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Aligning Sales with Customer Success: Why and How? | Webinar

Updated on May 13, 2024 27 minutes read

Summary points:

Aligning Sales and Customer Success is not an easy task. What happens if you disregard it? In this episode, we talked to Jeff Heckler, Director of Customer Success at MarketSource, to find an answer to that question and a few more:

  • Why do projects fail after the sale is done?
  • What can, and should we do, to avoid this from happening?
  • What can Customer Success do for Sales?
  • What can Sales do for Customer Success?


Irina 00:04
Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, everyone. Thank you all for attending our today webinar session. My name is Irina Cismas, I’m Head of Marketing here at Custify, and I’m going to be your host for the following hour. My special guest today is Jeff Heckler, Customer Success Director at MarketSource.

Jeff, welcome. And thank you for accepting our invitation.

And I think, also, that congratulations are in place, because I saw earlier today in your LinkedIn profile that you guys released a Customer Success internal course. What can you tell us about this? I don’t know a lot, and I didn’t investigate it. So, I saved the question for our webinar today.

Jeff 01:03
Well, I appreciate the question. First of all, thank you! Thank you for having me! Welcome to all the guests. To my special guests and friends from Romania: I wish you a “bună ziua”, good afternoon. It’s wonderful to be here with you and everyone else who’s joining across the globe, from different time zones and geographies. Very excited about this topic. And obviously, I’m pretty excited to talk anything Customer Success.

So, we’ll lead off with something that is not really part of the agenda. But I appreciate Irina bringing up what we released today. I’m the Director of Customer Success solutions at MarketSource, so that means that I’m responsible for all things Customer Success for my company, my customers, my partners, and my stakeholders. My customers are both internal and external. So that’s a very important thing that I like to repeat with emphasis and with sincerity.

And so, at MarketSource, we offer Customer Success and Customer Success Services. That’s product, process, and people at scale for the Fortune 500 and enterprise companies generally.

Jeff 02:14
So, those would be name brands that all of us know around the globe. And part of what I have been doing here for about the past 14 months that I’ve been in this role is to establish the go-to market motions for Customer Success by MarketSource. And that also entails the internal go-to market. So, I can think of internal stakeholders and my partners as our customers. And so, we have built out a Customer Success training by MarketSource. It consists of multiple modules and two different pathways, we use a Learning Management System Platform to contain all this information — and to deliver it.

I think it’s also important to say that the training that we provide internally comes in a number of different methods. I come from a background of education, formerly I was a high school teacher right out of university. So, I know that it’s important to meet learners where they learn, where they live, just like we meet our customers — where our customers are in their journey, where they live in their lifecycle as a customer with us, and in all the channels in the modalities that are available to engaging with our customers, with our stakeholders, and partners.

So, our learning platform hosts the learning content for Customer Success by MarketSource in video content, we have static presentations, there are visual presentations, there’s text. And so, it gives learners multiple ways to engage with us. It’s asynchronous, of course. So that means that it can be accessed anytime at the convenience of the learner. And it can be updated by our teams and kept dynamic as well.

Jeff 04:09
So, as we evolve, and as information that we want to share becomes new, and relevant, and changed, and edited, and evolves, we can do that as well. And we all are living off of one source of truth as it pertains to Customer Success by MarketSource. So, I like to say that we deliver and build in-house — that is exactly what we do for our customers. This is also a use case, to also show our customers — this is what we do, this is how we do it, this is why we do it, and this is what’s in it for our customers, our learners, and our stakeholders and partners. And so, I think that’s very important. It’s a lot of fun. And, gratefully, I have other team teammates and leaders in the organization which sponsored this project with me from learning and development.

So, L&D, marketing, sales, product and IT are very vital in this journey. And it’s been quite exciting — and it looks good. You know, it’s a nice, great platform. I think it’s pretty great content, even our senior vice president is part of the delivery and part of the video library series. And so, it’s been a lot of fun and a lot of hands-on.

Irina 05:29
It sounds like cross-department projects that, indeed, required a lot of alignment. And in today’s topic we are discussing alignment. But before we dive into the topic, I want to address some housekeeping items. All the lines are muted for better communication, for a better listening experience. This is a recorded event, and everyone who registered will receive a recording. I know that some of you emailed me and asked me about it.

So, no worries — everyone is actually receiving it, doesn’t matter if you have the chance or not to be online today with us. I want to encourage you all to ask questions. The format of this session may be a bit different. So, neither Jeff nor I will share presentations, we are going to discuss, which is why I encourage you to actually stop us and ask the questions as they pop up. We will take them one by one. So, we won’t allocate a formal 10 minutes at the end of the presentation.

Irina 06:45
For the late joiners, I’m Irina Cismas, the Head of Marketing at Custify, and together with me is Jeff Heckler, the Director of Customer Success at MarketSource, and today we’re going to discuss alignment between Customer Success and Sales.

I recall, a few months back I was having a discussion with a marketing executive. And we were discussing how companies end up being a unicorn. And what he told me sticks into my mind — he said that there are three ingredients. One is the product. And you definitely need to have a product that provides value. Then, it’s flawless execution in terms of go-to market. And last but not least, it’s actually the alignment between the teams. And it’s actually making sure that the team members are working towards the same goal, whatever that goal is, and not one against the others. And at that point, I actually said that, well, it’s much easier than everyone else thinks.

But then, putting it into practice and into reality, it’s not. And another true story is that a few years ago, I was discussing with a CEO, and he was basically puzzled. He didn’t understand why the team members from his senior management team were constantly complaining about not being aligned. Even if they had weekly meetings, and they were discussing about their
daily priorities, about OKRs. And even if they were doing this, they were still having the feeling that they were misaligned. And at that point, the CEO was like: “Okay, what else can I do to actually help them become more aligned?” Because meeting constantly doesn’t doesn’t help. And that was the moment when I said: “Well, alignment doesn’t necessarily mean meeting on a weekly basis.”

And, I want to kick off this conversation by asking you guys, the ones who are actually online: how would you rate the current dynamic between your Sales and Customer Success teams? I’m curious, what are your thoughts? I published the poll. And we’ll start the discussion on this topic by commenting on the distribution.

“Customer Success, depending upon the organization, should be anywhere from 7% to 15% of the company’s annual operating budget.”

— Jeff Heckler, Director of Customer Success at MarketSource

Rating the Dynamic Between Sales and CS Teams

Irina 09:34
Jeff, let me know. Do you see the distribution?

Jeff 09:41
Yeah, “Needs improvement” came out to an early lead, and quite candidly, that’s where I voted. I know that it’s something we’re all striving for.

While we wait for the poll results to complete too, it’s interesting to hear you talk about the unicorn perspective because some of my former colleagues at Pipedrive are watching this, and I’d like to give them a shout out and say hi. Cross-functionally, working with the other teams in that organization, gaining the necessary resources and political capital to get things done was always a main focus for me.

I was at Pipedrive as the Global Head of Customer Success. I’ve written a lot about this in my time there, and it was a truly wonderful experience. One of the best of my career. But I will say that, in hindsight, I was a member of the management team, the leadership team, the global leadership team, the only one there without “VP” in front of my title, and working on annual operating plans and things like that.

And so, there was a lot of work that I needed to get done with stakeholders and peers, for the goodness of our customers and our company, that took a lot of finesse and a lot of concentrated effort in the Customer Success team. I can speak to that firsthand, and we’re going to talk more about this: how to gain vision into goals that are relative for both parties, or all parties, if it’s cross-functionally in multiple departments.

Irina 11:53
So it seems that it “Needs improvement” is leading the poll with 55%. And then it’s “Neutral.” I think a neutral relationship is not nearly as bad as one that needs improvement. But it says a lot about things that can definitely be improved. And I wanted to ask you, why do you think it’s hard to achieve this alignment? What’s the blocker?

Jeff 12:32
The blockers are fundamental in three ways. I’d say, first of all, it can be cultural, right? If your company is not one of collaboration and cooperation, there will be issues. Or if there are differences in how the reporting structure is set up organizationally. Customer Success quite often falls underneath Sales, and if a leader is focused on, or their background is heavily weighted and skewed towards new top of funnel activities and leading with sales, then that’s what you’re gonna get.

The second way can be in compensation, how the compensation is rolled out for Sales. If Sales is only 100% focused on bringing in new customers, that’s how they get compensated, there’s a lot of problems that can come with that. If there isn’t a compensation measure tied to the longevity of the customer or the value of the customer after six, nine, 12, or 18 months, that can be problematic.

But even more simply, the goals of Sales and Customer Success are different. Sales is about bringing in the Net New Customer. Their goals are aligned in one way, and the goals of Customer Success are aligned in another way, so budgeting can be another problem. I always say to teams: if Customer Success is managing all of your business, all customers that are in-house — let’s say it’s $100 million — what is their training budget?

Then, I use the same ratio to look at what sales is. So, if sales brings in Net New Buss for the year, and their budget is X, while Customer Success manages X dollars of revenue a year, what is their training budget?

Jeff 15:15
But from the corporate goals, whatever your main initiatives and goals are for a company, can you draw a direct line from what those are to each of the revenue teams? Assuming that Customer Success is a revenue operating team. Do they have the same performance metrics to those corporate initiatives? How are they broken down?

One of the wonderful things that have happened at other places where I worked, including this one, is that as revenue teams, we have our corporate level goals, and then those are broken down into the revenue orgs.

For B2B SaaS, that’s generally gonna be sales. Customer Success may or may not be supported, but you’re charging for that, you could have professional services in there as well. And so,how are the revenue teams aligned with driving corporate goals, and then breaking those down breaking those down to the revenue term?

Quite simply, do those teams’ own goals relate to each other? So that’s where, at a very high level, why Customer Success and Sales might not have the best relationship.

Irina 16:24
You mentioned different organizational structures. And I wanted to ask you, do you think that there’s an ideal setup at the company level that facilitates the alignment between the two teams? You mentioned earlier about Customer Success being under Sales. Do you think that this type of organizational chart facilitates collaboration? And whose job is it to make sure that those two main themes are actually aligned?

Jeff 17:01
Well, it’s the CEO’s job, and hopefully, you’re getting some of that voice from the board as well as from your investors that understand the value of Customer Success.

I don’t just say this for B2B SaaS, but I say this for any company in existence: does your board have a customer-centric mindset? Are their initiatives aligned around the existing customer base, nurturing the existing customer base, and having customer success stories or customer profiles as part of the corporate collateral in your company materials and marketing materials? So, it’s really got to come from the highest leadership, and your CEO is accountable for making sure that those relationships play well together and have actual tangible initiatives together.

Jeff 17:57
When you break it down to where Customer Success should report to — idealistically, you have a customer-responsible individual reporting to the CEO, whether that’s a Chief Customer Officer, or a VP of Customer Success, or whatever you want to call it. Is somebody sitting at the table with your CEO and has a direct line of responsibility to the CEO in representing the customer.

Most often, we in Customer Success have a reporting structure that’s underneath Sales. As a Customer Success leader, I’ve reported to the CTO and VPs of Product because of how the company was aligned. And in some instances that was very profitable for Customer Success because the product led the company. So, to get things done, to gain the political capital, and to get resources, that relationship worked. I’ve reported to COOs, I’ve reported to VPs of Sales, and so, you want to be as high as possible in the organization, but it really depends upon how that company views you.

When I mentor and talk to individuals that are looking at Customer Success roles, whether it be in leadership or as an individual contributor, I tell them: “You want to ask the folks that you’re interviewing with what the reporting structure is, what the highest level of customer representation is in the executive suite. How does that work? What do the budget percentages look like?”

Customer Success, depending upon the organization, should be anywhere from 7% to 15% of the company’s annual operating budget, depending on how reliant they are on existing customers, upsells and cross-sells, product lead growth, customer value lead growth, and so on.

“There need to be shared goals across an organization, so that we’re all moving in the same direction. And that starts with the leaders of the functions themselves.”

— Jeff Heckler, Director of Customer Success at MarketSource

Responsibility Alignment Matrices for Cooperation Between Sales & CS

Irina 20:21
I want to build upon what you were actually saying, and there are some questions that came up from the audience.

The first one is: For this type of cooperation between Sales and Customer Success, will the responsibility assignment matrix like the RACI model actually work?

Jeff 20:44
Yes, you should have a complete matrix built out across the organization. It should start at the highest level of the organization: Sales, Support, Professional Services, Customer Success, how those line up, and who’s responsible for your main methods of delivery, both for revenue and for services to the customer.

Further down from there, break those out across your company: Customer Success Ops, Customer Success Managers, Technical Account Managers, Project Managers. The thing with RACI is that it needs to be visible, it needs to exist in Confluence or as a living document, and your organization that everybody is aligned with, and responsible and accountable to.

So, you have a checks and balances system to fall back on. If I’m a Customer Success Leader, my Sales Leader, my Support Leader, Finance, and everyone else in the company knows the chain of command and knows where the responsible parties are for the things that we’re trying to do in house and deliver to our customers.

It needs to be visible, it needs to be collaborative, it needs to be signed off on, and it needs to be reviewed at least annually as your company evolves.

“When a Customer Success Manager talks to a Customer Success Operations individual, they have a shared interest on what they’re driving towards — whether it’s customer satisfaction, NPS, ARR, MRR, and so on. Whatever our initiatives are — shared KPIs need to be established across organizations.”

— Jeff Heckler, Director of Customer Success at MarketSource

Shared KPIs Between CS and Sales

Irina 23:02
Because you talked about the RACI model, what do you think about shared KPIs between Customer Success and Sales? Is it so awkward to make the teams share specific metrics?

Jeff 23:20
One of the popular things across SaaS is to have NRR across the board, and everyone in the company is compensated based on NRR, depending on their different levels of responsibility. If I’m a revenue individual, then I’m probably compensated on NRR, MRR, or ARR quarterly. And so, the metrics themselves and their value won’t be the same. But in principle, as drivers they are. Everyone owns part of the overall performance of the company, whether it’s retention number on dollar amounts, retention number on accounts. NPS is one that companies like to use a lot.

There need to be shared goals across an organization, so that we’re all moving in the same direction. And that starts with the leaders of the functions themselves. As a Customer Success leader, I’ve built quarterly compensation and bonus structures for my CS Ops teams and individuals simply to keep all of us focused on what’s important.

When a Customer Success Manager talks to a Customer Success Operations individual, they have a shared interest on what they’re driving towards — whether it’s customer satisfaction, NPS, ARR, MRR, and so on. Whatever our initiatives are — shared KPIs need to be established across organizations. It can work, again, on those annual or quarterly metrics. But it can also be broken down a little bit further. Maybe we want to establish an internal documentation system in Confluence as a knowledge base. And Support is going to own, maybe, submitting 150 articles in a quarter or a year, and CS will own submitting 75, and Sales will submit 50. And so, we all have some skin in the game to make sure that our internal documentation system is successful.

Jeff 25:39
Another example that can be useful is in Support. Customer Success and Sales are great ways to use triage for Support, making sure that the quality of calls and requests going into Support increases. And that their ability to rectify situations that happen at scale increases. So, one of the ways to do that is to productize or institutionalize those items that you see coming in quite frequently.

In Customer Success, we see data import and export if our customer base is coming in at a high rate. So, we’ll build documentation that can be used asynchronously. It could be a video, it could be resources on our website, it could be an email newsletter that we set up as part of our customer journey that educates our customer base on how to successfully import and export data. That lowers the traffic that comes into Support, increases the value and experience of our customer base, and gives our employees and the company a better experience because this is something that is taken off of the volume of traffic that comes in more frequently.

Maybe we include this as part of our Sales: “Hey, we do data import and export, we have resources for this. When you go through your trial, or as you start to evaluate our product, Here’s how some of that works.”

That’s another example of how it can be done. Again, cross functionally owning the same goals, and collaborating on this.

“When Sales gets Customer Success involved as part of the sales cycle, the order size, the initial deal size will increase. And the Sales velocity will increase as well — meaning larger initial sale size, and it will happen faster.”

— Jeff Heckler, Director of Customer Success at MarketSource

Involving CS in the Sales Process

Irina 27:21
Another question was: do you think getting CS involved in the sales process might actually improve the relationship with the sales?

Jeff 27:34
One hundred percent. If you, as a Customer Success leader, are a member of Customer Success, if you’re doing your job correctly, what will happen is Sales will start to bring you in to help them close.

So, they’ll use the Customer Success team and the services that are provided by Customer Success to build the confidence in the Net New Prospects. And so, the sales organization will get you involved and your team involved. What you want to do with that is the same method: you want to build that content and productize Customer Success, to build those materials so that Sales has them at their fingertips.

You might build a one pager or a sales sheet about Customer Success to give your Sales organization so that they can attach that to their emails, or they can give that to prospective customers and say: “Hey, here are our services from Customer Success. This is what they offer, this is what they do.” And they will use that to close the sale for the customer.

When Sales gets Customer Success involved as part of the sales cycle, the order size, the initial deal size will increase. And the Sales velocity will increase as well — meaning larger initial sale size, and it will happen faster. If you have a prospective customer that lays $1 on the table for your product and says: “Oh, I’m in and at $1” — that is drastically different from the confidence and the partnership that is built when they lay $10 down.

So, if their purchase size is higher, that means they’re committed to you at a higher level. They’ve invested with you upfront at a higher level. And for your company, that’s less work that you’re going to have to do later to upsell and cross-sell.

Jeff 30:00
The other thing that you can find in Customer Success is when you get your Net New Customers in, you casually ask: “You know, I have a great relationship with sales. Out of self interest, I’d like to know — when you talked to my Sales counterparts, is there anything that they could have done better? Or is there something that they were already doing that really worked for you?” Or, another question could be: “Great to have you as a customer, what was it in your journey with us that won you over? What got your vote of confidence? What was the key decision making criteria?”

You can then take that information, aggregate it, store this in your CRM, CSP or your Customer Success platform, aggregate those top five or top three reasons, and give those back to sales — tell them what’s working and where there are opportunities for increasing the value.

“As a Customer Success Manager, you can be a conduit. Your organization really should be aggregating the top three or top five product requests, issues, and challenges, and communicate them to your product team monthly.”

— Jeff Heckler, Director of Customer Success at MarketSource

Account Execs in Service Companies vs. CSMs in SaaS

Irina 31:13
We do have so many questions, and I’m going to focus on pointing out and displaying the questions on the screen regardless of what we wanted initially to discuss. It’s more important what the audience wants. So another question is:

How different are account executives at outsourcing or service companies from CSMs in SaaS companies?

Jeff 32:16
For an AE in a third-party outsourced model, BPO model, or services company, it’s about the credibility and the confidence that you’re going to be able to deliver. The problem in that relationship is that you’re further away from the customer, right? You’re dealing with multiple layers in that structure. So, being an AE for a BPO, or an outsourcer, or a third party services company, I would rely heavily upon testimonials, case studies, and referential marketing materials, because that’s going to tell our story.

If I’m an account exec with a third party, I can tell you anything I want. But what I really need to do is demonstrate what we’ve done, demonstrate how we drive value, demonstrate how we win, demonstrate that we’re going to be with you through the relationship, and build the vision of things that we’re already successfully doing.

Jeff 33:22
The other part of the question is a CSM in a SaaS organization. Well, as a CSM, you are responsible for delivering value. So, it’s much more intimate. You’re representing the organization, you have the resources and the relationships within your organization to drive the value, to deliver the value. And the customers depend upon you being able to advocate for them.

So, the advocacy and the voice of the customer — those two are key as to a Customer Success professional being successful, whether you’re in SaaS or no. That really comes back to what we’ve been discussing about Sales. If I know how I can help sales, I want to be able to use that same model and do it for Support and for Product. That’s where it’s going to be very important.

As a Customer Success Manager, you can be a conduit. Your organization really should be aggregating the top three or top five product requests, issues, and challenges, and communicate them to your product team monthly.

As a CSM, driving value to your customers is key. Driving value to your company is also half of your job. And when you do that, you will build the relationships internally where you can ask your Product Managers and your Product Owners to, maybe, hold an “Ask Me Anything” on a monthly basis to help you build content that can be shared with customers.

Maybe it’s a whitepaper, maybe it’s a tutorial, maybe it’s information that you share though in-app help. But you want to collaborate with them on building out resources for your customers.

You know, when we started off this call, we were talking about those groups and those teams cross-functionally. They have meetings every month, they’re active, but they’re not getting anywhere. Just because you’re doing something doesn’t mean there’s actually anything good coming out of it. So, you need to have accountability built into your cadences, you need to have visibility of collaborative activities going on, you need to have initiatives that are built into what you’re rolling out with your cross sectional leaders.

This is how I build something cross-functionally. First, I think to myself:

  • Do I have the right culture?
  • And I’m the Customer Success leader?
  • Is my leader in product or in sales?
  • Do I have a good relationship with them?
  • Can we do something cross functionally?
  • What is going to drive value for a customer?

What could that be? We’ll use sales documentation, right? Let’s use that Customer Success one pager as an example. So that’s important, right? It helps Sales do their job, builds their sales, increases the velocity of their sales, gives us a better customer experience, when we at Customer Success receive that customer.

That’s the initiative, right? So that’s what’s important. Now let’s define it, what is it going to be? Well, it’s going to be a one page document, that’s a PDF that can be shared on our website, it can be shared as an attachment. It outlines all of our services, what we do in Customer Success, and Sales can help us define it, make sure that it speaks their language and has their semantics, that it feeds into what we deliver as a company.

And then, we want to build that out. What’s our time frame? We can do this in 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 180 days? What’s the scope? How frequently are they gonna meet on this? We’re gonna meet on this every 30 days, every 15 days, bi-monthly. So what’s the cadence to that? And then, who are the stakeholders who should be responsible for delivering this? Is it going to be me? Is it going to be a Customer Success team lead? Who will be that counterpart in Sales that’s responsible for getting this done in the timeframe? Do we need marketing? Do we need the learning and development so that it looks shiny and has a good presentation so that it can be consumed?

And then, how are we going to measure this? How many of these have been sent out to Net New Customers? If we have 15 new customers that come in every week, did 15 customers receive this document? Do the customers have feedback? Do they find value in it? Is it what the document says in its delivery, meeting expectations of what we deliver after 30, 60, 90 days with the customer? So that would be one example.

“At any time that Customer Success is looked at as a supporting function, the thing that happens is everything flows downhill.”

— Jeff Heckler, Director of Customer Success at MarketSource

Customer Success as a Sales Support?

Irina 38:34
The next question: is it healthy for a company in today’s market to have Customer Success as a supporting functionality for the sales department, rather than being independent or owing more of the renewal?

Jeff 38:51
A lot to unpack there. It depends what your product is. It depends how your product is rolled out. Here’s the problem. The one thing that I can say, without fail is — the less you own as an individual in revenue, the less authority you will have, the less autonomy you will have. The less ability to change direction and get resources for yourself you will have. The more revenue you can own and deliver on, the more you will be able to provide for yourself and for your team and for your employees.

Jeff 40:00
If you manage the dollars, you get the voice. That’s how it works. So, at any time that Customer Success is looked at as a supporting function, the thing that happens is everything flows downhill. The parts of the customer-facing motion that other teams don’t want to handle will get pushed to Customer Success. Customer Success will become the everything department and will be the catch-all for things that the other parts of the company don’t want to or can’t do.

And then you become more of a cost of goods sold and a supporting function. And now supporting functions just are backwards. Because you’re there to serve another function, instead of being your own standalone function, delivering on your own initiatives and your own revenue and performance metrics.

“When sharing a challenge that you had on the most recent call with a customer, make each individual responsible for sharing something and doing it in a collaborative environment where they get to meet or interact with individuals that they wouldn’t regularly meet with.”

— Jeff Heckler, Director of Customer Success at MarketSource

Bring CS Teams Together in a Remote Setting

Irina 41:00
I published another question: with many companies working in a remote capacity and account executives/CSMs dispersed across countries and different time zones, do you have any suggestions or recommendations on how to bring them closer in a virtual way, especially when budgets are tight to bring people together physically?

I think this question is spot on also in the context of COVID, in the context of the pandemic, and moving from being physically in the office where it was much easier to create the synergies between the teams into “Okay, everyone is working remotely on different types of different locations.”

Jeff 41:41
I love this question. Not what we had planned, but I’m happy it came up. So here’s, here’s what I’ve done. And it’s been very successful and fun and enjoyable.

I’ve had global teams where they sat across the world, time zones, languages, etc. One commonality was that everybody spoke English. So, there’s a starting base. What I did is I had other members of my team create a matrix. We took the all Customer Success team, CS Ops, data analysts, we had a trainer, we had a project manager — we had six different individuals.

We had team leads, we had Customer Success managers, we had technical account managers, and we had professional services deliveries. The CSMs were also split into Customer Success specialists, associates, seniors, and principals. So we had this great mix.

And what we did is we took individuals from all these different groups, and put them into groups of three, or four or five, and had them meet monthly to share and then deliver on a topic. And then we mix them all up again. So hopefully, two people never saw each other in the same group for at least a couple of months.

So, mix them all up, have them meet and give them a topic, or give a piece of literature to read about the Customer Success industry, share their thoughts, and then provide a synopsis, either in a collaborative document and Confluence, or via an email thread, or via a presentation at our next all-hands.

We had all-hands meetings, sometimes weekly, generally bi-weekly, depending upon how the company, the environment, and the economy. And so, everybody has a chance to meet somebody else on the team at a more intimate level, even if they don’t work together day by day at a time or every day. They learned something new that was relative to their job and role and as a Customer Success professional. And it was kind of fun.

Jeff 44:17
And so, you know, don’t make it something like “We’re going to have a pasta cooking class!” or make it something that’s going to be about the day to day. We’re sharing customers. When sharing a challenge that you had on the most recent call with a customer, make each individual responsible for sharing something and doing it in a collaborative environment where they get to meet or interact with individuals that they wouldn’t regularly meet with. If your company is smaller, you can do this across Sales, and across Support, and Marketing, and all the other functions in your company as well.

“Putting people’s names in lights is not monetary, it doesn’t cost you anything.”

— Jeff Heckler, Director of Customer Success at MarketSource

Incentivizing Sales Teams

Irina 45:09
What is the best process to incentivize Sales to care about their customers post-sales? You mentioned compensation. Any other layers?

Jeff 45:22
If you take money completely out of it, there are other ways of doing this. A lot of us work in Slack, or work in a tool that is collaborative. And so, weekly, I would aggregate some of the customers that have been doing well, or challenges that we overcame, and list all the individuals that were part of that journey with the customer: Sales individuals, Support individuals, Product — anyone who had something to do with it.

Putting people’s names in lights is not monetary, it doesn’t cost you anything. But it’s such a rewarding team building experience that can be shared across the organization. So, that’s what anybody can do. Even if it’s just an email, and you’re adding people to the conversation.

Incentives that really work are the ones that are measurable, that have rewards behind them that are tied to objectives that your company wants to complete. So. you need executive sponsorship to have part of the performance metrics. That’s not directly tied to compensation, but at least performance objectives based around things that matter to all of us — NPS, CSAT, that kind of stuff works.

Irina 47:21
And while we’re on the conversation topic, how can compensation be used to help sales prospect the right customer profile? So, we are also bringing the ICP part and the element which connects marketing with sales, with customer support, and also product.

Jeff 47:43
When it comes to your ICP, your ideal customer profile, ideal customers stay with you for certain amounts of time, depending upon what your product is and how your company goes to market.

And so, the lifetime value of your customer is going to increase as you bring in the right customers, position your offerings in the right ways, and then deliver on them. I know a lot of organizations that compensate their Sales team on how long customers stay. They have their compensation structure built out, they have an X percentage for customers that are still there after 90 days, six months, or 12 months on the percent that renew.

So, whether you’re doing renewals monthly or annually, then you can tie compensation to renewals. If your pricing model is, you know, periodic, so it’s based on a subscription like that, and then there’s your model for that. If you’re going on a compensation or a usage model, you can also tie compensation for sales to and to compensation models.

So, you’re continuing to hold the sales accountable and responsible for customers as they continue on their life cycle.

“CS is going to own the upsell and cross-sell, they need to have the resources to do that. And they also need to be compensated appropriately to do that.”

— Jeff Heckler, Director of Customer Success at MarketSource

Building an Effective Upsell Process

Irina 49:10
What advice would you give to companies looking to build an effective upsell process? Is it better to have CS own these exclusively and let Sales deal with new business?

Jeff 49:24
Depends on your product. And I say that because you don’t want to leave Customer Success in a place where they don’t have the resources to effectively manage upsell and cross-sell. If you have a product that’s a heavy technical lift and rather complex, and Customer Success will need technical resources — whether they’re technical account managers, sales engineers, technical architects, or product architects — the right resource needs to be there.

Firstly, for the company to be successful, and secondly — to give Customer Success individuals a good experience. You don’t want to ask them to do the job and then not give them the right tools to do it. And so, if CS is going to own the upsell and cross-sell, they need to have the resources to do that. And they also need to be compensated appropriately to do that. So that’s the first principle to CS owning upsell and cross-sell.

And you also want to provide Customer Success with the right training, the right support, and the right ongoing training. With my Customer Success teams, I have ongoing training around negotiations, skills, and tactics. I have ongoing training around difficult conversations, how to have difficult conversations, the kind we were having 12 months ago around COVID, supply chain issues, and those kinds of concerns. The difficult conversations we’re having today, as of October 26, 2022, are all around economics, global affairs, social conditions that are going on around the world.

And so, just because you trained your team about that one topic from 12 months ago, doesn’t mean that you can put it to rest. You need to continually revisit these because the difficult conversations I had 12 months ago have changed.

What kind of training and support do you have for Customer Success? And so, you know, if it happens to be upsell or cross-sell, onboarding or implementation, renewals or training, whatever the company is asking the team to do, make sure you have the right support so that they can do it effectively and as comfortably as possible.

“There needs to be communication and ownership across the organizations on shared initiatives, shared goals, shared platforms, tools, documentation, and, hopefully, shared compensation and metrics.”

— Jeff Heckler, Director of Customer Success at MarketSource

Collaboration & Communication

Irina 51:50
So, you mentioned Sales, Support, and Customer Success should work together, it was an example that you provided earlier in the call. What’s the best way to keep everyone in sync, since each team uses different tools and usually has a tendency to silo?

Jeff 52:27
All right, this goes to another principle — working together, whether you’re in a team that’s dedicated to Customer Success, or you span multiple teams. If you don’t have a system, and if you’re not sharing a tool, then you don’t have a team, you don’t have a process.

That’s where I start. So, whether it is something as simple as Google Sheets, or shared project management files and Confluence — if you don’t have a common system, you don’t have a pathway to success, you don’t have a way to collaborate, you don’t have a way to document, you don’t have a way to contribute, and you don’t have a way to provide potential ownership. If my Customer Success team is only living in their Customer Success platform, and my Sales team is only living in their CRM, then the only hope I have is that the transformation and load from CRM happens effectively into my CSP.

Are we speaking the same definitions and semantics? Do we care about the same characteristics and inputs about our customer? I don’t have a system. I don’t have a process. I don’t have a way.

So, that’s the first part. And then, are we meeting about this? And you know, one of the things I’m a big advocate of is a deal desk or something similar to deal desk, where all the customer-facing teams are reviewing the sales and the engagements that are going on with customers.

What are they looking at? Well, this is what we defined as our ICP, our ideal customer profile. These are the customers that we’re looking at potentially bringing in house. Do they line up to our ideal customer profile? Here are the customers that we have brought in house. Here’s why they’ve been successful. Here’s why another subset has not been successful, and measuring that back against our ideal customer profile and seeing where there’s alignment or there’s not alignment, and then learning from that. So, there needs to be communication and ownership across the organizations on shared initiatives, shared goals, shared platforms, tools, documentation, and, hopefully, shared compensation and metrics.

Irina 55:00
Some companies do NPS, CSAT, and so on for understanding customers and their voice. What are different CSMs expected to do or should do to bring value?

Jeff 55:17
If your company’s already doing NPS, CSAT, and those kinds of things, that’s great. Most of us have call recording capabilities. And so, I would highly recommend that Customer Success own sentiment data and things of that realm — our call recordings, our emails, our posts, our social media feedback. Your sentiment data is the data that you’re getting back from your customers outside those formal, very static metric-based responses and feedback methods, feedback loops.

If you’re using Salesforce or another CRM or CSP to categorize and aggregate feedback from customers, you can use your call recording software to take 15- or 45-second snippets of calls and feedback from customers, and share that directly with Product, Sales, or Marketing to demonstrate what’s working, and what’s not working.

We’re so close to the customer, we work with them every day — so let their voice be heard across your company. Share your Customer Success stories through your collaboration tools like Slack, via email, or in your company quarterly updates. Let your customer exist, live, and breathe within your company, and have a voice for them. Tell your customers: “I’m going to ask you a question because I want your feedback, so that I can share that with my colleagues in the company. What would you like them to know? What can I provide to them that would be helpful?”

And when you gain that information back, tell them what you’re gonna do. “I’m going to take this over to my monthly meeting with Product and share this with them.” Or, “I’m going to send this as an email over to my colleague in support.”

Wrapping Up

Irina 57:31
What’s the best question you’ve asked a company to understand if they care about their customers?

Jeff 57:42
The single best one is: does your CEO meet with customers?

Irina 57:52
Can you elaborate a bit on this? It’s a bold question, I would say.

Jeff 57:57
Does your CEO talk to customers? Does your CEO meet with customers quarterly? Do they go on sales calls? Do they listen to feedback? Do they listen to the calls they have? Do you have a customer advisory board? Do you have a voice-of-customer program? Does your CEO go on road shows? Do they go to trade shows? Do they go to conferences? Do they talk to customers?

If they do, what does that look like? What does that mean in your company? How often does that happen? What are the methods of communicating: email, phone, in-person, panels?

Is your CEO visible to the customers?

Irina 58:54
One more question because I know that you had a lot of questions. The last one before we wrap it: how can Customer Success tools improve the collaboration and process?

Jeff 59:16
Formalizing it inside of their offering and adding aggregation to it and, and to metrics behind it.
The things that we’ve done and we’ve built in-house — we will take product features and make them part of our platform. And then the features can then be tagged within our CRM or our CSP for feedback, and then those are aggregated monthly or weekly and shared.

You know what everybody says — if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Irina 1:01:44
Okay, I think that’s a wrap. Thank you all for participating — I’m looking forward to seeing you in the last edition that we are organizing in December. Details will follow soon.

So, follow us on LinkedIn. Keep an eye on the upcoming Custify webinar. We prepared a lot of surprises for you. I’m gonna send the invitation for the next webinars. Have an awesome day. It was a pleasure talking to you! Bye bye, everyone.

Vasilii Kulev

Written by Vasilii Kulev

Vasilii Kulev is the Senior Copywriter at Custify. His interests include conversion-driven long-form SEO content, B2B copywriting, and target audience research. Outside of business hours, he is an avid vinyl records collector and car enthusiast.

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