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5 Keys for Building a 'Customer Success' Team


To be a top-performing company in today’s marketplace, it takes more than rock-star sellers with a laser-sharp focus on revenue. It takes a diversified team of representatives from each and every department that touches a client’s account — from sales and operations, to accounting and client services. And, even more importantly, it takes a passion for customer success that drives every action.

Before we go over what works for building a “customer success” team, it’s important to identify what doesn’t work. Consider these three examples:

  1. At a shipping department at a manufacturing plant, product that was supposed to ship by the end of the month is left sitting on the shop floor. Customers don’t receive their items on time and the company misses its monthly numbers because the product remains undelivered and can’t be invoiced. Because the sales team is paid on invoice date, team members also miss their commissions and, in some cases, accelerator bonuses.
  2. A materials warehouse neglects to choose a second-in-command to cover the orders of new stock when needed. Therefore, each time the primary employee goes on vacation or calls in sick, raw materials aren’t ordered. This means the manufacturing line is slowed or shut down, and orders are delayed.
  3. A new marketing campaign is launched at a software company during a week when the sales team is out of the office. As a result, no one is available to answer emails or calls from prospects during this peak-interest time.

You’ve no doubt seen companies like the ones above. They’re siloed and competitive, built to drive internal requirements with goals and metrics that don’t align between departments. The customer’s overall needs, as a result, become less of a priority.

When you assemble a customer success team that’s cross-sectional, it’s crucial to incorporate the following five elements to avoid the trap above. These steps will ensure you’re built for customer success, which will lead your company to greater revenue success.

1. Eliminate obstacles

Your team should first identify the way your customers want to buy from you. For example, do they like to order online, in person, by text, or on the phone? Do they want a dedicated person to call or prefer to work with a team? Are multiple team members and specialists needed to help with the sale, or can one seller handle all the steps?

Ask your team to think like the customer. Have them examine every stage of the buying process to see if they hit obstacles that could cost repeat business. In other words, how easy are you to buy from? Most of my clients are shocked at the pinch points they find when their companies are mystery-shopped. For example, one client discovered that its  best customers, when they called the office,  were greeted with the question, “Are you a customer?” One person had been doing business with my client for more than 20 years. This certainly created a pinch point in the relationship going forward.

2. Coordinate customer success

The qualification process for turning a prospect into a customer should be aligned between departments — from sales to shipping. Keep track of each stage through a company-wide system such as an ERP or a CRM service. There’s nothing more annoying to a customer than having to repeat the same information over and over again to different people.

3. Be clear

Tell your customer that you have a cross-sectional team that aims to ensure satisfaction and success. Find out which metrics are important to them. For example, how quickly do they expect quotes when they call in for pricing? How accurate do they expect estimated order-delivery dates to be?

4. Act as host

It’s daunting to walk into a party only to find a roomful of strangers. The same can be true for your clients if they keep receiving calls and emails from team members they don’t know. Play host and arrange full introductions. It will build trust between you and the customer, which in turn will transfer to your cross-sectional customer success team.

One of our clients uses a simple yet effective tool for each prospect the company  transitions into a customer. They provide mini bios with headshots of all the people the client can expect to hear from or see on-site — everyone from the driver to the trainer to the recruiter. Having a sense of familiarity right off the bat increases the chances of having better relationships.

5. Enable decision-making

Give your team the authority to make quick decisions in favor of supporting the customer. The last thing anyone wants are excuses for why things can’t be done.

Think about those airline agents who decide, without a manager, to switch someone’s flight. Though it might go against company policy, agents help the customer because they can — saving the customer from waiting for permission from the higher-ups.

Team members who have the power to decide should also have the power to negotiate. Representatives can be given leeway on pricing, say, 5 or 10%. If there’s a situation where a customer wants to negotiate, team members should be able to work with that customer right then and there instead of having to check in with a manager.   

These five dynamics form the foundation of a customer-focused team — one that will help you qualify more buyers in less time. It’s a team that will create positive experiences for customers as well as stronger relationships with them. All of this, in turn, will help your company secure and sustain a top spot in the market.

Once you understand why you need the “nos” — and actually seek them out — you’ll uncover objections, make the tough calls, and find creative ways to break through walls and barriers that before stopped you in your tracks. Nice guys don’t finish last — quitters do. Just ask the Cowardly Lion.

To be a top-performing company in today’s marketplace, it takes more than rock-star sellers with a laser-sharp focus on revenue.”

Colleen Francis | Owner, Engage Selling Solutions

Learn More

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Sr AVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce
Why It’s Now or Never for Social Selling with LinkedIn’s Mike Derezin Interviewed by Laura Fagan,
Product Marketer, Sales Cloud, Salesforce
Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
Author of "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"



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