Tonight, I had the pleasure of learning about customer success from my colleague Marc Jacobs, SVP of Sales & Customer Success at CB Insights, as well as panelists at the event including John Barrows, Alan Armstrong, and Andrew Marks.
Here are my key takeaways:
- CSMs can play the role of sales engineers, setting prospect expectations and sharing use cases
- AE to CSM handoffs are critical – customers should not have to repeat themselves. Have AEs document stakeholders, expected use cases, milestones, etc. in a PowerPoint “dossier” which CSMs can present back to clients at the kickoff.
- Strive to have a single leader (CRO) responsible for sales and customer success whose compensation is based on net revenue.
- In strategic account territories, consider creating pods consisting of CSMs who renew & upsell existing together with AEs who cross-section. Pods member should have some shared goals.
- Renewal-only reps, i.e. those otherwise not involved in customer success, are not a good idea since B2B salespeople, especially in larger transactions, need to establish trust before asking for money
- Active listening, inclusive of asking probing questions, was identified as the top trait of high-performing CSMs.
- When conducting quarterly value reviews (QVRs) with clients,
- Take time to understand if client needs have shifted and how you are candidly doing with respect to meeting those needs.
- Go beyond usage and discuss progress toward their fundamental objectives. To find that progress, you will likely need to periodically document by directly asking key stakeholders and power users about the impact of your product
- Strive to give clients valuable ideas to further leverage what they have already purchased, for instance, share examples of how other clients use the product. As a bonus, network your clients together.
- As with AEs, the growth path for CSMs is to manage fewer, larger, more strategic accounts over time (or to move into management or operations.) Ideally, CSMs should be able to serve as peer advisors to clients, at least as pertains to your product.
- When hiring CSMs
- Assess abilities by simulating the real job people will do
- Look for people who care about the product and the customer
- Look for subject matter experts (ex: career switchers)
- Ask situational (what did you do) not hypothetical (what would you do) questions designed to reveal the specific traits you are looking for
- Conduct independent reference checks
- Hire prospectively so that you have enough CS staff based on new business growth
Other, sales related tips
- It is important to sell to the right clients to begin with to ensure positive customer lifetime value (CLTV). That means developing and adhering to firmographic ICPs, buyer personas, and user personas.
- Send concise summary emails to prospects and clients after every conversation and ask them to confirm your understanding is correct.
- Build objective processes in order to (a) minimize subjective emotion and (b) make it easier to diagnose what is broken when things go wrong.
Finally, my recommendations to the organizers at Sales Hacker:
- Strive to maximize the number of operating CSM leaders (this panel had only 1; the other 3 were consultants). This will ensure that the audience gets even more advice that is practical, actionable, and pressure tested.
- Ensure panels reflect the diversity of the profession and the audience. This panel had 4 males (and a male moderator) which was quite glaring given the audience was approximately 50% female.