If sales and customer service reps communicate well, they can keep customer satisfaction at an all-time high and take customer retention to the next level.

Even if sales and customer service reps (CSRs) are performing well individually, it doesn’t mean they’re achieving their full potential. When the two departments work as a team, they can form an incredibly successful profit-generating machine.

More than half of consumers – 55% – would pay more for a better customer experience. That alone seems like low-hanging fruit for any business hungry to grow its sales.

Meanwhile, a whopping 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. Growth occurs when customers have positive experiences. Churn decreases when clients’ needs are met in a courteous, efficient and timely manner.

But consider too that acquiring a new customer is much more expensive than retaining an existing one. Sales and customer service departments can work together on retaining customers by keeping customers happy.

For instance, a salesperson can tell a CSR about a new customer and give them tips on how to serve that client most effectively. In return, CSRs can keep salespeople aware of what aspects of the product or service are most helpful to existing customers, which can inform their conversations with prospects, or keep sales reps in the loop about why customers break their commitments early or fail to renew their contracts when they expire, so sales can recognise the danger signs and head this off at the pass.

Here are four ways you can improve relationships and communication between sales and customer service.

1. Start talking

For organisations that don’t encourage interdepartmental communication, the suggestion to open all lines of communications can seem overwhelming. However, companies benefit when colleagues talk to each other, even when it’s just to exchange friendly banter.

These interactions help strengthen company culture, minimise social anxiety among peers, facilitate informal interactions with management and combat employee disengagement, explains internal communications expert Tim Eisenhauer.

In a blog post for Help Scout, Cassie Marketos outlines steps companies can take to create an environment that fosters cross-team communication. They include:

  • Make user satisfaction a company-wide priority, starting by rephrasing the company’s objectives to emphasise customer happiness.

  • Establish point people to be responsible for bridging communication gaps between teams, and make sure their colleagues know who to turn to share or request information.

  • Have regular meetings, but keep them brief. Weekly, 10-minute check-ins give everyone a chance to get on the same page, but avoid taking up too much time.

  • Contextualise success by explaining how individuals have contributed to the company’s success.

Even a small step towards more open internal communications, such as establishing regular cross-team reporting, keeps everyone accountable for helping achieve common goals. Knowing more about what their peers are accomplishing can encourage both CSRs and salespeople to work harder together to ensure the company continues its growth.


2. Broaden commissions and bonuses

Salespeople are expected to reach a quota but are often motivated by commissions. CSRs, on the other hand, do not have the same incentives. This may make it difficult to divert a salesperson’s attention away from activities that put more money into their own pockets. It can also be difficult to convince CSRs to complete tasks outside of their current scope of work if the tangible rewards for their extra efforts are going to someone else.

Another way to strategically encourage collaboration between your sales and customer service teams is by creating shared goals and establishing cross-department bonus plans. First, identify specific areas where the two teams overlap. They might include:

  • Customer churn and retention

  • Product usage and frequency

  • Account cross-sells and upsells

One of the leading causes of account closings, especially among software companies, is a customer’s failure to utilise all available features, and everyone across an organisation should be charged with helping avoid this (here’s one way we do it!).

Although the rewards for success don’t commonly flow this way, the burden here is best shared by CSRs and salespeople. CSRs must remind customers of the value of certain features. Salespeople must be clear in communicating the value a customer can receive from regular use of the platform. CSRs and sales reps can work together as a team to make conscious efforts to cross-sell or upsell customers at every available opportunity.

We’re not suggesting taking commissions away from sales reps (in fact we’ve spoken before about how important it is not to do this, and offered an alternative). But using these metrics as benchmarks for shared success, management can offer all involved parties bonuses if customer churn is reduced, retention is boosted, platform log-ins and usage are increased, or average customer lifetime value is improved.

3 .Talk about what everyone does

Despite what they might think, co-workers often have no real idea of what their peers do. To minimise confusion about who does what, companies should create and publicise their organisational chart, along with brief descriptions about what everyone does.

Armed with that information, sales reps can collaborate better with their colleagues in customer service, and vice versa. Company-wide, it draws a map of how success happens and how information can be shared to contribute to that success.

For example, if Janet in sales knows Joe handles all of the customer service requests for client accounts worth $100,000 or more, Joe would be her go-to person for handling complaints from big-budget customers. Similarly, if Joe in customer service knows Janet is in charge of acquiring new business in international markets, he would always turn to her when an overseas prospect communicates.

4. Cross-train your CSRs

To do their jobs effectively, CSRs must be attentive, empathetic, patient and persuasive. That means they already possess qualities that are fundamental in consultative sales, and are prime candidates for basic sales training. Given their active, customer-facing roles, this makes each rep a powerful asset for organisations looking to acquire new customers and grow existing accounts.

Potential customers may send product-related requests or questions to your customer service department. Rather than have your CSRs forward each of those requests to a sales rep, you may train your CSRs to handle the initial outreach and spend time qualifying leads (unless your automation takes care of this) before passing them on to sales.

To more strategically engage customers and drive sales, all CSRs should learn to:

  1. Research the customer, paying special attention to higher-budget accounts.
  2. Identify each customer’s needs, including those they haven’t expressed.
  3. Educate customers about the value of select features or products, as well as how to apply those services to their business.
  4. Learn how to properly upsell to generate additional revenue.
  5. Avoid over-promising, instead aligning customer expectations with realistic outcomes.

We’ve spoken before about how and why to cross-training marketing and sales, and many of this applies equally to cross-training customer service and sales. Not only will collaboration lead to efficiency, but with basic sales training, CSRs may become more empathetic towards their peers in sales, and sales reps will no doubt develop a new appreciation for CSRs.

Want to connect your sales and service teams? - There’s a platform for that. To find out more, download our ebook ‘Connect Sales and Service around the customer’