As a follow-up to our well-attended webinar on “Selling for People Who Don’t Love Sales” with Bryan Neale from Blind Zebra Consulting, we wanted to get more of our audience’s questions answered.
Since we didn’t have the time to get to all of the questions that came in during the live webinar, Bryan took the time to go through and provide his responses to the unanswered questions, so we could share them with you here.
We hope this helps answer all of your questions on Sales skills for Customer Success Managers.
You can find the initial Q&A recap from the webinar here.
Speaker: Bryan Neale, Founder and Culture Geek, Blind Zebra (and NFL referee #92)
Q: At what time would you involve a salesperson to support with the upsell?
A: The first thing I think about is the customer. I think about the customer experience and the customer relationship that I have personally and that we have as a company. And if I think involving the salesperson will enhance the customer’s experience, then I involve them. If I think involving the salesperson will make the customer’s experience neutral or negative, I don’t.
I don’t believe a salesperson has to be involved in an upsell. That’s just crazy. I work with a lot of salespeople and I am one at heart. Sometimes we have a little too much high self-regard, and we think that we’re the only ones who can handle an upsell. And I work with too many really talented CS people who can honestly sell just as well as – and a lot of times even better than – the sales team can. So, I think of the customer first.
The only caveat to that is if your company’s internal process requires you to involve a salesperson to support the upsell, then you have to do what the boss says.
Q: What if the customer ignores that request for setting a clear future date?
A: During the webinar we discussed the CFD, a tool that is really helpful in stopping people from ghosting you. Essentially, if we’re going to have a next step or a conversation or a QBR or an expansion call or anything like that, we set a date on the calendar, we set a time and we set an action and then we send it in an electronic invitation and the customer accepts it. So, time/date/action surrounded by an accepted electronic invite is a clear future date.
But what if they ignore it? What if they just don’t respond to it? Well, here’s the deal. That’s not necessarily all that bad. It’s not great. But it’s a data point. And what it tells you is that they may not be as committed as you thought they were. They may just see us as a vendor. They may not see us as a collaborative partner. And we all have relationships where that’s the case. It may be a situation where they’re telling you – without telling you – that they’re not interested in expansion. And so the lack of desire to set a clear future date, to me, is an indicator that they may not be as committed as we thought. And then how long that goes on, the size of the customer and the depth of the relationship determines what we do next.
Q: How do you balance having a revenue goal and being “detached” to the outcome as a Customer Success Manager?
A: This is a great question because both salespeople and CS people deal with it. In the CS world, if you have a revenue goal (maybe it’s an upsell goal or a net revenue retention goal) and, as your coach, I teach you to be detached, you think, “How can those two things go together?” They can. I promise you they can because I practice this all the time. Here’s the deal: Absolutely, without question, I’m a fan of writing your goals down. I teach people to dwell on their goals and think about them all the time. I do this myself.
But when it comes time to have a conversation with a customer, those goals have absolutely no space – they do not belong anywhere in that conversation. At all. They are completely unrelated. When I am with a customer, my sole intention and my sole hope is to be helpful to them.
And I just know in my heart of hearts there are some people I can help, some I can’t, and some are going to be in the middle somewhere. And if I’m helpful in the right way enough times, my goal will take care of itself. I don’t have to worry about it. And if I put pressure on the goal, if I take my attachments to my goals into my sales conversations, into my cs conversations, into my expansion conversations, then I’m in it for me. My intention is out of integrity. My intention is off. And everyone who is on the other side of that completely feels that energy. Do not go there. And all you have to do to separate those two is to create a wall in your brain where the goal doesn’t exist, it’s outside of the conversation.
Q: I like to believe being a CSM I’m a trusted advisor and help the customer get most value of our product. If an up/cross sell doesn’t add value (in my opinion), would you still try to generate more revenue from this customer? Think of your intent towards your company and your intent to this customer.
A: It is my firm belief that if you, as a person, can’t get there then you shouldn’t go there. I think it comes down to the individual. If the company requires you to, I would have you examine why the company might have a different intention than you do. Why your company might say everybody should be expanded to 100% adoption, for instance. I just don’t see the world that way. I don’t think everybody should use every piece of software. Not everybody should be on Instagram. Not everybody should be on Facebook. Not everybody should have a podcast. A lot of people should but not everybody should. So, I tend to default to the individual in this situation.
If your company leader buys into what we teach here at Blind Zebra (to have really great, strong intention and healthy detachment), they’ll support you. They will say, “If you don’t think that’s helpful for your customer, don’t do it.” And all you have to do is think of the customer first. Put yourself in their shoes. If I’m your customer and you don’t think I should buy something because you don’t think it adds value, but your boss makes you pitch me and I buy – and later I find out how you felt, then how do I feel as your customer? You really sold me something that you didn’t think I needed? Who wants to be treated that way? I don’t think anybody does.
So I feel much better, head on the pillow at night, saying, “Hey, if it’s not right for them, don’t do it.” It’s a big, abundant world. There are enough people who do need what you’ve got. We don’t have to make sure to squeeze every last drop of juice out of the orange for the ones who don’t.
Q: What would your next steps be if a person has said no to your sales related offer and then gets very defensive towards you?
A: Really great question. And this is a hard one. When people get angry at us, there’s typically some element of fear at the core. Fear that you’re trying to take advantage of me, make me look bad, go around me, or take control of me. And most people, when they get attacked, have this Pavlovian deep visceral reaction to attack back. If someone comes at us, we’re going to go at them. You fight, I’m going to defend myself. I fight, you defend. And, to me, that’s a horrible business relationship to have. It just doesn’t work long term.
There’s a book called the The Tao of Sales and in one of the chapters the author says, “fight resistance with non-resistance.” So, If I say anything that triggers a defensive response toward me, I have to look in the mirror and ask myself, “What did I do and what did I say that triggered that response?” because I never want any of my customers to come at me that way. So, I examine that first. And I back away from those things. And I’m going to ask them very openly and honestly why they went that way. I’m going to be very ok with keeping my intention clean and I’m not going to apologize for something if I didn’t do anything wrong.
So, if they say, “Well, I was just really offended that you suggested we expand to 20 users because we just started with 10,” I would say, “I understand.” Practice empathy. And now you told me why you felt that was too aggressive, which I get, and I’ll keep that in mind for next time. And I’ll make sure that my intentions are clean – which they were this time – but obviously my intention did not show up in my actions and language with you. So, we’ll put it on the shelf and be done with it.
Just back up, meet them where they are. If they’re upset with you, pull back. If they’re really happy and positive, forward is fine. We want people to be happy and enjoy their lives and enjoy their relationship with us and our business.
To continue to learn more on this topic of how Customer Success Manager can have effective Sales conversations with their customers, watch the full webinar on demand here.
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