Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Customer Success: Why Customer Success Cares About Sales

Last Updated September 26th, 2018


Like a well-oiled machine, a company experiences the smoothest forward movement when all of its parts are working together. However, we still (and often) forget along the way that we’re all heading toward the same destination. Many companies struggle to find harmony between their Sales and Customer Success teams, and some may even conclude that they have differing objectives… but this could not be any further from the truth.

Ultimately, both Sales and Customer Success pursue, assist, and maintain customers. And when it comes to selling a subscription-based product, the customer isn’t done after the sale or the onboarding process; their journey can continue by becoming a loyal customer through upsells, referrals, etc. When Sales and Customer Success align, the things they care about change for the better; together, these two are chasing the combination of numbers and success – customer success.


Where’s the disconnect?

The biggest problem: Customer Success and Sales have different goals. Customer Success aims to assist the customer and help them achieve their desired outcome, while Sales wants to win the sale. Trying to get these two into the same boat while separately maintaining their goals does not always end well. Does Customer Success also deal with numbers? Sure, but these numbers reflect customer experience – Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer satisfaction, and churn. Sales knows that these metrics are important, so it’s about finding a way to incentivize behavior that will drive Customer Success metrics without compromising the Sales process.


Why does Customer Success care about the sales process?

1. Salespeople are the first human-to-human interaction during the customer experience.

They are the first to speak to the customer, which is huge. Sales will be setting expectations during a time where the customer is paying the most attention, and setting the stage for the best customer journey possible. This is an opportunity for the salesperson to listen, prescribe, and coach.

2. Selling to the wrong customer will ultimately result in churn.

Customer Success professionals can help salespeople build a persona to teach them who their best customers are. Customers that are a bad fit are expensive. If you’re spending more time on the right type of customer, you’re more likely to close deals because you’re not spending time on leads and customers that won’t convert, and it takes less time to sell to the right customer than it does to persuade the wrong one. More money and reduced churn = win-win.

3. Building trust comes from transparency – not promising things you cannot deliver.

Most salespeople aren’t trying to be dishonest – but some are not highly trained on how the product works. Having salespeople build a connection with customer care ensures being clear about how a product works and what it can do. Try implementing a buddy system; pair a salesperson with a designated person from your customer care department to help set the proper expectations on the front end.

4. Focusing on customer success is better for the company overall.

When the idea of customer success is front-loaded, things can only get better – because happy customers give more referrals. More referrals lead to more sales, and more sales make salespeople more money, and happy existing customers reduce churn, and reduced churn equals less money spent in marketing to acquire new customers.

5. It opens communication between departments.

Communication and collaboration between Customer Success and Sales is a must for the relationship to work. So the more Customer Success Managers (CSMs) and salespeople work together, the more Sales will hear stories about the right people winning…and the more CSMs will get more of the right customers.


How do we bridge the gap?

Bridging the gap between Customer Success and Sales isn’t exactly cake. There are salespeople out there who don’t even know what customer success is, let alone why it’s applicable to their work, and that’s completely normal. The key here is to draw the connection between Customer Success and winning more sales, so we need to remember to take care in connecting the message to our sales professionals – that is, to show them how these broader concerns will help them reach their personal goals and win more opportunities. That’s for another (coming soon!) conversation. In the meantime, how are you and your organizations bridging the gap between Sales and Customer Success?


Interested in more Customer Success articles? Check out 6 Technology Platforms to Help Rehumanize the Customer Experience. 

Donna Kelly | About The Author

Customer success, content strategy, and thought leadership. Writer, editor, content creator. Level 97 vegan and dog mom. Lover of the written word, helping customers succeed, and food. Background in military, SaaS, communication, marketing, and PR. Senior Content Operations Manager, BombBomb. BA, Ashford University. MA, Johns Hopkins University.

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