Shifting from a Sales-Centric to a Customer-Centric Org

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Suzanne Rupe
Suzanne Rupe Member Posts: 5 Seeker
Hi All,

Thanks in advance for any advice! My company is a relatively new SaaS organization. We've had a lot of early success and our sales team has been growing rapidly. There is a ton of excitement around the progress the sales team has been making in securing larger deals. This has resulted in a lot of internal conversations being focused on how the product can evolve to help land those deals. 

I'm a team of one CSM and I have a fear that when the time comes there will be resistance to shift the conversation to how we can better serve our existing customers. There is cross-over in the sense that new features that appeal to prospects will also benefit existing customers. However, one of our largest existing customers has been asking for a specific feature (that would benefit others as well) for months and it seems like it's being put on the roadmap with barely enough time to get it done before their renewal. 

Since I am the only CSM, any advice on how I can make sure that I am representing our existing customers in a sales-centric organization?
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  • Michaela Noe
    Michaela Noe Member Posts: 5 Seeker
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    edited January 2022
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    Hi Suzanne,

    I'm following this post! Similarly I'm a CS team of one (although, just got approval to hire an additional CSM!!) but definitely feeling the challenge to advocate for CS when the leadership team is hyper-focused on sales. Our CS organization is brand new so I know I need to make sure I'm raising up our ongoing value but still need to put all these frameworks in place. 
  • Suzanne Rupe
    Suzanne Rupe Member Posts: 5 Seeker
    edited January 2022
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    Hi Michaela,

    So refreshing to hear that there are others in the same situation! Do you want to spend a few minutes this week chatting about how we can both mindfully continue to advocate for existing customers as we grow?

    Here is my Linkedin, if you'd like to connect there!

    -Suzanne
  • Michaela Noe
    Michaela Noe Member Posts: 5 Seeker
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    edited January 2022
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    Would love to! Here's my Linkedin - I'll connect with you there!
  • NickH
    NickH Member Posts: 9 Seeker
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    edited January 2022
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    I kow exactly how you feel. I am also a team of one and my organisation are new to the CS world having just introuced the role. I m already seeing some of the challenges around trying to move from a sales centric environment.
  • Anna Alley
    Anna Alley Member Posts: 70 Expert
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    edited January 2022
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    Hey Suzanne!

    This is definitely a common challenge among organizations, especially those that are focused on rapid growth (the prospect is at the front of everyone's mind). I think one of the things you can do is position the risk to revenue of not delivering some of the existing customer items - what's the percentage likelihood of them not renewing is this doesn't happen, and how does that lost revenue compare to potential new revenue of a growth item on the roadmap. Also, is this customer a brand advocate, influential in the market place, etc.? Would them leaving actually potentially hurt future deals because of their influence with other companies? Think about what your company values and how you can position the needs of the customer in a way that will resonate with leadership.

    Also, depending on the buy-in and the size of your product and engineering teams, you might be able to advocate for a certain % of capacity dedicated to existing customer VOC items - and then you are instrumental in determining the priority of the items worked within that allotted capacity.

    It's likely going to take numerous attempts and trying out different ways to position - so don't give up!
  • Rolie R
    Rolie R Member Posts: 3 Navigator
    edited January 2022
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    It is always tough to convince the company to not focus on bending over backward for new prospects because they only see the new revenue.


    Now with that said, there should be an ICP for your company.  If the feature that the existing customer is asking for is something that fits into your ICP, then it really should be something that new prospects will want to see and use as well.  The main method to solidify this is to query your other customers to see if that specific feature is something they would utilize as well.  If you go to your product team/person and say this one customer wants feature X is different than if you say, this one customer is requesting feature X, and these 10 other customers that we have also would like that feature.

    Now if it is only that one customer that wants that unique feature, well that is a completely different topic in the realm of CS.  That means this single customer wants your product to bend to their unique business practices, which happens a lot.  If this is the case, we will have discussions with that single customer about that unique feature and how much it is going to cost them to implement it just for them.   That candid conversation usually ends in them forgetting about the feature because it was not important enough to spend more money on it or they end up discussing paying for the extra development.

  • Jeff Heckler
    Jeff Heckler Member, CS Leader Posts: 80 Expert
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    edited January 2022
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    My heart goes out to everyone on this thread.
    I have been exactly where you are - multiple times.
    Being overwhelmed by being downhill of Sales, and rightfully so.
    My recommendation is to start:
    1. tracking retention and churn like a hawk
    2. are the churn % increasing as the deals get muddier and the company further drifts from its ICP
    3. tracking the reasons WHY customers are leaving (unfulfilled promises, unmet expectations, etc.)
    4. how much $ is lost
    5. does your company track at all how much it costs to acquire new customers?

  • Marc Van wijk
    Marc Van wijk Member Posts: 1 Navigator
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    edited January 2022
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    Hey Suzanne

    My recommendation is ask a few questions to your leadership as it will help determine the next steps

    1. Why did they hire you? To retain? stop churn? to upsell?
    2. Based on that look into what their expectations of you and your role is vs sales, What do they expect you to do?
    3. Find out from Sales/marketing cost of acquisition for a new lead
    4. work out the costs for acquiring new customers vs keeping them (CSMs exist because of the answer to this equation)
     5. Average tenure of a customers
    Churn reasons and then you have a painting to discuss with leadership to see where the shift and focus needs to be, sometimes sales driven is the right fit for an org, but more and more Saas is about showing value to end customers