Sales cycles in the SaaS and technology world can be long and exhaustive, sometimes taking months – if not years – to win deals. And that’s not including the post sales cycle process where the product or services has to be implemented and taught to the end users. According to Jason Lemkin, Founder of SaaStr, a trusted source for SaaS companies, deals that are $100,000 or greater in Annual Contract Value (ACV) will take on average 3-6 months to close. But larger enterprise deals can take much, much longer.
Bring the Executive Along Early
Often times, we see that sales teams sell to their champion(s) and other decision maker committee members. But what happens at the end of the sales cycle when the executive is brought in for final approval? Has your sales team been integrating the executive(s) since day one, ensuring they understand the product or service and that they, personally, see the value and the return for their dollar? If executives are brought into the sales cycle too late, they may fail to see the value of your product or solution – especially if it won’t affect the bottom line in the near term.
What does that mean for the CSM and the renewal?
Even though the initial sale likely doesn’t involve the CSM (unless it’s a very strategic deal), it’s crucial to him or her for the executives to be bought in and to see the value firsthand from the start. Otherwise, months later when the CSM is working on an upsell or renewal, executive buy-in may become an issue. So how should the sales team integrate the executives during the initial sales cycle? Here are 3 key ways to engage executives early on:
3 Ways to Engage Executives Early to Drive Customer Success
1. Learn Their Metrics & KPIs
In order to integrate the executive sponsor into the sales process, it’s important for the sales rep to first understand – before anything else – what he or she cares most about. What are the metrics they think about and report on weekly, quarterly, and yearly? What metrics are imperative to their teams? What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the top level of the business, and how do they currently measure those KPIs? What happens if they don’t reach their goals, or their metrics are off? The sales rep must ask specific questions of stakeholders and executives in order to understand how these metrics play out across not only the department, but the business as a whole.
2. Determine Dashboards & Insights They Need
How does the executive currently track his or her performance metrics? It’s one thing to understand metrics and KPIs, but how do these translate into their daily role? How can your product or service help them better present metrics to the C-Level and to the Board? While your sales team is solutioning for the needs of the end users and direct contacts, ensure that the executive conversation is part of the process. Integrating the needs of the executive into the sales process is key, including elements such as specific dashboards to help him or her measure department and company performance, insights in the form of visualized data or tracking, and information that he or she can use on a regular basis for executive and Board meetings to present data from your product or service that’s relevant to the business.
3. Help Them See the Value in Entirety
Rarely is a product or service positioned as a one-off tool. Rather, today’s SaaS companies and services companies often use solution selling to help solve multiple problems or streamline processes across an entire department or even an entire company. But the executive viewpoint into these solutions is critical. The executive needs to fully understand how your product or service will add value not just in a “feature” sort of way which can be easily replaced over time, but rather impact the bottom line or create value in terms of time savings, cost savings, or streamlined processes. It’s imperative that your sales team involves the executives in these value conversations from the start, and that they don’t see your product or service as a “feature” or even a “tool”, but rather a solution to add significant value over time.
Does Your Sales Cycle and Customer Journey Integrate Executives Early On?
Does your sales organization ensure that the executive is integrated into the sales process early on? Do your sales reps understand how to position value, and even how to illustrate the value by creating dashboards or visualized data specific to their needs? By integrating executives early on, the conversation about value will be much easier for the CSM to scale in the long run, and will likely help your product or service to be treated as an integral part of your customer’s processes.
Check out our resources below for more customer success best practices and insights for how your organization can approach customer success with the customer at the center:
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