Q&A from my Webinar on Scaling Post-Sale Teams

July 13, 2022
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Webinar with ChurnZero - Q&A on Scaling Post-Sale Teams

I recently led a webinar for Customer Success leaders who are scaling their organizations during periods of fast growth. I shared my approach to ensure your Customer Success team stays ahead of your company’s growth. Using my Post-Sale SCALING™ Framework, I broke down how you can anticipate future needs, evaluate opportunities, and prioritize your strategic initiatives.

There were a number of questions that came up during the webinar that I was not able to answer during the session. Here are my responses.

What are common ways to structure a post-sale organization?

In a growing post-sale organization, I find that there are commonly the following functional organizations:

  1. Services Team - This is often a team responsible for implementing new customers onto your solution. This can include configuration, integration, workflow design, testing and rollout. This is also sometimes referred to as an implementation team, customer enablement team, or professional services team. There is no consistent naming convention across the industry.
  2. Customer Success Management - This organization can be responsible for a range of activities including customer onboarding, adoption, retention and expansion. There are many resources in the CS communities outlining this function.
  3. Support - Many post-sale organizations also have responsibililty for providing product support. This often includes a support website, phone/email/chat support, and a knowledge management system.
  4. Customer Education and Certification - This function is commonly responsible for the creation of self-services and instructor led resources to help customers learn how to use the solution. These are frequently organized into learning paths and are available through a Learning Management System.
  5. Customer Operations - This evolving function is often responsible for maintaining the systems that support the post-sale teams, creating the reports and dashboards that inform decisions, and driving cross-functional improvement initiatives.
  6. Partner Success Management - I see this as a relatively new but increasingly important role for companies where the ecosystem of consulting and delivery partners is vital to creating leverage for company success.

What is your advice for a leader transitioning for the first time into a Director role?

Remember how hard it was to transition from being an individual contributor to being a first-time manager. Maybe you were even managing a group of individuals that just a few days ago were your peers. Now you are in a situation where you are going to be managing a team of managers. This requires a new set of skills and behaviors to get the most out of your organization.

Here are three tips:

  1. Role model the behaviors that you want your managers to demonstrate to their organizations. This could include how you communicate your priorities, run staff meetings, conduct one-on-ones, and share results and progress. Your managers are going to be looking for ways to understand your expectations and learn from your best practices.
  2. Delegate responsibility to your managers for driving key improvement initiatives. This is an important way that you can demonstrate to your managements that you trust them and hold them accountable for delivering results in areas of their responsibility. Set clear expectations and timelines. Resist the urge to be heavily involved in every project.
  3. Find ways to build relationships between your managers and the cross-functional leaders they need to collaborate with to get their work done. Invite them to meetings where they can add value. Encourage them to build relationships on their own. Proactively identify areas where working cross-functionally can deliver important outcomes for the business.

How should Customer Success leaders collaborate with Sales team to ensure that the Account Executives are not over-selling features and capabilities that do not exist?

One of the goals of a well-run Customer Success organization is the ability to demonstrate value to their clients in a way that leads to adoption and expansion. It can be quite frustrating when sales teams miscommunicate or misunderstand the capabilities of a solution with their prospects. It often leads to customers that are disappointed that their product doesn't work as promised, implementation teams that have to create workarounds, and CSMs that have to apologize right at the start of their client relationship. All of these can quickly erode trust.

Here are three ideas:

  1. Establish relationships with your sales leader counterparts so that you can better understand each others goals and challenges. Communicate the impact of these disconnects between what clients think they are getting and what can be done with the product.
  2. Identify any actual knowlege gaps by talking to the Sales AEs and your Solution Engineers. Perhaps there are actual issues between the sales enablement materials and the product capabilities available
  3. Create opportunities to get in front of the sales teams at their staff meetings, forecast reviews or all-hands. It is always helpful for everyone to get to know each other better. That is particularly hard these days where so many people have never met each other in person. It helps when people realize that there are real human beings working to resolve the issues potentially created in the sales cycle.

Our CSMs are still "jack-of-all-trades". As our Customer Success organization grows, when is the right time to think about specialization of responsibilities?

There is no single answer for when to separate post-sale responsibilities and create specialized teams. However, one signal that it may be time to divide responsibilities is when the skills and expertise required to meet the client needs exceeds the reasonable expectations for your team members.

One of the first times this occurs may be when you need to separate the responsibility for onboarding/implementation from the role of a CSM. At a smaller company, your CSMs may have relatively few existing accounts to manage. So it is not a problem that they allocate a significant portion of their time to work with new clients to help them configure and implement your solution.

However, as time goes on, you may find that your organization needs to create repeatable and scalable implementation processes. CSMs may be pulled between their responsibility for accelerating time to value for new clients with their need to support the existing base of clients. To ensure your team dedicates the focus it needs on both your new customers and your existing customers, this can be a good time to create a specialized group focused on onboarding and implementation.

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