Over the past few weeks, I reached out to my peers and asked, what advice has helped you in your career as a Customer Success Manager? I thought I would get very similar responses, but to my surprise, every thought leader had a unique piece of advice that helped them shape their career. It goes to show that as a CSM, you'll find a variety of ways to embrace the CSM role and bring your own unique flavor and personality.
Each of the Customer Success Managers or trailblazers below have made significant contributions to the CS community and have some tips to help you navigate your CSM journey.
1. Cultivate your Sales skills.
Being able to sell is an extremely valuable skill to have. While you may not be directly responsible for selling, your clients look to you to influence their decision-making. Being able to own this skill will serve you in all areas of your life.
A CSM should be able to sell, negotiate, and cross-sell to be a rockstar CSM. Many Customer Success Managers (CSMs) are afraid to have important conversations with their customers. I used to be one of them. However, by working closely with exceptional salespeople in my current and previous companies, I learned how to ask the right questions and approach discussions with confidence.
2. Advocate for yourself.
Personally, I’ve found this advice to be one of the most important in my career. Being confident in your abilities and learning how to advocate for yourself will take you very far in life, both professionally and personally.
No one will ever advocate louder for you than you will for yourself. If you want a promotion, a raise, to change teams, to change the way things are done, YOU have to relentlessly advocate for it. Like everything else in life, advocating for yourself is a skill that takes practice.. It will be uncomfortable at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
3. Building relationships is a long-term game.
With any clients that you work with, the goal is to continuously build that relationship over time - think of it as a marathon rather than a sprint.
Customer Success is a long-term game and so everything you do should be done with a long-term mindset. There are no shortcuts to building strategic relationships with customers.Your ability to be seen as a partner is directly related to your ability to contribute value to your customer. If you find innovative ways to deliver value, you can transcend from vendor to partner.
4. Make every interaction count.
Little do we often realize how the smallest interaction is building on the foundation of trust with our clients. You have to be intentional about making every interaction count.
Now, in my personal experience, being intentional involves more than just discussing business matters incessantly. It entails establishing a genuine connection with your customers on a personal level, which can yield significant long-term benefits. Amidst the hectic whirlwind of our daily tasks and the constant challenges that come our way, it is easy to overlook the fact that behind the brand lies an individual much like ourselves. Taking the time to understand and remember the smaller details about your customers, such as their achievements, important events, or even their birthdays, demonstrates a genuine interest in their lives.
5. Relentlessly ask for feedback.
I can’t stress enough the importance of asking for feedback. Asking customers for ways to improve not only shows that you care about their business, but makes them feel heard. That way, there are no surprises in the relationship.
Asking for feedback and acting upon it builds empathy and trust, two foundational traits of an all-star CSM. Moreover, it demonstrates your problem-solving skills, which in turn boosts your credibility. As a result, your customers become your advocates. Which then closes the virtuous loop, positioning you for continuous career growth.
He is Founder of TopCSjobs.com, which is the premier job board for Customer Success opportunities. Hakan is also
Founder of DrivingCustomerSuccess.com, which shares the latest news for driving success in your business.
6. Set the right expectations.
I think every CSM always learns this one the hard way! It's absolutely crucial to set the right expectations or re-set expectations with your clients to ensure that you have a great working relationship.
Successful customer relationships are built on trust. Customers don't like surprises or being let down! Being able to confidently and accurately set expectations - about what, when and why something will be done - is one of the best ways to build this trust.
7. Be the Quarterback.
There are a lot of different titles that a CSM will earn such as advocate, champion or trusted advisor. I think the one that sums it up best might be the CSM as the client Quarterback.
Be the QB. As a CSM manager, I've always told my team that their job as a CS manager is not to answer all of their customer questions/issues, but to GET them the answers. That often means pulling in other people/teams, etc. to grow product adoption and customer satisfaction. My VP recently referred to the CSM as the "quarterback" of an account. They call all the plays, but aren't expected to carry the ball and score all the points. I loved that clear analogy to illustrate that as a CSM, you don't have to do it all!
8. Focus on desired outcomes.
The best way to help your clients measure success is to focus on their desired outcomes. Understanding why they bought your product in the first place will filter out all the noise.
Stay focused on customer outcomes - the demands from a CSM can be overwhelming. Between asks from your managers, the sales team, your leadership team and customer escalations it’s hard to stay focused and charge forward. At the end of the day, your #1 job is making sure your customers are getting tangible business outcomes from your product or service. If you stay focused on driving that - you will be able to find some clarity amongst all the noise around you, and the rest will flow.
Nadav Shem-Tov, based out of San Francisco, CA, is the Founder and CEO of NST Success Consulting. Nadav also helped build and scale the Customer Success org at Gainsight.
9. Think outside the box.
It’s easy to conform to standards and do what’s always been done. But if you want new results, you have to cultivate a growth mindset and think outside the box.
Don't let the four walls of your office constrict your ideas. In the world of customer success, innovation and creative thinking are as critical as they are in any other field. Don't limit your ideas to what's traditionally been done within your team or company. Look outside - study successes (and failures) from other industries, listen to diverse perspectives, participate in communities, attend webinars and events. It's about cultivating a mindset that looks beyond the confines of your immediate environment and dares to challenge the status quo. Because transformative ideas often come from where we least expect.
Thank you to all of our experts for their contributions and letting us in on the secret sauce behind their success. Hopefully, you can follow in their footsteps to apply these practical tips to become an all-star CSM.
You can learn more about the CSM role here. To learn the steps to make your career switch, read about the CSM Career Path and Progression or grab a copy of Success in SaaS: Your Step-By-Step Guide to Landing Your Dream Job as a Customer Success Manager in Tech.