About 10 years ago I got a call I could hardly believe actually happened.
It started with me checking the caller ID and groaning. Oh great, here we go.
The call was from my new gym, where I’d been a sporadic-at-best member for a couple of weeks. I reluctantly answered and braced myself for a sales pitch. Would it be personal training? A nutrition program? Or maybe a new wardrobe for all those workouts I wasn’t doing?
But this wasn’t a guilt trip or a sales call. It wasn’t a salesperson, it was one of the gym’s coaches on the other end of the line. She had reviewed my file, saw my sad amount of swipe-ins, and wanted to see how we could change that.
After chatting for a few minutes about my workout preferences, she recommended I try one of her Zumba classes. (Remember Zumba?!) I went. I had fun. Then I started going all the time. It was mostly me and the retirees but I loved it.
That one call increased my gym ROI and made me a more valuable customer. I was on track to cancel my membership and walk away with a poor experience. Instead, I remained a loyal and active member until I moved away a few years later.
Usually, when you hear from your gym it’s because they want more of your money, not to have a no-strings-attached conversation about what was and wasn’t working for me. I didn’t know it then—I wasn’t in the SaaS world back in those days—but it was an optimization call.
The fear of getting caught up in those expensive strings plays into why a lot of folks shy away from scheduling an optimization call with their B2B software provider. But we’re string-free here at Proposify. Our customer success managers want to help and this post will show you how a non-sales-y, constructive optimization call can help you improve the ROI of your proposal software.
I’ll break down the difference between customer success and account management, what customer success doesn’t do, what a proposal software optimization call looks like, and how you can get the most out of one.
Jump to a section:
Customer success vs. account management
What does an optimization call look like? A step-by-step guide
How you can get the most out of your optimization call
Customer success vs. account management
Account managers have been around for decades. They take over after the initial sales rep and focus on renewing, upselling, and cross-selling the customers in their portfolio.
You can find account managers in almost every B2B industry. However, most software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, including Proposify, have moved away from or ignored traditional account management in favour of a customer success-centred approach using customer success managers (CSMs).
Both roles rely on building relationships with clients and making sure that those relationships are valuable for both the company and the customer. It seems like the goals of each role are the same: happy, successful customers are more likely to renew and expand their accounts, right?
But when you dig a little deeper into that happy customer outcome, the KPIs (key performance indicators) for each role are completely dissimilar.
Customer success metrics tend to focus on keeping customer retention and health scores high and churn low, while account managers’ efficacy is measured by how much money they bring in by renewing and expanding accounts.
For example, CS performance is usually tied to increasing customer lifetime value (LTV) or satisfaction via net promoter scores (NPS). Account manager metrics revolve around revenue and some might even carry a quota. Of course, CS revenue from renewals, upsells, or cross-sells is still tracked as account retention and expansion are part of the customer success job description. But revenue is ONE OF the numbers that CS teams track, whereas it’s THE number that account managers are responsible for.
What customer success is not
Okay, so customer success isn’t account management. Cool, then what is it? A lot of folks don’t understand what customer success is all about. I certainly didn’t back when I took that phone call from my gym.
Is it the love child of customer support and sales and accounts receivable with a hip new name?
Nope. Well, not exactly.
It’s easier to explore what customer success management is by explaining what it isn’t:
CSMs aren’t salespeople (but they can sell.)
Though CSMs can sell you on additional products, services, or upgrades, these suggestions come from a deep knowledge of your account, your company/team, your unique needs, and the full capabilities and features of the software.
CSMs aren’t customer support (but they do support customers.)
Though CSMs do work closely with support (at Proposify, our customer success and support folks are all one big happy family), there are some key differences.
Customer support is reactive—you write or call in with a problem or issue you’re experiencing and a support rep helps you find a solution. Customer success works proactively with you on an ongoing basis to help you avoid any potential obstacles.
CSMs aren’t only around at renewal time (but renewals are part of what they do.)
Yes, they’ll likely be the one handling the logistics of renewing your subscription, but your CSM will also be there with you from the beginning as you implement the software, train your team, and optimize how you use the product.
And that last piece, optimization, is an often overlooked component of proposal software success so let’s zero in on how that happens, starting with an optimization call.
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What is an optimization call? Why do them?
At Proposify, we use optimization calls to understand our customers better and find ways for our customer success team to add value and improve the customer experience (CX).
Good CX doesn’t start with marketing and stop at sales. It extends into the service part of the customer lifecycle flywheel and revolves around the customer.
Customer success managers play a huge part in maintaining good customer experiences and relationships. And optimization calls are part of our company’s overall CX strategy, ensuring quality and consistency in all customer interactions.
What is an optimization call? They’re a valuable forum to have a candid discussion between you, the customer, and your CSM about what is going well, and what is not, as you navigate and use the software. These calls can also be a goldmine for ideas to pass along to our product development team or reinforcing that our new feature roadmap is heading in the right direction.
But everything mentioned above is all about why we do optimization calls here at Proposify. What’s in it for you, the customer?
An optimization call is a great opportunity to:
- Be heard and give feedback.
- Discuss the product roadmap and potential enrolment in beta feature launches.
- Problem-solve one-on-one with a product expert.
- Review your set-up and learn best practices.
- Remove or avoid any obstacles keeping you and your team from achieving an ideal workflow.
- Improve your software ROI by saving time and even increasing your close rate or ACV.
While your CSM may suggest upgrades on the call, it’s not meant to be a sales pitch. Any suggestions will be based on the feedback you provide about how you use the software and your goals. So if you’re worried about a hard sell, I’m here to tell you that—on our optimization calls anyway—there’s no pressure or obligation to purchase.
What does an optimization call look like?
Again, I can’t speak to all the optimization calls done at all the SaaS companies in all the world. I can, however, show you how we do them here at Proposify as an example of what to expect on the roughly half-hour call.
And I’ll let you in on a secret: an optimization call actually starts way before you hit ‘Join’ on the Zoom room link. Let’s go through what an optimization call looks like step-by-step.
Step 1: CSM Homework
Before your scheduled optimization call, your CSM will be doing their homework by diving into the details of how your account is set up and how you and your team have been using Proposify so far.
They’ll look at:
The activity level of your account
How many account users log in regularly? Occasionally? Or never?
The customization level of your account
Are you still using ‘out of the box’ settings or have you added some custom configurations?
Your proposal templates and content
Which ones do you use most and how have you set them up?
Your proposal pipeline
How many proposals are in your pipeline? How are you currently approving and sending proposals?
Your most recent proposals
How many proposals are you and your team sending out? How many proposals do you have in-progress? How many are sent/pending, closed-won, or closed-lost?
Your CSM will also reach out ahead of your call to see if you have any specific questions about the product or your account that you’d like to address with them on the call.
Step 2: Agenda and Overview
The CSM will introduce themselves, outline the agenda for the call, and confirm any additional topics or areas you want to discuss.
Then it’s time to get down to business. The CSM will start by asking some general questions, like what you use Proposify for and what your experience has been like so far.
Step 3: More Questions and Suggestions
Your CSM will have some more specific questions for you based on what they found in Step 1. They’re looking for feedback from you on how you use the product, any issues or limitations you’re experiencing, and what features you do or don’t use (like electronic signatures, approval workflows, roles and permissions, or workspaces.)
Based on your questions and answers, your CSM might be able to help you accomplish some quick wins, like adding more automation to your templates with integrations and variables, or suggest some other changes to help you achieve your ideal proposal workflow.
Step 4: Follow-up
Your CSM will pass along your feedback to others on the Proposify product and research and development teams. They’ll also send you a quick email to recap the call, provide information on anything you didn’t get to cover on the call, and any next steps.
How you can get the most out of your optimization call
An optimization call is a two-way process. It’s meant to be a conversation, not a one-sided seminar or monologue. You are an active participant and that means there are three main things you can do to, uh, optimize your optimization call.
1. Get really real with your feedback.
Feel free to express your true feelings about the product. Don’t sugarcoat—they won’t take anything you say about the software personally. In fact, your CSM is genuinely curious about your experience and they want to hear it all, from the good to the bad and everything in between.
2. Be honest about how you are (or aren’t) using the software.
Nobody wants to admit they paid for something and now they don’t use it or don’t understand how to use it properly. But, hey, we’re all friends here! Your CSM wants to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your software buck so if you aren’t using it to its full capacity or potential, they need to dig into why that’s happening.
3. Be open to new ideas.
Approach your optimization call with an open mind and a willingness to learn or try something new. Your CSM may see opportunities that you haven’t identified or new ways to streamline your activities. All they ask is that you hear them out.
Going above and beyond the call
I will say, no one is more surprised than me that a decade-old call from my former gym still sticks with me. But that whole experience was a turning point in my physical activity levels. It spurred me to later get into Crossfit and Olympic weightlifting, activities my former Zumba-ing self could never have imagined doing.
It’s truly a testament to the power that a simple optimization call can have. It can totally transform your customer experience with the software in your sales tech stack, like proposal software. And even if the gains that come out of it are on the smaller side, that’s a win, too. It confirms that you are on the right track and already getting a lot out of your software investment.
All you have to do is answer the call.