of your business. So make that your mantra. Have that become your true-north orienting philosophy. Meaning it can get you on track no matter how far you think you may have strayed. So embrace a unifying philosophy. There has to be some sort of common goal, some sort of common mantra that every member of your organization can use.

Now, the next thing we’ll talk about, we need to talk about a little empathy here. And so what I’m going to suggest, for sales and operations people, is to conduct a series of field days with each other. Here’s what this means. If you’re a salesperson, you need to invite one of your operations people to go out there and spend a couple of days with you in the field. They need to get a sense of what it’s like to try and bring in a new customer. They need to understand how challenging it can be. They need to feel what you feel, and the best way to do that is to get them out in the field with you. So go knock on doors, get rejected. Let them hear the promises you need to make in order to win a new piece of business.

Now, the other end of that is true. For salespeople listening to this, you need to spend a day with your operations team. Spend a day trying to understand what they do, how they do it. Get to understand their frustrations. I guarantee you, this one exercise is going to help build stronger bonds between sales and operations. You spend time with operations, and operations, you spend time with sales. Get in the field and get in the office. However you do it, get to know each other’s roles. Now, everyone has seen a job description. We get it. We need to feel it. That’s the difference. Spend a few days with your operations counterparts and for operations people listening, spend some days with your sales counterparts out in the field.

Number three, and this is specifically for salespeople (obviously, we’re on a sales podcast). Give what you want to receive. Let me repeat that. Give what you want to receive. If you want your operations team to be a little more understanding of how challenging it is to bring in a new customer, and how challenging it is to try to beat out that competitor. If you want understanding from them, you need to give them understanding, because whatever you give them is what you’re going to receive in return. If you want more support from your operations team, then offer more support to your operations team. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make their life easier?”

Imagine that for a moment. Instead of approaching operations by saying, “I need this. I need this.” Instead asking, “What do you need from me?” Whatever you hope to receive, that’s what you need to give. And by doing that, by changing your prism and how you view operations, that is going to make all the difference in the world. Your operations team is going to feel that. And the more love they feel from you, the more love they’re going to give you in return. And again, if everyone’s giving each other love (you know, within the human resources policies obviously stated), if everyone’s giving each other love, the customer experience is going to be that much better. That’s important.

Now this final tip, again, directly for salespeople. You need to make a closer connection between operations and the customer. Here’s what I mean. I’ll give you a perfect example of this. I was working with a sales team just a couple of weeks ago, and this sales team, they were shaking the tree hard to get things done from an operational side. They were delivering a piece of equipment that was on backorder. The sales team is calling operations, “Hey, we got to get this done. What can we do to get it done?” They are shaking the tree hard. They are rattling cages, they’re poking the bear—whatever analogy you want to use. They were doing whatever they had to do to get the deal done.

Well, the operations team came through. They had to fight like crazy on their end. The salesperson was there the day the equipment was delivered. And the salesperson received all the praise from the customer. The customer said, “You bailed us out. Gosh, you guys come through for us every time. Thank you so much. Gosh, I really appreciate it.” And the salesperson had the wherewithal to say, “You know what? I appreciate you saying that. Would you do me a big favor? Would you join me at my office? And I’d like you to meet the operations team who made this happen.”

The salesperson brought the customer to the office and the customer got to shake the hands of the operations team who made the deal happen behind the scenes. And that salesperson said, “I was able to connect the customer to our operations team, and finally, my operations team got to experience some of the gratitude that I get to experience every single day.”

The more closely you connect your operations team to the customer, the more likely they are to go above and beyond to serve that customer better. Think about it. That’s the big challenge as salespeople. Yes, we’re the ones who get the complaint calls from our customers when things go wrong or things are not going well. But we’re also the one who gets the praise when we’re out there on the job site, in the office, in their manufacturing facility, in the lab. Wherever you are, you get to see, firsthand, the impact you have on the customer. Your operations team does not, and if they don’t see it, it’s like it never happened. And if it never happened, why would they go the extra mile when they can’t see the impact?

Guys, that’s the final tip. Again, if you want to build a stronger bond between sales and operations, if you want sales and operations to work together to serve the customer better, these four ideas are going to help.

Number one, develop that common, unifying philosophy. In Value-Added Selling, it’s do more of that which adds value, and less of that which adds little or no value.

Number two, spend a day in cross-functional roles. Salespeople, get in the office to help out operations. Lend a helping hand for a couple days; get a sense of what it’s like to live in their world. Operations people, get out of the office, get in the field with your salespeople. Get a sense of how challenging it is to bring in new business and to serve our customers. The more empathy you have for one another, the more you’re going to work together.

Number three, give what you want to receive. If you want more understanding from operations, then give more understanding to them. If you want more support from operations, then give them support.

And finally, number four. More closely connect your ops team to the customer experience. Let them see directly how they impact the experience.

Make it a big day.

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