back officeYou’ve made the sale – great!  Now, how much time does your sales team spend processing the sale vs. moving onto the next sales opportunity?  If you are a great salesperson or part of a great sales team, the answer is obvious.  Don’t waste time, keep selling!!!

Any company would like to have a sales model where sales people spend 100% of their time selling, handing off non-selling work to others for processing and fulfillment.  Surprisingly, this is not typical for most companies and organizations.  For most, the same employees who sells the product or service also processes the sale, and this takes a lot of time away from what they do best: selling.

To borrow an analogy from American football, these companies need to look at “the handoff” so they can keep selling and score touchdowns.

In sales as in football, the hand-off is a critical moment.  In football, fumbling or missing the hand-off in is a recipe for disaster.  In sales, fumbling the handoff from the front office to the back office can cause critical customer tasks get lost in the shuffle or stuck behind less important tasks.  This can result in delayed revenue recognition, missed delivery dates, and dissatisfied customers.  And while this is all going on, the salesperson may not be focusing time on closing the next sale.

So, what are the issues with this approach?

Traditional work distribution options don’t work well

After the sale, most companies use one of two approaches to distribute sales fulfillment work that results in a fumble:

  • Self-selection: New orders go into a work queue, and people choose the ones they want to work on.

Problem:  People would tend to select the easiest or fastest tasks to complete, while difficult orders remained in the queue. If supervisors manually assigned the tasks, people worry about fairness in the distribution of work.

  • FIFO (First In, First Out):  Every new order goes to the first available person as it arrives.

Problem: Urgent or high-value customer sales could be queued behind lower priority work with a distant delivery date. So, there is no concept of priority or when the work really needs to be done.

Using either approach, it is extremely difficult to schedule the right amount of staff to meet revenue targets and service level obligations. To protect customer service, companies over-schedule using part-time agents, thus increasing the cost of sales. And with the FIFO model, it is difficult to schedule tasks according to when orders were actually needed to be processed to meet customer commitments.

Both of these approaches leave a lot to be desired.  High-priority tasks can be queued up behind less urgent ones, or people can cherry-pick the easiest work. The business loses control over how and when work gets done, and you might miss promised delivery dates.

Realizing big gains by optimizing the handoff

Now, you don’t have unlimited personnel when it comes to selling and managing related work and completion.  You have to make the best use of existing staff to handle the peaks and valleys in customer demands, putting the right people to work on the right tasks.  So, the idea is to keep great salespeople selling and handoff the more administrative work to other employees or parts of the business like the back office.

Makes sense, right!

Canadian telecommunications provider SaskTel has found a better way to accomplish the handoff from sales to back-office activation, provisioning and billing processes using a new concept called enterprise workload management.

SaskTel enables their sales team to focus 100% of their time on closing sales and the handoff is managed by enterprise workload management software which distributes after-sales work according to business priorities. By changing how work is managed and distributed, they’ve increased sales performance, improved back-office productivity, reduced staffing costs and improved service delivery.  That’s a big win.  And, without a perfect handoff, there is no touchdown on the field or in sales.

Enterprise workload management provides a centralized orchestration function that captures and correlates work from multiple channels into a single platform. The tasks are then analyzed and assigned based on business and customer priorities, as well as employee skills and availability. The queue of tasks is continually evaluated to manage priority and scheduling, while ensuring that service level agreements are met. The solution has the unique ability to push work to workers based on skills, availability, and priority – rather than requiring them to pull work from multiple individual work queues. Pushing work to people, rather than distributing work to multiple, independent work queues, greatly improves productivity, reduces errors and improves on-time delivery of services.

SaskTel shared their experiences in a recent webinar which is available for viewing here. If interested you can also check out the SaskTel success story here.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

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