Debra Senra, VP of Sales and Client Experience at ThreeFlow, joined Collin Stewart on the Predictable Revenue podcast. With a background in post-sale experience, Debra has identified significant changes in sales leadership over the last 18 months and shared her insights in this exciting episode.
They dive into the changing landscape of sales, the necessity of post-sale experience for revenue leaders, and the multifaceted role of customer success organizations at various stages of business.
The Changing Landscape of Sales
Sales have changed dramatically recently, especially when winning new business. We’re talking about a significant shift towards focusing on what happens after the sale. It’s become clear that being fixated on just making the sale is causing an imbalance in the industry. In the last year and a half, more and more companies are waking up to the fact that improving the post-sale experience is critical to hitting those revenue targets.
Necessary adjustments in leadership and team roles
So, what does this shift mean for leadership and team roles? Well, sales leaders must have a comprehensive understanding of the whole revenue picture. No longer can we only focus on new sales; we have to consider customer success, account management, and roles that come into play after the deal is closed. Once you grasp how these roles interact, you’re on a better path to drive revenue successfully.
The Importance of Post-Sale
Let’s get real: Closing the deal is just the beginning in today’s fast-paced business world. We’re looking at customer retention, maximizing value, and even expanding the business as part of the post-sale process. The real opportunity for boosting your revenue comes in the journey from implementation to onboarding and, eventually, customer success.
The post-sale phase is marked by a carefully planned implementation strategy where technology configuration, training, and enablement are crucial. It’s about getting the buyer from zero to one, ensuring they can physically use the product. Following that, the onboarding phase ensures the product becomes a natural part of their routine. The final step, success, is about driving higher ROI and turning users into evangelists for the business.
The profile also differs from that of the pre-sale. Whereas pre-sale is focused on quickly finding a way into the customer’s world, post-sale requires a more patient approach, strategizing how to get the most out of the customer relationship. It’s a strategic process, more like a chess game rather than a sprint.
Importance of understanding the post-sale process
The evolution from focusing solely on sales to incorporating both pre-sale and post-sale strategies is vital in modern business. Pre-sale is about rapid entry, finding the quickest way to a customer, often involving roles like BDR, SDR, and sales executives. They aim to secure the client swiftly, possibly leading to later expansion.
Post-sale, conversely, is a more intricate and patient process. It involves roles like customer success managers, implementation managers, and upsell experts, who concentrate on nurturing long-term relationships and overall value. This phase is a balancing act, seeking expansion without losing the customer, and it demands a different profile from pre-sale roles.
The distinction between these stages isn’t about right or wrong; it’s about understanding the nature of each stage in the sales cycle. VP Sales and higher management must grasp this duality, recognizing that pre-sale and post-sale require different strategies and personnel. Embracing this dual approach is vital for today’s sales leaders, as it not only marks the close of a sale but fuels continuous growth and strengthens the company’s market standing.
Pre-Sale and Post-Sale Explained
Definitions and Separation
Pre-sale and post-sale represent two fundamentally different aspects of the sales journey. While managing hunters (pre-sale) requires emotional grit, managing post-sale is more complex, demanding a deep understanding of tools, templates, playbooks, and best practices.
Roles of Pre-Sale and Post-Sale Reps
- Pre-Sale (Hunting): Pre-sale roles are seen as more challenging and demanding. Professionals must be skilled at finding opportunities and closing them quickly.
- Post-Sale: These roles are more intricate and require an in-depth knowledge of customer service, account management, and relationship nurturing.
Coaching and Training Variations
- For Pre-Sale Reps: Coaching should focus on building resilience, sales tactics, and quick decision-making.
- For Post-Sale Reps: Coaching must be geared towards understanding customer needs, providing tailored solutions, and focusing on long-term value.
Components of a Strong Post-Sale Process
- Team Structure: A well-structured post-sale team requires professionals with diverse expertise in account management, customer success, and upselling.
- Outcomes: The outcomes should focus on customer retention, expansion opportunities, and building stronger relationships.
- Customer Journey: Implementing a robust post-sale process requires understanding customer needs, onboarding them effectively, and driving value over time.
Debra Senra’s Advice for Revenue Leaders
The transition between pre-sale and post-sale roles is complex but essential for career growth. Hunting roles often command more respect and pay, reflecting gender imbalances in the industry. Managing both pre-sale and post-sale requires distinct skills, with a move from hunting to post-sale roles being common.
Strong product-market fit can mitigate post-sale risks, but lack of alignment can lead to losses and even incorrectly shift blame to post-sale. The situation may also reveal a higher management’s deficiency in post-sale experience.
Risk and Rewards in Sales
- Pre-Sale Risks: A poor sales leader or team could fail to close any sales, drastically affecting revenue.
- Post-Sale Risks: Good and excellent post-sale management may affect customer lifetime by a month or two or 20-30%. However, with a solid product-market fit, the risks are minimized.
Product-Market Fit Importance
- Pre-Sale Impact: With a solid product-market fit, even a team of poor sellers might still close deals.
- Post-Sale Impact: Good product-market fit reduces risk in the post-sale phase, enhancing natural retention and customer alignment.
- High Churn Rate: If there is a 5% per month churn rate focused on selling but losing more customers and upselling products are ignored, this might indicate that the chief revenue officer lacks post-sale experience.
Lacking Product-Market Fit: When a product is sellable but doesn’t provide the total end value, the blame often falls on post-sale rather than acknowledging a lack of product-market fit.
The Current Market and Specialization
In the current landscape, post-sales roles are closely connected with product-market fit and customer retention. The focus on reducing churn cannot solely be on the shoulders of the post-sales team; it must also include considerations of product roadmap optimization.
Insights into current market behaviors and patterns
The “great resignation” era brings to light a market trend where companies grapple with a high churn rate. The problem is not just about post-sale optimization but fundamentally around product-market fit. This alignment is a crucial success factor, and no amount of sales development or customer success can override a lack of product alignment.
Evolution of Specialization
Specialization has evolved to recognize that sometimes the issue isn’t a lack of product-market fit but a lack of understanding within the internal team. Debra Senra emphasizes that companies must ensure their team comprehends why their product is valuable to the customers and how to position and service it properly.
Debra points out that sometimes, what seems to be a product-market fit issue may be a team’s lack of understanding to position the product correctly. The solution can be human-oriented, focusing on training and alignment rather than solely on software solutions.
Hunter vs. Post-Sale Roles
The text reflects a consensus that while human solutions like proper training and internal alignment can fix some issues, they cannot override a fundamental lack of product-market fit. The differentiation between hunter and post-sale roles becomes apparent in this context, with a clear need for a balanced approach considering product development and customer engagement.
Pre-Sales vs. Post-Sales Strategy and Execution
Product-market fit is crucial but must be adequately communicated and directed within a team. Leaders must guide their SDRs and AEs towards the right accounts and manage them effectively. If not, the blame for misalignment falls on the leadership, akin to the ship’s captain, who must steer in the right direction.
Post-sale strategy diverges from pre-sale as it emphasizes the customer journey. While decision-makers still play a role, the focus shifts to product users, understanding their diverse needs and how they engage. For example, segments of a platform like Salesforce might include power users, core users, and one-up users. The customer journey isn’t linear, as various factors may change the customer’s position within the process, making the playbook less straightforward.
Meeting Expectations Through the Journey
Understanding user engagement is complex and depends on multiple variables such as value proposition, customer longevity, changes in the customer’s organization, and more. The playbook must be adaptable to these dynamics, ensuring that customers remain engaged and the potential for upsell or renewal is leveraged.
Debra Senra emphasizes the distinction between pre-sales and post-sales processes, underlining the need for specific approaches in coaching and training. She suggests programmatic playbooks in the pre-sale phase and a more tailored, strategic understanding of the customer journey in the post-sale phase. Despite the complexity of building playbooks for the post-sales side, it’s not an excuse for the team’s lack of strategy or guidance.
Crafting a Tailored Post-Sales Strategy
Post-sale strategy is an intricate and unique landscape in the business sphere. While consistent elements exist, the metrics and processes can vary significantly from one company to the next.
The Ultimate Success Metric
Debra refers to metrics determining success or customer lifetime value and emphasizes that these can differ significantly based on company strategies. Yet, at the core, there is a similar idea—a set of metrics at specific milestones, such as the first 90 or 360 days, indicating the lead success indicators.
Pre-sale vs. Post-sale Metrics
Debra contrasts the consistency in pre-sale strategy with the variance in post-sale. In her view, there are always metrics that matter on both sides. But while some data points are constant on the pre-sales side (e.g., dial outreach, opportunity creation, a proposal to close), they tend to be company-specific in post-sales.
Detailing a layered approach, Debra explains the stages from facilitating product usage to building muscle memory around it and achieving the right outcomes. The pathway includes:
- Technical Enablement: Getting customers technically set up.
- Expectation Management: Guiding customers through the implementation process.
- User Training: Customizing the training process for different products.
- Behavioral Change: Using techniques and repetition to alter patterns of behavior.
Engagement and Growth: Building solid connections, increasing usage, adding product categories, and measuring success.
The evolving sales landscape demands a balanced focus on pre and post-sale activities.
As Debra Senra points out, this dual approach is crucial for hitting revenue targets and ensuring long-term growth.
By adapting to this new paradigm, companies can better navigate the complexities of the modern market, achieving and sustaining revenue growth.
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