Customer Success Leadership Community

Customer Success Pre-Sales Role

  • 1.  Customer Success Pre-Sales Role

    Posted 10-26-2020 15:54
    Hello!  I'm curious to see how many of you have a dedicated pre-sales Customer Success Strategist in your organization.  For anybody who does, can you please share:

    • What does this generally look like?  
    • What kind of skill set(s) or experience does this person or team hold?  (CS Practitioner, consulting or sales background, etc.)
    • How do you structure your cycle to be the right mix of business value/strategy and showcase of your product capabilities?

    If you haven't gone down this path yet, I'd love to hear your thoughts!  Are you considering it?   

    Thank you!  I'm very happy to be here!

    Heidi Staats
    Higher Logic

  • 2.  RE: Customer Success Pre-Sales Role

    Posted 10-30-2020 09:39
    Tagging a few friends....

    Any of you seen a role like this? 

    @Kristi Faltorusso
    @Ziv Peled
    @Matt Myszkowski
    @Nick Mehta​​​​
    @David Jackson

    Jeff Breunsbach
    Founder, Gain Grow Retain
    Director of CX at Higher Logic
    Top 25 Influencer 2020

  • 3.  RE: Customer Success Pre-Sales Role

    Posted 10-30-2020 15:26
    Hi Heidi - 

    I created the role on my team and named it "Business Consultant".  It arose from identifying the various CX and CO issues caused by sales activities (I believe these are obvious to CS professionals, so I won't list them here), and the associated effects on employee engagement and productivity. In short, the sales team needed help with complex pursuits that required knowledge that comes from hands-on practical experience and a consultative approach to show how we could solve it.  My team needed to focus more on CS activities with our customers.

    The role grew - The dev, product mgt, and ops teams needed someone with strong consultative skills to help them understand the impacts of product and process changes on our team, our customers, and the AM teams. We needed a stop sign to ensure these issues were considered upfront since they were affecting CS and my team. 

    Our CAB needed a consultative expert to expose customer issues, and then brainstorm solutions. The output of those sessions needed to be fed into the dev roadmap process with appropriate priority.

    And there's more......we can talk if needed.

    As for the experience needed for the role  - I codeveloped this role with a consultant with deep domain and industry knowledge whose name was given to me by a friend who thought she would be a great candidate to fill an open Sr. CS position. When I met with her she stated she didn't want a CS role. Together she and I created this role to meet OUR needs. Win WIn.

    Hope this helps,

    James Conant

  • 4.  RE: Customer Success Pre-Sales Role

    Posted 10-30-2020 13:35

    Hi @Heidi Staats, this is a terrific question!

    I believe I touch on this with our Sales Engineer role. This role has recently started reporting to me as the VP of CS and not to our Sales leader and so far we've had success.

    See below for what the role generally looks like and the skills and structure I've established with this role. I'd love to hear any follow-up questions or feedback  you have Heidi.

    Sales Engineer

    As the trusted advisor to Sales and advocate for our potential customer, the Sales Engineer manages the overall product demonstrations throughout the pre-sales lifecycle. The SE is responsible for guiding prospective customers to purchase by driving perceived value from our product, overall satisfaction of demo experience and engaging resources across IngeniousIO to deliver desired prospective customer outcomes.

    The SE helps prospective customers while simultaneously strengthening their relationship with our company. The SE will partner with Sales, Product and Customer Success. This role requires a customer-centric mindset and an understanding of the AECO industry to successfully drive value to a rapidly expanding customer base.

    Responsibilities Include:

    Product Demonstrations

    • Presentation: Proactively work with potential IngeniousIO customers and guide them into IngeniousIO customers and evangelists through highly effective product demonstrations (mostly remote via screen sharing software, but some in person as well)
    • Discovery: Listen intently to customer pain points to effectively build relationships at all levels from business unit leaders to executive sponsors to communicate thoughtful, customized  solutions that help them move forward with their purchase decision. An emphasis needs to be placed on translating their current processes into IngeniousIO while solving for their biggest challenges.
    • Build: Understand how to leverage IO resources to educate prospective customers and provide relevant best practices and technical recommendations on solutions and enhancements that support customer needs and configure IngeniousIO platform to customize demonstrations.
    • Customer Service: Provide the highest level of service and support to prospective and existing IngeniousIO customers through diligent and timely communication on outstanding issues, requests, and escalations
      • Manage initial communication to QA_Management and communication back to prospective and existing IngeniousIO customers, and leverage internal resources as needed
    • Executive Presence: Show  professionalism, composure, resilience, and flexibility as prospective customer needs evolve and customer volume changes.

    Customer Success and Sales Enablement

    • Assist in the creation and deployment of appropriate sales and customer enablement materials, and leverage internal resources as needed (includes help center articles, whitepapers, blogs, etc.)
    • Manage the help center knowledge base and ensure that all information is easily and readily accessible at the point of need
    • Complete immersion and mastery of IngeniousIO's product offerings, business model, services, emerging technologies, and Customer Success best practices

    Product Enablement

    • Communicate with fellow team members (mentoring and asking questions) via instant messaging, email, phone, and face to face meetings to provide feedback and intelligence that will identify new potential features and functionality
    • Collaborate with all levels of the IngeniousIO organization to develop best practices and share the voice of the customer with Product Managers to further Customer Success and IngeniousIO's evolution as a market leader
    • Maintain expectations of status of development and product with prospective and existing customers

    Customer Success Support

    • Assist and collaborate with Customer Success team members in the Customer Escalations, QA management channels as well as aid in customer configuration and implementation. 
    • As needed, join customer calls as a trusted advisor in product for CSM and customer

    Yanira "Janita" Sesniak
    Vice President of Customer Success

  • 5.  RE: Customer Success Pre-Sales Role

    Posted 10-30-2020 18:32
    This is a great question and I've enjoyed reading the responses. At my organization, we've also implemented an SE role albeit to mixed success. As a result, my questions to the group are how do you find the right people and how do you keep them accountable? Doing sales demos and doing CS work are separate skill sets and often attract very different personalities. As a result of this, early on in our development we continued to have all the stereotypical problems flow downstream despite having an SE position. This stemmed from the SE role remaining separate from the post sales experience, even though we would often involve them in escalations. While I certainly don't have all the answers, I have a few thoughts and would be interested in others' feedback:

    • Actively recruit people from non-sales backgrounds including providing this as a career path for those on your team from onboarding, CS, and support backgrounds. You would of course require a means of identifying individuals with potential, training, and cultivating them, etc. but this would help address the gap in experience. 
    • Have each SE manage a small number of accounts like a CSM would to keep their knowledge of post sales life, onboarding, and product pain points up to date. Most importantly, you'd want to hold them accountable and have similar conversations as you would with a CSM should those accounts escalate in risk or churn. 
    • Have a feedback mechanism for bad product fit. While this is a broader sales management topic, since the SE is doing demos, ROI calculations, and proposals for specific products and solutions, it would make sense to formalize this with that role in mind. 


    Ashton L

  • 6.  RE: Customer Success Pre-Sales Role

    Posted 12-01-2020 18:03
    Good question.

    I think one key clarifying question - is your CS offering a paid for engagement?

    I have just left SAP and we did have a dedicated CS Business Development person but I think what we set out to achieve with this role slightly changed by the time we delivered it. Originally this was the first person who we would build a team around to support true pre-sales activities across the regions - focussing on supporting our sales colleagues in customer facing engagements to "sell" our CS offering (paid for - hence my question) accurately and maximise ours and our customers chances of being successful. The reality is that this role became 80% enablement focused, ensuring our sales team were equipped with the right information to position the offering themselves.

    The individual that did this role in EMEA was excellent - she was someone with a consulting and business development background, but arguably her success lead to it not being sustainable and scalable to continue with as the number of opportunities we needed to cover become impossible, We then reverted to our CS leaders taking this role together with the senior CSMs in the teams.

    Not sure if this helps or not but happy to discuss if you want.

    Matt Myszkowski
    VP, Customer Experience EMEIA

  • 7.  RE: Customer Success Pre-Sales Role

    Posted 10-30-2020 10:28
    Amazingly, I haven't seen this, but it's super intriguing!

    Nick Mehta

  • 8.  RE: Customer Success Pre-Sales Role

    Posted 11-30-2020 18:36
    @James Conant - we're in the process of breaking out our current "Account Management" team, and this is one of the roles on the table. We find it very beneficial when our current AMs get involved in the solution design process pre-contract to help avoid pitfalls, but I wonder how much of their effectiveness is due to the fact that they're straddling the pre/post-contract journeys and deal with those issues first hand. How do you continuously enable your Business Consultants with customer/CS knowledge? Is the CAB component of the role a key ingredient?

    Lindsey Kemmerich
    Head of Account Management
    New York NY

  • 9.  RE: Customer Success Pre-Sales Role

    Posted 10-30-2020 15:33
    @Yanira "Janita" Sesniak  - Your "Sales Engineer" role performs almost the same duties as our "Business Consultant" role. It also reported directly to me (VP).

    James Conant

  • 10.  RE: Customer Success Pre-Sales Role

    Posted 12-01-2020 14:54
    @Lindsey Kemmerich - Good question re: BC enablement.  These are senior roles and as such required deep industry experience as well as consulting experience. We added product training to our onboarding program as they started, and refined it as we progressed with input from our new associates. Additional deeper knowledge was gained thru curiosity and exposure to various situational challenges (internal - CS, product mgt, sales, dev, org readiness, etc meetings, and external - prospects, customers, CAB, tradeshows...). We used the experience they gained to develop best practices that were shared to our CS team via lunch n Learns, team meetings, etc, and other teams as well, such as legal, sales, finance,...

    As for how we approached the pre/post contract journeys - Our business consultants were used by the sales team on larger complex enterprise deals to review proposals, participate in meetings (both over the phone and in-person when necessary), to obtain benchmarking data, etc. Situationally we used CS and AM associates as well depending on the market segment. Regardless of my team's participation, one of the key elements to prospect-to-cust success was capturing the relevant info discussed in prospect meetings (especially their def of success).

    Obviously, the BC does a lot. You have to meet with them regularly to discuss their workload, priorities, and establish a protocol for making decisions. Some require your approval, ...most do not. 

    Does this help? We can talk over the phone too....

    James Conant