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CS driven deal qualification process

Should CS qualify Sales leads before the prospect becomes a real customer? Should CS be a gate for Sales?

It is a very tough call to make. Because, traditionally, Customer Success gets involved after a contract is signed. And the CS team needs to engage, invest and nurture the customer unconditionally, taking into trust that a good opportunity qualification exercise has been completed.

Is this approach still relevant for today? With the introduction of a Customer Success function at every level, starting from the C-suite, the customer becomes the focal point of all functions. The job of customer success function is to deliver extraordinary customer experience, drive growth for the customer and in effect ensure that the customer continues to do business (CSAT, NDR, NRR).

To be able to successfully do this without exponentially increasing costs every time a new customer is onboard, we need to be able to drive common assets across customers. Companies that have a clear understanding of who their target/focus customer is, build common digital assets, value propositions, support functions and are able to drive optimization. When the Customer Success function is unable to do this and builds special assets, processes and people each time, it is failing. The cost of nurturing such special customers is high and 99% of the time unrewarded.

Hence, Customer Success should clearly focus on large customers, with promising revenue outlook, higher CSAT, and On-time adoption/renewals. Pareto’s principle says that 80% of an organisation’s revenue comes from 20% of its customers.

How to identify if a newly signed customer will actually be one such growth catalyst even before a deal is signed?

This calls for the addition of “Customer success specific checklists” to be added to the opportunity qualification checklists.

The key elements of this checklist would be:

  • Customer problem statement - Has this been solved for any other customer? Or is this a totally new dynamic yet our product & solutions are the right fit to solve this?

  • Cost of not doing this opportunity? - Will other customers face the same issue that building this for a new customer will open new revenue/markets in future?

  • Cost of doing this opportunity - Will the new opportunity require to take the focus away from key customers? What is the risk quotient?

  • Target Deployments Where is the customer deploying your solution? Is it for key strategic initiatives or is it in research/exploratory work?

  • Key Stakeholders Who from customer stakeholders are actively engaging? If it is not from the C-suite or someone in the higher ranks, is it really critical?

  • Speed of onboarding How smooth can customer onboarding be? Will it take a long time to onboard this customer and affect the customer onboarding experience, because new digital assets need to be built, including the product

  • Optimization - Can the CS team, their expertise be leveraged across customers or the if this customers calls for fresh hiring/skillsets

It is time to let go of the past sales centric, opportunity qualification checklist. It is time to introduce Customer Success specific insights and parameters into the same.

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