November 16th, 2017 | by

Some know this time of year as holiday season.

Sales professionals know it better as renewal season.

December 2016: A troubled client account initially said they would renew their DiscoverOrg contract. But when they stopped returning phone calls, it was clear they were getting ready to switch to a competitor.

After a visit to the client’s company, we returned with a mission: “We’ve got two days to get in front of this account and save it.”

Less than 24 hours later, this likely loss turned into a $150,000 deal.

DiscoverOrg’s Customer Success department – traditionally tasked with onboarding and responding to client requests – has become a key factor in the aggressive growth of DiscoverOrg.

Splitting Customer Success paid off in retention

Meet Matt Shephard and Kyle Ziegler, DiscoverOrg’s dynamic duo pairing Customer Success with Customer Development … with a remarkable level of success that stands out, even in a company known for rapid growth.

Shephard and Ziegler, one pair among the larger high-performing department, have had four times the ACV of upgrades of the company average. Their goal is $1,000,000 in new business by the end of year.

One million dollars in new business – generated by two people in a department traditionally known for troubleshooting user errors?

That’s right.

Here’s the story of how DiscoverOrg split our Customer Success team to create Customer Development – and how, by actively listening to our customers, soliciting feedback, and proactive troubleshooting, everyone benefits.

Data-driven experimentation is a hallmark of DiscoverOrg’s meteoric success. Read AJ’s Story – and the Split of Inbound and Outbound Sales Development.

Spotlight on customer retention

At the end of 2016, DiscoverOrg realized that there was an opportunity to increase customer satisfaction and engagement with an enhanced focus and approach. Specifically, leadership realized:

  1. We should better integrate with the daily workflow of our clients.
  2. We should demonstrate  ROI more explicitly.
  3. We should not have single-threaded relationship

Acquiring new customers is six times more expensive than keeping existing customers, and we knew there was an opportunity to put as much horsepower behind customer retention as we did around new sales.

But giving the necessary attention to individual client users took time – especially when Customer Success Managers (CSMs) were tasked with building engagement, improving platform adoption and usage, and boosting renewal rates.

Andy Brewer, DiscoverOrg’s VP of Customer Success, recognized that Customer Success reps were in a position similar to a Sales department need we solved for a year prior: They needed support in order to take time to really understand and help customers.

The idea was based on the Sales Development Rep/Account Executive relationship: The AEs get to come in and have meetings already set up – so they can spend their time with prospective customers.

Why not structure Customer Success the same way?

customer retention at DiscoverOrg

A new role was born: a Sales Development Rep for existing accounts.

We split the Customer Success department, and created dedicated roles for Customer Development Reps (CDRs) paired with Customer Success Managers (CSMs).

Matthew Shephard, a Customer Success Manager, and several other CSMs jumped at the opportunity to be proactive in outreach, helping customers find a workflow and value within the platform – rather than being historically reactive.

A clear vision for customer success

The newly retooled Customer Success department made several key changes to ensure customers had a responsive, fluid experience, whether they were communicating with a CDR or CSM:

  • Every Customer Success Manager has a Customer Development Rep; most CDRs have 2-3 CSMs.
  • Each Customer Success team is dedicated to a specific group of clients.
  • The CSM introduces the CDR at the beginning of the relationship, so the customer knows they have more than one point of contact with the same information. This increases “stickiness” on both sides of the relationship. If one point of contact leaves, the relationship doesn’t crumble.
  • Each team copies each other on emails, sits in on customer calls together, and is in constant communication.
  • Each CS team gathers ROI stories from end users, capturing wins they’ve had as a result of using DiscoverOrg data, doing the work of proving value for the customer
  • As the team works closely with each customer, they have a chance to look for opportunities to upsell or enhance their scope of DiscoverOrg’s coverage.

“By effectively onboarding clients,” Shephard says, “I make it clear from the beginning that Kyle is my counterpart, and that he’ll be setting up appointments and gathering user feedback throughout the relationship. We show them they have multiple points of contact to support them. This also helps the client save time by not having to gather the feedback themselves.”

DiscoverOrg CEO Henry Schuck told the remarkable story of our CDR team to Adam O’Donnell, host of the popular Successly Live Video Podcast. You can watch it here:

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Customer Success + Customer Development = customer retention

How does this unique relationship translate to committed customers?

1. Leverage both roles from the word “Go!”

When approaching a customer for the first time, DiscoverOrg’s pairs of Customer Success Managers and Customer Development Reps lay the groundwork of working together, so that the customer is familiar and comfortable with the dual relationship from the very beginning.

“The CDRs added a layer of support and strategic outreach,” Shephard says. “All strategic action is vetted by the CSM. It’s a collaboration. Kyle brings his own plays, but they’re 100% orchestrated by both of us.”

2. Analysis of the account in question

Positive feedback? Negative reactions? Shephard and Ziegler want to know it all.

They talk with their brand champion to see what they like, what they think the risks are, and what could improve the experience.

“I know what I’m good at, and what Kyle’s good at,” Shephard says. “As we onboard new customers, we stay in constant communication to grow the account. Some CSMs are all about customer support, but I see customer success as consultation about our product. Unless you know how to operationalize data, it’s just a dumb list. If you can’t integrate it, it’s just a lookup tool.

“Our customers need to know that.”


Ziegler is more tactical: “I reach out to end users. To Matt’s point, our product is just a phone book, unless we show customers how to use it strategically. Otherwise, we’ll never be sticky. I reach out to users and make sure they see value. I help them get their Scoops or subscriptions set up, personalize the platform for them, show them value. More important, I give them a touchpoint. I let them know that someone cares enough to reach out – again and again, even when they’re not having trouble.”

“We’re strategic: That’s why we’re successful. We find execs who are believers.”

“We’re different enough to bring different ideas to the table,” Ziegler adds. “Two heads are better than one. We approach problems from different angles.” He smiles. “We can both come off as abrasive and pushy, but that’s just because we’re driven.”

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4. The secret sauce: Usage and ROI stats

As it turns out, customer retention is really more of a sandwich than a sauce.

For Customer Success, it’s as simple as a data-based case using usage and ROI stats that are specific to the client, and including names the customer knows – with follow-ups from both the CDR and the CSM.

Ziegler and Shephard, along with their counterparts on the larger team, have turned this sandwich into a science.

Shephard notes that in this scenario, his job is to taking the heat off the main point of contact. Rather than asking the customer to go out and ask their people internally how they’re doing with the product, the Customer Success team does it for them.

Not only does this relieves their point of contact, it gives the DiscoverOrg team more points of contact, making them “stickier.”

Kyle puts everything into exact quotes: “I don’t summarize. I include the good, the bad, the ugly, in their own words. It adds color and trust, plus you know it’s accurate. Matt adds useage stats.

“You build a story. You don’t just say ‘Your team logged a bunch of hours.’ You specify who is using our tool, and exactly how much. You add emotional color to the rational.”


“Quotes don’t lie,” Matt adds.

Three days after signing that email, they signed a significant renewal.

All in all, the Customer Development team has seen ACV grow 34% year-over-year.

“Customer Success IS our success.”

“Everyone has shit they go through behind the scenes,” Shephard says. “Last week, I had a guy yell at me on the phone. He called back an hour later, and I could hear a baby crying in the background. He apologized and said he hasn’t been sleeping, he’s exhausted and irritable. He’s a new dad. He wasn’t mad at me.”

DiscoverOrg building trust and customer retentionEveryone has a story.

“Motivation,” Shephard adds, “is about knowing what the motive is, what a person’s challenges challenges are – because we all have them. And not taking things personally.”

Shephard, a 22-year cancer survivor, is motivated for personal reasons. “I’m the first to graduate college in my immediate family,” he says. “I see my parents working hard until they’re old. I want to flip that script. I understand the value of time, and time is money. I’m after as much of it as quickly as possible.”

Ziegler is motivated differently, but it’s equally personal. For the first part of his life, his home situation was abusive and unsupportive, to say the least. “I’m driven to be the best, to prove to any doubters that I’m better than they thought. I’m better than my should-have-been-supporters thought I was.”

“Trust and understanding a person’s motivation is a key part of any successful sales relationship,” Shephard says. “You have to understand that person and know what motivates them. At the end of the day, we’re here to make money, but for different reasons. This is what makes Kyle and I so in tune with each other. We both need to come in on point, every day. We care about each other, we understand each other’s motivation, and we trust each other.”

“I know I can forward an email and trust that Kyle will follow up. Constant communication is critical. We’re always chatting, always in the know about situational aspects. What’s the heat of the renewal? Who do we need to be in front of?”

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“Our work relationship is about being able to present a clear message,” Ziegler says. “We hear it all the time: People are being prospecting by sales, by marketing, by customer success, and they’re all saying different things. I will never reach out to someone that Matt has already reached out to, or ask a question that he’s already answered. Otherwise, the customer feels like they’re not heard.”

“We typically work 6 months out. But if you’re bringing value to your customers all year long, the renewal date doesn’t matter.”


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Charity Heller
About the author

Charity Heller

Content Strategist, DiscoverOrg

Charity Heller, DiscoverOrg's content strategy manager, has been developing, composing, and editing content since age 2. Before her dive into content marketing, she founded and operated a book-editing company for 10 years. Charity has a B.A. in English literature, Professional Editing Certification from U.C. Berkeley, and she's a certified Project Manager.