The sales phase is important. The future customer is getting clear on why they need your product and what business value they will realize from it.
It’s the sales phase where customer expectations are set.
If expectations are set incorrectly, Customer Success has a difficult challenge ahead in getting the customer to successfully adopt the product.
Resetting expectations adds a layer of effort to the onboarding process and if not successful, the customer is at a significantly higher risk to attrit.
Customer Success thus relies heavily on Sales to set them (and the company) up for success.
One of the biggest concerns I hear from senior executives is how can Customer Success align themselves to Sales to solve this dilemma.
My answer is don’t align Customer Success to Sales, align Sales to the customer.
This one remarkable change of viewpoint is how I partner with Sales to improve deal velocity, set Customer Success up for a more effective engagement and ultimately make the customer’s journey easier.
Why Aligning to Sales to does not work?
By aligning to Sales, Customer Success is aligning to the sales promise made to the customer which is cause of the problem in the first place.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Sales is making promises that can’t be delivered (although this has happened to us all on a few occasions).
The point is that Sales’ focus is on the product and what it can do for the customer. It’s solution centric, not journey (or execution) centric.
Sales’ job is to paint the picture of how the product will solve the current business challenges that the prospect is facing. It is not to address the realities of how the product is operationalized within the customer’s organization. And arguably so.
It would not help the prospect to start discussing the nuances of organizational change involved with bringing your product into their environment.
So then how does Customer Success reconcile the difference between the aim of the sales and adoption phases?
Have Sales talk about what Customer Success does to make your mutual customers successful. Use Customer Success and the programs it offers as the competitive differentiator that sales can sell.
In doing so, you’re arming Sales with additional value add and objection handling arguments, and simultaneously aligning Sales to the customer.
How to Align Sales and Customer Success?
In previous articles I’ve written about the customer journey being the key to a company’s success - that Customer Success operations aligned to the customer journey are more effective and efficient in driving customer adoption because they are aligned to what the customer wants and needs, and they use closed loop feedback to continually improve operations.
It stands to reason then that if Customer Success is aligned to the customer, the Customer Success programs are aligned to the customer. If Sales uses Customer Success and its programs to outline how the company will deliver on the product promise, then by extension Sales is aligning to the customer as well.
As important, Customer Success has provided Sales with an effective approach in providing the prospect with visibility into the journey (ie. setting accurate expectations) and instilling confidence that the company will deliver vs. overwhelming them with the execution details.
Customer’s expectations are set early in the sales phase. Setting those expectations accordingly plays a key role in the retention and success of the customer.
The job of Sales is to paint a vision for the prospect on how the product will add value to their business, and to instill confidence that Customer Success will deliver on that promise.
Customer Success can add to that value proposition by arming sales with the relevant information that outlines what it offers to ensure that that business value is realized.
A high-level outline of what Customer Success does and the services it provides offers sales with a talk track that acts not only as a competitive differentiator, it also sets Customer Success up for success by setting appropriate expectations of the journey that lies ahead.
Using customer feedback that drives the customer journey that drives successful Customer Success that contributes to Sales’ value proposition, now that’s a remarkable proposal!