The 4 Ways we Rationalize Putting PS Under Sales... and How to Respond to Them!

My last post covered why it's not a good idea to ask a sales leader to lead a professional services team. The lost objectivity and measurement mismatch often generate resentment when PS teams feel helpless, scapegoated, and a dumb tool to simply generate revenue. PS teams stop thinking for themselves and their clients, and client relationships become transactional as a result.

If this type of team structure is so destructive, then why do so many organizations choose to go down this path?

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We tend to develop a series of rationalizations that would help us convince that our decision is the right one. I've been a part of this rationalization process before - and I will readily admit that I failed my team on more than one occasion. In one instance, the sales leader whom I was just assigned to report to sat me down for two days to rationalize the decision to move professional services under sales. I'm ashamed to say that I lacked the clarity and emotional fortitude to question him, and the PS team suffered as a result. We lost morale, we lost objectivity, and ultimately we lost our focus on growing trusted advisor relationships. 

Below is how we rationalized the flawed organizational structure, and in reality how irrational it was:

If both teams are ultimately serving our clients, then it makes sense to be led by the same person, right?

Nope. At the end of the day, the two teams have different objectives and should be measured differently. Ultimately, everyone in the organization is serving clients in one way or another, so do expect everyone to be measured in the exact same way? Every team works on different things, and are measured in different ways, so why would we try to shoehorn sales metrics to professional services teams?

Client satisfaction is a shared objective, we'll always do the right thing!

Not in my experience. When client satisfaction initiatives run contrary to revenue objectives, what happens? PS loses their voice instantly as revenue trumps doing the right thing for our clients. I was once asked to prioritize and push adoption of a feature even though only a fraction of our clients will find genuinely useful. I found out after the fact that the sales team was being measured on that feature's adoption, and as soon as the quarter was over, no one cared about the adoption of this little-used feature. We diverted attention and wasted our (and our clients') time when that precious resource can be better invested elsewhere.

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You can help me understand PS and technical issues so I can represent PS at the management table!

This sounds completely inefficient. If we agree that a sales leader needs to be briefed every time an issue needs to be raised with the management team, then we just agreed that we're acting on secondary information rather than actual experience. Wouldn't it make more sense if PS has direct representation rather than through a broken telephone system?

Our teams should work in lockstep, and everything we do should be in sync!

Every team in the organization should be in sync, but that doesn't mean that PS workflow and processes should be dictated by sales cycles and requirements. It's important for PS teams to think for themselves, mine for anticipatory problems, and build trusted advisor relationships without every execution having to align with a revenue objective.

Structuring a professional services team that reports into sales may seemingly make a lot of sense, but under the surface of panderous rationalizations are great reasons to not do it. Stand firm and build an independent technical team that's focused on building great trusted advisor relationships. That team will and should work closely with sales and other adjacent teams, but at the end of the day shouldn't report to them.