ArticleBest PracticesDecember 22, 2016
Customer Success at Your Company’s 2017 Sales Kickoff Image

Customer Success at Your Company’s 2017 Sales Kickoff

As you approach the end of your company’s year, if you’re like me, you’re probably juggling three things in parallel:

  • Closing out your (hopefully big) Q4
  • Planning for next year
  • Mixing in some holiday shopping and cheesy holiday music when you can

Somewhere in there, most companies are also simultaneously planning their next year’s “sales kickoff (SKO).”

The SKO is itself typically a mix of:

  • Celebrating the wins from the past year
  • Training the team for success in the coming year
  • (If you’re at a Gainsight SKO) Non-stop karaoke in the evenings

Encouragingly, I consistently see B2B companies now inviting their Customer Success Management (CSM) teams to attend their SKOs and in many cases, having their CSM teams present at them.

Indeed, at Gainsight several years ago, we made the decision to combine all of our SKOs together between Sales and Customer Success.

Mike Schmidt (VP of Sales, Gainsight) and I recently caught up and discussed the value of a joint SKO and how important it's been at Gainsight

I’m seeing leading Customer Success teams using SKOs for four separate, but related aims.

1. Motivate the CSM Team

Customer Success is an inspiring job. You are changing the way companies do business. You are at the heart of new recurring revenue business models. You are forging new best practices every day.

But it’s also a hard job. For a gross renewal rate, the best you can do is 100% and it only goes downhill from there. While you may be responsible for “churn,” you can’t control the expectations Sales sets during the sales cycle or functionality gaps in the product. And frequently, your calendar is full of “issues” and “risks.”

Top CSM leaders are using the SKO as a chance to have their team see the bigger picture. They are helping their CSMs understand how they fit into the company’s business model, sometimes inviting company investors or board members to present to the CSM team. They are helping CSMs understand the investments the company is making in Customer Success—the reinforcements are coming! And they are helping their CSMs understand the massive career opportunity in Customer Success more broadly. Indeed, at Gainsight, we are often brought into SKOs to talk to CSM teams about the growth in the Customer Success profession.

2. Take CSM Skills to the Next Level

At the same time, with your entire team in one place, you can use your SKO to up-level your CSM team’s skillset.

Many CSM teams are taking a page from the Sales playbook and are hiring trainers to come in and teach CSMs important skills such as “Challenger Selling,” effective email copywriting, or powerful negotiations.

As an example, check out our VP Customer Success’ tips on “soft skills” for CSMs.

3. Roll Out New Processes and Tools to the CSM Team

“Change management” is often one of the hardest parts of management. People get used to doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Top CSM leaders use SKOs to roll out new processes and tools like:

  • New approaches to onboarding
  • New Executive Business Review methodologies
  • New approaches to handling sponsor change
  • New ways of measuring and handling customer risk
  • New tools for Customer Success

On that last point, at Gainsight, we often see clients rolling out our solution at CSM kickoff meetings and approaching them like a marketing event to get the team excited.

4. Get Sales Excited About the Value of CSM

Speaking of excitement, CSM needs enthusiastic partnership from Sales to do their jobs.

We’re seeing the leading CSM teams asking for speaking slots in the Sales part of the kickoff meeting to get in front of the Sales team and talk about:

We’re also often asked to come in and speak to Sales teams about the value of Customer Success.

So as you’re popping champagne to celebrate a hopefully epic Q4, get the coffee ready to kickoff 2017 with Customer Success!

Picture of Nick Mehta
Nick Mehta Nick Mehta is Chief Executive Officer at Gainsight
3 Comments

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  1. Nelson
    Dec 22nd, 2016Reply

    Great Post and Great Timing!

  2. Rob Brewster
    Dec 22nd, 2016Reply

    Thank you Nick. Very timely and very helpful!

  3. Encouraging and motivating article, Nick. Let’s get 2017 rolling strong from the getgo with a critical focus and influence of Customer Success philosophy becoming front and center to the long term success of organizations. At JDA, we are on this evolution track. It will take time from a traditional mindset of sales being king but I’m hopeful the merits (and recurring revenue) speak volumes.

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