Tag Teaming for Success: The Sales Engineer-Customer Success Partnership

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Maulik Limbachiya


Oct 26, 2020


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At most companies, the functions of Presales and Customer Success departments go hand-in-hand; yet, the teams are too often siloed. Customer Success rarely talks to PreSales, and PreSales generally only becomes involved once there is a confirmed opportunity. As sales professionals, we’re always looking forward to the next opportunity, the next deal or the next partnership – looking ahead without often taking a step back to see what we just sold.

The lack of long-term commitment to a client engagement is often considered a perk of the job – we focus on selling the product or service and a TAM/Delivery/Customer Success team handles the rest. However, this is faulty thinking. As PreSales professionals, we owe it to ourselves (on a selfish level) and the company to stay involved to a certain degree once a deal is done.

Not only can we gain the added benefit of becoming a trusted adviser and partner by staying with accounts long-term, but we can also leverage our role to discover additional up-sell opportunities that may not be visible to our peers on the Customer Success side of the house.

So, where is the sweet spot? We don’t want to (and nor should we) be on regular cadence calls with clients we’ve previously sold to – we still need to spend the bulk of our time on new business. With all best-practice suggestions, there’s flexibility, and what I have found to work best is dependent on correctly identifying the clients worth your additional time.

Sales engineers should prioritize accounts that have low-spend with our product, but high spend within the industry, indicating budget for expansion. Customer Success can then help to further identify which of these accounts to home in on by asking a variety of questions, including:

  • Is their team communicative and transparent with ours?
  • Can we get in front of contract holders on a regular basis?
  • Are they already seeing success with the product/solution?

Throughout this process, Customer Success can also help to determine the health of these accounts. The healthiest accounts tend to have lower barriers to accurately understanding the client environment, meaning you likely don’t have to fix issues that arise before the you can see value from that relationship, learn from the customer, understand what they are doing, how they are doing it, and how they are getting value; all of which are important pieces of intel that can then help inform where the SE should focus their time and effort.

Post-Sale Activities to Participate In

By their very nature, healthy accounts are where we can spend the least amount of time; conversely, these are the accounts that are going to be the ripest for upsell opportunities. Here are three ways in which sales engineers can engage with these accounts post-sale:

  • Be present for Quarterly Business Reviews or any meetings with key contract stakeholders
  • Schedule a monthly sync with the Customer Success representative managing the accounts. They’ll be able to share specific information and additional insights with you that might not be readily available through a customer-health platform. Your unique lens of technical sales will often spot budding opportunities in these meetings.
  • Reach out periodically on your own directly to the client! You’ve already developed these relationships, and your former prospects might be more honest with you than the Customer Success representative.

Let’s put this into a real-life example – I was able to discover an up-sell opportunity at a large Fortune 500 company by being present on a bi-weekly cadence call. The Customer Success team led the call, but one area of interest that stood out was when our point of contact said there was going to be a small team reorg. While the Customer Success team didn’t drill deeper, I picked up on it and dove into what that organizational change was. The client’s team was now going to be working directly with the vendor assessment group, which just so happened to be an area where our product excelled that wasn’t licensed today. This helped qualify the opportunity and eventually led to the sale of additional product to the client.

The Hand Off

Getting to this point with a client also requires a seamless hand-off with the Customer Success team and is something that cannot be taken for granted. The post-sales team is often starting with a blank slate no matter how great your central repository for information is. Within our organization, we hold a single hand-off meeting with the PreSales and post-sales teams, during which we review the entire sales cycle: what kinds of personalities were present, what the key use cases were, and any key potential up-sell possibilities, to name a few. This is especially important for us to review in depth with the Customer Success team in the case of no-POV wins, as those are the situations in which we generally have the least amount of information about a client’s environment.

Developing these relationships with Customer Success will also help to drive up-sell efficiently. Great Customer Success reps have dedicated their time to creating powerful relationships with clients, which also cause them to become a powerful sales tool. Bringing these individuals into PreSales activities or getting them involved in the POV process can easily level-up your client interactions. As a trusted adviser and product-expert who works with the client on a day-to-day basis, they can not only bring client-specific insights, but also provide you with valuable insight into the inner technical details of your product/service that you can use on other opportunities.

Sample Communication Framework

All of these recommendations coalesce into a single point – communication. As busy as we are, we must make the time to communicate consistently with the Customer Success reps whose job it is to implement the services or products we’ve sold.

Maulik Limbachiya has extensive experience in the cyber security field working with the federal government, global financials and large technology companies. He currently works as Sales Engineer at Recorded Future, helping companies mitigate their cyber risk by providing actionable cyber threat intelligence at scale. Previously, he worked on an interdisciplinary team at Deloitte Advisory building threat intelligence programs for the federal government and the oil and gas industry. Maulik has a B.A. in Business Administration with a dual concentration in Information Systems and International Business from the George Washington University. Connect with Maulik on LinkedIn.

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The Leadership collective is a group designed for PreSales leaders in a management capacity (Manager+ title) who are looking to network, grow professionally, and actively participate.

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