Now that you’ve gotten past the customer acquisition stage, it’s time to help your customers find value in your product and be successful. Your marketing and sales team has made numerous promises to the customer. And after being convinced that your company is the solution to their problems, they’re a paying customer. So far, so good!
But this isn’t the end—as we’re sure you’re aware—this is the beginning. How you execute the sales to customer success handoff is a major deciding factor in forming a relationship with your customer.
How you make your customer feel during the initial stage will lay the foundation of the relationship. If done right, your customers will feel understood, heard, and like they’re one step closer to reaching their goals.
But if your customers feel like the transition from lead to customer leaves much to be desired, you can lose the momentum that sales built. And they may slowly stop using your product, eventually churn, and move on to your competitors. That’s not what you want.
That’s why the sales to customer success handoff is essential and must be executed seamlessly to avoid unfavorable situations. Let’s examine this stage in detail below.
Effects of sales to customer success handoff in your business
Having mentioned a few scenarios this handoff influences, let’s see some of the various factors it impacts.
During the onboarding stage of your customer’s life cycle, the customer success manager (CSM) has to hold strategic meetings to understand their needs and challenges thoroughly. They need to set the right customer expectations about what you can deliver and what you can’t. And having your sales team share the customer’s expectations can help bring everyone on the same page earlier. And it can help CSMs see what they’re up against before talking with their customers.
Time to value
Time to value (TTV) is the time it takes for the customer to find value in a product initially. This time is crucial from the retention point of view, and companies strive to reduce the TTV. TTV can be a massive delay if no handoff is executed successfully between the sales and CS teams.
Customer retention isn’t important to customer success teams only during renewals—it starts from the beginning. The initial time is crucial for the customers to decide whether to continue with a product or not. In a study by Localytics, they found that 80% of their app users are likely to churn within their first three months. Hence, a successful handoff is an important step towards retaining the customers for the long term.
How to create a sales to customer success handoff?
The best handoff process between the two teams creates a win-win situation for both the company and its customers. Customers feel more confident about your brand and would become an integral part of your business.
So, how do we do that?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all template, below are a few ways you can execute a successful handoff.
Set clear expectations
Everyone should have clear expectations from the beginning. Your CS team should know what you would deliver to your customers as a part of the post-sales service.
Similarly, sales should explain what’s next (e.g., customer success) to your customers, so you’re not up against unrealistic expectations from the start. Here are some questions you can answer to help sales manage expectations:
- When will you get in touch with your customers?
- How will CS be engaging with your customers?
- At what stages of the customer’s journey will there be meetings and touchpoints to deliver value?
- How would the customer success team help them achieve their goals?
The clearer the communication is in the beginning, the better it is in removing any misunderstandings at a later stage.
Introduce the right people at the right time
It’s essential to keep the momentum going even after the sales process. Hence, companies may introduce their CS team right after the closing call or sometimes, even before that. There should be no gap between the two processes.
Your CS leader should assign the available CSM even before the sales call is closed. Then sales should introduce the CSM who would be maintaining the relationship with the customer going forward. Depending upon the technical complexity of your product, the CSM must take over the onboarding by introducing an onboarding specialist, the implementation specialist, and so on. CSM must be the single point of contact for all the activities a customer would go through during the onboarding phase.
Create goals for the customer
Every customer would have a different set of goals in their mind to achieve through your product. Your product functionality can be the same for everyone, but it might be used for various reasons.
Creating goals is crucial during the handoff, it will instill confidence in your customers for your firm. Through this, they would know you are going to partner them in helping them achieve their goals. And that’s the essence of customer success you are building.
You should have short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. These goals would give some direction to the customer and more importantly, the reasons to stay with you over the long term. If something happens during your relationship, you can always remind them of their goals to bring them back on track.
Apart from the above steps, a significant amount of internal work is needed at your end. Proper documentation and knowledge transfer are an integral part of sales to implementation handoff. Everyone from each team interacting with the customer must be on the same page. Whether they are talking about the client’s business goals or challenges, they all should have a clear understanding of it.
Technically, there should also be a seamless integration between your CRM and your customer success platform. Handoff between person to person is one thing. But handoff between software must also be taken care of so that no information slips through the cracks.22
And overall, remember that sales is an ongoing process in a customer-centric organization. There might be occasions when the sales team interacts with the same customer again during the renewal or upsell opportunities. Hence, building relationships with every customer is a must, not just for the customer success team but even for the sales team for the business’s longevity.
Rohan has over 11 years of experience in client services, marketing and hospitality field. Previously, he was head of digital marketing for a hi-tech mobile application. Rohan is driven by new challenges and the possibility of making an impact on individuals and businesses.
Published November 18, 2020, Updated March 01, 2023