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How Customer Success Can Help Close Sales Faster

Accelerate deals by getting CS and Sales to work closely together.
Patrick Icasas
April 13, 2021

Sales and Customer Success are more closely related than most people realize. 

Many organizations consider Sales and CS to be their own distinct dominions, with very little interaction between the two except for account handoff. And while this setup does get the job done, few leaders question the status quo. They don’t consider ideas like:

  • How can CS and Sales work together more effectively?
  • How can CS help Sales close deals?
  • How do you know if sales is closing the right type of deals?

Catalyst’s CEO Edward Chiu asks all those hard questions and more in this webinar from Revenue Collective, Close More Sales Faster with Customer Success

In this webinar, you’ll hear from representatives of both sides of the conversation (sales and customer success).

These experts will be providing their opinions and insights on how CS and Sales can work together to accelerate deals. 

This blog will recap some of the best questions from the event, but you can watch the entire webinar here

What are some effective strategies for aligning CS and Sales?

Jaimie: This goes both ways, but it’s really important to have swim lanes for different teams. There’s a lot of paths to success, but if the day to day work isn’t clear between Sales’ tasks and Success’ tasks, you don’t end up with a good outcome. 

Ask yourself things like:

  • “What is the net result for the customer?”
  • “What do we need to have happen?”
  • “What do we need to know about the customer?”
  • “How do we make it clear to our team where they fit into that playbook?”

It comes down to basic management principles of setting expectations. It’s not rocket science, but I think you have to be more explicit than you think you have to be in order to help the customer be more successful. 

Sangeeta: The tone is set at the top. You want to hear the leaders of the company talk about what it means for Sales and Success to be in the service of the customer. 

It’s important to define how CS is adding value. If you zoom back out to shareholder value, one metric that drives it is NRR or Net Revenue Retention. That’s an inarguable fact. The way to get it is for Sales and CS to make sure that the business case is actually being addressed, so that the customers keep buying and renewing. 

People need to understand that Sales is creating a promise for the customer, and it’s CS’s job to ensure that promise is actually kept. Once we understand how those things work together, then we know how to play nicely together and what the net result is for everyone. 

How can CS help Sales close deals?

Sangeeta: We [at Okta] call it our “Sales Multiplier.” That helps Sales see CS in the right way, and helps Sales accomplish more. When used properly, CS will help Sales have more referenceable customers and more upsell opportunities.

In my talks with Sales leaders, I’ve been very clear in asking for what CS needs in order to understand the deal. CS should know what metrics Sales is using, such as decision criteria, the decision maker, the compelling event, and more. Once Success knows this, they can address all of those points once they finally talk to the prospect. 

How can you ensure that referenceable customers are organized and in-sync?

Sangeeta:  First of all, great customers aren’t just going to be used for references. They’re also going to be called upon for product feedback and other demands. So what we’ve done in smaller organizations is build stronger relationships with customers I know are going to be relied on to be references, and set expectations well in advance.

But I’m only going to bring them in as references in situations where they themselves get something out of it, like an introduction to someone in their field.  

That’s harder to scale in larger organizations like Okta. So what we do instead is keep a detailed record in Salesforce of when customers were last approached to be references, and whether they’re still the right customer to talk to. The CSM maintains that flag. 

It’s very important to protect the referenceability of these customers, and if I take too many questions to them, then the relationship is damaged. At the end of the day, the CSM is in charge of protecting that capital. 

If you’re a smaller company, then you know you’ll have to go to some customers more often than most. Set that expectation with the customer and they’ll want you to grow and be successful. But as you grow larger, you’ll have to put in processes that prevent you from going to the same customer multiple times. 

What trends on CS-Sales cooperation are you excited about?

Jaimie: I feel that SaaS has irrevocably changed the way that customers purchased software. You used to be able to sell a piece of software and if they didn’t use it, it didn’t matter. You sold a big deal and you could just walk away. Whatever, it’s “shelfware.” Shelfware is no longer acceptable. 

The commercialization of IT has also had a big impact. Organizations expect IT to treat them like a customer, and IT in turn has to interact with you as their vendor. 

All of these changes have pushed software in a direction that there’s no coming back from. I think things have changed for good. Sales and Succes have to evolve.

Sangeeta: My hope and prediction is that as the go-to-market motion for SaaS continues to mature, Sales and Customer Success will be more convergent. It’s going to be less “throw it over the wall.” 

We’ll be better at working together for the right outcomes. 

Watch the full webinar for more hard-hitting questions and insightful answers. 

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