Selling to a new client is one thing; the service and retention work after the sale is another. But are the two things really all that different, especially if both lead to revenue and growth?
Chasing the sparkle of the new customer
Many companies seem to really lean into the sparkle of the new sale. In my past lives, all-hands meetings and sales training sessions always seemed to focus on new customers. We celebrated the new wins!
Meanwhile, other colleagues behind the scenes finalized contracts, set up system accounts, triaged complaints, worked on troubleshooting, answered calls, responded to feedback, and trained clients on how to use software and products.
The idea in doing those things was to:
Make customers feel successful, cared for, and appreciated.
Keep competitors away.
Uncover additional revenue, upsell, renewal, and cross-sell opportunities.
And yet this work never seemed to rise to the same level of celebration as the initial, sparkly sale.
The work was called customer success, or client team management. It is also now being referred to in some business circles as “customer aftercare.”
“Customers and clients… expect their vendors to help them solve their problems. Not just sign a contract and leave.”
-Heidi K. Gardner, Ph.D.
Customer Success: Where’s the party?
Many people can agree that caring for customers after an initial sale can lead to additional revenue opportunities. But why isn’t this work celebrated with the same gusto as new sales? Without the post-sale work, in some industries, customer churn can become an expensive problem.
I recently asked some people I admire to talk with me about this. I wanted to compare notes on what, exactly, customer aftercare entails and how it can be elevated in our business culture.
Here are three takeaways from those conversations.
1. Customer care after the sale is collaborative.
First things first. You need a collaborative process for caring for the client after the sale.
“Success in keeping a customer hinges on people combining their abilities,” said Heidi K. Gardner, Ph.D.
Dr. Gardner is a distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School and author of the book Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos.
“People who have different pieces of intelligence can create a collective system of insight about a customer that is more than the sum of its parts. Together, they can come up with greater solutions than one person alone.”
2. It sees the customer’s whole journey.
Next, you must see the customer’s whole reason for buying.
One employee’s job may be finished once the cash register rings. But the customer’s journey isn’t necessarily centered on that one moment.
“You have to look beyond,” said Allie Goldberg, CX manager with Better.com and creator of the CX Guru club on the Clubhouse social media app. “You have to be intentional and thoughtful every step of the way. Not just in the first impression.”
3. Customer success includes an expanded repertoire of sharable metrics.
Then, look at data. Everyone loves the look of new sales numbers. But new sales figures won’t tell you about the success of what happened after that initial sale. Therefore, the numbers you look at may need a revamp.
“Expand the metrics you consume and share within your organization,” said Michelle Batt, CCXP of Lead with CX. In addition to sales and revenue goals, consider integrating customer lifetime value (CLV) and other customer-focused metrics into your day-to-day operations and discussions.
“Then, start sharing data and data-driven customer stories with leadership and employees,” Michelle advised.
“Leaders have to build recognition, good and bad, of what can happen after customers buy.”
- Tim O’Keefe, CCXP
4. Leaders need to make customer care just as sexy as initial sales.
More than anything, I wanted to know from my colleagues: Why does it seem like serving customers after the sale is never as sexy as the initial sale, even when the revenue expansion opportunities can be more plentiful than the initial sale?
“It’s up to leadership to make it sexy!” said Michelle. “Leaders need to socialize these CX concepts and talk about successful renewals with just as much energy as initial sales.”
Tim O’Keefe, CCXP, account manager and customer success manager at Quantum Metric, agreed.
“It’s a culture shift for some sales leaders to understand the long game, past the initial sale. Leaders have to build recognition, good and bad, of what can happen after customers buy.”
Creating customer-focused processes, seeing the full customer journeys, establishing success metrics, and culture-building are all important components of caring for customers after the initial sale.
"In certain sectors, if you don't eventually show the commercial significance for what you've sold a customer, then what you've sold them is eventually going to be perceived as nothing more than a cool, unique toy,” Tim said.
It is thoughtful work and worth the investment. The good news is technology has made it easier in many ways.
“Customers and clients don’t want to be buyers,” said Dr. Gardner. “They want to be served. They expect their vendors to help them solve their problems. Not just sign a contract and leave.”