I’ve talked before about how important it is to get everyone on board with the mission of Customer Success. When we’re not all on the same page, silos persist, and they, in turn, impact customer satisfaction. Silos prevent Customer Success from establishing a robust and consistent customer experience across the entire customer journey. They hurt the entire organization. As a matter of fact, 53% of businesses say that overcoming organizational silos is a top-five barrier to improving their customer experience.
If we’re looking at the beginning of the customer journey, one of the more crucial walls to break down is the one between Sales and Customer Success. Sales and Customer Success should work together. They should be buddies, partners, even friends. There are so many benefits to building a stronger relationship between these two departments. Sales gains a deeper understanding of what makes a successful customer, and, depending on the setup, CS can cultivate stronger leads for Sales to pursue. CS might even be responsible for passing warm leads to Sales from current customers either through happy customer referrals or in the form of current accounts with growth potential.
Customer Success benefits by being more involved in the pre-sale stage, smoothing the onboarding process, and making life much easier for CSMs. It all starts by building trust between CS and Sales before, during, and after the Sales to CS handoff. Then, it helps to have a system for collecting all the customer data you can during pivotal, early conversations and handing it all off to the CS team in a precise and thoughtful way.
Capturing critical customer concerns consistently (say that five times fast!)
In an ideal handoff situation, the customer already knows their Customer Success Manager. They’ve been introduced during final negotiations and planning in the pre-sale stage of the customer journey. The CSM is already there, gathering the building blocks of their Customer Success Plan, or – even better – Sales has worked collaboratively with the customer and CSM to develop a CS Plan meant to carry the customer forward through a very successful journey.
This isn’t exactly the norm, so don’t feel bad if you’re not that close to Sales (yet). You can still work with them to collect this critical intel in the pre-sale stage. You just have to give them the tools, like a Sales to Customer Succes handoff checklist, to ensure someone collects all the information the CSM will need to move forward with a clean transition once Sales hands the customer off to CS.
Sales is understandably focused on closing the deal. But while they are doing the work, ensuring customer fit and value alignment, they are coming across extremely valuable intelligence that could make or break the customer experience in the long run. It’s our job to communicate with Sales and let them know the information we need so they can record it and pass it along when the time comes.
Here’s the bottom line. Nobody likes to repeat themselves. Ask any parent how fun it is to answer the same question – or iterations of the same questions – over and over again. It can be…frustrating. If your customers had extensive discussions with Sales about their needs, goals, and expectations, they (reasonably!) expect their CSM to know a little about it too. 85% of customers expect consistent communication across departments, and 83% say they’re more loyal to companies that provide consistency across departments.
The elements of a comprehensive checklist
We’ve helped many businesses develop the best Sales to Customer Success handoffs for their needs. Over time, all this work has culminated in a pretty extensive checklist that you can download here for free. We recommend using it as a guide to help you determine everything you’d prefer to know about your customers before onboarding them. Once you’ve customized it to fit your organization, you can use the checklist as a jumping-off point to talk to Sales about working closer together. Hopefully, they’ll see the value of collecting all this data too, and you’ll be part of the pre-sale stage of the customer journey in no time!
Who is this? What do they do? How many users will there be? In this section, you gather all the brass tacks about the customer and their business. You may want to include the details you need to determine the customer’s segment and tier – like their size, the dollar amount they’ll be spending, and their communication and engagement preferences.
The nitty gritty terms of the customer’s contract are always good to know. CSMs should have this information at-a-glance so they can categorize the customer (for example, are they renewing after one year or three years?) and know the right main point of contact moving forward. For more complex deals, you might also include things like the customer’s org chart or chain of command.
Now you’re digging deeper and asking: Why does this customer need our product/service? What pain points does our solution address? Sales likely knows all about the customer during the buying process, so this is where they write it down. What is the customer currently using, and what other solutions did they consider before landing on yours? What are they excited about jumping into with your product? All beneficial info for the CSM.
Okay, now we’re cooking! Customer goals might just be the most important section of them all. Do you think it would be valuable to know what success looks like to your customer? Obviously, yes. If you know your customer’s expectations, what they hope to achieve, and ideal timelines to hit their goals before the onboarding kickoff, you can hit the ground running and look good doing it too.
If your product requires a lot of integration or technical expertise, getting the essentials around deployment down ahead of time will save a lot of headaches. Change management comes into play here where the questions to ask revolve around integrating new tools into current workflows and understanding how the customer wants to communicate new processes to their users.
How often should we be in touch with the customer? What promises have we made about timelines and deployment? Is there a mutual project plan? All conversations about hoped-for (both achievable and unachievable) milestones should be recorded here.
You probably won’t be able to fill out every single answer to every question on the Customer Success Handoff Checklist, but every answer Sales and Customer Success can get clarity on ahead of onboarding is another piece of the puzzle that, once assembled, shows you the path to providing the best customer experience possible.