Support Talks: Better Conversations when Selling to Support Leaders

Craig Stoss Craig Stoss · 5 min read

Read how sales representatives and support leaders can better prepare themselves for meaningful sales conversations.

Support leaders are inundated with cold calls, emails, and LinkedIn messages about buying technology. Tools can improve support services and customer experience in so many ways that selling to support leaders is a significant addressable market. This trend has spiked lately with the rise of AI-enabled platforms.

But support teams are famously unique when it comes to selling. We often do not have the budgets that sales and marketing teams have, nor the resources to implement and maintain tools. Selling to support leaders is difficult. Chris Martinez, Founder and CEO of Idiomatic, has been battling this difficulty for a long time. So I asked him to share a bit about his experience. In our chat, he explains how both sales representatives and support leaders can better prepare themselves for meaningful sales conversations.

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Q: The technology landscape in Support/CX tools is massive. How do you stand out and build your niche in a market like this?

Chris: When we got started we had a very opinionated view of what could be better about support. Namely that support should be the #1 source of customer intelligence informing every other part of the organization. We believed that support should be a strategic resource and not a cost center. That is still our view to this day and we try to hold fast to that core underlying idea as we navigate this landscape.

Not many people are willing to truly bet on this as an idea and we are far from accomplishing our goals of making this true for every successful business. We stand out because we focus on the insights you can gain from all of your support conversations, not just on making agents faster or more efficient (although that is one of the benefits of our insights).

That is how we stand out. I would say that every product company needs to form their own strong point of view on what they believe. Then they can explain how their product is best at solving the problems associated with that belief.

Q: How can a support leader find the best tools? Should leaders rely on Googling to find tools in a given space or does that reward ones with the most marketing budget?

Chris: I’d agree that checking things like Google and G2 can bias towards those who have the most budget. But it still helps get a sense of what products to start with. My advice is to ask your peers because you don’t really know how any tools perform in the wild until you talk to someone that has been working with them already.

I’d also have meaningful sales conversations with the companies themselves. Normally you can get a feel for what it’s going to be like getting support from them and how nice they are to work with in the sales process.

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Q: What challenges are unique to selling to support leaders?

Chris: I’d say that it helps if you are a nice person. Support people are empathetic people that can read others easily and quickly. They are able to sniff out insincere offers of help and those who just want to sell, sell, sell and don’t actually care about their problems. So who you are and how you treat people matters a lot. 

I also find that support leaders are often not very empowered to buy anything “extra” in terms of budgets. So they need to be completely sure of their investments and have to fight to get resources.

Lastly, support leaders are used to solving their problems with people. It can be challenging when bringing a new technology to market. You are asking them to balance the mindset of spending this budget on adding to the team versus technology. It’s therefore so important to recognize this balance. If you want to have a meaningful sales conversation, you will have to address the trade-offs.

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Q: What do you see as a support leader’s most important considerations in tooling?

Chris: ROI, ROI, ROI. Support leaders are ultimately, and unfortunately, running cost centers, so they can not invest in something unless it has significant ROI. (Although products like Idiomatic are trying to help turn this around.) 

For this reason, selling a support product needs to focus on actionability. Support leaders often ask the question “so what,” as in “so what can I do with it now?” What decisions can I make, what can I improve, what can I save, etc.  These questions are always top of mind and are critical to have clear, empirical answers for. It’s not acceptable to use buzz words or generics. Be specific. What does your product do and how does that benefit a support team?

Finally, it often is important how easy a product is to implement. Specifically, how many technical resources on the buyers’ end they will have to utilize to implement the tool. Support leaders are often not given any internal development resources, so having a tool they can implement without talking to engineering is ideal for them.

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Q: How can support leaders make better purchasing decisions and what can they do to help make the sales cycle easier for all parties?

Chris:  I think demo video tools and custom demos can be used more to shorten the sales cycle. Any content that helps explain how a given use case is solved is valuable. I also think talking to existing customers of the product is very helpful. 

Sales will always want to know a budget, so having that in mind always helps. Also, knowing what your cost per ticket is would be super helpful in calculating ROI of any tool. These two things will help simplify decision making. 

Also, having a clear idea of what pain you are trying to solve goes a long way. Often, I’ll talk to support leaders that have some vague ideas that they think technology could help them but they haven’t thought it all the way through. 

So they come in and say: “I think I want to get more insights from my Zendesk tickets”. To which we’ll say “OK, what do you want to do with those insights? Are you looking for product insights to feedback to your product team? Are you looking to cost insights to see how you can streamline customer operations and save yourself money? Are you looking for bugs to fix?” The answers to these questions matter. Many tools do many things, so use cases are important. If the customer comes in knowing how they would use the tool if it worked perfectly, that can make for a more meaningful sales conversation.

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Craig Stoss Craig Stoss

Craig has spent time in more than 30 countries working with support, development, and professional services teams building insight into Customer Experience and engagement. He is driven by building strong, effective support and services teams and ensuring his customers are successful. In his spare time Craig leads a local Support Thought Leadership group. He can be found on Twitter @StossInSupport

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