Integrating Sales and Customer Success for a Better Customer Experience with Dan Burkland, #180


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Sales and Customer Success are essential to the growth and expansion of any organization. So, how you think about them and how well they work together will shape the future of your company.

How can you improve your client’s customer experience so there are no gaps between sales and customer success?

That is the topic of this episode of The Modern Selling Podcast with my guest, Dan Burkland, President of Five9.

As President of Five9, Dan manages the entire customer lifecycle from sales to implementation to ongoing support – all critical to customer success for a cloud software company. He heads global sales, including all direct sales, channels, System Integrators, and ISV partnerships. By leading implementation, professional services, and customer support organizations, Dan has elevated the exceptional, industry-recognized customer service that Five9 provides to its clients.

Join our conversation to discover how to integrate sales and customer success for a better customer experience.

Why Sales and Customer Success Must Work Together

The pandemic has brought many changes, from a shift to remote selling to a focus on digital sales. It has also forced sales, customer success and customer experience strategies to evolve rapidly.

Dan says the first reaction to the pandemic was negative, even panic, especially from brick and mortar businesses and retailers who had to move quickly online to an e-commerce set up.

In this scenario, the contact center became the new front door of the business for those retailers, their only conduit to their customers and prospective customers.

These companies have realized that it is critical for them to take care of customers in a personalized fashion throughout that whole life cycle.

“Companies that tend to elevate the strategic nature of customer experience and spend the investment necessary to deliver a great experience are finding their brands are evolving and becoming more prominent. Their retention rates are becoming greater and they create a reputation that builds upon itself and attracts more and more customers.”

To accomplish this, there must be an alignment between Sales and Customer Success. And that is what Dan accomplished at Five9, bringing those two departments together under his leadership.

“If you operate in silos, you end up with the sales organization tending

to lean on or point fingers to a support organization, because they want the support to be delivered a certain way. And you end up with tension between the two. When I brought them under my organization together, it created teamwork, like we hadn't seen before.”

That teamwork is reflected when both sales and customer success understand the buyer’s needs and pain points and deliver a consistent experience based on those needs.

Listen to the whole episode to learn what sales reps should be doing to better understand their customers (HINT: listen more and talk less).

The Customer Lifecycle Process

Dan says he doesn’t like the word “selling” because it comes across as taking the customer’s money and leaving. In a subscription model, however, you have to nurture and take care of the customer for a long time.

At Five9 they break their process into four phases:

  1. Landing: How do you effectively land new accounts and new customers?
  2. Adoption: How do you adopt them or get them onto the platform?
  3. Maximize Value: How can customers achieve all they can from the solution?
  4. Expanding: How do you allow your customers to expand to the fullest with your product?

Both sales and customer success have a role to play in this process, where the sellers under promise but CS over delivers, turning customers into raving fans.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about how this process works and some great tips (illustrated with real life examples) you can implement in your organization.

Advice for Sales Leaders

Dan has some great advice for sales leaders who need to work closely with customer success teams.

1. Product Updates

In product companies, sales and customer success teams sometimes need to discuss new product updates, or enhancements with their clients, but it’s not always easy.

“One of the things we do is we assign customer success managers to every single account that we have in the company,” Dan says. “They have a very close relationship with the customer, having quarterly business reviews, or in some cases, even weekly touch-based calls with the customer to see how things are going, looking at ways to optimize and improve what's already there and introduce new capabilities.”

2. Business outcomes

As sales leaders, we need to bridge the gap between sales and customer success to drive good, solid business outcomes.

Dan says we need to shift our mindset from “handing off” a client to CS, to a partnership, where there are team members always involved throughout the journey.

“We've got personnel, whether it’s sales or customer success, involved throughout the entire life cycle, so that they can manage and be listening for cues. It's a little more costly, but it is worth it.”

Listen for Dan’s advice on how to handle the transition from the seller to the CSM and how much overlap they should have (HINT: introduce the CSM early, so they can build trust over a period of months before the seller exits and goes back to prospecting).

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