Almost half of organizations report having a weak relationship between their sales and customer success teams; and a third report that service plays no role in generating sales. These statistics are often ignored in a booming economy, but start to resurface when economic conditions weaken. When bringing more clients to the top of the funnel becomes harder, maintaining and growing current customers’ relationships is a sales management best practice and a key to recession readiness.
Investing in a strong customer experience strategy now is crucial as more than 70% of revenues come from existing customers. For companies that have prioritized customer success, they know that service teams touch existing customers 10 times more than salespeople. Every one of those touchpoints builds a stronger relationship with buyers, gaining insights that translate into sales opportunities. When customer service roles have the primary responsibility for closing upsell opportunities, organizations’ average revenue per account nearly doubles according to CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group.
Now is the time to take a look at what customer success looks like in your organization. Preparing for the unknown means diversifying your sales strategy and investing in customer success. Here’s how to get started.
1. Define the Customer Success Role
A customer success role maybe a client advocate and customer success manager; they could help with support questions, enablement or even implementation and training. These individuals, no matter the title or role, ensure that your customer’s experience after the sale is as stellar as it was during the sale. Given the number and quality of their interactions with clients, customer success reps are keys to gathering critical insights on customer expansion plans, internal changes and problems that need to be funneled to the sales team. Further, they help identify additional qualified leads for sales through recommendations. The key is to identify which objectives you want them to be accountable for, so you can create a development plan to build the skills necessary to achieve those goals.
2. Address the Selling Mindset
Service reps often view themselves as “white knights” becoming their customers’ trusted advisor, by building up their credibility, solving problems and providing answers to questions big and small. As a result, they may feel that selling jeopardizes their relationships, or they may just have a negative perception of selling. To overcome this mindset, reframe selling so it is an extension of their customer service role. Help them understand that selling allows them to provide excellent service by identifying their customers’ needs and providing solutions and additional value.
3. Develop the Customer Success Team’s Selling Skills
Not every customer success rep is a natural seller, but they can all learn the necessary competencies required. Ideally, a sales conversation is just an extension of a good service discussion. But your customer success team may need some additional coaching to ensure their exchanges are as fruitful as possible. Consider investing in courses that allow them to:
- Have more compelling interactions—in order to better understand what the buyer tells them and what a buyer really needs
- Exceed customer expectations that build and retain customer loyalty and navigate difficult situations
- Manage large accounts and learn to create a long-term road map with them
4. Align Systems and Processes
World-class organizations collect and share best practices and customer experience data across their sales and service functions. But when sales and customer service functions fracture into silos, neither the sales nor the service experience is optimized for buyers. One way to start reconciling this broken relationship is to ensure all customer-facing teams use a CRM, enabling cross-departmental collaboration. When sales and customer success reps both use a CRM to track interactions across channels, it facilitates seamless handoffs and frictionless communication with customers. When they don’t, customers often feel they are working with multiple companies rather than with one cohesive organization.
Are You Investing Enough in Your Service Teams?
In tough economic times, customer service can be the lifeline that enables an organization to thrive. Organizations with strong customer loyalty are more likely to be resilient in a recession, and given their close relationships with buyers, excel at a key metric in a down economy.
To make sure you’re future-proofing your organization, assess the alignment between your service and sales functions, and see how prepared your organization is for an economic downturn.