In June, Kate Neal of Staircase AI shared about the importance of identifying and understanding the different connections within your customer organization to meet need, deliver value, and ultimately retain them through relationships.
Each customer org should have multiple relationships across a range of roles in order to avoid negative impacts with staff changes. The general role types that should each be identified and included in your relationship framework are:
- Decision Maker
Working directly with the platform champion is the relationship that most of us first think of, and it is a vital one. Helping them to utilize your platform or service in a way that strengthens and benefits their company’s goals and initiatives is a win-win. However, limiting your relationship development to this level can create issues when renewal comes around, or with the ability to upsell a component that could be a tremendous fit. Often the decision maker is someone else entirely, and without a relationship, you are operating from a position of weakness. Not only do you need to demonstrate that you understand their needs, but how your product can support them, all without that trust foundation that could make it a quick conversation/demo.
Having an executive from your org build a relationship with a stakeholder executive at your customers just adds that much more strength to your relationship. Allowing a conversation about high level goals and strategies, ensuring the alignment through your product, and a connect at this level just helps make sure that when decisions are made, you have a voice in them at the highest levels.
After you have set up these relationships, it is time to measure where they are and where you would like them to be on the continuum. An example is shared here to get you started, but these are not the only options. Look at your needs and create your own. Once you have a pathway, you can now develop a process and plan to move them to your goal.
Ultimately, this relationship process has to scale. It becomes impossible to have enough staff to do this on a 1:1 basis past a certain growth point. This is where you can leverage technology and the data it provides to maintain, monitor, and help grow these relationships.
During the break-out sessions, the following questions were discussed:
- Are you segmenting, identifying, and mapping your customer stakeholders today?
- If not, can you think of common personas that can make or break or a partnership opportunity?
- If yes, what strategies are you employing today to nurture those key relationships?
Teams shared the insights below.
- By revenue, company size, vertical, web traffic
- Becomes really important when trying to scale Customer Success work
- Can be hard to define a decision-maker and executive
- Tips to help get in touch with difficult to connect with decision makers and executives:
- Focus on strategic rather than tactical goals
- Understand their role and goals
- Develop a plan to help them reach their goals
- Move from being a product expert to a trusted advisor
- Start segmenting from the beginning
- Strong relationship with sales team
- Choose your labels
- Work with sales team to make sure you make a great first impression
- These also align to sales personas which can help provide key connections
- Build relationships with executive sponsor by leading with ROI-focused data
- Ask program owner/primary contact for better understanding of organization structure
- Lean on the sales handoff to better understand the client org
- Determine when to reach out
- Keep asking questions – look to find the WHY, the specifics about successes and failures
- Focus on the value they get from your solution
- Who else might be speaking to these customers? Be sure you are aligned
- Build success plans that include the original reason for purchase and mark key milestones to measure outcomes based on the customer’s definition of achieving value
- This can help drive discussions with executive stakeholders and everyday admins
- Shows clear value based on their own criteria to leadership and makes the champions look good Create success plans that help with
- Create timelines for milestones based on goals, making sure to include
- Short- and long-term goals
- Blockers/risks noted
- Customer responsibility for achieving these goals
- No one size fits all, lean on existing relationships to grow upward
- Help your champion look like a hero to their boss
- Must be industry specific – you will not be able to become an expert in every industry, so be sure to do your research and show up to meetings prepared
- Can identify a decision-maker by know who signed the check – your sales team can help here
- More relationships correlate with higher NPS and NRR scores
- Look at the platform users to help identify your champions. Who is:
- creating an online presence
- entering data in the platform
- flagging things and making suggestions for improvement
- Your happy customers can become advocates so it is important to find and nurture a strong relationship for success
Techniques that Scale
- Office Hours
- Peer learning
- Video updates with new features, updates, tips for better engagement
Kate Neal has been a Customer Success professional since 2011, Kate has created CS programs from scratch and hired & led teams at 4 different SaaS startups. Passionate about building and scaling relationships, Kate recently joined Staircase AI as Director of Customer Success to help usher in a new era of the CS tech stack - Relationship Intelligence. When she's not in front of her computer, you can find her surfing, creating music, obsessively learning, and cuddling with her cute pitbull, Zen Adieu.