Tim's Saasiness

AEs, SEs and CSMs, Oh My!

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We Can Do What Now?!

I can’t count how many times my team has scrambled to manage client expectations and/or delay an implementation to give the dev team time to throw together a solution to fulfill a sales promise.  These often half-baked solutions then wreak havoc on your code base.  …which wreaks havoc on your implementation team … and CSMs … and support team … and ultimately results in lower NPS and higher churn.

So burn all Account Executives (“AEs“) at the stake, right?  AEs, don’t worry, I’ve got your back…


You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

In a SaaS environment, sales collateral gets dated very quickly.  It’s easy for your AEs to be walking through the halls, overhear a dev conversation about a really cool piece of functionality and then start pitching that functionality in their sales calls.  The customer expects to go live with that functionality and are incensed when they learn that capability is nowhere near ready.

Let’s be honest: AEs will always push the functionality envelope to help close a sale.  In the start-up world, this happens all the time, and is necessary to keep the engine running.  However, once a more mature product is achieved, it is imperative that your AEs understand current and near-future capabilities to keep their newly acquired clients from self-destructing.

Internal Communication

I recommend a multi-pronged approach to infuse Customer Success across the entire organization: 1) Assigning CSMs to Sales Calls 2) Sprint Review Sessions and 3) An Internal Newsletter.

1. Assigning CSMs to Sales Calls

CSMs should always be on the sales pitch call to a qualified, warm/hot prospect.  As mentioned in my previous article, this effective assignment can only happen if you have a well designed sales pipeline for lead generation and lead qualification – otherwise it will be a waste of your CSM’s time.

I recommend this early introduction to prospects not only for CSMs to “sell”  Customer Success value, but also because the CSMs have a finger on the pulse of your product.  They communicate customer advocacy and expertise while at the same time help to reel in any false or too distant functionality promise.

Sales Engineers (“SEs“) are still necessary for complicated solution design.  CSMs should be able to speak to functionality, but a SE will know how that functionality is actually implemented as well as any accompanying technical considerations.

2. Sprint Review Sessions (or Product Planning Sessions for Non-Agile teams)

Sprint review sessions should be attended by AEs, SEs, CSMs, training leads, support leads, and business leads alike.  Whether this be done in person (Start-ups) or Webcast (Enterprises), it is incredibly important for these team members to not only hear about a functionality change, but also to see how it works within the product.   As an added bonus, these different perspectives help reduce unintended consequences to your code base.

Several action items should be initiated at the end of the sprint review meeting.

  • Deployment schedule for each piece of functionality should be assigned
  • The training team should begin creating training material on the new functionality.
  • The support team leads should begin training their support team on the new functionality.
  • The training and support teams should prepare self-help material on the new functionality to deploy on the User Community site.

3. Internal Newsletter

Customer Success should send out an internal newsletter accompanying every feature release or major bug release to the Cloud.  This newsletter is the official deployment notification of the features demo’d during the Sprint review.  This newsletter should also be used to celebrate wins and recognize individuals who were instrumental to the release from all departments.

Customer Success Is Not Just a Department

While it sounds cliche, the ethos of Customer Success must start in the sales cycle and permeate the entire organization.   This added value not only inspires customer confidence and longevity, but can also inspire talent retention and results in exceptional company success.

timschukarAEs, SEs and CSMs, Oh My!

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