Subscription is king, customers are informed more than ever, and social media holds power in such a way that a single tweet can impact your brand–what could give sales organizations an edge?
A culture of customer success.
Sales teams need to care beyond closing deals. In the age of recurring revenue, it’s normal for accounts to gain momentum after the initial deal.
Post close, the sales conversation continues, as sales, account management, and customer success teams go after increasing monthly recurring revenue (MRR) from existing accounts, in the form of expanding contracts and referrals.
With the pressure of quotas, it’s so easy for sales teams to lose sight of the big picture. But, leaders need to know how to infuse customer success in the bloodline of their sales teams.
We asked experts in sales and customer success for their top tip for creating a culture of customer success within sales teams.
Here are their answers:
Omer Gotlieb * Shep Hyken * Blake Morgan * David Skok * Jane Van Sickle
Ian Golding * Peter Armaly * Emilia M. D’Anzica * David Hoffeld * Nick Mehta
Chad Horenfeldt * Aaron Fulkerson * Irit Eizips * Todd Eby
Mikael Blaisdell * Sarah E. Brown * Guy Nirpaz * Adrian Swinscoe * Anne Janzer
“It’s about making them be a part of success.
Sales teams should be aware of the status and success of the accounts they sell to, so later on they could be good references for them.
In addition, sales team could help the CS team early on in case there’s an issue with a customer.” – Omer Gotliber, Co-Founder & Chief Customer Officer, Totango
In the sales process, we work to understand what our customers want and need. Then, we provide them a solution based on that assessment. Yet selling them what they want and need doesn’t ensure success. It’s making sure they know how to use the product (or service) to ensure maximum success.
I remember buying my first computer more than 30 years ago when computers were just becoming affordable for small businesses. The salesperson took time to understand my business and then recommended the computer and software I would need.
But, that’s not where the consultative approach ended.
She made sure after the sale that I was using the computer properly. She even came to the office to give me a short lesson. She was making sure I would have success with my new computer. This type of customer success program is still popular (and sometimes necessary) today. I recently bought a new software program. It came with three coaching sessions after the installation.
It’s one thing to sell a customer the right product. It’s another for them to have success with it. Take time during the sales process –and especially after the sale is made – to help ensure your customer has the most success they can have with your product. This will foster more confidence and trust that can lead to future business and referrals.” – Shep Hyken, customer service/experience expert, award-winning keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling author of The Amazement Revolution
“What’s measured improves–but what you measure makes all the difference in the world.
When it comes to creating a culture of customer success, it’s important to set measurements in place that reflect the outcomes you’re looking for–and they need to be long-term outcomes.
If you make the mistake of being too money hungry, without thought for the long term of your company – it’s likely you will get into trouble.
Employees will do whatever it takes to make those revenue numbers. Think about the recent banking scandal from WellsFargo–millions of fake accounts were created in order to make quarterly goals.
The companies that are consistently successful create long-term strategies. The leaders make it known that customer success is important, and it’s not always all about quick cash.” – Blake Morgan, Customer experience author, Speaker, Advisor
“My #1 tip for creating a sales team with a culture of customer success is to create a sales team that enables a culture of customer success within your company.
Selling business that’s not a good fit does not set anyone up for success. It needs to start with your sales team as they are often the first people talking to your new customers.
In order for a sales team to do this, the sales team methodology must revolve around the needs of the potential customer and finding the value that your organization can bring. Just as importantly, if you can’t solve the issues, your sales people need to be empowered to say so.
Individually, sales people who understand the value in what they’re selling and are motivated by the purpose of being able to help others succeed are top performing sales people. They are more likely to stay with your company which means a deeper knowledge of your customers, your solution and the value it can bring.
By hiring this type of sales person and creating a team whose purpose is value selling, your new customers and your customer success team will be set up for a successful, long-term relationship.” – Jane Van Sickle, Director of Sales, Unbounce
“If an organisation aspires to create a culture of customer success within its sales teams, then it is absolutely imperative that it measures the success of the teams not just through their ability to sell, but through both their ability to sell and their ability to continuously improve the perception the customer has of them and the organisation.
Combining a clear understanding of ‘what the business wants’ with ‘what the customer wants’, and the collective need to achieve both of those things, should set up a sales team to succeed at sustainably growing an organisation.”–Ian J. Golding, Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) – Authorised Resource and Training Provider
This means everyone in the sales organization but it especially must include the CEO and sales executives. I can hear people yelling, “That won’t work for organizations that are pressured to deliver on quarterly results.”
I argue that it will.
Shareholders/stakeholders want increasing value/returns from their investment and the best way to ensure that happens is if the cost of doing business rises at a slower rate than the revenue attained from doing business. Simple math, right?
Chasing and landing new customers is an exercise that is many times more expensive to conduct than is the exercise of working with existing customers and ensuring they maximize their investment (which would lead them to renew and to grow that investment).
If this is recognized as a compelling business argument, and it clearly should be, then sales organizations will rethink the way they spend their budget and will consider the entire lifespan of a customer (from prospect to customer to advocate) in all the strategic decisions they make.
A customer-centric culture will automatically flow from this new dynamic, rewarding the right behaviors that build long-term, loyal customers.” – Peter Armaly, Customer Success Transformation Advisor, Oracle Marketing Cloud
“At WalkMe, sales isn’t about selling a feature or product, it’s about solving the customer’s pain points, one Walk-Thru at a time. A culture of success is about putting the customer’s needs to meet a goal first. The growth of our company is the natural result of creating a supportive culture of customer success across all teams, starting with our executive team.” – Emilia M. D’Anzica, Customer Engagement VP, WalkMe
“Creating a culture of customer success within a sales team starts with the sales leadership. Decades of research suggests that sales leaders heavily shape the culture of a sales team. In other words, people naturally adopt their leader’s beliefs and behaviors.
This research-backed insight reveals the starting place for improving sales culture: leadership. The reality is that it’s easy to talk about change, but creating a productive sales culture demands that leaders first demonstrate the change that they want to see.” – David Hoffeld, CEO & Chief Sales Trainer, Hoffeld Group
“Find things to celebrate beyond closing new deals – renewals, up-sells, references, launches, etc.” – Nick Mehta, CEO, Gainsight
“Share customer stories with the sales team. These shouldn’t just be about the company and the results but you need to talk about the actual people who are making this happen so that the sales team really internalizes the journey that customers go through and can retell these stories in their own conversations.”
“Focus on how you’ll deliver successful outcomes in the buy stage of the customer journey. In the succeed stage, you’re helping lead them to become proficient in their products. You’ll teach them how to do things differently to get positive outcomes.
The kinds of behaviors that sales teams should be asked to develop skills around include being a leader vs. selling.” – Aaron Fulkerson, Founder and CEO, MindTouch
“Tip #1: Make sure your sales team is ‘value selling’ and not ‘over selling’,
The best account executives I’ve worked with understand the value proposition and they drive customers to fully understand how those relate to their organization.
To foster a culture of customer success, each person in your sales organization has to be passionate about helping your clients’ challenges and goals. They should be able to drive the sales through selling value.
Selling value means real value. Not ‘fantastic-pie-in-the-sky’ value.
I get how that might be somewhat challenging when you’re a young startup. The product is not ‘fully baked’ and you’re trying to basically ‘prove the concept’ that there’s a demand for what your solution is trying to solve.
Even then, your customers should know they are in ‘pioneer’ mode–so that they don’t leave you too quickly.
Here’s the thing, your clients will know that you oversold them–very quickly.
At that point, your customer has most likely become a detractor. This makes your next sale much harder.
Overselling doesn’t just ‘kill’ the chances of success for a specific customer, it also takes away precious time that indirectly supports the creation of new business.
The support team has less time writing knowledge base articles and customer success has less time finding opportunities to add more value.
Bottom line: to foster a culture of customer success, your entire sales team has to sell value with conviction.
Tip #2: Introduce the customer success manager during the sales process
Your customer success organization is key to your prospects’ ability to get the most value from your solution.
By introducing them to their customer success managers during the sales process, you’ll be able to offer more value (and increase your chances of winning them over).
In addition, this will pave the way for your customer success manager to develop relationships with the executive champion. This alone can make a huge difference in helping your customers be successful in adopting your services.
Ask your customer success manager to explain the customer journey and what the customer success program can offer to all your prospects. This will help your customers make available the necessary resources ahead of time, which is key to their success in adopting and maintaining your solution.
Key #3: Talk to your customer success team more often
Your customer success team is key to discovering your expansion opportunities. They have the ongoing pulse on the accounts and know when might be the right moment to offer more value (and to whom).
On the other hand, to drive success, they will need your help to fully understand why did the client buy, what challenges they were trying to solve, or goals they were trying to reach.
In other words, your sales team is key in helping the customer success managers prove the ROI and drive towards quantitative milestones.
This will not only help drive your customers to success, it will make it easier to demonstrate it.” – Irit Eizips, Customer Success Practice Director, CSM Practice
“My #1 tip is an easy one to offer up, but it’s a challenge to implement as a retrofit as it requires a tough shift in thinking that is often tough to get across the line in Sales team that was built from the ground-up to be success-centric.
My tip? Build Success into their compensation from day-one. It’s not to say that tying Success to compensation is the only way to create a culture of Customer Success in Sales (or across the company for that matter). It’s simply the most expedient way to ensure that it’s always top of mind and that it is always considered important by the team.
Why? I’ve always found that you get the behavior that you incent. As I alluded to earlier, I recommend the same approach for the Success team as well.
You can build a culture that values Success, the way to keep it at the core as you scale is to reinforce the value with compensation….after all, you’re far more likely to get what you’re looking for consistently if it’s both a value and valued (the value established via comp).” – Todd Eby, Founder, SuccessHacker
“In any business where the profits are based on maintaining income streams over time, it is essential that the customers clearly see the real value they are receiving from the continuing relationship. Maintaining that awareness of value in the customer base is a primary role of the Customer Success group.
Sales professionals are hunters by nature, so the key for overall corporate success is to make sure that they are pursuing the right prospects, and that they properly qualify and close those prospects to produce long-term customer relationships. Retention, therefore, needs to be a key aspect of the sales compensation plan.” – Mikael Blaisdell, Executive Director, The Customer Success Association
“SaaS companies should structure comp incentives such that sales teams have a stake in expansion and retention outcomes. While debates continue whether Customer Success or Sales should own the sales relationship after the sale, by having compensation and incentives directly tied to growing customers, Sales will sell smarter to new customers and focus on “helping sells” activities that will ensure an ongoing, lasting relationship post-sale.” – Sarah E. Brown, Senior Manager of Growth Marketing, ServiceRocket
“Align the incentives of the sales team with those of customer success. A good sales team is motivated not only by landing the customer but also with its success and growth. I cover that in my book “Farm Don’t Hunt – the Definitive Guide to Customer Success”.
Once the sales incentive model is based on revenue as opposed to bookings, sales teams are staying aligned with the success of the customer. They also benefit from being able to get compensated even further the customer expands. ” – Guy Nirpaz, Co-Founder & CEO, Totango
“In terms of starting to build a culture of customer success within sales teams, I believe that they could use a question like “Is there anything that we do, or have ever done, that has ‘annoyed’ you, however slightly?” to help them better understand their customers, what they provide to them and how they provide it.
Asking a question like this will uncover lots of little insights and irritations that don’t derail relationships but that do affect them.
Moreover, taking those insights and then acting on them will signal to customers that they are listening and really care. That, in itself, would be a great place to start. Want proof that this works? I know of one firm that grew it’s business from $34 million in revenue to $175 million over a six-year period by following this type of approach.” – Adrian Swinscoe, Customer Experience & Customer Service Consultant | Best Selling Author of “How To Wow”
“The culture of customer success needs to be embedded throughout the organization for the sales teams to internalize it – in organizational structures, cross-departmental collaboration, and compensation models.
In those businesses with recurring revenues (subscription models), sales compensation should be based, in part, on customer retention: when a customer renews or resubscribes, the sale team earns the complete commission, for example.
This incentive structure embeds customer success into the core purpose of the sales teams, and empowers sales teams to think creatively about how to find the customers that are the best long-term matches and guide them to realizing sustained value.” – Anne Janzer, Author, Subscription Marketing: Strategies for Nurturing Customers in a World of Churn
Take these tips and push your sales team towards building a culture of customer success. It’s now beyond making the sale–it’s about creating lifelong customers.
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