Updated: Dec 14, 2020
"We want to grow!" says every SaaS CEO. At $10M, there is rightfully a sense of pride. At $15M, they may become attractive to PE. At somewhere between $20M and $40M, the bloom comes off the rose and growth stalls. The cost to acquire a new Client increases and costs to retain existing Clients begin to dramatically rise. Vivek Sharma co-founded Movable Ink in 2010 and led the company through rapid growth to a leading market position. In this article, written in 2018, he shares 10 lessons learned during efforts to take Movable Ink beyond the $30M mark.
It is not surprising that Product (#1, losing the start-up spirit) and Sales (#2, implementing a playbook that has nothing to do with how their Clients buy), led Mr. Sharma's list.
But interestingly, #3 in Sharma's top-10 list is Client Success which he indicates is "so crucial to SaaS that you need to take this hire very seriously." Through Client Success (CS), your organization can assign accountability for the ongoing value conversation and one individual to take ownership of that client's entire experience. Let's examine some examples of how this shows up, or doesn't.
Clients can find themselves in what I call 'product jail' not long after the platform launches. They are stuck because they don't love the product but quite often, it's not about the product at all. I've seen countless examples where the product was only partially implemented to meet a timeline (or any number of other reasons) but once it's live, few Clients have time, people, money to work on more configuration that may require further workflow retraining. So the product may very well have the lovable capabilities but the client either doesn't know about them or implementing them is too disruptive and/or expensive.
Also along these same lines, within a year after production launch, Clients become experts on their platform beyond what the seller knows. A year into it, clients have often built workflow around faulty configuration, they've maybe even reconfigured outside of best practices if they have access/tools. Soon, they're opening up issues and flaws beyond what Support, Sales, Client Success and Professional Services could even imagine and the client starts shopping for answers with anyone they have contact with at your company or even other clients.
A low Net Promoter Score (NPS) is often caused by what I call the ownership goat rodeo. As a measure of Loyalty rather than satisfaction, this often plays out when Sales develops relationships at the Buyer/Influencer level within the Client organization and is then hesitant to broaden and deepen that relationship within their own organization. It could be compensation structure, it could be pride of ownership, it could be any number of factors but truth told, I've seen several organizations where Sales has trouble letting go after the sale. The trouble really begins when the compensation structure is such that cross- and up-sells are part of both the Sales quota and the CS team comp plans. Without clear ownership and responsibilities, the client feels the discord. Creating a client journey map can be very insightful to better understand who/how/when teams are engaging with clients.
Another way I see the ownership goat rodeo play out is when organizations confuse Client Success (CS) with Support. Ticket management is Support's role. I propose that if CS is managing tickets but isn't having value-added optimization conversations and helping clients to achieve outcomes measured against some important (industry, if available) benchmark, they're wasting your client's time and your company's money.
upturn can help you end the relationship goat rodeo and start on a path to meaningful ARR Growth and Retention. We know that each client interaction is an opportunity to create value. We've built high performing Client Success teams, we've converted at-risk accounts into retained ARR, and we have created NPS programs that span an organization by leveraging the concept of Every Client. Every Interaction. Every Time.
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