How do you handle it when sales sells something you can't support?

Jeff Breunsbach
Jeff Breunsbach HLAdmin, Member Posts: 276 admin
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From our CSM Office Hours: 

Old news: How do <you> handle it when sales sells something you can't support?

@Bertil Weil
@Natalia Chaudhry
@Miko Hinojosa
@David Nedohin
@Diamond Bergeron
@Laura Vautour


  • Anna Alley
    Anna Alley Member Posts: 72
    Third Anniversary 10 Comments Photogenic Name Dropper
    edited October 2020
    At our company, we have a concept of "Transition Back to Sales". Essentially, if a deal is sold and comes into Onboarding/Implementation, but after additional discussions it is discovered that we cannot support their needs or requirements, we consider the project Transitioned Back to Sales and the sales commission is actually impacted by this. This motivates the sales team to sell realistic deals as they don't ultimately get the commission if the deal does not go live.

    Now, this of course, is not without attempting to save the customer, see what alternatives we can provide, etc. We would never just push a customer back without cross functional effort and conversations first.

    In addition, the reason for the TBTS status is recorded, and is analyzed and discussed every month.
  • Jordan Silverman
    Jordan Silverman Member, Success Network Members Posts: 99
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    edited October 2020
    Love what @Anna Alley wrote here. That is a great concept!

    We try to identify this as early as possible (which is not always feasible).

    Two things we do:
    1) Every client has a kick off call
    - That call has the client, the sales manager, and the CSM
    - The goal of this is for the CSM to hear goals directly from the client and reset expectations

    2) Any deals that churn within the first 30 days (we are 90+% monthly contracts) are considered a no sale vs churn
  • Matt Vadala
    Matt Vadala Member Posts: 47
    edited October 2020
    @Anna Alley that is an amazing model, as it's a great way to keep sales teams honest. When you have a team that's commission driven held to the truth they really are brought in to work as a whole with the organization and wholly support their subscribers.

    I'd wonder how many more orgs operate using that mechanism of TBTS as it directly addresses a common happening of a customer being sold something which cannot be supported.
  • Craig Jackson
    Craig Jackson Member Posts: 24
    edited October 2020
    @Anna Alley

    We had a similar model at ours, but with the addition of Sales renumeration tied into the LTV of the customer. We saw a big difference in the quality and fit of customers that came through the door and it really helped stem the "sell them the dream" scenario.
  • Natalia Chaudhry
    Natalia Chaudhry Member Posts: 4
    edited October 2020
    @Jeff Breunsbach this was a great session! This has always been an ongoing issue between sales and cs. As we discussed during the chat, it is important to know the profile of our ideal customer. Who would we like to sell to? Having a clear profile will allow sales to sell to the right clientele and allow for CS to have the ability to support it and reduce churn.

    In the event that CS  cannot support what sales is selling, it should be communicated as a team/department and figure out a plan. "No one wants to be the squeaky wheel".  This would also require support from management in both sales and CS. 

    Natalia Chaudhry
  • James Conant
    James Conant Member Posts: 37
    Second Anniversary
    edited October 2020
    We did the same thing as @Anna Alley.  Sales commissions were subject to clawback in these situations. If we saw a trend, we met with sales and marketing team leaders to align target criteria, channels, and messaging.
  • Russell Bourne
    Russell Bourne Member Posts: 61
    Second Anniversary GGR Blogger 2023 GGR Blogger 2021
    edited October 2020
    @Anna Alley that's a great system.

    I see a lot of comments here supporting clawbacks, which I also support.  (Side question, how do you claw back a deal from a salesperson who has left the company, anyone?).

    However, let's focus on the other part of your TBTS system that I think is the standout.  When expectations misalign with the reality of product capability, managing the fallout is a hugely educational thing for Sales to do.  It's not punitive at all, it gives them real feedback that they can use to close their next sale.  And it gives them perspective on CSM life - and hopefully some empathy.

    Let's also consider how "can't support what you sold" (CSWYS) looks in leadership meetings, especially QBRs or board meetings.  Hopefully, you have data for churn and lost productivity (by CSMs and Sales) that result from the CSWYS issues.  You now have really valuable influence over an informed decision company leaders have to make.  Likely the choices are:
    • Customers are wanting something you don't quite have.  Is it time to reassess how you fit in your market, or to move to another market?  
    • You're in the right market but have legitimate delivery issues and need to invest in Product/Dev.
    • You're in the right market and can deliver, but Sales is selling to the wrong customers.  Time to re-target marketing?