Why you should care about handoffs
Saying the same thing over and over to multiple people is no way to start a new relationship. “The rude and jarring experience as an individual transitions from prospect to customer is exacerbated by the complete lack of a handoff,” shares Joey Coleman, author of Never Lose a Customer Again, as he highlights the problem when customers are transferred from Sales to Customer Success. Holding and nailing handoff meetings is a vital way to engage your customers immediately.
Companies are in desperate need of handoffs and alignment with internal teams and customers. Internally, you need orchestration and collaboration between Sales and Customer Success. Externally, you need alignment between the buyer and the users.
Without handoffs, CSMs rarely access the critical information shared with sales teams, leaving customers to pick up the slack. Customers are annoyed and frustrated to explain their goals and requirements repeatedly.
You might notice the plural handoffs. While most companies talk about the singular handoff from Sales to Customer Success, the two handoffs, an internal handoff meeting, as well as a customer handoff set you up to get on track quickly. You’ll love what both these handoffs do to set you up for success.
The Handoff stage
Once an account embarks on the journey of working together, you move to the second stage in the Orchestrated Onboarding™ framework, Handoff. Orchestrated Onboarding is a workable process that improves communication across internal teams as well as customers to ensure the renewal in the beginning of the customer relationship when it matters most. The figure below shows a high-level overview of the six stages of Orchestrated Onboarding.
The internal handoff
Customers tell me how frustrating it is to recount the same information with the pre-sales team, the onboarding team, the Customer Success team, and the Support team. Customer Success expert 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.” That’s why the internal handoff is so important. It’s when internal teams gain alignment over new accounts.
Handoffs sustain the momentum gained before the deal closes by loading the CSM or the account owner with the information the new customer entrusts to sales reps. Sometimes the anecdotal information that makes or breaks a relationship isn’t logged in a specific field in a CRM. That’s why it’s necessary for the sales rep to communicate the nuances of the relationship—including concerns, personalities, and other subjective information—to the post-sales team. Sharing this knowledge gives CSMs a chance to quickly uncover issues unique to this account and sets them up to build trusting relationships with the people in the account.
Even though many companies define internal handoffs as part of the Customer Success process, they often end up not holding them because sales reps are too busy selling to the next prospect. Internal handoffs are effective only when they happen consistently.
The customer handoff
When you fail to align the teams on the customer side, they end up lost and confused. They don’t understand what was purchased and why. New customers are surprised and overwhelmed when they’re suddenly swarmed by CSMs, onboarding specialists, implementations teams, and project plans.
The purpose of the customer handoff is to transition the relationship from the sales reps to the CSM or other post-sales teams, to provide continuity in the relationship with your company, and to align customer teams on the objectives for buying your product. The customer handoff is designed to calm neural networks and to build trust with clear endings and clear beginnings and to keep new customers from dwelling in fear and remorse.
The customer handoff is not a kickoff meeting, where you dive into implementation details: it’s a handoff meeting. Kicking off the implementation comes in the next stage of the Orchestrated Onboarding framework. The customer handoff provides the continuation to move from the established relationship to the new teams the customer will interface with moving forward.
The customer handoff eliminates the problem of the customer team being in the dark about what’s going to happen. Implementations usually stall out or never start because customer teams have no idea what was purchased and why. They have no bandwidth to join forces with CSMs and consultants to migrate, implement, and go live. The customer handoff ensures folks who will deploy and use your solution know why it’s been purchased and the problems it is meant to solve. It gives them a heads-up to know what’s coming.
Start aligning with handoffs
If you don’t completely hand off customer relationships from Sales to Customer Success, think of the Handoff stage as an alignment stage. You align internal teams to get them tuned up for the important work of onboarding, and then align customer teams to prepare them for implementing and using your product.
The internal handoff prepares you and your teams to handle the account moving forward. The customer handoff extends the trust already established within the account to the new teams, allowing new customers to quiet any lurking buyer’s remorse, fear, and doubt, so they can relax and trust they are in good hands. After you hold two handoffs, then you finally get to kick off the implementation in third stage of Orchestrated Onboarding, which we’ll discuss in the next article.