Sales vs. Customer Success

The conundrum of sales talking to the buyer and customer success to the end user

“The customer is always right” is a well known mantra. But what happens when the customer is sometimes just plain wrong? How can we work towards bridging the gap between how a customer envisions a product and our own core product idea? You have to manage the differences between customer success and sales – with a clear idea of who does what – and acknowledge that the buyer of the product may not be the end user, or that the buyer may not have a great grasp of the intricacies of the product – as they simply bought the vision.

“It all comes down to managing expectations and communicating throughout”

Sergio Horton, Wiser

Sergio Horton, Wiser.

Sergio Horton at Wiser has experience in both sales and customer success. Getting these two departments to work together is not as easy as it may seem. The differences between how a customer sees a product and how a company sees it complicates this relationship further. A salesperson will try to paint the best picture of the product’s potential while a person working in customer success will focus on the practicalities of daily use.

“The person who bought it may never use it”

There are moments when these tensions between customer success and sales can be seen clearly. When a customer calls customer success to ask questions regarding how the product should be used is one example. “Sometimes it’s shocking. You just signed up for something, and you fundamentally don’t understand what it does.” How does this situation arise? Sometimes it is because the buyer simply does not understand your more complex product, in some cases they may in fact have been oversold, but most of the time it has to do with the fact that it is not the end user who bought the product.

“The person who bought it may never use it, they may never see it, but they saw the value.” Someone was able to communicate to him that this was going to make him more money and then it was passed on to someone else who actually has to use it.” The situation is rather absurd. Someone else buys the product for you, and as the end user, you are supposed to adapt quickly and learn how to use it efficiently. It is not difficult to imagine the confusion and potential problems. Instead of focusing on how your customers can use your product more efficiently, you will have to start by teaching your product from scratch.

Overselling, mismanaging expectations, or a lack of clear communication also causes confusion, says Sergio. “The people who are the most frustrated are the people that bought it to use themselves and thought it did one thing, and it doesn’t do exactly what they envisioned.” Instead of promising a product that does not exist, companies have to engage in deeper conversation with their customers throughout all parts of the sales process. This means having sales people accurately set expectations, validating the customer’s vision with a sales engineer, and then trying to make the best of a frequently dynamic situation and deliver value via your customer success reps.

The customer isn’t always right

Handling customer feedback has become increasingly important as SaaS companies have the ability to make changes that affect users immediately. Conversations with your customers in the initial phases, especially the end users are important to understand their problems. But you can’t put everything they ask for in your product. As everyone working in SaaS can relate to, the customer isn’t always right!

“No, it doesn’t work like that, we’re not making you a burger at Burger King. Someone who has years of development experience took many months to build this, you can’t just add something new simply because you conceive of it as easy to do, or a better option” says Sergio. Scaling companies have to prioritize new features based on the total revenue behind him, i.e. does one small client want this feature, or do you have multiple larger clients asking for it? You always have to listen to the money, particularly if you’re bootstrapping. Companies have to listen closely to what their customers want, but at the same time stick to their product vision. How can we find the equilibrium, the perfect middle ground?

“The real work on customer success is saying okay, you want something that we don’t have, or at least not right now. There’s a work-around in some way, and if you find that, most of the customers will be happy.”

So what can we learn from this? SaaS companies has forever changed the way sales works. Let the sales division sell and the customer success division start the conversation with customer feedback early on. Engage the end users from the start – if they can’t see the value during the trial, then why would they do it once they start paying?

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Madelen Arnesdotter
Madelen Arnesdotter
At Brisk.io, Madelen was in charge of all aspects of the customer journey, from customer acquisition to onboarding and support.

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