Hand-in-hand, not handoff: How a three-legged stool approach fuels growth

Sales-to-CS Handoff

What’s on customer success’s in-and-out list for 2024? 

  • In: A hand-in-hand, three-team approach to customer success where Sales, CS, and Marketing work together to guide customers through the entire customer journey.
  • Out: The old-school Sales-to-CS handoff. No more “Here’s your customer success manager, see you never!” emails from the sales rep.

Totango Chief Marketing Officer Karen Budell refers to this cross-functional effort as the “three-legged stool” approach, and as she recently explained on the SaaS Half Full podcast, this method is not only extremely effective but also necessary for helping enterprises grow through the expansion of their current customer bases. 

“Once you bring someone onboard as a customer, you’ve got every functional team touching that customer throughout their journey in some way, shape, or form,” she said. “It’s a challenge because it requires cross-functional alignment, cross-functional collaboration, and communication. Figuring out how to orchestrate that expansion motion and how to have the right processes, people, and technology in place is the focus of so many business leaders today.”

Here are three of Karen’s hot takes from the episode, and be sure to listen to the full podcast to learn more about the three-legged stool approach and how to effectively use this method to find new revenue growth.


Customer success is a three-legged stool

“Chime! Chime! Chime!” The win-wire Slack channel. We all know it. We all celebrate. And, we all too often think of it as a finish line. 

Traditionally, the “sale” has been thought of as that ultimate finish line followed promptly by the handoff to CS to do their job and “keep the customers happy.” The reality, however, is not only is this type of model not cutting it from a business perspective, but it also hasn’t been cutting it from a customer perspective for a while. 

As Karen shared, customer success as a function of the organization is not just a Sales and CS relationship but rather a three-legged stool made up of CS, Sales, and Marketing leads. The role of each team overlaps throughout the customer journey, so they need to be able to work cross-functionally to drive expansion and growth. CS can help propel adoption by working alongside the Product team, drive additional value creation with the Sales organization, or grow advocacy with the Marketing department.

“We really believe that customer success has its opportunity to have that seat at the C-suite table because they’re now so tied to growth for the enterprise,” Karen emphasized. “Whether or not renewal and expansion is owned within the CS organization, we’re seeing many leaders, customers, and folks that we engage with in the community looking for ways that CS can get credit for the qualified leads and opportunities that they surface for closing, because they’re so close to that customer day-in and day-out, and they have a pulse on what the health is of that account and where they can get more value.”


Hand-in-hand versus hand-off: 

The Sales-to-CS transition is a crucial part of the customer journey and should be treated as such. Unfortunately, many Sales representatives do little more than send an email introducing the customer to their CS manager after the contract is signed and then move on to the next.

“If you just consider [the transition] a ‘handoff’ and throw it over the fence, that’s when things go wrong,” Karen explained. “How can you bring that customer success onboarding or implementation team into the conversation before you close the customer and bring them onboard? Shifting those conversations earlier in the process ensures a smoother handoff that feels more collaborative and hand-in-hand versus throwing that contracted new customer over the fence.” 

Bringing CS into the pre-sale conversations allows customer success teams to better understand the underlying “why” the customer is purchasing the product and the end value they want to receive from using it. This knowledge provides the direction to successfully guide the customer through onboarding, adoption, advocacy, and beyond. 


The bridge between Sales and CS? Marketing. 

Marketers have always focused on knowing the customer first, positioning them as a formative bridge between Sales and CS leaders. Customer marketing can answer questions like: 

  • How are you tapping into your best advocates? 
  • What products and services are those customers using? 
  • What makes certain customers more successful than other? 
  • How do we replicate that success?
  • How do you leverage happy customers to drive growth?

Armed with this information, marketing can function as a bridge to connect with sales and CS to not only build successful growth campaigns but also to create a space for customers to engage with and learn from one another on how to be successful with your products.

“When you find those customers who have really cracked the code on your product or service, they’re almost teaching you and your product organization what you should be doing better or differently, and you can leverage them to share where they found success,” Karen explained. “Everyone is clamoring to learn from those who have figured it out, so that is key to cracking the code on a successful marketing campaign. People want to know what they don’t know.”

To successfully inform and build out these campaigns, you need a single source of truth that integrates all important data sources and gives your teams a shared view of your customers, which is critical to making informed decisions. Totango software offers the ability to get everyone on the same page by providing strong, multi-dimensional customer health profiles that include key information like how customers use your product, license utilization, service utilization, NPS scores, contract terms, campaign engagement, and more. 

“If you can have all of that data visible and accessible in a single source of truth for your cross-functional partners, that’s when everyone’s operating off the same data to inform an expansion campaign,” Karen said. “Integrate the sources that matter to Sales, CS, Marketing, and Product and then have that one source of truth that everyone can access and make their decisions off of that.”

Drive expansion with Totango

Navigate the complexities of driving growth and expansion by taking the “three-legged stool” approach to CS and integrating all data sources into one single source of truth. These steps will help ensure you have the right processes, people, and technology in place to make informed and strategic expansion plans.

Take a tour of the many solutions Totango offers to help your organization gain a better understanding of your customer’s health and promote cross-functional collaboration to grow and expand your business.

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