By Ashley Hall
Across the SaaS industry the debate about success teams owning revenue metrics, whether recurring or expansion, is a hot one. You’ll find strong opinions all over the map. Some are from the school of thought that “trusted advisors” from a success team cannot truly be trustworthy if they are responsible for a sales goal. Others say that success team members know exactly what their client’s needs are, and therefore can sell to them most successfully. Regardless of where you land on this spectrum it is important to acknowledge that all members of a company have some selling to do as a representative of the brand.
I think that a success team can find amazing motivation in exceeding a steep sales goal. In my career as an account manager, I have been in roles where I’m responsible for both expansions and renewals, and in roles solely focused on renewals where expansions were handled by a salesperson. I’ve appreciated the need to sell in both roles. Whatever the structure of your team, here are some thoughts on approaching both expansions and renewals from the perspective of a customer success manager.
Of course we all hope for relationships that are thriving and renewals that are automatic, but unfortunately this is not always the case. When approaching a renewal, always provide as much time as possible; busy business contacts do not love a surprise. 2-3 months prior to renewal, schedule a call with all key stakeholders. When requesting and scheduling this call be sure to provide an overview of renewal logistics, sharing important dates and tasks. Ideally, during the renewal call you will be able perform your usual business review, understand the goals of the client for the upcoming year, and develop an action plan.
It is not uncommon for clients to use the renewal period to renegotiate their contract or scope out your competitors. These scenarios require significant salesmanship. You and your team should be prepared to re-sell your product at the drop of a hat. Since you already have an established relationship with the client you have the huge advantage of being able to highlight key functionality and any roadmap items that will continue to serve the customer's needs. Industry knowledge and an intimate understanding of where your product sits in the competitive landscape is critical to this conversation.
There are a number of ways to approach selling new products or functionality to a current customer. Hopefully, with assistance of a product marketing team, your customers are frequently updated on new offerings via email. If so, this can be a natural conversation starter for your and your team. If not, you should establish a regular cadence of contact with your clients to cover product and service updates. Tracking calls with each client to your roadmap will help you be sure you have discussed every new offering as it is made available. These calls are important - they establish you as the client’s product advisor – so make sure they are a high priority in your day-to-day work.
Staggered releases or beta programs are other low-pressure ways to begin a sales process with your client. Presenting them the unique opportunity to participate in a beta release, prior to a purchasing decision, is a relaxed way to ease the client into improved functionality. Your client has a chance to see the value of what is being offered, which leaves you with a bit less selling to do.
Staying in touch with your client’s needs allows you to successfully sell to them. You’ll be able to advise them on how to use their existing solution optimally, but you’ll also be able to weed out new functionality that truly is not necessary for their organization. Selling strategically based on your client’s needs, not just every new thing, will yield greater sales in the future.
Regardless of the metrics your success department owns, everyone in a start-up is an important extension of the brand. Awareness of the competitive landscape and your product will empower every member of your success team to sell in a professional, comfortable way.
Need to learn to sell through your customer success organization? 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. www.TheSuccessLeague.io
Ashley Hall - Ashley loves to lead account management teams; from training newbies to building processes out of chaos to working directly with customers. With an eye on the future she is a powerhouse in building scaleable frameworks that support and drive growth. Ashley is currently working for Sparkcentral and holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She lives in San Francisco, CA.