Sloppy Sales Handoffs: Why They’re Killing Your Retention and How to Sidestep Them

When you become a customer, you’re typically excited about the company’s product. So, if you have a bad customer experience along the way, would you keep buying what they’re selling?

More than 60 percent of customers walk away from a brand and move to a competitor after just one negative experience.

Consider this scenario: You hear a news story about a restaurant that just opened and book a table for dinner. You walk through the door excited to try the culinary experience that’s getting so much buzz.

You take in the atmosphere. Then, you sit and wait. And wait. And wait.

You finally have to flag down the server. They apologize and quickly bring some fresh bread to make up for it. You’re a little peeved but the place still seems cool.

You then explain to the server you’re allergic to nuts and ask if the culinary team could please leave them off your salad. But the message gets lost in translation and you end up with a walnut-heavy first course you can’t eat without risking a medical emergency.

At this point, unless the rest of the meal is something you simply can’t live without, you probably won’t be back anytime soon.

If that type of sloppiness creeps into your sales handoffs –– or the transitions from one person or team to the next throughout the customer journey –– it can have the same effect. As soon as there’s a messy misstep, you risk losing your audience, driving customers to churn, and ultimately watching your revenue take a hit.

So, if you want to win more business and improve your retention, you’ll need to dodge sloppy handoffs at all costs. Read on to learn more about how these transitions can go awry –– and what you can do to prevent it.

Why handoffs can get sloppy

Let’s face it: Any time there are human relationships and lots of moving parts involved, there’s plenty of room for error.

And a high-quality handoff process hinges on the success of those two things: your team’s ability to forge strong, trusting relationships –– internally and externally –– and every team member doing their part to deliver a world-class customer experience.

The devil is often in the details, but there are four core reasons a sales handoff tends to go sideways:

  • Sparse sales notes: If insights aren’t documented in Salesforce from the very first meeting –– or if each team is taking notes in a silo –– there’s no way to easily establish communal account knowledge. Beyond that, the thoroughness of any notes that are captured breaks down as the account moves from sales development representative to account executive to sales engineer to customer success manager. A lack of in-depth, centralized sales notes can lead to team members being unprepared when the account is handed off to them and, in turn, creates a playing field that’s ripe for unnecessary repeat questions and conversations.
  • A lack of alignment in expectations: A disconnect in expectations can impact both internal and external relationships. For example, sales and customer success teams tend to have different key performance indicators, so if left to their own devices, they zero in on different things in customer conversations. If sales and customer success aren’t working in lockstep, customer success managers won’t have the context they need to deliver on expectations set by sales in the earlier stages of the journey.
  • A change in account ownership: If an account moves through ownership changes, new roles and relationships need to be established –– internally and with the customer. That can mean starting from scratch when it comes to building trust or, at the very least, some time spent ironing out handoff logistics with a new owner.
  • A team member changing positions or leaving the company: Departing employees or someone who moves into a different position can cause obvious shake ups in the handoff chain. A crucial member of a previously defined process might now be missing –– along with their irreplaceable customer notes –– and new folks, who are still being trained and onboarded, likely need extra time to step in with confidence.

No matter what the cause is for any sloppiness that’s seeping into your sales handoffs, you’ll only benefit from cleaning them up.

The benefits of buttoning up your sales handoff process

Serving up a smooth sales handoff process for customers can be the difference between indefinite renewals and watching revenue fly off the table. In fact, 75% of businesses say connected processes are paramount when they’re considering a purchase.

Well-executed sales handoffs achieve a few key things:

  • They set the tone for a customer: Quick, smooth sales handoffs build momentum and quickly get new customers fully embedded in your product, setting them on a path to solving the problems that brought them to your doorstep in the first place. They also contribute to a positive overall customer experience, helping to yield happy customers and prompting a halo effect from their positive reviews.
  • They build trust and good rapport: Seamless transitions throughout the customer journey –– from first product experience, to deal closure, and the onboarding process –– send signals of trustworthiness and professionalism to the customer. Handoffs are opportunities to build trust and plant the seed that your team prioritizes the customer experience –– and is worth pursuing a long-standing relationship with.
  • They increase your deal velocity: For many businesses, return on investment is a long game: A customer needs to consistently renew in order to produce a meaningful return. If your handoffs are clean and you’ve taken the time to build meaningful long-term customer relationships, the choice to renew will be an easy one. And the faster renewals pile up, the faster you’ll increase your return on investment.

At the end of the day, a few key best practices can help you stick the landing on handoffs.

5 best practices that will help you ditch sloppy sales handoffs for good

Taking these five tips to heart will help you do away with sloppy sales handoffs and, in turn, give you plenty of runway to deliver an above-and-beyond customer experience –– all while laying a solid foundation for up-selling, cross-selling, and pursuing renewals.

1. Centralize sales notes and documentation.

Consolidate all your account-related sales notes and store them in a central, easily accessible, digital location, to create a single source of truth when it comes to account knowledge. Most sales teams already aim to corral all this information in Salesforce, but implementing tactics like creating standard note templates can help your team keep notes organized and up to date with less legwork.

There should only be one place where this information is documented and stored –– a place where sales development representatives, account executives, customer success managers, and anyone else involved in the customer experience can come to get valuable intel on an account.

Make sure everyone who plays a role in handoffs has visibility on this documentation so they can contribute new information and stay up to speed as the customer moves through their lifecycle with the business.

Fair warning, though: The information in your CRM is only as good as its weakest contributor. Everyone must commit to inputting notes and information they gain access to in order for the hub to be as useful and valuable as it can be.

2. Create a custom handoff process and playbook.

Seek to understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to your sales handoff process, then build out a custom version that details how everything should ideally play out for your organization.

Document your process in a playbook that can be shared with every team involved in handoffs and easily accessed with the right tech tools. Make sure every task in the process has someone who owns it, and define how you’ll measure success for handoffs moving forward.

Track these metrics, collect feedback from customers and other internal teams, analyze your sales handoffs on a regular basis, and seek to improve the process. You can also tap into these insights to train new members of the team.

Beyond that, minimize interruptions for the customer by creating a section in the playbook that outlines what should happen when account ownership changes, or an employee leaves or changes roles.

3. Drive visibility across every stage of a deal.

As the deal is looking like it will probably close, give the customer visibility on the handoff timeline, how the process will play out, and who they’ll be interacting with at each stage.

Before the handoff process kicks off, connect internally to review deal-related notes and come together on expectations.

Make sure there’s full internal visibility among handoff participants on any expectations set by members of the sales team at the beginning of the journey –– and that these are realistic expectations customer success managers can meet or exceed.

Prevent any ambiguity or confusion from creeping in by delivering a high level of transparency and maintaining open, consistent communication with the customer.

4. Prioritize internal collaboration and strong relationships across teams.

Establish an internal and external meeting cadence that allows all teams involved in handoffs to stay in sync throughout the lifecycle of a customer. Optimize your workflow so you can easily collaborate across teams throughout the handoff process.

Seek to keep the customer’s best interests at the heart of the handoff process, and make sure each team understands the challenges other teams are facing along the way. Problem-solve collaboratively, tapping into expertise across the team.

Lean into the notes you’ve created in your CRM and commit to being active contributors and digesters of the information stored there.

Beyond that, establish regular syncs between sales and customer success, keep relevant folks cc’d on helpful email communication, and set up a commenting system that connects to your CRM and automatically triggers notifications on next steps and action items. Then, get creative with ways to build increasingly strong relationships among all teams involved in handoffs.

In short, be respectful; aim to set one another up for success. Make sure your fellow teammates have enough time to get acquainted with an account before they need to jump in. This will help them design an individualized approach for every customer.

5. Clearly define who owns the customer relationship at each stage.

Never leave a prospect or customer wondering who they should contact with questions.

As part of your internal playbook, define who owns the customer relationship at each stage and communicate who those owners are with the customer so they have established points of contact.

Conduct formal handoffs and define when it’s each team’s time to step back and let the next team take the reins.

Let your tech stack help you say goodbye to sloppiness

It’s every team member’s responsibility to help create a best-in-class experience for customers. Smooth sales handoffs are one way to drive that experience, but to pull them off, your team needs to work together.

If internal teams can stay aligned, you’ll be able to achieve a streamlined handoff process that will help you hang on to customers rather than overspending to acquire new ones. After all, the cost of attracting a new customer is five times higher than keeping an existing one.

That makes handoffs make-or-break moments for your team.

A collaborative workspace like Scratchpad helps revenue teams easily stay aligned, share crucial information, and improve processes and productivity.

Looking to eliminate sloppiness from your handoffs and level up your customer experience? Contact a Scratchpad team member to schedule a RevOps strategy call today.