There are a lot of players in the customer lifecycle, namely sales, customer success, and support. It is important for individuals within those business functions to establish a relationship with one another. But first, it’s also important to understand how each of their relationships with the customer differs. Here’s an easy way to think of it:
- Sales will tell the customer what they need and what it will cost.
- Customer Success will tell the customer why they need it.
- Support will tell the customer how to do it.
In this article, we will focus specifically on the relationship between sales and customer success. As a Customer Success Manager (CSM), I definitely leverage my non-sales role as a way to establish trust with my customers. This isn’t to say that Sales folks are not trustworthy; they are, but the purpose and function of the sales and customer success roles are quite different.
How Sales & Customer Success Metrics Differ
Sales roles are driven, measured, and centered around revenue. It is the center of most if not all of their conversations. It’s not a matter of good or bad, but what is expected. Customer Success, on the other hand, looks at metrics like churn and contraction, and expansion, which are associated with revenue, but have conversations that are value-centric rather than dollar-centric. These roles are different, but similar, and the two of them have a joint impact on how a customer sees value.
Developing Successful Sales & Customer Success Partnership
To start your sales and success partnership off on the right foot, you have to understand that the other doesn’t exist to serve you. I’ll repeat: Customer Success does not exist to serve Sales. Sales does not exist to serve Customer Success. Both exist to serve the customer, and it’s mutually beneficial to tackle that task together, rather than in a silo.
To start, open and clear communication is the key to a strong partnership. Establish this as soon as possible and keep each other apprised of conversations and flag any hot topics or priorities. Both parties should know about customer goals, challenges, contract term and renewal date, expansion opportunities, etc. As a team, create a plan of attack. You do not have to be on every call with the customer and neither does the Account Executive, and with clear communication, you won’t need to be.
Tactical Next Steps to Help Develop a Partnership
Take initiative to open up the lines of communication if current processes are not working.
At the beginning of Q2 I started having 30 minute monthly meetings with my Account Executives. This has been crucial to keeping us aligned. Especially with remote teams. These interactions could have easily fallen to one-off Slack messages or emails. You lose so much of the relationship building aspect, and again, this is a partnership. From these meetings we are both able to identify accounts that need immediate attention, new points of contact, discuss the overall Account Health Status, and discuss ownership of any tasks that need to be completed. There are multiple sources of information that help paint a fuller, better and more accurate picture of your customers’ health. Humble yourself and go collect that information—you’ll be a better CSM for it!
The TL;DR? Both Sales and Customer Success are happy if the customer is happy. Take the path of least resistance to get there, and partner up!
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About the Author
Delores Cooper is a Senior Scaled Customer Success Manager. She enjoys creating fast and impactful relationships with customers, and guiding them through their lifecycle. Seeing customers thrive and succeed is exactly what hooked her on Customer Success. Before delving into tech, Delores spent nearly 10 years in the nonprofit sector where she worked in several areas including Development and Event Planning, and as a Community Relations Manager. As a Scaled CSM, Delores implements a variety of creative customer engagement strategies to ensure success and growth across the commercial and enterprise markets.