The beginning of each new year invariably brings with it a lot of change. This change manifests itself personally via New Year’s resolutions (I write this on day 5 of my health food cleanse), and professionally via career changes and general organizational restructuring.
We at Gainsight find that the beginning of each calendar year signals a peak in the volume of Sponsor changes within our customer base. It goes without saying, that losing a sponsor is a critical risk indicator. The need to act quickly, with a methodical and consistent approach to this change, is imperative in ensuring ongoing alignment and success with our customers. We recently rolled out a new Sponsor Change Playbook, to solidify our approach for handling each sponsor change scenario.
Our objective in addressing sponsor change is to welcome each new Sponsor into the Gainsight partnership in two primary ways. First, via strategic engagement by sharing the business value of our solution and ensuring alignment with the Sponsor’s vision. And second, by making them feel welcome to the Gainsight family and community.
Strategic Alignment & Business Value: We aim to conduct an initial one hour meeting with our new Sponsor, to recap the partnership and to align on objectives. It’s imperative that we nail the content for this initial meeting - we know that Execs have varying interests in terms of what they’d like to see covered.
Some Sponsors may be newer to Customer Success, and want to understand big picture & best practices. Others are more technical in nature and want to drill into the details of their particular Gainsight Instance.
To ensure we accommodate for these variances, we outlined 4 building blocks we can choose from, which will inform the meeting content and flow. Our CSMs provide these 4 options to each new sponsor via a standard introductory email we recently created.
All meetings will begin with a standard Gainsight introduction and recap of the partnership to date. However the remaining content will be determined by the Sponsor’s choice of the following areas of focus:
- General Partnership Overview: High Level overview of what's been configured in Gainsight and your team's usage of the product
- How a VP of Customer Success Uses Gainsight: Best practice discussion about how Execs use Gainsight for reporting, visibility & to drive productive team meetings
- Strategy Alignment Overview: We’ll present the core value drivers of Gainsight and allow you to hone in on what’s most important for you. Coming out of this session, the goal will be to ensure we outline a Success Plan to drive towards each core objective
- Overview of Your Gainsight Instance: Review the core areas that have been configured in your Gainsight instance and the business impact of each
We also built this grid as a reference for CSMs, to help determine the right meeting content based on customer need.
We’ve had positive customer feedback based on our approach to tailor the sessions in this manner - we’ve also noticed an improvement in the quality and outcome of meetings.
In many cases, the customer will want to receive follow-up sessions which cover other building blocks (for example, we often conduct follow-up sessions on #2 “How a VP of CS uses Gainsight”, after delivering #1 “General Partnership Overview”). We consider this very positive, as it signals engagement and starts to build stickiness with our new Sponsor.
Welcoming the Customer: We want to welcome each new Sponsor to the Gainsight family and community in a manner that is consistent with our company culture and values. We have a few steps in our New Sponsor Playbook aimed specifically to do this:
- Gift Baskets! - We send a gift basket to our new Sponsor to welcome them to the relationship and to let them know how happy we are to be working with them
- Peer-to-Peer Reference - We proactively partner the new Sponsor with an Executive at another customer of ours, so they can learn about how Gainsight works in other organizations, and start to build connections within the community
- Content & Best Practice Sharing - our CSMs immediately add the new Sponsor as ‘Decision Maker’ within our contacts database. This flag incorporates them into the list of recipients receiving communications re. best practice materials, webinar invitations & upcoming events
Our Company Risk: Loss of Business Sponsor Playbook incorporating these core components can be found below. You can also download this playbook directly from Gainsight Vault, where we make best practices content available to our customers.
In addition to running the right play with the customer, we also need to ensure that the Sponsor change is a risk that’s flagged and understood internally. Our team has a Sponsor Change Risk CTA, which includes our new Sponsor Change Playbook. The CTA is triggered either in an automated fashion via Sponsor Tracking or created manually by the CSM (in situations where we find out about the change prior to the Sponsor updating social profiles).
The presence of a Sponsor change CTA will impact our Company Risk scorecard measure and will be visible to our Leadership team in their weekly Scorecard review. See details around how we manage our scorecard risk framework here.
While handling Sponsor Change scenarios can be time consuming, getting ahead of the change with the right message is an investment that will be well worth your time. If you can manage this change effectively by helping make your new Sponsor successful, you stand to gain an ally within your customer base and also a supporter within the broader community. So consider your new sponsors as potential new advocates for you in the new year, and think about how you and your team can help make that happen!