As any SaaS professional knows, even the best laid plans sometimes hit roadblocks. For customer success leaders, these roadblocks or pitfalls can be the tipping point between customer satisfaction and customer churn.
5 Common Success Post-Sales Pitfalls
In order to make sure your CSMs are prepared, take a look at these common post-sales pitfalls, strategies for success, and best practices at every point of the post-sales customer lifecycle to ensure critical issues don’t slip through the cracks.
Let’s set the stage.
Understanding Post-Sales Lifecycle Management
After the customer signs on the dotted line and officially enters into a partnership with a vendor organization, there is a clear customer lifecycle that falls into place. It’s the responsibility of the Customer Success Manager (CSM) to guide the customer throughout this lifecycle and ensure the smoothest journey possible.
Oftentimes, however, this step-by-step journey is not clearly defined or aligned across the various departments within an organization. Customer success leaders must understand and develop the post-sales lifecycle from the customer’s perspective to capture all the elements that are truly important to the customer. In order to ensure smooth inter-departmental transitions and customer satisfaction, all departments must be on the same page and aligned on customer’s needs and wants.
5 Pitfalls, Strategies, & Best Practices
Pitfall #1: The Sales Handoff (Poor Knowledge Transfer)
One of the most critical stages of the customer lifecycle is the sales handoff. The transition between the sales cycle and the ‘becoming a customer’ portion of the relationship sets the tone for how the rest of the customer relationship will play out. Sometimes, however, the business goals, needs, and desired outcomes of a new customer aren’t always articulated correctly from the sales team to customer success. This means that CSMs and customer success leaders may not be aware of critical expectations or promises that were discussed between the customer and the sales team.
The Sales Handoff Strategy
Instead of taking this handoff in stride and catching up on missed expectations later, a CSMs strategy should be to ensure the knowledge transfer of key contacts, challenges, goals, values, and desired outcomes from sales to customer success before the first kickoff call. This way the CSM is aware of all promises, discussions, and even internal political issues before they even meet the customer. This starts the relationship out on a good note and promises a smooth road moving forward.
Best Practices for a Smooth Sales Handoff
- Develop a ‘data transfer’ template to ensure no critical pieces of information are forgotten or purposefully left out
- Make sure sales and customer success are on the same page when it comes to key promises, goals, and outcomes
- Capture how all parties involved will measure value and success
Pitfall #2: Onboarding & Implementation (Training is Not Value Focused)
For new customers, the onboarding/implementation process is the first foray into customer/vendor relations, and it gives them a good taste of what the relationship will be like moving forward. Roadblocks can occur, however, if onboarding focuses solely on account setup or certain features instead of how the customer will actually be using the product to achieve their goals or value.
Strong Onboarding & Implementation Strategies
Goals and value should be firmly established with the customer before onboarding kicks off to make sure the CSM knows exactly how to measure time to first value (aka the first moment the customer sees value with their new solution). Having these business goals outlined and defined is a great way to get customers up and running fast while finding the shortest path to first value.
Best Practices for Smooth Onboarding
Where onboarding strategy is concerned, there are typically two different strategies or experiences: low touch and high touch:
- Low touch onboarding: This onboarding strategy is very simple and hands-off. Oftentimes low touch onboarding involves just a series of video tutorials or automated help guides. One drawback to this style is that some customers don’t properly learn how to use the solution, which can cause early attrition if not caught in time.
- High touch onboarding: This onboarding style is typically used by customer success teams with a fairly complex solution or if there is a large group of users going through training at one time. High touch onboarding is also common with white-glove or higher priority accounts.
Many onboarding experiences fail if the customer feels too rushed, if the content is too opaque, or if the process is too impersonal. CSMs must tailor every onboarding experience to the individual customer.
Pitfall #3: Adoption & Value (Silence is Success)
During the adoption stage, the customer begins to see value with the solution as more users become engaged. A pitfall to avoid during this stage is silence. Too often, after the relative chaos of onboarding, CSMs don’t check in enough or don’t ask the right questions on calls. Customers usually have pointed questions around specific workflows or features, which CSMs can quickly gloss over in favor of high-level objectives. To avoid this roadblock, CSMs should make sure that all users at every level, from executives to end users, are seeing clear value from the solution. Check in calls should be clearly outlined to discuss predefined goals, business outcomes, and ROI.
Adoption & Value Strategies and Best Practices
In order to ensure maximum value for the maximum amount of users, CSMs can follow some of these best practices:
- Engage with users at all levels to ensure their personal goals for the solution are being met
- Check in frequently to keep adoption levels up
- Work with other CSMs and customer success leadership to manage large-scale accounts with automation and technology
- Stay alert for any adoption red-flags or dips in usage to stay on top of satisfaction and retention metrics
Pitfall #4: Expansion & Upsell (Weak Value Realization Post Implementation)
Customer expansion strategy helps identify new revenue opportunities within existing accounts, whether with new features or user growth. Expansion opportunities are the bread and butter of a CSM’s customer accounts and are a great indicators of satisfaction and health. Although there are quite a few pitfalls during this stage of the customer journey, they can be avoided with clear strategy and execution.
Pitfalls to customer expansion or upsell include:
- The customer not seeing value past the onboarding stage. Every user must see tangible value or positive outcomes in order for an expansion to be taken seriously.
- Sporadic or inconsistent check in calls. Without a regular CSM/customer check in cadence, easy-to-fix issues can slip through the cracks and dramatically hinder an upsell.
- Missed opportunities. Without regular engagement and communication, CSMs can miss an open door to an expansion or upsell opportunity.
Expansion and Upsell Best Practices
A best practice for expansion opportunities is to work with sales to develop the best proposal for individual customers based on their custom concerns, goals, and opportunities. CSMs should keep their eyes open for any metrics that highlight a customer as expansion-ready, including an increase in product usage, engagement, or NPS scores.
Pitfall #5: Renewal (Tangible Business Impact and ROI)
During the renewal stage, a CSM’s strategy revolves around strengthening a customer relationship to the point that they decide to re-purchase the solution again for another set period of time. The biggest pitfall standing in the way of success? If the customer doesn’t see the value or a tangible ROI your solution.
Strategies for Renewal
CSMs must constantly engage and communicate with customers throughout the entire journey, from onboarding onwards, to ensure every user is seeing value and achieving their personal goals within the solution. The success of a renewal strategy hinges on overcoming this roadblock and driving positive business outcomes and impacts throughout the customer journey.
Best Practices for Renewal
While there is some contention around who should own the renewal, a best practice is to be aligned with sales. A customer success department is well versed in dealing with current client issues, concerns, and values, while sales can bring negotiating techniques and tactical expertise. Another best practice is to develop strong executive relationships during the entire customer journey and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions during every conversation. Questions like: “If you were to renew today, would you?” “If you moved to another company would you bring our solution with you?”
Actionable Strategies Can Help To Overcome Issues
Even with the pitfalls and roadblocks discussed above, with actionable strategies in place CSMs can be well prepared to overcome any issue. What are some best practices your customer success team employs to overcome post-sales issues?