Account Plan vs. Customer Success Plan w/ CS Leadership Office Hours

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This is a podcast episode titled, Account Plan vs. Customer Success Plan w/ CS Leadership Office Hours. The summary for this episode is:
Aligning Incentives Appropriately
00:17 MIN
Creating a Stronger CS Seat at the Table
00:52 MIN
Connect to the Customer Organically
00:24 MIN

Bertel: What I would like to do now is identify one individual per group to share the overall thinking of this account plan versus customer success plan. Here is having two mindsets, one is retention and the other one is growth. How do you combine those two plan? It's a really broad question and I'm going to leave that off to you to share your point of view. Again, if you can share example of what worked really well and maybe other failure that would be greatly appreciated. So let's start with group one. Who was in group one? Jeff, do you have the... Okay, Blair.

Speaker 2: I'll let Blair take this one. All you.

Andrew: Go for it, Blair. You're muted, Blair.

Bertel: Blair, you are muted.

Andrew: Blair you're muted.

Blair: All right, here we go. Here we go. Yay buttons. We didn't actually spend a lot of time on the extra hour, but we kind of came to a pretty quick idea that an extra hour of sleep would be good for those of us that are getting three to five hours of sleep at night. So, that was the big answer on that. On the account plan versus the success plan, success plans have to be the main priority, the account plan kind of has tailed off after the acquisition side of things. There's some discussion about whether it's needs to be updated for your acquisitions or not, your expansions or not, but most of that falls more to the sales team than dedicated to the CSM time, just because of the sheer volume of lifting that the CSMs have just keeping the success plan going.

Bertel: Okay. And just bouncing on that. So how do you essentially with the sales team, how do you like, for example, how do you manage, who connects with the client and how do you define who's going to be the main point of contact under the strategy and maybe how do you plan to compensate each side? Like making sure that customer success is really aligned with, let's say retention and value added. And let's say the sales team really about growth.

Blair: Andrew, where were we with this?

Andrew: So...

Blair: Is it tough?

Andrew: The job of customer success of course, is to create the environment where the renewal, the expansion, the upsell can occur. Okay. And that's how they should be compensated the job of, and if you're doing your job right, then you're creating that environment. You're creating the opportunity for us to sell more, to renew more, to sell new solutions to that customer because we have helped them achieve their desired outcome. We have demonstrated the value that they're getting, they're getting a dollar$ 5, a dollar$10, a dollar$ 15 for every dollar that they're spending. Right? We have realized, we've helped them realize the promise of, that was made in the sales cycle. Right? It's creating that. I mean, from a compensation perspective, it depends, right. I think that there should be some shared responsibility for that. I think that there should be some shared risk if you think I was just talking about this yesterday with the team that I, with a group that I was training that if you think about it, the software business in particular, the software business has matured. We went from this license model where we got 80, 90% of the budget from the customer upfront to a subscription- based license model. Yet our compensation plan for sales has not changed. It has not evolved. And we're paying them everything upfront. You see where I'm going with this?

Blair: Yes.

Andrew: Yeah.

Bertel: So I guess a question for you, Andrew, when it comes to these retention and growth strategy, there is an ongoing ideas, when you have two separate entity, when you have a sales, I can measure OBD and then you have someone in customer success. So do you think that part of the strategy we should involve the customer success into pre- sales as well to present, to share stories on how the company provides value to its existing portfolio of client? Or do you think that our customer success should exclusively work on providing value to existing client and let the sales team, or the BD team handling prospects?

Andrew: I think it is. And I hate answering questions with" it depends", but it does. I think it depends on your product and depends on the customers you're selling to. I am a huge fan of getting customer success involved pre- sales and I have done that even before customer success was customer success. Back in the services days, I implemented models where we had services involved in the later stages of the sales cycle, right. To ensure that we were painting the most realistic picture for the customer. And we referred to it and we actually have a training program now about it on a call to outcome- based selling, right, where we're focused on the outcomes in the later stages of the sales cycle and that flows all the way through the initial implementation, the initial rollout and adoption. And through that long tail of that customer relationship that we want, because customer success is about that, driving CLTV, right. Sales is about getting them in the door. Sales gets them in the door, we keep them, right. And these days in the subscription economy, the" we keep them" part has become more important than sales getting them in the door.

Bertel: Absolutely. And it's interesting. I was reading an article about VC in 2021. So like last year, one of the top three, top five inaudible now, how do you, what's your retention rate? And that can be applicable to product, but how do you retain your current portfolio of clients? So that's, that makes sense.

Andrew: And this is why, and I'll stop talking here in a second and you know me, I like to talk, this is why it's so important that sales needs to have some skin in the game when it comes to retention as well. Okay. Cause they can just be throwing people all over the fence, right. Because they're very transactionally focused and that's not a bad thing. We want them to be transactionally focused. Right. But they need to have some skin in the game. With regards to that retention piece. One of my clients, we created these pods for their books of business. And that pod consisted of a senior account executive, a senior CSM, a couple of additional CSM, some analysts and their job was to manage that book of business, well selling and then growing it. And the compensation model was adjusted so that everybody had a piece of everybody else's objectives. Right. And that was incredibly for that particular customer, with their particular business model, which was very much a consumption- based model, very successful model for them. But the key was is that that sales had a piece of their variable compensation, tied customer success, and customer success had a pair, a piece of their variable compensation tied to sales. And when we align incentives appropriately, then people are going to act people will act the way their incentives dictate.

Bertel: I love it. And before we jump to the second group, thanks Andrew. I know a friend actually, who is leading a team of customer success trying to reduce the Wars between sales and customer success. And her idea was actually to switch seats for a weekend and sales team would exclusively to customer success and celebrate exclusively customer success sales. And for them to understand how both sides work and create some work together. Thanks Andrew. Group number two, please.

Speaker 6: So that was us, Boaz, Mike, Maria, and Lee Tyler. How are you, Bertel? Thanks again for being our facilitator today. We talked a lot about learning, learning as far as learning personally, it's all to do with that extra hour of learning, of personal growth, or professional growth. So no matter what, we're all eager about learning, and e definitely all see the value in being able to grow, expand our abilities no matter what and sorry to spoil the party here, but kind of agree with Andrew. We came out. It all depends. And it really does depend though, because we have a gamut in our group of different organization structures, different customer representation. It depends on how you want to really approach things, how you want to represent your people. Do you want to just look at them as buckets of revenue or are they organizationally structures that you can really form everlasting relationships with to really have that great potential to grow? And I think that a lot of us can all, the entirety of our room here can get on board with, again, exactly what Andrew just said. The ability to streamline that, because it's not only just to get the revenue in. It's the title of our forum today, it's to gain it, but to retain it and then grow it, because where else are you going to get your increasing revenues from if you're just piling it in and looking to just get it in and then completely disregard it once you have it, then you're never going to keep it. And therefore, you're never going to grow, your business won't grow. We had a thread mention in the community some time ago where sales had looked at a model to initiate back to sales. If something, if sales sell something that then becomes toxic later on, sales will then possibly lose part or all of their revenue on the deal, because, well, you brought something in that as again, as Andrew said, you have to have that eye for customer success, even when you're just executing the sale. And I've always been a proponent as well, to have customer success in there early, not only to help for form that relationship, to take the burden off of the handoff, but to also be there as a presence to say, okay, we're selling this let's fortify that let's make sure that we're selling as valid and that we can really get that fire lit early on the customer passion. I light their engagement, but then also to really get that ball rolling on the growing revenue before the revenue even really hits the table.

Speaker 7: One thing that we talked about, Mike, Mike Lee raised the topic that I thought was very interesting about how account plans and success plans are often very different, right? The account plans are driven by sales and they'll focus on generating dollars for us. Success plans are generally generated by the CS team and our focus on driving value to customers. And we talked about how much value there is to try and combine this into a single document, if at all possible to create the strongest tie possible between these two facets, right? The value the customer get from us and the value we get from them and how in different organizations, based on the culture of the organization, is it a sales driven, product driven, CS driven, et cetera. You might have a different power struggle over who control the document and who's driving that, et cetera. But the more correlation exists between the account plan and the success plan, the better we are in our part of the work, generating value to customers and deriving value to us from them.

Bertel: Thanks. Well, this is great. So one question, what are your thoughts about, so we hear you, and it's an ongoing challenge that any leaders are facing. Are we investing in sales pretending to be customer success? Is our customer success actually account managers. How do you compensate them? What are your thoughts when it comes to merging both plans, having to NTT, focusing on one growth, one retention, and working on the same spreadsheet, working on the same content to really align the boast of white space for the client, but at the same time where the clients get the most value, or essentially some people at some organization might do, just combine everything and said, let's hope it sticks essentially. What are your thoughts?

Speaker 7: I think this is one of those kind of age long questions that will never be funneled into a yes or no, a right or wrong. I think Jeff and I actually wrote a blog post about it, a few months ago, trying to assess and analyze when should CS on and drive commercial relations versus sales and where does it fit in organization, et cetera. And I think what you find out there, to be honest, is we are only part of the picture, right? We can dictate to a company what gets done. It has a lot to do with the culture of the company, right? The philosophy the CEO has in their mind or the founder, right. So we have to match to that. So I think that did the detail decision on who drives the commercial discussion, where does CS sit in sales next to it, et cetera, how things are decisions that we should influence, but we can't really dictate. What we can have much more control over is determining the operating mindset and therefore influence the culture. For example, if we have defined what the goals are for CS and what portion of that should be at the board level, at the senior leadership of the company, we are the factor influencing the culture, right? So pushing not just the revenue retention and whatever, but the value the customer will get from us. And it's not a necessarily or not just about revenue we retain versus term, but also the product expansion and value the customer gets from us. And if we create those elements at the level that the board is looking at, then we'll shifting the emphasis in the company towards more customer orientation, which in turn would help us create a stronger seat at the table. And that how you can scale the impact of customer success on doing it.

Bertel: Think about it. It's the chicken or the egg question like who came first? Are we starting with a product and then having a client's feedback, are we starting with a client then developing the product? The chicken and the egg. Love that. Okay, thank you. Thanks boys. I'm just trying to be cautious of the time. Let's move to the third group.

Stacy: I believe that's my group and I can speak unless someone else wants to jump in, but I was with Judy, Kaitlyn, Ben, Tim, and Josh, several of us had actually come from live events, moving into now customer service and software. So it's really great to kind of discuss that overlap of necessary skills and experience we've built on, right. Event planning is a very much after sales, right. And it's delivering on something they've been promised on, it's over- communicating, it's taking care of the customer. I currently am a director at a small SaaS company and part of my job duties is to build that connection between sales and customer service or support. It's making sure sales doesn't overpromise, but is selling, right. It's such a balance. And we really try and keep that communication open, right? I always tell my sales team, if you don't know something, ask us, ask customer service. If we have this feature, how it works, what they might need to keep an eye out for, how would you discuss it? I listened to a lot of conversations of sales and how they talk, right? They're just using different terminology. They're more aggressive. They're having those difficult pricing and payment conversations versus my support teams or customer service teams are empathetic and kind, and they listen and they're looking for solutions just back and forth communication. Really. If something is a persistent issue of a customer being unhappy about how a feature works, how can we change it? How can we pivot our support documentation? How can we change how sales communicates that to the customer? Again, we're really small so we have that benefit of going back and forth, but just trying to be supportive of each other too, and realizing we have different roles, right? If we've got a billing issue, put that to sales, like customer service needs to help that person, not be having these difficult conversations about pricing. And then unless someone wants to add something else, I'll just say that with the extra hour, people, our group was really smart and sort of reading and catching up on blogs and just educating themselves on customer service. A couple of folks like myself set an hour of sleep.

Bertel: I love it.

Speaker 9: Yeah, I did want to add something to what Stacy said and she represented our group quite well. But one of the things that we did talk about was the correlation between the account plan and the success plan. And one of the points made was that on the sales level, they have a more strategic view and the salesperson, especially where I work in the cybersecurity industry, that salesperson wants to remain on that level with those types of decision makers. But that needs to correlate to the implementation, the tactical plan, that the people that are subjected to that purchase need to face and while creating the success criteria strategically, it also needs to be correlated tactically to the people implementing. So you need to have understanding them on their level, the strategic people on their level, and then hopefully correlate the two. Otherwise, you end up in a situation where it could strategically make sense, but tactically, you have dissension or the people tactically are adopting it, but the strategic purchaser, the purchaser of that strategic level, isn't seeing their expected value. So part of our job in customer success is to span that gap and assist sales since so many of us work for for- profit companies.

Bertel: I love it. Yeah. I keep reminding our team that we are. com and not the. org. So thanks for that. One thing about, so just to jump back on what's this, he said, I love the idea of having the sales of a BD team working closely with the customer success. And I think appreciate the fact that we can learn from each other, the sales of the BD team learning a lot from the customer success. What is really top of mind is the industry based or we're working on supply chain. Today is the circular economy that is really top of mind, and to help them, the sales of the BD team to engage at the right level with the right talk track, but at the same time, learning as well from the sales team, how do we present the organization and bounce on that to really always deliver the value. Thank you, thank you, Stacy. Next group, number four, and we have another seven minutes together and I'm going to leave Jeff the last three minutes and we're going to take a snapshot. So we might not have the chance to go through all of the groups. So next one.

Brooke: Sure. I can do number four. We had Heather, Nancy, Steve, and Carl in our-. In terms of our extra hour, it was focused not actually on sleep. We were going to play more with pets, kids, exercise, and cook like a real meal sort of thing. So that's what we would do with just an extra hour in the day. I guess that would not be at midnight if you're doing any of those things, right. You got to add it in or in the middle of the day. As for growth strategies, we were talking about segmentation and how that can lead to growth strategies. We're also talking about, well, for me, I'm consulting. And so I'm helping a client as sort of a monetization to it, to add a subscription model to what was currently just an online education sort of inaudible. And I'm trying to think if anybody from group four, what were some of the other things we were talking about in terms of growth? Steve was there something that I missed? I know we did spend a lot of time also about meditation and other things.

Steve: We were definitely, we were definitely more focused on the side topics. Yeah, I think, I mean, from my perspective, a lot of what we're doing in the early part of this year is just trying to figure out how to segment our customers so that we can offer the right touches for growth for those customers we know we can grow. And for those customers that aren't growing at the rate we anticipate, how do we just keep offering enough stuff to keep them as customers?

Brooke: Oh, and also, I really liked, Steve was talking about how there was a customer that came to them with a, wanting some content around black history month and how to connect that to their product. And I thought that was a really interesting way connecting to the customer. And I think ultimately if you're organically connecting to the customer, you know how to grow their business with you. That was kind of, yeah.

Bertel: That segmentation is a recurrent, has been a recurrent topic for this conversation for Brooke. And I guess the question I have for you, and everyone is welcome to answer that, is the million dollar question, how do you, would you segment your client? Is it spending opportunities? How do you essentially able to poke at those client to align with specific features and deliverables? Where are you going to spend the most time? Where are you going to get to a sales team, taking the lead on the conversation? And when the customer success might take the lead on specific accounts?

Steve: I mean, from what we're focused on right now is really as part of the segmentation, not just looking at the size, but also the growth potential for our customers. So we have some customers that because of Coronavirus are growing exponentially, just because their business has been so positively impacted by Coronavirus. And so really trying to figure out where the growth, the huge growth opportunities are and pulling in the sales team for support on those. And then the CS team is really able to handle a lot of the raw employee, 10% employee growth kind of conversations, or slightly new products and things like that.

Bertel: Thank you. Thanks. We have another three minutes together. So I don't know if Jeff wants to get this three minutes back, but before we let him updating everything, I want to take a quick picture. So at three we all says, hi. Thanks, Doug. Jeff, do you want to, for the remain two minutes, do we actually take the boat?

Jeff: Yeah, I don't think I've got, nope. Not much more to add, but appreciate you helping to lead, Bertel, especially for the last couple of weeks and helping us get this over the line. I'm excited to spend the next four weeks with a view, planning out what our 2021 looks like and excited to bring back some more content, more ideas, some execution. So, I appreciate everyone, hope you all had a good start to 2021, and we'll see you in the community over the next four weeks. And pretty soon we'll be back here on a call and in March. So appreciate the time. We'll see you all soon.

Speaker 12: Hey guys, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the gain, grow, retain podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.