The Biggest Gap Between Sales and Customer Success

Regardless of your industry, your sales goals are probably relatively simple. You need a certain amount of revenue in order to meet your monthly and annual goals. But for the long-term health and growth of your business, a more strategic and thoughtful approach is necessary.

SaaS providers know about the importance of customer lifetime value. If the product or service you sell is based on a subscription pricing model, the initial sales conversion means little. But the same remains true for any type of business; if your new customers churn at a high rate, they will ultimately mean little for your long-term revenue and success.

According to a recent report by Goldman Sachs, a 2% decrease in churn can improve valuation by up to 20%.Catherine Blackmore

That’s the heart of many customer loyalty studies performed in the last few years. One, for example, found that ‘fully engaged’ customers deliver 23% higher revenues than average, while their ‘actively disengaged’ counterparts actually drop 13% compared to that same average. A sale means little if that sale does not convert into a long-term, healthy relationship between customer and brand.

Understanding the Sales-Success Gap

Unfortunately, many customers experience a disconnect between the initial sale and their own continued engagement. Companies that focus too heavily on the pre-sales processes can easily ignore the needs of their new customers, leading to greater chances of churn and less engaged new customers with a shorter lifespan.

That problem is especially pronounced in the mobile world. No less than 86% of new mobile users never return after the initial download, and only 2.7% make it past the first 30 days. If you’re not careful, leaving your new customers to their own devices after getting them on board can ensure their lack of engagement, ultimately leading them to jump off without providing you with meaningful revenue.

How Customer Onboarding Closes the Gap

Fortunately, the biggest gap between sales and customer success comes down to a fixable process: customer onboarding. When a new customer comes aboard, they expect to see their reason for conversion fulfilled. By helping them achieve that goal, you can ensure continued retention and success that will positively reflect on your bottom line.

As marketing expert Aaron Agius points out, the process is especially valuable for startups:

A lot of startups are good at hypergrowth. But in order to succeed long term, they need to combine hypergrowth with tactics (like customer onboarding) that reduce churn — otherwise eventually, the churn rate becomes greater than the potential leads to replace them.

But ultimately, companies of every size can benefit from the same process. Especially if your product or service requires at least some type of learning curve, you need extra communication and content that can help your new customers fulfill their desired outcome. Customer onboarding operationalizes that endeavor.

Building a Successful Customer Onboarding Process

Closing the gap between the initial sale and long-term customer success is vital. But how do you do it? How can you design a process that accommodates new customers without taking valuable resources away from the undoubtedly important sales process? The exact answer differs based on your industry and customers, but these 5 steps can help you get started:

Understanding New Customer Needs

Everything about your customer onboarding process should be focused on your customer’s perceived and the desired value. Think of it as an extension of your audience’s pain points; in your marketing and sales efforts, you sought to address and solve these pain points. Now, it’s time to deliver on that promise.

These needs, of course, can be both aspirational and functional. Aspirational onboarding helps your new customers better understand the long-term value they get from staying with you; as a workflow company, for example, we promise the operationalization of processes that save time and resources and makes necessary workflow steps more easy to implement and scale.

At the same time, functional onboarding is just as important. This is the type of content and communication that outlines exactly how your new customers can use your product or service. The goal is to ensure that they will actually use it, which will greatly increase their chances of remaining engaged and providing more lifetime value to your company.

Determining the Success Goal

You can only close the gap between the sale and customer success if you know what the latter actually means for your company. In other words, how do you define customer success?

A number of metrics may be relevant. New customers may hit a lifetime value goal, or need a certain level of interaction in order to be deemed ‘successful.’ Understanding exactly what makes your customers successful helps you build a workflow that works toward that goal.

Conceptualizing the Flowchart

Once you know your customer needs and your onboarding goals, it’s time to build the concept that gets new customers from the sale to success. The best way to start that process is through a flowchart, on which you outline the individual steps needed to bridge the gap.

Depending on your goals, audience, and the complexity of your product, this flowchart can take on a variety of shapes. The Financial Brand, for example, suggests a 365-day timeline for banks who look to welcome new clients.

The process, in that case, is linear. But if you offer multiple products or subscription level, it can take a more 2-dimensional, complex shape. That’s why drawing the concept on paper can be helpful to get a grasp of the potential complexity.

Designing Communications and Content

Having built the flowchart, it’s time to outline, design, and write the content that will help you optimize your customer onboarding processes. This content, naturally, should be informed by everything you now know about your clients’ needs and your success goals.

It starts with a simple welcome email. But it can go far beyond that email. Some companies build a knowledge base, in which they house tutorials and other learning materials to help ease the transition for new customers. Others schedule personal phone calls to ensure that after an introductory period, everything is going according to plan. Regardless of the steps you take, each of them should be designed to get your new customers engaged with your product or service.

Building the Workflow

Finally, with all the raw materials in place, it’s time to build the success workflow. Convert the flowchart into an automated process to save resources, and plug in your communications and content as needed.

VPOIDS, Inc. was able to improve its customer success rate by 50% simply by converting a manual flowchart into an automated workflow. The scalability of that process, along with better tracking capabilities, allow you to design a process that bridges the gap between the sale and long-term success.

Maximizing Your Customer Onboarding Success

In short, especially if you offer non-convenience products or services that require little to no adjustments on the side of your customers, onboarding should be a core part of your efforts to ensure long-term client success and business growth. The gap between sales and customer success can be large, and only a strategic onboarding process can help you close it.

That process may look very different depending on your customers’ needs and industry. But regardless of the details, it needs to be automated and scalable in order to provide the maximum possible return on investment. With the help of workflow software, you can accomplish just that.

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About the author - Amit Kothari

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