Onboarding? Here's How To Nail Your Sales To Customer Success Handoff
It's no secret that sales and customer success teams can have a tenuous relationship. The sales team is constantly under pressure to close deals and meet their quotas, while the customer success team is responsible for ensuring that customers get the most value out of their products, thereby decreasing the risk of churn. This can lead to tension between the two teams, resulting in confused customers left out of the loop regarding their most recent purchase from your company.
One of the most important things that sales, the customer success manager (CSM), and their team can do to avoid this tension is to create a clear and concise sales to customer success handoff process. This means that when a deal is closed (or even before), the sales and customer success teams should clearly communicate what the customer can expect, when they can expect it, and who are the important stakeholders in the onboarding or implementation process.
What Is A Customer Handoff?
A customer handoff is the process of passing a customer from one internal team to the next during any part of that customer’s relationship with your company. A handoff can happen for various reasons, but it typically occurs when a customer has been sold a product or service and needs to be moved to the team that will provide them with the onboarding, support and general account management needs.
The handoff process is vital because it sets the tone for the customer's future experience with your company. If the handoff is done well, the customer will feel like they are in good hands and that your company is prepared to provide them with an excellent experience. On the other hand, if the handoff is done poorly, the customer may feel lost and confused, losing trust in your brand.
In terms of customer onboarding, the sales to customer success handoff often signals the beginning of the onboarding process. For most companies, it is also the first major handoff that new customers will experience since engaging in the buying process with your company.
What is included in a sales to customer success handoff?
Sales to customer success handoffs come in all shapes and sizes. For some companies, this handoff is one simple email from the account executive introducing the customer success or implementation manager to the new customer. For others, this handoff may include multiple emails, meetings, sharing notes in internal systems, and updates to multiple teams across many departments.
For the purpose of this article, and to ensure we are giving your team something that you can take action on today, we are going to be examining a sales to customer success handoff document and how it will help you save time, improve customer experience and ultimately lead to faster implementation times.
What is a sales to customer success handoff document?
A sales to customer success handoff document contains the most important information about your customer from the sales process. This includes key customer contacts, goals your customer hopes to achieve with your product and details on the scope of work that was agreed to with sales. A great sales to success handoff document will also detail the reasons your customer bought your product and what risks to look out for during implementation and onboarding.
While many companies maintain this type of key customer data in CRM, we’ve been surprised by the amount of customer success and onboarding teams that don’t have CRM access due to company policies or seat limitations. Regardless of CRM access, the sales to customer success handoff document should include both key customer data from the sale and prescribed internal steps that should be taken for a successful customer implementation.
Why Having A Seamless Sales To Customer Success Handoff Is So Critical
External Benefits Of Sales And Customer Success Alignment
A seamless sales to customer success handoff is critical because it's the first interaction a customer has with your company after they've made a purchase. This is their first impression of your customer service, and you want to ensure that it's a positive one by helping your customers experience a shorter time to value (TTV).
A great customer experience after the sale is often what customers mention when leaving reviews about your product or service on review sites or within communities. This strong word-of-mouth marketing can be critical to a company’s future growth. There is no better marketing for your product than that coming from your existing customers.
Internal Benefits Of Sales And Customer Success Alignment
When your customer success and sales teams are aligned, it builds trust within the company. It will solidify expectations and save everyone time by shortening the time between the start of the onboarding project and completion. Furthermore, aligned sales and customer success teams improves internal communication, leading to better value for your customer and increased retention rates.
A documented process (and an actual handoff document) that contains key customer data needed for a successful implementation alongside prescribed steps that your internal teams should follow will contribute to a consistent customer experience.
How You Can Improve Your Sales Handoff Today
These 5 simple things will immediately improve your sales to success handoff:
- Template a handoff email
- Hold an onboarding kickoff meeting
- Document the internal handover process and important notes from the sale
- Measure success
- Check in frequently to improve the process
Templating a Handoff Email
Creating an account handoff email template that will be sent to new customers opens the door to endless opportunities. A client handoff email is a chance not only to say "thank you for your business" but to set clear expectations with the customer on what will happen from the purchase stage until they experience value from your product or service. This email should clarify the client's point of contact and the process your team will employ to help the customer achieve go-live as soon as possible. Make it clear how and when your team will be available to answer any questions or address customer concerns.
Holding an Onboarding Kickoff Meeting
To be efficient in your process, sales and customer success teams should consider holding a meeting that both hands the customer off to customer success but also kicks off the customer onboarding project. This meeting may include the sales team, the customer success manager (or onboarding/implementation manager) and key customer stakeholders. The sales team should take time in this meeting to introduce the customer to the customer success team and clarify what each team's responsibilities are. They should also set expectations for the customer regarding what comes next in the onboarding and implementation process.
On the other hand, the customer success team should also take the time to introduce themselves to the customer and set expectations on the process they will be running. This meeting will help the new customer feel comfortable with their point of contact and allow your team to answer any questions the customer may have. Consider also introducing the onboarding process and team to the prospect before the sale closes to assist in winning that customer.
For more ideas on how to host an effective kickoff meeting, check out this article.
Documenting The Internal Handover Process
Once you've figured out a seamless email handoff and kickoff meeting, it is essential to document your new process. Document your process by creating a sales to customer success handoff task template. This template should outline exactly what the sales team and customer onboarding/success team members should do for each sales handoff. Refer to your documented sales to customer success handoff template during every onboarding process, and when changes are made to improve your process - update the document.
What other materials can be included with this newly documented handoff process? Consider the following:
- A one-pager or a few slides outlining implementation project milestones and timeframes
- A template to track internal and customer facing contacts (also known as a Stakeholder Register)
- Important documents or links to how-to resources for getting started in your product
As you establish this process and the proper way to document and track implementation project progress, you may consider purpose-built project management software like Status. Status allows your team to create onboarding templates, assign tasks to customers, that in-turn show up in a white-labled customer portal (pictured below) where your customers have clear visibility into what to expect as part of their onboarding experience. Reach out to us to start your free trial and experience firsthand how this customer-facing portal can shorten your onboarding times!
It's vital to measure the success of your sales to customer success handoff process in order to make improvements where necessary. One way to measure success is to survey clients after they've been through the onboarding process and ask them about their customer experience.
You can also keep track of metrics such as customer churn rate, customer satisfaction score (CSAT), or net promoter score (NPS). By tracking these metrics, you'll be able to see if there's a correlation between a poor sales handoff and high churn rates, for example.
Checking In Frequently To Improve The Process
Once you've implemented a sales to customer success handoff process, it's important to check in frequently to make sure that it's still running smoothly. Schedule regular meetings with the sales and customer success teams to review the process and identify any areas that need improvement. Prioritize feedback from sales and customer success teams. Identify trends in your measured success and make needed changes to your documented sales to customer success handoff playbook.
Ensuring that your sales to customer success handoffs are as smooth and seamless as possible is a crucial part of the customer journey and the success of your company. By following the 5 simple tips shared above, you can improve your sales handoff process, secure higher customer retention, and ensure that your customers have a positive experience with your company from start to finish.