How Sales & Customer Success Can Overlap

Bonjoro is all about making the onboarding experience personal by allowing you to send a personalized video message to your customer’s inbox. With a product that is so customer focused it is no surprise that their sales team and process is very customer-centric as well.

I spoke to one of their Head of Sales, Amaan Nathoo, about how they have a sales team that is heavily overlapping with customer success and why they have chosen to do so.

He also gives some recommendations, from the perspective of a salesperson, about how to make it so that customer success and sales can communicate better and help each other out.

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Megan: All right, well welcome to the Customer Success Podcast.

Amaan: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Megan: Of course, thank you for being here. So, today the topic we're gonna get into is how sales and customer success can be more connected and communicate better, and what they can do to help each other. So actually, just to get started, tell us about yourself, Bonjoro, what you guys do there, and the whole history behind it.

Amaan: Yeah, so Bonjoro is a video app, a 1:1 video app that helps Customer Success Teams send personal videos right to a customer's email inbox. Really what we're doing is we're helping CS Teams, but [also] teams in general, cut through the usual automated emails and actually start conversations with customers. We kind of live in this world where we get an email, or we get a video, we open it and view it, and then we track those opens and views. We think those are great, but it's actually the conversations that we want to start with and that are really valuable.

So with Bonjoro, we're trying to help teams build better relationships with their customers through video.

Megan: Nice. Okay, cool. How did you find your way there?

Amaan: Yeah, so funny enough, back in 2012, I had a startup of my own that was in the video space. We were doing something similar to this, but it was more specifically for recruiting. So, sending videos to candidates or also getting videos back from candidates. It was just a bit early. People weren't really ready to put themselves in front of the camera. This was, kind of, pre-Instagram, Snapchat, people getting really comfortable with the camera being on their face.

So, I kind of dumped that, went to join another company, and I was living in Canada at the time. I decided to make the move to London, and I found Bonjoro and Verbate, which is our other company, kind of sister company that we have. It was just really great technology in the same space that I had been really passionate about before. Yeah, I just kind of reached out to Matt, the CEO, and ended up joining the team.

Megan: So, how is the startup scene in London, I'm curious?

Amaan: Yeah, so the startup scene in London is interesting. So, me coming from ... I grew up in California. I grew up near Silicon Valley and I spent the last ten years in Vancouver, Canada, which has a startup scene, as well. The interesting part about London is it's such a massive city. I didn't realize how big it was when I moved here. So, there's a lot of, obviously, large scale-up type companies that have really established themselves, raised a ton of money, have big teams or they have local offices of big teams. Then you have a lot of these smaller companies that are starting to start up. There's co-working spaces kind of opening by the minute here, it seems, so there's a bunch of smaller, early stage companies.

There seems to be a bit of a gap between those series A-level companies, but I think that's starting to fill with those startups that are starting to get bigger. So, it seems like there's a bit of a gap at the moment, but I think that gap is starting to get shorter and shorter.

Megan: Yeah, that's an exciting time to be in it, then.

Amaan: Actually, our team is based in Sydney. The founders are based in Sydney, and the founding team is based in Sydney, and then we have a London office and the US office. The backstory was Verbate, which is the other company that we also run, the other product that we run. Matt, our CEO, had a lot of customers that were in New York, London, and other parts of the world, and when they would sign up for Verbate, it was always difficult to get ahold of them and connect to them in a personal way, so we started sending videos to customers as soon as they signed up.

Overnight, the response rate kind of tripled. To the point where Matt and our CTO, Mitch, were like, "We probably should build something that does this because a lot of those customers are actually asking for a tool that does this." So, I think fast-forward a few months, Bonjoro was kind of born, and so we still have both companies, but Bonjoro seems to be the one that kind of is on the future of the ... It's SAAS and it's kind of exciting, so it's kind of where we're heading.

Megan: Very cool, that's exciting. So we'll just jump into the topic now, because you have this background that's in sales. You've been working mostly in sales, but then you kind of came into this role that's a mixture of sales and customer success. So, tell me about what that role is like and what your responsibilities are.

Amaan: Yeah, so my background has been mostly sales. The last company I was at, I helped them grow early revenue and early sales from a seed-level to Series A. That's kind of where my fit with Bonjoro was. I talked to Matt, and Matt was like, "We're looking to then scale this, grow a bunch of revenue." My experience with early stage, going through that Series A level was really valuable, and my background was definitely completely, kind of, sales. I worked a lot with CS Teams at the last company I was at, Procurify, because obviously there's that relationship you have to have.

I think, the nice thing about Bonjoro is that we're mostly a customer success driven team. So, my role, even though I'm kind of leading Sales, is almost split, maybe more so, on customer success than it is sales. We have mostly inbound sign-ups that come to us on a monthly basis. We're not going out there and hunting for a bunch of leads, so it's mostly trying to nurture these leads that come in. Get them through what is, kind of, a non-traditional sales process, but it's mostly customer success driven in that once they sign up, we need to get them to certain milestones and get them value really quickly so that we can keep them long term.

So, my role right now is split between handling that process of getting those signups through a sale cycle, but mostly, it's on building the relationships with these customers. Keeping them around long term, understanding what their needs are, making sure to support, but it's very customer success focused.

Megan: Yeah, and how do you think that has changed your mindset as a salesperson a bit, having both of those roles and going through that process?

Amaan: Yeah, so it's funny. So, in my last role when I was ... When you're kind of purely in sales, you think everything is around revenue. Bringing revenue in is like, you kind of get glorified with the whole team ... Here's the team [sales] that brings the revenue in for the business. Which, in theory, seems like it's the driving force behind the business sticking around longterm. So, my mindset prior to joining Bonjoro was, "Oh yeah, sales is the reason why the company runs because we can bring revenue in."

Having that switch into the customer success mindset has made me realize that keeping customers is just way more important. If you look at the math of it, if you were a double-revenue or cut turn in half, the impact of churn is so much more. So, my mindset definitely shifted that yeah sales is great, revenue is great, but it's actually not as important if you don't know how to keep it. For a recurring revenue business it's really not very useful if you can't keep that revenue long term.

So, my mindset's definitely shifted more towards keeping customers as opposed to bringing in new customers.

Megan: Yeah, definitely. At Bonjoro, the team you have you said is sales and customer success oriented together. I think a lot of teams have it pretty separate where it's sales and customer success. In what ways can customer success help educate sales on what are the right deals to close? What are the right customers to close?

Amaan: Yeah, so I think, yeah you're right. ... we're a bit different in that because our product is a little bit more self service, that overlap is a lot greater. I think with teams that are selling products that are higher average contract value or bigger products, bigger deals, they typically have that gap between sales and CS, they have a big sales team. They have, now what seems to be larger CS teams, but they're still relatively smaller in some cases.

I think of it in the same way that marketing and sales works together, so we would constantly go back to our marketing team and say, "Hey these were the leads that were good. These were the leads that weren't good." That's a common thing for sales to go back and say ... especially if you're an inbound driven business. When you're not hunting for your own leads all the time, you're at the mercy of what you get. So, when you get all these sign ups and they're a good fit, you're closing a bunch of sales. When you're not you're getting these customers or potential customers who signed up that may have the wrong impression of what the product does.

It's much harder to close them, so it's easy for you to go back to marketing and say, "Hey these were the leads that were really great, these ones were really not so great because they didn't have a good understanding of the product. Or, it wasn't a good fit." Then marketing goes and changes their messaging around ... [or] turns up the dial on some channels versus others. That's a pretty common practice, but I think what I've come across in the past, is that CS and sales don't really have that relationship. It's starting to get there, but it's still pretty early on and that Customer Success can really feedback information to sales to say, "Hey here are the customers that were really great. Here are the customers that weren't so great, or the closes actually that were great."

That involves here was a pinpoint that you thought they had, here is the pinpoint they actually had, or these ones were really aligned very well. You were spot on.

I think the goal with that would be to say, for lack of a better way of saying it would be, "Here are good customers, here are bad customers. Here are good closes, bad closes." I think that then trickles back down to marketing, because CS can then tell sales hey here are good customers, here are bad customers. Sales can then tweak their mindset saying here are the customers that are actually good... We thought this was great, but actually this other type of customer is great. Marketing can you get us more leads like this?

It kind of goes all the way back down. So, in essence what that relationship between sales and marketing has been, I think CS has a bigger part of that because that trickle down effect can be much bigger.

Megan: Do you have any advice for how to make this line of communication more open? Currently you're working where it's everyone is communicating and you're doing both roles, but maybe for people who are on a team where it's a bit more difficult to get that buy in from the sales and marketing team. What advice do you have?

Amaan: Yeah, so we used to do at Procurify, where I was before. We used to do weekly sales and CS meetings, which were good and bad. They were good in that it was an opportunity for CS and sales to both represent themselves and talk about what their challenges were, what was good and what was bad. It would also kind of end up being a back and forth of we're right, no we're right, kind of thing. It was just kind of the nature of the business because we each had different goals. Sales has focus on closing as many customers as possible and getting as much revenue as possible. Their metrics that they're measured on are just different than what CS is measured on. I think we switched those to an every two week meeting, bi-weekly meetings. That helped and I think ...

So, there's a couple things that I would recommend like I would say definitely do those regular meetings. One of the things that we realized was as our teams got bigger we kept putting everyone in those meetings, and I think that's when it got to be a bit much. So, I think each meeting if you do have bigger teams, have different members who join in or have the leaders of the teams and then bring some representation within the team, but not the entire teams. It just gets a little bit easier to manage all the voices and all the needs.

The other thing that I actually came across that was really useful, was it sometimes helps to situate yourself next to a team, literally where you sit in an office. So, in terms of how a customer's journey falls between marketing, sales, Customer Success you almost kind of want to have those teams sit next to each other in a way that they can hear each other's conversations. So, I know for me when I was heavily focused on sales and we were in our own corner, we didn't over hear the problems that CS would come across, we would only hear it in those meetings every two weeks. Or, in a hand off process, which you don't take as seriously because it's not something ... it seems like it's just being brought up at that moment. It's not something that you're hearing constantly, as opposed to sitting next to that team and hearing them all the time have the same issue and you understand that you can start to hear what their challenges are and you can get a bit more empathetic towards that.

Vice versa, CS can learn a little bit from what sales challenges are, there's usually a lot of pressure on them to bring in revenue and sometimes closing a customer is really important to the point where you might end up closing a customer that may not be the best fit. It sounds terrible, but it does happen obviously. So, hearing ... and then vice versa, marketing on the other side of sales you can hear their issues. I think regular meetings with the right representation and then literally having the teams sitting next to each other in a way that they can overhear each others challenges.

Megan: You mentioned that the teams have very different goals. Are there some goals maybe that could be combined or could be made to work together a bit more? I don't know if there could be or what do you think?

Amaan: Yeah, I definitely have a much greater appreciation for retention and churn. So, I think it hasn't technically been much of a sales driven metric, it has to a certain extent with some sales teams compensating their teams based on turns. Or, if they lose a customer in the first six months then they get a detractor on their commission. I'm not quite sure how I feel about those, I think coming from a sales side is like no I don't like it, but from the CS side I'm like wow that's really great because you need to be able to understand what the characteristics of a close that actually would stick around long term.

I think the metric that I would definitely hone in on for both teams to measure together would be just overall churn rate, and then individual customers and how they're doing, and the metric that they can be measured on could be... Yeah, it's a difficult one because sales is so focused on revenue, but I think churn should be not just between sales and CS, but a company wide metric. I think every team has a play in it, product obviously is a big part of it. CS, sales and then marketing is where it all starts.

I think churn, if I was going to say that how we can incorporate that within the entire company and keep that as your main focus, that is what I've learned in the last year [is] probably the most important health indicator of the business.

Megan: Yeah. Then what are your thoughts on the evolution then of the sales and customer success relationship? You mentioned, I know we spoke a bit previously, you went to meet up with a bunch of customer success people and you were the only sales guy. Do you think it will be more closely related in the future?

Amaan: Yeah, I definitely think that ... Yeah, the backstory with that was I went to a CS meeting here in London, and it was really great. I was kind of really interested to hear what their challenges were and it was a surprise to hear that the same challenges that I had experienced myself were the same challenges they were experiencing. The funny part was, it was kind of ... That topic was also sales and CS and it was a lot of bashing of sales, which I also whole heartedly agree, that there's a lot that actually can happen. Sales people do have egos in certain ways because of that, what I mentioned earlier of being revenue focused and you get that glory of closing deals. So, I put my hand up and I was like, "I'm a sales guy." Everyone was laughing.

I think the future of it is ... I think CS is actually going to be a bigger driving force of revenue than sales will be in the near future. Simply because it's all those thoughts about how it's so much cheaper to keep a customer than it is to bring a new customer in. I think companies are starting to really understand the value of keeping customers longer, and how much more revenue that means for them. I think that overlap between sales and customer success will get bigger and bigger. I think the two teams don't realize how much of the same ... how much they should be focusing on the same things.

The future of it is, I hope that more of those meetups will be sales and CS meetups, or the CS meetups are just as welcome to have both team members involved. I think it's just a communication thing and the more you can have both teams around each other the better it is.

Megan: Yeah. Nice, okay. Cool. Then so, your team ... like we mentioned before...we talked about in our previous conversation...your team is very focused on the delight phase currently.

Amaan: Yeah.

Megan: Tell me about what your team is doing with that? Describe delight to me because I think this is a phase in the customer lifecycle that some people are like, "Okay, what exactly is delight?"

Amaan: Yes. So, what we've learned with Bonjoro specifically is the level of unexpectedness of getting a video and hearing your name. So, at Bonjoro we're very focused on 1:1, we don't let our users send one video to a 100 people. It's not a mass message type thing, it's not an automated thing, it's completely 1:1. So, we hook into either your CRM or your mailing list, like MailChimp. Anytime you get a new customer it pulls it interested Bonjoro and then you can send them a video, and the purpose of that is so that you can mention their name.

I think I sent you one the other day, so the level of it is when you hear your name and you realize someone is actually recorded this for you, it's unexpected. That is where the delight factor comes in, there's a difference between experience and delight. Experience is kind of expected. When you go somewhere whether it's a restaurant or you're by yourself where you expect the experience to be great, and that's just minimum viable product type idea. That's the minimum level, but delight is when you go above and beyond that. You almost have to have this level of unexpectedness.

For us what we're focused on is trying to expand that delight past this video. Whether, it's sending a gift to a customer, I think now when you send 100 videos you get a handwritten note from us as well. If you get to 500, we send you a bear suit, and little things like that, that help you. I think your product always has to be great, and your service always has to be great, but I think delight takes it to another level beyond that. We're actually working on a white paper at the moment about explaining what customer delight is, how some of the top SaaS companies or companies in general are delighting their customers. Everyone has a different definition of it and how they use it.

So, yeah I'll have to send that to you so you can share it out with the podcast, but it's really exciting because it's kind of a new idea. Not a lot of people understand exactly what it is, so Oli on our team head of marketing, has worked a ton on this for the white paper. So, we're going to release that soon.

Megan: Okay, I'm excited for it. Do you have any little snippets you could give us right now?

Amaan: Yeah, I'm trying to think what would be the best example. There's a few different companies, for example one of our customers, Design Pickle, their level of delight is under promising, over delivering on everything they do. That's where they see their delight, and at first it's something like Huckletree, which is the coworker space that we work out of here in London. They do random acts of kindness, random acts of delight with their member teams. So, if someone is working on a weekend and they have the whole team during the weekend they'll have something waiting for them at their desk on a Saturday morning, because they know that that team is there every Saturday.

Little things like that where they kind of go above and beyond the usual level of what you think a co-working space would do, which is usually providing you space and making sure that your space is up to par. They go above and beyond to make that little level of extra unexpectedness. We've got some cool snippets from Buffer in there.

Megan: Nice!

Amaan: Convertkit and a couple of really cool SaaS companies, so I'm excited to get that out.

Megan: Yeah, we might have to have you back on to discuss that white paper. You'll have to send it to me, and then we can have a discussion or something, because that sounds very, very interesting. Yeah, so email it to me when it's all done.

Amaan: Absolutely.

Megan: Then I like to ask this question to everybody. Do you have a definition of customer success?

Amaan: Yeah, I think the common cookie cutter, not cookie cutter, but it's more of the more recent understanding of customer success is when your customers achieve their desired outcome. That's kind of what a lot of people mention, I think. That outcome is something ... the thing I like about it is that it's unique to everyone, but the hard part about it is that it's unique to everyone. It's hard to define. Every company can have a different outcome and I think that involves not only with their product, but the experience with the team.

I do agree that, that desired outcome is what customers are looking for, and success for me ... kind of the formula I've been thinking about is customer experience, plus customer delight, plus customer advocacy equals customer success.

So, I think that whole journey of being able to tick off each one of those boxes, is what I define as customer success. So, somebody who's had a great experience with your product, a great experience with your team, somebody who feels the length you've gone above and beyond. They have this relationship with you that they don't have with most other software companies, and then to the point where they would actually recommend you and be an advocate for you. Word of mouth, leaving reviews online to the point where you get those one in every 10 hopefully even every 5 customers who just loves you so much that they will sing your praises everywhere they go.

That for me is customer success, when you have all those things lined up. I think without one of those you're missing aspects of it that really take that customer to the next level. So, yeah experience, plus delight, plus advocacy equals success.

Megan: Nice, and one more question actually because ... okay so there's customer experience, customer success. What's the difference, how do you define them differently? How do you define customer experience versus customer success?

Amaan: Yeah, so I think going on the point we were just talking about. I think experience is that minimum expected, it's expected. You have ... here's an example, if you go to a restaurant and the service is great, and the food is good. You might go back there again, or you might choose this other place to go to all the time because everything was fantastic. The food is always perfect, the service is really personal and great, the ambience, everything kind of aligns up really well.

I think people expect when they go to a restaurant to have the first option of like, the experience is good. When the experience is terrible you'll hear about it or people will mention it all the time, but when it's at par, there's no good or bad. I think when it's amazing is where you hear people praise and they become advocates. I think experience is that level of you go into using this software or this tool or working with this company and things are expected and maybe a bit above and beyond that. I think success is when those other things align, that it's gone above and beyond that experience, it's much better than what you expected. To the point where you want to talk about it and tell the people and recommend it to all your friends.

Megan: Awesome, okay cool. I like that definition. Great. Well, thank you so much and when that white paper is out I'm very serious. I want it and then we can discuss it.

Amaan: Yeah, we're just finishing it up now. I think it should be out in the next couple days actually. So, we're pretty excited, I think customer delight is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot. There's not a real definition and we actually ran into that ourselves when Oli was doing his research. She was like there's some really great content out there about it, but there's not one place to go to that has all the information and defines it and how companies are utilizing it. So, we're really excited to get it out there because I think a lot of people can get a bunch of value out of it.

Megan: Definitely, yeah. Well, thank you so much for joining me today.

Amaan: Yeah, thank you for having me.

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