Don’t drop the ball at the customer handoff!
One of the most dangerous places for a fumble in the NFL is during the customer handoff. Ditto for sales. Just because a customer signs the dotted line, it doesn’t mean the work’s done. So what’s it like passing over an enterprise sale with multiple stakeholders to your customer service team? You’ll find out in this lesson that teaches you about setting CS up for success and priming the pumps for resale down the line.
Customer Handoff Course Modules:
Customer Success As A Revenue Driver Interview Transcript:
Joseph Fung: Hi, welcome back to the Kiite Academy, super excited for today’s guest speaker, we are speaking about customer success, and this is module 7.1 in our Customer Handoff lesson. And I’m very lucky to have Greg Boyd, VP of Customer Success from Axonify is here to join us. Thank you so much.
Greg Boyd: Thanks for having me. Good to be here talking about the customer handoff.
Joseph Fung: Maybe we could start off. I’ve had a chance to get to know you over time, hear more about your story. But our viewers haven’t yet, could you share a bit about your role and your background to warm things up.
Greg Boyd: I got my start in consulting with IBM. And that was a, it was a shorter stint. But a lot of the foundation that I ended up applying and customer success came out of that. I didn’t know that that would be the case at the time, of course, but services-oriented role client work, building models and frameworks, and then I quickly saw, that I thought startup or tech was more of my realm and sales, in particular, so moved, then into a tech company here in our community in a sales and account management roles, and built some sales competency there and great experience with some success.
And then after that, I joined Axonify. So I was brought in to start the Customer Success function, and candidly I didn’t know what that was at the time. I don’t know that our CEO had a clear vision herself at the time of what it was going to look like, but came in with a view of taking accountability for what comes after a client gets launched.
How do we work with them? How do we and in my view, my worldview is how do we grow that that book of business, so I saw it is really an application or extension of account management. So that’s how I arrived in the role, and I was the account manager or the customer success manager, and quickly saw that we went from a business that had two or three renewals a year to 20 to 30 to 42, to now 150 renewals of contract renewals happening each year, which is an entire department at our company in the house, we now have 14 CSMs, worldwide, and then operations and other support that feed into my part of the organization.
Joseph Fung: Okay, so I love the way you talked about that journey from service through sales
Greg Boyd: Yeah.
Joseph Fung: And then you talked about account growth. Maybe you could unpack that a bit because one of the things we hear from leaders is, we’ll hear comments like, well, customer success is just a new title for support, or customer success is the name you give a role when you’re saying take care of the clients. I don’t know what’s going on?
Greg Boyd: Right.
Joseph Fung: What do you think that role is? And maybe what are some of the individual jobs because that might help set context?
Greg Boyd: Sure. So I do think that broadly, in our industry, there’s still some confusion about and, and maybe perhaps just a lack of agreement on what customer success means. And I think, at the, I’ve got this spectrum. So it’s, this is not a universally accepted worldview, but we’ll call it the Greg Boyd worldview.
And since I’m here, I’m gonna share it with you and everyone who’s watching, I think that there’s a spectrum and there’s a service orientation that lives way down here, and then there’s a sales orientation that lives over here.
I think that a lot of organizations, they’ll place Customer Success along that spectrum and call it the same thing, but it serves very different functions. So I think that at the far end of that you have support. And support has very low level of accountability to revenue, very important role, but low revenue accountability, at the far end of the service spectrum, want to help, want to support a client, but don’t necessarily want to have accountability for that revenue.
Then you move that up to perhaps implementation, or a services-oriented role that is about less tactically, helping more strategically moving a customer down a data path get, and I’m using the software, message that’s services or professional services, so project management, we call it implementation managers at Axonify.
I think if you shuffle that then a step further, that’s when you get into the sales roles of account management or, or even sales where now you got revenue accountability. I think that all across that spectrum. You’d have new business hunter rep, as the far end of that spectrum, that they’re heavily sales-oriented, have a strong view to think to speak to the roles, the roles from a business career that if you’re fully accountable to bring in new business revenue, a little bit down from that you’d have somebody perhaps who is a business development, so they’re a door opener, they’re just trying to get doors opened. So fully hunting and just taking a lot of notes.
Further, a little bit further down from that you’d have account management as a function. And so they’ve got a book of business that they’re working, but they’re working to grow or build that book of business. And say a slight step down from that is my worldview of what our model should be for customer success, which is, still has revenue accountability, but has a little bit more of that service orientation in mind, that we’re empowered to play the long game with our customer.
You have to sell value when the shines off, you have to have them believe that they’re getting value and seeing the value and are going to continue to see that value when they know what the product does or doesn’t do. And so I think it’s a different level and different types of sales competency, but still, very much a sales competency that has a little bit more of a service orientation than perhaps a pure new business rep would need to have.
Joseph Fung: I love the way you talk about it. I hear a lot of tech companies say we want to delight our customers. And one of the things that always stuck with me is very often they turn the light into, you know, surprises or free giveaways.
But there’s great research that says the best way to delight a customer is, meet the expectations, and help them get the most value out of what they’ve already bought. And you’re describing, is giving them the most value in the best way to delight them and that’s, that’s a great way to think about it.
Greg Boyd: Totally, I think something that I took from a leader that I had, and I’ve taken it to heart, and we apply it full steam is that. Happy customers are really nice to talk to you. But happy customers don’t renew contracts. I’d rather have an unhappy customer who sees value. But ideally, in generally speaking to your point, if they’re seeing value, they’re going to be happy.
But we, I have so many scars and things that have gone wrong for me, which is all the right things being told to me all through that journey. Yeah, we’re not using it as much as we thought, but we love this, are we, we’re not live yet. But oh, you know, we’re gonna launch in a couple of months or whatever excuse that they’re happy to still take your call.
But if they’re not seeing value, and they’re not moving some initiative forward with your product, the days and newcomer, that renewal question is being asked, and it is amazing. This is universally true, those happy customers duck for cover because the CFO is coming and looking for ROI. And generally speaking, it’s really hard to say solid ROI.
You know, it’s very rare that you can say you spent 100, grand or $100,000 and we can airtight prove that this got you $200,000 return on investment. But you have to have some story that you can make some level of correlation or attribution that says, hey, this is the use you’re getting from the product. This is how it’s changing something in your organization. And here’s how it’s driving a result of some sort.
If you don’t have any of those three things, you’re dead in the water, you have use, you can probably get there. If you’re changing some sort of behavior, you’re even better. You’re airtight if you have an actual value story. But if you have, if you’re missing any of those three, a happy customer will never renew that contract.
Joseph Fung: I love that comment. There’s such a direct analogy there between those customers that are renewals and the deals a rep has in their pipeline.
Greg Boyd: Totally.
Joseph Fung: I hear that same thing. Customer says it’s great – we’d love the opportunity. We just aren’t ready to sign the contract yet. And it never happens. And it sounds like the exact same thing on the renewals.
Greg Boyd: The exact same thing happens.
Joseph Fung: Yes. So thinking a little bit about, you know, the roles. You spoke of the spectrum.
Greg Boyd: Yep.
Joseph Fung: And you spoke about how some companies are at the one end of the Greg Boyd spectrum, some of them are at the other end of it. As account rep as an AE, if I’m looking at companies, and I’m trying to decide where I want o take my career, two things come to mind, I mean, one choosing where I fit in, you know, as one, but the second of all, is that ambiguity between companies could be alarming.
What are the things I could watch for or ask for, as an account executive to figure out what my company’s worldview was?
Greg Boyd: Sure. Great question. I think the most important thing to be thinking about and something that I was very direct about in joining Axonify when I started was taking accountability for revenue.
So the question that I would ask if you’re trying to figure out where you might fit in that role, and if you see customer success, the best question to ask is, who’s accountable to get a renewal done, who ultimately is getting that contract signed by a customer for renewal? Because in many companies that will live within an account executive, account manager, perhaps even a sales rep, then you have this customer success role that is really there to drive engagement, the product, probably handle a lot of support issues.
And that’s not a sales role in my, in my view, you’re selling, and you’re certainly supporting the sales process, post-sale, but you’re not accountable for revenue? I’d say that’s the question to ask is, who owns and who’s accountable for that, but a renewal.
Joseph Fung: So if we think about that, that ideal model, especially in a B2B technology environment, what would be that ideal organizational structure? We’ve tossed out a bunch of names and rules implementation, customer success, sales. If we think about an organization that has that sales function, the customer success whose revenue-oriented, maybe even support, how’s the best way to organize that team?
Greg Boyd: Gosh, where’s your whiteboard, Joseph. You are so mean. So this is something that we’ve, that we’ve worked with, or we’ve had a fair bit of time, or spent a fair bit of time working through. Because what has happened is, over time, and I think that anybody who is in a sales role will see this happen.
As an organization grows, you’ll have the marketing team marketing things, then the sales team selling things, then the services team implementing things, then the customer success, team, customer successing and supporting and driving value for that customer. And those things start to get really disconnected.
That is a very jarring experience for customers through that journey. And it will end up destroying your renewal rate. Because customers by the time they get to the customer success managers, they’ve been managed by five different people. There’s no consistency in that experience. So the way I would view that, and the way, what we’ve put in place in our organization, is a process.
We call it strategic alignment, whatever you may call it, but it’s an internal process that from the business development rep, who starts the process, when they open up a conversation with that client, they create a workbook that lives in our CRM, that just captures a little bit of information about what the customer is trying to achieve. And then when that goes to the sales rep, once that opportunity is qualified, it goes to a rep, it opens up, and they provide a little bit more information about who they’re talking to, and what they’re trying to achieve.
Then what we started to do is pre-close before the deal closes, we’ll introduce the team that will be part of their journey through it. And so the two other people that they’ll need to know are the person who will be responsible for the implementation of their program. So getting them up and running, and then their customer success manager. And that happens before the deal is closed, which gives the salesperson, it gives the implementation leader and then the customer success manager, those three people the opportunity to come together and align on what the customer is trying to achieve.
Ideally, I think in a perfect world, you’d have an organization where you have chief revenue officer, perhaps that has accountability for revenue. And they have that sale, the marketing function, and then the success functions reporting up to them. The implementation role I’ve not ever seen that go into zero function, but you need to have title alignment, in the services organization that might report into customer success, or to be very tightly coordinated through the strategic alignment process. So there’s no disconnect in that workflow.
Joseph Fung: You’ve dropped a couple of really, really fascinating pearls of wisdom in there.
Greg Boyd: Okay.
Joseph Fung: Your comment about having the implementation lead and customer success manager participate in pre-sale. That’s a very interesting team, the account manager, maybe a BDR, customer success, implementation, all part of that pre-sale, you know, motion – how has that impacted, you know, your deals, your customers, your attention?
Greg Boyd: So, I think that when, when there’s a lack of trust from between the salesperson and the organization, are they going to be able to deliver the things that I’m promising, then I think you’ll find that as a salesperson, you’re going to want to keep it close to your chest because you don’t, you don’t want to have, you don’t want the customer to start to see any sort of dysfunction.
You want the customer to believe what you’re saying and stay focused on what you’re trying to have them believe. When we’ve introduced this model, what we’re seeing is that when we get to and we’re not talking about introducing it, early sales stages, this is once we have verbal that the customers are saying that we’re going to move ahead, and we’re getting to, we’re getting into contracting at that point.
We’re seeing a higher conversion rate in that late stage where deals typically would the phone stops being answered, deals dry up. We’re seeing an increase in the conversion rate because the customer is meeting the team. There’s certain to build the plan with the team, and it pulls the deal through much more effectively. But we’re not going to start work before it goes.
It actually shows instead of that demonstrating a lack of alignment or showing dysfunction, shows a highly functional and professional organization. And you have the sales leader, saying, here’s your customer success manager who’s is a person who’s accountable for your success. All those promises I’ve made, the CSM is accountable to make sure that happens. And they literally get paid if they, if you renew your contract with us because you’re seeing the value in success.
And I think that’s been an important part of our success, getting more deals, getting more customers, and growing our base by introducing that process.
Joseph Fung: So I love the positioning of customer success as part of that selling team.
Greg Boyd: Yeah.
Joseph Fung: We talk about this a lot. Our customers speak about this a lot, very often, not just at the leadership level but at the individual contributor level. People struggle with how do we operationalize that idea? I love the idea. But what do I do day to day?
So maybe we can pick that apart? A little bit?
So I love your comment about inviting CSMs implementation to a sales call, making sure if I’m an account manager, and that’s my process, I need to get Customer Success implementation on a call, whether it’s my company’s process or not, what’s the best way for me to make that happen, and be respectful and be a good team member? How do I make that effective?
Greg Boyd: Yeah, I think there’s a whole conversation to be had on if you’re a leader in an organization, what you might do to build a great and consistent customer journey.
Fair — if you’re an individual contributor, you may not have the authority to roll out an entirely new process. But I think what you could do and what we’ve seen some of our best reps be great at is, be consistent in what you do and what you introduce to a customer that clearly articulates what value is going to look like. So that when you bring that opportunity to the deal team, effectively, those who are going to be involved in delivering it, they see the same thing over and over and over again. So you’re being consistent in what and what you’re presenting, let me tell you what I mean.
We have a framework that we use called Value Realization, not sexy, but it’s that’s what, that’s what it’s called, is literally about realizing value. And there’s two stages in that model. There’s the expected value that we sell, what are we expecting, we’re going to achieve. And then there’s the achieved value, which is a one-way achievement.
A sales rep is never going to deliver achieved value, they deliver expected value, but you get the team there to do the achievement. It’s a picture, and it’s a triangle that says, we’re going to use the product. And the salesperson is going to set some expectation of how much we’re going to use it. The next level up in that pyramid is we’re going to change this behavior, whatever behavior that might be, we’re just going to change and influence this thing in your organization for selling software, and the topics to achieve this outcome.
As a sales, as a sales rep as an AE, I would encourage you to visualize some combination of those elements that says, what are we expecting them to use in the product? And why? What are we expecting that to influence in terms of how it’s going to change things in the client’s organization that has that tie to something they’re trying to achieve? You take those three things, and you consistently articulate that to your team, your implementation team, and your customer success manager, you’re your partner in that.
In managing that account, they’re going to be able to consistently pick that up and go, okay, we know what we’re, what we’re here to try to help the client achieve. And what’s been amazing is that clients go, “yep, yep, yep.” And then when they see that articulate to them consistently post-sale, back to your point, we’re absolutely delighting the customer, because they’re hearing one thing, the sales process, and the same thing, the same, like three or four steps later. And I don’t think you need to be a VP of sales, a VP of Ops, to implement that sort of structure and consistency in your own process.
Joseph Fung: So when I’m hearing, let me know if I get this right is, whereas a lot of companies, this sales reps use a sales order to delineate what’s been purchased. And that’s what gets handed forward. And sometimes, things get lost in the shuffle. Yeah, what you described was more than a business outcome of what we’re hoping to achieve, what the customer does, and what the outcome is. And that’s actually what you repeat. And that sounds when you get a bit of a get-out-of-jail-free card if the implementation rep has to change or as a sales rep to change – Is that a fair assumption?
Greg Boyd: So I think you just hit on something great. So we think when we sell a product that the customer bought, what’s on the sales order, the customer bought, what I just said they bought the outcome or the perceiver. The idea of this outcome, that’s what they, that’s what they’re actually buying. They want to use your product to do something, to change something, to get some sort of outcome.
A good rep is going to be able to articulate that. How often you want people logging into this? When are they going to do that? How often? Okay, what is that going to influence for them? How is that going to change what they do? And then what’s that going to be? What’s that going to help them achieve? Perhaps they can be a little bit more concrete.
Our product, it’s a learning product. So people log into it every day, and they get a little nugget of learning. So we can, we can say, Okay, well, at the base level, people are going to log in and use this thing. Every day, every shift, they’re going to log in, so the customer has to buy into that. But the reason they’re doing that isn’t so that they log in and use the software, they’re buying it because nobody buys software to use it.
People are going to use this thing, so that my employees stay safe on the job, which saves me money. So they log in every day to get reminded of sales, or safety practices and procedures, so that they behave safely on the job, which keeps my people safe, and saves the company money. That’s what a customer buys. And if we can articulate that consistently, so that during the implementation, if we’re talking to the team that’s now implementing, not the people who bought and we start to leave that original buying vision, we can at least have an anchor to say, well, Isn’t this what it’s about? Or why are we talking about this anymore?
And what’s important about that is, when that comes renewal time, generally, the person who bought the product is involved in that renewal, and they bought it for the things that I just mentioned, they’re probably going to look at the renewal and say, did we achieve those things or not? And if there’s a disconnect along the way, if you don’t have some way to articulate what the expected value is, you’re definitely getting lost in translation.
Joseph Fung: I love the description -that’s a great framework. You tweak an interesting question. We spend a lot of time working with sales teams. And there’s a ton of content out there about the meetings, and the actions you need to do as a sales rep, your demos, your discovery calls all that there’s not a lot about what a customer success manager or rep would do. I’d love to hear what are some of those key events?
Are they QBRs are they check-ins? What are the motions that a customer success rep needs to do? When they’re speaking with a customer? Specifically, you know, how does that match what a sales rep is doing? Because you send him the most revenue roles. So how does that match?
Greg Boyd: Yeah, so I guess to draw some of those parallels, I’d say, in, for a sales rep. Who’s driving, whether it’s a short sales cycle or a long sales cycle, it’s generally going to have this flavor at the beginning of the process. There’s some sort of discovery that’s happening.
And you got to set questions, some criteria that you got to check, and things you got to make sure are there before you move on to the next phase of your process. At the end of the process, there’s some checks you have got, the red lines have to be done, the contract has to be in, we have to get a PO, certain things that have to happen, which is very structured down here, very structured up here. There are sales stages that are going to happen in the middle. But I think we would all agree, depending on the size of the deal, that’s a bit of a journey.
Joseph Fung: Yeah.
Greg Boyd: It is not…
Joseph Fung: Deals meander! That’s what I thought!
Greg Boyd: Yes! Stages don’t go from E to D to C to B to A, right? It’s going to move, and it’s going to be fluid. And so you have to be able to cope with that. I say the world is exactly the same, but it’s drawn out for a customer success manager. We have the same general three phases.
We have new customer launches, that’s a very structured period of time, but the highest risk period of time, and the highest potential and opportunity to get a customer started in the right direction. So that’s the first phase. So they launch, the customer success manager has stayed in touch through the implementation, but they’re not doing a lot. The implementations got the lion’s share of the work to do, but they’re staying in touch, staying connected with that, that executive sponsor through that.
But once we launch, the customer success managers in, they’re gonna be monitoring use of the product, they’re going to be monitoring the rollout plan, and probably having some sort of bi-weekly cadence or perhaps monthly cadence from a governance perspective to make sure we’re hitting some of our early milestones. And then the way we would run things, and the way I’d recommend it run is we actually preset some key initial what we call quarterly business reviews, that are milestones that we’ve got to hit where we start to measure that value.
So those things that I talked about, how are we using the product, check? Are we starting to see changes in behavior, check, and then are we delivering on some sort of outcome? If we can get to that top level in the first six months, we have high high high conversion rate on renewal at the end. That’s money for us, and its money for anyone.
So those first Six months, it’s a fairly structured process. At the end, jumping to that sort of like the end of a sales stage, when we’re getting to the end of the contract and its renewal, three to six months ahead of that renewal, it’s have we done a QBR lately or quarterly business review, we’re reviewing metrics, we’re checking with the executive sponsor, we delivering value, and then we get into a renewal process. In the middle, if it’s a…
Joseph Fung: Meandering middle…
Greg Boyd: Meandering middle. So in the middle, the job of a customer success manager, so this is highly transactional, these two parts just like it is for a rep, the most rewarding the stuff that I enjoy the most for the end of the deal as a rep, and it’s the renewal cycle as a CSM.
Absolutely, because the other stuff is a little bit more transactional, just got to get through that process, the meandering middle, what we have put in place as key milestones is we need to have quarterly business reviews, which is a check-in that’s happening, where you’re, you’re literally talking about the strategy of the organization, and you’re aligning that to the use of your product. And you’re having strategic conversations with that customer about how successful your product is being.
Joseph Fung: A lot of responsibility.
Greg Boyd: It is. And there’s a lot of fun. Because once you’re in those sorts of conversations, I think you’re elevated to a role where your trusted advisor, consultants, sales rep, you’re probably doing a little bit of professional services, you’re building all these skills. But you have a whole organization to support you, because you’re holding that accountability for that revenue.
So you’re the quarterback that’s going to make sure that QBR is happening and that we’re addressing all of the customer’s needs to align the use of your product to something strategic in the organization. That’s our anchor in terms of how we engage. But other things that you could expect as customers give feedback on how your product should be built.
So you’re going to be doing feature requests and reviews, introducing them to your product team, you’re likely going to be selling ongoing services engagements so that you’re growing and enhancing the use of their product. And then, one of the big things that our CS team does is look for ways to grow how a customer is using the product.
Joseph Fung: So in that, you said you had a philosophy to make sure that that’s successful. Would you share a bit more?
Greg Boyd: Sure! So I saw this from somebody else too. But I’ll, you can totally had me take credit for it.
Joseph Fung: It’s part of the Greg Boyd framework. There you go.
Greg Boyd: I heard this once, and I love it, “Customers are like trees. If they’re not growing, they’re dead.” And so what that means, ultimately is, if a customer is not buying more of your products, if they’re not finding new ways to use your product, using different parts of your product, or if they’re not adopting the new capabilities you’re using, they’re dead, they will stagnate, and they will die, and you will lose that customer.
And so we’ve taken that to heart. So I talked about what a Customer Success Manager does. Those key bars are critical to demonstrate value and keep the customer aligned and engaged. The product feedback sessions are great so that you can take the feedback and help to enhance your product. But this part about sitting down, use a customer success manager looking at how a customer is using your product, and thinking about what else could they be doing? What else could they be using in our product? What are the customers are like them, and what are they doing? So that I can perhaps introduce some other things that are custom, this customer who looks like this one could do and achieve more with the product.
That’s one of the most gratifying parts about the role is you literally are playing the long game. And while CSMs faced the pressure of delivering results, they’ve got a, they’ve got a number to hit. And they’re variably compensated to do that. This is an opportunity for them to play not quarter by quarter or month by month, but look at their year and look at their base of their book of business, and build a plan and help our customers execute the plan. And that is a truly rewarding thing and a rewarding part of the career in Customer Success.
Joseph Fung: I love that philosophy. The tree analogy is a really good one.
Greg Boyd: Great, you can use it.
Joseph Fung: Thank you. Appreciate it. I’m going to.
Greg Boyd: Good.
Joseph Fung: We’ve seen a number of we see this in our own data. We see this with sales leaders. A lot of them say things like, as a sales rep, you should make Customer Success your friend because they’re going to equip you with the stories, the customer anecdotes that help you sell better. And that’s great. I mean, I could see that value. But how does a sales rep be a friend to Customer Success? What can they do to be that ally?
Greg Boyd: Yes. So I think that I think that, that element or that degree of trust is an important one. And so this is going to be a bit perhaps unconventional because it’s not, I think a management tactic or something in a book that you’d say, okay, that’s a good practice, I would say that if you as a rep, don’t trust the people who you know are going to deliver, can, you’re going to, you’re going to, try to hold on to and shepherd the customer through your organization.
And what that typically does is it builds a ton of resentment between you and the people who are trying to do their job. That doesn’t really help anybody. So here’s my advice, this is a bit, it’s a bit unconventional.
Joseph Fung: Isn’t it a Greg Boyd Framework?
Greg Boyd: I don’t know if it’s in that framework, but it’s in some framework. Building an understanding, and usually, that understanding comes through a relationship with the people who are in those roles, those Customer Success functions, is essential.
So that you understand what it is that they do so that you can start to build the trust that they they’ve got it, that they will support the success that you’re trying to build for your customers. So I’d say just start there, start there. When we onboard, that’s my number one advice to everyone on my team is just go for coffee, go for lunch, invest that time. And you can even you don’t even have to genuinely like the person doesn’t have to be with that.
Just ask what they do. So that you understand what is going to come next. That’s the basics. So do that. But beyond that, I think that I think that, going back to what I was saying about being consistent about what you bring to the organization when you bring an opportunity, that’s something that if you can be consistent in articulating not what they bought what’s on the list, on the sheet. But if you can be articulate and what they really bought, which is the value they’re trying to achieve, you’re gonna find that customer success is going to pick up on that and run with that much better because now you’re actually speaking the same language.
Because customer success and even implementation doesn’t matter to them with what they bought and what they use, and what drives value for them. And for you as a rep, if you are just focused on what you’re selling from a product perspective, you’ll always be disconnected. Because ultimately, a customer success team is focused on where the real value is for the customer. User reps should be too, but sometimes we can be set to that when a deal is trying to we’re trying to get a deal done.
Joseph Fung: I like that focusing on the value. And even before that, ensuring you’ve got good empathy and rapport. That’s nice tee up, you’ve talked about how Customer Success is a bit of a sales role. And clearly, there’s some strong parallels. Often the best way to develop empathy is to have been in that role. Do you see sales reps going from sales to customer success? The other way? What’s that flow look like?
Greg Boyd: Hmm. So I think a superpower for any salesperson is and a big part of our salespeople fail, ultimately, is not being able to tell a good story, being able to share, when you’re in that, the heat of that deal is the superpower that VP of sales that executive has that they can come in and just talk about what other customers like them have done.
Now people are listening, and they’re listening to them instead of you because you can’t tell those stories. So that’s it. That’s a big failure point. So I’d encourage everybody, you’ve got to get good at understanding just a couple of really meaningful stories. And I don’t mean this customer bought the product and got this ROI. I mean, how did they use it? And who bought it, what was their role; what was the world like before, and what was the role like after?
That’s a customer success superpower. So CSMs get to know that just naturally because they’re in the details of how a customer’s using it, where they’re using it, and the value that they’re getting. I think that somebody who’s looking to work their way into a sales career, just a full-blown sales career as a, an enterprise executive or sales executive or account executive, I think to have spent some time in customer success is going to build that genuine desire to understand how a customer is using the product, how the customer handoff happens, this can make you good at telling meaningful customer stories because you’ll understand really what they’re trying to understand from you.
I think somehow there’s this disconnect that the pressure of being a rep, you got a number to hit. There’s only so many hours in the day. How much time are you really going to spend digging into those customer stories? And by the time those moments arrived, you just got to have them. I think that being Customer Success gives you that worldview where you understand what customers are really trying to buy, which is that outcome. So back to your original question. I think that as having spent time in customer success is a good way to prepare you for one of the key elements of what will be there in a sales role.
Many of the people who are in customer success roles at Axonify were at some point, either a new business sales rep or an account manager, they’re managing a book of business, I would suggest that, and I wrote a piece on this on LinkedIn, that talked about this distinction that we all know, which is hunter or farmer, I kind of don’t, I’m not a fan of that distinction. But let’s go with it that those who are just really keen on the new logo, a new business will probably not find customer success rewarding.
That traditional farmer, that account manager role, I think, could have a stronger connection to what Customer Success is about. And I made a distinction that I think Customer Success isn’t a farming role. It’s a building role in the customer handoff. So there’s this third distinction, the customer success managers are about building value, getting the raw materials assembled, and then helping a customer realize a vision. Once that vision has been realized, selling them as a general contractor might on what might it look like if we put an addition on here, recast, or built something over there.
So they’re always trying to build this value story. And so I think there’s much more, much more, I think, of a transition or ability to move between customer success and account management, perhaps. Whereas the customer success to new business is a bit more of a leap. However, it’s a great skill-building place to get into that role. Whereas there’s more transfer between those other two.
Joseph Fung: I love that your comments on the directionality. That’s fantastic. And I love that analogy. You know, I think about the kind of simplified, maybe an older view of hunter farmer. Yeah. And reframing it as hunter builder. I think that’s fantastic. Last question, then, for those individual reps, who are new into sales, and they’re trying to figure out what their direction is, maybe they’ve got their first sales role from a leader of a customer success organization. What one piece of advice would you give to those new sales reps?
Greg Boyd: Outside of the foundational, get to know your organization because it’s gonna help you to sell. Too many people don’t do that. Do that. But the more direct advice, I think, would be aligned to that storytelling piece. I believe that whether you have a territory, so you’re not necessarily focused on a vertical or a segment, but you have a patch of accounts you’re going after?
Or, even better, if you’re vertically focused, get to know the customers who fall inside your vertical, the people who you’re going to go and sell to, who do you have that looks like them? And what are their stories? Not what did they buy? What was the ROI, but that whole? How do they use it? What behavior changed? And what value did they achieve?
Those are three really powerful things to be able to talk about, and understand about a customer, that you can then translate to a prospect because you’ve ultimately got to get their heart, their wall, their heart, their mind in their wallet. And I think that being able to tell those stories is going to get their heart and their mind. And you can’t get the wallet without those two. So starting there would be my number one piece of advice.
Joseph Fung: Right, I love it, thank you so much. Thank you so much for sharing your insights, your time, and your framework. There’s a ton of takeaways for our audience. So thank you so much. I’m looking forward to our next conversation too.
Greg Boyd: Great. Thanks for having me for Customer Handoff – Customer Success as a Revenue Driver.
Joseph Fung: Thanks for joining us. Looking forward very much to our next Customer Handoff session in module 7.2. See you soon.