Sales Teams vs. Customer Success Teams
September 8, 2020

Sales Teams vs. Customer Success Teams

by Melissa Hopkins

"What do you mean no salespeople?" When people find out that Aha! does not have a sales team, they are sometimes shocked — but always curious. The questions continue. "How do you manage to make money? Is Customer Success simply sales under another name? How do you convince product management experts to do this work?" The truth is that we do things differently at Aha! and we are proud of it.

Customer Success does not sell Aha! — we increase the happy use of our software.

Most people do not want to be sold to. By the time we are ready to engage a business, we have already done a lot of research. Some data suggests that 70 percent of buyers define their needs on their own before ever speaking to a salesperson. We understand that sales is a game with two sides playing against each other. And we are tired of feigning interest in the game.

We all just want guidance from someone we can trust. Buyers of enterprise SaaS tools in particular want to be sure they are considering the broader impact of whatever they choose for their team and organization.

This is why we do not hire salespeople at Aha! — we would rather direct our energy towards serving instead of selling. The goal is to align our team with customers as closely as possible. We believe the commission checks just get in the way. So we only hire former product managers to join our Customer Success team. Each person has deep product expertise because we have held the same positions that our customers do.

Our approach is centered around the idea that people like to be served by those who can understand their challenges.

I am fortunate to lead the Customer Success team at Aha! I get to see firsthand how impactful our model is and the way that our consultative method of supporting users delivers value every day. But some people still struggle with how it is possible to serve a high-growth profitable software company without a single salesperson. The difference starts with our philosophy:

Customer focus

Sales focuses on potential customers. Salespeople understand the pain points that drive customers to seek a solution and build relationships in the early stages of the customer lifecycle. The focus is to recognize which prospects match the ideal buyer profile and within that group, which ones represent a real customer opportunity.

Customer Success focuses on the complete customer adoption journey. Our team at Aha! sees users from trial to rollout through to renewal. The focus is on a value exchange in a lasting relationship. We have a holistic perspective because we deliver the same quality attention to every user at every step. There are no hand-offs after someone signs up.

Areas of expertise

Sales knows the market. They understand product/market fit and can quickly uncover customer motivations. The best salespeople are sharp motivators — it is their job to prove the value of their product.

Customer Success knows the customer's experience. That shared experience enables us to share best practices to help customers get value quickly. For our team, a real-world experience in roles similar to our customers' gives us a unique perspective — we are able to take a consultative approach as partners in their success. We also are satisfied explaining to a customer why Aha! might not be a great fit for them.


Sales nurtures prospects and guides the buying conversation. They typically must deliver against monthly or quarterly sales goals — their primary responsibility is to close deals.

Customer Success leads product demos, delivers custom onboarding services, and engages with customers every day by sharing best practices and advice. We also work closely with our product and engineering teams to identify solutions to customer problems. Our primary responsibility is to put the customer first, and sometimes that means sacrificing the deal in the short term because it is the right thing to do.

At some organizations, the concept of a traditional commissioned sales team is giving way to a more customer-centric model.

Our team has the benefit of following the customer-first model from the launch of the company. We believed from day one that the traditional software sales model could be improved. Our rapid growth has given us confidence that we got it right. And we continue to be humbled and energized by the opportunity to put people first.

But if your company is not quite there yet, you can look for ways to bring more humanity into how you engage with customers. There are improvements that can be made at every step. For example, consider adding product experts that overlay the sales team and are not commissioned. Or improve the handoff between sales and support post sale. The opportunities are endless — both to add more customers and improve how you serve them.

Have you seen teams transform how they provide value?

Work anywhere and be happy. Aha! is hiring right now

Melissa Hopkins

Melissa Hopkins

Melissa loves using technology to help people solve their problems. She is the vice president of customer success at Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software. Melissa has more than 20 years of business and software experience. Previously, she managed teams at Citrix across consulting, education, supply chain operations, and IT.

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