James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

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How to Optimize Your Sales Process Using Customer Success

James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

Full Profile »

Customer success is when your customers achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company. Based on the definition above, customer success sounds pretty valuable, doesn’t it? Yet, the idea of improving customer success can seem rather vague. How do you absorb it into the DNA of your sales process? We had a recent interview with Lincoln Murphy that gave us the answer. Lincoln runs the popular Sixteen Ventures blog for SaaS growth strategies, and he commonly shares that the pathway to customer success is found in the definition above. So let’s break it down.

Desired Outcome (a.k.a. The Only Reason You Have Customers)

The first part of the definition we’ll consider is “desired outcome”: that is, what your customer needs to achieve in the way they need to achieve it.

The reason you exist as a company is to achieve the customer’s desired outcome on his or her behalf. So this one’s important.

Talking to your customer, making it all about them . . . everyone in sales knows that stuff. The problem is, it’s hard to do those things if your attention is divided. If you’re trying to be all things to everybody, everyone gets something but no one gets everything.

Whoa. Say that five times fast.

Anyway, you want to have an ideal customer in mind, then use the appropriate modalities and language to get in front of them and empathize with their desires. If you can speak to your customer about their desired outcome, they immediately start to resonate with you. But you also have to do it in a way that’s not overselling.

Interactions With Your Company

Once you understand that customers achieve their desired outcome through all their interactions with your company, then you’re onto something.

All is the keyword there. The customer needs positive interactions with more than just your product. In fact, the earliest days of their interactions stick with them more than you might know.

Lincoln Murphy constantly sees the inner workings of companies and why people leave. Based on what he’s seen, customers cite early-stage issues with the companies as reasons to stop paying or to not renew contracts.

Mind you, these aren’t just onboarding issues, but things that go back to the sales cycle itself: “I was promised things you couldn’t deliver,” “expectations were mismanaged,” etc. These companies aren’t usually trying to mislead, but when they don’t think about the customer’s desired outcome, they have the possibility of leading people down the wrong path or forcing them into something they don’t need.

For a better perspective, we should look at customers as growing with us. If we try to pile features and packages on them right at the beginning, they’ll notice when they can’t use everything. And they will probably leave.

One of the ways you can use customer success in your marketing and sales is to enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind. This is an old concept from the ‘30s—salespeople wanted to cut through the noise even back then. Imagine how much more relevant it is today.

The conversation in the customer’s head has to do with their desired outcome. If you can resonate with them on that front, you’re going to cut through the noise.

Think about it: you probably get emails every week where there’s no friction. They have an inviting message, and you want to enter that conversation. But you also get 17 other emails that morning that are obviously cold emails and don’t resonate with you at all.

So here are the key takeaways: make conversation easy, get really specific about the customer’s desired outcome, and never stop emphasizing it.

There are two other key points about customer success that we need to focus on.

Vision

In the early days of a company, when you don’t have the features and functionality, it’s easy to sell the vision because that’s all you have.

And what is the vision, exactly? It’s hope. The job of sales is to align that hope with the customer’s desired outcome.

Companies that have been around a while tend to forget this. They forget to sell the vision. The hard truth is that nobody wants your product . . . People are buying the outcome it achieves.

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It’s hard to get out of your own way. Your product or service is great, and it will be great for the customer, but they only care about their outcome.

Also, you’re my prospect and the initial catalyst for you responding to me (via cold email) was that I’m aligned with your vision. Do you think that catalyst should ever change throughout the sales process?

Sure, more things come into play (I have to be able to meet your requests, etc.) but at the end of the day, the vision has to still be there.

Don’t be like those who say, “Now I’ve got you on the hook. I’m gonna forget what I promised and shove features down your throat.”

Existing Customers

Very often we know more about our prospects than we do about our existing customers.

Yet, thriving companies regularly assess how much they know about their customers. If you have a customer success team or any team that knows the language the customer uses and the use cases that are working for them, take advantage. That knowledge, if you can feed it back to sales and marketing . . . Wow: you’re sitting on a gold mine.

Conclusion

What does it mean to operationalize customer success for your company, so that it’s truly baked into every aspect of your sales process?

For starters, centralize all your customer information, but pull in other data points from all around your organization.

What’s going on from support—are people taking the training? Financially, are they paying their bills? Check usage data, as well, but remember it’s only one data point. To have great customer success, you need the entire picture.

Also, don’t underestimate the feeling you’re getting from the customer. Often, personal impressions are just as valuable as data.

Selling, after all, is still about building trust.


This post is based on an interview with Lincoln Murphy from sixteenventures.com.

You can find this interview, and many more, by subscribing to the B2B Growth Show on iTunes. If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode by clicking here.

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