The Sales Handoff

This is arguably one of the more important but least focused on points of the sales process.

This is arguably one of the more important but least focused on points of the sales process. None of the handoffs throughout the sales process are smooth and almost all of them include multiple levels of miscommunication that tend to frustrate the client. Let’s breakdown each one.

The handoff between SDRs and AEs after setting up the meeting.

This is where the Sales Development Rep (SDR) cold calls into a target account, qualifies them, and then sets up a meeting with the Account Executive (AE) to take a deeper dive. I’ve written before how I think the SDR role is one of the more challenging roles in sales because of the level of value it does/doesn’t provide. If the SDR doesn’t provide enough value, then the prospect doesn’t see any point in continuing to the next step. If they provide too much value, then it takes away from the AE and they don’t have anything left to talk about. But let’s say for a moment that the SDR adds just the right amount of value and convinces the prospect to meet with the AE. If the handoff isn’t done correctly, then the AE inevitably goes through a lot of the same info with the prospect which is annoying at best. Think about customer service lines. If you’ve ever explained a situation to front line staff only to have to go over everything again with a supervisor… you know what I’m talking about.

The handoff between AEs and “Sales Support” when prepping or following up from a meeting.

This happens when a sales rep brings in a resource (i.e. an executive or engineer) to assist with the meeting. If the sales rep doesn’t do a good job prepping the “sales support” person for the meeting, then they tend to not add much value. I wrote a while ago about how executives are like children: they need structure. If you don’t give an executive structure they tend to take over the meeting and you lose control. With engineers, if you don’t give them structure or prep them for the meeting they end up giving away a ton of free consulting or they get caught going into too much detail which often clouds the sale. The handoff and prep is critical to make sure none of these scenarios happen.

The handoff between sales and support after the client signs.

This handoff happens when the client finally signs the contract and needs to be integrated so they can take advantage of the service they just purchased. In many cases the sales rep is so excited they closed the deal they can only think to chase the next opportunity. They end up throwing the deal over to support without clearly outlining the expectations that were set with the client. When this transition doesn’t go well, the client can feel like they didn’t get what they purchased or like the expectations were not clearly articulated. The support team takes the heat and ends up playing catch up from the start.

None of these scenarios are good and all of them can be addressed without much heavy lifting. Some companies have a very formal qualification process with detailed documentation mandated throughout the process to ensure all handoffs are done correctly. If you can bake this into your process and have everyone follow it consistently, it’s obviously the best case scenario. However, most of us don’t follow that rigid of a process and it sometimes adds “too much” administrative burden to sales reps who end up complaining that they don’t have enough time to sell. I’ve found a solution that isn’t overly burdensome and helps in multiple ways throughout the entire process: the summary e-mail.

The Summary E-Mail

The Summary E-mail is less formal than a Mutual Close Plan that some people use, but more formal than a simple list of random notes taken by a rep in their CRM. I use it throughout the sales process to hold people professionally accountable for what they are telling me and also to set clear expectations with anyone involved in the sale.

A key part of the Summary E-mail is letting the client know it is coming and asking them to confirm the information that you send them. I usually say something like this at the end of a sales call that has some substance to it: “Thanks for your time today. We have some good next steps and action items here, but before I move ahead I’m going to briefly summarize what you and I talked about today and send it over in a quick e-mail. Could you do me a favor and take two minutes to review it and e-mail me confirmation that it is all accurate and note if I missed anything?” Once they say yes, then after the call, take all your notes, clean them up and put together a short list of the most critical pieces of information you gathered during the call. Here’s an example of a template I use:

Thanks for your time and insight today. Below is a brief summary of what I was able to gain from our conversation. Please review this and e-mail me back to let me know if it’s all accurate or if I missed anything.

  • Current situation:
  • Business priorities:
  • Competition:
  • Timeline:
  • Decision process:
  • Next steps:

Don’t write a book with this and don’t take this as an opportunity to reiterate your value proposition. Focus on them and what you got from the conversation. If they confirm what you sent, you know you’re in pretty good shape and you now have something in writing to hold them professionally accountable. If they don’t respond, that’s a yellow flag that means you probably weren’t as aligned as you thought.

The way this helps with the handoffs should be pretty obvious, but I’ll spell it out just in case.

The SDR qualifies the account, sends a summary email that is confirmed by the client and sets up a meeting for the AE where the first point on the agenda can be to review and confirm the e-mail. The AE brings in Sales Support and, before the meeting, sends the summary e-mail confirmed by the client so everyone is on the same page during the call. After the call, the sales team sends another email so that everyone is clear on expectations and next steps. The sales team summarizes the conversations throughout the process and when the deal get transitioned to the support team they have e-mails confirming expectations by the client.

There are tons of other benefits of the summary e-mail when done right but it all revolves around setting accurate expectations and then holding people accountable for what they are telling you. This can be used internally and externally to make sure the handoffs (and a lot of other things, too) go more smoothly.

Make it happen!

P.S. Follow me on SnapChat (johnmbarrows) where I will answer any question you have about sales.