Updated: Apr 18, 2019
As soon as the deal closed, the team jumped right into implementing the product. No wonder the business objectives weren’t met; the internal and customer teams were tangled in the technical challenges of implemention. Besides, goals and success metrics were never discussed with anyone beyond the sales rep.
Holding and nailing a handoff meeting with new customers is critical to set you and your customers up for success. Lincoln Murphy from Sixteen Ventures insists, it’s critical to nail your handoff meetings so your customers don’t fall through the cracks. When it comes to onboarding, don't use hope as a strategy. Instead, prepare for and deliver an impactful handoff meeting.
1. Have a Purpose
The handoff transitions a new account from Sales to the post-sales teams. The goal is to immediately engage new customers, so they quickly reach their business objectives for buying your product, then renew and buy more. The handoff meeting fulfills this goal in the following ways:
Customers build trust with sales reps during the sales cycle. Then, when the deal closes, they are handed over to someone new. The handoff call ensures the trusted party, the sales team, is interested in the customer’s success by introducing the Customer Success Manager (CSM) into the relationship.
In order to become the customer’s strategic advisor, the CSM must engage the business leaders at the very beginning. All too often when a sale closes, the customer dives deep into the weeds to implement the product. As a result, technical challenges become the focus of the relationship, rather than aligning with and reaching business objectives. With some customers, an entirely different team enters the picture after the sale closes, so reach out quickly and include the new team at the handoff.
During the handoff call don’t just share what you and your team are doing for the customer. Include what the customer needs to know and do to keep the project on track. Partner for success, by sharing best practices and keeping your customer accountable.
2. Share the Knowledge
Sustain the momentum gained before the deal closes by loading the CSM with the information the new customer entrusted to the sales team, rather than starting from scratch. Of course, your sales team should record what they gather in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, so start there. As a deal closes, the CSM reviews the account and opportunity details to answer these questions: Who is the customer? Which products and services did they buy? Who are the key contacts? What are the terms of the sale?
Don’t be surprised when there are gaps in the CRM, so schedule a meeting between the sales team and the CSM to transition the knowledge. Lincoln Murphy emphasizes, "One of the things that customers hate more than anything else is having to answer the same question after the sales deal is done that they answered two to three times during the sales process.” Sometimes the anecdotal information that makes or breaks a relationship isn’t logged in a specific field in the CRM. Sharing the knowledge gives the CSM a chance to uncover key issues unique to this account. Include the following in the transfer of information:
Any gotchas and pain points
Details about the key stakeholders, decision makers, influencers, and their personalities
Any timelines promised
Commitments made to the customer
The customer’s business objectives, value proposition, and use cases
Burke Alder, Customer Success Strategist with Client Success states, "Transferring knowledge about specific details around the compelling event and timeline will help set proper expectations for customer success.” Create a checklist to ensure you review and gather the right information before the call; thorough preparation is essential to nailing the handoff.
3. Invite the Right People
Since the purpose of the handoff is to align with customer objectives, invite the right people to the meeting.
Your Team: Sales Rep, Sales Engineer, if needed; CSM, Head of CS, if your customer is a key account; implementation lead, if appropriate
Customer Team: The executive sponsor / decision maker, the project lead, implementation lead and team, if appropriate
Set the right tone for the new relationship by including the right people at the handoff meeting.
4. Produce an Agenda
Creating and using agendas keeps meetings on track. The sales rep kicks off the call with an introduction to the CSM. After that, the CSM drives the meeting agenda and is positioned as the strategic advisor. Keep the meeting short and sweet, 30 to 45 minutes. Below is a sample agenda for you to use.
"Knowing what the customer expects as an outcome is key. The expectation may have shifted from when they first started talking with the salesperson, so it is critical for CSM’s to ask customers, point blank, what business outcomes they expect from the solution or product,” declares Natalie Macks with the Success League.
Sample Handoff Meeting Agenda
Sales Rep introduces CSM
Each attendee introduces themselves, and shares their roles and responsibilities
Confirm points of contact within the account for the CSM to engage with moving forward
Review the timeline, next steps, and who is to be involved
Discuss and clarify business and goals objectives for the product purchase and implementation
Understand what matters to the customer and how they will measure success
Help the customer understand where they are accountable
Next steps might include a welcome email and scheduling a project kickoff meeting with the implementation teams.
Nailing your handoff call sets you and your customers up for success. Establish the basis of a trusting relationship. Get the right people in the room. Align the internal and external teams. Keep your customer accountable. And figure out what you need to do to ensure your customer’s success.