How we use our CRM for customer success
I joined Close.com five years ago; it was 2016 and I was the very first hire for the new Customer Success team.
At that time we didn’t have a Customer Success strategy and our main goals were simple: open a line of communication with our customers about how they were using the product and learn how we could make their experience better.
Since then, Close has grown as a company — from the size of our team, to the number of customers we support, to the scale of the product features we support within our platform. Much has changed with that growth, but the fundamentals of how we treat our customers and how we ensure their success have stayed the same.
Close has years of experience in sales: Enterprise sales, SMB sales, and startup sales — we’ve done it all and we are experts in selling products and services.
We know and understand the best way to achieve results with tried-and-true sales tactics. This expertise guides our Success team’s interactions with customers, particularly those who don’t identify or have past experience as salespeople.
Identify your sales process
Part of the Success team’s initial onboarding is to work closely with our customers to identify their ideal sales process. Many customers start with only a general idea of how their sales team should work.
Some customers have been doing sales for some time and have a more opinionated approach. We meet our customers where they are by first understanding who they are and what they care about. Our job is to tease out goals and values and help create specific processes that will ensure success. And there’s not one “right answer” for how each customer deploys Close.
How do we understand our customers? Transparency. An initial call with our Success Team includes a lot of questions that ask the customer to lay out their needs and get everything out on the table. We want to do everything we can to become familiar with our customer’s business and goals as quickly as possible.
Some of those questions can include:
- I took a look at your website and I saw that you do [whatever it is you do]. Tell me more about your [product/service] and who your customer is.
- What differentiates your business from your competitors?
- Tell me about your sales process. What are the steps from initial contact to purchase?
- What is working, what is not working with the existing way of doing sales? What are the current pain points in the approach?
- What does your ideal sales workflow look like? Do you plan on calling, emailing, using SMS, a mixture of all of these? (Ask specific ‘next step’ questions here, ex. Ok, after you make the first call, then what’s the next step?)
- Where are your leads coming from? Do prospects find you or do you find them?
- How do you assign leads and what are the rules of what salesperson touches what lead?
- How is salesperson activity measured? What does a successful salesperson’s activity look like?
- What reporting is essential for you to understand what’s working and what’s not?
- What are your sales goals for the year?
- How do you think Close is going to help achieve those goals? What was your original reason for purchasing us?
But we don’t stop with the answers to these questions. Once we have gathered all of this relevant information, it’s time to help our customer prioritize. We use our expertise and friendly strength to challenge any perceived best practices or solutions and point our customer to what we know works.
It’s our job to make sure our customers aren’t implementing a far more complex and complicated process than what they need in this moment. We are consultants with our customers and we are optimizing for a long-term partnership with them.
With Close, I have a dedicated rep who shares ideas to aid in my company's growth. Close's CRM is awesome but their customer service is above reproach.
— Eden Bryant, Sales Operations Specialist at Confirm Biosciences
Customize Close to individual sales needs
After we determine that the sales process and communication choices are on point, it’s time for us to implement this within Close. We make sure that the CRM accurately reflects a company’s sales process. We check to make sure data is stored in the right places, customize lead and opportunity funnels, build out automated workflows for lead generation and communication, and help create reports that will give actionable insights.
Next, we train each member of the team on how to use Close for their specific job function and how Close will contribute to the overall success of the business. It’s part of our job to ensure that the sales team adopts this new platform, so we specifically work to show sales reps how it will improve their day-to-day workflow. Salespeople will have more automation at the top of the funnel, less manual data entry, and more strategic ways to target prospects that will give them time back to focus on closing more deals.
After our onboarding, reps will have a clear sales cadence and a workflow that is tailored to our customer’s unique business. This sales process will also represent years of our own experience and direct insight gained by working with thousands of customers. If we’ve done our job, we’ve set our customers up for immediate and long-term success.
Follow up builds the relationship
At Close, our CEO Steli Efti preaches on the power of the follow up, and our Success team lives by these words too.
Most small businesses, especially startups, need to iterate over time. Even the most well-thought-out process breaks over time and with scaling a team. It can be a frustrating experience to have to pause your efforts, review what’s working and what’s not, make changes, and retrain reps, but our Success Team is here as a long-term partner. We know and understand your business and we are the team you can continuously turn to as your business grows and changes.
It’s our job to consistently follow up with our customers after our initial onboarding work to make sure what we implemented continues to make them successful, even as the business experiences change. It’s our job and our promise that we will continue to consult on each stage of growth and offer deeper level learnings and sophisticated process reviews as customers need them.
We track a number of factors to ensure we’re proactively reaching out when our customers need us. We review platform usage and how it may increase or decrease. We pay attention to seat count as you hire. We review net promoter scores and feedback from these surveys. We log and track product feature requests. We look outside our own platform and pay attention to our customers’ funding, hiring announcements, and executive team changes.
And most of all...we listen to our customers. Because of the work we’ve done and the positive results it has generated, our customers want to reach out to us when a big change is in the works. We’ve become an extension of their team. They know we’ll help guide through any major transitions and offer advice and suggestions for handling even the toughest business problem.
We are there when a customer decides to start a new outbound sales program, when they implement a new tool in their tech stack, when they hire their first Director of Sales, when they close a new round of funding, when they are knee-deep in applications for SDRs. As one of my team members, Matt Bonde, said: "The best relationships I have with customers often feel like I’m another employee on their team. They know that I understand their business to a point where I can make recommendations that they wouldn’t typically expect from a vendor relationship."
Listen and learn
As much as Close gives our customers in terms of sales advice, strategic problem-solving, and successful results, we equally benefit from our customers and their input. We learn so much from the needs of our customers, especially when there is a problem that is not solved with an existing feature in Close. Understanding what our customers’ needs are now and in the future drives how our product improves and evolves.
We listen to our customers in many ways. We often receive product features requests in the normal course of communication with our customers. But we also invite discussion around specific sales topics in the form of customer roundtables that also help inform our team of current trends, patterns, and needs in our sales community.
Changing our CRM to Close is one of the best decisions we have made. The platform does everything we need and if I ever need help customizing it further, Matt Bonde is always there with a lightning fast response and a solution. The support is simply outstanding. From setting up real time lead distribution, to custom reports, to configuring zapier to do other fancy tricks, there is nothing I have needed that Matt and his team have not been able to pull off for us.
— Mike Corradini, CEO & Co-Founder of IdeaPros
How we handle feature requests
Close captures product feature requests, but more than just copying and pasting a need or want, we are trained to dive into a particular problem and not take it at face value.
We give credit to our engineering team for helping us think critically about feature requests and their use cases. Here are typical questions we use to uncover the best information:
- Who is the user and company, and what’s the user’s role within the company?
- What situation is causing the user to want this feature? When did the need start?
- In their own words, what do they mean by “feature X”?
- How, specifically, would they use this feature? Why do they want it?
- What is the business value they’re hoping to achieve because of this feature?
It all really boils down to asking “why?” and then logging in as much detail as possible, in the customer’s own words, the specifics about what they are actually trying to accomplish.
Of particular importance for the Success team and our feedback loop back to our Product team: we want to avoid our own bias and be sure we aren’t substituting our team’s current idea of a solution, when what’s important is logging our customer’s actual problem and goals.
This level of listening and asking “why?” has resulted in some of our most widely used features. Our customers’ needs drive innovation on our Product and Engineering teams. Our customers truly make our product better.
How we organize roundtables
We host customer roundtables quarterly and have found our most successful discussions are when we specify a topic and invite customers who all share a specific job role.
We find that 6-10 people are the best size group. We invite customers who are open to networking, hearing best practices, discussing what’s working and are interested to listen and learn from fellow sales colleagues.
Our team preps in advance with discussion topics, questions, and knowledge on the industry and topic. We offer strong moderation within the roundtable, where we work to:
- Tease out themes and patterns in the discussion.
- Involve less confident participants.
- Deter overzealous members of the roundtable and keep the discussion moving in a relaxed but purposeful way.
Roundtables allow us to report back to our team on trends, patterns, ideas, and innovations that we can use to improve all aspects of what we offer at Close.
Similarly to how we’ve helped our customers iterate and improve their sales process over time, we’ve done the same with how we offer Success to our customers. But our foundation will always remain the same: The Close Success team is here to be your trusted sales advisor, to build a meaningful relationship with you, understand your goals, anticipate your future needs, and ultimately make you more successful. And at the same time, we learn from you, your pain points, your problems and use your insight to make our product better.
Our goal is to continue to offer a true partnership to our customers.
If you're serious about building long-lasting customer relationships and driving growth, investing in customer success tools is a must. Check out this article for a comprehensive guide to the best tools and technologies on the market.
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