Sales Tactics in Customer Success

Today’s conversation is with Bill Mahoney, VP Customer Services at SalesLoft, about using key sales tactics in customer success.

Bill Mahoney, VP Customer Services at SalesLoft

Bill Mahoney, VP Customer Services at SalesLoft

Let’s start out by hearing about your role at SalesLoft and what do your main priorities look like right now as VP of Customer Services …

At SalesLoft, customer services are split into three teams:

  1. Onboarding/Implementations

  2. Success

  3. Technical Support

That list will soon include a professional services program as we continue to help our customers better reach their goals.

For priorities, as we start looking out 6-18 months, we’re thinking of what our customers will be expecting from the professional services team and staff. Then it’s focusing on building out the foundation of the team around those expectations.

As a company, our main priority is to help customers crush their revenue goals through execution on the SalesLoft platform. Beyond that, we’re focusing on key metrics that drive business including retention, net expansion, customer satisfaction, and positive customer feedback. We’ve found that those things all take care of themselves if we focus on helping the customer get to their revenue goals by using our platform in more effective and efficient ways.

My role is to ensure the customer experience is aligned across all groups and that our customers are constantly finding value in the platform. Beyond that, I spend time on figuring how to scale the business as we grow, involving people, process, and technology so we can do that with the greatest impact on the customer.  

I'm curious to hear about the career path you took that has led you to your current position as VP of Customer Services at SalesLoft?

I spent the first half of my career in sales, mostly on the leadership side, in both B2C and B2B companies. When I was with CareerBuilder, I crossed over to the customer side of the business to help run an account management team that worked hand-in-hand with sales.

Ever since that role, all my career stops have involved leading various success and services teams on the customer side.

It was really neat to make that switch (professionally), and then watch the growth of customer success as an industry in addition to the growth of SaaS. So much focus is on helping customers reach their goals through the talented teams that I've been able to work with. The timing of my switch to the customer side has worked out really well.

“A lot of strategy lies in letting each and every personality shine through – that’s big for us.”

How much of your prior experience do you bring over and apply to SalesLoft when it comes to things like strategy and tactics that you're running?

I'm a believer in pattern recognition. At SalesLoft we're running with a lot of things that I've seen work in the past. In addition to that, I do my best to remain aware of what others are doing in the success and services industry and keep myself in constant conversation with other business leaders to see what they are doing to succeed in the space.

A lot of strategy lies in hiring really well, giving top-tier training, and giving everyone access to great leadership and coaching. After that it’s all about letting each and every personality shine through - that’s big for us. Combining that strategy with any number of creative ideas we see working in the industry, and testing those to see what works for us is how we’re running with things.

Something that I’ve seen firsthand from working with your teams is some sales tactics integrated with the customer experience you’re delivering and done so in a very tasteful manner. Things like personalized videos, and engaging different parts of our team – is that a deliberate strategy or is it something you folks have stumbled upon and found to be successful?

I appreciate you noticing that because it's definitely deliberate. Messaging to customers is something we think about constantly as part of the fabric of our business. It’s how we help our customers create scalable, empathetic, high-tempo, end customer-centric communications through the SalesLoft platform.

When you combine that (messaging) with the way we encourage our customer-facing teams to let their personalities show through their communications and just be themselves, they form something special. We're definitely intentional about that and looking to try and figure out different ways to constantly stand out in that regard.

We don't want to be your typical CSM – we want to stand out. The way that we communicate to you, and the content that we're delivering, that’s how we do it. So, we definitely encourage our folks to use their personality to do that, but it’s a company-wide philosophy.

“A core value of ours is having a bias towards action. Find something to try, go for it, and repeat if it’s working.”

Like I mentioned, we’ve received a few personalized videos and messages from your team as we’ve been onboarding SalesLoft, something we’ve been extremely impressed with. How do you go about scaling those kinds of personal initiatives as you and your customer base continue to grow?

Yeah, so it’s part personality and part toolset, right? Luckily for us, we have a great platform to use, and we have incredible partners that we integrate with that provide really unique methods for getting our messages to customers.

The rep you were talking about, Brandon Nivens, emphasizes one of our core values which is a bias towards action. He's found something that he wanted to try with his customers, he went for it, and it's clearly working out for him.

We see it with other people on our team as well, and we love it. We use our platform, we use our partners, and we continue to find different ways to refine messages for customers that work and resonate in new ways.

This is something we’re investing a lot of time and resources to continue to scale through across the customer services team as we grow. That will allow us to provide our customers with the kind of help they need to reach their sales goals through our platform.

On our side, we need to train how to deliver those messages in various ways that customers are able to absorb and then take action on, and so you'll see us invest more in enablement and training, both internally and externally. That means things like podcasts, webinars, and topical content that we put out in order to help customers reach their goals.

Something cool with you folks is that you take full advantage of your own platform to deliver an exceptional customer experience. Other than SalesLoft, what tools have you found to be most successful to you and your team?

I know Slack will sound like an answer everyone would give, but our teams use Slack to jump in and help each other with questions and customer use cases that need answering. It provides an ability for our teams to get answers for the customers extremely quickly, kind of like crowdsourcing key information.

Vidyard is a great tool for personalizing communications via video, and we use that to provide a different vehicle for messaging to customers that cut through some of the noise of email and helps to build a closer relationship.

Our support and success teams both use Zendesk for ticket control, management, and content. It's extremely helpful and scalable for us. We also use Evernote to stay organized. Then, last but not least, we use SalesLoft to funnel all that communication to customers.

You mentioned using Slack as a way for your team to crowdsource quick answers, do you mind sharing how you have that setup?

We have a channel called product questions that the product team, support team, and the engineers are all in to answer feature specific or use case-specific questions that customers may pose to CSMs or to sales. Once a question is posted in there, the feedback is pretty immediate. Another example is our support flag channel, where support can get feedback on if something is not working correctly and so they can manage that accordingly.

As customers are asking a lot of really great questions about how our growing capabilities can affect their day, we need to get that real-time feedback as soon as possible. Those Slack channels have become very valuable for that.

Then you want to think about how you store that information and make it woven into the fabric of the business. That's probably more of a struggle. For us, it’s being diligent about putting the product answers into a tool like Guru so that it can be looked up for future cases.

When companies are trying to grow fast – whether it's in sales, success, or anything in between – the tendency is to take people with experience and plug them in.

As a company is scaling their sales team – SDRs/BDRs, AEs, etc. – do you have any advice on how to best scale the success team along with it?

There are a couple of things. The first thing is to know your hiring profile. Know the type of people, characteristics, and background that you want to bring in to your teams, and stick to that exclusively – do not compromise.

When companies are trying to grow fast, whether it's in sales, success, or anything in between, the tendency is to take people with experience and plug them in. We have a very intense interview process at SalesLoft and it's done to ensure the best possible success for the candidate if they get hired and that they'll be a culture match. Bringing in the right people makes a world of difference in terms of getting up to speed, getting them in front of customers, and getting them to help in the mission of the company.

It's easy to let those standards lax and compromise your hires when you're trying to get a certain number of people, and that's probably one of the bigger mistakes I think companies can make.

The other thing is hiring managers slightly ahead of where the ratios would tell you to. Your ratio for the manager to success rep is 1:8 or 1:10. I’d advise getting those managers in earlier, if at all financially possible. That’s one area that I wish we had moved faster on, is staffing ourselves with leaders earlier on in the process so that onboarding, coaching, and developing reps that come in is all there immediately.

Next thing I want to talk about is the relationship between Sales and Customer Success. From what I've seen at SalesLoft, through these different messages that FunnelCake has got from you, the relationship is strong there. We’ve received at least two video messages that have both the implementation rep and the sales rep we dealt with, which is something I haven't seen before, and it’s really cool.

How do you make sure that those teams are on the same page and continue to communicate and assist each other in their efforts?

I give a lot of credit to our founders, Kyle and Rob, about continuing to clearly communicate the mission of the company. We do that every week at an all-hands meeting where the whole company gets together for an hour to look over the results of the business and other important aspects, and the mission of the company is talked about a lot during that time.

Our sales teams and service teams work really well together, I would say more than any other place that I've worked. On the services side of things, we can get the sales organization to re-engage if we need them. On the sales side, they sell our services team as a differentiator, so it's important to them that continue to follow through and execute on the customers they bring in.

It connects back with one of our company core values, which is the team over self. Everyone strives to be that kind of teammate across the organization. It's never perfect and there's always going to be situations, but the critical part is handling them together. We do our best to do that as much as possible.

Before I let you go, I wanted to grab some of your favorite resources:

Someone to follow on social:

I find that Jason Lemkin is one of the best for micro-business lesson you can get in three or four sentences. He's really intentional about how he puts them together. I always find his tweets to be things that I end up thinking about more deeply later.

Favorite podcast:

I have separated this into work and life.

On the work side, I’ll give you a couple because they're both great. Game Changers with Molly Fletcher, she’s a former sports agent. CNN called her the Jerry McGuire of female sports agents. She's now a kind of leadership guru, who has written a bunch of books and her guest list she gets on Game Changers is terrific. It’s not just business, but sports and entertainment and other industries too. I’ll also say Masters Of Scale with Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn.

On the life side, I listen to Bill Simmons a lot from The Ringer. I'm a big sports guy, I really enjoy this one, they make it fun. I listen to the Axe Files with David Axelrod and whatever your political affiliations are, his guest list is super high quality and they walk both sides of the aisle. It's interesting to me the folks he brings on that are either with his viewpoint or totally against it. He has really good interviews about the state of politics.

Favorite book:

I’ll split this one into work and life as well.

For work, the book that I constantly try and think about is Radical Candor by Kim Scott. The management lessons are super helpful because it bridges the need for difficult communication and blends it with the caring style you have to have in management for your people. It gives very practical lessons on delivering leadership messages.

On the life side, it's the Harry Potter series. My kid's age was right in the sweet spot of these books being released and it became a part of the fabric of their youth growing up. From a personal perspective, those have been very important.

Our final question, which I hope you’ve prepped yourself for, what is your favorite ‘90s dance song?

I didn't have to do too much digging, which I’m proud of, but I did run it by my wife last night. For this one, I’m going to say that my list begins and ends with Unbelievable by EMF.

That’s great. Thanks a lot for doing this today, Bill.