Customer Success

How to Empower Your B2B SaaS Customer Success Team

By David H. Deans

The enterprise software landscape has evolved, and business-to-business (B2B) software vendors now encounter disruptive challenges in adapting to the shift toward cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions.

While the benefits of SaaS solutions are undeniable, many B2B software vendors find it difficult to establish, staff, train and coach effective Customer Success (CS) teams that advance the adoption and consumption of their offerings.

Let's delve into the reasons behind this challenge, and analyze the key factors that hinder the success of B2B software vendors in this new paradigm. Let's also consider proven ways to overcome this pervasive issue.

The Legacy Mindset

B2B software vendors often convey a legacy mindset rooted in traditional on-premises enterprise software sales and marketing. Their prior focus was primarily on selling to traditional IT department directors or managers below the Chief Information Officer (CIO) decision-maker.

However, in the commercial SaaS era, vendors must shift their focus and engage with Line of Business (LoB) leaders and their project sponsors. These are the key influencers within organizations who champion the adoption and implementation of chosen SaaS solutions.

That's why ignoring or underestimating the importance of the LoB project sponsor can inhibit successful SaaS sales and associated customer deployments. Why? Because achieving desired business outcomes matters more than the attainment of technical supremacy. Customer Success = Achieved Outcomes.

Reaching and Engaging the LoB Project Sponsor

The LoB project sponsor plays a critical role in the successful adoption and consumption of SaaS solutions within organizations. These individuals are responsible for driving specific digital business projects and have a deep understanding of the operational processes within their enterprise.

Engaging with the LoB project sponsor with a relevant value proposition is crucial for B2B software vendors to ensure successful SaaS go-to-market campaigns. It's also an essential component of a customer retention strategy. However, many IT vendors struggle to reach these key stakeholders. 

Some vendors are so intimidated by the task of creating and delivering something meaningful and substantive for discussion that they've chosen to avoid engaging these key stakeholders. That's a huge mistake. However, this challenge can be overcome by training and coaching CS leadership teams.

LoB Project Sponsor Drives Successful Deployments

When you appreciate why these LoB stakeholders are so influential, then you'll realize that avoidance is not an option. You have to connect and engage. You must be skilled in business value creation.

Understanding Business Objectives: The LoB project sponsor holds valuable insights into the unique needs and objectives of their organization. By actively engaging with them, B2B software vendors can gain a deeper comprehension of the specific challenges that the SaaS solution should address.

This understanding allows vendors to tailor their offerings to meet the specific requirements of the LoB stakeholder, leading to driving higher adoption rates and increasing the likelihood of successful SaaS deployments and subscription renewals.

Influence and Advocacy: The LoB project sponsor has credible influence within their organization and can effectively champion the adoption of SaaS solutions. They are in a position to guide and coach their team through the Change Management process, ensuring buy-in and active participation.

By effectively engaging with the LoB project sponsor, B2B software vendors can establish their influence and advocacy as trusted advisors to drive user adoption and consumption of the offering. This ultimately leads to greater success in the deployment of SaaS solutions. It's also the key to achieving ARR goals.

Alignment with Business Processes: Successful SaaS deployments require integration with existing business processes. The LoB project sponsor possesses a deep understanding of these operational issues and can provide insights into how the SaaS solution can be effectively integrated.

By involving the LoB project sponsor from the early stages of implementation, B2B software vendors can ensure that the SaaS solution aligns closely with the specific needs and workflows of the sponsor's team. This alignment fosters a smoother adoption process and maximizes the value creation derived from the SaaS solution.

Feedback and Continuous Improvement: The LoB project sponsor serves as a crucial feedback loop for B2B software vendors. They provide valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the SaaS solution, as well as suggestions for proactive improvement.

By actively seeking and incorporating their candid feedback, IT vendors can enhance their offerings and ensure that the SaaS solution evolves to meet the priorities of the LoB stakeholder. This iterative approach drives higher levels of customer satisfaction and ultimately ongoing consumption of the SaaS solution with intended users.

Realized Value Measurement: Business Leader Realized Value (BLRV) measurement, from a customer's perspective, is a metric that assesses the tangible benefits and outcomes that a B2B SaaS solution delivers to the customer's key decision-makers. It goes beyond traditional metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) by focusing on the actual impact and value generated for the customer at a strategic level.

The Quarterly Business Review (QBR) meeting is a vendor's opportunity to assess project performance to the customer's desired business outcome. The LoB project sponsor must be engaged in these meetings, rather than merely relying on the customer's IT staff participation. The business leader is the person who decides if the SaaS use case value is being achieved, as anticipated during the initial planning phase.

Reach and Engage the Decision-Makers

In summary, to grow and thrive in the B2B SaaS market development arena, software vendors must align their sales and marketing efforts with the LoB project sponsor. Doing so is the proven path to ensure an effective initial go-to-market launch and ongoing customer retention strategy.

Moreover, a skilled and experienced Customer Success Manager (CSM) must partner with these key stakeholders to fully discover their priorities for the desired business outcome, leveraging their influence and advocacy, aligning with their business processes, and continuously improving upon the SaaS solution use case. The CSM is a customer change management role -- it's not customer service.

By nurturing relationships with LoB project sponsors, savvy B2B software vendors can motivate and drive higher end-user adoption rates, increase application consumption, and unlock the true full value creation potential of their SaaS offerings.

Therefore, it's time for all B2B software vendors to shift their focus from working exclusively with IT organizations, by eagerly reaching out to LoB project sponsors, and forging value-centered partnerships that drive co-creation success in the evolving SaaS solution marketplace.

In addition to the strategies outlined above, SaaS providers will also benefit from partnering with a management consultant and trusted advisor who can provide fully tested and proven guidance throughout the transition to a successful B2B Market Development approach.