Movable Ink made an unorthodox shift last year: We merged our sales team with our post-sales team. A risky move? Sure—but it really helped us grow our existing accounts and bring on new business.
This strategy isn’t right for every company, but I strongly recommend sales leaders at least consider it.
Conventionally, there’s this idea that the sales team are hunters while the post-sales teams are farmers. The metaphors are easy to understand: sales people go out and hunt for new business, while post-sales team members cultivate and grow the existing business. But I’d argue that hunters and farmers aren’t actually as different as they seem. The most successful sellers know how to hunt and farm.
My own experiences bear this out. I didn’t begin as a quota-carrying salesperson. Before I came to Movable Ink, most of my experiences were on the business development and account management side of things. I played a major role in sales, but I wasn’t directly involved with them. When I first came to Movable Ink, my responsibility was to grow existing business.
Last year, that changed in a major way—and it’s been great. Here’s how and why we merged the sales and post-sales teams.
Moving To The Merged Team Model
My team, which was originally devoted to growing existing business, experimented with marrying sales and post-sales. We thought, what if we unleashed our farmers to let them do some hunting, too?
The results surpassed all expectations. Post-sales people really can speak customers’ language. They know how clients are leveraging the platform. All of that knowledge is invaluable for landing new accounts. Then, when we started working with those accounts after the sale, we were able to grow them wonderfully because of our understanding of the business. Sales and post-sales really work together, and the results are good for everyone.
Since making the change, I landed one of the biggest deals in the company’s history to that point. The next quarter, another member of the team landed an even bigger deal. Like our other enterprise sales, these deals were a really team effort, drawing on the strengths of so many different people.
Another advantage to this approach is that it really reduces the sense of competition between the sales and post-sales team. When we do land new businesses, there isn’t as much pressure to get a huge deal right out of the gate. There’s a general understanding that we can grow the account over time.
Once we started seeing success with this model, it only made sense to roll it out to the whole company.
How To Marry Sales And Post-Sales
Of course, the transition wasn’t completely seamless. We had to train people for new roles and get them accustomed to a new timeline. The good part was that while the process differed, our basic talking points remained the same.
One of the trickier parts was training the hunters to become farmers, too. Closing deals is a different skill than growing existing business. So we really had to teach those salespeople about client management—how to spot potential problems, how to talk about using the technology on a day-to-day basis, etc.
Here are my top tips for making the transition work:
- Develop the mindset that there isn’t just one way to close a sale. Different sales will require drawing on the expertise of different people within the organization. Get used to approaching a sale from multiple angles in order to get the best results.
- Be transparent with other team members. On every deal there will be one person responsible for quarterbacking the best approach, but bringing in outside help when appropriate is critical.
- When hiring new team members, find candidates who really have the ability to grow relationships. Past sales experience is nice, but it’s not necessarily the most important factor. You want a team member who can be trained into this new process. If they’re stuck in the sales training they received elsewhere, that can actually be a hindrance.
For this strategy to work, the team must be adaptable and collaborative. There’s not really a place for lone wolf types here.
At Movable Ink, we still do have salespeople who are solely dedicated to chasing down new logos. However, their focus is transactional sales. For our enterprise sales, the “sales” and “post-sales” teams are one and the same.
The Pros And Cons Of Marrying Sales And Post-Sales
There are so many advantages for merging your teams:
- The team gets to be very strategic both before and after the sale. Our focus is on cultivating a long-term relationship, not getting the biggest deal possible right away.
- By working closely with clients after the sale, we gain comprehensive knowledge of how our customers actually use the product. That information then helps us with other accounts and in chasing down new business. Our team members really, really know customers’ pain points and why they need Movable Ink.
- It’s relatively easy to find opportunities to help team members meet their quota. If you see someone is falling short, getting them in a position to get a deal is very doable.
- There are more opportunities for people to grow within our company. Because our team includes so many different roles, people aren’t limited to a single career path.
But, like anything else, this strategy has risks. There are two main risks. First, you might misallocate resources so that you aren’t spending enough time growing your existing business. On the other side of the coin, you might be putting so much into growing your business that you aren’t chasing down enough new accounts.
This strategy really is a balancing act, and getting it right can be tricky. Hiring people for this role can also be a challenge.
Making It Work
While this strategy is not without its risks and challenges, at Movable Ink we’ve found that merging the teams has definitely been worth it. By managing all accounts very closely and fostering strong collaboration between team members, the merged strategy can work.