How to manage customers after the sale: common founder questions about post-sales tactics

How do you define “post-sales”?

It varies, but it’s what it sounds like: the customer-facing activities that take place after the initial contract is signed. A budding post-sales organization typically includes customer success managers (CSMs) and a support function. In practice, you can think of CSMs as proactive and support reps as reactive to customers. Whereas CSMs might proactively help a customer discover and adopt a new feature or use case, support reps react to customer issues related to the product.

Should customer success managers have quotas? And how do you structure those quotas?

It depends where you are on the maturity curve, but for me, the answer is yes. Job #1: Keep what you have. You should define a quota based on gross retention across a CSM’s book of business. Gross retention does not include revenue from customer expansions, while net retention does. Incentives based on gross retention motivate CSMs to prevent churn across their account list.

How much revenue and how many accounts can a CSM realistically manage?

The rule of thumb in a SaaS business is somewhere around the $1.5 to $2 million mark per CSM. For younger companies, it’s closer to half that since customers tend to be higher touch. This design should consider the size of your contracts. For example, $10k average contract values would translate to a massive account load for a CS rep managing a $750k book of business. The solution isn’t to shrink the account list since doing so will hurt your unit economics. Instead, invest in tools that can help automate account management and surface customer health insights through data.

How much attention should be given to smaller, lower-revenue customers vs. enterprise-level whales?

It’s a classic dilemma. The smallest customer can be more demanding than one 100x their size — but you can’t ignore existing customers, or they won’t continue to be customers. As a business, it’s a necessary and binary decision: We will or will not support customers of a certain size. For example, anything over $20k annually gets personalized support or designated CSMs, and anything under gets access to a help desk.

What’s a good renewal strategy? Any advice for increasing prices?

First, determine where your customer is on the customer journey, starting with value definition: What is their buying motivation? As a tangent, value is typically measured by increased revenue, improved profitability (costs avoided/reduced; increased efficiency), and risks avoided. More on that here. The stages of the customer journey after value definition are onboarding, adoption, engagement, and growth.

What about charging for professional services (PS) and turning post-sales into a profit center?

First, PS matters. If the technical lift to implement your product is medium-to-heavy, you will need PS sooner rather than later. Beyond implementation, PS also includes change management: Your users might have to adopt new processes or adapt existing ones to get the most out of your product.

What are good profiles for post-sales teams?

At a minimum, CSMs and PS teams should have some familiarity and, ideally, expertise within your industry. This familiarity ensures they speak the same language as your customer and have the appropriate amount of empathy for their customers’ responsibilities, jobs, and career paths. You are dealing with people — not accounts — after all.

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