Perfecting the Sales to Customer Success Hand-Off (No Crystal Ball Necessary!)

Newsflash: Most Sales and Customer Success (CS) professionals can’t read minds.

Okay – that’s probably not surprising. But it seems to be a common assumption when there is no defined strategy for handing off a customer from Sales to CS.

Nailing this hand-off is critical to ensuring the customer experience is positive from the start. When you get it right, your customer (and your team) reach desired outcomes faster. When you get it wrong, a host of issues arise, jeopardizing your customer’s perceived value of your products and services…which, of course, negatively impacts renewal.

In a recent LinkedIn article, How to Nail Your Sales to Customer Success Hand-Off, Manish M elaborates on the risks that can become a reality when the transition is rocky.

  1. “The Customer can feel misunderstood and unappreciated when the Customer Success Manager (CSM) enters the account without proper context. The momentum built during the sales process and the excitement the customer has for using your product can dwindle rapidly.”
  2. “Going in unprepared and asking redundant questions to the customer can severely diminish the CSM’s credibility. The CSM starts off on a completely wrong foot, and most of his time is spent firefighting and re-building trust with the customer in addition to performing the onboarding tasks.”
  3. “Lack of accountability for the hand-off tasks can lead to confusion within the Sales and CSM teams and leads to finger pointing when things go wrong.”

So how do you get it right? Sheik Ayube, Director of Business Development at ESG, recently approached members of the Customer Success Forum for advice on transitioning a customer from Sales to CS. His request garnered a lot of interesting opinions and some enlightening personal experiences that illustrate common (and avoidable) pitfalls. Yet when I boiled it all down, three common themes stuck out.

COMMUNICATION

The need for communication between Sales and Customer Success is a no-brainer. However, how to communicate effectively is a bit more complex. Hands down, the biggest communication complaint involved requests for information that was either unnecessary or already known. Trent Young suggests, “Keep it succinct and focus on key factors for success. Ask for insight that isn’t easily found, like who or how decisions are made…Show up to the customer call with this information and validate key points, don’t ask things which are already known to your organization.”

Likewise, having a defined internal communication process will help ensure the right information is passed from Sales to CS. Julie Weill Persofsky explains, “The internal transition should cover the situation, pain, impact and critical event uncovered in the sales process. The most important thing is to make the client feel as though you have gotten up to speed on everything they shared during the sales process and aren’t starting from scratch.”

DOCUMENTATION

Process and documentation go hand-in-hand. Developing a process is meaningless if it isn’t documented to ensure consistency and accountability. Where should you start? Ian Hurlock advises, “Firstly, implement a handover form that salespeople must fill out before closing the opportunity in the CRM. This adds accountability and will capture most of the context from the sales deal while it’s still top of mind. I would then recommend implementing an internal handover meeting to get more context on key contacts, champions and blockers and then have the salesperson on any customer kick-off call to make sure that you can keep the customer and the sales team accountable for any verbal commitments that may not have been captured in email or the CRM.”

CUSTOMER POINT OF VIEW

Customers typically don’t see themselves as doing business with different units within a company. They bought a solution from a company and expect to be trained, nurtured and supported by that company – regardless of org charts and silos. So, the transition from one point of contact to another throughout the lifecycle can be confusing and discouraging if not handled properly.

Don’t let internal issues cause you to lose sight of the ultimate goal – helping customers be successful. As Dave Jackson points out, “The better question is, ‘how do you bring the organization together around a single journey that encompasses the entire buyer lifecycle?’ Don’t solve your problem; solve the customer’s problem.”

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to smoothly transitioning customers from Sales to Customer Success. What works for your customers and your teams will rely on a bevy of factors. What I’ve laid out here is only a small sample of the ideas shared in Sheik’s thread. If you’d like to learn more, I encourage you to join the discussion here.

Share with us – How do you ensure a successful hand-off from Sales to Customer Success?
Learn more – Can the calibur of your Customer Success Managers impact the quality of your Sales to CS hand-off? Check out our whitepaper, 10 Simple* Traits of an Awesome CSM to explore the key attributes that define a successful CSM and how to ensure your team embraces them.

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