Account Planning

The Importance of Sales to CS Handoff

Posted On
February 13, 2023
Resource Type
Account Planning

Defining a Sales Handoff

The business model for many B2B Saas companies involves customer growth through account planning. While acquiring new business is always important, sometimes it’s over-emphasized when talking about a go-to-market strategy. In fact, most Saas companies get the majority of their revenue from existing customers. Therefore, customer satisfaction should be a top priority for businesses.

As a customer success manager, successful customer onboardings are critical to the success of your company and the customers you serve. When customers have a positive onboarding experience, they are more likely to adopt the product effectively, continue using it over the long term, and refer others.

This leads to increased customer satisfaction, retention, lifetime value, as well as a positive reputation for the company. In turn, this helps drive growth and business success. Furthermore, a successful onboarding process provides valuable feedback on the product and the customer experience, which can help improve the product and the customer experience over time. Therefore, as a customer success manager, it is essential to train for successful customer onboardings and to work closely with the sales and customer support teams to ensure that customers have a positive experience from start to finish.

The sales-to-customer success handoff is a crucial step in the B2B SaaS space for exactly this reason. It is the point at which the responsibility for a customer shifts from the sales team to the customer success team, but it takes everyone involved to ensure the onboarding process is successful.

This transition is important because it sets the stage for the ongoing relationship between the company and the customer. This is especially critical when dealing with large accounts with the potential to upsell. Large accounts typically come with a large number of stakeholders the seller must engage, as well as technical obstacles and red tape to get past. Organized sellers usually follow what they call an account plan, something designed to align internal team members on tasks to be completed throughout the sales cycle.

Why Having an Elite Sales Process is Important

For the sake of this blog, we are recognizing sales process and account planning as essentially the same thing, one could be a smaller part of the other. Both are tools and steps the salesperson uses to get deals across the finish line.

Having a standardized account planning process gives visibility into top accounts, which can help reduce the risk of churn. This is important for companies of all sizes, as customer churn can have a significant impact on revenue. By proactively managing customer relationships and addressing any issues that may arise, the customer success team can help ensure that customers continue to find value in the company’s products or services.

Not only is an account planning process important, it ties in directly with a successful handoff process. Some reasons for having a process include the following:

Improved Onboarding:

A standardized handoff process ensures that the customer is smoothly transitioned from the sales team to the customer success team, reducing any confusion or duplication of effort during the onboarding process. Every employee onboarding process is different, and different steps must be taken to ensure the onboarding program will work.

Consistent Customer Experience:

Customers like to feel like they’re heard and cared for, not just part of an onboarding or sales process that your team has gone through a thousand times. An effective employee onboarding program ensures that the customer receives the same level of service from both the sales and customer success teams, leading to a positive customer experience. It’s important to remember that the quality of a sales process is also expected at the customer success stage.

Better Alignment between Sales and Customer Success:

An effective employee onboarding process helps align the sales and customer success teams by clearly defining the responsibilities of each team and the steps involved in the sales process. When people on your team know their exact responsibilities you typically see larger deals get closed on a shorter sales cycle. Communication is key if you want a successful sales process.

Increased Efficiency:

Something many businesses don’t take into account when their employees leave for other work is all the non-transferrable data that goes with them. Think of non-transferrable data as the relationships the employee has built with the customer, along with anything else important to the customer that can’t be documented in a traditional CRM. A well-defined sales process saves time and reduces the risk of errors, as both teams have a clear understanding of the steps involved and the information that needs to be shared.

Improved Communication:

It’s a best practice known in the selling world that you’re supposed to guide your prospect to an “aha!” moment while selling. The same can be said when talking about an onboarding process flow. A benefit that comes with a standardized handoff process ensures that important information and customer needs are communicated effectively between the sales and customer success teams, leading to better customer satisfaction and success.

Better Understanding of Customer Needs:

The sales handoff process provides the customer success team with a clear mutual understanding of how your new customer was doing “X” before your product, the pain points of doing “X” the old way, and the results of doing “X” the new way as a result of your product. When customer employees feel empowered because of improved sales processes, it’s much easier to expect a successful formal onboarding process for your tools.

sales handoff, customer success, account planning image

The Risk of a Poor Onboarding Process

As you can see, an effective onboarding process is critical to maintaining and growing your top accounts.

Increased Customer Churn Rate:

Without a standardized handoff process, there is a higher risk of miscommunication and a lack of follow-up on customer needs, leading to a higher customer churn rate.

Loss of Customer Data:

In the absence of a structured handoff process, important customer data may be lost, leading to a lack of understanding of the customer’s needs and challenges. This could result in a poor customer experience and increased churn.

Poor Customer Onboarding Experience:

A lack of standardization in the handoff process can result in a fragmented onboarding experience for the customer,

The sales process plays a key role in this handoff, as it is the point at which the customer is introduced to the company and its offerings. It is important for the sales reps to clearly communicate the value of the company’s products or services and to set realistic expectations for the customer. This can help ensure that the customer has a positive experience with the company, which is essential for building long-term relationships.

Before handing off the account after a sales close has been made, it’s important for the seller to clearly communicate details about the account, as well as ensure that this critical account information is stored in the proper place.

How to begin driving this process

An efficient customer handoff process at a growing B2B Saas company typically includes the following steps:

Pre-Handoff Preparation:

Both the sales and customer success teams gather and share relevant information about the customer, including their needs, challenges, and any agreed-upon solutions.

Kickoff Meeting:

A meeting is held between the sales and customer success teams to discuss the handoff process and ensure that all necessary information has been shared.

Transfer of Ownership:

Once the sale has been made, the customer success manager takes over the account. This is where the account plan comes in handy. The customer success manager is responsible for onboarding the customer and helping them get the most value out of the company’s products or services. This often involves working with the customer to create a customized plan that meets their specific needs. Can you guess where that information should be stored? It’s in the overall account plan!

Customer Onboarding:

The customer success team guides the customer through the onboarding process, ensuring that they are set up for success with the product.

Ongoing Communication:

The customer success team maintains ongoing communication with the customer to address any questions or concerns and ensure that the customer is getting the most value out of the product.

Performance Metrics Tracking:

Both the sales and customer success teams track key performance metrics to measure the success of the handoff process and identify any areas for improvement.

Continual Improvement:

The handoff process is continually reviewed and

As you start tracking these metrics, you will be surprised to see the correlation between good handoffs and your customer’s ability to see success (and your CSM’s ability to deliver success), directly impacting churn and upsells. This is the type of data tracking nuance that many B2B selling teams don’t currently track, which puts them at a major disadvantage for retaining and expanding top customers.

Combining an Effective Sales Process with Effective Account Planning

An effective account planning process helps customer success managers onboard new customers by providing a clear and organized framework for onboarding. This includes gathering information about the customer, understanding their needs and challenges, and mapping out a plan for delivering value and ensuring their success. With a well-defined account plan in place, customer success managers can more effectively onboard new customers and ensure that they are set up for success with the product.

Additionally, an effective account planning process helps customer success managers prioritize their time and resources, allowing them to focus their efforts on the most critical accounts and customers. This ensures that they are able to deliver the best possible experience and results for the customer, leading to increased customer satisfaction, retention, and lifetime value.

Finally, an effective account planning process helps customer success managers align with the sales team, ensuring that the handoff from sales to customer success is seamless and that the customer’s needs are being met throughout the entire customer journey. This leads to a better overall customer experience and enhances the reputation of the company.

In short, an effective account planning process is a critical component of successful customer onboarding and is essential for driving long-term customer success and growth for the company.

Components of the handoff document

The following are the key elements that need to be a part of the handoff to ensure a smooth transition and work going forward.

Customer Account Information: This includes the company name, industry/sector they function in, company size, and contract details.

Customer Team Information: This includes the first point of contact from the customer end, the decision maker for the purchaser, and details of the team using the product.

Internal Team Information: This includes details and contact information of the primary Customer Success Manager and the Sales Team

The onboarding process is an important part of the customer lifecycle, as it sets the tone for the ongoing relationship between the company and the customer. It is essential for the customer success manager to establish trust and credibility with the customer during this phase. This can be done by clearly communicating the company’s processes and procedures, as well as by providing timely and helpful support. A few ways to help accelerate efficiency during the onboarding process include:

  1. Procure and share a playbook: What have your most successful deployments had in common? How is your team using your tool to grow the business and create value for your customers? What are the best practices teams should follow, and what are some pitfalls they will want to avoid? This is essentially the customer facing side of your overall internal account plan. It can be a shorter playbook, or more comprehensive like this one
  2. Put together a mutual action plan with your key stakeholders that aligns everyone around:
    1. Key milestones and dates
    2. Goals and objectives
    3. “What success means for this customer” – think through their current behaviors, what you’re changing, and where that ideal state is
    4. Roles and responsibilities from both sides to hold everyone accountable
    5. Agreement on response times, channels of communication, and project progress

There’s no perfect employee onboarding process. The customer success team plays a critical role in the customer experience, as they are responsible for customer satisfaction and ensuring that accounts don’t churn. This can involve providing training, offering best practices, and assisting with any issues that may arise. It is important for the customer success team to be responsive and proactive in their approach to enhance the customer experience at all costs, as this can help to build trust and foster long-term relationships.

Overall, the sales-to-customer-success handoff is an essential step in the B2B business. By creating a standardized account planning process and a strong customer success team, companies can reduce the risk of churn and create a positive customer experience. This, in turn, can lead to increased customer retention and ultimately drive revenue growth for the company.

Posted On
February 13, 2023
Resource Type
Account Planning