Customer Success Managers: Is Your Sales Team Setting You Up to Fail?

Aligning Sales and Customer Success

Do you spend a lot of time re-aligning the expectations of your new customers?

If so, you may have an overzealous sales team pursuing the wrong kind of leads or making unrealistic promises (you might also have a marketing problem but we’ll save that for later).

This puts Customer Success Managers (CSM) in a tough spot: needing to save or re-sell a new account from the start. Even with the best work-arounds and quickest response times, there is only so much that Customer Success teams can do before oversold customers give up and leave.

As a CSM, what can you do to improve the situation?

Agree on the Ideal Customer Profile

"Not everyone needs your stuff,” writes Joel York, prolific author of the SaaS blog Chaotic Flow.

“Bad prospects waste precious sales cycles and marketing dollars, driving up your customer acquisition costs. If you do manage to close them, they drive up your success and support costs, because your SaaS product is not a good fit for their needs. Ultimately, they cancel and drive up your churn rate."

Try partnering with your sales team to help acquire the right types of customers. Sales may already have a well defined buyer persona, but it’s important to compare their definition against your own successful customer profile.

  1. Put together a list of your most successful customers. Think about the customers that give you the most confidence they will renew without hesitation.
  2. Identify the traits, needs, and use cases that these customers all have in common.
  3. Create an ideal customer profile and share it with your sales team to start a healthy dialogue.

For inspiration, check out Phil O’Doherty’s The Framework For Developing Customer Success Personas or Brian Honigman’s How to Create an Accurate Customer Profile.

Creating your ideal customer profile is only half the battle. Chances are you'll still need to engage with your Sales team on a regular basis to cultivate cross-departmental alignment.

Offer to present success stories in sales meetings to convey real world examples that will resonate and stick. You can even record a few stories to include as part of the sales training process.

And don’t be afraid to discuss situations that didn’t pan out. Reviewing "unsuccessful stories" that led to churn can help to reinforce the value of your successful customer persona.

Get Involved in the Sales Process

Sales and Customer Success?

This might seem like an unlikely partnership to some, but getting Customer Success involved during the sales process can avoid headaches for everyone down the road. CSMs can spot potential risks that would derail a deal or lead to churn, and shrewd sales managers will welcome the input for gauging new opportunities.

Some companies already offer Customer Success a seat at the sales table.

Take Demandbase for example:

Back in 2014, Chad Horenfeldt noted that "At Demandbase, Customer Success Managers are assigned to accounts before deals close so the CSM can work with the sales rep and the customer to build a Customer Success plan that will help customer achieve the goals that they have put forward." (The Enlightened Customer)

Should CSMs get involved in the sales process before a prospect becomes a customer?

In this scenario, new deals in the pipeline are reviewed by Sales and Customer Success to evaluate fit and understand expectations. The team discusses any potential impact on the customer journey so that everyone is on the same page from the beginning.

The goal is to align Sales and Customer Success across all stages of a prospective customer’s lifecycle — from onboarding to adoption and beyond.

A Partnership for Growth

Acquiring the wrong customers kills SaaS growth.

It leads to churn in the short-term and damages your reputation in the long-run.

The stakes are too high to only think about Customer Success after the sale; an effective partnership between Sales and Customer Success will help your organization avoid bad deals and maximize Customer Lifetime Value.

Want to learn what you could be tracking about your customers? Check out our article on Customer Success metrics for a complete rundown of important KPIs you can measure.

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