How CSMs can Negotiate Access to Stakeholders

By April 14, 2021Blog

Navigating stakeholdersAfter months of nurturing the perfect prospect — and weeks of onboarding them — your customer success team can finally relax … right? 

You’ve connected with a user who understands your product’s value. And he’s been working behind the scenes, diligently championing your solution. 

Then …

  • Your champion leaves for a new job. 
  • Feature use drops 50%.
  • The person holding the purse strings barely remember you.

Of course, it was never time to relax in the first place.

Here’s how Customer Success Managers (CSMs) can negotiate access to shareholders, cut a path to the decision maker, and make sure a champion loss doesn’t equal a churn notice.

Growing your sphere of influence 

If your champion left their role today, who would you have direct contact with at their organization?

Brooklyn Baker

Brooklyne Baker, EveryoneSocial

“The one area that everyone has an opportunity to improve on is negotiating access to stakeholders,” said Brooklyne Baker, Director of Client Success at EveryoneSocial, in a recent webinar hosted by UserIQ. “Oftentimes, when you’re losing business, it’s because you’re single threaded or talking to the wrong person … how many times have you lost your champion and then had to resell the whole program?” 

CS teams need to understand their sphere of influence and find ways to reach new stakeholders when — not if — the situation within the organization changes. 

To grow your influence and leverage a strong network of clients, it’s essential that you understand the exact benefit you provide customers. However, CS leaders often struggle to articulate value to stakeholders such as CFOs, who are wary of rising costs. 

Luis Carranza, Meltwater

Luis Carranza, Meltwater

“Not only is [negotiating access] a crucial skill to have, but you must also understand the difference of the conversation and what to talk about when you speak with a stakeholder versus someone who happens to be a user,” said Luis Carranza, Vice President of Sales and Customer Success at Meltwater, in the webinar. 

Rest assured, there is a way to master this skill. 

McKinsey & Company found that companies with a successful approach to customer life cycle management conduct “detailed research and quantitative analyses.” They know their clients’ pain points, prioritize their needs and then determine the success activities that can deliver the highest ROI. From there, CS teams can then effectively build a strategy to acquire and retain new customers by leveraging the right contacts. 

By knowing how your software is used and exactly who’s benefiting from it, you’ll find the stakeholders who’ll become your up-and-coming champions.

Looking ahead of the data

Growing your sphere of influence will help combat churn following organizational changes. However, teams may still struggle to maintain strong relationships with stakeholders. 

Churn should be monitored to measure the effectiveness of your CS strategy. But as a key performance indicator, it can only be used to find trends after-the-fact. It won’t clue you in as to how you can better provide value to customers when it matters most.

Measuring lagging indicators like churn isn’t enough to boost retention. Instead, to guarantee customer success, you have to look for the signs. 

“You have to be genuinely curious and interested in the business … if you wait for a customer to come to you or for a red flag to show up, it’s too reactive,” said Carranza. “You have to be proactive both within the relationship and with the data.”

To better manage customer needs, CS teams should utilize predictive analytics such as health scoring. These tools help identify what a healthy customer profile looks like, versus the signs that one needs additional attention. 

By leveraging data to identify emerging trends, your team will be able to help customers before they ever risk churning. 

Exiting the comfort zone

For sales and customer success teams, it can be uncomfortable to ask for access to new contacts within the organization. However, as Hubspot has found, the average SaaS sales cycle takes over 85 days to complete. Having to start over is incredibly costly both in time and resources.

To better negotiate access, nurture a larger sphere of influence and use data to provide more value to customers. Rather than the sales cycle restarting every time a contact changes organizations, you’ll generate long-lasting relationships and more predictable sales.

Want to learn more? See the full webinar.

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