Customer Sales Process: Growing Revenue with Existing Customers

March 11, 2019 | Drew Smith | No Comments |

Sales Process Alignment Introduction

This is my final post about the customer marketing process area of LeadMD’s customer marketing framework. Sad times, I know. What started with our Chief Strategy Officer, JT Bricker’s outline moved swiftly into my detailed explanation of the Customer Lifecycle process (the second column from left in blue below) and followed with Scoring. We aim to make things easy to follow and thus, in this next piece, I’m taking on the next portion of our Customer Marketing sub-framework in process: Customer Sales Process Alignment. Okay, technically I’m skipping over routing, but that’s only because it’s included in this post.

Before we dig into the process considerations for sales process, take a moment to review the sub-framework below. You don’t necessarily need to have every rectangle competed from top left to bottom right, but we advise it.

Customer Marketing Framework

Customer Marketing Framework

The Difference Between Sales Process Alignment and Lifecycle

If you read the Customer Lifecycle blog, we talked about involving your sales and customer success teams to inform your Lifecycle (both pre and post-purchase). Because you followed along and did that work, you’re a step ahead of the game. If you didn’t … well, you definitely need to now. Below is our best practice lifecycle, taking into account an ABM and demand generation hybrid approach.

Customer Lifecycle Model: Hybrid ABM and Demand Gen

Customer Lifecycle Model: Hybrid ABM and Demand Gen

Look at the above lifecycle process. Pay special attention to the middle, where “Advocacy” points up to “Sales Accepted.” Gainsight talks a lot about the customer success, marketing and sales funnel. They like the hourglass visual (see here), but we’re all saying the same thing. If you want to hear more about the customer success and marketing funnel from Gainsight’s CMO, check out our video interview with him.

This one simple arrow involves a lot. It essentially represents your Customer Sales Process.

Defining Your Customer Sales Process

We gathered sales’ and customer success’ input on the Lifecycle. We also involved them in the QA process, and we communicated the launch plan… but what about making sure that their process works in tandem with the Lifecycle? Yeah, we haven’t done that yet. That’s what we’re doing now. What do you think happens if we skip this step? The Lifecycle breaks. All that work for nothing…

Let’s schedule a meeting, or three, to discuss.

Meeting Attendees

I bet you can guess who is going to need to be in this meeting. Yep!! The same people we involved in creating the Lifecycle:

  • Sales. If these guys/gals are involved in the upsell/cross-sell process, we’ll need their input on what makes for a qualified sales opportunity.
  • Customer Success. This team will be very helpful in helping us understand what makes for an engaged customer and what makes for an at-risk customer. They will also be able to provide input on what makes for a real upsell/cross-sell opportunity.
  • Customer Sales. If the upsell/cross-sell of existing customers doesn’t fit into the responsibilities of either of the above roles.
  • Customer Marketing. If you have people dedicated to advocacy, referrals, email communications, etc.
  • Accounting. These folks can tell us if there are any data points that relate to an especially unhappy customer. This team can tell us about late payments, disputes, etc. that may be used to determine if someone is at-risk.
  • Customer Support. Generally, this division is separate from customer success. Support, like accounting, is an area where customers will either be overjoyed with their experiences or absolutely hate it. Keep in mind, when your customer is accessing support, they are extremely vulnerable and likely in a state of extreme to mild panic. These folks can again provide data points or behaviors that indicate someone that is thrilled with the product or very dissatisfied. You’ll need a deep understanding of how their support data is structured.

Customer Sales Process Meeting Objective

What will we do in these meetings?

  • Review the Lifecycle we built
  • Identify all areas where the sales process needs to change in order to align with the Lifecycle
  • Discuss those changes and how they impact the sales process
  • Make decisions about what those changes will be, who will own them, and how to train the sales teams on them

That all sounds super simple, right? It’s not. See… we created a Lifecycle that includes stages for customer marketing, which may include stages like Onboarding, Adoption, Advocacy, etc. But, we haven’t always been actually doing those things in a process-oriented manner. Here are some example questions I ask clients when we work through a customer sales process with them…

  • Do you have a formal, consistent customer onboarding process? Or, is it informal, and inconsistent?
    • If it’s formal… okay, be honest. Does every customer go through the same process, with minor tweaks based on feature sets and tiers?
    • Do you have onboarding documentation that is sent to all clients?
    • Do you have an internal project kickoff and a kickoff with the client?
    • How many meetings does it consist of? What is the meeting cadence? What is the purpose of those meetings? Do your customer love them?
    • Who owns the account during onboarding? Everyone is not an answer. Remember when I said routing is part of this? This little bullet is that piece. It’s so custom to each company that it didn’t seem to make sense to write a whole blog for it. So, ask a lot of questions and determine who owns the person and the account at each stage of the process.
    • Are you capturing customer objectives at the beginning of onboarding and seeing them through?
  • What transitions a customer from onboarding to adoption?
    • Is there an onboarding close-out meeting and an official transition to customer success?
    • When does that take place? Is it based on specific items being complete? Or, is it subjective?
    • Who owns the account during adoption?
  • How do we identify when a customer is ready for an upsell or cross-sell opportunity?
    • Who identifies that? How is that communicated to the team/individual responsible for selling?
    • What is the process for selling that new opportunity?
    • Who owns the account during the new opportunity cycle?

When we created the Lifecycle, we didn’t address all of these questions. We assumed they had answers. This is the point where we specifically answer these questions… and any others that come up during these meetings.

And don’t worry if you can’t answer some of these questions, that is the point. You must answer them in order to proceed with the finalization of the process and ultimately the operationalization and rollout of it.

Tracking the Process

Quite possibly the most important question to answer while you’re going through this process is, “How will we track these processes?” Make no mistake, “tracking” is a meticulous objective. It means having conversations about workflows and data value changes. These are in-the-weeds types of conversations, because in the weeds is where all the magic happens! Achieving a 360 degree view of your customer post-purchase is incredibly valuable, but it’ll require grit and determination and lots of painful, detailed documentation.

If you’re unable to track a customer’s journey from brand new customer to stark raving fan of your product(s) and/or service(s), you’re unable to maximize the value of your current customers.

How to Operationalize Your Customer Sales Process

Operationalizing your sales process—once it’s been aligned to your customer marketing process—is mostly going to take place in CRM (Salesforce, Dynamics, Sugar, etc.), with some support from a marketing automation tool, like Marketo.

How do you figure out which tool should be used, and how to operationalize your process?

Step 1: Document Requirements

Once you’ve identified what needs to be done, you need to take those ideas and turn them into specific requirements. Requirements should be stated in the format of, “As a {insert role}, I need to be able to {insert requirement}, so that {insert reason}”. Requirements should also be denoted as “Need to have” versus “Nice to have”. This enables us to determine which requirements take priority over others. We even have a template available to build your requirements. Check it out here.

When our requirements document has been created, we need to circulate that throughout all of the effected groups to get sign-off. This is how we finalize the series of requirements that will lead to our solution. It also makes sure that we give each effected team a chance to have their voice heard.

Step 2: Create the Operationalization Plan

A good requirements document usually leads to a plan fairly quickly, because it eliminates all the noise. This planning document, or solution document, usually takes the shape of a Word doc that verbalizes exactly how we’re going to build a solution that facilitates all of the requirements we documented above, with specific call-outs and references to the requirements being solved.

During this stage, it’s also good to map things out. A Lucid Chart of how a person flows through your customer sales process helps immensely. This chart should be referenced throughout the solution doc frequently. It will look very similar to the Lucid Chart you built for the Lifecycle… but zoomed in on the customer sales process.

These two documents should be sent, again, to all stakeholders on all teams. We need to make sure that they don’t have any questions or concerns with our solution. The folks with their hands in the process every day are those that are best able to identify any areas of concern.

Pro Tip: When building this solution, you need to think about CRM and Marketing Automation, but also all other systems implications. For example, Marketo interacts best with the standard objects in CRM. Building custom objects in CRM may affect how you can report on things in Marketo and also how things like invoices are created in your accounting software.

Another Pro Tip: Don’t just think of the CRM and Marketing Automation aspects here though. Also think through customer documentation. Do you need a formal onboarding plan because you don’t have one? Now is where you create that. Do you need a customer learning platform to help customers get trained on your solution? Think of this as your excuse to outline these backburner items as well.

Step 3: Start Building

Since we’ve focused on building things in Marketo in the previous blogs, I’m going to focus this section on building out in Salesforce (as it’s the CRM I know best).

First things first, you’ll need to build out all of your custom fields on your standard objects. Then, move on to your custom objects, and the fields on those custom objects.

Automate, automate, automate

Manual processes are the most likely to fail, because they require a human being to take the exact same action every time. People don’t always do that. Sometimes, it’s because they forget. Other times they get busy and find shortcuts. And sometimes, they don’t agree with it and just don’t do it.

So, we want to automate processes as much as possible. How can you remove the human element from the process?

Use Process Builder, use flows, workflows, formulas, Apex code – even Marketo or your other marketing automation platform – to automate as much of your process as possible.

For example, if you want a new customer to receive a welcome email within 48 hours of signing their contract, take the email deployment out of the hands of a person. Just automate that email either through SFDC or Marketo. Or, let’s say that your new customer should receive a survey asking them to rate their onboarding experience upon onboarding completion. Why would you manually send that? If you’re able to track when onboarding is complete (and you should be able to), just trigger that email to be sent 24-48 hours after onboarding is complete. Done.

Did I mention that you should build this in your Sandbox first? Yeah, build it in your Sandbox first.

Step 4: Check… 1, 2, 3

I think you know how this goes by now. When you build something like this, we need to QA it. Nobody gets it 100% right on the first build. So, QA every aspect of your build… the manual stuff, the automated stuff… all of it.

And, just like with the Lifecycle, ask the people with their hands in it to help QA. They’ll find the issues. Trust me… it’s how they make money. They’ll find the issues.

Step 5: Create a Launch Plan

This process is likely to affect a lot of people on a lot of teams. So, we need to have a solid launch plan in place. Your launch plan should include the following.

  • A launch date
  • A training plan
  • Training materials
  • A “what do to if something goes wrong” plan
  • A measurement plan and cadence
  • A plan to collect and evaluate feedback on the new strategy/process

In other words, you need a full launch plan. If you think launching something like this without a launch plan is going to work, you’re going to fail. Hard.

Step 6: Launch

It’s launch day. We’re rolling out our new process. We need everyone on all teams to know about today. An often unsung hero in successful projects is hype. Your job as a project manager or leader or whatever title you like is to generate excitement about this new thing. You’d be surprised how simple positioning and storytelling can help the success of your project. In this oldie-bit-goodie post from Axero, an employee engagement software, they outline the following ways to generate excitement for internal projects:

  • Use video
  • Use social media
  • Have an open door policy
  • Setup a Wiki
  • Establish and drive metrics
    • They don’t say it, but gamification here helps tremendously
  • Communicate up and across

Everyone involved (and maybe even some people who aren’t) need to know what exactly to do if something doesn’t work exactly the way we expect it to (hint… it’s not to freak out).

With all of our QA efforts, we shouldn’t have any launch day surprises… but even with the best QA efforts, something may slip through the cracks. Have people on deck to handle these issues rapidly, if any come up.

Step 7: Measure

By this point, you should know exactly how you’re going to measure your new processes. If you don’t… go back to step 2. That’s where you do this.

With your measurement plan in place, you should have also already built all of the reports and dashboards you need to do this measurement? Yeah, that was part of step 3. Monitor these reports and dashboards regularly. And again, if you can gamify the results, it increases buy-in.

When you first launch, you’re going to want to watch these things daily and weekly. They may help identify if something in your process is failing (you built “fail reports” right?) or if something isn’t working exactly how we anticipated.

After a while… when your process has been in business for a while… you’ll be able to reduce this to biweekly or monthly. Ultimately though, we need to measure this on a monthly basis, at a minimum, once the new process is fully operationalized.

Now, when we talk about reviewing reports, it’s not just to look at raw data. Reviewing reports should include actual analysis. What is the data telling us? If it’s not telling you anything, you have the wrong reports built.

We Stand In Your Shoes

One of LeadMD’s core values is to stand in the shoes of others. As we’ve mentioned previously, you’re going to get some feedback on how the new process works… both in strategy and in execution. Some of that feedback is going to be negative… and some of it may not be delivered very… tactfully.

We can’t be afraid of that feedback or reject it. We need the bad feedback as much as the good feedback… maybe even more. So, let’s stand in the shoes of the person delivering that feedback. It could be affecting their ability to do their job, or make money (in terms of sales).

Iterate and Optimize Your Customer Sales Process

When we get that feedback, let’s turn that into ideas for ways to continue to iterate and optimize on the new process. These things are never “done”. You never mark these off your to-do list. We should expect, and therefore plan, to make periodic adjustments along the way.

While we have a monthly reporting cadence, you should plan to have a quarterly optimization schedule. Surely there are things that we can execute to on a quarterly basis to improve your process, right? Of course there are.

Reporting on Your New Process

Let’s talk a little bit more about reporting on the new process. Reports should be built to answer questions, so that we can use those answers to create insights and key takeaways. What kinds of questions should we be answering about our new, or at least newly refined, customer sales process?

  • How long does it take an average customer to complete onboarding?
    • What’s the shortest?
      • Why was it so short?
        • If it was a good thing, how can we replicate that for other customers?
        • If it was a bad thing, how can we prevent it in the future?
    • What’s the longest?
      • Why was it so long?
        • How can we prevent it in the future?
  • How soon after onboarding do our customers become fully adopted?
    • What’s the shortest?
      • Why was it so short?
        • If it was a good thing, how can we replicate that for other customers?
        • If it was a bad thing, how can we prevent it in the future?
    • What’s the longest?
      • Why was it so long?
        • How can we prevent it in the future?
  • After onboarding/adoption, how long does it usually take for a customer to be ready for another sales cycle, either upsell or cross-sell?
    • How can we speed that up?
    • Where does marketing influence that?
    • How does onboarding influence that?
    • Where do customers get stuck in the process?
      • Can marketing help that?
      • How do we avoid customers getting stuck?
  • What is our churn rate?
    • What are leading indicators?
    • Lagging indicators?
    • What steps can we take to reduce churn?

In Conclusion

It’s been a long process, but your sales process is now aligned to your Lifecycle and customer marketing process. This is such an important step, for many reasons. The integrity of your lifecycle is at stake. Your reporting is at stake. Your current customers are at stake.

This also gets your entire organization operating in unison… as a single unit. With the automation in place, steps aren’t forgotten or skipped due to individual human pressures. Every customer gets the same experience from contract signing through to buying their next product/service… every time. That consistency helps customers know what to expect and when customers know what to expect, they’re more likely to be satisfied customers.

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