I have spent a decade in Sales Operations, Partner Operations & Revenue Operations. I have used dozens of sales apps. So this list is something I have requested the CSMs at the sales apps I use, told other Ops folks over a beer, or have daydreamed existed.
This is an open letter to all vendors in the sales tech stack.
1. Your blogs are good. However not impactful.
A lot of sales apps out there who publish a ton of content in the public and it gets new prospects excited. Take for instance blogs titled:
“We analyzed a million call minutes and here are three things you should do!”
It’s a great piece of data-backed insight. However I have two problems with this approach.
- The data is generic across industries. If you are in pharma business and am in events business, not all data the above company publishes out there is directly useful to both of us. It makes good splash to share on LinkedIn but can you go about using it directly? No. I can still live with this as a leading indicator to parse my own data internally to arrive at what I can do. But the point I make below is a non-negotiable for me.
- Surprisingly a lot of companies publish a ton of these blogs but do not customize that data for their very own customers. Would I love for this insight coming for my own data that is super actionable rather be pointed to a generic blog comprising an insight for all their customers? Heck yeah! But rarely has an app provider reached out to me with this insight for my own data on an email: “Rajesh, we analyzed 10K call minutes at your org. Here are three things we found!”
Until this happens, the blogs are for prospects and not for existing customers. Let us accept that it makes for good marketing but bad retention.
2. Hold your customer responsible
Far too many sales reps want to close the deal without holding customers responsible for its success. During the course of the demos and negotiations, hardly any vendor makes it a point to call out the responsibilities of a customer to make this partnership a success. Let me explain.
Sales folks are far too excited and in a hurry to close a deal that they do fail to call out that for any important tech stack implementation to succeed: they need an internal champion ALL THE TIME and not just during the deal closure. This person is your “Forever Champion”.
Right after you close the sale, ask your Exec Sponsor (CXO/Director/VP): “Who will own this product internally?” GET A NAME. This approach works coz the named person has now a responsibility from the Exec and you have made it clear to the Exec that this person is critical to your product’s success.
Make that person your champion internally at your customer’s end. Ensure you hold them accountable for the success of the product. Train them. Seek feedback. I can understand from a sales point-of-view you don’t want to rattle your potential customer by asking them to own responsibility. But hey! YOU ARE A SALES PERSON – sell this idea and why it is critical to your customer. You aren’t lying after all. Realize no matter how amazing your product – if your champion makes a poor job of it’s internal execution (which you have very little control on), you are the losing side and not your champion.
If you are a CSM at one of the sales apps, go check the tickets raised by any of your old customers and you will see a repetition on the kind of Qs asked. I have often advised and requested my CSMs to publish an FAQ of all Qs my team has asked and that serves as an internal doc for onboarding.
Having this IC will help:
- Cutting down the tickets
- Faster onboarding
- And most importantly: Your Contract Renewal
Your Exec Sponsor is far more receptive to renewing a contract when they know the value you provide day-in, day-out than you reaching out for Qtrly Business Reviews and a mail titled “Your Renewal is up!”.
I have used this template with my CSMs asking them to pre-populate a few FAQs they encounter from other customers and continue to maintain it between the CSM and myself for my own org.
It helps me onboard faster coz largely there are repeated set of questions every new rep asks and every existing rep asks periodically. It helps CSMs coz I unburden them with lesser tickets from my org and encourage them to use the template for their other customers. It’s a win-win. Feel free making a copy of the template for your use.
3. The Plug-out Hypothesis
Once a sale is made and you have established a “Forever Champion” internally, the best way to realize if your customers actually derive value from your product is to test the hypothesis: “What if we plugged out our product from their tech stack? Will someone notice?”
Let me explain: I have often times deactivated licenses for a sample size internally to understand how important the app to my reps is. I do this experiement in conjunction with the analytics I have on hand for the product usage. If you are a CSM, you should ask yourself this Q and in fact I would encourage you to work with your IC to test this out. Will users notice they can’t access the app? If not, you know you have done a poor job of showing its value or the product was sold to a wrong ICP who never needed it in the first place. It will not renew. Period.
This approach is getting much critical and far too many app providers are learning this the hard way as we go through a funding winter that is forcing companies to make budget cuts and a ton of apps have been sent advance notices of contract non-renewals.
- Hyper-customize your data analysis for your customers
- Hold your customer accountable with shared responsibility
- Do periodic checks if your app is in frequent and right usage by the customer