Whether you’re managing a customer success team, account management team, or client services team, you know that transitioning customers from your sales team with care is crucial for starting them on the right foot with your business. But the sales-to-account management or customer success handoff is a notoriously delicate process. It typically leads to two problems:
Customers feel unappreciated, because their information falls through the cracks and they have to repeat themselves.
Teams point fingers at each other when something goes wrong, because no one knows who’s accountable for what.
In either case, you’re stuck with unhappy customers and teams that grow increasingly distant, and neither of those are healthy for your business.
Whether your account team is tasked with retention, growth, adoption, or all the above, having a thoughtful handoff strategy can unify your teams and help you give customers a better experience — it’s a win-win situation. Read on for four tips for building a smooth handoff process, straight from customer relationship gurus who have perfected the sales-to-customer success knowledge transfer.
1. “Set relationship management expectations during the sales process.”
- Jeremey Donovan, Head of Sales Strategy & Enablement, CB Insights
Your efforts towards a successful handoff begin in the sales process — right when the relationship with your customer begins. Make sure your sales team lets your customers know what your post-sales relationship will look like before they sign the deal. That way there are no surprises later on down the line when they’re passed into different hands.
Will they receive a designated account manager or customer success manager?
Will they have a full customer success team to contact for questions?
Will they contact your general support line if they need help?
Covering these types of questions early on will help your customers get a feel for the type of relationship they can expect to have with your team.
2. “Learn how your customer defines success.”
- Burke Alder, Customer Success Strategist, ClientSuccess
Every customer has a different end goal, so your team should define success differently for every customer. Find out each customer’s ideal outcome by asking them directly in the sales process, and dig into the details to include when you’re handing them off. It’s easier to instill a sense of confidence in your customers if you know the benchmarks they’re seeking along the road to their end goal:
What’s success in the short term?
How does that fit into the long term vision?
How do you plan to measure success along the way?
What would a failure look like?
3. “The initial conversation between sales and customer success teams might look like a game of 20 questions.”
- Brooke Goodbary, Customer Success Consultant, www.brooke.land
The bits of information your customers share during the sales process are like nuggets of gold. No matter how big your teams are, relying on an ad-hoc transfer of information — i.e. a brief chat or a few forwarded emails — won’t cut it. Build out a list of questions you know you want to capture from every customer during the sales process. That way your customers aren’t stuck repeating themselves to your account managers or customer success managers.
And don’t stop there. Also document context about the sales process itself, so your customer-facing team can use that information to mold their first contact with the customer. Here are a few key questions you should be documenting:
What’s the goal of the customer’s business overall, and how do they generate revenue?
What are they trying to achieve by using your product or service?
Who was the final decision maker? Who wasn’t on board?
What parts of your product or service are they most interested in? Least interested in?
What were the main hesitations they overcame during the sales process?
4. “Sales and customer success need to have an open dialogue.”
- Chad Horenfeldt, VP of Customer Success, Updater
If you’re going to master the handoff from Sales to Account Management or Customer Success, your teams should get accustomed to sharing their mistakes. If there was a hiccup during the sales demo, or an onboarding presentation that didn’t go so well, teams should swap those stories — not hide them. Having this emphasis on transparency will build trust, bring you closer together, and open up the floor for teammates to help each other handle every situation better. By dedicating a routine time to discuss the relationship between sales and customer success, team leaders can instill a focus on empathy between teams from the top down.
Mastering the Sales to Account Management or Customer Success handoff takes careful planning, troubleshooting to find what works, and most importantly, a team that’s willing to work together. When you find the strategy that works for your team, make it part of everyone’s mission to stick to it! Processes only work when everyone plays along.
Written by Emily Hackeling
Originally Published: 17 April 2020