Why you need to turn your customer success team into salespeople
A step-by-step guide
The customer success role in B2B sales has historically been a reactive one — troubleshooting problems, fielding inbound requests for more seats or usage credits, doing whatever it takes to keep the customer happy and measuring success with Net Promoter Score.
While the role has expanded to include owning renewals, most customer success reps will still tell you that they view themselves as “not in sales”, or “not responsible for driving revenue” and most finance teams will agree, telling you that they view the customer success function as a cost of delivering revenue, which needs to be kept low to ensure attractive gross margins.
This creates 2 problems.
Taking a reactive approach to customer success creates 2 problems in your go-to-market
Problem #1: Every renewal discussion is now a sales process
Retention in B2B software is no longer the layup that it used it be. Whereas in the past your customers would happily re-up or even auto-renew, in today’s economy they are being forced to separate their must-haves from their nice-to-haves and to justify their renewal decisions internally.
Your day-to-day champion can no longer push through a renewal on their own. Instead, your customer success team now needs to re-identify all the decision makers, re-discover their needs and re-demonstrate impact in order to keep the business alive.
It’s a whole new (re)-sale that requires a proactive approach.
Problem #2: Retention is increasingly dependent on expansion
As customers separate their must-haves from their nice-to-haves they are also consolidating vendors in order to reduce costs and reduce the burden of managing multiple systems.
The vendors with the most must-haves will not only keep their existing business, they are also in pole position to displace competitors that have a single point solution, even if it is a must-have.
Customers won’t come to you with these consolidation requests because they are being bombarded by vendors, so your team has to be proactive.
The solution is to turn your customer success team into a proactive account management team
As with most problems in business, the best form of defense is a strong offense. In this case that means training and enabling your customer success team to be proactive account reps who repeatedly re-sell your customers on the value you are delivering and generate expansion opportunities for your sales team to capture additional value.
Wondering what this looks like in practice? Ask your marketing team about their advertising account reps at Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn. Do those reps wait for extra budget to be allocated to their channel or do they proactively showing their clients the latest results and bring forward new ideas to grow ad spend? Do those reps send NPS surveys and wait a few weeks for the results or do they actively track performance against your marketing team’s KPIs? Advertising account managers are a good model for software customer success reps to emulate.
How to turn your customer success team into an account management team (a step-by-step guide)
Rebuild your renewal process. Define process ownership, process stages, stage goals, exit criteria, metrics, goals and meetings.
Rebuild your expansion process. Define process ownership, process stages, stage goals, exit criteria, metrics, goals and meetings. And define how the expansion process integrates with the renewal process.
Up-skill your customer success reps. Train them in account management skills, including probing for pain, identifying desired impact and KPIs, identify critical events and identifying and engaging all decision makers.
How to rebuild your renewal process
Who owns the renewal process?
The renewal process is owned by the customer success rep to whom the new customer’s account has been assigned.
Ownership begins when the contract is signed and the sales rep has an internal handoff to the customer success rep.
Overview of the stages in the renewal process
A typical renewal process has 4 stages. Each stage has a goal, exit criteria and a set of metrics to track: