Starting Off On The Right Foot - Part 1

By Amin Akbarpour

This is part one of a series on developing the perfect customer onboarding experience. I’ll be driving us through a journey that includes the handoff from sales to customer success, managing a successful kickoff meeting, and executing a clear plan that will help your client take the necessary steps to become successful with your organization.

As a Customer Success agent for a SaaS organization, you’re going to be involved in some level of customer onboarding. If this part of the customer lifecycle falls entirely in your hands, it’s up to you to ensure it runs smoothly and exceptionally well. Even if there is another team that handles the technical aspects of onboarding, you should be involved to ensure the customer relationship gets off on the right foot.  The onboarding period for a customer needs to be a well-structured and documented process. It’s essential to be transparent with all parties so everyone knows what to expect.

Let’s focus on the first step in the process, which ideally begins before the customer even signs the dotted line.

Sales to Customer Success Handoff

The key to a great handoff is a strong line of communication between the sales and customer success teams, especially in the later stages of the sales cycle. At the latest, once a salesperson gets a verbal commit or the agreement has moved into legal, customer success should be brought in.  In some cases it may make sense to bring a customer success professional into a deal at an earlier stage, especially if client service is a differentiator for your company.  Either way, this is when the rep should fill the CSM or Account Manager in on:

  • Client Background (size, vertical, financial health, business model)
  • Sales Process Summary (how were we introduced? what’s the organization map? why did they buy? What KPIs will the customer be measuring us on?)
  • Contract Details (size of the deal, payment schedule, key terms, special concessions)
  • Client Environment (what other tools or vendors are they using in combination with ours? what integrations will we dealing with? what’s their experience level and expertise like in this space?)

The salesperson should also be diligently educating the customer on what the onboarding phase will look like. For some SaaS products, onboarding may just be an hour-long training session. For others it could be a three-month marathon. It is important to set expectations early, and connecting customer success to the client early on can be a way to ensure that they are prepared.

Depending on the size of the deal, the salesperson should introduce the CSM to all key contacts either towards the end of the sales cycle or once the paperwork is finished. After that introduction call the salesperson should be the main point of contact for any deal-related tasks, but the CSM should take the wheel for onboarding-related projects and loop in other internal resources when the time is right.

This process should be mapped out, agreed upon by both the sales and customer success teams, and documented wherever you keep your internal processes (Box, CRM, Google Drive). Both teams should be trained on how and when to transition a client from sales to customer success, and the leaders of both teams should monitor the process to make sure it is happening.

Next time, I’ll share my ideas on how you can create the ultimate (and effective) kick-off meeting. Until then, happy onboarding!

Customer Success playbooks are a great way to make sure that your CSMs know exactly what to do in every client situation.  The Success League is a consulting firm that works with executives who want to unlock the retention and revenue a top performing customer success team will bring to their business.

Amin Akbarpour - Amin is a customer success coach and architect. With relationship-building at the core of his practice, he molds teams by instilling the necessary principles to transform them into trusted advisors. Understanding what's needed for organizational change, he translates theory and ideology into practice and habit. After the aforementioned job hunt he accepted a position as an Account Manager for Persado. Originally from Southern California, Amin is a University of San Francisco alum who is grateful to still be able to call San Francisco his home.