Stop Overselling and Under-Delivering: Unite Sales and Service Delivery

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Every CEO, founder and business owner wants their sales team to be hungry. But experience has taught us that in the race to obtain new business, Sales can easily overextend the service delivery team’s capabilities and resources. When this happens, the noxious effects on the client relationship and your reputation are worse than the risk of losing the deal. 

A client won’t remain a client for very long if you can’t deliver the services quoted. 

And you can forget any future business through recommendations.

That sales professionals succeed at their jobs—feeding the pipeline with new projects—is crucial. But in services companies, a disconnection between sales and service delivery teams breeds overselling. Cut off from each other, Sales flies blind, unable to understand if what they’re selling is even deliverable.

The reality is that Service Delivery will always struggle to keep project cost, quality and timeline true to Sales’ promises if Sales is clueless about resource utilization, cost rates and historical project margins. For this information, the two teams will need to join forces, the success of which depends on how well you eliminate information silos.

What are causes of poor service delivery?

Overselling is an ailment of services businesses in every industry. You know you can provide what a prospect wants better than the competition. But a sales team acting autonomously may overpromise your staff’s time and what they can do within a given budget, compromising project quality, schedule and profitability.

Inevitably, the project team will have to cut corners to try to make things work. This will cost your company in terms of lost accounts and credibility—your customers will feel lied to. Or, your team will need to put in extra, unscoped work to make good on what’s in the quote. And even this may not save your image if the client has had to reject your team’s work once, twice, three times…

Other potential causes of poor service delivery include under-budgeting and poorly planned project deliverables. But why are budgets and deliverables underdeveloped in the first place? Nine times out of 10, the same reason your project team’s time and capabilities are oversold: information silos.

A great, big wall between sales and service delivery departments makes it difficult for them to do their jobs well because their work is inherently connected. It’s the project team’s responsibility to produce work that meets customer expectations, but sales people must set the project team up for success by selling prospects certainties, not guesstimates. This requires readily available information.

How can you improve the quality of service delivery?

To deliver the quality promised, sales and service teams must work closely together to make sure the resources with the right skills are available to perform the work requested before any deals are struck. This will be a natural process once you get rid of the silos blocking visibility into each other’s workflow.

When you integrate Sales and Service Delivery, your sales team is free to access project data that can be used to ensure accurate quotes, leading to improved service delivery.

Knowing your organization’s capacity, for example, helps them understand whether resources with the required skills will be able to do the work. Utilization charts are not just for project managers and C-level executives. Sales people also need them to find out who can commit to proposed projects so that nothing is promised that can’t be done.

In this environment, communication between the sales side and the project side of the business becomes fluid and effective. A quick look at a project planning chart can prompt a question to the project manager that prevents a resource shortage domino effect in new, current and future projects. 

The link between resource management and project timelines

At some point in our professional careers, we’re all treated to the frustrating experience of waiting for work past the agreed timeframe. Timely delivery is a minimum expectation your clients have. Falling behind is tantamount to not holding up your end of the bargain.

Looking into resource availability can help sales people estimate the right project timelines. This, in combination with checking where other opportunities sit in the pipeline, can help your sales team understand when a project can be scheduled and when it can be completed.

Something that can throw a big wrench in the works, however, is faulty resource forecasting. If the project teams have their hands full, a particularly large project coming in could mess up the resource forecast, causing unavoidable project delays at best, total failure at worst. This is why the sales department needs to keep the project delivery team apprised of what they should be expecting—what types of projects, how big and when.

Better yet, the Director of Delivery can go into the pipeline on the sales side and check the current opportunities and their sales probabilities. This way, he or she can tell your sales people when the delivery team will have the resources and time to take on new projects and what a start-to-completion timeframe might look like.

How to keep projects profitable

If your sales team’s motto is “Sell, sell sell,” it’s shortsighted. Your goal, after all, is to keep the promises made at the opportunity stage—at the profit level your company requires.

Your sales team should be asking: Who will be doing the work, and what is the margin potential on the rates? In order to ensure profitable projects, sales people must safeguard the delta between cost and the sales rates. To do this, they should be able to check cost rates and either maximize resource pools with lower rates to keep sales estimates competitive or raise sales estimates until they’re high enough to justify using resources with higher rates.

Sales should also be able to analyze similar past projects before striking new deals. If they see that the margin was poor, they know they have some deeper investigating to do. Were too many hours burned on a fixed price project? If so, why? 

Service Delivery can tell Sales what happened so that Sales can set the course for a successful project. Whether they need to up pricing in terms of hourly rate or get more resources on board, they won’t know if they don’t have the data and communication with the project team.

Tying Sales and Service Delivery together with PSA software

Connecting sales and service delivery departments is impossible without some kind of software. As you might suspect, software type does play a role in determining your success rate. Every growing services organization should consider professional services automation (PSA) software to support their growth. Likewise, more established firms need to ensure that they eliminate silos in order to promote fluid communication, collaboration and workflows among and between all departments—Sales, Service Delivery and Accounting. 

A good PSA solution is built to keep project and sales teams working together in one system that covers customer relationship management (CRM), project planning, resource management and project and company health tracking. It directs the flow of sales and project data in both directions in real time so that sales and project teams can coordinate at all times. In fact, PSI research indicated that companies that adopted user-friendly PSA software like VOGSY saw a 31 percent profit increase

To fix a problem, you need a solution built to solve yours, not everyone else’s. PSA software is designed to eliminate silos specifically for services businesses, making it a smart choice the only choice for professional services organizations looking to escape the overselling-underdelivering paradigm and retain clients for years to come.

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