Many people are familiar with (and can relate to) the figure depicting success as anything but a straight line. So why would they assume the path to customer success would look different?
I don’t know the answer to this but do know ways companies can make the path less bumpy. Here are the steps as we move from prospect to customer:
- Know the goal (customer) – ideally, the prospect has a firm grasp of the challenge they face. But often, companies must assist prospects through guided conversations. In fact, the purpose of the challenger sale is to introduce and educate a prospect about a challenge (or emerging challenge) of which they were unaware.
- Understand the problem and the pain it causes (marketing) – companies must appeal to problems prospects have now. This is the “hook” that causes prospects to want to learn more about your company’s solution. So the job of the marketer as it relates to customer success is to demonstrate that the company understands and can address a prospect problem. Doing this, begins to establish trust.
- Create a vision (sales) – Sales enables customer success through their role as vision creators. They must understand and demonstrate a mastery of prospects’ challenges (problem to be solved) and be able to link company capabilities (how) as the ideal antidote to overcome those issues. Sales helps prospects envision your company as the “right” solution. Sales also serves a key gate-keeper role in delivering customer success by turning prospects away. (Granted this action is counter-intuitive if one holds the view that Sales sole function is to sell. But if one thinks of the Sales role in customer success, Sales is well advised to “lose a deal” to win credibility and trust.)
- Guide the customer (customer success) – start on the right path. This begins with understanding #1 above and becomes a matter of charting the sequence of steps, timelines, and owners to accomplish. Lacking the goal (#1 above), customer success will be nigh impossible. Lewis Carroll wrote, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” A twist on this might be “if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know you’ve arrived?” This was illustrated recently when a customer challenged me to describe the return on investment (ROI) they were achieving using our tool. They couldn’t describe their goals or what they were trying to achieve. Without these key elements, how could anyone calculate ROI? So, we regrouped and began to work with them to establish and restate their goals.
- Stabilize the customer (customer support) – think of this as shock absorbers for the ride. Things will go wrong. The support team minimizes the amount of distraction such problems cause and because of this critical role, support is necessary to all customer success journeys.
Helping customers achieve success can be messy. That journey from concept to reality encounters ups and downs as indeed life “success” does. For us, the pivot point is to start with the customer end goal in mind as we craft ways to smooth a bumpy path. (Or as smooth as possible anyway.)