There are many times and situations when choosing a contractor might be more beneficial for your business than expanding your employed team of staff.

By nature people who are self-employed have different personality traits, compared to those who are comfortable working as employees. Of course, it takes everyone to keep the world spinning, and all personality stereotypes have their strengths and weakness. It is worth being clear though and identifying the times when temporary support would better serve your business than a new member of staff.

Many freelancers – quoted as highly as 50% – wouldn’t consider conventional employment for any amount of money. Broadly speaking, this is a group of people who are proactive, self-starting, creative, visionary, intellectually-curious, problem-solving, resilient, and open to experience.

Working with a wide range of businesses kindles rich and diverse experience. It is this experience and acumen that you are buying in.

Also, it is worth considering that contractors are only ever as good as their last job. Those who are successful contribute all of their experience, energy and attention, fully, every single time. That’s how they maintain their success.

If you are in the process of scaling your business, you need to use all of the means available to you. And to do this, you need to consider hired-in help or flexible talent.

Sales for Startups latest eBook ‘The Different Types of Sales Support Available to Tech Companies’  covers the three main types of temporary support that can help to boost your sales. It is a comprehensive and practical overview of the scope, benefits, price tags and drawbacks associated with each category.

Click here to download your copy.

If you’re looking for experience but don’t want to take someone on in a permanent role, a freelancer might be the ideal solution. Maybe you’re growing faster than you can recruit or have a one-off project needing extra people power.

The benefits of doing this are plentiful. Here are five that Sales for Startups have picked out:

  • Numbers orientated – notably motivated to stimulate profit
  • Minimal training, fast returns – serious experience enabling effectiveness from day 1
  • Up-to-the-minute thinking – abreast of the latest sales industry theory, models and strategies
  • Helicopter view – contribute advice and insight, having seen what works and what doesn’t elsewhere
  • Buy time – trial new approaches, strategies and processes, and grow your permanent team in a considered manner

The key thing about sales freelancers is that they DO the work. You are likely to receive advice along the way but they are primarily there to get a job done. This could be a strategy project, like developing your data science or software engineering, an interim position or replacement role.

Throughout November Sales for Startups are exploring all aspects of how temporary support can assist in developing tech companies’ sales. To read our eBook ‘The Different Types of Sales Support Available to Tech Companies’, packed full of practical information about how to make best use of what’s available, visit here.

We interviewed Kate Forgione, Head of Customer Success at ServiceRocket and one of the Founders of Customer Success Network, a thriving peer learning community for Customer Success professionals across Europe who are looking to improve knowledge, skills and networks. And because there could be no one better to shed light on the question of “why do tech startups fail to grow existing accounts?

With so much at stake at winning often landmark and enterprise deals, we often falter as Founders and leaders within tech companies to systematically grow the adoption and usage,  and account spend within these hard-fought new customers.

So over to the interview with Kate and the key questions and answers:

  • What are the main causes for startups failing to grow existing accounts in your experience?

(Kate) Early-stage start-ups startups are searching for validation of their product, trying to prove their product is in demand and to ultimately prove to investors that given more money they can gain product/market fit. It’s often business-critical that they validate themselves with marquee names and logos. Enterprise customers are often very demanding on the initial version of the product. This can put a huge strain on the team as they try and manage an enterprise account with an under-developed product. 

There are a few things which will support the growth of these customers longer-term:

  • Invest in a customer success manager

The CSM will be responsible for ensuring the successful onboarding, adoption and embedding of your product with the customer. Their role is to understand your customer’s goals and align your product to achieve them for maximum value.

  • Build trust through a close customer-Product relationship

 

Secondly, the relationship between Customer Success and Product is critical for long term growth of early enterprise customers. Enterprise customers offer incredible insight into the product being used at scale. To grow, bring your early enterprise customers close to your Product team to help define additional value build in your product. Your CSM can facilitate this relationship.

 Your early marquee enterprise customers put trust in your company at an early stage. You can reciprocate this trust by working closely with them, not just to grow value with the existing product (CS), but give them space to guide and inform your future product roadmap. In summary, bringing together your Customer Success, Product Team and Customers can be the biggest driver for the future growth of your early adopter enterprise customers. 

Kate is almost professing that if you could manage to make progress on the product and meet the demands within reason of your first large customers, your future customers will receive such a great gain, especially when comparing servicing initial enterprise customers and then servicing mid-market or small-to-medium-sized businesses.

 

  • Why is there such a gap between Customer Success and Sales?

(Kate) This happens because of an underlying mindset in companies and teams of ‘Sales just do Sales, Customer Success do post-sales’. Customer Success should be the best friend of  Sales. CS should spend time with Sales and work together on pitch decks, sit in on pitch practice sessions and often ask the challenging questions to help them prepare for key sales meetings. The importance of this connection is often overlooked.

I certainly agree with Kate here that there is often a disconnect with Sales, sometimes even seen by sitting on different floors or other sides of the room, to the mantra of ‘let me know when it signs and we’ll chat then’. As Kate mentioned this is often too late as you are not directing and influencing the salesperson to sell the product on the core value points which make a customer successful. The lack of this feedback loop can cause a dysfunction in the productivity and culture of your team, which is ultimately passed onto the end customer.

 

  • How can the gaps between Sales and Customer Success be bridged? 

(Kate) Customer Success should understand the characteristics of the most successful customers; what are the common 3-4 characteristics these customers share? And demonstrate your findings with data. This data and insight needs to be injected back into the Sales team to help them sell close to the Ideal Customer Profile (ICO). 

The ideal customer profile is built by CS and executed by Sales. Using a joined-up approach to customer acquisition can help move the customer to time-to-value faster. The seller will be able to be better able to identify potential blockers based on previous customer data to give them forewarning as to the people they will need to get involved to have a successful customer and technical blockers to be mitigated.

This is a telling insight in that Customer Success will build the ideal client profile, an iterative and never-ending process, which also confirms whether the marketing and sales efforts align too. As sometimes there is a disconnect between who you are marketing to and meeting regularly and the other who is actually using your product day-in/ day-out. I especially like Kate’s take on giving the evidence and proof back to the sales team as to what makes a successful customer, this could be the involvement of a key stakeholder, a needed integration, even as simple as the first kickoff date agreed by key stakeholders or even downloading the desktop app of your product.

 

  • What’s your opinion on Customer Success owning renewals?

(Kate) I think that owning renewal discussions is a different skill-set to customer success. Customer Success should be focused on enabling your customer and understanding what works and what doesn’t work. Some people might say, ‘well if you give renewals to Sales they got all the glory, that’s not fair is it?’ In my opinion, you didn’t sign up to Customer Success to get the glory and significance of landing a renewal. You are in the role to empower the customer and to drive adoption. 

I think the renewal or expansion opportunities can be surfaced and evidenced by Customer Success but not owned by them. A salesperson is used to negotiating and managing multiple stakeholders to drive towards the desired outcome. Even down to the point of dealing with procurement distracts a Customer Success Manager from enabling a customer, and more importantly, it takes a lot of time.

Kate makes a very fair point here, the difference lies in the motive, time and skillset of the Customer Success Manager. In small teams at tech startups, you won’t have Renewal Managers, Account Managers and Customer Success Managers. This plethora of roles and options are not available to you and the options are more limited. Does it lie with Sales or Customer Success?

Therefore sales are often motivated by keeping the original accounts to make their targets and commissions. They also won the new account in the first place and will have relationships with the original stakeholders that sign off the purchase but maybe don’t use the product day-to-day. Furthermore, on time, a salesperson’s role is to grow revenue for your tech company and so don’t mind the constant chase, where a Customer Success may shy away from initial confrontation or difficulty, as they are keen to protect the relationship with the customer and the end-users.

 

  • What backgrounds do you get great Customer Success managers from?

(Kate) There is no rule to hiring great CSMs. Much depends on what the product is, where the start-up is in its lifecycle and what the goals are for the customer success role.  The best CSMs I’ve worked with are ex-consultants. They are often exceptionally customer-focused, project and time-orientated and outcome-driven. Additionally, they are often good at getting to the root cause by asking the customer the why and what questions on the back of the customer requests. ‘Why do you want this new feature?’ If we were to build this feature, what would you use it for?’ And often, ‘what are you wanting to achieve by getting this new feature, what’s the result you expect to get?’ It’s this challenger mindset that is commonplace within consultancy, as you are often tasked with discovering why companies perform certain activities and actions and explore options for improving their situation. 

This is a great insight. Often we go ahead and build just what the customer wants rather than understanding why and measuring the risk/reward of a given product request or feature.

 

  • What’s the link between Customer Success and Marketing?

(Kate) Customer Success has the duty of sharing what’s working, what are activities are frequent users actually doing or performing on your product. These insights can then be shared with your target audience and sales can be educated simultaneously too. 

One of the most useful things I did was to do a week-long Digital Marketing course with General Assembly, it was only then I really understand what marketing is about and hence how it could connect to Customer Success. 

CSMs should be supporting marketing by sharing use cases and identifying customer case study opportunities. I believe that as a department we need to be capturing the insights of user value as we are closest to the customer and then passing that original story onto marketing to help with branding, format and distribution. This can, of course, be used by Sales too. 

We’ve seen video can have a tremendous effect on user behaviour within our platform. Videos of how our customers use our product and the value they get from is not just a great way to drive adoption at the customer-level but can be a valuable source for Sales Enablement too. 

I agree with Kate here, even having knowledge of the customer life cycle from the awareness stage to referrals and renewals is really important. As you are informed as to what could be used to drive awareness, acquisition or even revenue for the salespeople. We’ve used the pirate metrics as a way to show clear roles and responsibilities within a team of inbound marketers, lead generators, salespeople (closers) and customer success. It’s this transparency which brings interdependency, trust and opens up opportunities for collaboration too.

Secondly, on the customer case studies, I believe this is one of the most overlooked areas within Sales and Marketing. If you are a tech company and you are starting to win customers frequently month in month out. You will have a big (good) problem of turning these customers into frequent customer testimonials, references and case studies. These will fuel your marketing, sales and referral engine. Often the question of, ‘what’s our customer case study creation process?’ is never asked by anyone. Furthermore, if you don’t have a process you’ll look back in 6 months or a year’s time and be like, we need more testimonials, and often you would have missed a great opportunity and not created a scalable process in your business to share value consistently with your target audience.

 

Any final thoughts, Kate?

I really enjoyed this James. I always come away from our chats learning something either about my field or just hearing it from a different perspective. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

 

A really insightful interview with Kate Forgione, one of the Founders of Customer Success Network and Head of Customer Success at ServiceRocket. Feel free to join us and many others in the community at one of CSN’s next events.

Over and out from the team at Sales for Startups. We’ll be interviewing other successful CS leaders, Tech Founders and even recruitment leaders to see why we are missing the mark when it comes to growing existing accounts at tech companies.

If you’d like to be interviewed please comment below or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or submit a request on our website.

 

When looking at the ways in which hired-in help can support your tech business, Sales Trainers play an invaluable position on the field. Where a self-employed Sales Freelancer will get a job done, a Sales Trainer will make your team more effective and consistent.

They will help instil behaviour that communicates your value proposition, generates more leads and closes more deals, with leaders that head up engaged, successful and fulfilled teams.

Whether delivered in the form of workshops, one-on-one training, phone support, process guides and online learning portals there is an ever-growing list of mediums that can be tailored to suit your requirements.

Benefits of working with a Sales Trainer include:

  • Implementing proven techniques, rather than reinventing the wheel
  • Taking a personnel focused approach by up-skilling your team and investing in their future
  • Improving sales consistency, and therefore both performance and customer experience
  • Spreading the ROI to produce long-lasting impact

If this has whetted your appetite and you’re keen to step back to take a look over ways in which temporary support can assist your tech business in scaling up its sales output, have a look at Sales for Startups latest eBook, ‘The Different Types of Sales Support Available to Tech Companies’.

In the day-to-day thick of things, it can be such a challenge to stop doing and take a more considered approach. Utilising the support of an experienced, objective and skilled contractor may well be a shrewd way of doing this. Consider it.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a magic formula for sales? A structured, logical, replicable approach that nurtures prospects, enabling them to understand and appreciate your value proposition, and being eager, not just customers, advocates and ambassadors of your brand too.

Could this be an optimistic dream or a reality? Let’s see!

The aim of a sales consultancy is to build and implement a system or mechanism that lays the foundations for a consistently efficient way of working.

Working with a Sales Consultant encompasses all aspects of your sales; from strategy and planning, to talent selection and onboarding, and often implementation and execution too.

Of all the types of temporary support available, Sales Consultancy is the only one which delivers a comprehensive solution, from the ground up all the way through your business.

A good Sales Consultant will:

  • Massage profitability and consider cash flow to make sure you have the most effective solution for your financial position right now
  • Propose a scalable solution that maximises sustainable growth and longevity
  • Look at the big picture. Rather than looking at a project or your personnel in isolation, consultancy takes in the wider business and industry context
  • Work with you on talent selection, recruiting and hiring salespeople, and then team development too

Electing to work with a Sales Consultant isn’t a cheap option and, in some cases, it needs to be weighed up against the benefits of hiring a Business Development Manager. However, if you’re busy scaling up and laying your business’ foundations, it’s worth getting it right first time. Buying in the experience and practical assistance of a Sales Consultant will save many wasted hours and money, whilst also rocket-propelling profitability.

To discover more about ways in which you can use temporary support to enhance your tech business, take a look at Sales for Startups’ eBook ’

We interviewed Rohit Patni, the Chairman and Co-Founder of Lavanya Plus. Lavanya is helping to improve the care and wellness ecosystem through its digital care platform ensuring accessibility, coordination, payment and delivery of care, health and wellbeing services creates a future where trusted and quality health and social care is accessible to everyone – Connecting Care in Communities.

We really wanted to get perspective from Rohit, a member of our Tech CEO community, who can shed light on the question of “why do tech startups fail to grow existing accounts?”

With so much at stake when winning often landmark and enterprise deals, we often falter as Founders and leaders within tech companies to systematically grow the adoption and usage,  and account spend within these hard-fought new customers. 

So over to the interview with Rohit and the questions and answers:

 

  • What are the main causes for startups failing to grow existing accounts in your experience?

 

(Rohit) It comes down to people. There are two types of people in Sales. There are ‘hunters’ and there are ‘farmers’. The hunters are there to win new business whereas the farmers are there to manage existing accounts. The disparity between these two types of people and their behaviours comes down to compensation. The hunter or new business professional has a salary and an OTE, often double their salary, whereas the Account Managers often have a larger base but less earning potential from commission and more on bonuses. 

Secondly, there is a difference in mindset, the hunter is hungry and normally outbound but the Account Manager or farmer is focused on building relationships rather than signing new accounts. 

In terms of addressing this problem or gap, it comes back to your go-to-market strategy and what and how you sell. For example, if you are selling to larger businesses you are often needing to employ complex solution-selling individuals, where the customer will often want what is beyond the original product offering. If you are a product-led sale, you are normally addressing tactical problems within clients with features and functions. And furthermore, how you price your product will impact the function of your teams and the overlap between them. 

Rohit mentions three great points here for addressing this gap by evaluating your compensation, mindset and go-to-market strategy. 

 

  • Why is there such a gap between Customer Success and Sales?

 

(Rohit) It comes down to lead time. What does the product adoption cycle look like? When do customers get value from your product? When you look back at your go-to-market strategy, you will understand the variances in what you selling and who you are selling to so that you understand if you are simply keeping and retaining the customer – to tackle attrition. Or how much are you upselling products and features during the customer lifecycle? This will help you understand who has ownership for certain activities between Sales and Customer Success.

(James) Can you do both?

(Rohit) Yes, I think it can. Often you see new business professionals wanting to sign a customer and get their commission and pass on the customer. An Account Manager is compensated differently and is more relationship-led. The sales approach can vary based on what you are selling. 

Ask yourself, how are your customers buying your service? Is it subscription or SaaS-based for example? This then allows you to foresee what account management and sales efforts will be needed during the whole customer lifecycle

 

  • How can you bridge the gap between Customer Success and Sales?

 

(Rohit) There’s an element of education for the Sales team. In a startup, you often won’t have a large back-office function seen at larger companies to support the account management function. Therefore, salespeople might have to bridge that gap in an early-stage company. 

Often the Customer Success function is the second consideration after client acquisition. 

(James) Why?

Well, in the early stages, you are focused on client acquisition to gain funding. You want to prove that your product or service has value for your target market and hence your company is worth investing in. For an investor, this is a question of maths and ROI. I’ll put this amount of money and we forecast that the company will grow to this extent and go for a future round at this time and valuation and hence my return will be y. 

 

  • Who should be responsible for renewals, Sales or Customer Success?

 

(Rohit) It should be the job of Account Managers. Bottom line, it’s my job as an Account Manager, to lead client renewal and retention. As a CEO, I don’t want my top salesperson doing two days per week on account management, I would appoint one or two people to manage my existing accounts and reflect that in the compensation plans to drive the right behaviours. 

Often for contract negotiations and renewals, it should be built into the original contract. For example, you can build in tiers or renewal arrangements into the original contracts. But it comes back to whether you are selling a product-led or solution sell? 

Rohit mentioned a good point here, if your top new business salesperson is consistently selling to new customers, you want them out there selling to more. Otherwise, they perhaps could get distracted with ‘business-as-usual’ items that would dramatically reduce their selling time. 

 

 

  • What’s the link between Customer Success and Marketing?

 

(Rohit) It depends on your go-to-market strategy. How much do you need to keep awareness with the people you have sold to or the stakeholders? For example with some of our corporate clients, we do pop-ups, exhibitions, showcase events to keep top of mind in the eyes of the staff at that company.

There is a correlation between retention and marketing. You need to think about which marketing strategies are you going to use. Are you using social and digital marketing? Or are you using more traditional strategies like exhibitions or events? It certainly does vary if you are B2B or B2C. B2B is certainly more direct marketing and selling. It’s normally about maintaining awareness. 

B2B will buy off track record and reference-ability first.

This is a key observation that Rohit mentions about buying off track record and reference-ability.  What does this mean in practice?

This means that your marketing team needs to be focused on creating customer testimonials and case studies where references can be taken. Therefore in the eyes of a new buyer, there are speaking to someone just like them who wants to achieve similar goals and hence the buying decision is a lot easier for that new prospective client. This customer testimonial process is one of the most neglected areas of customer success and marketing in my opinion. You need to use your first customers to sell to other customers. 

This is paramount with a tech startup where you may only have 5-10 initial customers to call upon to create case studies and testimonials.

 

  • What type of attributes make a successful Account Manager?

 

(Rohit) My belief is if they are good at selling / account managing and have a proven track record then they can be adaptable to the business sector. In other words, they will learn the product/solution they sell.

 As individuals, they need empathy and ability to listen. They need to be able to capture needs and assign the right solution and be bold enough to say ‘sorry can’t help you with this at the moment, but will let you know when I can’ – honesty plays a big role in building relationships.

 Clearly a desire to have a financial (commission/bonus) upside needs to be there otherwise why apply for sales orientated roles.

 They also need to be given a path to personal growth in the company – ‘executive’ to ‘manager’ to ‘head of’ etc. and at some point in time become team leaders. This will build personal motivation, ownership and drive.

  • Any final thoughts?

(Rohit) Compensation is key. It has to be attributed properly to Sales and Customer Success. And then your go-to-market strategy is it a product or solution you are selling? This will then reflect on the selection of your sales model. 

 

Over and out from the team at Sales for Startups. We’ll be interviewing other Tech CEOs and Customer Success leaders like Rohit, and even examining the problem from a recruitment perspective too. This will enable us to see why we are missing the mark when it comes to growing existing accounts at tech companies. 

If you’d like to be interviewed please comment below or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or submit a request on our website

We interviewed Karen Gallantry, General Manager of EMEA for mParticle. mParticle is the customer data platform for brands leading the CX revolution. 

We really wanted to get perspective from Karen, a member of our Tech CEO and leaders community, who can shed light on the question of “why do tech startups fail to grow existing accounts?”

With so much at stake when winning often landmark and enterprise deals, we often falter as Founders and leaders within tech companies to systematically grow the adoption and usage,  and account spend within these hard-fought new customers. 

So over to the interview with Karen and the questions and answers:

 

  • What are the main causes for startups failing to grow existing accounts in your experience?

(Karen) It comes down to failing to implement and getting sticky with the client post-sales. If the handover process from sales to customer success is clunky then it can lead to failure. If the salesperson hasn’t educated the customer during the sales process on how to be successful when they implement their product then it can also lead to failure. I’ve seen customers signed before when they don’t have the resources to implement their solution. Then when you add an implementation cycle to that resource gap and even sometimes when a champion leaves, you can be at high risk of churn. 

(James) Why don’t they have the right resources at the point of sale?

(Karen) Either they haven’t really appreciated it as they’ve been sold the product and haven’t realised they need resources to implement. So when people go through the sales motion, they should be looking to educate the customer on what it takes to go live and be successful. I recommend that you show the customer an implementation guide or best practices for implementations based on the previous customers. However sometimes it’s the customer pushing the buying timescale themselves maybe down to personal motive, price or timescale. So they can go ahead on occasions without the resources themselves. 

In essence I’d say you have to ensure you are selling for success, not just for revenue. 

Two really key points from Karen here: firstly, we need to evaluate our sales handover process with real diligence and investigating whether we have educated the customer on the resources needed to be successful. Secondly, selling for success not just for revenue. This comes from a collective effort from both Sales and Customer Success. 

 

  • Why is there such a gap between Customer Success and Sales?

(Karen) I think it comes down to the compensation structure and sometimes team size. Also the handover process too. Previously, at larger companies, I’ve seen the Customer Success team  responsible for contract renewals and all upsells. If you are looking at a volume-based growth then you maybe you don’t necessarily need a salesperson to be involved?. Although if you have a new product to market or selling to a new business unit, then you need to joint approach Sales and Customer Success. To be successful, you have to have clear standard operating procedures between the two parts of the organisation (CSM vs Sales) to de-conflict potential cross over and to affirm roles in terms of account management and the customer contact is managed by the customer success person and the commercial terms are managed by the salesperson (as an example)

I really like Karen’s take on this topic of ‘new’ business should be owned by the salesperson and this should be documented in your standard operating procedures to ensure there is no conflict between the teams. 

 

  • Who should own renewals, Sales or Customer Success?

(Karen) I think Customer Success needs to own the renewals. The Customer Success person is closest to the customer and has a greater influence on retention. Also, the salesperson will normally be a ‘hunter’ in a new startup and would often prefer not to do some of the admin that is related to renewals. That said obviously it depends a bit of the size and and stage of your company. Maybe you need a swissarmy knife all rounder to start with who can adapt to both.

(James) Does it depend on whether it’s a complex a product-led sale?

(Karen) As you grow your product set it can vary. For example, if it’s a growth in volume or monthly tracked users then a CSM can price that renewal. If it’s a renegotiation of the original contract, a new business unit or a new product to market. You don’t want to conflict the priorities of the CSM, whose role is to ensure that the most value is gained from what the customer has already bought. 

The conflict of priorities is a key point here to take away, as do you want your Customer Success Manager to be distracted with outcomes that don’t increase customer adoption and usage? This should reflect in your compensation but as always your go-to-market strategy and pricing should point towards ownership of renewals. 

 

  • How do you bridge the gaps between Sales and Customer Success?

(Karen) If there is no ‘net new’ business within the account, then a CSM can run with it. If there is a large enterprise customer that you want to expand within then a Quarterly Business Review (QBR) is the ideal way to gather the team and centre the communication back onto the customer and how they are reaping value. I believe that there needs to be some executive presence on the QBR too. So this could include the original seller, the CSM and the senior executive or Account Director.

I’d certainly like to see the content of QBRs improved to include the value that the customer is getting from the platform, how they are using it, how it’s helping them achieve their business goals and what additional use cases that your platform could fulfil to help them achieve additional business value (ie with one eye on the future)

I think the involvement of a Sales Director in both the preparation, planning and attendance in these QBRs would certainly close the gap between the teams.

Karen’s enterprise sales experience here was insightful as QBRs should be more strategic in their nature and a collective team effort to not only empower and ensure the customer is hitting their objectives but also those new business opportunities and therefore additional use cases are revealed in such important meetings by the sales team. 

 

  • What is the link between Customer Success and Marketing?

(Karen) There is certainly a link between Customer Success and Marketing. For example, Marketing will need to have the input of CS to find out who are the key personas, who are the users and who benefit from our platform. Then this can be used in the marketing content.

There’s also a link between Customer Success and Marketing with the creation of customer testimonials, customer advisory board and then personas on key accounts. Marketing can then form different stories and talk tracks depending on their persona, so they can market in the right way. 

 

  • Why do startups spend more time on client acquisition than retention?

(Karen) I think this is largely down to funding. The more customers you acquire and the rate of customer acquisition normally reveals to a funder if you are gaining traction in a (new) market place. You need to prove your business model and the value proposition, so client acquisition is one of the quickest ways to prove product/market fit.

 

  • What have been the best backgrounds for hiring Customer Success?

 (Karen) It’s all about people skills for me. I’ve seen a variety of backgrounds work both from Sales and non-Sales (from IT business analysts to IT consultants). It’s as much about whether they have a passion for wanting people and organisations to be successful, will own a problem and be able to bridge between internal teams. A CSM is much more of a team player and wants to see success in their customer base; alternatively, a Salesperson is often focused on revenue and their quota. In my experience the best CSMs have all shown compassion and wanting to be seen to be helpful and to enable their customers, whilst maintaining commercial awareness and balance to enable the company to grow profitably. They sometimes take it personally when they don’t solve problems for their customers, and creatively manage tension and conflict. 

(CS interview question) How do you deal with that terrible customer and how does it make you feel?

(Sales interview question) What is the most disappointing sale that you didn’t make? 

I like Karen’s take on the attributes that are needed for a customer success individual – compassionate, problem-solver and a team player.

  • Any final thoughts?

(Karen) It’s certainly made me think. I always enjoy conversations like these that make you evaluate your own thinking and previous experiences. 

Over and out from the team at Sales for Startups. We’ll be interviewing other Tech CEOs and Sales leaders like Karen Gallantry, and even examining the problem from a recruitment perspective too. This will enable us to see why we are missing the mark when it comes to growing existing accounts at tech companies. 

 

If you’d like to be interviewed please comment below or feel free to connect with me here on LinkedIn or submit a request on our website

We interviewed Jenna Lindberg, one of the Senior Relationship Managers at Mixpanel, a company which helps you get valuable customer insights about your customers through real-time data and analytics.  

And also because Jenna was referred by Kate Forgione to shed light on the question of “why do tech startups fail to grow existing accounts?”

With so much at stake at winning often landmark and enterprise deals at tech companies, we often falter as Founders and Customer Success leaders to systematically and consistently grow the adoption, usage and account spend of these hard-fought new customers. 

So over to the interview with Jenna and the key questions and answers:

 

 

  • What are the main causes for startups failing to grow existing accounts in your experience?

(Jenna) No.1 is that a lot of startups are thinking about themselves and not about their customers. For example, when they are launching new pricing, features or changing their subscription model from monthly to annual; startups will display an inward focus most of the time and so their initial customers will experience these growing pains. There’s only so much tolerance that customers have to this type of pain. 

I’ve seen this a lot with fast-moving startups where they expect large and traditional businesses to work in an agile way and at the same pace as them. This works when servicing a customer that is just like you, an agile startup, but has serious challenges when managing more traditional businesses who don’t experience the same frequency and magnitude of change. This inward focus is often the cause of annoyance when changing the pricing model, the customer feeling that you oversold and under-delivered and many other causes of dissatisfaction in the customer journey. Startups, in my experience, often expose the customer to a lot of internal pain as we build our tech companies. 

You need to draw the value-line between their need and particular use case matches with your product. 

(James) Why do you believe there is such an inward focus at startups?

(Jenna) Everyone is building a plane while they fly it. With a startup there isn’t always a play book if you are truly innovative. The scaling problem often comes up from those initial successes…ok something’s worked- hooray! Now how do we scale it? Not necessarily does the price, solution, product and approach for the first 10-20 customers actually match the market on a macro scale. It also begs the question, are our initial customers early adopters or are they really the representation of our best or most typical customer and target customer? If something worked, the pressure to reproduce and prove out growth is heavy, and often startups are following the path of least resistance as it’s resource-light and worth the experiment (if it works). 

(James) How does the mindset and approach change within Customer Success to customers from the first few years to the next stage of their journey?

(Jenna) For businesses that have had customers for 1-2-3 years, this initial research period of early years doesn’t necessarily tell you what’s going to happen in years 3 to 6 and beyond. You need to think as these as totally different phases in customer maturity. It’s the same when scaling the business as a whole, for example. The first couple of years of a business is going to be different from the later years in terms of appropriate blend of resources, product focus, and mindset. This will develop and change, so if you try and scale exactly what you did in the past, it won’t work for the customer as they mature and their needs from you change too. 

 

  • Why is there such a gap between Customer Success and Sales?

(Jenna) Often it comes down to how they are motivated, and their beliefs accurate or inaccurate about the other role. In my experience, the people who are attracted to Customer Success are Project Managers and consultants, they are customer-focused and they want to fix problems for customers. They don’t often think that Sales has the same mentality. 

I think that greater connection between these departments can be fostered by enablement and aligning compensation plans to customer outcomes. If you incentivise the salesperson on say consumption or adoption or other health scores after the sale, and whether the customer they sold ultimately became successful and an ideal and profitable customer for the business, they would really adjust their focus and activities. Despite what CSM’s think, it’s not because sales doesn’t care whether customers are successful, but traditionally that hasn’t been their charter- their incentives haven’t been customer outcomes focused. CSM’s who have a blended role for adoption and renewal/growth are a rare person who has to be responsible for both, and you see very different behavior in what and how that blended CSM sells when they know they A) have to deal with it after and B) have seen what happens when they over/under sell the wrong product. (A classic CSM vs Sales gripe)

(James) Why is there such a delta in talent between people who are both commercial and customer-focused?

(Jenna) I think there is an assumption in the market that you can only be commercially focused or customer focused, and they are inherently exclusive, and that being commercially focused and having a growth mindset is misaligned with value for customers and only focused on dollars for the business. I think the complete opposite. I don’t think there’s enough conversation around a growth mindset for CSM’s, and I do believe that commercial success with a customer is the sign your are building the right product, and the customer is articulating the value of your partnership through their financial commitment. A truly successful customer actually pays a company more as they realize value from the relationship. There is no greater customer proof point than that. If you take the metaphor that people vote with their dollars, they are voting for you product if they are willing to pay for it, and grow their engagement. However traditionally teams feel like you can only be one or the other. I say a truly good customer advocate is both. 

 

  • How can the gaps between Sales and Customer Success be bridged? 

(Jenna) I’ve worked in several blended roles of customer success and account management. And my experience and technical capabilities with the product certainly helped me gain credibility with our customers and have the right conversations. But it also means I understand both sides of the coin- I have empathy and understanding of the sales workflow, motivations, and challenges, and I also understand the adoption and customer enablement side and challenges. That understanding and empathy helps tremendously. Facilitating more conversations across the quote “divide” I believe would help everyone row in the same direction. Discuss each of your roles, how you are compensated, how do you prioritise your work, what pitfalls and workflows work best for you. That fundamental understanding of how each other operate and where you will align and diverge I believe really helps multi-functional teams work more effectively and reduce friction. You can then come together as one team. 

 

  • What are some of the best practices to link Product and Customer Success?

(Jenna) Firstly,  leaders have to understand that Customer Success can provide direct access and represent the voice of the customer. It’s maybe one of Customer Success’ highest potential values in a company. Whatever your process for logging feedback, getting customer testimonials, or understanding where you fell short, it’s an invaluable feedback loop that should inform product and steer the product development in a company. In my company currently, we have a great connection to Product- we log every piece of product feedback from our customers and often bring product right into direct conversations with customers to help inform their tests and betas. I encourage anyone else to foster that kind of connection of product to customers through CSM’s and Account Managers. 

 

  • What’s your opinion on Customer Success owning renewals?

(Jenna) In early days, I do think it’s the best option. You have to wear many hats at a startup, and this comes back to having that CSM who really can be a dual advocate customer and commercial focus. The right CSM with a commercial mindset and customer mindset will help you find the best product fit and also feedback when things like pricing or new developments/strategy are or aren’t resonating, and with granular detail. I do say however that you need someone in that role that does have commercial interest or experience, because in renewals you will be dropped in scenarios that require commercial skill and acumen and understanding of negotiation,and even procurement practices depending on the size of your clients, is critical. It’s something you can learn, but you have to have an interest in it to be successful. 

 

  • What’s the link for you between Customer Success and Marketing?

(Jenna) What I’ve seen happen most is that Marketing are starving for customer quotes and value stories. Often Customer Success individuals who can provide these get more resources to enable customers. I often don’t see a proactive relationship between these two teams.

I think there should be a more bi-directional relationship and cadence between these teams. The value stories, key use cases, customer behaviour and best practices should be coming from Customer Success, we are closest to the customer and can really have a big impact on driving forward the marketing engine.

I often think that there is a greater focus on demand and customer acquisition within the marketing team rather than existing customer growth. It would be really valuable for us to inform the marketing team on what markets we should be going after, what customers work best and hence inform the tactics, strategies and approaches they use to drive business value. 

There is so much focus on acquiring new customers by Marketing. What about existing customers? I think there’s a lot that they don’t do for existing customers. How do we build loyalty, how do reward awesome behaviour? Furthermore, how much time is spent on account-based marketing?

In contrast, examine the number of touchpoints to get an initial sale and compare and review how many marketing touchpoints post-sale it would take to grow the account? 

 

  • What attributes do look for when hiring great Customer Success managers?

(Jenna) The number one attribute is curiosity followed closely by flexibility. It’s this agility that is so important within growing tech companies. You need people that are interested in wearing a few hats, building relationships with internal and external stakeholders and being able to pull yourself out of the weeds and think about something programmatically. 

I look for someone that has proven they can manage multiple stakeholders, a large book of business, worked in different industries, and had oversight of extreme change within customers, the industry and maybe even in your company. Certainly within Series A there is no typical day. I think that sometimes there is a change of talent when you move from year 3 to year 4 or 5. Some of the earlier employees are averse to change and don’t like documenting processes to scale the company.  

From our experience, we find it is very difficult to examine your behaviour and practices without documenting them. You need qualitative and quantitative data to make quality decisions. Often we need to educate others on why we need to employ more data-driven practices and how that will help the scale the company. Often this communication step is skipped. 

 

  • Any final thoughts, Jenna?

I’ve really enjoyed our time together, it’s been an amazing therapeutic talk! 

In summary, I’d certainly encourage breaking out the function of Customer Success into account management and customer support and onboarding if it’s right for the maturity of your business, but would encourage leadership to really focus on building a framework and incentives to work together. 

Thanks a lot to Jenna Lindberg at Mixpanel

Over and out from the team at Sales for Startups. We’ll be interviewing other successful CS leaders, Tech Founders and even recruitment leaders to see why we are missing the mark when it comes to growing existing accounts at tech companies. 

 

If you’d like to be interviewed please comment below or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or submit a request on our website

 

 

 

“Details matter, it is worth waiting to get it right.”

Steve Jobs

 There is wisdom in knowing when to accelerate forward and when to operate a little restraint. After securing Series A funding, there is a temptation to charge full steam ahead; to treat it like a steroid injection and behave as if the cash will burn a hole in the business’ pocket.

It’s easy to understand why we might fall into this trap. Suddenly there are the means to implement long-awaited developments and many tech entrepreneurs are the sort of people who want it done now, right now, or yesterday even.

Patience is most definitely a virtue here. Change is a crucial component needed for true evolution, but it shouldn’t be forced.

Whether thinking about recruitment and salespeople, target audience and marketing activity, leads and prospects, or making operational changes, there are potential pitfalls of not taking action a step at a time, using the company’s natural momentum.

It’s important to stay grounded, consider each action carefully and do the leg-work. Sadly we’ve seen tech start-ups fall victim to their own success and undo their hard work by being too over-zealous after they’ve secured Series A funding.

For a breakdown of the most commonly made mistakes made by tech startups who have secured Series A funding, take a look at our latest eBook ‘7 Mistakes Tech Companies Make After Securing Series A Funding’

Often people have told me many times how amazing it is to win as a team. I agreed with this sentiment although didn’t truly understand it.

Now with running my own consultancy I have found that there is another level of joy to be experienced. Winning as a partnership is even more unique and mesmerising than when just winning within your team. This means helping your clients win big and when they do, it is completely unmatched.

As a former full-time and employed front-line business development and account management professional, I was always tasked with winning new clients and growing existing accounts. This seemed pretty straightforward and a directed role. I couldn’t work out what was not motivating for my team members or my direct reports. At times it seemed like that there was a sense of detachment between the company and its Sales staff.

In the role of an advisor and consultant, my role is very different. We’re advising on multiple aspects of the business in order to increase operational efficiency, revenue growth and profitability at tech startups. This is not in truth what the gambit of a salesperson is in for most companies. The operational efficiency part of a salesperson’s responsibility is certainly undervalued. In my opinion, there’s almost no other role within a company that stretches the capabilities and operational output more than that of a salesperson.

What other roles put your team under so much pressure to perform with such little time?

This often happens because the economic advantage is not only great for the company but also for the salesperson. Moreover though, the finer point to focus on is what information and intel can our business development and account management professionals garner that could help us improve our products, services and operations. This comes back to the objective of Sales professionals – continuously add immense value to prospects and clients. This nature of being eager to please and looking at ways in which we can improve our service to our end clients should be captured in a feedback loop, reviewed, delegated and actioned.

Furthermore, when advising tech startups who are looking to gain commitments from large companies, we often see them forgetting to value the critical information that they are receiving in each sales pursuit and won’t normally record of all their learns along the way.

What is this greater level of joy?

I have found that the experience of winning new clients while playing an advisory partner role to London’s tech startups is unparalleled. Not only does a big win bring a sense of relief, jubilation, and a sense of fear within startups; it also brings complete respect for the individuals’ roles played in such a pursuit and an immense sense of gratitude and ultimately self-pride. This heightened euphoria and sense of real progress and growth is one that seems very different when advising companies to when you are full-time employee.

We often hear as well talk about win-win scenarios for our clients when in Sales roles but often this is not really the case and often is in fact a discrete bargaining exercise.

In the case of this article, I really wanted to open up the debate as to why this imbalance seems so widespread within Sales teams across major corporate companies and how fledgling startups can learn from the mistakes of others.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Please like this post if you found it insightful and feel free to leave your comments below.

Sales for Startups is a leading Sales and Business Development consultancy that helps tech startups achieve their annual revenue objectives in as little as 4-6 months.