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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Playbooks — when used in the context of a Sales or CS team — represent lists of “plays” (or actions) that a rep is required to apply against any new lead or customer. They are borne from the belief (hope?) that there is some consistent, linear set of steps that can be designed and followed to ensure success for every one your accounts.