Pre-sales and post-sales work are pretty much the same regardless of any company you are at. The only difference is the slight nuances that go with a given industry. As Chris always used to say and (half) joke, “Sales sells the dream; post sales (or customer success) services the nightmare.” It’s not a total departure from reality: sales people tend to have larger budgets and leeway for things like travel, (prospective) customer entertainment. The most successful sales people tend to get away with a lot of pretty egregious things at most companies, whether that’s ill treatment of colleagues or flat out refusal to follow company policies and guidelines. At my current company, where we are being conservative with spend given the current economic climate, my sales counterparts are traveling pretty much wherever they want, whenever they want to see prospective customers and close deals; in my customer success role, I have to seek out department level approval and outline approximate costs for everything, ranging from airfare/hotel, per diem, etc. Does it seem fair? Well, yes and no. A sales role has higher risk with a higher reward; a post sales role has a lower risk, and thus a lower reward. If you don’t hit your quota every quarter, you risk not only losing out on commissions, but your entire job as a sales person. On the flip side, if you are a higher performer, you’ll likely make a killing in commissions and potentially even out-earn your boss… and sometimes even the company CEO. In customer success or post sales roles, you rarely risk completely losing your job unless you’re a total slacker or just flat out incompetent. But when great things happen, like a customer decides to expand, while you may get paid out on it, your payout is going to be a tiny fraction next to your sales counterpart.
Why am I even saying this? Well, late last week as I went to a prospective families event at my child’s daycare, it hit me how grueling and thankless the post sales role can be, as well as how much money and effort is poured into net new business as opposed to keeping already paying customers happy. I’ve always known that post sales is a pretty thankless, unglamorous role, but it was even more apparent to me on Friday. To attract new families, our daycare not only blocked out three hours of prime business time to host a welcoming event complete with food, drinks, and decoration, but also even hired a bubble artist, a face painter, and endless party props and equipment just to increase the “wow” factor of the center. All these fun toys, crayons, and snacks were laid out — but for prospective families and kids, not so much meant for already paying families. I came early for pickup because I wanted to see what the party was about, and I also wanted Kaia to experience the party. But this bubble artist really was just completely over the top; I cannot imagine how much this artist would have charged our daycare for her time. But I also got frustrated when I thought: Wow. My hard-earned money going into this daycare is being used for… wooing new families? Now, why isn’t my child getting a regular bubble artist or face painting on the regular during the usual business hours and curriculum, even as a treat? Plus, why was our main teacher being leveraged all day to prep for this event rather than teaching our child? Our child got jammed into another classroom with 12 kids and two overwhelmed teachers, who were given no notice that any of this was even happening that day. As you can probably imagine, it was a bit of a cluster all day. We didn’t get the usual app updates in the timely manner we usually get them, Kaia wasn’t wearing her own diapers (or even ones her size), and she was covered in food when I came to pick her up, meaning she didn’t have her bib at lunch time. Is this what you call caring for and retaining your paying customers?
I cannot fault the daycare for investing money into attracting new families and thus new business. But I do think they should be thinking harder about how to retain the business they already have… because like any business, you need to retain your existing customers in order to thrive. Wooing new customers should not be at the expense of taking care of your current paying customers. And those existing customers can easily taint your potential to get net new customers. We have networks of people we know. We also have the power of social media and parenting groups where we can share the good, the bad, and the ugly of our daycare situations. We won’t hesitate to leverage that power when needed. And they had better remember this.