“Any thoughts on how to deal with ‘over-promising’ sales teams?”

Question asked in the LinkedIn The Customer Success Forum.

Executives of the company have to recognized that retention and customer success has to be engineered across the company, and that sales has a hand in it. Missed expectations is one of the primary reasons SaaS customers churn.

I’ve dealt with this exact problem, and it’ll take a little hard work and some time to correct it.

In my experience most sales teams don’t want to mislead prospects, rather it stems from a lack of information and training. Here are a few thoughts on how to resolve:

  • Build product marketing materials that explain the complex or problematic parts of your solution, then train reps on common issues. Create a FAQ for them to refer to.
  • Move the Sales Engineering function in the Customer Success team.
  • Institute a contract review process with your CFO that allows the Client Care team veto power over any contracts with ad-hoc/loose contractual language.
  • Create a circular flow of information from Customer Success into other areas of the business (e.g. Product Marketing, Product Management, etc.)
  • Claw back sales commissions for deals that churn within 12 months. Customers who cite “breach” due to miss-set expectations should be allowed to walk away from these contracts.

A key role of the Customer Success team to feed input back to the business based on what’s happening in the customer base. If you are churning customers based on bad expectations, then you owe it to the business to assist in stopping that at the source. You will likely have to get support at the top of the organization to stop this from happening. Customer Care executives should understand this responsibility and own it.