One of the most critical points in a successful customer relationship is the handoff and onboarding process between sales and customer success (CS). Many organizations don’t think enough about this transition, and as a result, the customer begins the relationship with a poor first impression. Or worse, customers aren’t set up for long-term success and end up churning, translating to lost revenue and wasted time. In this economy, organizations simply can’t afford to lose customers.
Let’s talk data: Research shows that 90% of customers think that companies can do better when it comes to onboarding. And, a surprising 63% of customers take a company’s onboarding into account when making a purchasing decision. Leading organizations are taking note and action. According to Forrester’s Winter Sales Survey, 2022, 62% of revenue operations and sales operations professionals say they plan to increase their alignment between sales, marketing, and CS in 2023.
Taking the time up front to seamlessly orchestrate the customer’s transition from sales to CS can establish the relationship on a solid foundation, while ensuring that CS has all of the information needed to secure customer adoption and deliver lifetime value. Here are three proven strategies revenue leaders can take.
1. Prioritize Sales and CS Alignment
Many teams aspire to drive more strategic alignment between sales and CS. Whether that’s a matter of aligning on goals or improving communication depends on the organization. The most successful companies realize CS and sales teams are better together — leading a unified customer experience. Ultimately, both teams should be in lockstep to ensure that the hard-won sales cycle and newest customer receives the attention it deserves to be successful.
In highly aligned teams, customer success managers (CSMs) are trained and enabled on the role of sales and vice versa. There are clear rules of engagement with the customer and defined ownership and responsibilities for each team. If your team isn’t there yet, that’s okay, start by outlining the steps in your customer journey. Ask yourself: Who is the directly responsible individual or team for each step? Where can processes be improved to remove friction? Involve CS, along with sales leaders and top performers in this journey mapping exercise, and then clearly communicate roles and responsibilities to the collective team.
2. Embrace Automation for a Seamless Customer Journey
Related to customer journey mapping, many organizations miss the opportunity to truly examine their workflows and determine where automation can remove friction. Both sales and CS are bandwidth-strapped teams that don’t have time to engage with cumbersome manual processes that could be automated. Taking a step back from rep productivity gains, the positive impact on elevating the customer experience alone is worth the investment.
In our sales to CS onboarding journey at Calendly, an automated email is distributed from the AE welcoming the customer with the CSM copied once an opportunity closes. Within the email, we outline next steps and provide a Calendly link to schedule their introduction call. Most customers book their intro call within 48 hours of signing their contract and hit the ground running.
Beyond the onboarding call, this collaboration continues throughout various phases of the customer journey where our tools, automations, and scheduling links help keep customer satisfaction high and churn low by making it easier to connect over status meetings, upgrade discussions, and renewal calls. Organizations like ClickUp have used a similar automated approach to increase the efficiency of their strategic customer engagements by 50%.
3. Create Regular Feedback Loops for Sales and CS
Collaboration between sales and CS teams shouldn’t be limited to conversations involving the customer. Establish regular internal feedback loops to ensure that both teams are working efficiently and effectively together.
Our team created a Slack channel where CS and Sales teams can provide intel on how we can more effectively partner. Managers also align closely and are responsible for communicating with their direct reports and identifying potential areas of friction.
Once per quarter in CS we have a Google Jamboard session where we go deeper on wins and potential areas for improvement across the team. I find CS can be more vocal and transparent in smaller groups. Once the Jamboard is full, my leadership team collectively determines a set of themes we’ll commit to actioning over the quarter. Sample wish list items have included AEs asking for better examples of use cases to share with customers or CSMs nominating two new questions for AEs to get more specific in discovery. The common thread of these discussions is asking ourselves how we can partner to become more aligned.
Above all else, it’s important to have a culture of shared respect for one another’s roles and a strong desire to partner. Ultimately, everyone on the sales and CS team serves the customer and the sales handoff can be one of the most critical events in a customer’s journey. If the customer receives exceptional service during the onboarding process, they’re more likely to adopt your product and become long-term advocates to expand adoption throughout their organization.