Flatfile

5 Customer Success Pros Share Their Career Advice

Sheila Lahar

Posted 12/11/2020

Unsurprisingly, the best customer success career advice isn’t necessarily about you, it’s about your customer. 

When you find innovative and collaborative ways to improve their success, you also stand out in the eyes of your colleagues and higher ups. 

We spoke with a few customer success professionals from top organizations to learn how they keep growing in their careers (and how they get even closer to their customers).

Get better at coordinating the stakeholders within each account

Treat customer problems like your own. Having one champion isn’t enough. Get stakeholders to align on success plans and track their progress ongoingly. Seek to deliver value with every interaction. Think beyond just the product. Be a partner to sales and sharpen your own sales skills. Regardless of comp structure, the art of discovery, negotiation, and value propositioning is key. 

And always be your own advocate — not just for your customers. - Courtney Perry, Enterprise Customer Success Manager at InVision

Work closely with Sales Account Executives to provide amazing service

Customer Success isn't post-sales. Rather, it's a commitment to validate business value and keep forever customers. My top advice for growing in the CS field is to understand the buying decision and overachieve throughout the customer journey.

So how do you actually do this? To understand the buying decision better, I partner with my Account Executive to learn what plan was sold to them and their expectations going forward. 

People often forget the Service part of SaaS industry and that encompasses internal collaboration as well. I wouldn't say there are any fast tracks, but I always like to come prepared so before meeting with my AE post closed-won, I'd have already reviewed email and phone conversations between the customer and my AE using tools like Gong. This also helps me to get a sense of their work personality so I know how to adjust accordingly. - Nathan Chein, Enterprise Customer Success Manager at Drift

Be vocal about your career goals (and improve your mindset to gain the confidence to speak up)

I could tell you to study and work hard, but in my experience, success is more directly related to your mindset and communication. 

When we talk about how to grow in a company, rise through the ranks, and achieve success, it all starts with discussing your interests and dreams with people in your company. If you never tell anyone what you would like to achieve, or where you would like to go in life, how will they know what you want? And how will you know the best way to get there?

Yes, this is easier said than done. This is where the mindset work kicks in. Remind yourself that you’re worthy of mentorship and achieving your goals. Start with small achievable goals, both for your career and for asking for help. - Jordy Frodyma, Account Manager at Cloudprinter

Become a true subject matter expert and think big picture

Some of the most exceptional CS professionals I’ve learned from, hired, and partnered with have had little-to-no background in software or customer success. They’ve been visionary subject matter experts, big-picture do-ers, and operational leaders.

These are the questions that I ask myself and others in order to continually grow:

Are there any company-relevant topics that someone would pay you to talk to them about or teach them about? How are you leaning into those areas of expertise and keeping them fresh?

If you had to do the day job of one of the professionals you support as a CSM, would you be able to do it? If you’ve lived a day in the life of one of your customers, you’ll build capability to do work they do, and you grow in your role as a consultative leader for them.

Have you made meaningful, measurable impact in your business cross-functionally? Customer Success is uniquely positioned to identify friction and gaps in organizational processes. The greatest CS professionals craft solutions to help their internal teams work together and realize lofty goals. - Bridget Duffey, Head of Customer Success at ChartHop

Focus on stepping up with departments in need of resources and results

Customer Success will naturally slide around based on the strength or weakness of the other departments within that organization. For example, if the sales team is a little weaker, CS might help with upsells more or with creating assets that are really part of the sales cycle. If the product team is a little weaker, CS might help with initial product adoption. 

This isn’t to say anything negative about your colleagues. Rather, this is all about noticing organizational needs—where resources are spread thin or leadership isn’t aware of the potential. The fact that CS is an emerging field means that it’s often loosely defined. Take this as a positive and explore where your organization and customers need you the most. - Elizabeth Bukys, Head of Customer Success at Flatfile

When you get better results for your customers, you also get better results for your career. This is one of the top tenets of amazing customer success: help your contacts get recognition and promotions. Do this for them, and you might just experience it for yourself too. Interested in learning even more from other CS professionals? Check out the Customer Success Leader podcast.

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