Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Yup. I said it. Please allow me to explain why I'm asking you to stop compensating Sales teams for cross-selling and why I am instead asking you to help Clients buy.
Since subscription billing generally starts at the live launch of the solutions, many companies focus on that event and pat themselves on the back when it happens. Press releases, parties, and a whole lot of smiling faces, glad that 'it's over'.
But it's not over.
What happens after the live launch is even bigger and more important because it sets the tone for the relationship and if you do it well, you'll actually develop a partnership. Best of all, you will see cross-selling opportunities as the client begins to optimize their investments with you as early as year 2.
Your Account Team structure, roles and responsibilities are set up to reflect exactly how you have designed your Client Partnerships after the Sale so it's important to get it right. Let's examine two structures I've recently observed:
The account team is comprised of an Account Executive, an Account Manager and a dedicated Support Representative.
In this arrangement:
The Account Executive reports into Sales and is compensated for one metric and that is quota. Cross-sales are part of quota. There is no expectation of solution competency.
The Account Manager reports into the Client Operations teams and is compensated only on overall company financial performance. The account manager is expected to be certified on solutions and in a regular cadence of calls, is managing open tickets, talking about upcoming events and new product releases. This Account Manager is not financially compensated for retention or cross-selling into the account.
The Customer Support Rep also reports into the Client Operations team and may or may not participate in the company's performance management plan. The support rep is likely competent on product set up but equally likely has little exposure/experience with the client workflows. Frequent interaction with Clients and works closely with Account Manager on issues resolutions and ticket closure.
The Account Team is comprised of a Sales Director, a Client Success rep, and a dedicated Client Support Representative.
In this arrangement:
The Sales Director reports into Sales and is compensated for cross-sales but cross-sales are not part of quota. These resources have a sales-level knowledge of the product and may have sold at other similar companies but no platform competency is required.
The Client Success Rep also reports into Sales and has a marginal 'spif' (sales performance incentive fund) plan for cross-sales only. Year over year retention is a performance review metric and only recently was a financial bonus tied to retention and growth of assigned portfolio ARR. The Client Success Rep is a product expert and partners with the client to understand workflow and expected outcomes.
The Client Support Rep also reports into the Client Operations team and variable compensation is based on the company's overall financial performance. The CS rep is a back-end product expert but likely has little exposure to client workflows or expected outcomes. Engages with Client frequently but the process of closing tickets is not exactly streamlined, clear, or satisfying to Clients.
Company A is successful in selling to quota but clever is the Account Exec who knows how to sell a few SaaS licenses at the end of the quarter to meet quota. Ticket management/resolution is a mess for Clients. The company has a hard time developing references, has few published success stories, and clients do not rank their solutions well.
Company B is successful in creating better Client Partnerships but when two different parties have responsibilities for cross-selling and both parties are compensated (paying twice!), it creates a blurry client experience. Ticket management is better here but there is a history of ticket management being the only relationship clients have with the company and they haven't yet figured out how to up that game with clients. Company B does publish success stories with (newer signed) clients but still struggles with reference sites and overall NPS scores.
There's a better way, and there's help.
1. Create a culture of talking about Client's successes more than your own.
2. Make sure client-facing teams are set up for success with training and competencies. If there is a platform certification, make sure your cross-sellers are certified and competent.
3. Create a Client Journey Map and make sure the team has very clear roles and responsibilities for every interaction along the Client's journey.
4. Consider where CS belongs in the organization. Call me for a thoughtful conversation over (socially distanced, masked) coffee about why I don't think CS belongs in Sales. It can work in Sales but it's most important to understand the KPIs beyond a quota.
5. Consider how much the company values Client references, site visits and published success stories. You want (read: need) new sales so you already know you need it all. Prioritize these activities and compensate appropriately for achieving these results. A Net Promoter Score is a guidepost, not a trophy. Leverage the feedback to target achieving these results.
6. (probably the most important!) Understand how your Clients measure success. Then, create a trusted relationship that allows you to position products and services to support that success. In other words, help your clients buy more.
The real work with any client begins after Go Live so regardless of how hard it was to capture the sale or how complex the deployment was, focus on this critical stage: reward the resources and behaviors that drive the results you, and your clients, need..
Call, email or message upturn. We have the tools and resources to get your teams started on an optimal Client Journey that is sustainable and profitable.