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How to Create the Perfect Handoff from Sales to Customer Success

14 min read11th of November 2022

A good start can set the tone for any journey. You jump on the train, find a quiet window seat, pop in your headphones, whip out your mocha choco latte and you’re ready to go – you’re all smiles.

A great sales-to-service handoff is a lot like this. You set the tone for your relationship right from the off with a seamless transition of the account from the sales team to the service team so the customer can sit back and enjoy the ride. 

But how do you do it? Close communication between your sales and customer services teams has a huge part to play, but there are also a few hints and tips we can give you to help your two teams operate as a single, seamless unit. 

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Why improve your Sales-to-Delivery handoff?

First off, let’s deal with the why in all this. Improving any business process takes time and effort, so why bother?

Developing a strong, organized and consistent sales-to-delivery handoff brings your sales teams, success teams, and clients together on the same page from the off. It helps you build an understanding and rapport with your clients, allows you to make progress immediately, and ultimately makes your customers’ and teams’ experiences better. 

Customers come for the product and stay for the great service, and how you start that service makes the world of difference. That’s why it’s so important to set the right tone and capitalize on the customer’s excitement and eagerness to get going with a healthy handoff process that creates an impeccable first impression.

The negative effects of an inefficient sales handoff

If you don’t get your customer success handover right, then as your prospect moves through to the customer phase, they can find that the enthusiastic “yesses” they received during the sales process mysteriously turn into apologetic “umm.. nos”.

When the sales handoff process doesn’t go smoothly, it immediately diminishes the credibility of your customer success manager (CSM) and causes the customer’s initial excitement to fall off a cliff. It can also leave the customer unclear about the next steps and without the support and structure they need to generate value from your product or service.

Poor professional service handoff practices can also cause issues internally, becoming a source of confusion and conflict between your sales and CSM. Finger-pointing and blame-passing can damage relationships and ultimately affect your ability to retain the best staff. 

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How to improve your Sales-to-Delivery handoff

A good sales-to-delivery handoff is no accident. With so much that can potentially go wrong, you need to develop a cohesive plan to make sure your process is airtight. Here are a few tips to help you get there.

1. Set expectations for your customers before you kick off a project 

Everyone loves to say “yes”, but setting unrealistic expectations during the presales process sets you up to fail. 

One of the first stages in delivering a great customer experience is listening intently to the needs of the customer and accurately explaining what your solution can do. Unfortunately, it’s common for sales teams to overpromise to prospective customers. Sometimes, this can be unintentional, say if a salesperson doesn’t understand all the features of a complex SaaS tool. The customer success manager is then left trying to salvage a relationship with a customer who feels they were misled.

So, how do you set better expectations for your projects and improve customer satisfaction? The key is to ensure the sales reps set realistic expectations and communicate them to the CSM right from the off. 

A good starting point is to develop an ideal customer profile that identifies what a ‘good customer’ looks like. This can help you avoid the ‘bad customers’ who have unrealistic expectations.  

You can also set customer expectations around the onboarding and handoff process well before signing any contracts. This starts with the sales team, who should reinforce details such as timelines and implementation requirements throughout the sales cycle. The CSM can then walk the customer through the onboarding process and the next steps during their introductory call. 

2. Standardize the information you need from sales for every project type 

The most reliable way to standardize the process is to produce a customer handoff document for each project that details all the key information that the sales team collects during the initial meetings and the customer’s goals. 

The key elements to include are:

  • Basic details: Provide the name, phone number, and email address of the account executive, the account manager, and the customer.

  • Contract information: Give basic details of the customer, including their size and sector, along with the contract signing and project start dates. It’s also worth including a copy of the contract for easy reference.

  • Initial discussions: Notes from all the initial discussions held between the sales team and the customer should be included to communicate expectations and ensure successful delivery.

  • Customer tools and processes: Detail what processes and tools the customer currently uses and explain why they have chosen to use your product or service as well/instead.

  • Goals and success: List what the customer wants to achieve by using your product, describe any obstacles that could stand in your way, and define the metrics you’ll use to measure success throughout the project.  

Taking the time to collect this information and making it available in an easy-to-access shared space creates a single source of truth that can enhance the relationship going forward. 

3. Define desired outcomes upfront as part of the project plan

Success can mean different things to different people, which is why it’s so important to define the customer’s desired outcomes early on in the process. If your customer handoff process is disorganized or communication between your sales team and CSM is lacking, this is the sort of key detail that can get lost in translation.  

From the very start, sales and customer success must be aware of what the customer’s end goals are. Properly understanding this instills confidence in your team and can often be the difference between renewal and churn. 

To do this, your sales team should ask questions about customer outcomes long before contract signing. And when defining success, be specific. Every customer will face unique obstacles, whether it’s a limited budget or a slow approval process, so factor that into your timelines and document the explicit and implicit promises you make to the client. 

4. Make your CSM/AM introduction part of your project plan  

Formalizing the introduction between the account manager and the customer helps to build a good relationship from the off and makes the customer feel like they’re in safe hands. It’s all putting the customer experience front and center during the handoff.

During the introduction, the sales rep should outline the details of the promises that have been made to the customer, tie up any loose ends, and reiterate the next steps and customer expectations. This can be followed by the initial call between the CSM and the customer to kickstart the onboarding process.  

In theory, this is a fairly straightforward part of the process, but it requires preparation to make sure the experience feels personalized. This introduction can help to dispel any doubts on the part of the customer and set the tone for the future relationship, so it’s important to get it right. 

5. Integrate your customer onboarding/PSA solution with your sales CRM

Proper documentation and knowledge transfer are key to successful sales-to-delivery handoffs. While a strong partnership between your sales and customer success teams is crucial when making the transition, so is the use of tools and solutions that can simplify the process. 

Integrating your customer onboarding solution with your sales CRM will help you manage the process by displaying all the customers’ information in one spot, automating customer touchpoint notifications, and providing you with timely cross-sales data. 

Having this type of technology behind the scenes can iron out the wrinkles in your process and simplify onboarding for as many customers as possible. And by automating the process, you can create a perfect handoff from sales to customer success that’s smooth, responsive, and attuned to the needs of your customers.

Smooth Sales-to-Service handoffs with Cloud Coach

If you use the Salesforce CRM platform then a native solution like Cloud Coach can set your sales and service teams up for faster, smoother, and more effective handoffs. It automates all the processes we’ve talked about above so you can spend more time delivering for your customers and less time on boring, manual paperwork. 

Click here to read our customer onboarding ebook and find out how Cloud Coach can help you. 

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