✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽 Afroflare Knowledge Share
Warren Rickards, CSM San Francisco, sharing his skills on how to manage the post-sales client relationship.
Hi everyone, my name is Warren. I'm a Strategic Customer Success Manager here at Cloudflare.
I'm based in San Francisco and I will be rounding out this Knowledge Share for our UK Black History Month Afroflare event.
So thank you for joining. I hope you get a lot of value out of this event.
And just to do a quick recap, just to set the stage.
So we've been doing a few sales series ever since the UK Black History Month has started.
And first we started with Stephen in our UK office. He's a BDR and we spoke about his story.
Then we continued with Jay here in San Francisco.
He's an account executive and he walked through how to successfully close a customer from the AE perspective.
And now I'm going to walk through how I like to kickstart a post-sales relationship to improve my chances of having a successful one, especially during this time during the COVID pandemic.
So before we get started, I just want to say that there are three activities that I like to consider to be instrumental in developing a successful post-sales relationship.
And that's one, setting clear expectations, two, communicating constantly, and three, being sufficiently transparent.
I think these three activities are ones that I've always leaned on and I've been seeing some success ever since doing that.
So what I'm going to do is I'm going to walk through when we get a new customer here at Cloudflare and how I try to kick off a successful relationship from the get-go.
So first it starts with syncing primarily with the AE who closed that deal.
So for example, Jay, who spoke to you guys, I believe last week, I would sync with Jay and I would be like, hey Jay, congratulations on the new deal.
I'm excited to be the customer success manager assigned to this account.
What can I expect from this new relationship? What are the goals of the client?
Let's sync on products that were sold. Are there any timelines?
What's the urgency of the client? Is there any watchouts that I should be aware of?
And once we get synced and aligned on that, I start to think about the outreach to the client so I can schedule that onboarding call.
So what I will do is I will draft up an email at that point based on, for example, what I've spoken about with Jay about timelines and when they're expecting to have their first onboarding call.
And I will reach out to the client, introduce myself and say, hey, welcome to Cloudflare.
I'm so excited to be your dedicated customer success manager and point person moving forward.
And what I like to do is I like to, again, set expectations as far as what's next.
So the client is always informed.
They feel like they can trust how we're handling this relationship. And I mentioned to them that I will be working with your new designated solutions engineer to ensure that we get this onboarding process completed and that you're fully onboarded and comfortable moving forward with Cloudflare.
So that starts with activation, right?
We want our first onboarding call to be covering introductions, answering a pending account setup questions if they haven't set up their account yet, or go through that initial account setup so that they're comfortable moving forward with testing and staging before they start bringing in live traffic, production traffic.
And then from there, once we get a few weeks or so of production traffic coming through our network, we like to sync with the client again and do a tuning to ensure that Cloudflare is optimized for their use case.
And somewhere during that period too, I like to schedule a training call with our customers just because a lot of times they have teams that will be working more closely with Cloudflare outside of the main decision makers that you might be working with in the initial onboarding call that would like to learn more about how Cloudflare works.
They would like to go through the dashboard, understand what product, the products that they're using, understand the use case better.
And even this is a great opportunity too to talk about products that they aren't using that they might be interested in.
So after sending that email and offering some times and when to sync, et cetera, and the customer says, all right, we would like to sync on this time, then we go ahead with the onboarding call.
And what I can do too is I can share some snippets of how we go about an onboarding call, but pretty much what we do is, again, setting expectations once we have that call, what I do, I like to first welcome them officially in person.
No, because we're in COVID, it's virtually.
And I go over the agenda, what we'll cover today. We'll cover introductions, contact information, and this is introductions from both perspectives.
I'm introducing their designated account team. And I also want to learn more about the people that I'm speaking to on the phone, their roles and responsibilities, and how I can expect to work with them moving forward as it relates to Cloudflare.
Just because it's very good to understand all these things up front so that you can have the best relationship from the get go as opposed to waiting too long and then now realizing, oh, this is this person, this is that person.
And that can just get very convoluted and messy, of course. Right. And then during this call, what I like to do is I like to cover the support resources that they have available to them.
So I tell them, you know, this is what we're going to cover, support resources available as an enterprise customer, how our team works for you.
We go through the agreement. We talk about, you know, all right, we just want to ensure that this is what you signed up for.
This is what we're providing to you. We want to make sure that we're on the same page there.
So there's no confusion. And we like to get to that early so that we don't get to a situation down the road where we're not on the same page when it comes to the agreement, because that can also get very messy.
And then finally, what I like to do as a customer success manager is just wrap up the call with, you know, what is the customer's goals with Cloudflare?
So, you know, just to just to go through here, I am going to share this because I know this is publicly available.
This is an example. I'm sure you guys can see my screen. This is an example of after going through the agenda, how I take off the call with customers.
So a lot of customers that we have, they know about this already.
That's why they bought into Cloudflare.
So I usually quickly go over this. But just to let you guys know, you know, the public watching this right now, our mission is to help build a better Internet.
And, you know, in a nutshell, we do that through our network or presence across the globe.
And as you can see, Cloudflare, we have a presence in over 200 cities across the globe.
And what that means is it gives us it allows us to be successful from a content delivery network perspective and also an Anacast network perspective.
So content delivery network, all that means is if our customers have cashable content that we can cash, you know, in our presence in a data center across the globe, if there's a user that's trying to access that customer's content, say, in Germany, and this customer is a U .S.-based customer, so their origin server is in the U.S., instead of that German user having to wait to receive that content from the U.S.
origin server, they can essentially get that content now moving forward from the data center presence in Germany so that they receive it much quicker, that experience is much more fluent for the customer, for the customer's customer, and everyone just succeeds as a result.
And then from the Anacast perspective, what that means is because of our large presence across the globe, if one of our customers were to be attacked by a distributed denial of service attack, what we can do is absorb that attack and spread it out across our data centers, across our presence in data centers across the globe so that, you know, the customer either doesn't feel the attack or barely feels it and can operate business as usual.
So this is kind of what it looks like when I get, because after talking about the products or Suite and how Cloudflare is working for the customer, this is where I have some fun, you know, I come to the designated account team.
I know if anyone is very familiar with Pokemon, they can see how I think about our team.
This is a rock star team, right? Our solutions engineer, that's Charizard, because they're so important to the relationship of the customer in a post -sales situation.
And then, you know, Pikachu, the customer development rep, because they come in and give that visibility, give that extra transparency that I've spoken about when it comes to understanding what products are available to the customer, what that would look like to include that in their contract, and what are some specific use cases for that product as it relates to the customer.
And here is what I touched on earlier.
This is where I take a pause after introducing the team and I flip it on the customer, you know, just so that, you know, I'm not just speaking the entire time and we can have like a more natural conversation flow.
And I ask them, you know, what are their roles?
How long have they been at the company?
And how can I expect to work with them from a Cloudflare perspective? And this way, you know, I usually try to take as many notes just so that, you know, for my understanding, and also so I can share with many other members on our team, you know, who we're working with, so that we can provide, you know, the relevant information to them, and we can be as successful of a partner to them as possible, based on the team that they're in.
So for example, we're probably going to have different conversations with people on the infrastructure team, compared to people that are on the finance team, right?
So this is important to know upfront.
And, you know, then I just go through, you know, all different parts of it.
And what I'm going to do here is just stop sharing, you know, just to be safe. But I go after that, you know, I start talking about the enterprise resources available to the customer.
And this this part is also very important, right? This is arguably one of the most important sections of the onboarding call, because you want to get this information to the customer early, and you want them to understand how to best reach out to Cloudflare, if they have any questions, any issues, or, you know, they're just looking for best practice advice, right?
Because once they get this knowledge early on, they start to develop a great process and great habits, so that the relationship with the customer is successful throughout, as opposed to they're a little bit down the road, there's an issue that the customer is having, and they have no idea who to reach out to.
And they might reach out to you, and they might reach out to the you, meaning the CSM, and might reach out to the CSM after hours when, you know, I'm fast asleep, when they should have reached out to support, right, you want to make these things clear early on, so that the customer is set up for success.
So I usually go down the line of talking about, you know, how to best if you have questions that you would like to figure out on your own, you can visit our extensive knowledge base or for self serve questions.
So we have an extensive knowledge base that support.Cloudflare .com.
And here, we touch on many different topics, many different products and services that we provide, and, you know, answer a lot of frequently asked questions and provide more insight.
It's a super useful knowledge base for customers. And then I like to remind them that, you know, if there's any strategic guidance or best practices that you would like to know more about, or if you just have questions, and you're unsure to reach out to, you can always rely on reaching out to your designated account team, reach out to your customer success manager, reach out to me.
And I'll be more than happy to provide as much information as I can.
And if I don't know the answer to a question, I definitely know who to reach out to, to get that answer for you.
But then very importantly, here is for non critical production issues, right for issues where customers, you know, it's something it's not preventing them from operating.
But it's an issue that would be very nice to fix.
It's it's kind of a nuisance, reach out to our 24 seven enterprise support team.
So our enterprise customers, we provide them with a support team where we have actual people in every time zone.
So we have people in the San Francisco office in London in Singapore.
So it doesn't matter what time of day you reach out, you can expect that, that a live person will be handling that issue and bring it into success.
And then finally, for enterprise customers, what we do provide them is we have a knock line, we have a 24 24 seven emergency knock line, if they're experiencing critical issues, like if there are if there's a DDoS attack, if they're just absolutely unable to operate.
And this is related to Cloudflare. We do recommend calling or knock line so that someone can pick up that phone immediately and start working with the customer to achieve some success.
So after providing that information, because again, we want to, you know, start early, you know, how do you reach out to us moving forward now that we have this relationship, I start to go over things like where they are in the onboarding process, other items that we plan to complete, what kind of timelines are they expecting?
And then after the onboarding is done, and they get into what we call a steady state, that's when we start to think about our successful relationship, right?
How do we continue to have success as partners?
What is the ongoing strategic guidance? And that usually involves some sort of regular cadence of meeting with the client so that we're constantly on the same page, we're providing updates when necessary.
Even if you know, when even if it's, it's a customer where because we do have some customers where they just prefer to reach out when they need our help, as opposed to having set, you know, having regular meetings.
But I think the most successful relationships that you can have in a post sales environment is to ensure that you at least meet with the customer on a quarterly or even just a by annual basis, because no matter how low touch a customer is, it's never good when you barely hear from them.
And you barely have any talk tracks with them, because things are always changing, right?
So you want to stay up to date as far as what's going on with with their business.
And you also want to provide updates from your your business.
So in our case, Cloudflare, we're always having updates, we always have changes happening.
So it's good to provide those updates whenever necessary. So finally, after that, and we go over the account overview, and I'm not going to bore you guys with that part of the process, because this is just making sure that we're all on the same page as far as what we're going to provide.
This is where I hand it back over to the customer to talk about their goals with Cloudflare.
So if you want to have a successful relationship with a customer, you have to understand what does success look like from their point of view, because, you know, we could talk about what we think successes all day, you know, from a Cloudflare side, but that's not a real partnership, right?
Like, I consider the most successful relationships with our customers, the ones where we understand their business objectives, we understand what they're trying to achieve, what success looks like for them for their business.
And how can we help assist them get to that success, right?
How can we provide services, products, guidance to ensure that their business is operating at a high level.
So we talked about that. Of course, I take frantic notes, I try to be as detailed as possible, because this is a very important part of the process.
And then also after hearing about that, I asked about top priorities.
What would you like to achieve next? You know, what are we trying to achieve in the next couple weeks, in the next few months, in the next few quarters?
Let's talk about priorities so that we're all on the same page with timelines.
And you know, as you can imagine, this part is very important, too. Just because once you get on the same page, when it comes to timelines with your customers, and we all agree upfront, you know, what to expect, the chances of getting down the road and there's confusion, and you know, you can end up having some contentious relationships because, you know, a deadline was missed, and it wasn't brought up early on.
We want to try to avoid that, right? Not only because we want to avoid that contentious conversation.
But again, how I view my job at Cloudflare is, I want to be as successful as a partner to the customer.
I want to provide them as much success as possible.
I keep saying success, that's a part of my role.
That's why I have a Customer Success Manager. And then along those lines, you know, I wrap up with understanding like, when do they plan to fully produce traffic through our network?
What target date are we aiming for? What should we do in the interim so that we can try to hit that deadline, and then we follow that type of cadence.
And then finally, as I spoke about earlier, I like to establish early on, how should we set up a business review cadence, right?
And I even offer, let's do it quarterly, our most successful partnerships, or most successful customer relationships, have quarterly business reviews.
And we go down that road.
Because I think early on, once you get the customer on the phone, it's best to just iron this part out as opposed to reaching out to the customer via email or what have you in the future, trying to figure out, you know, what, what does a good business review cadence look like?
So that's, that's really how I manage the post sales relationship, especially bringing on a new customer.
That's, that's how I try to achieve success with a new customer.
By going through that process, and making sure I'm transparent as possible, I'm communicating constantly, I'm setting clear expectations.
And I know, you know, some of you guys might be thinking, well, you know, how has that changed ever since COVID, right?
Like, because COVID has brought some challenges.
So in a customer facing role, it's, we like to go on site to complete onboards at, sometimes, not all the times, but there are times where we like to go on site to complete onboards, or to do business reviews, especially with our customers that are using a lot of our services and are very integrated with, with Cloudflare.
Because, in my opinion, nothing beats that face to face interaction with someone that you have any sort of relationship with, right?
There's only so much that you can achieve from a communication standpoint when you're virtual.
But what I've found is that many clients are just as excited, are just super excited to talk to someone outside of their immediate family or circle during this time.
So it's been fine. We've managed it that way, right?
Because there is also a sense of comfort and knowing that we're all in this together.
We're all experiencing this pandemic. Most of us are working from home.
So, you know, even though it brought challenges, initially, we've worked around it.
And we found this nice groove and this nice momentum. And there's always that hope, right?
When we get back to being able to see people in person, seeing customers in person and working together, how exciting that time will be.
And, you know, in the meantime, we just talk about things like, oh, I just got this new Peloton.
It's great. You know, let's connect on Peloton. Or, you know, what's the weather like in your part of town?
How are things? Etc. Right? We always, there's always something new to talk about based on what the world gives us.
And as you guys already know, 2020 is the gift that keeps giving, right? So anyhow, one thing that I want to talk about, too, my last thing that I want to touch on before opening it up for any questions that you guys might have for me, is just speaking about a big win, right?
So I think especially during this time, the biggest win I'll share with you guys is the fact that our team is growing.
Cloudflare is growing.
Customer success, we're growing, right? And during this time, unfortunately, I've noticed a lot of layoffs.
And I've noticed that a lot of people are looking for work, unfortunately, including my network of friends and classmates.
And I've been so grateful that I'm working at Cloudflare, where we're continuing to grow at such a high rate, especially during these times.
And onboards, like what I just walked through, they haven't stopped.
We're continuing to develop relationships with customers at a high rate.
Our team is hiring like crazy.
So it's a very exciting time to be at Cloudflare. All right. So with that, I'm looking to see if there are any questions that any of you might have for me, and I'm open to answering them.
If there aren't any other questions, if there aren't any questions in the next few minutes, I can talk about some other post -relationship success that I've navigated.
Because this is just one part of post -relationship success, right?
Because we also do the regular business reviews, as I've spoken about, right?
Account syncs, just being reactive with our customers. And there are methods there to navigate a successful relationship with our customers.
So what I'm going to do is I'm going to touch on that as well with a few minutes that we have left, because we do have about seven minutes left.
And some of you guys might be thinking, all right, so that's great.
You covered what is it like to kickstart a successful relationship, especially when it comes to a customer onboarding?
So what about a customer that's been a customer for a long time? How do you maintain a successful relationship there?
So I can even talk about an extreme case, right?
Because this is a challenge that many businesses face, where you have a customer that's been a customer for about five years, right?
For a significant amount of time.
And you want to continue to provide highlights to their business, even though they're using a bunch of products that are best suited for them at this time.
And they're not interested in maybe engaging in other products.
Those ones, yeah, as you can imagine, there's challenges there, but there's also a lot of familiarity there, right?
So if you have a customer that's been a customer for a long time, they're used to using you.
It's kind of like the devil you know, kind of metaphor.
Although, I mean, I don't know if many of our customers would consider us, I think they would consider us like saviors.
But a lot of people are afraid of change, right?
And when they've been working with someone for a long time, and it's been working and things have been, it's almost like they can set it and forget it, because they know that in our case, the network is strong in the back end.
They're experiencing a lot more performance and security benefits by being a partner with us.
And a lot of these customers that's been a customer for a long time, they've been poached by competitors.
They've been poached by other companies trying to get their business.
But they decided to stick around.
And there's a reason for that, right? Because you have to ensure that during that relationship, no matter how long the relationship is for, you need to keep those customers updated.
You need to continue to have business review cadences with these customers that you've known for five years.
Because doing that allows them to stay up to date with how Cloudflare is changing along the way.
What new products or what new tweaks to existing products can they implement to ensure that they're staying with the times?
Because as you can imagine, in the security landscape, things change often, right?
Malicious actors, they're always finding more sophisticated ways to attack customers.
So you have to stay up to date. You have to stay with the time.
You have to tweak. You have to tune your configurations along the way, even though you've been with the same person for five years.
And even though that person has been a customer for such a long time, you speak to them on a regular basis with these business review cadences.
And it feels like time flies, right? You'll look back and you'll be like, wow, I've been with them for five years.
But it feels like every time I talk with them, there's something new on the agenda.
There's a new initiative that we can embark on.
And having that type of healthy communication back and forth with the customer, I found that to be the recipe to success.
I have many customers that I'm thinking about right now that have been with Cloudflare for such a long time.
And it feels like they haven't because of all the change that's happened here.
We went public last year. And there was a lot of change that came with that.
Our product updates have been even more frequent because, of course, of the obvious expectations from the market and also just our growth.
When you go public, you tend to grow at a higher rate, especially when you go public very recently.
So we've been fortunate to have that kind of relationship.
So I hope that makes sense, right? I hope that makes sense as far as managing the existing relationships for a long time.
It's really about just continuing to be on the same page with the customer.
It's continuing to have that regular cadence with the customer and ensuring that any updates to the products that you're working on or the products that, I mean, any new products that come out that are very relevant to the customer, any updates to the existing products that the customer is using, you make sure that they're made aware of that and that they're properly configured to continue to have success down the road because things continue to change, especially in the security landscape.
Great. So I see a question here. We have two minutes left. Someone said, what inspired you to be a CSM and enter sales as a profession?
Wow. That's an excellent question.
So this one is kind of deep and I have two minutes, but I'm going to try to make this quick.
I'll share with you guys because we're all comfortable here in my family about this, but my mom, she's 80 % hearing impaired, right?
And growing up, my sister and I, on many occasions, we had to be the ears for my mom.
We had to pick up, we had to have awkward phone calls at a very young age with people that were trying to get in touch with her.
When it was like meetups with our parents and the parents of our friends, et cetera, we had to like interject in certain moments to make sure that the communication flows consistently and there's no awkwardness that might embarrass my mom at the time.
And I think having that experience at such a young age, it made me learn a lot of natural skills and it gave me insight into a lot of situations that I felt that it was something I was good at and it felt very natural for me to take that on as a profession.
So I'll say that because there's one minute left and I don't want to cut off.
But thank you very much, guys, for joining us.
I hope this was very helpful to you and I hope you got a lot of value out of this.