Almost eight years ago, I was on one of the worst onboarding kickoff calls I can remember.
The sales account executive spent months courting the corporate CFO and finance team at a very large sandwich restaurant chain in the nation.
The sales process took so long that by the time the deal was completed, the customer needed to start their implementation immediately because they were already behind schedule.
Though this is a very common occurrence, I can assure you what transpired in the kickoff should have never happened. Here’s what happened and what you can learn from it to improve you sales to delivery handoff.
We Make Sandwiches
The project manager and I arrived on the kickoff call with our account executive and the CFO of this major sandwich chain. Now, the project manager in this story had a very precise list of questions he asked to get to know the customers’ business and their problems. Two of those questions were, “Tell me about your business,” and “How do you make money?” He would always ask in that order. Here’s how it went:
Project Manager: Tell me about your business…
CFO: We are a sandwich restaurant chain and have over 400 locations across the US and are adding another 35 locations this year.
Project Manager: “That’s great! How do you make money?”
CFO: Well, we make bread, put meat on it with some veggies, and hopefully we sell it for more than it costs us to make.
Listening to the conversation transpire in real-time was worse than listening to nails on a chalkboard. We never recovered with the CFO after that call and the customer ended up canceling two months into their contract. Thinking about it still makes me cringe. Here’s why:
The sales representative had spent an entire deal cycle nurturing a relationship, answering questions, positioning the product to meet specific needs, and providing reassurance that the organization will take care of them as a customer. The project manager didn’t take the time to look up the customer’s business prior to the call. So, when the kickoff call happened, it reflected poorly on both of them.
It could’ve been avoided…
This whole experience could have been avoided if there had been some sort of organized sales-to-delivery handoff. Taking the time to conduct a sales handoff allows time for the project manager to come up to speed and conduct his/her research on the customer. More often than not, the effort to coordinate and transfer these details from the sales to delivery team is rushed, summarized, or worse––completely skipped. In an effort to delight the customer with a high-quality service and expedited onboarding experience, quality is sacrificed, and the overall customer experience is at risk.
A Smooth Sales to Delivery Handoff
Here are a couple of ideas on how to ensure a smooth sales-to-delivery handoff.
Don’t wait for the deal to close to get coordinated.
As a sales leader, provide your pipeline and forecast information to CS leaders. This way, the delivery teams know how to allocate resources and can engage your sales representative and prospect prior to closing. You should even allow the post sales team to help you move new deals across the line. This will help streamline the process and will allow the CSM and project manager time to get to know the prospect, their use case, and help prepare the prospect for their onboarding experience. As a CS leader, build into your time tracking and resource management models this non-billable time. It will pay off dividends!
Document your process and share it with your sales team to build confidence.
From my experience, more often than not, people skip steps or bypass the process and they have no idea they are doing so. Once documented and shared, evangelize, evangelize, and evangelize the process. Don’t assume because you reviewed it that everyone knows it. It will need to be reviewed frequently before it sticks. Iron out the process with influential members of the sales team. As the process is leveraged, share the wins across the sales and CS departments.
Leverage forms, CRM, or CS tools.
Do this in addition to a meeting or call to conduct your handoff. At GUIDEcx, we have our new customers fill out a form to highlight what they are hoping to achieve during their onboarding experience. We also have our sales team fill out a similar form. This way, our onboarding team understands what success looks like from the customer and our sales team. We have integrated these forms (via APIs) to flow directly into our platform where the onboarding team can access them seamlessly during the project while managing their workflows and communication. Leveraging technology and APIs will help you keep the process, documentation, and customer experience organized.
A customer honeymoon?
Many often refer to the customer onboarding as the “customer honeymoon” phase. The sales-to-delivery handoff is the first step to making sure that customer honeymoon is everything the customer hoped it would be. If there isn’t a handoff process in place for your internal teams, I suggest putting one in order. Different companies of different sizes do it in different ways, but I recommend finding a platform that keeps this process organized and allows you to seamlessly integrate. Even if it costs money, your project going wrong (like the one I shared) will cost you much more.
For more project management pain points, click here.