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It is Time to Eliminate Hand-Offs in B2B Customer Management

by Hank Barnes  |  January 19, 2016  |  6 Comments

Last week, I wrote about the idea of needing to rethink “When We Win” in B2B tech sales.   If customer success is critical to your business growth, then focusing the energy and excitement on new customer acquisition is short sighted.    To change, a number of subtle, but important shifts need to occur.   One of them is the idea of “hand-offs.”



The term hand-off is used pretty regularly in tech companies.  We hand off leads (from marketing to sales).  We hand off customers (from sales to account management or customer service).   The idea is clear.  This is no longer our responsibility.  It is yours.   And the customer sees all of this.

I think its time to eliminate the concept of hand-offs.   Instead, think about it differently, there is not a great word for this, so I’ll suggest one–“leadershifts.”   Rather than pass on responsibility, make a shift in who is leading the effort to work with the customer at any point in time.

A leadershift approach would be more reflective of the way that customers buy today, fluidly moving back and forth in their buying process with different priorities rising to the top or becoming secondary.   But it would also carry with it some assumptions (and possibly some extra work–that would need to be managed and optimized):

  1. All parties/groups, that might be involved in customer success, stay involved for the life of the relationship.
  2. At various points in time, some groups may be have very little responsibility or activity, but they would need to stay informed of what is going on.
  3. Responsibility would be owned by the collective—with leadership shifting as the customer relationship changes.

The good news is that we have technologies–CRM and collaboration tools–that can help keep everyone informed and involved, whether they are very active or largely observing.

A shift from hand-offs to “leadershift” mode is subtle, but it would illustrate that everyone is involved in customer success.  It could (maybe, just maybe) reduce the likelihood that sales reps overpromise, whereas today that becomes “customer service’s problem.”  It could ease the path and communication when services teams recognize an opportunity for expansion.

I’m not sure if the term “leadershift” works.  I made it up for this post.  But I thought it was better than my other idea –transition.   Transition is better than hand-off,it sounds more organized.  But it seldom implies a flow back to the previous owner.

Leadershifting might be part of the answer (a small part) toward getting everyone focused on customer success together.


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Category: future-of-sales  go-to-market  

Tags: customer-care  customer-experience  marketing  sales  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on It is Time to Eliminate Hand-Offs in B2B Customer Management

  1. John G. says:

    Hank, I really like the idea you’re putting forward and think you should hang on to “leadershift”….let’s coin that word!

    As a CX guy, I can tell you that hand-offs are very often a high impact, low scoring customer issue, particularly in the technology channel…one that can set a strong relationship back seriously.

    The negative impact of poorly managed hand-offs can linger, unrecognized, having the same damaging effect as do unresolved service issues.

    more perspective on this:

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Thanks for the feedback, John. Will check out the blog. The more I say it, the more I like the “leadershift” idea. Still a bit uncomfortable coining a word–but all the others imply the the same thing. “It’s not my problem anymore”

  2. David Locke says:

    It’s been my experience that it is the sale rep that drops the customer, because they make more money from the initial sale. For sales reps there is no customer relationship.

    • Hank Barnes says:

      David, There are a wide range of sales professionals. Some, as you say, drop the customer once they have made their money. Others, recognize that staying involved is the path to faster revenue by growing the account. And sometimes it is caused by org models, processes, and compensation policies. There will never be perfect sales behavior, but the pressures of As-a-Service business models–where change is easier (not always easy, but easier)–is shifting how many organizations design compensation plans. A land and expand strategy fails without active involvement with the customer. The premise of my post is simply that the bad behaviors of the past (that still occur in many places today) need to change.

      In today’s market, a sales org that “drops the customer” will, in my opinion, fail.

  3. Duane (D.A.) Burman says:

    Leadershift (incentivized & with appropriate Customer Advocacy/Empowerment to match) seems dynamic concept that would overcome loss of Customers’ momentum (as in less than agreed upon Order Timeliness, lack of respectful Customer Service Responsiveness); while maintaining “Corporate Commitments” (made & implied) throughout entire Product/Service Lifecycles and across all the necessary silos that must be involved.

  4. Dineish PARDESI says:

    Hey Hank Barnes,
    Probably your correct in context not tech business however in a business where a buyer is known to all level of people involved eg technical, admin, sales, departmental customer gets valuable information about the company through different sources and this affect to the organisation because of vulnerability.
    One who had pitched him product or service very convincingly is not aware that the antennas of customer are active and now seriously he is gathering information form other sources of same company…today these shift are very common and dangerous…never think there will be only one way that customer seeks information

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