In the wild, the lone wolf is often portrayed as a solitary, relentless hunter known for its keen instincts and survival strategies. This image has often been used as a metaphor for the world of sales—a realm where professionals, driven by targets and the thrill of the chase, navigate the competitive landscape in pursuit of their next big target. This is a picture I've come to know intimately through my own experiences.
Among these "lone wolves," however, a subtle yet impactful trend started to emerge. Many began to realize that the solitary hunt could be more effective and rewarding with a pack called Customer Success (CS).
They began to partner with Customer Success teams, acknowledging the potential in bridging their sales targets with the customer-oriented strategies of CS.
In this article, we will examine how this close collaboration with Customer Success Managers (CSMs) can help sales professionals reach their targets and drive organizational objectives forward.
Collaboration between Sales and CS offers several benefits, including the following:
The CS-Sales relationship is naturally focused on engaging existing customers, usually centered around the following aspects:
But there is more to it.
Positioned at the forefront of customer interactions, CSMs possess a wealth of experience that can provide tangible benefits for Sales. Specific ways CSMs contribute to the customer acquisition process include:
Let's unpack these unique insights and offer practical sales insights to help them hit new revenue records.
CSMs understand which use cases are easy to deploy and lead to a quicker time-to-value. They convert customer requirements into a set of actions that yield measurable results.
One key part of this process is understanding the flexibility of these uses - how they can be adapted to meet each customer's changing needs. This insight allows them to judge how well the product fits into the customer's workflow, how efficient it is, and how quickly it can be used effectively with minimum effort and training.
These insights are incredibly beneficial to the Sales team. By sharing their experiences and knowledge about the most successful uses, CSMs can guide Sales toward more promising prospects. In other words, they can help salespeople understand the ideal customers based on the product's successful use cases.
This is not only the marketing and sales responsibility but a joint effort complemented by CS. The gains are easy to quantify – having a "cleaner" and solid pipeline with a potentially higher conversion rate.
This is the CSM's "bread and butter." The opportunity to make a memorable first impression and drive customers to understand the product and its value. Customer Success owns this process and is responsible for creating positive momentum at the beginning of the customer journey.
An effective onboarding program can greatly enhance customer satisfaction and increase renewal rates. When it comes to onboarding new customers, there are multiple obstacles that CMSs are expected and overcome:
Implementing a new product may introduce technical issues, such as integrating existing products and technologies. This change will trigger multiple operational issues, business risks, and natural resistance from other stakeholders and teams who did not participate in the product's evaluation process.
As a result, there are different actions in which the CSM attempts to align the customer's stakeholders and processes. Sharing the customers' concerns with their sales counterparts, augmented with practices to address them, can be an "eye-opener." Conversely, sellers can be more confident when handling similar objections new prospects raise.
Customers sometimes raise inquiries or report defects in different stages of the onboarding process. CSM will aim to resolve these situations with "quick fixes" or workarounds rather than pausing onboarding and waiting for a permanent product fix.
These workarounds can benefit the pre-sales team, improving the chances of solving similar issues and winning proof of concepts (PoC). By the way, exchanging information can work both ways when pre-sale provides "trialed the tested" workarounds to their CS counterparts.
Expectations created during the sales cycle are usually at an "all-time high," and there is a risk of an early "reality check" during onboarding. This may lead to disappointment and lack of satisfaction ("Not seeing the value quickly"). Reflecting this gap to the sales team is not trivial as they set the expectations in earlier stages.
However, the two groups make a joint effort to create a streamlined experience with minimum setbacks. Achieving the expected successful outcome will increase stakeholder satisfaction, who will not regret their buying decision. Then the next commercial steps and growth are easier to accomplish.
Having existing customers experiment with new features is a "win-win" situation. Early adopters gain more benefits and accomplish better outcomes, increasing stickiness.
The vendor, in return, collects meaningful feedback from the field, which is essential for developing the product and aligning the roadmap to meet customers' needs.
This process is instrumental in maturing product capabilities while existing (supportive) customers are more tolerant than prospects in the middle of a PoC.
CSMs' role in this situation can extend beyond deploying new features and increasing product adoption. They are best positioned to hear the stakeholders' observations and share the improved customer experience with sales. Consequently, value selling has more credibility when sellers have in their" bag" proven references based on trial and tested use cases.
This is a significant contribution CSMs can make, sometimes overlooked when they give more attention to their customers' ongoing matters.
Having this partnership in place sharpens the CSM's commercial maturity. They do not only observe feature deployment but need to be more knowledgeable to distill the business value and realize the impact on customer objectives.
Successful CSMs nurture customers to be "homegrown" advocates. This can translate to customer quotes, case studies, public interviews, and attending webinars and conferences on the virtual or physical stage.
Mature CS organizations develop advocacy programs and practices to identify candidates and develop solid cooperation with them. The benefits of such programs go beyond the vendor-existing customer relationship. They positively impact business KPIs and ultimately support growth.
Who are the additional primary beneficiaries of customer advocacy?
Marketing creates more collateral based on proven use cases with measurable outcomes. In addition, they promote purposeful company events introducing genuine customer testimonials and attracting a more relevant audience.
Customers reassuring the vendor's value build the necessary credibility, strengthen the brand name, and create more potential leads for sales. As such, the marketing team can create a more substantial and targeted pipeline.
Moreover, sales deal with more qualified leads and prospects. Those who already realized why they should communicate with the vendor. They are more comfortable in their chances to succeed with the vendor and will likely be more engaged in the sales cycle. This could lead to better conversion rates and potentially reduce the overall duration of the sales cycle. Outstanding benefits for salespeople as they wish to sell more in less time.
My recommendation for the sales team is to keep in touch with their CS counterparts regarding customer advocacy, learn why customers happily recommend the product, and be ready to share the success with their prospects, soon-to-be new customers.
Undoubtedly, CSM experience and knowledge can help the sales team sell. The additional message for the CSMS is that this interaction can help them grow professionally and raise their commercial awareness. The "secret" is to groom the relationship, similar to how they manage customers. Once CSMs create a positive impact and establish trust, they will have more room to influence.
Furthermore, Sales want to be ready for their next opportunity by expanding the tools and techniques in their possession. Let it be via learning about winning use cases, the value story, overcoming objections, and bragging about successful customer stories.
Improved collaboration between Sales and CS can be achieved through regular meetings. I used to participate in such discussions, which the product managers moderated, as they were also interested in the CSM feedback mixed with the input from pre-sales and sales. The meeting should allow field-facing groups in the organization to share knowledge and best practices.
The other aspect which requires discipline is the ability to document the information and make it accessible. As such, the valuable data has to be logged in a centralized repository and be easily searchable. Then the use cases, the added value of feature requests, and tips for overcoming customer challenges will not stay within the boundaries of a single team but will serve other groups as well.
You may be skeptical about CSM's ability to contribute to acquiring new customers. Sales may have reservations as they trust their instincts, experience, and judgment before considering other advice. However, they will always look for the shortest "path" to win the next deal and partner with anyone who can help them reach their destination.
Hence, I encourage CSMs to promote the added value they can simultaneously deliver to customers and the sales team. Their organization will increase the new logo acquisition and ultimately achieve its revenue targets. In parallel, they get to sharpen their commercial skills and develop new "muscles," which will be handy later in their professional career.
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