This post was co-authored by Carla Lempera, Senior Director, Adoption, and Prateek Reddy, Director, Value Engineering.
Modern businesses rely on high-quality customer experience to build relationships, as well as brand loyalty. But, even as organizations prioritize customer experience, customer success (CS) teams are often not fully integrated with the broader go-to-market (GTM) engine.
A Deloitte study on customer success found that only 45% of organizations considered CS a critical function to achieve business outcomes. The study also found that CS teams spend 31% of their time supporting pre-sales activities and 61% in post-sales activities.
When customer success is involved in the early stages of buyer engagement, customer outcomes are ultimately stronger. So, this begs the question: is customer success the missing link in GTM strategy?
In this post, we’ll explore how customer success teams can enable stronger buyer engagement, in addition to post-sales activities.
How does customer success fit into the customer lifecycle?
Marketing, sales, and enablement teams are the backbone of GTM efforts. At the most successful organizations, these functions partner to set shared revenue goals and develop a strategy to accomplish them.
Enablement connects marketing and sales by enabling sellers with the content and playbooks that generate leads and progress conversations with buyers.
Early sales conversations are designed to understand the buyer’s needs. These conversations give sellers an opportunity to build trust by connecting the buyer’s pain points with potential solutions. In effect, discovery calls set the groundwork for future conversations that include customer success.
Once the scope of work is defined, customer success can help set expectations. When buyers need to understand what resources it will take to implement a solution, customer success managers (CSMs) can help define success and connect the buyer’s goals to customers with relevant, real-world use cases.
In fact, Deloitte also found that while 90% of customers seek CS involvement during pre-sales activities, only 20% of customers receive pre-sales services. However, including these services early in customer engagement can lead to more successful long-term outcomes.
Why should organizations include customer success in pre-sales activities?
Buying and selling enterprise software is complex. Technology vendors are working to understand buyers’ needs and build long-term relationships. Buyers are looking to solve business challenges while identifying the vendor that best meets their unique needs.
Software companies compete for buyers with the robustness of their product offering and its cost but, at the end of the day, relationships and experience matter. Buyers need to understand the business relationship they’re embarking on before they invest in an expensive software solution.
The key is trust. Once a deal is closed, the buyer will work primarily with their account executives and members of the customer success team.
Introducing the customer success team early in the buying process allows them to help address the customer needs of today while projecting how those needs may evolve over time. This helps CSMs proactively identify customer blindspots so that the technology they adopt can be as effective as possible.
What’s in it for the buyer?
Imagine traveling to a foreign country where you don’t speak the native language. Your experience may be much easier if you had access to a guide or interpreter. Otherwise, even simple tasks such as ordering dinner or locating your hotel may seem difficult.
Onboarding new software is oddly similar. For instance, a buyer is onboarding new sales enablement software to solve a previously unaddressed challenge. They may not know how to articulate the solution they need or even how to choose the best option. CSMs are adequate interpreters because they’ve guided other customers through similar experiences and can build trust if they’re involved in pre-sales conversations.
An early introduction to the customer success team helps customers build confidence in the relationship. Deloitte notes that roughly 40% of customers believe that CS services are either ’highly important’ or ‘important’ for successful product adoption and usage.
CS is well equipped to support buyers during the sales process because they have experience working with other buyers and can say “I worked with XYZ company who is in the same industry and this is how it went. They were facing a unique use case and this is how we delivered an effective solution.”
3 ways to incorporate customer success into your GTM strategy
Customer Success teams can support GTM strategy in a variety of ways.
Understand buyer readiness – CSMs can work with buyers to understand their environment, potential challenges, and identify problems that previously may have been unknown. Pre-workshops build buyer confidence by demonstrating how they will be supported through implementation and beyond.
Empower the buyer – The buyer is in love with the solution, but they still need to sell their fellow stakeholders. Customer success can help demonstrate value, giving the buyer tools to justify the budget for the solution.
Help buyers recognize value – Implementation is the most tactical process in the buyer journey. As the buyer becomes immersed in the details of configuring, creating workflows, and onboarding the solution, it may become difficult to recognize the higher value. Using information learned through pre-sales conversations, CSMs can help buyers transition from implementation and quickly recognize business value, as well as the impact of the solution they purchased.
Customer experience is the cornerstone of business relationships. Customer success teams are a valuable resource during the early stages of buyer engagement. Their wealth of knowledge and experience with customers allows them to navigate buyers’ unique needs and use cases.
So, introducing customer success teams early and often paves the way for stronger relationships down the road.
If you’d like to learn more, check out our resources on Sales Enablement.