How to ensure healthy customer success and sales collaboration

Emily Hackeling

Emily Hackeling,

Content Marketing at Front

22 October 20200 min read

Enable smooth customer success and sales collaboration for your team with 5 steps from Front’s Head of Strategic Success & Services Samantha Wong.

We’ve got a riddle for you. I can’t be purchased—but when I’m not present, you’re losing valuable dollars. What am I?

Answer: We can’t tell you that fast! But we’ll give you an anecdotal clue.

Your account executive Pearl closes a deal with a new customer, Patrick Star’s Premium Rocks. Then, your customer success manager Eugene gets word of his new account. Let’s do this.

Poor Eugene has no idea that Patrick Star’s Premium Rocks was really worried about getting set up before their event in 2 weeks. He’s caught by surprise and doesn’t know to adjust his schedule so that they can expedite the onboarding process.

Now Patrick Star’s Premium Rocks is frustrated. Their event is in 2 days. They’re not set up. They decide to churn.

Back to the riddle—you guessed it: the answer is healthy collaboration between customer success and sales. Without it, your sales team is spinning their wheels on deals that churn, your customer success team is frustrated and out of the loop, and your business is losing money.

It’s a solvable problem. It’s the age-old issue of managing the sales to customer success handoff.

Front’s Head of Strategic Success & Services, Samantha Wong, shared her 5 steps for smooth customer success and sales collaboration in the first moments a prospect becomes a customer. This is a process she’s fine-tuned over the last 4 years as a critical part of our success organization.

1. Use content and training to help your sales team help you

“The most common blocker that comes up during the onboarding process is whether we set proper expectations during the sales cycle,” Sam says. Overpromised a feature? Incorrect roll out timeline expectations? Wrong workflow prescribed? You’ve lost your customers’ trust during a time when proving it is most critical.

Are you arming your sales team with content to appropriately set expectations on behalf of your success team? Sam says to assess the language you’re giving the sales team to use with customers about what the onboarding experience will look like: “Are we doing the necessary internal training on what words to use or enablement on how to describe what to expect? If the answer is no, no matter how you do the rest of these steps, you’ll need to look back this step to make adjustments to help your sales team help you.”

2. Establish a consistent process for passing the deal to success

When the sales team closes a deal, first, cheer! (No really, DO celebrate and commend the AE for reeling in that great new customer). Then, you need to have a documented plan that makes it easy for the sales team to pass the customer to your success team along with key information. What’s critical here is that the process remains the same, every time. That way your sales team doesn’t have to chase down an onboarding manager or wrack their brains for what info to give you every time they close a deal—it just becomes second nature.

Better yet, lower the effort level on both teams and develop a handoff process that is automated. One way to do this is using Salesforce to assign the customer’s account team as soon as the deal is closed. The process should include passing along the following key pieces of information, along with anything else that’s important to your specific success team:

  • Client’s project team [Exec Sponsor, Project Manager, IT Sponsor, Key Stakeholders]

  • Account team [CSM, AM, OM]

  • Contract or deal information

  • Services plan that is purchased (if applicable)

3. Make it easy to share context from the sales process

“It’s critical that your sales team buys into the need for high quality notes and context,” Sam notes. Use language like this with your sales team: “Help us deliver on what you pitched to the client. Help us avoid any pitfalls for this client so they don’t come running back to you. Help us look and deliver our best so they can be a case study that YOU closed.”

“We use Front for context sharing. It’s important to let your success and onboarding team feel the weight of the customer’s words and the style of how they communicate. No two customers are alike and I always find it helpful to understand what and how customers have communicated with the sales team,” Sam says. “Did we pitch a plan for a certain reason, or did we hit a snag? How did we navigate? What resonated with the client? What didn’t?” The team can see all the previous sales threads in Front, so they can get the full internal and external picture of every conversation.

The team at Front also has a separate handoff record that is outside of the traditional Salesforce deal notes that includes fields we want our AEs to fill out like goals, expectations, critical contacts, and risks along with a scorecard so we can reflect in the future. “There are no bonus points on high scoring accounts—it’s all for us to learn because let’s face it, it’s impossible for every account to be perfect,” Sam explains.

4. Schedule the internal handoff meeting

“This is your safety net and air coverage,” Sam says. “It should only last 15 to 30 minutes and can sometimes be faster if your sales team is diligent with their notes and context sharing.” As you can expect, the larger and more complex the deal, the more time this is going to take. “Use this time not to read out what was written, but as an opportunity for the account team ask for clarifications or risks that may come to mind. Ultimately, it’s a fantastic way for these key cross-functional teams to build strong bridges,” she notes.

Ask questions like:

  • Are there any risks to the account that you foresee?

    • Are the any specific individuals that we should bring into the fold sooner than later?

    • Is there anything in the contract that we should proactively be aware of?

  • Has this customer implemented this type of technology before? If so, what? Do you know how it went?

  • Do you think change management will be a challenge for this customer? If so why?

  • Are there any learnings that you have with this account so far?

  • I noticed that the expected launch timeline is missing in the notes, do you have any context on why?

This 15-30 minutes is time worth spending. The more Alex the AE connects with Olivia the OM, empathy is gained and you’ll naturally see higher quality deals, better context notes, and eventually, these teammates will build a collaborative rhythm that can be cascaded to the rest of your organization.

5. Time to execute and deliver for your customers

Now that you have all the context you need to have a successful roll out. It’s time to execute. During your first conversation, commonly known as the “kick off” with the new customer, let the customer know what to expect after your first conversation. “Recapping your meeting in a timely manner is key,” Sam notes. ”Give exceptional clarity on timeline, due dates, and ownership.”

At Front, Sam’s team uses the message templates functionality in Front to speed up the recapping process. “A good recap takes time. You’ll want a good structure and using our message templates helps save our onboarding managers significant time by being able to plug in the nuancing per customer and not having to recreate the full email every time.” Carry out these steps, and you’ll see a tighter collaboration between your sales and success team.

Learn 5 steps to fix your handoffs in a webinar with Sam and Maddie Fitzgerald, AM Manager are Guru. Sign up here.

Written by Emily Hackeling

Originally Published: 22 October 2020

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