Making a sale feels great, but when it comes to building a long-term relationship with a customer, it’s not the end of the journey. The period right after the sale, when Account Executives hand won leads over to the customer success managers, can be one of the most critical, make-it-or-break-it moments for both customer retention and your bottom line. In other words, it’s the moment where the sale becomes an ongoing relationship that can be enduring and beneficial to both parties. Unfortunately, moving from sales to CS is where companies are most likely to fumble.
So next time you’re about to ink a contract with a new customer, don’t break out the bubbly just yet. Instead, break out this quick-and-dirty list of tips to make sure that closed deal sticks.
Define the (Sales) Relationship
Just as making a sale is not the last step in the customer retention game, it’s not the first step, either. The actual process of building a positive, long-term relationship with a client starts long before the contract is signed—with clear communication and alignment between AEs and CSMs. A sale will only work if it meets the customer’s needs and caters to the company’s strengths. That’s why AEs and CSMs must keep an open line of communication before and during the handoff, making sure that they understand the customer’s needs and can meet them, too.
This communication should go beyond what can be recorded in a CRM platform. The AE should let the CSM know what excited the customer about the product, what led to the sale, and any barriers or particular needs that might affect the goals and success of the project. Many companies have a closed sale automatically trigger a conversation between the AE and CSM that starts with a questionnaire — explaining the details of the project and what the customer most wants and is excited about — followed by an in-person conversation to get on the same page before the CSM talks to the client. This way, the CSM can hit the ground running, building on the sale’s momentum without repeating questions or misinterpreting a client’s needs.
Set Customer Expectations Early
Instead of springing a CSM on a new customer after the contract is signed, AEs should let customers know early and often that a uniquely talented customer success agent will help them transition from the sale to building and using the company’s product. Give your customers a clear idea of the steps and the timetables involved in the entire sales process, and help them to see the sales-to-customer success handoff as a bridge between buying and building a product that works for them.
Hand Off Strategically
Most companies drop the ball in the hazy period between contract negotiations and customer follow-up. Avoid this fate by clearly identifying when and how your AEs will hand off the sales baton. Some companies choose to do a brief introductory phone call with AEs, the new customer, and their specific CSM before any contracts are signed, letting the customer meet their new guide and set clear expectations going forward. Other companies automatically trigger a handoff protocol after the contract is inked, with the AE sending an introductory email and the CSM following up. Whichever you choose to do, don’t wait longer than a few days to nail down a meeting. Suggest a date, try to make it work, and then send a few questions or background prep for the customer to think about before the call. That way, everyone has time to think, but you don’t lose the excitement and momentum of the original sale.