How to Train for Post-Sales Roles: Tips for Onboarding AMs and CSMs

books and chalk on table

In most sales departments, training for new employees takes a sales-centered approach. Naturally, sales departments see bringing in new business as their primary function, and shape their training modules accordingly. But when training Account Managers (AMs) and Customer Success Managers (CSMs), it’s important to cover both the sales process and post-sales functions. When these employees are armed with a comprehensive understanding of these processes, they are better equipped to perform their job: Keeping customers happy.

Retaining customers is just as important as acquiring new business, so your AMs and CSMs will need to feel comfortable in their roles. In many cases, AMs and CSMs will be responsible for up-selling, cross-selling, and handling renewals. They’ll need to develop many of the same skills as traditional sales representatives. For this reason, it is recommended that sales departments use common concepts and talking points when training employees. No matter what an employee’s specific role, they will be an ambassador for your brand and need to be inculcated into your sales philosophy.

All members of the sales department will need to learn about products, buyer personas, and company goals. However, training for post-sales roles should also be specific. Here are the essential topics to cover when training new AMs and CSMs.

On-boarding

When you’re providing complex products and services, it’s not enough to hand new customers a user manual. A strong on-boarding process is essential for retaining customers in the long-term. Post-sales representatives should be trained in the following areas:

Company messaging

The sales process doesn’t end when a contract is signed. When customers interact with your company, messaging should be broadly consistent. For this reason, it’s a good idea for post-sales representatives to understand sales talking points. AMs and CSMs also should learn how to effectively “sell” your product to new customers so that they become excited about using it. Customers who start off eager and engaged are less likely to churn later.

Providing effective training

Many AMs and CSMs are responsible for providing initial training to new customers. To do this effectively, spend time teaching them how to train customers. What issues commonly arise during training? Have them sit in on new customer training sessions and give mock training sessions themselves. That way, they’ll be prepared the first time they do it on their own.

Up-selling and Cross-Selling

Once you have a customer, you will want to maximize the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). Up-selling and cross-selling are two ways of doing this. Skills that facilitate successful up-selling and cross-selling include:

Using the CRM

Recording information about existing customers in the CRM helps post-sales representatives identify customers that may benefit from upgrading existing purchases or buying new products and services. Train new employees in standardized methods of recording data in the CRM. AMs and CSMs should also learn how to search the CRM effectively.

Knowing the product catalog

When up-selling and cross-selling, sales pitches need to be targeted carefully. Customers forced to listen to an irrelevant sales pitch are likely to become annoyed, actively damaging your relationship with that customer. In order to successfully sell to existing customers, post-sales representatives must develop a thorough understanding of available products, which products go well together, etc.

Conversational skills

Because most customers turn to AMs and CSMs to receive support for prior purchases, giving them a hard sales pitch can be a major turn-off. Post-sales representatives need to learn the delicate art of incorporating up-selling and cross-selling techniques into customer interactions. To learn this skill effectively, new employees should role-play common scenarios as a training exercise. It is also helpful for them to listen in on experienced employees’ calls with existing customers.

Learning systematic procedures

As Maximizer Software writes, up-selling works best when there are systems in place to facilitate up-selling processes. Create standard procedures for up-selling when appropriate and teach them to post-sales representatives. Up-selling and cross-selling will soon become second nature to them.

Churn rate mitigation

High churn rate is the bane of many subscription-based businesses. AMs and CSMs are on the front lines of minimizing churn rate. In order to do so, they need the right tools:

Identifying customers at risk of churning

If your AMs and CSMs can identify customers in the high-risk category, they can intervene and (with the right touch) retain them. Low product usage is one of the most critical red flags that a customer is at risk of churning. For software-based products, it is now possible to track customer usage patterns. Teach post-sales representatives to identify customers who aren’t making use of the product—and then reach out to them. While it is tempting to think that customers who don’t ever contact your company for support are “good customers,” the opposite is true. Customers who don’t have any questions quite likely aren’t using your product.

Providing additional training

If a customer isn’t logging in, it’s quite likely that they’re confused about how to use the product and how the product can benefit them. In order to solve this problem, AMs and CSMs can provide individualized training to befuddled customers. Doing so effectively will require them to develop in-depth knowledge of products and common points of confusion.

Listening to customers

Post-sales representatives who contact a customer at risk of churning may very well be treated to a litany of complaints. When that happens, the representative will need to exercise strong listening skills. Responding to customer complaints with long explanations invalidates their experiences and further exacerbates a negative impression. Teach new employees how to listen and then respond effectively.

Throughout the training process, make sure AMs and CSMs understand the vital function of their role. While their job may seem less glamorous than bringing in new customers, their function is no less vital. With the right training, post-sales representatives can ensure that new customers remain engaged customers in the long run.

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Geoffrey is a content marketing consultant based in Berlin, Germany. A veteran of several startups, he has produced sales content for blogs including Datanyze and Fileboard.