Episode TwoHundredFortySix

The Role of the AE Throughout the Customer Journey

Guest: Adrian Foley, Global Head of Sales at Teamwork

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About This Episode

It’s not enough to get a renewal every year or three.

You want to go beyond 100% to increase that net dollar retention number. You need to get the AE more involved in the customer journey.

In a recent episode of Sales Engagement, I had a chance to chat with Adrian Foley, Global Head of Sales at Teamwork, about the AE’s role throughout the customer journey.

“For us in teamwork it’s very much about the customer experience. It’s very much about how you get on board. It’s very much about how you adopt the software,” he said.

Instead of an AE handing off an account to an CSM, the two roles have evolved in tandem to become an amazing post-sale team.

The ideal AE/CSM relationship

Adrian weighed in on the brilliant strategy they’ve employed at Teamwork to increase the, well, teamwork between the two vital roles.


Have a shared North Star. Each team should know what they need to achieve together in a given territory. Net dollar retention (NDR) is a good metric to use.


Be joined at the hip. The AE and the CSM should expect to work together a lot to demonstrate account growth.

As in, a lot.

Happy customers

Know what a healthy account looks like. This one might seem obvious, but happy customers aren’t always fully utilizing a service.

Adrian explains: “When the two of these guys get together, we actually understand what healthy accounts look like much better as a salesperson than we may have done in the past.”

Bottom line: How should the AE work with an account without getting in the way of the CSM?

Delivering valuable content to the customer is probably the easiest way to do that.

  • Industry news
  • Blog posts
  • Guides for product use
  • Projected budget for the customer
  • Other strategies for adding value

Understanding account health

Knowing whether an account is healthy starts with understanding the customer’s challenges.

“It’s imperative for me today that all of our AEs understand whether the account is healthy because of A, B, or C. So this account is happy because they’re doing all of these things and we’re solving for the problem, or this account’s unhealthy because we’re not solving for that problem,” he said.

You could be hitting walls when you try to expand or cross sell because onboarding wasn’t done correctly or the adoption isn’t where it should be.

“It’s the alignment of CSM and EA to make sure that we’re doing the right things, that we understand what those use cases are for a customer,” Adrian said.

Not at Teamwork, obviously, but Adrian has talked to an AE who didn’t actually know what a customer’s business even was.

At Teamwork, they’ve defined certain features and functionality that, if the customers are using them, will determine whether Teamwork feels their account is healthy or not.

If a customer says they’re happy but are only using 2 of 10 features, it will be easy for them to switch. But if they’re using 9 features, you can be pretty confident that it would be hard for them to stop using your product.

“That’s why we in teamwork measure it by the number of features that each of our customers are using,” he said.

That way, the renewal conversation is natural. It comes about in the course of helping customers to use more features, increase the value they are getting from the product, and moving them toward a healthy place, account-wise.

“It should be something that we’re in control of rather than is happening without us even knowing,” he said.

2 tried & true tactics for AEs

1 — Build content

Regardless of what segment your customers are in, the aim should be to show them what their peers are doing successfully.

Use reference cases to give examples and try to generate ideas for growth for the customers.

“Understanding what those customers are doing and going through helps you to start off those conversations,” he said.

2 — Cut accounts

Nobody has time to manage 50 huge accounts. Figure out what your ICP is and then you can become a subject matter expert for just that niche.

“For the accounts that you’re given, you need to be given the bandwidth to go and understand them, to deep dive,” Adrian said.

True story, at a previous organization, the VP cut back from 50 to 35 and then to 25 accounts, and they grew the business by about 12% each year.

“It gave them the chance to spend quality time trying to understand what those customers needed,” he pointed out.

Adrian’s parting wisdom

Adrian: Sales leaders have great human capital in our companies. Our success comes from the people on our teams, not from anything else that we do.

Get in touch with Adrian at LinkedIn.

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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