Baton handoffs make, or break, Olympic history. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the United States men’s and women’s 4×100-meter relay teams dropped batons in a disastrous performance that cost the United States crucial medal counts. Four years earlier, at the 2004 Athens Olympics, imprecise baton passing by the American men’s team had allowed a British relay team to win in an upset, while the United States women’s team were disqualified after a botched exchange.
In the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a scandal erupted over the baton handoff between the United States sprinters in the women’s 4×100 race. In the final leg of the relay race, Allyson Felix, a veteran US sprinter, was in the lead and about to pass the baton to English Gardner. In the crucial hundredths of a second where a near instantaneous baton handoff can mean the difference between a gold medal and failure, disaster struck. Felix appeared to stumble and flipped the baton into the air, the baton landing with the sound no one wants to hear in a race they have prepared for over four arduous years.
Ping. Ping. Ping.
As CEO, I pay a lot of attention to baton handoffs. They happen every day — between sales and marketing, product and sales, and sales and customer service. Revenue growth requires these baton handoffs to be flawless — so we don’t hear that sound of dropped deals, leading to missed quarterly numbers and slow growth.
Are You in Sales, or Are You On a Sales Team?
Let’s say you are a salesperson at a large retail electronics store like Best Buy. You are in sales, and you are in a sales team, but you are not on a sales team. Your success in selling printers or calculators or ream of copy paper doesn’t rely on the rest of the sales team — it is proportional to your individual skills. There’s not much that the rest of the sales team can do to help you make that sale of a calculator. The product is easily understood by both the buyer (the consumer standing in the aisles) and the seller (you). You see a prospect looking around the store, you say hello and ask if you can help him, and then direct him to the calculators. There, your individual sales skills come into play — you can ask them if they need a calculator for business, and if so, suggest they purchase the model that has the sales tax function.
Now let’s say you’re not selling calculators at a store, but you’re in a competitive industry like tire sales, or you’re selling specialized equipment like industrial robots. This is where you can’t rely on just your individual sales skills to sell more. If you’re selling tires, then you better have a savvy marketing team that delivers leads by building and attracting prospects to sites like Tire Rack. Or if you’re selling industrial robots, you’re going to need the assistance of sales engineers and product managers to help you sell. In either competitive industries, or complex sales, great sales is all about the smooth functioning of a great sales engine, not the individual salesperson.
This is where the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), or for a smaller company, the CEO, CMO and SVP Sales comes in. More often than not, however, decisions are taken that emphasize the individual, or department, over the company. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the selection of sales enablement tools. When we sell our Dossier lead generation platform to enterprises, we ask if the CMO or the CRO has reviewed the requirements. If the answer is no, and that the decision will be taken by a departmental leader, then the risk is that the decision will be weighted towards the needs of that department.
For example, first-generation website chat products were designed for either customer service departments, or for appointment-setting sales teams. When the head of customer service or inside sales evaluates these products, his qualification criteria will end with their own team’s goal — i.e. reducing time to resolution for customer service, or increasing appointments for inside sales. These leaders are trainers for individual athletes, and all they care about is how fast that athlete runs to win the 100m sprint. But like a national team coach, the CMO, CRO or CEO, doesn’t care just about the appointment — they care about the handoff to the account executive who will turn that win into an enterprise sale. These are national coaches that care about the country bringing in 50 gold medals — and winning on the international circuit.
And to the best sales and marketing leaders, creating a relay team isn’t about taking the four fastest runners and putting them together. They must work amazingly well as a team. They must learn to pass the baton to the next person on the team — from marketing to inside sales; from inside sales to an account executive; from the account executive to the sales engineer; and to the customer success manager; and finally to the customer service manager.
Winning gold is all about the baton handoff.
Lead Handoff from Website to Email
Let’s review the first handoff of a lead, or prospect, who visits your website — when the baton is passed from marketing to sales. Like baton handoffs in a race, precision and timing matters if you want to win gold. Our goal is to efficiently convert site visitors to qualified prospects, then a sales opportunity, and then close that deal. Since website visitors are anonymous when they come directly to your site, getting to know them by name and email is essential for the personal service we aim to offer.
We used our customer communications app Dossier to track the stages of a lead from discovery to close. First, we connected Dossier to the apps we use: G Suite, Google Drive, Slack, Asana and Salesforce — so that we could organize all customer conversations that happened on email, website chat or SMS.
Let’s Start the Chit Chat
To capture the lead, we decided to do away with forms and use chat on our website. However, the first generation of chat software works if you have a transactional sale, because the goal of the chat is to answer the questions of someone who’s on your site, about to buy, but for some reason cannot take that step — ex. she wants to know more about the warranty. This first generation chat was designed for service teams to resolve customer requests, but they were not designed for sales and marketing teams. Chatbots are also inadequate when dealing with an enterprise, consultative or higher value sale, which often requires follow up with other internal teams, such as sales consultants, professional services, customer service or contract and finance teams.
First-generation chat was designed for customer service, not for sales and marketing. Customer service agents are motivated by reducing or eliminating the question in the first place. Sales and marketing teams, unlike customer service, seek to create an experience that encourages the website visitor to return and ask more questions. Questions are good for sales, because it allows for a dialogue. Dialogues lead to an understanding of the prospect and a personal relationship to be built with a salesperson.
Let’s illustrate this by an enterprise sales example. Many of you at are familiar with getting a call like this:
Salesperson: “Hi, this is ____ from _____. We’re calling because we can do ____ for you. How’s tomorrow at 10 or 11 am for us to talk?
You: “I’d like to learn more about your solution and how it compares to others. Is this like ___ or _____?”
Salesperson: “Sure, I’d be happy to schedule a meeting with our account executive. Are you available tomorrow at 10 or 11 am?”
You: Not really. I’d really like to know more before scheduling this call.
… and then you politely disengage.
In that cold call, the appointment-setting sales rep should have been able to patch in a more knowledgeable salesperson immediately — except, it’s a bit awkward to do that on the phone. However, in a second-generation conversational sales platform, the chat can handle increasing complexity of conversations. Sales Development Reps (SDRs) can include other sales experts on the chat. Sales engineers (SEs) supporting the sale to a large, named account can feed the salesperson with private messages to use in her chat with the prospect. It’s also very natural for an SDR to include the Account Executive (AE) in that first chat.
We therefore designed a process — to help sales and marketing teams communicate with leads and customers, with zero disruption to the ways our internal teams already communicate. Here were our first principles.
#1: Humanize First Contact on Your Site
Many website chat apps look and feel exactly the same — leading to the perception that they are commoditized and your site visitors become immune to these similar-looking chat widgets greeting them. Our first goal in deploying Dossier chat on our site was to fit into the site’s color scheme and be very human. Putting pictures to the faces who are available to chat with the visitor
and a customizable color palette are important . We designed Dossier chat to humanize the experience with salespeople, and be customizable to the site’s design.
#2: Forms are Just Bad Form
Our next diktat of user experience was — don’t make visitors fill out a form. Forms, even beautifully designed ones, are impersonal! Imagine you walked into a clothing store, and then needed some help finding your size. You look around, but instead of helpful salespeople on the floor that you could quickly talk to, you see a kiosk tucked away in the corner.
You walk over and the kiosk says “Hi! What’s your name, email address, enter it again just because I don’t trust you to fill out your email address right the first time, and oh yes, your phone, and ah, your company name… also, we need a title to know if you’re worth letting into our fitting room, and finally, don’t forget to click that BIG BUTTON right there… and, Thanks! Someone will be with you as soon as possible, usually between 1 and 24 hours, if you’d like to wait with bated breath.” That’s what a form feels like to your visitors. Um, no forms.
We decided, instead, to create a lead experience using a conversational platform that would capture all the information needed by the marketing and sales teams. While we’re gearing up to respond, our chatbot, DossierBot, greets the visitor and collects the visitor’s name, email and organization, then passes on the lead to a human being, with an automatic reply sent to the user. Suddenly things felt a lot more human, on both ends of the chat!
#3: Zero Disruption to the Ways You Already Communicate
In the modern sales enterprise, your sales reps staffing the website chat are not sitting at their desk all day. Even when they’re working, they’re mobile — when a chat comes in. Slack is the best mobile app for responding to website chats — it is portable, conversations are visible to your entire team, and you can easily manage multiple chats with Slack channels. If one rep isn’t available on Slack, the chat can be handled by someone else on also on Slack. The baton handoff is built into Slack teams.
Dossier chat was designed to make your apps work better. Since our salespeople use Slack, we wanted to reply to our site visitors right from it, as this causes zero disruption to the ways we already communicate. No new apps to learn.
Now, with every familiar knock-brush Slack sound, we instantly know we have a visitor on that wants to chat with us. Website chats appear instantly in a Slack channel.
#4: Visibility Speeds up Sales Handoffs
A month into our deployment of Dossier chat, website visitors were responding well to chats, conversations were had with them — with our team responding via Slack — and leads were being qualified was happening at a pretty fast clip! Once the chat is completed, the lead needs to be sent to a salesperson who can address the next stage in the customer lifecycle.
As we handed off Marketing Qualified Leads, or MQLs, to the sales team, we didn’t want the conversion of this lead be dependent solely on the availability of one specific salesperson handling it. Enterprise salespeople are often busy in meetings with clients, yet there are supporting staff who can assist, such as account managers, sales engineers, and product specialists. We wanted a more robust sales process, but with the speed of a startup.
In all business, and especially in sales, knowledge is power. Dossier handles the transition that leads make from being online visitors to going offline on email, texts or messaging.
What if you could not only hand off MQLs to the sales team, but also help sales managers, support staff and executive stakeholders watch the progress of this prospect and assist the salesperson? We have that visibility in the lead conversation. Not only are chats visible to sales managers, but all followups that are offline, on email, or text messages, or Whatsapp, could also be analyzed. No sales manager ever had to ask “What’s going on with that prospect?” They would already know.
Curating the handoff to sales meant that we should streamline our process so that we were not simply handing a set of leads over to sales. We assign salespersons to the chat conversation from the very beginning. As Dossier chat collects the visitor’s name, email and company, we look up the named account in Salesforce, our CRM, and pick the appropriate team of sales development reps (SDRs) to join the chat. Since the sales crew is usually online on Slack, Dossier automatically adds them to a chat channel with the website visitor without any human intervention.
Responding to a website chat from the Slack mobile app
#5: Speeding up Contract Management
Once an opportunity has been created in Salesforce, the deal is in play. In an enterprise sale, delays happen in contract process because the G&A contracts team is often oversubscribed with contracts that may or may not be related to closing sales that quarter. Managing this process is essential. With Dossier, the account manager converts the chat with the client into a task, usually in a task management tool like Asana. The account manager assigns it to the legal counsel for review of the contract. Our contracts team now has every request from sales in their Asana task management tool. The account manager gets a response from Dossier: “Revcyclery contract review created in Asana”. When the contracts person logs in to Asana, she will see tasks in her inbox related to deals in the pipeline.
#6: Speeding up Post-Sales Onboarding
After the sale has closed (yay, sales team! Ring the bell), a different team, either Customer Success, Professional Services, or Onboarding, gets involved. They usually start by getting a briefing from the salesperson involved in the deal. We’ve eliminated this hand-off entirely by converting client emails into a list of open tasks in Asana, that are then delivered to the CSMs. Without any delay, the CSM has what he or she needs to take the reins on the account. All onboarding actions are communicated to the clients, no matter where they are. If they are on our website, they see a task list like the one below. Note that the first item in the website feed is an Asana task — the client knows that it’s an open task.
When the client visits the website some days later, Dossier chat intelligently recognizes she’s back and shows her the Asana task and the assignee. She also has a dossier of white papers, left by the CSM ready for her to review.
The lead-to-close lifecycle — a visitor turning into a prospect and then a customer — is now complete. During this process we’ve made our existing apps, such as Gmail/Outlook, Slack, Asana, Box/Dropbox/GDrive/OneDrive, Salesforce and our website work better — all powered by the one app that organizes all customer conversations — Dossier.
Winning the Gold Medal
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the US women’s team appealed the circumstances of the infamous Rio baton fumble. Replays of the race showed Brazil’s third runner, Kauiza Venancio, pumping her arms as she gets ready to receive the baton from Franciela Krasucki. Venacio’s left arm makes contact with Felix’s right one and throws her off balance as she was attempting to pass the baton to Gardner. Felix let out a yelp as her handoff missed its mark and the baton tumbled to the ground. Ping. Ping. Ping. She picked up the baton and urgently yelled to Gardner to finish the race — a crucial action that allowed them to qualify for an appeal. The 2016 Rio Olympics worked out for the US women’s team. In a sudden-death 4×100 race, USA’s Allyson Felix, English Gardner, Tianna Bartoletta and Tori Bowie celebrated after they won the Women’s 4x100m Relay Final on Aug. 19, 2016. Their baton handoff was flawless and they came home with gold.
About Vik Chaudhary
Vik Chaudhary is the CEO of Dossier (http://www.dossier.work) in San Francisco. To business professionals and teams, Dossier is an app for organizing communications with customers. In his spare time, Vik observes how CMOs and CROs lead their teams to gold or fumble the baton handoff.
Dossier is an app for organizing customer conversations, no matter where it happens, with zero disruption to the ways you already communicate. Based in San Francisco, Dossier is helping business owners, business professionals and teams around the globe intelligently sync their customer communication channels and organize documents, tasks and more. Welcome to a new way to build better customer relationships and a better business. Sign up for a free account today at https://www.dossier.work.