Should Customer Success Be Involved Pre-Sales

Posted on:
December 4, 2018
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Customer Success can bring great value to a final stage sales prospect.

Short answer. Yes!

Customer Success will play a vital part in the prospect achieving their objectives so it’s understandable they should meet with them prior to signing the contract.

A former Sales VP once explained my presence in a sales meeting with this statement:

“I’ve bought Simon along with me today because you’re buying CS as much as the Product.”

And it’s true.  It’s Customer Success that the client is going to speak to on a regular basis and it’s important that the prospect is allowed to meet with them.  This could either be the Customer Success Manager(CSM) if you already know who would be assigned the account, or the team leader.  Having both Sales and CS together should give the prospect confidence there is a joined-up approach to new business, and that even when the salesperson dissolves away post-deal, they know who will look after their ongoing business.

Customer Success Proof

Whilst the Sales team will have a number of case studies and examples of how your software as solved the needs of many a prestigious client, it can be great to have a CSM bring these to life in the meeting.  Just think of all the anecdotal insights you have which are great proof points to tell a prospect.

Smoother Handover

As CS has already met the client, it can ensure a smoother handover and quicker onboarding.  They already know the challenges they want the software to solve, and are also aware of the potential hurdles. Whilst I would still advise on a ‘kick-off’ meeting/call, the process will now be much shorter. Another vital component is that the relationship has already started to develop before the client has even logged in.

You can build a process here with a well constructed Sales-to-CS document explaining all of the reasons why the client signed and also the potential challenges.

Customer Success Sign-Off

CS should also be involved in a sign-off stage.  Not that any of us have seen Sales bring us an unsuitable client (right!?), but there is a risk that financial pressures on the Sales team mean that some prospects might not be as suitable as others, and unfortunately they get signed up.  Whilst this is great for new business revenue, it instantly puts a huge pressure on the Customer Support team. What defines ‘unsuitable’ is going to vary for each business, but typical scenarios are:

Unsuitable clients will damage your business by being a huge drag on the time of Customer Success, a constant churn risk, and can ultimately damage your reputation in the market when it all goes wrong.  This isn’t to say no client should ever be a challenge and stretch both the product and team, but some prospects fall way outside just ‘being a challenge’.

Customer Success can tell you in a flash what a bad deal looks like, and as we know retention, upsell and expansion are the key revenue drivers to a SaaS business, Customer Success should have a formal say on which clients come on to the platform.

Should Customer Success Get Sales Commission?

No.  The Sales staff still carry the new business sales number and should be compensated for that.  The benefit to every CSM in being involved at the final stage of the sales cycle is they increase the chances of the client renewing, and that’s where CS will be compensated.

Are There Any Downsides?

I’m not sure there are. The only argument might be that this is using up CS time that could be spent with existing clients, but if we consider that Customer Success is all about being proactive, then having them be a part of the sales process is only putting them on the front foot.  The caveat to this is to ensure CS is only bought in for prospects with a high probability of converting.

Written By

Simon Cooper

Simon has over 10 years helping clients achieve their goals through the use of software.  Having previously lead Customer Success teams in London, Europe and New York City, Simon now owns Kupr Consulting working with B2B SaaS companies to improve their Customer Success teams and processes. Articles

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