by James Ker-Reid - January 21, 2020

Interview With Ben Prouty: Closing The Gap Between Winning New Customers And Growth Accounts

We interviewed Ben Prouty, Co-Founder and CEO at Shepper. Shepper checks on assets for businesses. From property to retail, out-of-home media to insurance claims, they check on any asset, anywhere, anytime.

We asked Ben 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 to systematically and consistently grow the adoption, usage and account spend of these hard-fought new customers.

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

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

(Ben) The biggest desire of early-stage tech companies is to bring in fresh new accounts, net new logos. The leadership team are dealing with pressure to perform which is coupled with the financial and time pressure, as a lack of progress of winning new accounts heightens that pressure. Investors are nervous about the dependency on a couple of clients, so you need to go out and win new logos. Secondly, you might not have the skillset available and ready to focus on account growth in the first couple of years. 

Furthermore, you can get bogged down with one client, which can consume your operational resources quickly. Then if the problem persists, it can garner a negative atmosphere both in the client’s eyes and in your own startup who are dealing with what they perceive as a difficult customer. 

  • How do you manage product development with the corporate customer’s needs?

(Ben) Corporates are quite surprised when you have a fully integrated product at first. They like the ability for you to be malleable and flexible and to suit their own environment or infrastructure. I know when we got started we were blending our technology with that of the corporates to get started with them initially. For example, in terms of the development cycle, you have your core product first, you have your MVP, then you might use templates (like Google Sheets) for data transfer then API-based templates latterly.  

  • What functions should be owned by Customer Success?

(Ben) Customer Success is the anti-churn department. In our case they are closely aligned to Operations as we are often improving the efficiency and cost of the internal operations for our clients. It does depend on how operationally you are setup though, perhaps ask yourself:

  • What is our business model? How do we deliver value to clients?
  • What are the size of clients?
  • What do we anticipate the growth being of these clients? What will their future needs look like?
  • What behaviours do we want to incentivise for our clients and team members?

We certainly wanted to be wary of consuming our Sales team with the operational issues of clients on new projects or initiatives. 

Ultimately do you want your Salespeople to be winning them or growing them? It’s all about asking the right questions. 

  • What are some of the best practices for linking Customer Success and Product?

(Ben) There is always a key discussion point around integrations. I think they both have an interest in anti-churn. Why would you want to build something for a customer who then churns? It’s often about identifying those improvements that are high in value. 

You do need to give them a venue and a forum so that they have the freedom to communicate their wishes, desires and opinions openly. Otherwise, there’ll be unnecessary tension between the teams. 

  • Where does Customer Success sit within the organisation?

(Ben) I think Operations at first. Remove the operational burden on Sales. If Sales are spending too much time on admin, there is a reluctance to spend time bringing on new clients. You want them to be signing contracts and then given visibility on how the project is delivered by Customer Success. 

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

(Ben) I think I’ll ask Sophie to answer that one.

(Sophie) For me, it’s important for marketing and customer success to work closely together so that they have a strong understanding of the customer’s challenges and pain points. In startups, you are always seeking to understand the value which you are giving your clients and this is constantly evolving. So an open and frequent dialogue is a must.

In terms of some of the different marketing activities that can be carried out by Customer Success: 

  • Testimonials/success stories
  • Coordinate user groups – product, industry insights, improving the value proposition and positioning.
  • Gaining referrals.

(James) With so much to gain, why do startups give this link so little attention?

(Sophie) I think it could be due to several things:

  • Competing priorities/limited resource – there’s always so much to do at a start-up and new business tends to be the priority for growth
  • Lack of knowledge behind the importance of this function and collaboration
  • Reactive vs proactive – easy to take existing clients for granted and only focus on them when there are issues.

Any final thoughts, Ben?

(Ben) I think it’s important for Founders to acknowledge that things will morph and change as you develop your product and team. What you have in your second or third year probably won’t be the structure you have in your fourth or fifth. 

Thank you to Ben Prouty at Shepper.

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

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