Best Practices: Transitioning Accounts from Sales to Customer Success

Getting all of the features and procedures within your app right takes some trial and error. So, too, do the offline processes that happen within your company.

A prime example of a critical procedure that can often run into issues is the transition of accounts from account executives in sales to customer success managers.

Your sales team members are the first ones to get to know a new customer and help move them toward making a purchase. Discovery calls, BANT notes, product demos, and trials are all multiple occasions in which the sales team learns about a customer’s needs, expectations, and even personalities. However, the customer success team needs to sustain value throughout the lifetime of the customer.

Ultimately, the sales team is focused on a short-term win while the customer success team is focused on long-term customer happiness and retention. How can these two teams meet in the middle? Let’s explore some best practices.

How to Successfully Transition an Account from Sales to Customer Success

The transition of customer information from sales to CS is a make-or-break time. While a messy transition can be frustrating for the sales and CS teams, the real loser is the customer. If information isn’t handed off in an organized and efficient manner, the customer risks slipping through the cracks of success and failing to achieve their goals. This, in turn, leads to churn.

An efficient transition of accounts also avoids wasted time for the sales and CS team if the right information isn’t turned over. Not to mention possible customer frustration if the customer success team member has to ask the same repetitive questions the sales team also asked.

What to do before a sale

A successful transition of an account from AE to CS starts before the sale is finalized.

First, set expectations of what each department needs.

If you asked your sales team today, would they know what information the CS team needs from them to get a customer properly trained, onboarded, and seeing value quickly? If the sales team is aware, do they have an easy and quick way to document and share that information? Reducing friction in the transition begins before the actual handoff.

Bring the sales and customer success teams together to gain clarity about what information about the customer is critical. Expectations should also be established on what timelines and deadlines are ideal and achievable for both teams. Creating a playbook means there will always be a single reference point.

Second, let the customer know there will be a handoff.

Throughout the sales process, the account executive is the point of contact for the customer. Then after the transition, the responsibility of guiding the customer forward moves to CS. In many industries and markets, there is an expectation that your sales representative is your permanent point of contact and will remain the person who manages your account, so it can be startling if the sales to CS handoff comes unexpectedly for the customer. Let the customer know about this transition before it happens to better prepare everyone involved, and prevent anyone from being blindsided.

Plus, outlining the scope of each team member’s role and its impact on the customer’s success will ensure the customer feels well taken care of.

What to do after a sale

Once a prospect has turned into a customer, it’s time to transition the account from sales to customer success. Here’s how to make the process go smoothly.

Hand over the required information.

The hard work of establishing what will be handed over, at what point, and in what form is already done. The transition will be even easier if the guidelines are agreed upon in a single document or playbook. With these expectations in place, the actual transition should be quick and hassle-free for everyone involved.

Then, involve the sales rep and the customer success manager in a kickoff call.

The client has already been informed that the transition will happen, and a kickoff call solidifies that. As a formal handoff, this is the time to review or clarify any important details. This is also the perfect time for sales to introduce the customer to their new customer success manager.

Finally, review the transition process regularly.

If the handoff of customer accounts between departments has been rocky in the past, it might not be perfected overnight. Even the smoothest of transitions deserve a review.

The secret to maintaining and reviewing the transition over time is to routinely connect sales and customer success to review the process from both perspectives. Sales can talk about how recording the information does or doesn’t fit into their workflow. On the other hand, customer success can bring up any patterns of missing information or deem some fields “optional.”

While the frustration of the transition may appear in the actual handing off or sending over of account, most of the problems begin earlier. While this process is an important one, it doesn’t have to be a source of stress. Communication is at the heart of the solution. Both teams need to be open to expressing and listening to the frustrations and needs of their counterparts. At the end of the day it’s important to remember that while sales and CS are in different departments, you’re on the same team.

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