Want to cozy up to some good reading? Check out Amity's compilation of the Best Customer Success articles of the last year. Their list includes lots of great pieces, including a few by our CEO, Kristen Hayer. Some of the topics covered are finding out what makes a great CS leader as well as how to communicate with customers effectively without relying heavily on email. Find the article here.
Please come and see Kristen, our CEO, speak about Customer Success at the upcoming 6th Annual Customer Success Conference by Totango. CS Summit 18 will be held March 5-6, 2018 in San Francisco.
If you'd like to get 25% off your tickets, register here and use promo code CSSUMMIT25. Hope to see you there!
By Kristen Hayer
Customer Success Managers often get caught off guard by changes in customer initiatives, budget limitations, and sometimes even churn. Most organizations understand that one of the best ways to keep surprises to a minimum is to have a solid relationship with executive-level contacts. That said, many CSMs struggle to establish and maintain VP and C-level connections.
Why is this such a challenge?
Executives aren’t interested in the same things that typical admin or user-level contacts are. They care about their overall business, and their goals involve corporate-level performance metrics. They have to balance their time between the needs of their people and larger company issues. This always means they are incredibly busy, and often means they are primarily focused on problems. Any one given solution is only a small piece of a large and complex puzzle for an executive. It takes a lot to earn their attention.
What do you do about it?
Their Business, Not Your Product
It should go without saying that the primary objective of customer success is to help customers achieve business outcomes. Unfortunately, many CSMs quickly revert to talking about their product, although often couched in terms of adoption and usage. Executives don’t care about their usage of your product or its adoption unless it directly impacts the business outcomes they expect. Instead of spending time talking about product stats, ask questions about expectations and discuss business results. Keeping the dialog focused on the customer’s business and strategy will keep the executive engaged.
Their Goals, Not Your Reports
You may need to dig in with new executives to learn about what they really value about your solution. Once you know what they expect, help them turn those expectations into goals you can work to achieve together. Don’t just focus on metrics that are easy to measure using your own reports. Figure out what matters most to them and work with their team to measure success. Provide information about the ways other companies are achieving their goals using your solution. Great executives are always pushing themselves, their teams and their companies to be better, and you can engage them by helping them improve.
Their Timeline, Not Your Schedule
Executives are wildly busy people. If you’re lucky enough to get a block of time, make the most of it by focusing on strategic topics. While a quarterly business review may be a great goal for you, it may be unreasonable for an executive to meet that frequently. It is better to have business reviews less frequently, but to make them count by getting the right executives in the room and keeping the agenda tight. Also, be professional and respectful of the executive’s time: don’t reschedule unless it’s an emergency, and finish early if you’ve covered all your material.
What if you’re nervous?
Most CSMs have never worked as executives and haven’t spent much time talking with people at that level in the organizations where they work. Without this experience, it can be uncomfortable to engage with someone several rungs above you on the career ladder. If this resonates with you, there are several things you can do to make it easier. First, take some time to do your homework. Learn about the customer, the executive you’ll be speaking with and their experience with your company. Coming into the meeting prepared will give you conversation topics and help you feel confident. Second, if you get nervous, ask questions. You can plan some out as a part of your meeting prep so that you don’t have to think them up on the fly. Executives like to talk about their business needs and goals. Finally, remember the power of silence. Instead of timidly chatting about whatever comes to mind, ask a question and then stop talking. Silence is a power move that will at least generate respect and more likely start an interesting conversation.
Building strong relationships with executives within your client base will not only prevent unpleasant surprises, but will drive referrals and elevate your brand. Make it a priority for your team to engage at least one executive at every client they work with, and reap the benefits of lower churn, higher revenue and customer delight.
Are you looking for more tips on how to engage executives and other valuable customer success tools? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers online courses on Customer Goals & Outcomes (January 25, 2018) as well as how to put together Executive Business Reviews (February 22, 2018). Check out these and other upcoming classes at TheSuccessLeague.io
Just in time to start 2018 off on the right foot! Join us for our first Customer Success Training Programs of the year. Both the CSM Training and the CS Leadership series start the week of January 22nd and run through the week of March 12th. This week only, save 25% on all classes and bundles by signing up with coupon code: NEWYEAR25
Customer Success Leadership Program
TUESDAYS AT 12PM PACIFIC / 3PM EASTERN
- Team Metrics & Goals - January 23, 2018
- Building a Playbook - January 30, 2018
- Planning a Team Structure - February 6, 2018
- Developing Compensation Plans - February 13, 2018
- Hiring Top Performers - February 20, 2018
- Onboarding New CSMs - February 27, 2018
- Goal-Based Management - March 6, 2018
- Reporting on Results - March 13, 2018
CSM Training Program
THURSDAYS AT 12PM PACIFIC / 3PM EASTERN
- Customer Goals & Outcomes - January 25, 2018
- Time Management for CSMs - February 1, 2018
- Kicking Off the Relationship - February 8, 2018
- Asking Great Questions - February 15, 2018
- Executive Business Reviews - February 22, 2018
- Objections & Negotiation - March 1, 2018
- Difficult Conversations - March 8, 2018
- Renewals & Churn - March 15, 2018
Classes are online, instructor-led, and include 60 minutes of training, group discussion, exercises to extend your learning, and tools you can use to improve your customer success efforts immediately.
Jim Kalbach joins me for Episode 20 of the Strikedeck Radio podcast. Jim is the Head of Customer Success at MURAL, and the author of Mapping Experiences, a book about how visual diagrams and blueprints can help companies optimize their customer experience. Tune in to hear us discuss how MURAL maps their customer journey and to hear Jim's advice for companies that want to adopt visual approaches for their processes and customer experiences.
Strikedeck Radio is a partnership between Strikedeck and The Success League. You can subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud, or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter to get updates on new episodes.