align-sales-customer-success.jpgWe talk a lot about alignment between Sales & Marketing (or SMarketing). But what about Sales & Customer Success? Customer Success is a booming profession (especially in SaaS). There are over 1,500 open CSM jobs in just in the technology industry right now on LinkedIn.


The movement started in the early 2000s with a perfect storm of several mega-trends: The growth of CRM software, the shift from on premise software to SaaS, the reduced barriers to entry for product creation limiting product differentiation, and the creation of the NPS metric. And of course the growing demand of the buyer for a more transparent, value based and stronger relationship with the brands they consume.

Given the above, it’s no surprise that the investment in Customer Success has risen dramatically. In the early 2000s only 4 F500 companies had a CCO, and now it’s over 25%.

However, there is a potential dark side to this shift if companies are not careful.

Sales organizations may end up shirking their responsibility now that there is another team to “catch” what they sell. They may over-sell, mis-set expectations or sell outside of an ICP sweet spot. This undoubtedly results in increased churn, decreased NPS and brand damage.

Sales teams play a critical role in “Customer Success”. While they might not own the retention metric or NPS or product adoption, the customer journey starts with them and the experience in the sales process will directly correlate to the experience post-sale.

Five tactics sales leaders can implement to ensure customers are successful (and make friends with CS)
1. Define the a “Strike Zone” account for your reps and a process for approval when deals enter the pipeline outside of Strike Zone.
I’ve done a Red/Yellow/Green process in the past where Reds need approval and Yellows need increased communication with CS prior to close. To define strike zone, look at:
  • What are the attributes of an ideal customer profile (where your product capabilities is a perfect fit)
  • What are the attributes of customers that churn vs. have high NPS

2. Use CS Onboarding materials in the sales process.

  • There is no better way to ensure sales is setting proper expectations on what the customer journey will look like then using the exact same materials CS uses in a kickoff call in the pre-sales process.

3. Segment CS Metrics by Reps to look for any patterns of bad behavior

  • Look at churn by rep, time to go-live by rep, NPS by rep, Support tickets, # of advocates by rep etc.
  • Reps who have low CS metrics may be over-selling, setting poor expectations etc.

4. Bring CS into any non-standard or more complex deals before close

  • This helps provide the customer with a level of trust
  • This helps CS form the right relationships with the customer early
  • This allows CS to raise any concerns that can be addressed in the contract or scope of work

5. Work with Customer Success team to define a robust Handoff Process

  • Consider a standardized form in your CRM
  • Consider a handoff call between the rep and the csm
  • Consider having the rep attend a kickoff call

Finally, here is a BONUS tip. Celebrate the reps who have the highest Customer Success metrics with awards, prizes and recognition. And maybe even consider, gasp, adding some of these to their compensation plan. 😉



Author: Emmanuelle Skala

Emmanuelle has 15+years of selling experience having grown sales teams from $0 to over $100M and managed teams as small as 1 rep and as large as 200. She's been a sales leader at 4 successful SaaS start ups including Endeca, Vertica and Influitive. With a variety of different GTM models under her belt, she sits on the advisory board of several early stage SaaS companies including She is currently the VP of Customer Success at Toast.

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