Throughout the pandemic, B2B companies have needed to adapt to changing customer needs and preferences continuously. But a quick change is difficult when the company lacks alignment between the departments that most frequently speak to customers: sales and customer success.
When sales and customer success aren’t aligned, both suffer. This misalignment can lead to a lack of trust between the two departments, which makes delivering a compelling customer experience and value more difficult.
When companies need to quickly adapt their sales or customer success efforts, misalignment that can cost the company a few days can mean big changes to business outcomes, like lost or delayed sales and revenues.
We all see lots of symptoms of misalignment on a day-to-day basis. Here are a few examples of common scenarios that illustrate this Sales-CS misalignment. You could think of many more in your business context.
1) The selling team is expected to condense and summarize 6+ months of sales interactions and customer insights into a 2-page handover document, forcing a significant loss of information and breakdown of trust between these functions.
2) The CS team makes another discovery call from scratch causing customers to see the Sales-CS misalignment, which hurts the organizational credibility created by the selling team.
3) CSM spots an upsell opportunity and does a lot of the initial discovery and scoping without involving the sales team. This causes internal friction and a lack of clarity for customers on their respective roles.
4) And so many more…..
All these individual stakeholders across sales and customer success teams could be doing near-perfect work in their respective lanes, but lack of communication and an effective feedback loop is causing both teams to lose opportunities — leading to lost/delayed sales and revenue opportunities for the company.
When Sales and Customer Success teams have proper alignment, the company will see the following benefits:
1) Accelerated account growth: Customer success and sales teams will have a shared understanding of customer context, needs, and expectations and are working together as one unit to help customers achieve their goals. This means upsell opportunities arrive faster and lead to improved customer advocacy.
2) Improved customer satisfaction: When Sales and Customer Success teams work hand in hand, customer experience is significantly improved - no repetitive questions, high-value inputs, recommendations for customer pain points, faster time to value, etc. This means a happier customer and hopefully a vocal one.
3) Increased operational efficiency: Information flows between the two teams smoothly, meaning massive amounts of time and effort saved. On average, you could see a 20-25% increase in productivity per employee
4) Higher employee satisfaction: When the classic sales and customer success conflict no longer exists, they are happier and are able to achieve more in less time. There is a culture of trust and transparency, leading to higher employee satisfaction and retention.
There are four dimensions of alignment for sales and customer success teams - roles & responsibilities, customer context, execution playbook, and culture.
1) Clearly defining roles and responsibilities
The pandemic has changed the B2B buyer. They prefer not to talk with your account executives and want to do more things via self-service. To top this all, more things are getting done remotely, and this new behavior is here to stay.
In the pre-pandemic world, loosely defined boundaries between sales and customer success were sustainable since there were more face-to-face meetings both internally and with the customer. But the post-pandemic world calls for all things to be done virtually. This means your sales and customer success manager for a particular account may not even meet each other face to face; more importantly, they may not face-to-face meet your customer while they are in the current job. This is a mind-boggling change and calls for a digital-first approach to defining roles and responsibilities.
This clear definition has two aspects:
(i) Sales and customer success teams operate from a shared playbook for customer value discovery and delivery.
(ii) your customers have a clear perspective on who is who on your team
To achieve this, you need to create an infrastructure to have a shared view of context for both internal and external stakeholders.
This infrastructure should let you define best practices at a framework level and enable your frontline team to customize it at an account level. This means everyone has unparalleled and asynchronous access to clearly defined roles and responsibilities to make the customer successful.
2) A shared understanding of Customer Context
Sales create multiple presentations during the sales cycle, they also fill out CRM systems, sales to customer success handoff documents. Similarly, customer success teams take care of new customer implementations, QBRs/MBRs, health checks, etc. All of these are shared via emails with customers, and some high-level summary is updated in CRM systems. However, there is no single view of all the customer contexts shared with the customer. The post-pandemic world has become digital-first. Having a shared understanding of customer context both internally and externally will be fundamental to your ability to closely collaborate to grow customers.
To achieve this, you need to equip your revenue teams with predefined and integrated playbooks and enable them to personalize them based on individual customer context. Also, a feedback loop gets built to keep updating your revenue operations playbook.
In a world where information changes quickly, the shared context helps your frontline teams hold everyone accountable on the customer context and how it changes over time.
3) Execution playbook built around customer value
If you are like most companies, you have a sales playbook and a customer success playbook. The problem is that they are built in silos and not much thought is given to the interplay/overlap between these two playbooks.
The common factor that ties all of these together is the customer value and your desire to deliver it. We have always had sales teams focus on value selling and post-sales to focus on value delivery. The revenue engine in the Saas world has changed from a funnel to a cyclical approach to revenue growth.
Enables your sales team with a systematic approach to understand buyers’ context.
BuyerAssist empowers you to deliver the most differentiated digital buyer experience.
BuyerAssist helps you understand how your customers buy and realize value from you
BuyerAssist helps you accelerate value realization for your customers.
This calls for a more integrated approach of revenue generation and value delivery and one that puts the customer at the center of your revenue playbook.
4) Customer Success culture
In most companies, customer success and sales are considered to be on two different sides of the company, always at odds. But the best companies have customer success as their Operating Philosophy that connects marketing, sales, and customer success as one integrated unit. I’ve written extensively about how to make this transition previously.
Ultimately, getting sales and customer success to stay aligned starts with creating a culture of cooperation and transparency by creating processes that remind the teams of their shared objectives and encourage customer-centric collaboration. By doing this, you can avoid the sales-customer success misalignment that plagues so many companies and forces them to leave a lot of money on the table.
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