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The Importance of the Transition between Sales and Customer Onboarding

September 1, 2022
Written by Golden Section


Both sales and marketing are vital in a B2B SaaS company’s journey towards winning customers. Accelerating this part of a startups business is what Golden Section, our team, and most importantly, our playbooks (which are critical resources), encourage.

These playbooks help early-stage B2B SaaS founders as they build their product, bring it to market, start selling into the market, and subsequently begin onboarding clients.

That aspect, the end of the sales journey, and the beginning of the customer onboarding journey is particularly important when selling and retaining enterprise customers. Traditionally the sales cycle has been long, and growing B2B SaaS companies live and die by those first few customers, so making sure they are happy is vital for a startup’s momentum early on.

As Hubspot writes on the importance of the onboarding process: “The onboarding process has lasting benefits for your customers and your business. Onboarding makes customers’ lives easy. The information and knowledge they need to use your products are readily accessible. It allows them to move seamlessly through the process and helps build feelings of trust in your business.”

Having a clear transition between sales and customer onboarding is key in retaining customers, and eventually selling them additional products.

When a startup is initially pitching a customer, they offer the potential customer what could be. The onboarding process is a chance to show, not just tell, how amazing the product is. Furthermore, it’s not just about the decision maker the startup initially pitched, now it’s a chance to include (delight, and then upsell) others in the organization during the onboarding process.

Why is this important?

Onboarding properly is important because it offers the team a chance to create an evangelist from their customer (if they are happy with the product), and is a set up to later upsell the client. The initial sale is the beachhead in which to continue to work with a customer to help them solve additional pain points.  

Why waste all the work in a complicated and long sales cycle, only to lose the client in the onboarding process? This is a customer’s first interaction with the organization, and should be done the right way.

There are a number of reasons this is important such as building a long-term relationship with a customer, and reducing the churn that inevitably happens during any customer experience.  

In addition, this increases the value of customers, meaning they can become natural evangelists for the product, which can result in organic growth (without having to spend additional marketing dollars).

Putting the customer’s experience first

The most important part of this process is the customer experience, and that all the work which goes into trying to attain customers is not in vain. But in the minds of the startup’s team, it is also a shift from going after, and selling to customers, to making sure the customers are happy during the onboarding process.

During this process, it is important to lead with empathy, and understand that oftentimes going through an onboarding process is the last thing a customer wants to do.

There are also best practices on how to onboard such as creating a clear roadmap for customers on their onboarding journey, setting the expectations with the customer, and anticipating that there will be bumps along the road. 

When expectations are set, if a bump does indeed occur, clear and proactive communication can show a customer that the team is on top of things, and actively solving any problems which may arise.

And like any capable organization does, always remembering to follow-up is key.

What Golden Section does that is different

As Golden Section Co-Founder and Managing Director, Dougal Cameron states on the importance of building credibility with a customer during this process:

“When you’re selling B2B SaaS to a company, you are pitching them the promised land. When you move to the onboarding stage you will need to take the whole organization through the sales pitch and your service delivery team needs to deliver on the promises you made during the sales process.”

An effective onboarding experience delights customers, and delivers on the sales pitch of making the customer’s life easier, as opposed to the onboarding process being a headache.

Showing customers how far along they are in the onboarding process (gamification can help with this), also helps manage expectations associated with time. Most professionals have limited bandwidth and time, and are eager to know how far they are along the process.

Thinking about where the team can include personal touches and personality can help as well, as this helps in humanizing the process. The perspective towards the use of technology should be in general of benefit to the consumer, as opposed to being something adversarial.

For teams which still need to be convinced of the importance of a positive customer onboarding experience, this article reflects on the question: “Did you know SaaS companies lose 75% of new users within the first week without effective onboarding?”

Effectively transitioning between sales and customer onboarding is an easy way for a startup to grow their business just by taking a few thoughtful steps. It starts with the mindset to move from selling to onboarding, and while the difficult stage of customer acquisition may be over, the real work begins in developing satisfied lifelong clients by successfully onboarding them. 

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