Designing a Sales-to-CSM Handoff that Actually Works

The best place to set our relationship with the customer up for huge success – on both sides – is right at the beginning, and it doesn’t get much earlier than the Sales-to-CSM Handoff.

Of course, the Sales-to-CSM Handoff is also where companies can (and often do) completely drop the ball and set the relationship with the customer up for massive failure right from the start.

So what I’ve put together in this post is how to design a streamlined and repeatable Sales-to-CSM Handoff that sets everybody up for success and ensures your customers never “slip through the cracks” again.

What I’ve shared below is obviously for a higher-engagement Sales & CSM environment; for self-service or lower-engagement environments you’ll have to make some adjustments.
But even in higher-engagement situations, you’ll still need to take  what I have shared below and transform it to make it your own.
This is not a template or blueprint to be applied without modification (doing that will not lead to good places)… this is just to get you thinking in the right direction.
Here you go…

Example Sales-to-CSM Handoff Process

My (now) standard disclaimer: As with everything I publish, this is just an article. It is necessarily incomplete and generic. I cannot tell you exactly what you should do and if someone who doesn’t know your business and your customers tells you exactly what your processes should look like, run away. Run far and fast.

  1. Salesperson orchestrates during the sales process that they’ll be introducing them to the CSM once they sign-up
    1. Where it makes sense, a CSM might be introduced during the sales cycle
    2. When or if a CSM should be introduced during the sales cycle is heavily dependent on a number of factors like the strategic value of the prospect, the complexity of the customer’s needs, etc.
    3. This may only take place with a subset of your prospects
  2. On the final call, customer agrees to buy
    1. Salesperson must allocate 5 mins at the end of the call to start the handoff process
  3. Salesperson looks to see which CSM they should go to
    1. Can we be proactive here and show the salesperson who the next available CSM is?
    2. If we go with a dedicated Onboarder (ONB), this part of the process is irrelevant
    3. Unless you do a CSM intro first and then bring in the ONB (this is generally the preferred way when you have a dedicated ONB)
  4. Salesperson tells the new member who their CSM will be “All of our CSMs are fantastic, and [CSM name] is no exception, you’re going to love working with them.
    1. If we go with a dedicated ONB, we need to tweak this a bit
  5. Salesperson reminds the customer that while they have a CSM that’s assigned to their account, said CSM is a human so they need to properly manage expectations around working with humans
    1. Of course, our CSMs are human so it’s possible you might work with one of our other amazing CSMs at some point.
  6. Salesperson says, “we need to get your kickoff call on the calendar ASAP… the longer we wait, the further out it’ll be and we want you up and running quickly, right?”
  7. Salesperson messages them the CSM’s Calendly (or whatever) link for kickoff calls
    1. If they can, send a message through Zoom or whatever they’re using
    2. Otherwise email it to them
    3. we have a 3-day built-in buffer for kickoff calls; the soonest they can get is 3 days out
      1. This feeds into the narrative that they need to keep this call scheduled because clearly there’s demand
      2. It also gives them time to do any pre-work we need them to do (of course there will be pre-work before a kickoff call, right? Right.)
  8. Customer locks down a call time right then and confirms it with Salesperson
  9. Salesperson says, “Awesome! We’re good to go. I’ll send you an email introducing you to your CSM and they’ll take it from there, okay?”
  10. Salesperson sends an email introducing the CSM and the Customer
    1. Canned Response in GMail
    2. Should be short and include the kickoff call date/time
  11. CSM responds to that email
    1. [Salesperson, thank you for the intro… I’m moving you to BCC
    2. Hi [Customer First Name], I’m excited to get you going. Our call is set for [date/time] and I’ll send you a couple of reminders ahead of that call.”
    3. and give them some pre-work or something simple to look at/watch before the call
      1. This could be a checklist of what they need to prepare and bring to the kickoff call
      2. If possible/necessary, this could be tied to what they said their initial goal was
        1. This should be reiterated in the initial reply
    4. do NOT give them the option to reschedule but say “we only have 45-mins for this call and we need every one of those minutes. Sometimes Zoom needs to download something, so if you can, please arrive 2 mins early for the call.”
  12. Salesperson does appropriate discovery turnover with CSM
    1. Salesperson updates the customer record in the CRM
    2. Salesperson shares discovery that doesn’t fit in the CRM with the CSM either on a Zoom call or just sends a quick ~3-min CloudApp or Loom video.
      1. This extra-CRM discovery intel is the key to not losing the emotional connection between the goal and the customer that the salesperson created with the prospect during the sales cycle.
  13. Kickoff call happens
  14. The customer record is updated in the CRM to indicate the kickoff call has occurred
    1. The sale is now closed 
    2. The salesperson can be paid their commission

Sales-to-CSM Handoff: Potential Issues and Troubleshooting

  1. Can they reschedule?
    1. Yes, of course… but we need to discourage this and remind them that they bought for a reason and make sure they’re not putting it off because they’re trying to avoid change.
  2. What if they start ghosting us?
    1. Get the Salesperson back on them… which will be easier to do if the sale isn’t complete until this meeting happens.
  3. Further ensuring they show up?
    1. Always ensuring we’re connecting actions to the goal they’re trying to achieve is the key to getting them to actually take those actions
    2. We could gimmick this by throwing in “Accelerated Onboarding” – a $500 value – but only if they get started in a week or something. This creates a sense of loss should they decide to slow roll us. If you like this idea, let’s talk it out to make sure it only has positive results.

Ensuring Quality Sales-to-CSM Handoffs happen Consistently

  1. The sale is NOT complete for measurement / management / compensation purposes until the kickoff call happens
  2. Use TTFV – Time to First Value – as another measurement for the Salesperson, further driving the importance of this handoff process

More to read on Sales-to-CSM Handoffs and Customer Onboarding

About Lincoln Murphy

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