7 Tips for Managing the Sales to CSM Handoff

Flori Needle
Flori Needle



Closing a deal is great.

sales rep and customer success manager working together during a customer handoff

It means that you’ve successfully convinced a prospect that what you’re offering is the best solution to their pain points.

While closing that deal may seem like the end of the road, it’s not — your customer then begins a journey with a customer success manager (CSM), who ensures that they get the most out of what they’ve purchased.

Given that the CSM comes in at such a pivotal point in their journey, the handoff must be efficient and supportive of the customer. In this post, we’ll discuss why the sales to CSM handoff is so important and give tips on managing the process to ensure you continue to provide an excellent customer experience.

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Why is seamless sales to CSM handoff important?

The sales to CSM handoff happens after a customer has closed a deal with a sales rep and moves on to work with a CSM. As a refresher, a CSM forms a relationship with customers and works with them to ensure that they have the tools and support needed to achieve their goals with your products.

The sales to CSM handoff is important because it sets the tone for whether or not customers can achieve their goals and be successful with your product.

You can think of it like this: the customer journey is a relay race, and the finish line is the customer getting the most possible value from your product. The opponent is customer expectations and the possibility of them deciding to take their business elsewhere.

Your sales rep starts the race and later passes the baton (the customer) to the CSM, who brings them to the finish line, aka success. If the baton is dropped during handoff, you stall the process of getting to the finish line, and you may lose the race against your opponent entirely.

The bottom line is this: the handoff is a crucial part of your customer's journey and makes all the difference between keeping them on as a client or failing to meet their expectations and losing them to a competitor. After all, 32% of new and existing customs say they would stop doing business with a brand after just one negative experience.

Let’s go over how to ensure you effectively manage the sales to CSM handoff.

Here are some steps for nailing the sales to CSM handoff to ensure that your customers are consistently satisfied with their experience.

1. Let customers ahead of time that the handoff will occur ahead of time.

One of the most important things to do to ensure seamless handoff is to let your customers know that a handoff will occur ahead of time. As you likely inform the customer of what the sales cycle will look like for them, you can simply mention that they will be passed on to a CSM to help them through the rest of their journey after a deal is finalized.

Giving customers this information ensures that they’re not caught off guard by an abrupt change or confused about why there is a new party managing their experience.

2. Make CSM introductions early.

Just as it’s essential to let your customers know that the handoff will eventually occur, it’s also important to introduce them to the CSM before the handoff occurs. These introductions can be as simple as simply letting the two parties introduce themselves and make initial conversation.

This ensures that customers get a chance to meet and familiarize themselves with the person that will support them before officially being passed off. Making these introductions early can also minimize the amount of ‘getting to know you’ time, so they can instead jump into the onboarding process and get the support they need.

3. Understand what success looks like to your customers.

It’s safe to assume that all customers have the same end goal from using your products: getting their pain points met.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all customers using your products have the same pain points. For example, if you sell marketing SaaS, one customer may want to use your tools to streamline campaign reporting, while another is focused on automating their email communication.

For the sales rep, getting an early understanding of your customers’ goals and their idea of success is critical for a successful handoff. It helps you make value propositions that can convince a customer to close a deal, and enables you to inform the CSM about the customer's area of focus, so they can tailor their help strategy before the relationship begins to ensure that the customer starts on the right path.

This tip relates directly to the fact that an effective handoff also involves sales reps and CSMs being in regular communication with each other, which we’ll discuss below.

4. Prioritize internal relationships.

Sales reps and CSMs need to have relationships with each other. This goes beyond just knowing that the other exists and saying hi in the halls — they should be in regular communication with and feel as though they are partners in providing the satisfactory experience your customers desire.

They should be familiar enough that they also trust that each is equipped to do their job. Sales need to trust that CSMs will support the customer and help them down a path to achieve their goals. CSMs need to trust that sales have accurately prepped the customer for what is to come and given them the information they need to understand who the customer is and effectively work with them to achieve success.

5. Collect extensive customer information.

A pillar of customer success is documenting customer information.

During the sales cycle, salespeople should take special effort to accurately and consistently document all relevant customer information, like notes on interactions, customer goals, and any common questions customers may have.

Collecting this information is vital for handoff. It gives CSMs the information they need to understand who the customer is, how the relationship has developed, and additional insight into their mindset that helps them personalize their support method to each customer and their needs.

It can be helpful to use a CRM, like HubSpot Service Hub, to document and store information in one place, so all involved stakeholders have easy access and can refer to it as needed.

6. Minimize downtime during the transition.

You don’t want to close a deal and leave the customer waiting — ensure that they’re handed off with minimal downtime so they can jump into onboarding and begin using your service.

You can help minimize downtime during the transition by leveraging other tips on this list: making introductions ahead of time and collecting extensive customer information.

Customers can skip pleasantries because they already know the CSM, and the CSM can refer to the detailed notes and focus on asking questions about their goals rather than diagnostic get-to-know-you information.

7. Make a clean break once handoff occurs.

When the handoff occurs, the most important thing to do is to make it a clean break. As a sales rep, you should recognize that this is your time to step away from the relationship and trust that the CSM can take it from here.

Staying too involved can impact the customer's success, leave them confused if two different people are helping them, and increase the likelihood of conflicting information.

As mentioned above, you can look at the sales to CSM handoff as a relay race, where both runners work together to bring the customer to the finish line of meeting their goals.

If sales reps put care into documenting customer information and informing them of what is to come, CSMs will have no problem catching the baton and helping the customer achieve their goals.

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