Customer Success in Sales

Most of the customer issues we talk about are in reality customer traits. Lincoln Murphy has written an amazing post regarding this. I am going to talk about one of the solutions to this issue. Customer Success is not dependent only on the Customer Success teams. Every employee working in the company needs to be working towards customer success. The first in a line of interaction with clients is the sales team or Account Managers as some companies call them. Sales team needs to be more Customer Success centric than any of the other departments.

Role of the Account Managers

The role of a Customer Success team was fulfilled by the sales team before being made separate. This divided their time as they needed to work on new leads while maintaining a healthy relationship with the old clients. This, in reality, is a very taxing situation. Working and nurturing new leads takes a lot of time. The added task had overburdened the sales teams. The concept of Customer Success was then borrowed from the services industry. SaaS companies changed it to the concept of Customer Success which in itself is extremely new.

Customer Success in Sales

Sales team need to start thinking about the success of a customer.  If the sales team sells to a customer who they inherently know won’t be successful after using the product then it means it’s a bad sale. The sale should not just be focused on increasing the dollar amount every quarter. It should also take into consideration as to who they should be selling the product too. They can’t do this alone. This is where Customer Success Managers come into the picture.

Role of Customer Success Managers in a Sale

We as CSMs need to own this part of the process. We need to start creating a profile of what a successful customer looks like. This is a document that contains traits and every other information we have seen over time that we have seen in successful customers. There is always a pattern. It’s about how we discern this pattern and share it with the Sales team. This becomes more and more important as many CSM teams are moving towards owning “upgrades”. “Upgrades” can only happen if the sale was made to a customer who had the potential for success.

Building a relationship

“Hi, I am facing some problem with the software/platform. I am not able to figure it out. Could you help me?” “Hi, you can shoot a mail to and they will definitely help you.”

This is a very common conversation between a Client and a Sales person. Various IT companies use hundreds of Sales people whom they refer to as Account Managers in many instances. These Account Managers are the face of the organization. The problem here is that the job of a Sales person is not to maintain a relationship but to focus on getting new clients and upgrading the existing ones. They try their best to make sure that the client is happy at any given point of time but due time restrictions retaining clients is not part of their job. This leads to a gap in experience as a Support does not provide personalized help. This leads to high paying customers feeling unattended.

Enter Customer Success Manager

Salesforce decided to solve this problem with a new role called as Customer Success Manager. So, was it a revolutionary role? Not at all. I come from a Marketing Agency background (Digital Advertising Agency to be precise). This role has always existed there in form of an Account Manager. The primary job of an Account Manager is to deal with the client on day to day basis and get their work done using agency’s internal resources. In such a setup, there is a need for a high amount of interaction with the client. They must talk to the Account Manager to get any work done.

So, what changes in a SaaS setup? The primary change is that the client is interacting with the product and not a person. The main aim of the client is to achieve their goals using the tool which they have bought or are paying a certain recurring amount for every month. This restricts the chances of building a deep relationship with the client. The whole concept of building relationships is quite difficult for SaaS products.

The problem is not the shift of contact from Sales to Customer Success but there is also the problem of how to keep in touch with the client on a regular basis even without having no major thing to inform or talk about. What most of the Customer Success Managers do is that they look the client’s application or platform usage and track their habits. They reach out to these clients with suggestions on how they can use it better and what they should be doing to get better results.

What is Customer Success

The task of a Customer Success Manager is not just to help clients. They are also the product evangelist who are advocating the usage of the product and getting the clients to use the product more. They also interact with clients more than any other function which puts them in a unique position to understand what is that the client wants and where is the product lacking. By using this information the CSMs can make sure that the product moves in the right direction.

I have written about my brief understanding about this ever-evolving function. I have not talked about Churn or any other terms related to Customer Success as of yet. There is a much wider meaning to Customer Success. I will delve into that in my later posts.