Tips on how to utilize your background or teach yourself something new.
Customer Success is still quite a new, developing role and is perceived to be a natural next step after sales or account management. Other common backgrounds are customer support or product management. Transitioning from a sales position, in particular, can prove to be more organic with related experience and transferrable skills such as relationship management, product knowledge, time management, familiarity with revenue goals and success metrics, and most importantly, a growth mindset.
Communication // Relationship Management
A CSM has internal and external customers. To say that communication is imperative would be an understatement. In order to foster strong, long- term relationships, communication is key to ensure positive customer health. The customer needs to know they are being advocated for; that their pain points and goals are clearly understood and trust that the CSM can effectively communicate this information internally to find and deliver a solution that meets their needs. The CSM is not just playing telephone but is empathetic to the customer’s attempting to be solved and goals to be reached. Alternatively, internal teams such as product, engineering, design, and data teams need their capabilities, restrictions (if any), timelines, and deliverables to then be clearly relayed back to the customer.
Product Knowledge // Upsells
In order to sell a product, a salesperson must know the product well and the intended use cases, but a CSM must know everything about the product and is repeatedly selling to the same customer through each conversation, demo, and upsell to reassure them that they made the right decision. The more technical questions a CSM can answer and more issues they can solve without always relying on internal teams for each one, the better (and this will help mitigate burning out internal relationships, too). A salesperson will already know how the product compares within the market against the competition and will have the appropriate language and confidence in their abilities to upsell when becoming a CSM.
Time Management // Execution
Time is money. A salesperson is constantly chasing prospects and planting seeds to fuel the pipeline, collaborating with branding and marketing teams, attending industry events, and ensuring a customer is smoothly transitioned to onboarding when a deal is landed. This skill easily translates into becoming a CSM who is coordinating meetings and calls with internal teams and third-party partners to ensure projects, feature requests, experiments, and other deliverables are on track to be executed.
A salesperson can (and should) leverage this skillset when transitioning to a CS role but, maybe most importantly, their growth mindset. If you are already in a sales role, you are not afraid to reach out directly to anyone whether it is a prospect, an event organizer, and third-party partner, or an internal teammate if it leads to an important introduction, industry exposure, or landing a deal. Products, services, and industries change and evolve, and a candidate with this mentality soaks up product knowledge through continuous learning, fuels change management with questions and constructive feedback, and optimizes every opportunity for improvement. A growth mindset, regardless of the starting point, is the driving force behind customer success.
Blaire Jesseph is a writer and co-founder for the Chicago Customer Success Podcast. She is currently a board member at Zero Waste Chicago and a manager with the Customer Success team at Label Insight.