The evolution of customer success (CS) has changed the dynamics of account management, raising questions as to who owns which parts of the customer relationship. Traditionally, sales guides customers through decision-making and purchase processes while CS focuses on delivering value beyond the initial sale and throughout the entire lifecycle. But sales and CS continuously influence and intersect each other and should never operate independently. In fact, it is really important for these two organizations to play nice together.
When hand-offs between sales and CS don’t go smoothly, Gainsight says the risk of losing a customer’s trust and even their business grows. On the flip side, when the process is frictionless the opportunity to build more strategic, loyal and profitable customer relationships escalates.
While sales and CS roles and responsibilities may differ from one company to the next – or even from one customer account to the next – here are four foundational strategies that partners can use to make these two organizations BFFs for life:
- Embrace the right mindset – Business has moved away from linear customer processes and towards continuous engagement. This requires that today’s sales and CS motions become human and digital, proactive and predictive, and designed to address the entire customer lifecycle of land, adopt, expand and renew. The first step in embracing a lifecycle approach is to shift your mindset away from transactions and towards relationships and ongoing value delivery. Unless sales and CS teams unite together under a customer-first, full lifecycle mindset, their friendship may never get off the ground.
- Maintain trust through a seamless transition – Establish a post-sale hand-off process that smoothly transitions customer relationships from sales to CS. Share the knowledge acquired during discovery including stakeholders, business pains, value drivers, etc. so that CS teams can immediately step in to advance the customer relationship instead of asking questions that have already been answered. Specify how customer information should be transferred, whether it’s sharing customer records, in-person briefings, a customized dashboard, a standardized handover form, or something else. A seamless transition is key to maintaining the trust established from one organization (or contact) to the next and fueling customer confidence.
- Develop a plan– Create a plan for each customer that sales and CS teams can align under. The plan should identify the customer’s desired business outcomes and the journey that will enable them to execute on those outcomes, using the right combination of people, process, technology and more. It should define KPIs – project starts, feature utilization, renewals, etc. – to evaluate the customer’s progression towards success and a healthy state. To track progress, you can turn to the metrics available in Salesforce, Gainsight and other sales and CS technology tools, along with our own partner-focused Lifecycle Advantage program, which uses data science and automation to nurture the customer lifecycle.
- Never stop collaborating – When committing to customer value realization, cross-functional collaboration is essential and nowhere is it more important than between sales and CS. In today’s subscription economy, these roles must be blended, symbiotic and united in the mission to provide an exceptional customer experience. How well your sales and CS teams collaborate and work together – day in and day out – will directly impact customer retention and revenue.
Becoming BFFs with your sales or CS counterpart won’t happen overnight. Like any relationship, it takes time, commitment and teamwork. We’ll have more sales-CS alignment tips for you during our Oct. 23 webinar, “In it Together: Sales and Customer Success.” I hope you’ll join us.