Meet SaaS Salesman Pete: A 📖 in bad stock images

Meet Pete. Pete is a salesman at a modern SaaS business.

Pete is a modern SaaS salesman!

Pete is amazed!
Marketing has brought him many, many leads.
Pete can’t wait to close all these deals. So many deals.
“All these leads signed up for our trial,” Marketing said. “They’re definitely qualified.”

Pete is amazed at all the leads Marketing sent him

 

“Ok.” Pete is on-board with the idea of qualified leads.
“Go get ‘em, Pete,” Marketing said. “Close those deals!”
“Ok!”

If Marketing says they’re qualified, why not!

 

Pete emails one of the trials. They don’t remember signing up.
He tries another: “What do you do again?” They didn’t even know what his modern SaaS business did!
Doesn’t sound like they love us. Pete is unimpressed.

Pete wonders how supposedly qualified leads don’t even know what the product does

 

Pete has spent too many days trying to chase all these trial leads.
So many trial leads, so little success.
Pete is a SaaS salesman, but he is not a happy SaaS salesman.
Pete is a frustrated SaaS salesman.
He doesn’t know what to do. None of these trials he are working out.

Pete is frustrated calling bad trials

 

Finally, Pete connects with an account that has used the product.
They have gotten themselves set up and added three other users.
They are happy. They convert to paid.
Pete is happy.
Pete wants to find more trials like this. Pete wants to find all the trials like this.

Finally, someone that gets it! Pete is so happy 🙂

 

He did a Google search to find a solution. There must a way to find our best trials.
Pete believes.

Find your PQLs with Sherlock

Skip the Googling.
Try Sherlock today

Pete meet Sherlock.

Sherlock is a tool for modern SaaS businesses.
Do you work at a modern SaaS business, Pete?

Pete does work at a SaaS business!

You do!?
Sherlock is for you.
Find trial leads that are actually product qualified. Have them delivered to Slack.
Do you have Slack, Pete?
You can have your product qualified leads delivered other places, too! HubSpot? Slack? A CRM?
You like that, huh Pete?

Pete likes the sound of that!

Pete is excited.
He has finally found a smart way to prioritize his SaaS trial leads.
Now, Pete will close deals. Many, many deals.

Liked this story? Get custom engagement stories with Sherlock.
Learn more

Building a Product Qualified Lead process for your Complex product

This is part 4 of a 4-part series on PQLs: What they are, how to find them and how to build a winning Product Qualified Lead process

Want to know everything you didn’t know about Product Qualified Leads (PQLs)? Get our e-book.

activation slack alerts for Product Qualified Lead process

In case you haven’t heard, PQLs are leads that are more likely to convert because they have found value in your product. If you’re a modern SaaS business, you want to find these leads. So the only question left — how? It’s elementary: you need a Product Qualified Lead process.

So you’re convinced: you want to find PQLs and make a Product Qualified Lead process for your business. But where to start?

To build a proper Product Qualified Lead process, you will need to:

  1. Properly define what the criteria by which your leads will become product qualified (otherwise known as an Activation checklist)
  2. Have a set of guidelines for turning these leads into paying customers.

Let’s get started!

defining a pql is important for a winning Product Qualified Lead process

First off, how complex is your product?

When our customers ask how they should be designing their Product Qualified Lead process, the first question we ask them is: 

How complex is your product? 

More simply, how hard is it for a new user (or small group of users) to self-serve their way to first value? Don’t forget: self-serve means without any manual support of intervention from your team. 

The answer to this question is the starting point for your PQL definition. It’s answer tells you how Activated a new account should be before your team gets involved. 

This post covers a Product Qualified Lead process for complex products. Not sure if that’s you?

Ask yourself how many of your last 10 signups self-served their way to first value. If the answer is less than 4, read on!

A new user is almost always going to require manual support to get to the promised land. Complex products often require technical implementation, access to data or tools from other departments, or some deeper domain knowledge for a user to get value. 

A complex product might have a free trial period, but is more likely to only sell to customers who go through a sales demo with a more hands-on approach. 

Think Salesforce.

Looking for a different product type? Download our e-book.

Next, how big is the opportunity?

Now that you’ve decided you have a complex product, you should think of the other main factor that will determine how quickly your Sales team gets involved. Namely, the size of a Sales opportunity. As with simple products, if a new trial holds the potential for more revenue, you’ll want to get your Sales team involved earlier. 

At the very least, you should be able to categorize your new trial signups into Small, Mid-Size and Large revenue opportunities. 

Oftentimes, companies will use the company size of a new trial as a proxy for opportunity size. This is certainly one way to go about it, but you define opportunity size based on whatever criteria makes sense for your business. 

Putting it together with Activation Rate

The more complex a product, the earlier your Sales team should intervene. Similarly, the bigger the size of the opportunity, the sooner you want your Sales team on it. Sounds simple, right? (That’s good, because it is). 

If you have a complex product, you’ll need to get involved sooner regardless of the deal size. That being said, you’ll probably still want to wait for accounts to hit a certain level of Activation and keep your Sales and CS team focused on bigger deals.

Here are good rule-of-thumb Activation rate guidelines for a complex product:

Deal SizeReach out when:
Small 50% – 75% Activated
Mid-Size25% – 50% Activated
Large0% – 25% Activated

As you go through the next section, keep in mind the goal of a Product Qualified Lead process for complex products is to balance the time of your Sales team. That way, they are focusing on larger opportunities but aren’t abandoning smaller opportunities with a high likelihood to close.

Product Qualified Lead process for the Small Opportunity

Product Qualified Lead process for the small opportunity intermediately complex product
Product Qualified Lead process for small opportunities — Wait until they’re ready to convert

These pose quite the conundrum for Complex products. You know your product needs manual support for most users to get value, but how much time can you afford to give such a small opportunity? 

In these cases, the complexity of your product may just work in your favor. Wait, what?! 

That’s right. Small accounts that are really interested in your value proposition — in the promise of your product — will make the effort to get set up and experience some of the value. 

When their Activation is high, you’ll know they’re committed and it’ll be worth it for your Sales team to give them some attention. How high is high enough? We recommend waiting till they’re at least 50% Activated

How to engage these Product Qualified Leads

Because it is harder for users to recognize the eventual value of a Complex product on their own, trial leads on this product will likely need some kind of demo of the product from your Sales team. They will need to see the finished cake (complete with frosting) if they are going to move forward and convert. 

In these cases, it’s important for your Sales team to engage these users and invite them for an in-person demo of the platform, perhaps with an email. 

Want to know how to win over small deals? Download our e-book and get considerations and sample emails.

Product Qualified Lead process for the Mid-Size Opportunity 

Product Qualified Lead process for the mid-size opportunity intermediately complex product
Product Qualified Lead process for mid-size opportunities — more users, lower Activation

These mid-sized opportunities are exactly what they sound like. Bigger accounts than a small opportunity, but smaller than a large one. The bigger the account, the more users involved, the more coordination necessary and the more complex the path to conversion. 

So let’s be honest: Not many opportunities will self-serve their way to conversion with a Complex product, regardless of the size. But because these are bigger than small opportunities, you’ll want to get your Sales team involved soonish, probably at around a 25-50% Activation level

How to engage these Product Qualified Leads

The challenge here is still the complexity of the product. It’s hard for users to identify the full value of the platform on their own. 

Focus your manual intervention on booking a time to talk to your Sales team instead of pushing the account toward deeper Activation

 

Not sure what to say? Download our e-book and get sample emails to win these mid-size deals.

Product Qualified Lead process for the Large Opportunity

Product Qualified Lead process for the large opportunity intermediately complex product
Product Qualified Lead process for the large opportunities — It’s ok to jump in a bit earlier

When you get large opportunities to sign-up for you Complex product, you don’t need a great deal of product usage to justify, at least, an initial touch point from your team. In fact, you should feel comfortable reaching out to these accounts soon after they sign-up or when they reach just about 25% Activation.

From there, it’ll be somewhat similar to a traditional Sales process. Or at least as you’re going to get with a modern SaaS product. Start by identifying the key decision makers and make sure that they see the complete, fully-baked value of your product, which can be hard to do during a trial so get them on a demo ASAP.

Ready to take that large opportunity from trial to forever? Download our e-book.

Product Qualified Leads is a Team Sport

The evolution of SaaS means it’s out with the old way to sell software and in with a new “try-before-you-buy” business model. The same goes for how we qualify leads. No longer is the number of times someone visited a website or attended a webinar an adequate measure of a their likelihood to convert to a paid account. 

Nowadays, the most accurate indication of an account’s likelihood to convert is their success with the product. This is why qualifying any lead needs to be based on how successful they are with a product before starting to pay for it. 

Want a way to figure out how likely a lead is to close? Try Sherlock.

This is why every SaaS operation needs a process for defining and engaging Product Qualified Leads (PQLs). (Good news! We’ve got an ebook for setting that up). 

We have spent a great deal of time talking about Product Qualified Leads and that PQL process, but up to this point we have mostly addressed PQLs in the context of your Sales team, which makes sense. Product Qualified Leads are essentially today’s version of SQLs. These are leads that are ready for sales attention. Which is why we have focused on the Sales team to date. 

But the reality is that the Product Led Growth model — and therefore an effective Product Qualified Lead process — calls for cross-functional effort and coordination. It is cliche to say that something in your business is a “team effort”, but in the case of a building and managing a PQL process, this is a legitimate claim. 

But don’t run away form this fact — embrace it. Embrace the fact that a modern SaaS business can no longer operate effectively in traditional silos. We can no longer hide behind individual metrics and toss customers over our proverbial fences. The early customer experience, and the journey from TRY to BUY is defined by the efforts of several teams. 

In this post, we will focus on the teams involved in building a solid PQL process and their respective roles in that process.

Which teams need to be involved in your Product Qualified Lead process? 

What do we mean when we say “cross-functional”? Who is on your PQL squad? At the very least, it should be this crew:

  • Product
  • Marketing/Growth
  • Sales/Revenue Ops (if you have them)
  • Sales
  • Customer Success

I know what you’re thinking. Whoa! That’s a lot of people involved in one process! 

Don’t worry. While each of these teams play a pivotal role in the process, their contributions fit perfectly within the scope of their regular work. Let’s take a deeper look into the role each team will play:

Product Team: The Gatekeepers

Obviously your product — and as a result, your Product team — is central to a PQL process. I mean, we’re talking about Product Qualified Leads here. These are leads that are qualified based on their engagement with the product. This means your Product team has a central role for two reasons.  

First and foremost, the Product team is charged with building a product that, well, has value. But as it relates to PQLs, they also need to design and orchestrate a product experience that enables new signups to find their way to some level of value before requiring human support.  This means good UX, in-product messaging, on-boarding flows, education, etc. This is the Product team’s most important contribution to your PQL process. 

However, that’s not their ONLY contribution. Any PQL process is dependent on product engagement data. This data is required to build and define PQLs for your business. You need to know:

  • how much each account is engaging with the product;
  • how far they have gotten toward Activation;  
  • how many users are engaged (and which ones);
  • what features they have (and haven’t) used;

And your Product team owns this data. That means they play an essential role in facilitating that the right product data it tracked, transformed into a usable format, and delivered to your team when and where they need it. While many Product teams won’t see this as part of their responsibility, it is. 

As you can see, this whole process hinges on the Product team. They are The Gatekeepers.

Marketing/Growth Team: The Architects 

When we say “marketing” here, we’re not talking about your typical, old-school lead-gen marketer. We’re talking about a more modern growth marketer that (a) can think and design for a complete customer experience; (b) is very comfortable getting her hands dirty with data; and (c) is adept at working in a cross-functional capacity. 

This person will likely become the architect of your PQL program. She will play a major role in supporting the product team to build that great initial customer experience — from in-app messages, sign-up flows, on-boarding emails, and beyond — with the goal of driving as many PQLs as possible. She will also play a critical role in crafting the conditions that will define PQLs for your business and in building a playbook for addressing them in a way that works for your specific situation.

In short, she will likely be the one that brings all the moving pieces together and makes this process a reality. 

Ready to give your teams everything they need to take users from trial to forever? Give Sherlock a try.

Sales/Revenue Ops: The Trafficker 

If you have a Sales Ops team, they will sit right in the middle of your PQL process. Their role here is no different than their role in any lead qualification process. They will play a critical role in insuring that the PQL metrics are delivered to the right place so that your sales team can take appropriate action — quickly! 

Sales Ops will ensure that your sales team spend less time digging for the right leads and more time interacting with qualified prospects. 

Sales: The Closers

Their role is pretty clear. Their job is to take these precious leads from PQL status to closed deal. Bring ‘em home! 

But they will also play an important role in defining – and refining – PQLs. Their feedback, from the frontlines, will help you understand if the way you are defining PQLs works effectively in their process and actually leads to more closed deals. 

Customer Success: The Caregivers

In a PLG model, CS teams can play an essential role — not just post-sale, but pre-sale as well. 

Yes, that’s right. In fact, in many cases, CS will play a more important role than a Sales team in converting accounts in a Product-led growth model. In a product-led growth model, prospects aren’t interested in being sold to. They are interested in getting value from a product. Your CS team specializes in making this happen and should be brought into the sales process as soon as possible. This function can have a huge impact on turning early users into PQLs. 

Looking for a run-down? We’ve got you covered

TeamArchetype Role in PQL process
Growth/MarketingThe Architects– Helping to design onboarding and early user experience with the product
– Defining PQLs for your organization
– Designing customer engagement process for trial or free accounts
ProductThe Gatekeepers– Designing and building early customer experience that enables users to self-serve to some level of value
– Generating and distributing key product data to enable a PQL process
Sales OpsThe Traffickers – Make sure that sales team is aware of PQLs where they need them  when they need them
SalesThe Closers– Help team define and refine the criteria for Product Qualified Leads
– Close. Those. Deals!
Customer SuccessThe Caregivers– Help new users get to value with the product – drive PQLs!

PQLs as a Unifying KPI

Empower all your teams from Product to Sales. Try Sherlock free for 17 days.

One of the major benefits of building a PQL process is that in doing so, you are creating a truly collaborative KPI. There aren’t many metrics in a SaaS business that multiple departments can rally around. You always hear, “marketing owns this”, “sales owns this”, “customer success owns that.” The truth is that most KPIs live in departmental silos, driving more competition and in-fighting than cooperation. But Product Qualified Leads are a pure cross-department KPI. Everyone has a hand in driving Product Qualified Leads and can therefore can collaboratively rally around the metric.

  • For Marketing, high PQL counts mean that they are not only bringing in more leads but more of the right ones. Messaging, targeting, channels all working well, as well as the early user experience
  • For Product, strong PQL counts mean that new users are finding value in the Product AND are finding their way to value. For the first time, PQLs give Product a seat at the revenue table
  • For Sales, PQLs represent their lead list. They know that these accounts have already gotten some value from the product and have the highest likelihood of closing. A long list of PQLs is like Christmas for a SaaS sales person
  • For Customer Success, PQLs not only represent receptive potential customers, but because they are engaged with the product before even buying, they are much more likely of becoming long-term, successful customers

And, of course, PQLs will resonate right up to the board level because more PQLs mean more closed deals. More efficient sales. More top-line growth. More overall business value. Giddy-up! 

Building a Product Qualified Lead process for your Intermediately Complex product

This is part 3 of a 4-part series on PQLs: What they are, how to find them and how to build a winning Product Qualified Lead process

Want to know everything you didn’t know about Product Qualified Leads (PQLs)? Get our e-book.

activation slack alerts for Product Qualified Lead process

In case you haven’t heard, PQLs are leads that are more likely to convert because they have found value in your product. If you’re a modern SaaS business, you want to find these leads. So the only question left — how? It’s elementary: you need a Product Qualified Lead process.

So you’re convinced: you want to find PQLs and make a Product Qualified Lead process for your business. But where to start?

To build a proper Product Qualified Lead process, you will need to:

  1. Properly define what the criteria by which your leads will become product qualified (otherwise known as an Activation checklist)
  2. Have a set of guidelines for turning these leads into paying customers.

Let’s get started!

defining a pql is important for a winning Product Qualified Lead process

First off, how complex is your product?

When our customers ask how they should be designing their Product Qualified Lead process, the first question we ask them is: 

How complex is your product? 

More simply, how hard is it for a new user (or small group of users) to self-serve their way to first value? Don’t forget: self-serve means without any manual support of intervention from your team. 

The answer to this question is the starting point for your PQL definition. It’s answer tells you how Activated a new account should be before your team gets involved. 

This post covers a Product Qualified Lead process for intermediately complex products. Not sure if that’s you?

Ask yourself how many of your last 10 signups self-served their way to first value. If the answer is between 4 and 7, read on!

With intermediately complex products, about 50% of new users can self-serve their way to value without manual intervention. Unlike their simple counterparts, these products typically have a free trial, but do not have a freemium version. Think Adobe.

Sometimes intermediately complex products are simple to set up, but hard to get to initial value. Other times, they are harder to get set up, but deliver easy value beyond that.

Looking for a different product type? Download our e-book.

Next, how big is the opportunity?

Now that you’ve decided you have an intermediately complex product, you should think of the other main factor that will determine how quickly your Sales team gets involved. Namely, the size of a Sales opportunity. As with simple products, if a new trial holds the potential for more revenue, you’ll want to get your Sales team involved earlier. 

At the very least, you should be able to categorize your new trial signups into Small, Mid-Size and Large revenue opportunities. 

Oftentimes, companies will use the company size of a new trial as a proxy for opportunity size. This is certainly one way to go about it, but you define opportunity size based on whatever criteria makes sense for your business. 

Putting it together with Activation Rate

The more complex a product, the earlier your Sales team should intervene. Similarly, the bigger the size of the opportunity, the sooner you want your Sales team on it. Sounds simple, right? (That’s good, because it is). 

If you have an intermediately complex product, how soon you get involved will be very much based on the deal size. You can wait for smaller accounts to become (almost) fully Activated before getting manually involved. But if a large deal starts using the product, you’ll want to get your Sales and CS team involved to increase the chances of a close.

Here are good rule-of-thumb Activation rate guidelines for an intermediately complex product:

Deal SizeReach out when:
Small 75% – 100% Activated
Mid-Size50% – 75% Activated
Large25% – 50% Activated

As you go through the next section, keep in mind the goal of a Product Qualified Lead process for intermediately complex products is to balance the time of your Sales team. That way, they are focusing on larger opportunities but aren’t abandoning smaller opportunities with a high likelihood to close.

Product Qualified Lead process for the Small Opportunity

Product Qualified Lead process for the small opportunity intermediately complex product
Product Qualified Lead process for small opportunities — Wait until they’re ready to convert

Intermediate products require an — intermediate level of manual support for success, but it’s hard to justify that support for these small opportunities. 

On the flip side, any small opportunity that shows enough interest in this type of product to self-serve their way to success is an opportunity that is highly likely to convert. 

Enter the PQL process. You can justify some manual intervention for some of these accounts, but you have to be selective about it. Your sales team should get involved, but only when these smaller opportunities reach at least 75% Activation

How to engage these Product Qualified Leads

Sales should take a Customer Success approach with these accounts. Congratulate, encourage, and support. It’s about extending account engagement and Activation, not getting a demo. 

Want to know how to win over small deals? Download our e-book and get considerations and sample emails.

Product Qualified Lead process for the Mid-Size Opportunity 

Product Qualified Lead process for the mid-size opportunity intermediately complex product
Product Qualified Lead process for mid-size opportunities — more users, lower Activation

It’s likely that you’re going to need some manual intervention in order to convert these opportunities at a high enough rate. 

These accounts are more likely to have multiple users — and multiple decision makers. This means you will need more than one person to fall in love with the product in order to get a conversion. 

And that means this account will require more and earlier attention from your team. Qualify these leads once they get to 50-75% Activation and get someone on your team involved if you want them to convert! 

How to engage these Product Qualified Leads

Have a Customer Success rep engage with these accounts before your Sales team does. We know, we know — this violates every B2B playbook ever created. 

But for mid-size opportunities trialing an intermediately complex product, having someone who can help users navigate to a higher level of Activation will be more valuable than any kind of sales “pitch” you can offer. (And, don’t even think about just adjusting your sales pitch.) 

A CS-followed-by-Sales combo outreach delivers the right kind of support at the right time for these accounts and helps drive conversion rates. 

 

Not sure what to say? Download our e-book and get sample emails to win these mid-size deals.

Product Qualified Lead process for the Large Opportunity

Product Qualified Lead process for the large opportunity intermediately complex product
Product Qualified Lead process for the large opportunities — It’s ok to jump in a bit earlier

This is just the kind of lead your Sales team has been waiting for! You should drop everything and go after them with everything you’ve got, right? Wrong. 

Your intermediately complex product doesn’t need immediate intervention so you should allow every trial (no matter how big) some space to prove their interest in your product before a full onslaught. (It’s hard, we know.) 

But why? With bigger companies, it is often a lower-level employee who signs up for a free trial. They might not have any organizational support, which is fine — but is the very reason why a signup alone is not enough to justify Sales effort. 

With all that said, this is still a big account, so you should consider them product qualified earlier than if they were smaller. Wait for them to be 25-50% Activated and then go get ‘em! 

Ready to take that large opportunity from trial to forever? Download our e-book.

Building a Product Qualified Lead process for your Simple Product

This is part 2 of a 4-part series on PQLs: What they are, how to find them and how to build a winning Product Qualified Lead process

Want to know everything you need to know about Product Qualified Leads? Download our e-book.

activation slack alerts for Product Qualified Lead process

In case you haven’t heard, PQLs are leads that are more likely to convert because they have found value in your product. If you’re a modern SaaS business, you want to find these leads. So the only question left — how? It’s elementary: you need a Product Qualified Lead process.

So you’re convinced: you want to find PQLs and make a Product Qualified Lead process for your business. But where to start?

To build a proper Product Qualified Lead process, you will need to:

  1. Properly define what the criteria by which your leads will become product qualified (otherwise known as an Activation checklist)
  2. Have a set of guidelines for turning these leads into paying customers.

Let’s get started!

defining a pql is important for a winning Product Qualified Lead process

First off, how complex is your product?

When our customers ask how they should be designing their Product Qualified Lead process, the first question we ask them is: 

How complex is your product? 

More simply, how hard is it for a new user (or small group of users) to self-serve their way to first value? Don’t forget: self-serve means without any manual support of intervention from your team. 

The answer to this question is the starting point for your PQL definition. It’s answer tells you how Activated a new account should be before your team gets involved. 

This post covers a Product Qualified Lead process for simple products. Not sure if that’s you?

Ask yourself how many of your last 10 signups self-served their way to first value. If the answer is more than 7, read on!

Slack and Dropbox are great examples of simple products. With both, a single user (or small number of users on an account) can easily self-serve their way to initial value. Both also have freemium versions, which are more commonly seen with simpler products.

Looking for a different product type? Download our e-book.

Next, how big is the opportunity?

Even with a simple product, there is some variance in how quickly you’ll want to get your Sales team involved. You need to also consider the size of a Sales opportunity. If a new trial holds the potential for more revenue, you’ll want to get your Sales team involved earlier. 

At the very least, you should be able to categorize your new trial signups into Small, Mid-Size and Large revenue opportunities. 

Oftentimes, companies will use the company size of a new trial as a proxy for opportunity size. This is certainly one way to go about it, but you define opportunity size based on whatever criteria makes sense for your business. 

Putting it together with Activation Rate

The more complex a product, the earlier your Sales team should intervene. Similarly, the bigger the size of the opportunity, the sooner you want your Sales team on it. Sounds simple, right? (That’s good, because it is). 

If you have a simple product, you should generally wait for accounts to become (almost) fully Activated before getting manually involved. However, if a large deal starts using the product, you can might want to start the manual intervention phase earlier to increase the chances of a close. In this case, you’d have your Sales (or CS team) start engaging when the account is only 25-50% Activated. 

Here are good rule-of-thumb Activation rate guidelines for a simple product:

Deal SizeReach out when:
Small 80% – 100% Activated
Mid-Size60% – 80% Activated
Large25% – 50% Activated

As you go through the next section, keep in mind the goal of a Product Qualified Lead process for simple products is to drive as many paid conversions as possible with little to no manual intervention.

Product Qualified Lead process for the Small Opportunity

Product Qualified Lead process for the small opportunity simple product
Product Qualified Lead process for small opportunities — Wait until they’re ready to convert

Simple products are designed so that the majority of accounts coming in are small accounts that can self-serve their way to value (and, most likely, even to a point of paid conversion). With a simple product, you can choose to not offer any manual intervention or you can choose to intervene when they approach the point of conversion.

While it’s easy to write off small accounts (you may not even have a dedicated salesperson for them), realize that there is gold in them there hills! Your Sales (and CS) teams should be monitoring this segment on a regular basis and looking for opportunities to take some of these accounts over the finish line. 

Any small account that gets to 75% Activation is absolutely worth some light manual intervention. 

How to engage these Product Qualified Leads

They don’t really need a value pitch but a slight nudge or reminder could be just the thing that gets them over the finish line. 

Want to know how to win over small deals? Download our e-book and get considerations and sample emails.

Product Qualified Lead process for the Mid-Size Opportunity 

Product Qualified Lead process for the mid-size opportunity simple product
Product Qualified Lead process for mid-size opportunities — more users, lower Activation

You have a simple product and a mid-size opportunity. Great! The goal is still to have users self-serve their way to success — at least as much as you can. 

With that being said, mid-size accounts are more likely to have multiple users (and multiple decision makers) so it’s likely that some manual intervention will be required. More users, more touch points, and more potential decision makers complicate the on-boarding, Activation, and conversion of these accounts. 

You should consider these account product qualified and get someone on your team involved at about 60% – 80% Activation.

 

Looking to win that mid-size deal? Download our e-book and get everything you need.

Product Qualified Lead process for the Large Opportunity

Product Qualified Lead process for the large opportunity simple product
Product Qualified Lead process for the large opportunities — It’s ok to jump in a bit earlier

The whales! Go get ‘em! 

But be careful. It’s typical for Sales teams to see a big, shiny logo and then drop everything to chase it down. Don’t do this! The user that signed up for your product is probably a lower-level employee who was doing some initial investigation. (This is why we call these types of trials “Heartbreakers”) 

Don’t let your Product Qualified Lead process falter chasing a heartbreaker

Have some restraint and let these trials self-serve their way forward before reaching out. Your Sales team should allow this account to show sufficient interest before chasing them down. Of course, the size of the potential opportunity means you should product qualify this lead at an earlier stage of Activation (about 25-50%). 

Ready to take that large opportunity from trial to forever? Download our e-book.

How to Improve the Sales CS Handoff

Oh the handoff. Ah — the handoff. Are you shivering yet? We would write poetry about the Sales CS handoff, but the conflicts between these two teams are more systematic than symbolic.

The Sales CS handoff is a seemingly simple transfer of account ownership between a salesperson who closed a new account and a customer success rep who will be on-boarding and managing the account. 

What could be more straightforward?

Ah, but there is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact! Sales CS handoffs are not a simple ownership transfer. If you want to take the account from close to forever, the Sales CS handoff needs to be a knowledge transfer.

The salesperson needs to be able to effectively share the information they gathered about an account during the sales process with the customer success rep like who the key players are and what features caused them to make the purchasing decision. 

Still sounds straightforward? Indeed not. Your Sales CS handoffs probably sound more like this:

The pain of the Sales CS handoff

smh. Does it have to be like this?

Why is a good Sales CS handoff important? 

Do you want your customers to have a good experience? Do you want an efficient SaaS process? Do you want a foundation for long-term customer success? Don’t even try to pretend the answer to any of those questions isn’t a resounding “Indeed, I do!”

Good Sales CS handoffs make your precious customers happy by preserving continuity and momentum. We’ve all been there: You get yourself all set up and jazzed about a product, finish your trial without a hitch (ok, without an unsolved hitch), go through a series of negotiations with a salesperson, hand over your credit card and then — you have to start over with someone who wants to talk about what you’ve done the past month. Don’t be the cable company. Don’t do this to your customers.

Good Sales CS handoffs also keep your SaaS organization efficient. If your team is spending time repeating customer research, educating and training customers on the same things twice, fumbling through multiple tools to figure out the best path forward, then your operation simply isn’t going to efficient and its certainly not going to scale well. 

Want a better Sales CS handoff? Learn how Sherlock can help.

But what’s the real reason for an as-close-to-perfect-as-you-can Sales CS handoff? Brace yourself for everyone’s least favorite 5-letter word: churn. This is SaaS, guys. An initial conversion does not a profitable customer make. You need to keep that customer from churning, retain them for a long time before they will be valuable for your business. A good Sales CS handoff lays a good foundation. During a trial, customers (hopefully) see enough value to start paying. But this doesn’t mean they have experienced all the value your product has to offer. Many times, it’s not even close. The post-conversion on-boarding phase is what determines team and feature adoption. Do you know what that determines? Whether or not this new, beautiful paid account goes from trial to forever.

Very well. I agree, but why is a good Sales CS handoff so difficult?

Quite the conundrum, surely! Good Sales CS handoffs should be easy (but when is anything worth having ever easy?). 

Let’s see why they’re not:

As mentioned before, the Sales CS handoff is a knowledge transfer between two departments. To make any knowledge transfer successful, you need:

  1. Good communication
  2. Good information

Good communication

Ah, communication. The stuff poems are written about. Or is that love? (If only communication was easier, we might have some clarity on the subject.) But it’s not. We’ll spare you the philosophy and get to the root of the problem: The communication challenges around a Sales CS handoff are all rooted in objectives. More specifically, misaligned objectives. 

Sales and CS teams are (still) not well-aligned in terms of goals and incentives. CS teams are charged with helping customers get long-term value out of your product, while Sales teams will do anything they can just to close a deal. Now before you send your Sales team to egg our offices, we’re not saying CSMs are a holy, benevolent antitheses to a greedy, money-grubbing horde (Sales teams aren’t part of a greedy, money-grubbing horde).

It’s just that the two teams are compensated differently. Salespeople get paid on closed deals. So salespeople only care about closed deals. Not long-term success. They don’t care because they’re not paid to care. So is it any wonder that it’s difficult to get Sales to actively participate in the Sales CS handoff? They have fresh leads to chase down! And we know what you’re thinking: But my Sales team is different. If they really are, congratulations. You’re in the minority. Do everything you can to keep them.

Good information

The next major requirement for any successful knowledge transfer is having good information. It’s tough to transfer knowledge if you don’t have it. And this is a major problem for the Sales CS handoff — and it’s only getting worse as we move more toward a Product-Led world

Firstly, let’s consider some structural issues. It is sometimes the case (although not always) that the information a sales person needs to close a deal is often different than what a CSM team needs to properly onboard and manage an account. During a Sales CS handoff, CS may want to know some things that the salesperson simply never asked about or researched because they didn’t need to. 

Then there’s the issue of access to information. This is often the bigger issue. Sometimes Sales and CS need different information to accomplish their objectives. Sales only asks about the information they need and only remember the information as long as they need it to close a sale. But the bigger issue, especially in this Product-Led world is that: 

  • Sales is spending less and less time with accounts before they convert 
  • The data that is most important for a proper Sales CS handoff is product engagement data, which is difficult to access — especially in a format that meets the needs of these teams. 

In this Product-Led world, the goal is to allow users to “sell themselves” on a product with a free trial period or freemium version of the product. Introverts rejoice: that means less Sales involvement! In earlier times, a Salesperson would have multiple touches — phone calls, email interactions, face-to-face visits, etc — with a prospect before closing a deal. But today, Sales is having far fewer interactions with a prospect before a conversion. Do you know what that means? Until you find a way to make your Sales teams omnipotent, they will have less information about new accounts. And this isn’t great from a Sales CS handoff perspective.

While we’re on the topic of information, let’s talk about the most important kind — how the accounts have been using the product. 

  • What features have they used (and not used)? 
  • Who had been engaging and what roles? 
  • Have they run into any issues? 
  • What integrations are they using? 
  • What is left to do to get them on-boarded? 

The answers to all these questions, my good friend, are based on product engagement, i.e. things that don’t come from a traditional Sales interaction. They need to be tracked and compiled in a way that make it easy for both teams to understand. And unless you have this data in that format, it’s really difficult to get any value from a Sales CS handoff.

How to solve your Sales CS handoff woes with Sherlock

Some hard truth: There is no software product that’s going to fix the the communication and misalignment issues present in a Sales CS handoff. If these are big issues for your teams, you first need to find a way to change your culture (and your incentive programs) so long-term retention has the highest value. If your company has a sales-first culture, you might be SOL. You can try changing incentive programs, focusing on longer-term KPIs (like 12-month revenue retention, churn rates, etc), or even moving to an aggressive product-led model but, this is going to be a toughie.

Now then. The good news: the knowledge piece can be solved. As mentioned earlier, the most important data in a modern Sales CS handoff is the product engagement of your new accounts. Your CS team will need to know what the account did, how far they got, and who on the account was doing it. 

Enter Sherlock. It was built so your Sales team can track the product engagement and Activation of all their accounts in trial. 

Product engagement scoring is the key to mastering the Sales CS handoff
Product engagement scoring is the key to mastering the Sales CS handoff

This is great for a more efficient modern sales process, but it’s super magical when it comes to a Sales CS handoff. And why? It’s simplicity itself! You’ve already been tracking the activity, progress  and everything else there is to know about the engagement of accounts during their trial. With Sherlock, CS has all this information at their fingertips once an account moves to paid. 

They can quickly and easily find out: 

  • What features has the account already used (and not used)? 
  • Who had been engaging – what has each of them done? 
  • Have they run into any issues? 
  • What is left to do to get them on-boarded? 
Sherlock gives you everything you need for a winning Sales CS handoff
Sherlock gives you everything you need for a winning Sales CS handoff

Sure, there are other things your CS team might want or need to know. Things like goals for the account, organizational makeup, personalities of the stakeholders, etc. But with Sherlock, CSMs will have the most important knowledge about their new accounts readily available. 

That means, even if you never get the awkward Sales CS handoff meeting scheduled, your CS team will be well prepared to deliver a great on-boarding experience and beyond. Or maybe you’ll just end up with a meeting that’s actually productive.

Don’t you want to be having a different kind of Sales CS handoff? Click here.