How to save your client from being collateral damage in the war between sales and operations.

The war between sales and operations has gone on since the time where a caveman sold a solution to have a tree cut down, but his co-worker only had the tools to trims some bushes.

There has always been conflict between the two departments and sadly the individual that loses out the most is not the business.

It’s the client.

It is the miscommunication and terrible relationship between these departments that creates conflict between a customer and the business.

Some examples would be the following:

  • Overpromising to ensure sale is concluded and signed off.
  • Trying to fulfill client expectations in service delivery.
  • Operations doesn’t communicate any problems or issues to the sales agent that sold the account until it is too late to salvage the account.

There are many more examples as to why a customer will feel cheated by a business and as leaders or managers of the departments it is our job to ensure that we bridge this gap of communication between operations and sales.

What creates this conflict

Before we can figure out how to save our customer and create a peace treaty between the two departments, we need to address how it all began.

What created this conflict between sales and operations, and why did this war start?

Cause 1: Leadership mentality

One of the main reasons for this divide is the culture or work environment.

Managers in these  vertical streams have a “Self-preservation” mentality when it comes to themselves and their teams. Their job is to make their department look amazing and step on some toes to achieve it.

Cause 2: Goals that conflict

Another reason as to why this could be occurring is because that these departments have conflicting goals. There is a misalignment when determining targets and as both departments work to achieve their targets they limit or hinder the other department to achieve their goals. This will create some form of resentment between the two departments.

Cause 3: Miscommunication

One of the biggest causes is the miscommunication between these two departments. You can have all the communication tools but if sales are not talking to operations and vice versa how can we create a unified, consistent message to the customer? Short answer is that we can’t.

Salespeople don’t understand the finer details of implementing the solutions and will make the grandest most epic of promises to the client without giving a single thought or care as to how this promise will affect operations.

Operations are just as guilty though. When an issue arises, they keep quiet and don’t mention it to the sales agent who is responsible for the account. This could lead to some very uncomfortable conversations for the sales agent with the client in future.

If you can’t communicate effectively how can the team work together effectively?

Cause 4: Strategy Misalignment

Going back to the goals we need to understand what each department believes is the most important part of the job. What we may find is that these departments goals have been set without taking into consideration the business objectives and their key results.

As an example, imagine that the businesses’ main objective is to focus on improving the overall customer satisfaction. If sales goals are designed purely for growth and not focused on improving the way, they manage and work with existing accounts this could result in more customers coming aboard that operations must deliver to.

Service delivery and client relationships will struggle to improve, and the customers will be as satisfied as they were the previous year.

Cause 5: A Conflict of incentives

To improve performance, we offer incentives for our individuals. For them to get these incentives they must reach certain targets. The issue that we may find here is that some of the incentives in certain departments clash with other incentives in other departments.

Where sales would rush for a project to be completed so that they may close the deal, operations may take their time to provide a quality solution. This may frustrate the agent.

How to end the war

By understanding the causes, we are able to create solutions that could reduce the tensions between these two departments and create an environment of open communication and collaboration.

Solution 1: Look at the leadership

The first step we need to take is to a look at the leaders, managers of the departments.

We need them to direct their focus from making them and their team look good to rather focusing their efforts energy on how best to delight their customer. They need to stop the blame game, and rather ask how to improve the solution for the customer. Both leaders also need to speak the same language and share the same message with the people in their departments.

Solution 2: Create shared metrics and goals

One of the best things we could do is create shared goals and have both departments work towards the same vision. The departments need to have their individual goals, but they must understand how their goals intertwine with the other department’s goals.

There should be shared metrics that both departments are responsible for and work together to achieve this target. This also creates an environment for collaboration.

Solution 3: Get people to understand the customer

The best option to improve the communication between the sales and operations departments is for them to better understand their client. You also need to incentivize them for client happiness.

Usually, salespeople work from start to end with the client. One of the things we should focus on is allowing people from the operations department to also engage with the customer. This will help them better understand what the customer needs.

What will happen is that as operations become more involved in the sales process more questions will be asked, more conversations will take place and communication can be somewhat improved.

Solution 4: Ensure department goal alignment with business strategy

By defining and choosing the right goals for the departments companies will have the ability to have both teams work towards one vision. This will also help to make certain that there are no conflicting goals, targets and etc that would cause future conflict.

Businesses must understand their strategy, turn the strategy into objectives, determine the metrics that need to be measured, understand who is responsible for those metrics and then filter them down to the rest of the departments.

This is how you can start to create goal alignment.

Solution 5: Reward Collaboration

It is essential that you create incentives for the sales and operations teams but with a focus on collaboration as well. Of course, you will have your individual targets that one must reach but certain milestones and KPIs should require inputs from sales and operations individuals. When these targets are reached both parties should be rewarded.

This is just the start of how you can improve the relationship between sales and operations. In the end it all comes down to doing what is best for your customer.

I hope this article helps you on your way to improve the relationship between these two fundamental departments.

If you would like help to improve the relationship between sales and operations feel free to contact us about our workshop as to how we streamline the interaction between sales and operations. 

The End Result