Sales is a profession that's as old as time.
Starting with the serpent's sales pitch to Eve, bartering for resources, and finally evolving into the modern-day sales process.
Customer success, on the other hand? It's a brand new profession, and SaaS start-ups are investing heavily in the role.
Just take a look at these recent customer success statistics:
- Customer Success Specialist is the 6th fastest growing white collar job in the United States.
- 91% of businesses have grown their customer success teams since 2021.
- 72% of companies agree that improving customer success is a top priority.
Yet, it often feels like both teams live in separate worlds.
With $62 billion lost yearly due to poor customer experiences, sales and customer success alignment is not something you can afford to dismiss.
Why there is a disconnect between sales and customer success
In a nutshell?
The sales and customer success relationship (like any healthy one) relies heavily on both teams understanding each other and information flowing freely.
If both teams operate within a vacuum, the lack of alignment between sales and CS will wreak havoc on your customer and bottom line.
Sales points the finger at CS for not keeping users happy. CS shames sales for closing at any cost without considering if the solution is suitable.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who is at fault. The customer is churning because your company didn't live up to its promises.
But what's at the heart of this disconnect? What's causing the breakdown in communication between sales and CS?
The tools for customer success and sales collaboration are lagging behind. Both teams use specialized tools that don't talk to each other, creating data silos and a lousy customer experience.
Modern CRMs were built for sales teams - not customer success.
Both teams use different tools to manage their work which creates data silos. A customer could fall through the cracks, or CS could have problems accessing vital information about a new customer.
Ending with the customer having a bad experience.
Why do you need CS and sales alignment?
Without healthy communication between sales and CS, your churn rates will increase, and your customer retention will dwindle.
But besides losing money, there are other reasons to establish alignment between the two teams.
When sales and CS easily share information about customers and hand off accounts without vital information getting lost in the ether, it creates synergy.
You cut down on the probability of someone dropping the ball. CS understands the common goal the customer wants to achieve, and it creates a feedback loop centered around the customer's expectations.
It saves time.
CS no longer has to set up calls or send emails to sales executives to find information or gain clarity on an account.
All the information is there. It reduces CS set-up time and helps get the ball rolling faster, which means your users will see time-to-value (TTV) sooner rather than later.
The problem with traditional CRMs and PLG sales teams
The main culprit of your CS and sales teams not seeing eye-to-eye? Your CRM.
How can a tool meant to streamline your business cause bottlenecks, disconnects, and information loss?
Modern CRMs aren't built for product-led companies.
In the past, the customer journey followed a linear process:
- A sales rep would use cold outreach to find leads and educate the prospect on their problem and your company.
- The rep will pitch your services and draft a proposal.
- Objections are addressed, and final quotes are sent to the decision-makers.
- If all goes to plan, you close the deal and start the onboarding process.
Today, the customer lifecycle is no longer linear.
What does that mean?
The modern customer can enter your sales cycle at any point.
You're no longer talking to a lead who needs to learn about their problem or your business. With the internet, prospective customers can self-educate and make a purchasing decision without talking to a sales rep.
As a result, the linear selling process is obsolete for PLG companies, turning old-school CRMs into relics of a bygone era.
The problem with your CS workflow
Not sold yet?
Let's unpack the problems your CS team is experiencing.
List the tools and systems your CS managers rely on. For most, it's a mixture of:
- Google Docs
- Sporadic notes
- Meetings with the account executive
Despite all these tools, information gets lost.
If I'm monitoring how much a customer is spending, I can't rely on our CRM. That information would be so hard to find in Salesforce. I need a platform that signals to me, 'Hey, the account usage has doubled.' Then I can step in and let the customer know before their bill increases anymore and creates a bad experience.
Grace, Customer Success Manager
Another issue CS managers face is when an AE leaves the company and isn't diligently recording their notes.
There's no written history. There's no collaborative document for CSMs. There's no central knowledge base.
The effect on your business?
Your CS manager is in the dark and has no idea what individual goals the account is working towards.
Without a centralized space to encourage sales and CS alignment, it's up to customer success managers to reach out to the execs and say, "Hey, I've been assigned this new account. Can I put some time in your calendar to discuss this?"
The CS team has to do a lot of manual work to understand the relationship, such as:
- Who the customer is
- Why they've bought the software
- Key things to monitor over the upcoming months
I've had some customers where the AE has been trying to sign an enterprise deal with them for two years. Naturally, with a long sales cycle, things are spread over Slack, email, and every tool you can imagine. There's information everywhere. It's spread out. It's time-consuming to piece it all together.
Grace, Customer Success Manager.
At the end of the day, it's inefficient and leaves room for human error.
If you had a PLG CRM recording all the vital information for new accounts, the handoff from sales would be seamless. CS wouldn't need to spend time chasing down AEs to figure out how to best serve the account.
All the information would be together in a living document making it faster and easier for CS to hit the ground running and help the account see value in your product.
How to create CS and sales alignment
How do you fix the alignment between sales and CS?
Both teams should use the same tools to have access to all your customer data in one place.
The easiest way to achieve this ideal scenario? With a PLG CRM designed for sales and customer success workflows.
That’s where we come in.
Breyta’s CRM removes data silos, collects all your customer information in one place, and empowers both teams to do their job well - without adding more tools to your PLG tech stack.
…But before you invest in a tool like Breyta, you'll need to implement a few other tactics to improve the synergy between both teams and create an amazing customer experience.
Create ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and customer segments
Before creating any CS and sales alignment, you need to dial it back. Go back three spaces to start and define your ideal customer profile (ICP).
Without one, your sales and marketing will attract the wrong product-qualified leads (PQLs).
It doesn't matter what tools and systems your CS team uses to manage the account. The customer will churn because your product isn't the right fit.
What happens if you have too many leads that aren't a good fit? That's a sign your marketing is attracting leads who don't have the problem your product solves.
Once you have clear parameters for the type of user you want to attract, it's much easier to segment leads and solve common SaaS sales problems like:
- Wasting time on poor-quality leads: To increase conversions and upsells, both teams need to focus on leads with the highest customer fit score. If you can't easily surface these accounts, both teams might spend too much time nurturing leads that'll never sign up for a paid plan or expand into a larger account.
- Not identifying early churn signals: When you can segment users and set up signals to flag behaviors like user engagement and product usage, you can quickly filter accounts for upsell and cross-sell opportunities and identify those most likely to churn.
Breyta helps you gain a single source of truth for customer data and empowers CS to mitigate churn before the customer decides to unsubscribe.
Set up your ICP to instantly start scoring your leads and current customers. Your best fit leads (and those at-risk) are pushed to the top of your CS and sales dashboards, making sure nothing falls through the cracks.
Improve your customer success handover process
Let me guess.
Your current sales-to-customer success handover process involves the following:
- Slack messages
- Google Docs
- Zoom calls
- Email threads
It might work for your company, but it's inefficient.
"When I speak to the sales exec about a new customer, they'll forward me a PowerPoint presentation or an email thread. The information is scattered and never in a collaborative living document. There is no central knowledge base for each customer." explains Grace, a customer success manager.
I've had some customers where AE has been trying to sign an enterprise deal with them for two years. Naturally, with such a long sales cycle, things are spread over Slack, email, and every tool you can imagine. There's information everywhere, and it's time-consuming to find it all.
Grace, Customer Success Manager
How do you bridge the gap?
You need to go beyond Slack messages and email threads to improve your handover process.
You need a single customer view that gives sales and CS access to the same data.
It will help your CS team understand and track each account's ultimate goal without spending time searching for the information or pinging sales.
Define your team structure
A tricky part of CS and sales alignment comes down to who is responsible for what regarding upselling and relationship management.
Here are three different approaches you can use in your SaaS business:
- Sales focuses only on acquiring new business. Customer success is responsible for identifying upsell opportunities and customer value management.
- Sales manages new business and upsells. Customer success focuses only on value management.
- Customer success handles straightforward upsell and expansion opportunities and renewals. Sales deals with more complex scenarios.
The good news?
There is no right or wrong approach.
It depends on your business and what works best for your team's workflow.
Hold regular check-ins between sales and CS
Regular check-ins are the best way to avoid silos and create a strong relationship between sales and CS.
Schedule bi-weekly or monthly meetings between your sales leader and customer success manager. It's an opportunity to:
- Build up rapport
- Discuss what's working and what isn't
- Identify good and bad fit customers
- Resolve communication issues
- Identify gaps in the handover process
- Brainstorm ideas for improving customer success
Wrapping it up
Your business needs effortless collaboration between sales and customer success. Each action affects the other's ability to do their job well.
Both teams rely on each other to attract the right leads, nurture relationships, and keep the customer happy.
When a sales rep sets the right expectations, like price, service, and what your product can and can't do, it almost guarantees you'll avoid customer churn down the line.
If the rep has done a good job pre-sale, it makes retaining the account easier for the customer success manager. Plus, when a customer is happy and satisfied with your business, upgrades happen seamlessly, and referrals start flooding in.
To get rid of the silos holding your CS and sales teams back, integrate your CRM with Breyta. Automate surfacing the most important accounts, quickly see which accounts are at risk, and create a single source of truth for all your customer data.