Let’s say you meet someone on a dating app. You go to the first date, and they’ve got some game.
They’ve done just enough research to take you to the right places and ask good questions, but not enough to make your getting-to-know-you conversations boring. Then, they call and text just often enough to show they care.
But then you make it “Facebook official,” and suddenly you don’t hear from them as often and, when you do, the texts are either disjointed or seem like they are from a totally different person.
As painful as this sounds, it’s what so 👏 many 👏 sales 👏 teams 👏 do. But, the good news is that your team can create a better customer experience. (Sorry, Don Juan. You’re on your own with your love life).
You should be using your SEP as a customer retention software.
Most teams use sales execution platforms (SEPs) mostly for prospecting and customer acquisition. Once the initial sale is finished, the process of keeping that customer is usually managed either in another customer retention software or not really managed at all.
But wouldn’t it make more sense to continue the relationship in one platform, with a consistent and known workflow?
The possibilities for measurement, visibility, collaboration, and iteration are significant. So why do so many teams leave this value on the table?
Our guess: most teams just don’t think about it. Luckily, we have.
And we’ve compiled all of the major strategies revenue leaders should use to leverage their SEPs not just for customer acquisition but also for a collaborative, holistic customer success plan, ranging from the first conversation to that major upsell and beyond.
Your SEP offers visibility both to customer success and sales.
We understand that every organization has a slightly different way of dividing responsibilities between customer success and sales. And if you lead a team that isn’t directly responsible for creating and executing on a customer success plan, you might be tempted to tune out.
The truth is, the entire revenue organization should be concerned with creating a visible, aligned, and pleasant customer experience from the first marketing interaction to the critical renewal and upsell conversations that ensure your initial sales don’t flame out.
When the entire revenue organization works together to build their plays in an SEP, leaders of each capability can see what messaging customers are receiving, what promises are being made, what objections or challenges are coming up, and how responsive customers are throughout the entire lifecycle.
Without this information, your customer success teams are taking over (probably with a bumpy handoff) a conversation they’ve been no part of. And sales people are jumping into upsell conversations without critical context about how engaged the customer might be, the content they are responding to, and the questions they have asked before this point.
Not using your SEP for transparency between these teams is like tying one hand behind your back. It’s time to give your entire revenue organization a leg up and every customer a more personalized, smoother experience.
SEPs manage complex customer journeys so your people don’t have to.
B2B customer journeys are becoming more personalized and complex, mirroring the B2C experience more and more. Your revenue teams should do likewise, but this doesn’t mean every step has to be manual.
Your SEP is many things, including a workflow management tool. Clever minds build a winning play, and then it’s loaded in–copy, scheduling, reminders, and notes–for everyone to use without a second thought.
So if you have a post-sale strategy that reaches out once a month, including personalized notes, event invitations, resources, and other engagement tactics, your team doesn’t need a complex project management process to keep track. The SEP notifies them when a “touch” is due, and your reps never drop a ball.
Even better, SEPs monitor engagement. So, if a customer is viewing a particular message frequently, you can reach out with similar content or make a call to answer questions.
Customer success automation tools are out there to meet some of these same goals, but they’re separate platforms. If you go with an outside tool, then you’re still going to face visibility and collaborative challenges between branches of your revenue organization.
So do yourself (and your team) a solid, and use your SEP as a sales tool, customer retention software, and customer success automation tool. Trust it; it can handle it.
Personalization at scale is not just for sales.
Sales leaders want their valuable prospects receiving individualized or tailored messaging, but you can’t afford to let your reps recreate the wheel with every interaction.
That’s why SEPs sell like hotcakes; they balance personalization and scale, and they offer the same value for customer success teams who often rely on personalization even more than sales teams.
Customer success professionals are relationship managers, and they will not adopt a process or software that doesn’t allow them to customize their communications.
But, at the same time, they need enough of a defined process, including templates and other ready-made tools, to achieve this goal with a manageable workload. Your SEP is a great home for sequences or cadences, with as many manual email steps as your CS team requests, that manage their workflows.
And those manual email steps should have completely written templates already in place so your CS professionals can exercise their best judgment for when they can modify a few words and send or when it’s worth it to gut it.
When your revenue teams have the right sequences and cadences in place, including the customer success team’s major plays, it also allows for much faster onboarding.
New CS team members can log in, view the ready-made content, follow recommended workflows, and begin to personalize as they feel comfortable. This ensures that, while they are learning, they are working from a solid base and staying “on message.” But, as they become more and more confident, they can start to add personalization without killing their productivity.
Your SEP strengthens the sales and customer success relationship.
Sales and customer success are not known for rivalry (hehem, sales and marketing), but that doesn’t mean they work together like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Or maybe they do?
One shouts, “the game is on,” and runs off in hot pursuit. The other chases after, joining mid-case and trying to understand what’s going on. Okay, yes that does sound familiar.
Your SEP can help here, offering solutions to some of the more common problems between sales and CS:
- Unclear boundaries and responsibilities.
- Rough handoffs.
- Messy collaboration on renewals and expansions.
Establish clear boundaries and expectations.
Customer retention isn’t just about a smooth external process. It’s also about internal alignment, and that can’t happen if sales and customer success are overstepping boundaries and consequently stepping on each other’s toes.
For instance, if sales won’t give up a relationship once the handoff has happened, customers will be confused about who to talk to. And your customer success team will be (understandably) irritated.
Your SEP can referee here, facilitating a necessary conversation about the full customer success plan and what role each team plays in executing it. For instance, what is every step from the time someone signs a contract until their first renewal conversation? Who is responsible for each step? Where is there overlap?
Then, when you’ve defined your process, you can use your SEP to enforce your new guidelines, steps, and ownership.
For instance, settings within SEPs prevent the same prospect from being in more than one sequence or cadence at a time, so once customer success puts someone into a customer management sequence or cadence, sales can’t add them to their own play.
That’s why we counsel customer success teams to go into an SEP, as soon as a handoff happens, and “finish” the customer in any active sequences. Then, they can start fresh with their own outreach.
And if there is a sequence or cadence, which is owned by CS, but sales should be involved in a step (like an expansion call), then copywriters can add a generic task at that point, suggesting a collaborative conversation.
Or, if responsibility shifts entirely to sales, then the CS sequence can finish at that point. Building a trigger to begin a sales sequence or cadence will alert the sales executive that they need to step back in with that prospect.
If your team has unique challenges in the sales and customer success relationship, then we’re here to referee and provide the change management consulting you need to build a process that brings out the best in both teams.
You need these sequences or cadences to use your SEP as customer retention software.
If you’re convinced, and you want to start using your SEP for customer retention, then here are the first few sequences or cadences you need in your SEP.
Build several nurture sequences, with varying levels of investment.
Nurture sequences are the bread and butter of your retention strategy. These should cover the full lifecycle of account management, including every interaction a customer success or sales team member should have with a customer from the time of the handoff to expansion or renewal conversations.
The structure of these sequences will vary significantly between teams and contexts, but here are a few quick tips for you to pass onto the people on your team who build sequences and cadences:
- You shouldn’t reach out more than once a week, unless it’s a high-intensity period right before a renewal or expansion conversation.
- Make sure you set your SEP so it doesn’t “finish” the sequence or cadence when a prospect replies. You want a nurture flow to keep going no matter what.
- Build in flexible manual emails for your team to occasionally reach out with tailored product updates, event invitations, or new content.
- Schedule communications frequently enough that your quieter customers are hearing from you, even though they’re not raising their hands.
With these general practices in mind, here are the levels of investment you will want to consider building.
Churn Risk Sequence or Cadence
You will want to have a play prepared for instances when you have a customer who is at high risk of churning. You might finish someone in another sequence or cadence and move them to this one if you see an indication that someone is at a higher risk of churn.
If that’s your strategy, then this sequence or cadence will be structured differently. Rather than assuming a full customer relationship lifecycle, covering a year or so of time, this sequence or cadence will probably be short, high-touch, and used either to build to an “intervention” sort of call or a scheduled–but risky–renewal call.
This play will be highly personalized and focused on highlighting as much value as possible, in a short period of time.
Expansion Potential Sequence or Cadence
Like the churn risk sequence or cadence, a play intended for customers with the potential to expand (upsell or cross-sell) may be a standalone nurture sequence or cadence that’s higher-touch and more personalized, or it might be a flexible structure that your team can use when a customer indicates a higher level of interest.
If it’s the latter, then you will want to “finish” a prospect in the general nurture sequence and place them into this sequence for the final 90 days before a renewal conversation.
If the former, and you use this with all high-potential customers from the beginning, then you will still want to build in more personalization and higher touches, with the intensity also picking up for the last 90 days.
For the final stretch, your team should have a lot of opportunities–through manual emails–to present feature updates, events (whether live or recorded), and resources explaining additional value and potential for your relationship.
Traction Sequence or Cadence
A traction sequence or cadence is best used for brand new customers, who don’t yet have adoption or traction, or customers further along who are having trouble building momentum.
These campaigns should be heavy on resources about training, FAQs, and bite-sized value propositions your customers can use with colleagues to win them over. Those bite-sized pieces might be videos or customer stories from marketing or feature highlights.
No matter what the content might be, the goal is to get as many people as possible to adopt your tool, solution, or service. This is the best way to make yourself “sticky,” establish a long-term relationship, and prevent potential future problems.
Evergreen / General (Lower Touch) Sequence or Cadence
Let’s face it, there will be customers you just don’t know that well or who have purchased a minimal package, with little potential to grow their business.
In these cases, you don’t need bells and whistles. You just need a way to stay in touch and remind them when it’s time to renew.
For this purpose, and for a spine from which you can build your other sequences or cadences, you should have an evergreen nurture campaign in place that marks out your basic customer retention strategy.
The steps might include:
- A post-kick-off-call email to introduce the relationship manager (the sender).
- A monthly email with general content, like customer stories, a featured blog, or other “keeping in touch” content, which doesn’t need to be personalized or refreshed often.
- A renewal reminder at 90 days out. This might be an email nudge, in the lowest touch scenario, or it might offer a call.
- An email with renewal instructions, at 30 days out so they can complete it.
This sequence or cadence might end at the point that they renew, and then you can place them in a refreshed version of the same sequence or another general nurture campaign.
You need process and follow-up sequences (FUPs) to manage customer-facing workflows.
Getting a customer from the point that they “ink” a contract to renewal is a long process. There are a lot of forms that typically need attention, possible onboarding or training steps to get the customer ready to launch, and then ongoing relationship plays.
For the redundant processes, you can consider building sequences or cadences that automate as much as possible.
An example might be a post-sale sequence or cadence, which encourages them to schedule a kickoff meeting. Or, you might consider creating an “Oops, you missed your renewal date” campaign that sends frequent reminders to renew until the product or service expires.
Your team also has points in the sales, handoff, and retention processes that require documents to be signed, meetings to be scheduled, and other actions on the part of your customer. Using a follow up or process sequence here, which manages following through until those steps happen, saves a lot of time.
Invite customers to events or make product announcements.
Lastly, you may have special events, big announcements, or update notifications that you want to send to all of your customers. Sending these through your SEP helps with visibility and keeping the event at top of mind.
Sending a one-off marketing email or two isn’t a terrible strategy, but it feels a lot less personal. And because we’re talking about speaking directly to current customers, they deserve a more personal interaction with your company.
You can advise your operations team to set up these sequences or cadences so they can be sent at the same time as other sequences or cadences, so your customers keep hearing from you as part of the nurture motion. However, they can still hear–over a short and intentional period of time–about a special offering or announcement.
Your next step is probably a chat between your fellow revenue leaders.
In order for most customer success and sales teams to come together and adopt a strategy like what we’ve described, it takes a change management process. And that starts with a single conversation.
Are your sales and customer success teams willing to work together and give this a try? If so, then is there a small group of people (cross-team, if possible!) who would consider running a pilot? Pilots can be a great way to prove a concept, including mapping out a process and showing results.
This could include one or two account executives (heavy adopters of your SEP) working with a few customer success colleagues to build a nurture sequence or cadence, which includes collaborative steps from handoff to renewal.
While this route takes more time, particularly in the case of a long process like a customer retention play, the “proof” on the other side will be much more likely to encourage broader adoption across your revenue organization.
As with any change management undertaking, the end goal is worth the investment. If you need some support designing and executing that process, we’re here to help.
Just “swipe right,” and we’ll be glad to talk. We promise we’ll have a good “first date.”