There are 3 key moments along the customer journey where it makes sense to make the introduction; Pre-Sale, Point of Sale, and Implementation or Go-Live.
None are wrong, but the best moment to make an introduction will depend on the commercial value of the customer (i.e. where they fit into your segmentation model) and what responsibilities the Customer Success Manager has in scope for their role.
The diagram below plots the ideal time for introduction based on the value of the customer on the Y-axis (typically measured in $ ARR) and time, or phase of the customer journey, measured on the X-axis. The shaded overlay represents the segmentation model, indicating the high touch segment covering the higher value customers and a low touch or tech touch segment for low value customers.
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1. High-touch customers: Introduce the CSM Pre-Sale
In high value Sales opportunities you generally have good visibility in advance to know how and when the deal is going to close. This gives you a great opportunity to introduce the concept of Customer Success to the customer, and start to lay the foundations of understanding which will later develop into recognizing the value you offer them with the CSM role.
At a company I worked at previously, myself, or a Senior Customer Success Manager, would be brought into the Sales cycle towards the end, where there was an 80% chance or higher of closing, to position what their post-sale experience would look like. Professional Services would have their opportunity to discuss implementation, scoping and sizing the appropriate services, and Customer Success would be given an opportunity to talk about how we would help the customer achieve their desired outcomes, over the long term.
Our discussion would be accompanied by a ‘pitch deck’ where we would talk about Customer Success as a differentiated and crucial accompaniment as part of the account team.
2. Medium-touch customers: Introduce the CSM Post-Sale
As part of your medium touch tier you should aim to introduce the CSM at a natural point, ideally as close to the point of sale as possible. Depending on the volume of medium touch customers you acquire, it might be possible to introduce CS in the pre-sale, however the most common time to introduce the team is post-sale.
It’s a good idea to establish an internal SLA between Sales and Success where you can ensure an internal debrief and handover takes place within 48 hours of the deal closing, and an introduction call with the customer within 5 days of the deal closing. If it is measured and tracked, it can be improved over time. Establishing this discipline at such a crucial point of the relationship, where so often the ball is dropped, will create an impactful experience at a key point in the customer journey.
The point of sale often experiences an interesting gear shift. Up until that point, the conversation has been very strategic. Following the agreement, it quickly moves into tactics and execution. The introduction of the CSM should include a mix of both strategy and tactics, but too far skewed towards tactics and execution and it will be difficult to move back to strategy.
- Ensure CSMs are conscious of the potential for relationship fatigue. After the sale is agreed, the number of touch points a customer might have will likely increase beyond those which have already existed (unless the CSM is also managing implementation and training), so it’s good for them to set expectations on who will be around the customer’s account and why.
- Consider also establishing some internal stage gating into your handover process, such that Sales needs to document key information, about the customer, in the CRM before a deal is closed or as part of the next steps.
3. Low-touch customers: Introduce the CSM Post-Go Live
In a high or medium touch model, waiting until after the implementation is complete is quite possibly the worst time to wait to introduce the CSM. For a customer of such high value or worth to you, why would you ever want to wait that long.
In a low touch model, it’s not uncommon, however, to introduce the CSM later in the journey. That’s because the customer is unlikely to get much time with the CSM as it is, due to the economics of your segmentation model. Your low touch model will still warrant a relationship and CS point of contact, but it is likely to be on a reactive or infrequent (perhaps quarterly) basis. Utilizing other forms of technology, like end user surveys or in-product capture of information, can be a good way to transfer the knowledge at scale from Sales to CS.
Call to action:
- Map out all of the people that interact with your customers and at what points they are introduced for the first time. Use this to identify when the most impactful and valuable time would be for a CSM introduction for each tier.
- Make an agreement with Sales on how, when, and what information will be handed over from Sales to CS in relation to the acquisition of a new customer.
- Coach CSMs on their pitch to potential customers about the value they bring to the customer.
The top articles this week:
This week's newsletter features posts on:
- A User Guide to Working With You
- Establish Your Risk Management Framework
- A Leader's Guide to Writing Well
- Customer Success is Taking Over
A User Guide to Working With You [Template]
At Nuffsaid, one of our core values is “we share our strengths and weaknesses openly”—which means we have these documented for the team to see. Here’s a similar approach from Julie Zhuo, author of The Making of a Manager, who makes a case for outlining “how you view success,” “what gains and loses your trust,” and more for your team.
Establish Your Risk Management Framework
This post breaks down the process of creating a risk management framework into four steps. Step 2 (“define your risk types”) is especially interesting as the author emphasizes the importance of determining whether risk is chronic or acute.
A Leader's Guide to Writing Well
“The bigger your company becomes, the more writing is a skill worth having.” Here’s Dave Girouard, CEO of Upstart, with writing tips you can incorporate immediately.
Customer Success is Taking Over
Blake Bartlett, VC at OpenView, with a 20-second video illustrating the evolution of the customer journey and how Customer Success is “taking over” all stages by using customer insights to “steadily redefine each stage.”