Hunting vs Farming customers
A virtuous cycle between Sales and Success teams
With the emergence of the subscription economy and in particular in the SaaS industry, we have come to distinguish 2 main business activities that contribute to the growth of a company: Hunting and Farming.
The purpose of Hunting is to go out in the world, identify potential customers and close deals — this is the main mission and purpose of the Sales team. They contribute to the company’s bottom line by consistently adding new customers.
On the other hand, Farming aims at keeping existing customers to sustain the growth generated by the Sales team and increasing revenue through the expansion of current accounts — this is when the Success Team steps in. By delivering more value to customers, they in return, bring more value to the company.
Hunting and farming: How Sales and Success thrive together
A Sales rep’s job is to reach out to prospects and evaluate whether they could benefit from the product. If they are a good match, he will push for the sale. As an example, let’s say a rep managed to negotiate a deal with one customer for their support team for 20 users offering basic features.
Once the sale is made, the customer will be onboarded by the Success team, who makes sure they have the setup they want and are comfortable with the product. The Success team will then conduct regular health checks and Quarterly Business Reviews to ensure the customer is doing well.
During these talks, the Success rep can identify triggers for new opportunities. For example, learning that the support team is expanding to another geography would require adding more users and more advanced features. The rep will then work closely with the customer to accompany their growth and upgrade them to a more advanced plan better suited to their needs.
This way, the Sales rep adds revenue by bringing in new customers and the Success rep increases the value of an account by sustaining its expansion.
The Sales and Success teams generally use comparable methods to bring in more business and they will follow a similar process to convert an opportunity. This usually unfolds in 3 distinct steps:
- Identification of the prospect/customer needs and expectations
- Evaluation of how Aircall could fulfil them
- Closing the deal
How Sales and Success usually close deals
In this post we’re going to break down several real-life customer journeys and walk you through a few examples of how the Sales and Success teams both add revenue.
In this example, after pursuing an opportunity for some time, our Sales rep made an offer that the prospect stakeholder was finally ready to accept. The offer allowed them to move on to an improved phone system that would increase their team’s productivity. They became clients.
The customer’s previous setup was composed of basic desk IP phones with one number displayed on their website for all their activities — BtoC sales, BtoB sales and support. They also outsourced their calls outside their working hours. They wanted a more professional setup that enabled them to be more organised, track their team’s performance, and prepare the scale of their operations abroad.
Our Sales rep had found a match between their needs/expectations and what Aircall could provide. He offered them a system composed of 7 numbers — 1 for their support team and 6 for their sales team according to their markets — in order to sort out their calls from the top and avoid wasting time doing call transfers. Through the API, the customer was able to connect their contact database to Aircall and thus gained updated contact information for every incoming calls they answered. Last but not least, the team could also use the mobile apps to make and receive calls whenever and wherever they wanted using their professional numbers.
A Success rep was going through a similar process with an existing customer. They were already using Aircall for their main team in Paris to handle their sales calls effectively across agents. At that time, they started to scale and open new markets in Europe so they needed to open new lines and onboard new users on the system, fast.
As their operations became more complex, they also wanted to use advanced analytics to pilot their teams and make the best organisational decisions. The Success rep understood how Aircall could help them scale and took over the training of users to bring them up to speed while launching new phone lines instantly in the countries where they were implanting themselves.
The rep helped the company foster productivity by showing them how to use new routing functions. The latter enabled different teams to collaborate in their call handling in order to reduce the number of missed calls to a minimum and optimise their response time. The company was also upgraded to a more advanced plan to better use their data to make sound operational decisions.
In both cases, the Sales and the Success reps identified the needs and expectations of the prospect or the customer. They found a way Aircall could fulfill them in order to make the client successful and contributed to the growth of their company.
Challenges for Sales
The way in which the Sales and Success teams apply similar methods however can be considerably different. They are not faced with the same challenges and don’t use the same tactics to achieve their goals.
The Sales team needs to get the attention of potential customers, find the right person to talk to, bypass gatekeepers, and create a new relationship with a potential buyer in order to demonstrate the value of the product without much grounds to stand on at the beginning. It is an intrinsically difficult and tedious process in which timing plays a critical role.
There are many obstacles to overcome in closing a deal and sometimes there are triggers outside a rep’s control that cannot be anticipated. Such a sequence of events happened to one of our reps not so long ago, when he was negotiating a deal with a potential customer ready to make the switch to Aircall.
The potential customer was using one of our competitors’ solutions at the time and was dissatisfied with the service. The Sales rep had identified a few risks for this opportunity because some features the buyer requested were not yet available. However, he was confident he could compensate this with the value the existing product already brought in comparison to the other system.
Unfortunately, the stakeholder negotiating with our rep moved to another company just before closing the deal which delayed the timing of the sale. The customer decided to stay with its existing provider for another year as the new stakeholder did not have enough time to assess the new system before the renewal of his yearly contract.
In this case, the switch in the point of contact at the prospect’s company and the critical timing of the deal impacted the process. Negotiations had to be started again with the new stakeholder in perspective of a deal for the following year.
Challenges for Success
One of the advantages of the Success team is that it does not need to devote as much time finding the proper contact person to get in touch with to upgrade an account or sustain its expansion. There can be external triggers for expansion, such as a new round of funding for example but oftentimes the Success rep has enough data on the customer internally to anticipate opportunities or risks on an account.
The main challenge is demonstrating the value of more advanced features when a customer is used to a particular system and the main risks lay in failed expansion attempts that can erode the trust already gained with a customer. In such cases, not only is an opportunity missed, but even worse the account health could deteriorate.
This happened when a customer came to one of our Success reps managing his account saying he wanted to expand his system to cover all his international operations. These extended across 3 continents and implied to quadruple the number of users in the span of just a few days. The complexity of such a project and the limited timeframe made the logistics unrealistic but the rep did not want to lose such an opportunity. He tried to present a system that would fit the client’s needs and produced a schedule to quickly deliver on his promise.
Unfortunately, the project floundered. The different points of contact within the client’s organisation were scattered across many time zones and did not have the accurate information on the system nor the project being implemented. The accumulation of missteps and miscommunication eventually brought the project to its downfall. The negative impact for the rep was twofold: he failed to convert the opportunity and it damaged the good existing relationship he had previously built with the customer.
The Success team is supposed to manage contraction and churn while sustaining expansion, which is a double-edged sword — overreaching can negatively impact the customer base. The Sales team, on the other hand, has no penalty when a deal falls through — they can aggressively pursue opportunities without much backlash. The Success team, on the other hand, needs to calculate the risks of losing recurring income and going after additional revenue.
The virtuous cycle of growth
Even though it seems both teams work independently following the same methods and using different tactics to achieve their objectives, they are only successful when they work together. It is unthinkable to build a sustainable growth engine without a great osmosis between the Sales and the Success teams.
It is crucial for the Sales team to go after customers qualified as a good fit because they will truly benefit from the value of using the service and will be successful with the product. If a Sales rep targets customers that are a bad fit, they will have a poor experience on the platform and waste valuable resources. This would also increase contraction or churn and overall hinder growth in the long run.
In order to create sustainable growth, it is necessary for the Sales team to be incentivized on the long-term outcomes of customers they bring onboard. Sometimes it can be complicated for a Sales rep to spot which customers will thrive with the product as they no longer follow-up with the relationship once the sale is closed.
This is when the Success team steps in and collaborates with the Sales team to map the ideal customer based on the company’s offer proposition and examples of successful customers they have identified within the existing client base. This way, the Sales team has more clues on the type of potential prospects to pursue and the Success team in return has more good fit customers to crowdsource for expansion opportunities. It is also a two-way street as successful customers will become great sales reference, create positive word-of-mouth and overall generate more qualified leads for the Sales team. This virtuous cycle is the key to a prosperous growth engine as good sales create successful customers that produce in return more sales.
Such customers are the most powerful advocates for your brand and one of the best assets for your company’s growth.
Let’s take the last example: Our very first Sales rep managed to negotiate a deal at the beginning of Aircall with a very promising startup that showed huge potential for the future. The timing and market fit were perfect so the deal was closed pretty quickly. The startup wanted a system that was fast and easy to set up, offered possibilities to scale, had integrations with the most popular help desks and could provide some advanced call routing features in order to boost their team’s productivity. They started with 15 users at the time of the sale.
The Sales rep then managed to successfully transition the account to his Success colleague who maintained and developed the existing relationship between the two companies. After a few months, the account had grown considerably to more than 40 users and needed more advanced features.
Thanks to the great communication established since the beginning, the Success rep was able to sustain the account expansion and incrementally improve their existing system in order for the customer to have an optimal setup without any disruption in their operations. Aircall had become one of the cornerstone services for their support operations, successfully empowering their team.
As such, the startup was more than happy to advocate for Aircall in magazine articles, participate in blog post and have a quick talk with prospects to explain how they were using the solution. At the end of the day, the Sales and the Success reps still benefited from the relationship more than a year after the sale was made.
This virtuous cycle between the Sales and Success team goes even beyond the business side of operations and fosters positive synergies within the rest of the company. Successful customers are more prone to collaborate with the Marketing team through user stories and blog posts. The Product team has more consistent feedback on the type of customers thriving with the service and their future needs to orient their roadmap. And all these positive impacts in return help the Sales and Success team hunt and farm customers better to drive growth.