The Critical Sales-Success Handoff

By Natalie Macks

Ring that bell! Sales landed the deal and another customer is ready to be gently ushered into the sweet embrace of Customer Success. A good deal of customer churn happens in the first 90 days, so how do you make sure that your customer sticks around long enough to becomes a brand advocate? And just as important, how do you make sure that your sales and success folks are engaged and working together, instead of shooting death-ray stares across the office?

Data 

Your sales team is already working on the next deal before the ink on the contract is even dry (or the DocuSign page refreshes). Yes, the deals need to keep rolling in, but you also need to make sure that critical customer information is captured during the sales process, so the success team can spring into action seamlessly. Items that need to be documented:

  • Customer demographics and contact info (contacts, phone, address, company size)
  • Copy of signed agreement (with any special items noted)
  • Unique requirements that could make implementation tricky

Sales and success leadership should be in agreement on this process. Ensure that it’s part of your sales and success playbooks, and that there is a central customer record where the information gets stored and everyone has access. 

Relationship

Sales teams often have a territory map that clearly defines responsibilities. While you may not set up your customer success managers (CSMs) the same way, it is still very important that you have set expectations about where a customer will land. Sales needs to know which CSM will be catching their potential customer so they can help to kick off the relationship.

A signed agreement is wonderful, but it’s impossible for the success team to know every little detail the customer and salesperson discussed (often over multiple calls and emails) to get to that agreement. Don’t assume that all customer expectations were captured in the contract. A call between the salesperson, customer success manager and customer to confirm all the particulars can save your organization from problems down the road and prevent a game of he said-she said. 

Encourage your CSM’s to chat with the salesperson offline to get an idea of any potential customer quirks or communication preferences. They worked hard to land that deal and likely have a wealth of information. Don’t underestimate the power of flattery here. What salesperson doesn’t like to be recognized for their deal-landing prowess?

Expectations

Once the CSM is working one-on-one with the customer, they should come to an understanding about how quickly the client expects to be up and running. Things like importing data, integrations and training should be taken into consideration. The customer and CSM should build a realistic timeframe that takes into account both people and resources that need to be involved in the process. Once this is complete, the CSM should loop back around with the salesperson to let them know about anything that doesn’t match the agreement or that they might want to adjust on the next sale.

Outcomes

It’s all about the outcomes. You know what success for your company looks like in terms of incoming revenue and low churn, but it’s a win for the customer that makes for long-term success. Knowing what the customer expects as an outcome is key. The expectation may have shifted from when they first started talking with the salesperson, so it is critical for CSM’s to ask customers, point blank, what business outcomes they expect from the solution or product. Is there a metric they are trying to hit? Are they expecting your solution to help them with a major initiative? If the CSM knows the expected outcomes they are in the best position to help the customer achieve them.

Is the sales team making any promises or setting expectations around customer outcomes? Success needs to be aware of any marketing or selling techniques being utilized so they can follow through with customer on these specifics. 

Feedback

Data-driven reporting on your customers provides insight into the effectiveness of both your sales and success teams.

  • Are the right customers funneling through? Consider churn and average spend based on the industry and company size.
  • Where should you focus sales training? CSMs will have suggestions about areas in the product where customers could benefit from additional information to get a better understanding of your offering.
  • How effective are support and professional services? Customers often reach back out to their sales rep when they feel that on-boarding wasn't thorough or that support should be better. 

Regular reporting in these areas helps to educate your teams and uncover processes that need attention. Visibility and open communication across sales and success ensures that the customer experience continually improves. 

…and Sales and Success lived happily ever after (or at least limited the shooting to Nerf battles!)

Natalie Macks - Natalie builds a culture of dedicated customer evangelists, as well as the systems and processes required for success.  Her award-winning leadership expertise coupled with integrity and passion produce increased customer retention and generate revenue.  With over 15 years in customer-facing roles, Natalie excels in bridging the gap between business technologies and the user experience.  She holds a BA in Zoology/Genetics from Michigan State University and resides in San Francisco, CA.