5 ways to grow your career as a customer success manager

Enrique Roth
August 10, 2021

In any business, and especially in B2B SaaS, retaining your clients will define if the business will be successful or not.

Research shows that a mere 5% retention rate increase can increase the business revenue by 25%-95%, if customer retention is critical to the success of the business and the people responsible for driving customer retention are the Customer Success Managers, then that means that companies are always on the lookout for superstar CSMs.

How can I achieve a “superstar CSM” level? you ask?

In this blog post I’ll share the top 5 ways that have helped me grow my career as a Customer Success Manager and excel in every company I have worked at, let’s dive in!

What does a customer success manager do?


A successful customer success must be a jack of all trades; 

Product expert

The CSM should be a product expert in order to identify key opportunities for their customers, recommend use-cases that fit their customer’s needs and make sure to train their customers in the best possible way so they can also become product experts. 



Strategy navigator 

The CSM should be able to understand strategy, and build the road that their customers will embark on to navigate them through it while taking their desired outcome always into account. 


Relationship builderThe CSM should be able to build strong relationships with the customer based on trust, human interaction, and added value to the customer (your input should directly help your customers grow their business). 


Customer-Company liaison

The CSM is also the liaison between the company and the customer, communicating the customer’s needs to the product team will be key in building relevant features that your customers would be willing to use and even pay for. 


Commercial-savvy

The CSM should also be commercial-savvy, knowing when to capitalize on an opportunity to grow the account and understanding the commercial aspects is a very rare, yet valuable trait the CSM should have under their sleeve.


All of these qualities and skills lead to the ultimate goal of the CSM. The CSM’s main goal should be to retain and grow their customer accounts — not by forcing upsells or by trying to push for irrelevant features, but by using their customer’s desired outcome as the compass for enabling the customer’s business to thrive and benefit from the product’s added value. 


Is a customer success manager a ‘good job’?

If you are a person that enjoys strategizing, interacting with different people, embracing challenges, and are always looking to learn and grow, then CSM is a great job!

5 steps towards excelling as a CSM


Step 1: Always focus on the Desired Outcome

You can’t drive retention/growth if you don’t provide added value to your customers, and you can’t provide added value to your customers if you don’t know what their Desired Outcome is.


So what is “Desired Outcome”?

Desired Outcome = Required Outcome (RO) + Appropriate Experience (AE), now that we have the formula, let’s break it down:


Required Outcome (RO) -> This focuses on what your customer is looking to achieve/solve/improve, without this you can’t really succeed in creating value.


Appropriate Experience (AE) -> This focuses on how your customers achieve their RO, this is the differentiating factor between you and the competition.


https://sixteenventures.com/desired-outcome

In my experience, the Desired Outcome of my clients is my compass when it comes to any significant touch point with the client, I always keep in mind “How can I get my client closer to their Desired Outcome”, “Will this showcase value?”, “How can I make it more impactful and significant?”. What I’ve found out over the years is that the best way to know your clients Desired Outcome is by creating a success plan together with your client, it provides transparency and accountability.


CSM superstars always focus on the Desired Outcome, they have completely mapped out the Required Outcomes of their customers and have made sure that every touch point with the client matters and adds value. This will only lead to better results and to help you win as a CSM.


Step 2: Build Meaningful Relationships

The best and only way to build meaningful relationships with your clients is by earning their trust, you build trust over time through every touch point you have with your clients. Think about it as a bank, and every time that you have a meeting/call/email with the client you add value or you solve a problem for them is a deposit into the “trust” bank.

At the end of the day, if you are helping your clients to achieve their Desired Outcome you are empowering and ensuring they succeed within their roles, and in addition to creating value for your clients, you are positioning yourself as the go-to trusted advisor within your organization. 


Remember that a big part of the Desired Outcome is the Appropriate Experience, that’s why creating and fostering meaningful relationships is so critical to your success as a CSM. At the end of the day we are dealing with people, and as much as it is important to deliver value it’s equally important to have that human connection with your clients. I always strive to build and maintain that special connection that makes a meaningful relationship.


These relationships won’t only help you increase your chances of renewing/upselling the clients, but they will become your foundation and first row advocates of your product and also of your capabilities as a CSM.


Step 3: Product + Industry Knowledge

How much do you know about your product and your industry? Do you know the ins and outs, advanced features, workarounds? In addition to your skills as a CSM, these are one of the strongest weapons you want in your arsenal.

Product knowledge will help you find the best ways to tailor your product to what your clients are looking for, if they ask complicated questions, you know how to give reassuring answers and lead them through the right path. Knowing where you stand in your industry will allow you to understand what value your product adds to the industry and how it should be used with your clients according to the vertical they’re in.


There are many ways you can learn more about your product and the industry, such as signing up to newsletters, setting up Google news alerts, speaking with your work colleagues, accessing your company’s database -Does your company have a knowledge base? Do they keep solved support tickets of product issues -understand what the clients are asking and how to approach complex situations- (make sure it’s relevant and up to date)-? Do you have a shared folder with presentations? 


Knowing your product inside out will only help you identify and learn what parts/features of your product are relevant for your clients and at what time should your clients adopt these features, thus having the capability to build and tailor the customer journey according to your clients Desired Outcome.


Step 4: Deliver a Killer Onboarding

The client onboarding is one of the most (if not the most) important stages in the customer journey since it will be the first time your clients will realize the value of your product (Time To First Value). Defining what will be considered as the TTFV and how we will help the clients get there is one of the most important jobs as a CSM.


During my time at Appsee, I was assigned with the project of leading the onboarding program for the clients. The first step of action was to break down the product to make the onboarding as “digestible” as possible and to identify the value each step in the onboarding would add. Not only did we improve our net retention numbers exponentially, but we also onboarded our clients so well that they became experts themselves on the usage of the product, which reduced the dependency on our support team and increased upsell opportunities since they clearly understood what kind of value they would get from it.


Everywhere I have worked, I always break down the product and analyze how to deliver the most effective and impactful onboarding and on the way I learn tons about the product’s capabilities and functionalities. I definitely recommend you doing the same.



Step 5: Record your wins

If CSMs are measured on net retention, what is your track record like? Do you consistently reach and even over achieve your goals? Showcasing that you are a key driver to a company’s ultimate success will always attract the attention from any company/recruiter/CS leaders.


I always made an Excel sheet (if possible, pull a report from Salesforce and then edit it) where I kept all of my account names, ARR/MRR, renewal date (based on quarters), I also added the renewal rate, net retention rate, and new revenue coming from upsells/x-sells. It’s always encouraging to see that your hard work is paying off and that you’re on the right track. Moreover, it’s a great way to stay on top of your accounts and prepare your strategy way in advance.


It is important to mention that wins derive from hard work, practice, from the ability to continuously add value and by successfully leading your clients to achieve their desired outcome.


Moreover, a regular season win is not the same thing as a playoff victory or a championship victory. You will gain unique experience as a CSM by being able to pull off a win (renewal/upsell/x-sell) in a difficult situation or with a challenging client.

Takeaways for Excellency

The one message I want you to take away from this post is that there are countless ways to grow your career as a CSM, but ultimately it all comes down to the success of your clients in achieving their goals and delivering the Desired Outcome they anticipated.

About our writer

Enrique has spent more than 5 years in Customer Success, Account Management and Sales while working with all kinds of clients, from SMB to Fortune 500 companies. Enrique has developed ample knowledge in the Mobile, Marketing, and E-commerce industries having worked in companies like Appsee (acquired by ServiceNow), AppsFlyer, Yotpo, and most recently Voyantis. Enrique is a big believer in the essential value that CSMs bring to organizations and is dedicated to sharing his knowledge and experience so other CSMs can succeed as well


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