Companies that rely on recurring revenues must ensure that their customers are successful with the software products they purchase. Selling features is not enough. Customers expect outcomes from their software investments and services are the key to customer success.
Services drive recurring revenue by helping customers to successfully adopt and apply software. Customers buy software to enable and streamline their business operations. An application may have the features a customer needs but, if they cannot use it effectively the benefits are diminished. When customers succeed with the software they purchase it increases the likelihood of sustained recurring revenue and creates opportunities to expand the long-term value of relationships.
“Services help bridge the gap between what is possible and what is achieved.”
However, too often companies lack the means to effectively define, configure and sell the services customers need to be successful. One-off statements of work, inconsistent delivery approaches, and slow, inconsistent manual processes used to configure, and quote services diminish the ability to help customers attain their desired outcomes.
“The greatest risk to recurring revenue is customers’ failure to succeed with your products.”
For customers to achieve successful outcomes companies must provide the necessary assistance to help them implement, adopt, and apply software effectively. Service capabilities aligned to the needs of customers is fundamental to ensuring customer success. A well-defined portfolio of services powered by an end-to-end sales automation capability is the most effective way to expand recurring revenue and reduce churn.
Service Sales Automation means more than just booking service deals; meeting utilization and margin objectives or making customers happy. Service Sales Automation helps your customers achieve their desired outcomes quickly and easily. When customers are successful you increase the likelihood of sustaining and expanding their relationship with you. There are four imperatives for Service Sales Automation:
Service success requires that companies offer a catalog of services their customers need. The catalog should provide an inventory and description of all the service offers and capabilities available to customers. A catalog is a living, dynamic repository of the latest information of available services and must be kept up to date.
“Don’t sell services, sell solutions.”
Successful companies will not only catalog and display their services digitally, but they will be able to create customer journey maps online that allow employees, customers and partners to find the right outcome for their needs based on the specific problems they are looking to solve.
Building a Service Catalog
Services offered within a catalog should provide a natural extension to core product features by offering customers access to the expertise, skills and resources they need to achieve the outcomes they expect with products.
Services catalogs may provide access to expert resources to design and implement a solution; training and skills development to help customers gain product proficiency; and ongoing services to drive outcomes to achieve full product adoption.
Customer Needs Assessment
Services within the catalog should be aligned to customer needs. Actively solicit feedback about the challenges customers face using your products. Identify opportunities to help customers accelerate product adoption by offering skills development or access to expertise to help plan, design, implement and apply products.
Design programs to offer flexibility in the ways customers select and pay for services consistent with customer buying behaviors and price sensitivities. Build a comprehensive catalog of programs and entitlements from across all service disciplines and silos (Success, Sales, Support, Finance, Training, PS).
Services may be packaged as fixed-scope, fixed-fee outcome-based activities; custom statements of work; or time and materials engagements that provide access to product experts.
Flexible purchase terms may offer inclusion of enhanced success services with product subscriptions; fee-based add-ons; or the ability to acquire services through pre-purchased service credits.
Service Descriptions, Positioning, Terms & Conditions
Service catalogs must include more than just a description of the core service entitlements. A service catalog must provide:
Catalog Management is an ongoing process designed to keep service descriptions up to date. Catalog management depends upon assigned resources to define, manage, and expand the service portfolio to respond to evolving customer and business needs. Effective catalog management requires:
Drive Awareness & Demand for Services
Product features alone do not enable or accelerate business performance. Decades of promoting products as a panacea to solve all business problems has given way to the realization that intelligently applying product is the key to success.
“Companies must invest in the creation of comprehensive service catalogs and promote awareness of service benefits.”
Articulating the value of services must become a priority. To do this companies must invest in the creation of comprehensive service catalogs and promote awareness of service benefits.
Employees, customers, and partners should be able to search for content digitally. They should not have to burden the services team or the customer with repeated requests for information and conference calls. The digital information should also be continually updated and correct, minimizing errors, misconfigurations and misquotes.
Define the Value
Companies must engage in activities to quantify how service program characteristics translate to tangible business benefits with periodic verification about the efficacy of value messaging.
Sell the Value
The services must be promoted to customers through direct and indirect channels. Raise awareness of services and align messaging to convey how you can help customers address top challenges and meet business performance objectives. Create opportunities for Sales and Customer Success Managers to promote attainable outcomes and effectively position the benefits of your solutions.
Services procurement is dynamic, and can be attached to an initial product purchase, during contract renewal, or on-demand via amendments. Services may be offered in the form of ongoing advisory, managed, or education services, in addition to limited one-time engagements. Regardless of the channel or service type the entire service sales action needs to be digitally enabled and automated.
“Digitally enabled and automated service sales assures fast and accurate service bookings.”
Define Service Sales Policies and Processes
The service sales process must result in accurate service quotes based on customer needs and aligned with established pricing and policy guidelines. By establishing consistent sales processes, companies can assure that positioning, pricing, and delivery expectations are applied consistently to each new deal.
The definition and adherence to service sales policies assures that pricing and discounting are aligned to approved sales and discounting guidelines. Any exceptions can be managed and approved as appropriate.
Discovery and Service Configuration
During the typical services sales process, multiple conversations will occur with the customer to understand their goals and challenges. Discovery conversation may be led by Sales, a Sales Engineer, Customer Success, or a combination of several groups.
To assure consistency, service sales automation can help to facilitate the collection of all required customer inputs to establish an accurate quote.
Once the goals are defined, the Services and Sales teams need to correctly scope the opportunity, organize the appropriate services for the customer and fully define the price, duration, and resources necessary to deliver the work.
Quoting should take minutes and be driven by data collected during the discovery phase and stored with the service catalog and other integrated systems. Service Sales Automation provides the means to generate and send proposals based on digitally configured services with customer specific inputs, appropriate terms, resources and pricing.
“Quoting should take minutes and be driven by data.”
Customer quotes may be generated automatically by Customer Success and Services teams using simple web objects such as radio buttons, check boxes and dropdowns. Quotes may also be pre-populated with data from the service catalog and existing CRM systems. Displayed data and choices should be limited, and governed by information architecture best practices so the service sales process is simple and clean.
A customer-facing version of the service sales quoting process can also be created, dramatically accelerating the sales process by enabling customers to order selected services directly from the catalog.
“Customer-ready selling documentation should be auto generated in seconds.”
Once the discovery, configure and quote creation process is complete, customer-ready selling documentation should be auto generated in seconds. Proposals, SOWs, HLEs, MSAs, slide decks and other content hosted by the service sales automation platform should be assembled into a customer-ready proposal eliminating the need for manual intervention and errors.
Quotes may require deal desk or executive approval prior to being sent to customers. Approvals are typically handled in one of two ways, via email or through an existing CRM process.
“Guided automation provides more autonomy to configure and sell services quickly and accurately.”
The path of the approval process can depend on the type and complexity of the services. Low dollar, standardized offers may not require any approvals, while high dollar, complex services may need approvals from the Head of Services, Sales, Customer Success or even the CFO. Approval routing to the right decision makers enables a streamlined, consistent service sales process.
“The entire end-to-end service sales process is faster.”
By establishing standardized service sales processes and leveraging service sales automation, companies can assure that every service opportunity adheres to configuration and quoting practices – only deals that require exceptions will require deal desk or executive approval. Through guided automation, Sales teams have more autonomy to configure and sell services and the entire end-to-end process is faster.
A unified platform that allows companies to digitally create and maintain service offers, drive awareness & demand and automate the selling process is essential to achieve success. When companies lack the means to define, configure and sell the services customers need, product adoption and achievement of successful outcomes is inhibited. When adoption and success is impeded, the potential for customer churn increases placing recurring revenue at risk.
“When adoption and success is impeded, recurring revenue is at risk.”
Spreadsheets, product CPQ and document generators are not enough to ensure customers are successful with their purchases. Service Sales Automation is a fundamental capability that all companies that depend on recurring revenue must invest in.
If you would like to learn more about automating your service sales process, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org