Don’t Drop the Ball on Post-Sale Check-Ins
For many sales reps, relationships with clients end the moment the deal is closed. But for Chorus.ai account executive Julia Cole, it’s just beginning.
She drops in on calls with the customer success manager, emails with personalized insights she pulls from the software, sends birthday well-wishes and, with one past customer, held a standing workout challenge via Apple Watch.
It’s all part of her post-sales cadence at Chorus.ai, where she’s responsible for maintaining her accounts through the initial contract along with a customer success manager.
We work together through the sales cycle; it would just be sad to drop it off at that, especially after the relationship that has been built.”
While not every rep is responsible for checking in on accounts after the deal, those post-sale relationships often come with their own rewards.
For starters, customers are happier. There’s a lot of trust that goes into making a purchase. When the rep continues to add value and proactively respond to issues, it assures the customer they weren’t just another sales transaction, Cole said.
“We work together through the sales cycle. It would just be sad to drop it off at that, especially after the relationship has been built,” Cole said. “It keeps the lines of communication open.”
And that open line of communication can go a long way. Customers have sent Cole gift cards and thank you notes for doing things after the sale that she sees as just an extension of her job. She’s also had several customers send her referrals and offer to be references without her even having to ask.
To her, that’s a testament to the relationship she’s built with the customer.
“The value is absolutely endless,” Cole said. “When customers are telling me proactively to set them up on any reference call that I need, that feeling is out of this world.”
So where do you begin? Since most sales reps aren’t doing this, Cole said, a few gestures after the deal is closed go a long way toward forging that relationship.
5 Tips for Building a Post-Sales Relationship
- Create an account map during the sales cycle. Keep notes on each stakeholder to send personalized follow-ups.
- Set up a one on one with the buyer after the deal. Use that time to onboard them and set the expectation that they can come to you for help.
- Communicate with the account manager or customer success manager. Get consensus before sending an email or joining a call to present a unified front to the customer.
- Set an outreach cadence for your closed accounts. Try putting the accounts into small groups and sending outreach to one group a week.
- Keep your asks to a minimum. The more your messages don’t ask for anything in return, the more the buyer will trust you.
Create an Account Map
The foundation for any successful post-sales relationship is understanding the customer’s priorities and keeping them top of mind in follow-up interactions. This can be tricky during a sale with multiple stakeholders, who each have different needs and expectations of the product.
At Chorus.ai, Cole may work closely with a VP of sales, a sales enablement leader, a marketer and individual sales reps over the course of a deal. To keep track of each person’s needs, Cole has found it useful to create a detailed account map.
Her account map lists each stakeholder in a deal and includes any important information that a rep or the customer success manager needs to know about them. There are notes on company goals and individual goals, along with personal information. (She builds it on Quip, which allows partners in the deal like the solutions engineer to also add their own notes and insights.)
Tracking that information allows Cole to send more personalized follow-ups after the customer adopts the platform. For example, a sales enablement leader might be rolling out a new sales methodology and want to track its success using the Chorus.ai app. So Cole will send them conversation data showing how many reps are adhering to the new sales strategy and tips to increase adoption.
No one wants to talk business 24/7. If you can remember even just a kid’s name or a birthday that just happened, it goes a really long way.”
It also facilitates a smoother account transition from sales rep to customer success manager, ensuring that the key details she’s gleaned from months of relationship-building don’t fall through the cracks.
“When the relationship is passed off to the CSM, the first thing I’m doing is sharing the [map] with them. It goes such a long way in terms of the AE-to-CSM relationship,” Cole said. “One of the biggest gaps is when a customer is brought on and what that hand-off looks like.”
Don’t overlook the personal information a stakeholder shares during those sales conversations, either. Cole suggests noting any birthdays, kids’ names and life events that come up in conversation. All are great reasons to reach out to the customer and grow the relationship.
“No one wants to talk business 24/7. If you can remember even just a kid’s name or a birthday that just happened, it goes a really long way,” Cole said. “It’s so simple, and it easily separates you from other [reps].”
Set Expectations With a Post-Sale One on One
As an account executive at Salesforce, Lauren Perine got into the habit of following up every sale with a 30-minute one-on-one meeting with the buyer.
She’d use that time to go over the product onboarding, make sure their username and password worked and answer any questions. While she wasn’t responsible for onboarding, it always felt like the right thing to do.
The moment after a deal is closed can be jarring for some customers. The product arrives as a blank slate, and the sales rep, whom the customer has spent months building a relationship with, is phased out. The meeting was a simple way for her to set expectations with the buyer that she’d be there for them.
“I always do it. The one thing I hate is when you sign up [for the product] and then you get ghosted by the rep,” said Perine, who now works as an AE at the software firm Pegasystems. “I want you to know, ‘I’m still here, and I’m still around.’”
Even if a rep has a customer success team that manages the onboarding, Perine suggests using the meeting to set the foundation for the post-sale relationship. She’ll ask the customer how they like to be communicated with and whether they want information on webinars and other events. This helps her tailor her follow-up to the customer’s needs. Some prefer to be in touch weekly, others may only want a quarterly check-in.
I want you to know, ‘I’m still here, and I’m still around.’”
Beyond that, she wants them to feel comfortable coming to her if they have a product issue. She’ll help them file a support ticket and provide status updates. Little gestures like that can have a huge impact on the customer experience and often open opportunities for cross-selling or upselling, Perine said.
“The biggest thing is providing that support. Buyers don’t usually have that go-to person, but that’s what a salesperson is,” Perine said. “When you’re working with a customer and they understand you’re a go-to person, some people value that. It doesn’t always happen with every software firm they’re working with.”
Cole also suggests dropping in on customer calls with the customer success manager. She tries to attend about 30 percent of the customer’s meetings. While she defers to the CSM to lead the meeting, she can often bring additional context to the discussion that the CSM may not have.
“I want them to feel like they’re not a number to me,” she added. “Their success is my success because that’s what I care about.”
Still, it’s important to stay on the same page as the CSM. Cole keeps a running Slack conversation going with the CSM, where she checks in and gets consensus before she sends an email or adds an agenda item to the call. This ensures that Cole and the CSM create a unified experience for the customer.
Develop a Post-Sale Cadence
While keeping in touch with every past customer sounds great, it’s harder to execute in a reality where you still have 30 ongoing accounts you’re trying to close.
This is a challenge Cole has come across at Chorus.ai now that she’s nearly a year and a few dozen deals into the job. So, she created a post-sale outreach cadence.
You can’t set yourself up to say, ‘I’m going to hit all 50 customers this month.’ That’s just not going to happen.”
She started by listing out all of her customers from the most recent to longest tenured, and then she put them into four groups. She focuses on one group each week so that she touches base with them at least once every month.
“You can’t set yourself up to say, ‘I’m going to hit all 50 customers this month.’ That’s just not going to happen,” Cole said. “Be intentional about what that outreach looks like and follow through so that one customer doesn’t see more value than the other.”
The outreach she sends isn’t too different than what she might send during the sales cycle: It needs to provide value and be personalized to the client. For users, she might send product usage statistics, while for decision makers, she may congratulate them on hiring 10 new employees. Since she works with a lot of stakeholders on the deal, she mainly focuses on the one or two people who were most involved in the sale.
Whatever you send, make sure to keep any ask out of it, Cole said. The more you send content to help the customer, the more organic asking for referrals and references will become.
“There’s nothing worse than dreading to ask for something and knowing that you haven’t done anything for them,” Cole said. “It’s a give and get at the end of the day.”