The Path to Predictable Growth: Action-Focused Hot Takes from CS and Sales Leaders

The Path to Predictable Growth: Action-Focused Hot Takes from CS and Sales Leaders

Drive customer-led growth and retention by giving your Sales and CS functions a shared vision

Selling ≠ delivering long-term value.

Lasting relationships are the lifeblood of great Customer Success and, really, of great companies. It’s easy to spot organizations that just look for net new revenue hits and then move on to the next win. (Hint: They’re the ones who prioritize acquiring new customers at all costs, whether they fit in the ICP or not. And also the ones with Sales compensation structures that don’t factor in retention.) 

Those of us in CS know there’s a better way.

When the whole GTM function focuses on the entire customer lifecycle instead of just selling, they deliver lasting value to clients and unlock predictable growth. Sales, CS, Product, and Implementation teams need to lock arms and establish a foundational bond with customers—and then nurture it—to deliver this value consistently. By co-owning customer outcomes and implementing more fair compensation structures, teams can hit those goals while helping customers reach theirs.

We’re all here to create incredible customer outcomes—and this responsibility can’t solely fall on CS. Our recent roundtable discussion decoded some of the hottest takes from industry Sales and CS leaders on why this CS-GTM alliance matters. You’ll hear a hot take from:


Rashmi’s up first to talk KPIs.

Rashmi’s Hot Take: Shared KPIs Lead to Shared Wins 

To really build lasting relationships, Rashmi Clari believes you need to apply intentional focus to every piece of the customer journey—but especially the beginning: 

“If there was one thing we could do to improve our renewal and expansion rates, it would be to get onboarding right.”

There are countless customer onboarding strategies. It’s time for CS to share KPIs with Professional Services or Implementation teams to align the vision and streamline outcomes so teams don’t move the customer toward disparate targets. This is the bedrock of proactive onboarding vs. reactive onboarding when internal teams work together to guide each customer toward a “moment of impact” that leads to their desired outcome instead of knee-jerk reactions to product issues or cancellations. 

Rashmi likens onboarding to “the three-legged horse”—customers move from Sales, to Implementation, to a final CS handoff. Shared KPIs promote shared accountability. 

“We’ve created SLAs and milestones for getting a customer onboarded according to their needs. Before, all customers looked alike. Now we have nine different onboarding cohorts where the process is a strategic deal vs. a scale deal.”

Rashmi and her team lean on hyper-nuanced onboarding paths, processes, and people depending on the services and solutions ThousandEyes customers purchase. This gets incredibly complicated without shared KPIs.

But if Sales, Implementation, and CS are collectively bonused or rewarded for hitting the same Time to First Value goal, then they’ll intuitively work together to get customers ramped quickly. Plus, each internal team won’t be so focused on their own departments’ billable hours. Every part of the three-legged horse should move the customer through onboarding and implementation efficiently so they reach their goals faster. This is the gateway to lasting relationships.

Another way to deliver on customer value? Bring Product teams into variable compensation plans based on net revenue retention (NRR). Let’s hear it from Kevin McIntyre.

Kevin’s Hot Take: Variable Compensation Plans for Product 

Revenue responsibility is slowly but surely, evening out between Sales and CS at most post-sales-focused organizations. This makes plenty of sense; there’s more post-sale revenue potential than one-time-close revenue potential, so CS should absolutely have metaphorical skin in the revenue game

However, Product teams typically aren’t held accountable in the same ways (i.e. no part of their compensation is on the line). When Kevin McIntyre joined Dealfront, legacy organizations formed a merger and CS was accountable for everything post-sale, from renewal to expansion. Dealfront tipped the balance by infusing Account Management into the customer side of their business. Dedicated AMs identified customers with a high propensity to expand and focused on them.

“I’m a big believer that focus drives execution. If you can drive the right relationship between Account Management and CS, it’s one of those situations where one plus one equals three.”

Evolving the Account Management function meant compensation structures needed to evolve, too. This brings us to Kevin’s hot take: Product teams should have variable compensation plans like CSMs and AMs based on NRR attainment. 

“[NRR] is a metric that assesses how much of the revenue across your customer base you’re maintaining net of churn, but adding the growth in any expansion back into that,” notes Kevin. “The magic number across B2B SaaS is right around 100% net retention.”

Here’s why this hot take matters, per Kevin:

“You can have the most world-class CS organization in terms of how they’re:

  • Onboarding
  • Orchestrating their systems and processes
  • Driving renewal processes
  • Finding areas of opportunity for expansion

… But if the product isn’t delivering recurring value, the CS team is going to be fighting fires all day.”

When Product teams stay focused on the user experience, they create stickier digital journeys. As co-owners of NRR with CSMs, they’ll view processes and releases through an added lens: What do customers care about, and what will keep them happy? Kevin believes this mindset will create shared accountability between Product and Customer functions.

By bringing Product into variable comp plans, they’ll be held more directly accountable for their work financially, just like CSMs are. When NRR is high, they’ll be compensated for it, because it’s the product they’re building that’s either meeting customer needs or missing the mark.

Aircall’s Madelyn DePrey echoes this hot take, as these plays are landing at Aircall:

“We have new Product and Tech leaders, and they’ve been great partners in terms of taking our net retention baseline from the last two years and saying, ‘What are the pillars we need to build onto it to get to a top-line target this year?’ A significant pillar is product improvements.”

As a CS leader, Madelyn is no stranger to understanding why customers are churning and what they have to say about the product. Partnering with a Sales counterpart with shared OKRs and pillars only improves revenue gain.

Madelyn has a build on this hot take: Let’s hear her thoughts on variable compensation for Sales reps.

Madelyn’s Hot Take: Incentivize Your Three-Month Ramp 

A critically important time in the customer journey is the hand-off as customers move from Sales to CS.

Madelyn shares how Aircall frames this well:

“A process that I inherited when I started here begins when a deal closes. Here, the buyer journey is very much treated as the start of the customer journey.”

This mentality explains why all new Aircall customers have a closely monitored three-month ramp period. Any expansion, contraction, or churn that happens during those first three months impacts the Sales rep’s variable comp—either for the better, or for worse if that customer leaves right away.

“This incentivizes Sales to close the right type of deals and have a powerful handover,” she affirms.

Meanwhile, the Aircall onboarding team includes a ramp retention target as part of their variable comp. These strategic plays encourage a symbiotic partnership between Pre-Sales, Sales, and CS to create shared ownership and accountability.

After the three-month ramp, the CSM is responsible for customer expansion, contraction, and churn. But since the buyer’s journey is the customer journey, Pre-Sales and Sales should co-own initial customer success efforts rather than closing any deal whether they’re a good long-term fit or not.

We’ve got one more hot take in store. Let’s talk about ICPs.

BONUS: Rethink Your ICPs

If you’re reading this, your company probably has a defined ideal customer profile (ICP). Maybe it’s on a Google Slide or in an enablement repository. But how often do you actually refer back to your ICP?

A shared hot take across our entire panel was that ICPs need to be revamped to be legitimately helpful. To redesign your customer segments, focus on demographics, product usage data, and buyer personas. This is how we can truly know our customers. Kevin McIntyre thinks your ICP 2.0 should be shared across teams and integrated at every stage:

“If we look back on some of the challenges between Sales and CS teams, one of the biggest things is a misalignment on the ideal customer profile.”

A refined, data-backed ICP means all functions can focus on customers that fit the profile of past customers who’ve grown with the product and expanded their partnership with your company.

For Rashmi Chari, ThousandEyes discovered a core acquisition benefit: ThousandEyes can leverage Cisco’s expansive customer base. (A big win.)

Yet there’s a challenge here, too: CSMs also wear a Sales hat. Since customers are buying a Cisco-umbrella product and ThousandEyes might not be the core benefit they paid for, the CSM might need to introduce ThousandEyes to the customer. 

To remedy this, ThousandEyes built an incentive pilot to create shared KPIs and meaningful interactions across the cycle:

“We are experimenting with an incentive pilot where a sales rep only gets paid when the customer is ramped,” she notes. “For us, that looks like Time to First Value. Once a customer hits that, that’s when the Sales rep is paid.”

Meanwhile at Aircall, Madelyn and her team are working to become more Product-led in the name of supporting their customers at scale:

“We’re going through a transformation and investing in digital Customer Success at the bottom of the market, and also really thinking about, ‘How do we continue to retain our big hitters that will have a big impact in our retention if we lose them?’”

Aircall’s leadership aligned to dig into CS and the digital customer journey with Product and automation. Together, they’re focusing on adding new products and features to drive ICP expansion revenue and sell to other similar businesses—all by deeply considering how existing happy customers use their product.


“We’re not just looking at the sheer expansion number, but also the average revenue per user … ‘Is that going up?’ If so, we will see our customer base expand, and that’s much more durable than the highs and lows of relying on license additions or subtraction,” Madelyn notes.

Meaningful Expansion Plays = Everyone Works Together

NRR is a company-wide metric, period. It’s something that all of us—from Sales to CS to Product to Implementation—are responsible for. 

We need to apply this insight to every deal that comes through the door. If a deal isn’t a good fit in the beginning, it won’t be a good fit for the company long-term. Bad-fit deals mean more customer churn and lower NRR. Deals that won’t evolve into meaningful relationships have a detrimental (but avoidable) downstream impact on KPIs and workflows. 

So, say goodbye to bad-fit deals and putting all the responsibility on CS. Opt for a united vision instead; one with shared KPIs, incentivization, and alignment across GTM teams for unmatched customer growth and retention.For more on our hot takes, watch our full roundtable discussion, or read or listen to Catalyst and Totango content to stay in the loop on emerging CS trends.

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