Customer Success: The Real Risk When your Sponsor Leaves

In Customer Success, we talk a lot about our “sponsors” or “champions” that work for our customer as if there is this person is walking around wearing our logo t-shirt, telling everyone how awesome we are, stopping anyone who says anything bad about our product, and just otherwise being our biggest cheerleader internally with our customer.

And of course, when they leave, it’s a huge deal since we no longer have that walking, talking banner ad championing our product with the executives and users within our customer. It’s a big red flag when a sponsor or champion leaves — and here’s exactly how we deal with that at Gainsight — but it’s a red flag for a different reason than what I just described.

Yes — especially during the early days of a relationship — you may have someone that does at least a subset of of the cheerleading I described above. But over time that “champion” evolves into more of a power-user or admin — or even just a main point of contact and perhaps an advocate for you to new customers.

While it’s great to have them there, it’s not the loss of their advocacy — internal and otherwise — that’s the main cause for concern.

No, what makes this a particularly troublesome turn of events is the vacuum they leave behind… something has to fill that. And most of the time you have NO idea who that will be.

It could be someone that hates the way your product is implemented by their predecessor (and thus hasn’t loved their experience with your product), they could love a competitive product, they could have worked for a competitor, you could have not hired them in the past and now they get to exact their revenge, etc. You just don’t know.

And if the customer was having problems — or otherwise had a low Customer Health Score — this loss of a champion is amplified; the new person may decide to just rip out what’s there and start anew with your competitor.

So it’s not the direct loss of the champion that’s the problem — in fact, it’s actually an opportunity; you’ve got a foot in the door at the company where they land — it’s the unknown unknowns that’s cause for concern.

Having a structured method of handling champion changes and sponsor losses is acritical piece of your Customer Success strategy.

I go into a lot more detail on different strategies and tactics around SaaS Marketing, Pricing, Growth Hacking, etc. on my Sixteen Ventures site.

I help grow SaaS companies at Gainsight by focusing on Customer Success. Follow me on Twitter @lincolnmurphy.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

About Lincoln Murphy

I am a Customer Success Consultant focused on Customer Success-driven Growth. I wrote the Customer Success book which you can buy at Amazon. If you need help applying Customer Success-driven Growth principles in your company or would like me to speak at your event, please contact me. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.