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How We Use Success Plans to Achieve “Predictable Value Delivery” Image

How We Use Success Plans to Achieve “Predictable Value Delivery”

By Allison Pickens

Allison Pickens is VP of Customer Success & Business Operations at Gainsight

Note to Gainsight Customers: This post contains links to Vault Assets you can import directly into Gainsight.

Have you ever heard the term Predictable Revenue?

Aaron Ross, the guru on sales pipeline generation, wrote a book by that name. He describes a methodical process that sales development reps (SDRs) can pursue to drive a predictable level of pipeline. The goal? Help sales teams predictably exceed their targets.

Sales teams aren’t the only ones who want predictable revenue. Customer Success and Renewals teams do, too.

Smart processes can help, including many that we’ve discussed in earlier blog posts on risk management,lifecycle management, and others.

Today, I’ll cover our value delivery process. Our goal? Help our CS team predictably deliver value to customers, which should drive our renewal rate, upsell rate, and sales reference rate, and thereby lead to predictable revenue.

We want Predictable Value Delivery. And we want to see solid evidence that we’re delivering value by exceeding our adoption targets.

For the last 6 weeks of Q3, we have a goal to move 20% of Yellow or Red customers into Green or Lime, as indicated by our Habits scorecard measure. Recall that Habits (blog on Habits targets) is our term for a type of adoption that signals that customers are deriving significant value from our product.

So, in other words, we needed a process that helps us predictably move customers from Yellow/Red to Green/Lime. Here’s how it works. Kudos to our CS Ops lead Barr for her role in designing this.

(Note: we apply the following process to larger customers, and to SMB customers primarily using a 1:many approach.)

Step 1: Conduct Strategy Session

The purpose of a Strategy Session is to identify the customer’s business challenges, then choose processes that can help them address those. We map Gainsight’s best practices to the customers’ pain points.

We created a CoPilot template to help our CSMs schedule strategy sessions. We invite to the session the Executive Sponsor, the Adoption Champion (typically a CS director or team leader), the Gainsight Administrator, and any other influential team members. Having the exec in the meeting ensures that we’re following the right strategic direction; inviting all the other participants above is important for ensuring buy-in across the team.


Before the session, we send the customer a slide with the most common business challenges. They mark off the 5 to 10 challenges that most resonate with them, and come to the meeting prepared to discuss those top priorities.

Blog post - Success Plans 1

During the session, we discuss best-practice processes to address those pain points. Then we engage in a consultative dialogue to cater those best practices to the customer’s particular situation.

To guide this discussion, we use a standard Strategy Session deck that includes slides on our lifecycle process, our risk management process, and several others; see below for a few examples.

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Step 2: Complete the Strategy Workbook

During the session, we share a Strategy Workbook with the customer. It shows the key decisions we’ve made on our CSM team at Gainsight about how to configure our own instance – the rules for our CTAs, the lifecycle stages, etc. It also contains a section for the customer to write down their own decisions.

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As a next step after the Strategy Session, we ask the customer to debrief internally and then fill out the workbook.

Step 3: Create Success Plan

We released a new Gainsight feature called Success Plans in September. Success Plans help you create a roadmap (sometimes known as account plan) for achieving your customer’s objectives. So it’s the perfect output of our Strategy Session.

After the session, we capture the customer’s top pain points as objectives in the Success Plan. We then have a playbook for rolling out a best-practice process for each pain point, which we can adapt to the customer’s situation as needed.

Success Plan

We then share the Success Plan with the customer to make sure we’re aligned, by taking a screenshot and copying it into a PowerPoint slide.

Step 4: Configure

If you’re a new customer, you’ve already purchased a Services package that will help you implement Gainsight according to your objectives.

If you’re an existing customer, even after initial onboarding, we want to empower your Gainsight Administrator to continually evolve your instance of Gainsight. We want to help him/her configure the best-practice processes according to the business decisions you documented in the Strategy Workbook. We’re creating detailed content for the processes that correspond to each of the 27 business challenges listed above. (You’ll have access to a ton of additional content from us over the next few weeks! View it on ourBusiness Processes support page)

For customers that need extra help in configuration, we’re offering Success Blocks, which are short 1:1 sessions with a Gainsight expert designed to help a Gainsight administrator with a particular use case. We also offer Managed Services, which is outsourced Gainsight administration.

Step 5: Track Progress

We’ll confirm that these processes are being adopted by tracking the customer’s progress from Yellow into Green/Lime. Then we’ll celebrate their success story at our Tuesday team meeting! (see our types of meetings in this blog post)

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And, ultimately, we’ll track our progress with each customer in resolving the business challenges they identified.

Success Plan check off

Step 6: Discuss Our Learnings

Every time a customer moves into Green or Lime, we want to know exactly why. What made them effective? What worked well in the Strategy Session? What needs improvement?

Documenting these lessons are critical to continually improving our Success Plan Process, so that we can chart for the customer a predictable path to value.

Stepping Back

Here’s our Success Plan process, end to end. What process will you design to achieve Predictable Value Delivery?

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If you’d like to learn more about how to use Success Plans to achieve Predictable Value Delivery, contact your CSM. You can also send questions or feedback to Allison at Follow her blog posts on Twitter at @PickensAllison.

Vault Assets mentioned in this post

(for Gainsight customers only)

Here are ready-to-use versions of what you’ve seen in this post:


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  1. Ryan
    Mar 2nd, 2016Reply

    I love this post, Allison. Thank you for providing this insight. Some questions for you:
    Do you have more detail on the process of identifying the customer’s business challenges, and associated goals?
    Do you strive for quantifiable challenges and goals?
    Do you put timeframes on those goals?
    How do you ensure that they’re the most valuable to the customer?
    Is it purely based on feedback from the executive sponsor?
    Do you try to gravitate towards goals that are more closely tied to ROI?

    Sorry for so many questions. This topic is at the forefront for us. Thanks again.

    • Allison Pickens | VP Customer Success & Business Operations | Gainsight
      Aug 2nd, 2016Reply

      Hi Ryan,

      Thank you for your questions, and I am glad you find value in our posts. I apologize for the delay in my response.

      Regarding your question on how to identify the customer’s business challenges: pre-sales is the first opportunity to discover these. Make sure that account executives are identifying customer’s objectives and documenting these for post-sales. These can serve as the foundation of a Success Plan in Gainsight. For more information, check out these blog posts on How We Use Success Plans and Nailing the Handoffs.

      We aim for goals to be quantifiable and SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound. This can include both ROI-driven goals (“We want to reduce churn by 5% by next year”) or more operational (“We want to set up 4 automated lifecycle touches by EOQ”).

      Right now, gauging success is still based mostly on feedback from Executive Sponsors.

      Hope this is helpful.