Why Customer Success Means the End of Salespeople
January 18, 2016

Why Customer Success Means the End of Salespeople

by Brian de Haaff

I like to travel. The feeling of being surrounded by an unfamiliar culture and land is energizing. I am not so great at new languages but do my best to mutter a few words and get along. And I try not to get lost, but sometimes the best discoveries are found where you were not headed.

As I have traveled more, I have come to appreciate the unexpected. And rather than waiting to get lost and find it by chance, I have started to seek out local experts who know where it is. Most people call these people guides, and the good ones do what they do every day to share their joy of experience and place with others who want to feel it too.

A local guide understands the history and the land — but brings it to life through passion, story, and experience.

I was thinking about this recently as I was traveling through Europe and considering the growth of our team at Aha!

I know the two ideas seem unrelated, but here is what brought the thoughts together.

We do not hire sales or support people at Aha! — we hire only former product managers to work with our customers and not a single person in the company is commissioned-based. We call the team Customer Success because they are responsible for helping our customers get the most out of the time they spend using our tool.

Customer Success teams are responsible for the complete customer experience. They must lean on their knowledge and enthusiasm to help customers be their best. Just like a tour guide, they manage a customer’s entire experience.

We started the company this way because we believed the “hard sell” was dead for sophisticated customers. Traveling with awesome tour guides validated that we made the right decision. Here is why.

Customer Success teams are a lot like great tour guides in the following ways:

They are knowledgeable A great Customer Success team is made up of people with deep product knowledge and years of hands-on experience. This gives them the confidence to take on a range of challenging questions and complicated problems. Even the most thoroughly trained salesperson will struggle to answer questions that would require real-world experience with the product.

They are empathetic A great Customer Success team member relates to the customer’s pain because they have lived through similar experiences. For example, our team speaks to product managers every day who must navigate complex relationships across functions in the company. Because we only hire former product managers, they can relate to our customers in a way that no salesperson ever could.

They are genuine Customers are intuitive and can spot the difference between someone angling for a sale and someone genuinely interested in solving their problems. A Customer Success team does not have to worry about filling sales quotas. They understand this imperative: Get to the heart of the customer’s problem and help them solve it. They can devote their attention to providing the best experience for the customer without compromising to achieve compensation based targets.

They are focused on relationships While a sale is usually a transaction-based occurrence, customer success is much more than that. It is is a mindset for the entire lifecycle of the customer. The Customer Success team makes the initial connection with the customer, which lays the groundwork for a solid relationship with the customer. The relationship is further strengthened with every interaction, as the customer learns to trust that their problems will be taken seriously.

They are relaxed Have you ever seen a salesperson under pressure at the end of a month or quarter? Even the most seasoned sales rep feels the pressure at times. This is where your Customer Success team really shines. They can relax and easily communicate with customers without the pressure that often goes hand-in-hand with sales. There is no need to force anything that is not right for the customer, or your organization.

They are dependable Customer Success teams allow you to build trust. Prospective customers are not only evaluating the product to see if they can trust it, but also the people behind it. They are not likely to be swayed by the strength of a company’s salesforce. But knowing that they can depend on Customer Success for great ongoing support when they need it — is critical.

But probably the biggest reason that Customer Success is replacing Sales is in terms of simple motivation.

A great Customer Success team is motivated by intrinsic rewards. They want to help because it is in their nature to help, not because they will earn a monetary reward with each sale. While they do study ways to continuously improve and measure their results, their overall success is ultimately measured by the customer’s success.

Their bonus comes in the form of positive feedback from customers, not commissions added to their paycheck. Their rewards system is simply not in conflict with delivering value to customers.

Companies are smart to put their money on building a standout support team, who can guide customers to a great ongoing experience and contribute to their long-term growth.

Do you agree that Customer Success is replacing Sales?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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