Not having the right contact or level of engagement/ownership

Brian O'Keeffe
Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 199 Expert
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edited September 2023 in CS Conversations

What do you do when you have the wrong person, or persons assigned as the owners of your software? I have had this happen many times.

After the sale, the owner delegates, often to someone who had no role in the purchasing decision or real stake in its success. Being told to own it, and actually caring and wanting it to succeed are two different things.

My worst example was a VP assigned to own a deployment. On our first meeting we established that there needs to be an administrator. I asked who that would be? What? They responded, why do we have to do anything? I expect you to do that. I explained that we cannot own data management, edits/updates, additions, maintenance or onboarding. We had tools/programs to help with each, but an internal administrator would have to manage it. They had a giant fit and were very unprofessional, actually threatening a colleague. (If I go down for this, so are you!) I could tell this was going south, very south and after a few weeks went to my leadership and said this one is not salvageable and there is almost zero chance of success, as long as this person owns it. They will not renew, I told them. It was the first and only time I have done that. Months pass and I am long off this troubled account and I hear about the VP swearing at our team members. Finally someone at a very high level from our org went to the purchaser, a very senior executive, and let them know his VP is out of control and we will no longer deal with that person. We kicked the customer contact off the project! Again, never saw this before or since.

In the end they cancelled and the VP spewed toxic nonsense all over the place about the product and our team. The entire thing was money down the drain for them, a complete nightmare for us. That VP is still there, no doubt terrorizing everyone who reports to him and that he works with.


  • Jeffrey Kushmerek
    Jeffrey Kushmerek Member Posts: 96 Expert
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    This is a bad ICP sale. But let me ask:

    Were there presales materials that outlined who and what needs to be involved?

    When this happens to me, we go right back to sales and the champion. They paid and you want to make them successful

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 199 Expert
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    Thanks, in previous roles that was the answer. In my current example anyone can sign up and go live same day. I think we need to rethink how we capture info at that time.

  • Elizabeth Italiano
    Elizabeth Italiano Member Posts: 11 Navigator
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    edited September 2023

    Once it's clear that working with your point of contact is not going to go anywhere and assuming you have no other contacts that you are engaged with, the first thing I do is go back to the sales executive who sold the deal (hopefully they are still there). I ask them to facilitate a conversation with the executive / DM who made the purchase in the first place. If things are going off the rails then I believe there is accountability to the person who signed the proverbial dotted line to help this project/purchase to be a success.

    I try to avoid burning any bridges of course but at a certain point you have to go back to the person who signed the agreement and who is ultimately on the hook for this being a successful or failed investment.

  • Fikret
    Fikret Member Posts: 3 Navigator
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    There are a few things that we try to make sure happen at all times:

    1. Implementation overview session even before the contract gets signed - the sessions is led either by one of the sales execs or an onboarding manager to walk the prospect through the full cycle of onboarding and go-live. We try to make sure to set the right expectations around the key personnel required to be part of the project, deliverables from the client, as well as responsibilities of the person managing the platform. This usually helps avoid challenges where clients expect the vendor to do all the work for them.
    2. Throughout the customer lifecycle, we try to either maintain or develop connections at different levels throughout the client's organization (sales executive <> decision maker(s)+procurement; onboarding/CS manager <> product owner+decision maker(s); executive sponsor <> decision maker(s) + C-Suite)
    3. Point #2 helps with escalations if/when they are needed. An escalation is often seen as something negative, or something that would only come from the client. However, we escalate topics up the chain with our client when needed to make sure questions get answered and issues get resolved in a timely manner. More often than not, clients actually are more appreciative of us escalating issues in a timely manner and bringing their attention to something that may have a negative impact on the overall project because, as Jeffrey said, we want to make them successful.

    That was a very long answer but in your case, I would escalate this with both the sales executive that closed the deal, as well as the executive sponsor from your team. The goal would be to make the key stakeholder from the client's team aware of the problem and potential outcomes as soon as you see them (and if the problem cannot be resolved internally).

  • Rich Rans
    Rich Rans Member Posts: 29 Contributor
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    Can you position 2 options at time of sale... standard and an option with premium management. This allows you to go back to the customer on what they didn't purchase, and set clear expectations on what they need to be doing in the standard option.