Scaling your Post-Sale Teams Predictably with Rod Cherkas of HelloCCO

April 12, 2022

Rod Cherkas is the Founder and CEO of HelloCCO, a consulting business that partners with Chief Customer Officers to help them develop, execute, and scale strategies for their post-sale organizations. 

One of the primary areas they support is a company’s professional services, onboarding, or implementation teams. Over the past 15 years, Rod has worked as an operating executive at companies leading the pack on designing great customer experiences, including names like Marketo and Gainsight

We sat down with Rod to understand how he partners with high-growth companies to:

  • Structure SaaS-based products based on evolving customer needs
  • Balance revenue and expenses to identify growth opportunities
  • Create predictable CS outcomes over long-term time horizons

“Companies need to think not just about how they deliver for existing customers, but put in place the strategic initiatives that will enable them to successfully support clients six months from now, and a year from now.” 

A Crash Course in Customer Success

HelloCCO typically consults with rapidly growing companies in enterprise software with annual revenues between $25 million – $100 million. 

Rod works with Chief Customer Officers to define their post-sale offerings, pricing, and partner development strategies to not only meet customer needs and expectations but also to deliver against the financial expectations of the growing companies.

Implementation at Early-Stage Companies

For emerging early-stage companies doing $10mm or less in annual revenue, Rod points out that the implementation and onboarding experiences most likely won’t be well-defined yet. 

He also adds that it’s entirely reasonable for smaller companies to have implementation teams that focus on getting customers up and running, without defined implementation offerings or fees required. 

From Rod’s perspective, early-stage companies should focus on building customer advocates. 

More importantly, early-stage teams should push themselves to understand what product use cases resonate the most with customers, and then build processes to scale those products.

Implementation at Growth-Stage Companies

When Rod’s clients establish a growing team, he challenges them to think about how to segment the organization. In his words, segmenting based on customer size allows for more neatly packaged offerings to better meet their needs. 

Regarding specific stages, Rod sat down with our team at Baton to dive into what happens at Series C companies during implementations. In this scenario, teams that have recently closed a Series C should follow an entirely different playbook than an early-stage startup might want to.

In Rod’s experience, the best strategy clearly defines the end solution for customers and the implementation team’s deliverables. 

Once packages take shape, it often starts to put in place a fee structure. Rod notes that at this stage, the price may be negotiated during the sales process if necessary, but at least there are set expectations about what will be delivered.

‍Implementation at Large Corporates

For larger clients, the same capability exists in slightly bigger implementation packages. It covers more, perhaps including additional project management, execution services, content creation, and training. 

At this stage, implementation offerings get packaged and pricing becomes less negotiable. In addition, implementation teams at companies this stage often are starting to manage to a tighter set of financial metrics that require more predictable revenue generation and team utilization.

From there, companies can also allocate resources to custom statements of work–projects that meet the unique needs of a client. These offerings can have a timeframe that is based more on the client’s need and the amount of work delivered. 

How to Drive Predictable Post-Sales Growth at Scale

At a smaller company, success could simply mean getting customers live and using the software in a way that creates advocates. 

Rod spells out two ways to start accomplishing this:

  • Shortening time to value; this could either be the time between when a company makes a decision to buy the software and when they start to be able to use it.
  • Double down on sticky features; Rod encourages companies to identify and hone in on product features that are must-haves. Products can do lots of things, but there are some core capabilities that, once utilized, indicate a likelihood that a client will stick around.

As a company grows and matures with potentially dozens of people in the implementation or services organization, financial and productivity metrics become critical. 

Rod acknowledges that customer-facing metrics like time to value and satisfaction scores around implementation are still relevant, but efficiency will become increasingly important. 

Sales and implementation are really expensive investments in your customer outcomes, so thinking about revenue and expense in terms of profitability is paramount. In streamlining these processes and metrics, the ability to predict the operating business becomes clearer.

“Predicting how long projects will take and how many resources are needed delivers confidence to an organization that drives optimization.”

Tactical Ways to Maximize Revenue From Implementation

Rod advises thinking about implementation services as an entirely independent business. The goal of those organizations is to support the recurring revenue growth at the company.

One of the key factors of bringing in revenue is pricing service offerings at the appropriate price for your market; then working with the sales team to maintain that price with new clients. 

Ideally, each client should have some type of implementation or onboarding service, and HelloCCO consults on how to achieve the highest percent of attach rate with an appropriate dollar per customer. High-level guidance would include:

  • Clearly communicate the value of your service offerings, not even just to clients, but to  your sales organization, and how it helps customers be successful.
  • Institute an approval process into Salesforce or your CRM that prevents sales teams and account executives to independently apply an unlimited discount on your services.
  • Increase the attach rate to grow the percentage of clients that have a professional service or an implementation project attached. 

Rod’s Advice on Managing Implementation Expenses and Profitability

Rod observes that the cost of labor is frequently the biggest expense for implementation teams. 

The key is finding a sweet spot for the people in your organization to be able to develop the skills that you need to be able to provide these service offerings in a high-quality way but not overpaying for the required experience. 

It is often helpful to seed a new implementation organization with a few highly skilled and potentially highly compensated team members. However, once you start to define your processes and best practices, you can often bring in more junior talent at lower costs and train them based on your early learning. 

From there, it’s all about managing the productive utilization of your team.

Another expense management tactic Rod focuses on is developing a post-sale partner network. 

At many software companies, building up a large team of implementation or service-oriented resources is not value-added to shareholder value because services are a relatively low-margin part of the business.

One of the ways he suggests clients solve this problem is to identify third-party consulting delivery organizations in their space, that are familiar with their software, and that they can either subcontract to or whether they can introduce the client directly.  

“These constraints should be baked into a company’s implementation strategy through pricing, attach rates, a partner network, and the productivity of a team.”