Getting off of Sales Island
Sales is on the front lines of any company. They’re responsible for initial interactions with prospects and they have to carefully navigate objections to be successful. Sales is also mainly responsible for generating revenue, and as a result, it’s common to find them on their own island within a company.
It’s important that clear processes are put in place to ensure that a steady flow of information is established between the different teams within a company. More specifically, sales has to ensure that they work collaboratively with product, customer success and marketing.
Collecting feedback from current users is paramount for product teams to monitor. Users have concrete experience with the product and will have an unbiased opinion on its strengths and weaknesses.
It is also important, however, to look at feedback from prospects’ initial reactions. Whether it is their reaction to seeing a demo for the first time or monitoring the close rates on selling to a new vertical, there are often clues on where to take the product next.
Building features for deals
Although startups lack in monetary and human capital when compared to larger organizations, they have a distinct advantage in their ability to pivot. In cases where a small number of clients make up for a large percentage of revenue, it’s relatively easy to build custom features to keep them happy. This is also true for opportunities with prospects that like a company’s offering but need 1–2 other features to push them to buy.
As startups grow, the advantage of being flexible for clients and prospects can quickly become a detriment. As the product’s roadmap is established, any custom features that need to be built for a deal to close can delay other core features for months.
Knowing this, how do sales teams balance actively selling new features to win a deal with turning down opportunities? The answer is complicated but it boils down to having an open channel of communication with the product team. The key is to understand how much time and resources the new feature would incur and what the opportunity cost of delaying the current product roadmap would be. Weighing that against the value of the opportunity that would be closed with the new feature is where the answer lies, but in the end, it’s an inexact science.
The best sales reps and teams are ones that can successfully sell what is available to them. It’s easy to sell exactly what a prospect is asking for but experts at objection handling will try to learn why a client wants a new feature and guides them back to what the current platform contains.
Incentivize sales that don’t churn
Being a sales rep is hard work. Month after month and quarter after quarter, sales people have to be extremely persistent and self driven to consistently hit quota. The best reps are scrappy and go the extra mile to win every deal they possibly can.
This is generally behaviour to reinforce within a sales team but it’s important to strongly consider what happens to opportunities after they close, which happens to be the main responsibility of customer success. As a result, sales has to be responsible for balancing closing deals and ensuring that they are ones that will become long term partnerships.
The easiest way to do this is to incorporate incentives for deals that don’t churn into the reps’ comp plan. Comp plans are often the most straightforward way to reinforce behaviours that you would like to replicate across an entire sales organization. Depending on how a company’s standard sale looks like, techniques like claw backs, payment delays or bonuses for certain milestones are all viable options for ensuring that customer success is set up for success.
A less obvious way to incentivize sales that don’t churn is to ensure that each rep has a strong understanding of the big picture. It’s easy to push sales reps to hit their quotas because in the end, they’ll make more money but it’s also important that they understand how their quota was calculated and how that contributes to a healthy company. Reps that can map how their success contributes to the overall well being of the entire company will often have a greater appreciation for the ups and downs that inherently come with the role.
Setting up a clear onboarding process
Transitioning new users to customer success is paramount to not only preventing churn, but setting up an opportunity for upsells. In most cases, it’s important for sales reps to spend time on closing new business, rather than managing existing users. As a result, it’s easy for reps to move on too quickly and leave the CS rep hanging.
In order to ensure that sales are collecting and passing along relevant information, the onboarding process must be extremely well thought out. Every step that the newly signed customer takes in order to get started must be mapped out and communicated to both the sales and CS reps. Setting up processes like creating a sales handover notes template and ensuring they are found in the same place within your CRM goes a long way. On top of that, the best sales reps are ones that clearly communicate the onboarding process early and accurately to prospects.