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Starting out as a customer success manager – first 10 things to do

I was asked by a new colleague who is just two months into his role, what advice I could provide. Here it is in a short, sharp list of 10 things to focus on. I’ve tried to make it generic since there are some things specific to the company I work for that I could not mention here (disclosure).

Follow the numbers

Because everything is measurable and measured these days, especially in the customer success field, this is a natural starting point.

1. Find out what metrics the company use to measure customer success effectiveness and how your performance will be managed in this regard.

2. Find out what tools are used to track your impact and outcomes against these metrics and master them. These will most often be transactional and analytics or reporting based solutions focused on either revenue and/or usage or telemetry-based metrics. You will find out more about this after doing your homework from point 1.

3. In addition to the tools, find out what will help you achieve the numbers in terms of processes and supporting resources. Things like content, funding activities or programs that drive customer activity, etc.

4. Find out who will help you achieve them internally. Identify top performers and what makes them tick and why they perform well, i.e. why the company has rewarded them for being top performers based on quota attainment. This also refers to supporting or complimentary functions like sales, product engineering, etc.

5. Find out which customers will help you achieve those numbers, an internal quantitative assessment. Hopefully the company will have done an analysis of which customers have the highest propensity to renew, upsell, cross sell and have the money (budget) and intention to invest in your product and company.

Forget the numbers

Because we are too often obsessed with measurement. It can dumb you down and make you myopic (great observations in an interview with renowned management thinker and professor Henry Mintzberg).

6. Understand your customers, their business, wants and desires – do your own customer qualification work not just what was done internally under point 5. This is an external qualitative assessment.

7. Prioritise customers based on intent to use your product – nothing to do with numbers. Its a feel for how engaged they are and how well bought in they are to your product and company. For this you should also look internally, at your culture and how well it aligns with the customer’s.

8. Identify the key stakeholders. These are the decision makers, the champions or advocates (for your product and company). If you don’t find any, you will either have to decide to develop them because the numbers justify it or deprioritise this customer. Also look at how open your organisation and the customers are to open collaboration and transparency – if connection and knowledge is hoarded, this is not a good sign.

9. Identify the business outcomes they are trying to achieve; okay numbers may come into this but think about what problems they are trying to solve and needs they are trying to meet and how your organisation and product/service can support these. Think innovatively and use something like the Jobs to be Done lens.

10. Focus on value that you, your product and your company can bring in trying to meet those unmet needs or problems they are trying to solve. Again, numbers could come into it. But think more creatively and innovatively and bring time into it. What is the customer’s plan for creating value and where do you and your organisation and its product/services fit in – think in horizons – 1-3 years.

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