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Sales to Customer Success Handoff - Best Practices for SaaS

Sai Arora

SaaS founders, VP’s of Sales, and Customer Success leaders know that the Sales to Customer Success Handoff is one of the most important events in the customer lifecycle. Getting it wrong, can cause your customers to churn once their contract expires. But, getting it right has countless benefits like increased customer retention and contract renewal. The problem is, that many SaaS startups don’t have a defined process in place to create a successful Sales to Customer Success Handoff.

The Sales to Customer Success Handoff is where the rubber meets the road. You’ve pitched an amazing future to your prospect during the sales process and convinced them to sign a contract. Now it’s time to hand them off to your Customer Success team to properly deliver your solution.

This moment is a golden opportunity to re-solidify the relationships you’ve built and optimize the perception of your organization as a trusted partner. When done correctly, your customers don’t view your organization as a set of separate teams but as one cohesive unit optimized for their success. When done incorrectly, the relationship kicks off to a rocky start, customers view your brand as yet another vendor, and the renewal conversations become choppy & unproductive.

Over a 2-3 month sales process, a lot of knowledge and context is gathered by your sales team to meet your customer’s goals and intended outcomes. This knowledge may be captured in a CRM or it may be spread out in notes, documents, and emails. Key details may be discovered, key features may be promised, and key relationships may be formed all before a customer speaks with Customer Success.

With so many expectations set during the sales process, a formal Sales to Customer Success Handoff is needed to ensure your customers can achieve success with your organization.

When an organization does not have a formal Sales to Customer Success handoff process, they risk creating a Pass-the-Buck culture where teams prioritize short-term, siloed outcomes over the long-term impacts on the business. Key customer details may be forgotten, key deadlines may slip, and key expectations may be misaligned.

To avoid this scenario, we’ve put together a list of best practices to consider when creating a Sales to Customer Success Handoff process:

  1. Co-ownership of the process
  2. Everything lives in the CRM
  3. Operationalize the handoff meeting
  4. Automate, Automate, Automate

Co-ownership of the process

Because the Sales to Customer Success Handoff is a cross-functional process that impacts compensation for both Sales and Customer Success teams, it must be co-owned by both a Sales and a Customer Success leader. Both leaders must agree upon a set of handoff criteria that must be met in order for an opportunity to be transitioned from a Sales Rep to a Customer Success Manager. Both parties must also agree upon an SLA around proper timelines for handing off a customer. Finally, they should agree upon a process for Customer Success to transition a customer back to sales if the handoff criteria is not met.

Successful handoff criteria will normally include things like:

  • Primary reasons for buying a product
  • Primary stakeholders
  • Secondary stakeholders
  • Key goals and timelines the customer is trying to achieve
  • Key product details or requirements that will impact a customer’s success

Everything lives in the CRM

After the Sales and Success leaders have agreed upon a set of handoff criteria, these criteria should become mandatory fields in your CRM. This is good for data hygiene and makes it easier to analyze customers at a cohort level and improve your onboarding experience. Down the line, if the account is transitioned to another Success Manager, that individual can quickly get up to speed on the origins of the account. Another added benefit of this is that these fields can be used to automate processes around provisioning and procurement as well.

Operationalize the handoff meeting

This is the single most important part of a successful Sales to Customer Success handoff. This is where key details, nuances of the account, and any special integrations or workarounds should be brought up. Generally this meeting should not take more than 15 minutes and should be facilitated by the CSM. The CSM should come prepared with a Customer Success Handoff Questionnaire with key questions about the account and the customer. After this meeting, a CSM should have everything they need to put together a kickoff deck and project plan before the kickoff call.

Automate, Automate, Automate

Setting up a proper Sales to Customer Success handoff process requires attention to a thousand little details. This is where automation becomes key to ensuring your process can scale without putting too much administrative burden on your teams. A few examples of automation include:

  • Email to the CSM and Sales rep after an opportunity has been set to Closed Won notifying them of the impending handoff
  • Email introducing CSM to the customer on behalf of a sales rep
  • Auto-assigning a CSM to an opportunity
  • Building your Success Handoff questionnaire directly into your CRM
  • Scheduling the internal Sales: Success handoff call

Final Thoughts

While it may seem like a lot of upfront work to set up a formal Sales to Customer Success handoff, the ROI is worth it. You are able to present your business to your customer as one cohesive unit instead of a series of subteams. Your customers’ time to value is reduced to a minimum and your customers start to view you as a trusted partner. I hope this article helped bring you some value. Remember, getting this commonly overlooked step in the customer journey right can do wonders for creating a positive customer experience.

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