Customer Success: How to help Salespeople with Customer Segmentation

The age-old issue of Customer Success and Sales alignment, only this time focused on segmentation.

This is my attempt to definitively address this eternal quandary.

For context, on Friday, May 19, 2017, I did a Customer Success Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Facebook live. It was awesome. The video is embedded below and below that is the transcript (edited for better readability) that answers the question.

How do we help our salespeople with Customer Segmentation?

So the question is how do we help our salespeople do segmentation? And the other is sort of how do we segment customers internally? And so we can take care of our most important customers. Okay.

I don’t understand why there’s this need to segment customers differently in sales, in marketing, and in Customer Success. It’s customer segmentation. It’s not departmental segmentation. This is not an inwardly-focused exercise. It usually is, unfortunately, but it should be that we’re looking at our customers in a way that makes sense to segment them. So, you know, if I’m going after (to use a somewhat aggressive term) a particular segment of customers, why is that going to be different than once I get those customers I’m going to serve them?

You see, a customer has a required outcome. A thing that they need to achieve. Their business outcome right? And they have a way that they need to achieve that Appropriate Experience. That Appropriate Experience – AX as I call it – goes across the entire customer lifecycle. It doesn’t start when a customer becomes a customer. It starts when a prospect first interacts with us. It starts when the prospect first interacts with our marketing cycle. It starts when the prospect is first contacted by an SDR or an AE. Okay? It’s a life cycle thing. It starts early.

How many of you heard me say, “The seeds of churn are planted early?” Well, that happens when we interact with a prospect early on, in an inappropriate way. Right? It means that we’re not giving them an Appropriate Experience, even before they become a customer. So we can’t do that. We need to have those aligned.

I have, this is a struggle that I run into a lot. You know, how do I, how does sales and marketing and Customer Success, how do they get aligned on these things? Or how can I help my sales people, you know, figure out how to, how can I work with my sales people around their segmentation? It’s like, this is customer segmentation. And you shouldn’t be going in different directions.

I’m still waiting for a valid reason why sales and marketing and Customer Success should have different segments. Nobody’s been able to give me a valid reason. Most of the time the reason is that’s just the way we’ve been doing it. Right? Sales looks at customers a certain way. Marketing looks at customers a certain way. And we want Customer Success, we look at customers a certain way.

That is probably not a valid reason to keep doing things that way. Right? Just because we’ve been doing it that way, is a bad reason to keep doing something. So, I don’t think there’s any reason they should be different. So, I don’t think that we should have to work with sales to figure out, you know, I don’t know. Someway of, sort of, getting close to matching.

I will say this: there is the reality on the ground of, you know, sales often times drives our companies. There are these amazing magical beings that can do no wrong. And everybody else is sort of at their mercy. I don’t like that. I think that’s a terrible way to run a business. And that’s okay. We don’t have to get into that. But, when you go to sales and you go to marketing, but it’s certainly sales, and you want to try to convince them that your Customer Success-driven approach to customer segmentation is the right way to look at things, you need to go into those conversations, sort of, with everything that you want from them. And be ready to negotiate down to what is acceptable.

I say this because Customer Success people – and this is a rash generalization, so take it for what it’s worth – Customer Success people aren’t in the daily habit at least of negotiating. Sales people are. And, if you go into a conversation with sales, sales leadership, and you’re trying to get, trying to convince them of something. You have to understand that you’re now sort of in their territory. This is what they do.

So at least come in with “this is everything that we want; this is what we will accept.” And we can negotiate down to there. When I see Customer Success, managers certainly, and even Customer Success leaders doing, is going into those conversations with like here’s what we, basically starting where they need to be. And negotiating down from there.

So, I don’t, I think actually all of that is ridiculous. We don’t need to do that negotiation. We need to actually look at this the right way. But that’s one little tip. Is just, be prepared to negotiate. Whatever that means. And whatever that means in your world. And start from where you, you know, start really high with high demands and negotiate down to where you want to be. Instead of starting where you want to be and negotiating from there. So that’s kind of my approach to sales, handling sales and that kind of thing.

About Lincoln Murphy

I invented Customer Success. I focus primarily on Customer Engagement. Learn more about me here.