When Sales Go Bad: The Curse of ASP (After Sales Problems)

Sales Effectiveness
October 26, 2017

If you’re like most sales pros, once you close the deal, you sip your coffee (that’s for closers only) and enjoy the success of another good day. And you should celebrate! But beware of after sales problems that lurk in the shadows of successful sales. We call this “The Curse of After Sales Problems (ASP)” and it afflicts great sales teams everywhere! See how many symptoms of the curse you can identify.

Here are the 5 Symptoms You’re Experiencing After Sales Problems:

Symptom One: You Can’t Do This

One of the best ways to gain your customer’s trust is to ensure that the project you’ve proposed closes on time. The thing is, your project management team will base the timeline they give to the customer on what’s written in the scope of work. If there was a mistake or an omission in the SOW, or the solution that the customer chose doesn’t adequately address their problems, the timeline that the PM developed is obsolete. These after sales problems start a huge domino effect that impacts the training schedule, multiple departments in both organizations, and ultimately, the total amount of ROI your customer derives from that solution. If your projects aren’t finishing on time, this is a huge red flag that there was something missing, or that there was misinformation in the original proposal or scope of work.  While it’s not strictly an issue of account reps, it does point to a larger issue with the process your team uses from initial conversation to accepted proposal.

Symptom Two: Your Customers Will Have This Issue

Another major after-sales issue is when the project goes above the projected cost. The question becomes “who is going to pay for this?” If you pawn those costs on to the customer, it reduces the ROI they get from your solution, and it might be difficult (or even impossible) to get approval for the additional funds. The other option is that your business eats the cost of those additional hours. This isn’t a great solution either, because at that point, you’re just trying to prevent a catastrophic loss from occurring, let alone make a profit. This can happen because a project goes beyond the anticipated timeline, the initial solution proposed doesn’t adequately address their organizational objectives and needs to be tweaked or even changed completely, or technology dependencies like infrastructure and network were not addressed. Again, this points to an issue with the presales process.

Symptom Three: Your Customer Will Feel Like This

One of the worst issues you can face with your customer is the feeling that they are dissatisfied with the solution. This may manifest in the form of excessive back-and-forth between your team and the customer, a lot of internal discussions about what the solution needs to be well into the project (not the ideal time to be determining the customer objectives), and a general feeling of disappointment throughout the process. One of the most dangerous scenarios from the perspective of a salesperson is actually when you don’t hear that the customer is dissatisfied. If this is the case, you’ll lose any future sales opportunities with that client and potential referrals. Remember, it’s easier to keep a customer and sell deeper into their organization than it is to prospect for a new client. You are losing the opportunity for low-hanging fruit when you have a project go south.

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Symptom Four: Your Team Will Have Problems With This

One of the most frustrating issues with ASPs is that they quickly erode your camaraderie as a team. The account manager might ask five different sales engineers the same question and get five different answers. The sales engineer might come back with a ton of questions that you can’t answer, and you wind up having to go back to the customer a few times, which is not great for your credibility. Finally, the implementation and service team won’t be happy if they have to deal with extra work because of an incomplete presales process. With the limited time and resources of technology solution providers, it’s very stressful and corrosive to have a project that does not implement correctly. This is also stressful for sales managers and the upper management who are calculating profit margins and determining your future with the organization. After-sales problems are quick to turn into after-sales person problems when it comes to inter-organizational relationships.

Symptom Five: You’ll Miss Out on This

One of the best ways to be a financially secure technology sales rep is to build customer relationships for life. Making monthly quotas will be easier, you get more referrals from your customers, and you’ll understand your clients’ unique challenges and customer history better. This will enable you to keep that dialogue open and continue to provide solutions for their business problems as they change and evolve.  If the after sales problems come in the form of a misconfigured solution due to a lack of information or a misunderstanding internally between your team members, you’re very unlikely to get a customer for life. If you truly want to build customer relationships that last over the span of years, you have to get their solution right, from the first conversation to the last customer service call.

The Cure: Invest in This

The best way to fix after sales problems is to avoid them in the first place. This can be easily achieved with a sales tool that defines the presales process for your entire team. You can input the questions you need to ask for every project and establish rules so that those questions are answered completely before you can generate a proposal. Additionally, there are safeguards that you can enable and automate so that if a specific technology is included in the proposal, any dependent or ancillary technologies associated with that system are also addressed. For example, if a customer wants a hosted solution for their telephones, an application like CorsPro’s SalesDoc Architect ensures that the underlying infrastructure has been assessed, and any resulting technology upgrades will be included in the proposal to avoid any mid-project surprises.

This will also help ensure that the sales proposal doesn’t include any technical or administrative errors that may wind up costing you big time, like the wrong technology or customer name when you reuse proposals from customer to customer (spoiler alert: everyone does this). The beauty of SalesDoc Architect is that it is an automated process that guides you step by step through the qualification process while eliminating room for errors, and ensures that all of the customer needs are addressed thoroughly.

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