Revenue Operations

Building a Better Funnel for Growth and Success Teams

Understanding the role of a Customer Success team and how it can tie back to revenue is a top-down job. Blake Kendrick, the RevOps manager at Thankful, explains roles and responsibilities while also outlining a Growth team pipeline design.

Investing in a Customer Success team is a big commitment. When an organization does put resources into this function, they want to tie that team’s efforts into revenue increases through renewals and upsells within the existing customer base. After all, the success of your customers should go hand in hand with the success of your business. CS is there to deliver an amazing experience to ensure customer satisfaction, retention, and expansion, all in one.

Blake Kendrick, part of the RevOps Co-op’s Creators Guild and RevOps manager with Thankful, helps direct-to-consumer brands create positive customer experiences through AI. He knows what the ideal responsibilities are for Success teams, what leadership should be doing to enable them for positive outcomes and he also understands what pipelines should look like for both customer success and growth teams.

We are using this post to highlight his proposed “Funnel Design for Growth and Success Teams”. This is a go-to guide for those of you building out Customer Success and Growth functions. He breaks down the ideal responsibilities of this function, discusses retention vs. growth, and even offers sample stages and definitions for those of you thinking through CS Deal Stages.

Blake is an amazing resource and has just about every template you could possibly need when it comes to RevOps. Reach out to him if you want to learn more about this or any of his other original works.

While his outline here is specific to subscription-based B2B organizations, it is easily adapted to other types of business models. Let’s dive in!

Purpose

This document serves as a starting point for teams looking to tie investments in customer success back to revenue increases within their existing customer base. The sections below include suggested definitions for success teams’ responsibilities, as well as an example structure for a Growth pipeline design.

Define Success’s Responsibilities

The success team must have a clear functional definition within which to operate. 

Success should focus on recognizing a path to growth, or, at a minimum, retention, and dedicating efforts to ensuring those target goals are reached per customer.

The two endpoints of growth and retention can look slightly different, but they generally involve the following actions:

  • Identifying customer goals
  • Assessing current state 
  • Defining the path to achievement
  • Taking action to move toward target state
  • Reaching target state
  • Wash, rinse, repeat

 

When to resort to retention

The success team should always be aspirational and aim for growth, as growth in existing recurring revenue will have the most significant impact on the company’s financial health. 

Setting retention as a target state for a customer means taking action to maintain the status quo. A retention target state is still acceptable, but should only be the success team’s desired outcome if growth cannot be achieved. 

Customer account growth may not be an acceptable option if: 

  1. The customer perceives that a push for growth/improvement would be damaging to their org. 
  2. The provider org (your company) does not have an option available for contract growth.

Note that if option b is regularly present at your org, this may be a good prompt to revisit the product and understand what activated revenue growth looks like. In some cases, a product or feature addition is not the only way to grow; outcomes like increasing active user licenses or extending contract life could be your primary mechanisms for growth. 

In any case, the team’s goal should always be to analyze the customer relationship, understand where things could be going better (even if they’re “good” today), and work toward those improvements.

Growth Pipeline Design

Having a clear separation between new business revenue and growth business revenue tends to be beneficial for org health, especially in regards to setting departmental objectives. From a data structure standpoint, this likely means applying different labels to the different opportunity types. 

In the majority of cases, this also means entirely customizing the stages of the sales process (and breaking out separate pipelines) to best fit the respective opportunity types. 

The growth pipeline is where the success team should manage opportunities for existing business, which typically includes the following types of sales: 

  • Renewals 
  • Upsells 
  • Cross-sells
  • Downgrades/Saves 

Stages and Definitions within the Growth Pipeline 

Recommended growth pipeline stages include the following:

 

The Role of Success Leadership

The design and deployment of a growth pipeline inherently helps organize success operations to begin working toward objectives tied to revenue growth. However, work must be completed before and alongside the opportunities themselves to actually ensure they’re created. 

The environment and culture within the success department should be driven by the department head(s). Those leaders should take on the responsibility of setting expectations and educating customer success reps around:

  • The defined quantitative and qualitative objectives for the success program (for both retention- and growth-related targets)
  • How often customer performance reviews or health checks should be conducted per customer engagement 
  • What it looks to conduct a performance review or health check 
  • How to use and manage opportunities within the growth pipeline, and how those actions impact org-level reporting and employee performance evaluations 

Objective-setting and process development within success is often a joint effort between multiple team members, especially finance, sales, and success operations. In the case of designing customer performance reviews, product team members or solutions engineers also tend to be important contributors.

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 About the Author:

Blake Kendrick is the Revenue Operations Manager at Thankful, a solution that enables support teams at direct-to-consumer brands to scale and maintain delightful customer experiences by leveraging AI. Blake is a New England native with a tenured experience in B2B outsourcing environments and has offered GTM and revenue operations strategies to leaders at more than 100 Series A+ growth organizations. Blake's mission is to help inform and enable businesses across markets to achieve operational excellence. Stable, effective, and aligned teams help improve employees' quality of life, stimulate competition to better benefit consumers, and create positive impact in the world at large.

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