A Winning Client Onboarding Experience Begins with the Handoff

By Todd White
Oct 5, 2021

Do you noticed how at a track meet the one exercise runners practice the most is the baton handoff? If a teammate isn’t ready to grab the baton or tries to hand off the baton too soon, trust and communication break down, leading to catastrophic results. 

It’s much like how a new customer feels during a poorly executed transition between your sales and customer success teams. If the customer success team isn’t aligned with the sales team’s talking points, they won’t be prepared to lead the new client through onboarding. And that makes it hard for a new client to feel confident that their goals, expectations—even their decision to work with your company in the first place—were heard and understood. 

Studies have found that almost half (44 percent) of companies focus mainly on client acquisition, while only 18 percent invest time in retaining customers. We believe that a balanced client acquisition and retention combination is an effective plan to build a trusting, long-term relationship. 

A consistent internal handoff between your sales and customer success teams requires a clear understanding of each team’s unique roles and expectations during the customer’s client onboarding experience. By sharing information about client expectations and delivering consistent and focused messaging, your company can blur the lines between your sales and customer success teams during transition to create a positive (and potentially profitable) experience. Here’s how: 


Create a single source of truth

Here’s a news flash: Your new customer doesn’t like being the messenger between your teams. 

“One of the things that customers hate more than anything else is having to answer the same question after the sales deal is done, that they answered two to three times during the sales process,” said customer success expert Lincoln Murphy in the book Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions by Donna Weber. “That’s why the internal handoff is so important. It’s when internal teams gain alignment over new accounts.”

By using a single source of truth, the customer doesn’t have to repeat information they shared with the sales team, the new accounts team, or any other party handling a stage of the sales or onboarding process. 


Use consistent messaging

A seamless handoff means the client shouldn’t feel the transition between sales and onboarding. For example, if the sales team assures the client that your company will act in good faith on a schedule or specific tasks, your team will honor that arrangement. Or, if the client prefers daily check-ins via email, the onboarding should continue with those expectations. 

The key is to reinforce the positive rapport that your sales team created with the client. 


Be clear on your team’s focus

Establish your team’s role in the customer’s client onboarding experience. For example, the sales team’s focus is to acquire new customers. That includes highlighting your company’s excellent service, team expertise, culture, pricing, etc. 

Your customer success team should focus on retaining the customer. Studies show that 86 percent of customers are more likely to stay loyal to a business whose onboarding process continues welcoming and educating them even after they’ve made the purchase. How can your company ensure their needs are continually met? What steps can your company take to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty? That’s the focus of your customer success team. 


A practical client onboarding experience doesn’t require racing around by your sales and customer success teams. Instead, it requires an organized strategy that streamlines key onboarding information with consistent support that moves your customer’s onboarding process forward quickly and on track. 


Todd White

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