Not a Space Fantasy: Managing Enterprise Accounts

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By Amin Akbarpour

As Customer Success professionals, there are tiers of accounts we manage. Often, the crème de la crème are enterprise accounts. Typically, a Customer Success Manager would work their way up the totem pole, managing bigger and bigger accounts over time. If you go this route, your skills develop and your approach evolves over time. However, when you make the leap from the corporate or mid-market segment to enterprise accounts, you’ll see a shift in the approach and strategy that you need to take. There are three techniques I would recommend as you begin your work with enterprise accounts:

Multithreading

At the enterprise level we’re talking about massive organizations with employee counts well over 1,000 driving bottom lines in the billions. With organizations of this size, it is essential to not just develop relationships with one individual or one team. You need to understand all of the teams and individuals who touch or are impacted by your solution. From there, develop new relationships so that you’re clear on:

  • What are challenges they face today?

  • What big initiatives are they focused on for the next for months or quarters?

  • How does your solution impact them today? Positively or negatively?

  • Where can we better partner with this team or individual to drive value in the relationship?

Enterprise accounts are all about keeping everyone happy and there is no lack of people to connect and build a relationship with. Two pieces of advice here.

1.     Be sure to multithread across multiple divisions and business units. Try to expand your reach, and leverage strong results and relationships with your current day-to-day team to get you introductions elsewhere. The more you’re able to deeply engrain yourself successfully within the account, the better chance of adoption, advocacy, retention, and growth.

2.     Multithreading also means touching everyone on the totem pole too. Take the same approach you use to ensure that individual contributors and managers are engaged, and apply that up the ranks. Executive alignment is essential as you work towards making sure that what you’re doing is meaningful across the business. 

Channel Your Inner Hermes

In Greek mythology, Hermes is the son of Zeus and often labeled as the messenger of God. When you start multithreading and are dealing with multiple divisions, brands or business units across a giant business, you forget that sometimes they may be more isolated than they’d like to admit. You can help change that by playing the role of a messenger, listening to interesting things different teams are doing, and relaying that to other teams that may not be aware of it. It allows you to add value by being able to unite teams across a widespread organization, and it helps you further understand the business. There is also the added benefit of being able to tell other teams what your organization is doing within the account. Working on a new project with X business unit? Tell Y business unit about the project, since it might be of equal interest.

Having a hard time believing that a large org would be this disconnected? Look to see how many large enterprises have “Centers of Excellence” that provide guidance, best practice, and create synergy across all the different divisions. It’s a much bigger issue than you can imagine unless you’ve lived in it.

Now Is Not the Time to Play Casper

This one is deadly. In these large organization, it’s easy to get lost, forgotten, or de-prioritized. Ideally, you’ve been able to multithread and learn of several teams’ goals and priorities for the immediate future. From there, translate that strategic vision into a tactical game plan, draw out tasks that need to be completed, determine who owns these tasks, and establish the dates they need to be completed. Provide constant updates and ensure that you’re tracking towards your stated goals. Once you’ve accomplished your game plan and can show results, partner with your day-to-day contact and tout the success. I love calling this “throwing a parade” because that is how it should feel if everything went as planned. You owe it to the team you were working with for being successful so…show it. Be sure to share it not just horizontally but vertically across the organization too, as the team you’ve been working with deserves praise from not just their counterparts but their executive team as well.

Enterprise accounts require our constant attention to their ever-changing business and needs. The moment we begin to get comfortable and not stay in tune with our client, is the moment we begin to look like a ghost and our value decreases in the partnership. Word to the wise here – it can be very easy to interpret this section as “follow up” and “check in” with the client. These are the two most useless phrases and literally read as “I want to waste your time” to a customer. If you aren’t listening to the client, gathering information on what they care about, and trying to help fit a need or provide value based on that, then there is no purpose in that “touch base” outreach. This is a partnership and for it to truly feel like one, you must listen and provide true value from the client’s point of view.

Focus on being a multithreading master, aiding your client in sharing information across their widespread organization, and treat these accounts as the high-touch clients that they are and you’ll be just as successful managing enterprise accounts as you were previous segments.


Moving up and interested in leadership? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers both a Leadership Training Program as well as one-on-one coaching. Let us help you learn and grow as a success professional and leader. Please visit our website for more information. TheSuccessLeague.io

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Amin Akbarpour - Amin is a customer success coach and architect. With relationship-building at the core of his practice, he molds teams by instilling the necessary principles to transform them into trusted advisors. Amin is one of the founding advisors to The Success League and currently serves as an account manager for Persado. Amin is a University of San Francisco alum who now calls New York City home.

Beyond Email: Ideas for Tech-Touch Customer Success

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This week’s post is a redux of a previously published article. We have been getting a lot of questions on this topic recently so we thought it was worth the re-share. Enjoy!

By Kristen Hayer

I wrote a previous article about how to approach a Tech-Touch or One-to-Many customer success program. Since then, a number of people have asked about how to tackle various touch-points. It seems like most companies are pretty reliant on email, but customers are getting tired of full inboxes (I don’t blame them!) Here are some alternatives to email for your One-to-Many customer success program.

WEBINARS

While you may have webinars in place right now, they are probably geared toward prospects rather than existing customers. Consider adding a series for your customers that includes product best practices, customer case studies or industry thought leadership.

VIDEOS

Similar to webinars, videos create visual engagement, but they come across as more personal. Consider interviewing successful clients or providing product tips in a fun way. Get your most engaging CSMs to participate as hosts so that customers can get to know them.

PODCASTS

If many of your customers have a long commute to work (NYC and SF, I'm looking at you!) podcasts are an excellent option to create engagement. Again, get some of your CSMs to serve as hosts, and have them interview industry thought leaders or talk about best practices.

CUSTOMER FORUM

Leverage your power users by introducing a customer forum. This is a great choice for companies with an established customer base. Experienced users will help new customers get going and successfully using your solution with a little moderation from your team.

IN-APP MESSAGING

Your app is the perfect place to display messages that are tailored to your solution. If you know that customers run into snags in specific parts of your product, provide them with a walk-through or messaging at that point.

SURVEYS

Customer surveys can be related to touch-points or to actions in your solution, and can provide insight into both customer behavior and sentiment. Imbed surveys in your product, and at key touch-points in your customer lifecycle to see where you need to improve.

EVENTS

Do you offer local events or an annual conference? Invite customers and get them involved in relationship-building activities like training or a dinner. Are there industry events your company is involved in? Those are a chance to not only gain prospects, but to engage clients.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Consider the social media that best engages your customer base. LinkedIn and Twitter are obvious choices in the B2B space, but if your clients are on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, consider those as well. Posts can provide company info as well as links to case studies.

Clients enjoy hearing from companies through a variety of sources, and creativity counts. Your marketing team can provide ideas and help with content creation, so be sure to explore options with that group. Think beyond the email, and elevate your One-to-Many customer success program by incorporating some or all of these alternatives.

Need ideas as you’re designing your Tech-Touch Customer Success program? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that works with executives who are ready to build and grow a high-performing team. For information about our consulting services and training programs please visit TheSuccessLeague.io

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Kristen Hayer - Kristen believes that customer success is the key to driving revenue, client retention and exceptional customer experiences. Her areas of expertise include developing success goals and metrics, designing the optimal customer journey, selecting technology, training teams, and building playbooks. Prior to founding The Success League, Kristen built and led several award-winning customer success teams. Over the past 20 years she has been a success, sales, and marketing executive, primarily working with growth-stage tech companies. Kristen has her BA from Seattle Pacific University and her MBA from the University of Washington.

Get Your Customers to Stop Ghosting You

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By Chad Horenfeldt

“Why won’t they respond?”. You’re scratching your head as you try to understand why a customer has ghosted you.

You’ve done everything you can think of to get their attention. You sent them an email with custom data than you painstakingly compiled. You sent another email congratulating them on a recent their recent round of funding and their subsequent promotion. You’ve called them a few times after their vacation as they requested, but just got their voicemail. You’ve even sent one of those animated gifs asking if they have been eaten by an alligator. They are still are at their present company according to LinkedIn. You’re thinking “Why won’t they at least acknowledge my existence?” You are tempted to call the police to see if they have been abducted by aliens.

This is one of the most common and frustrating scenarios for Customer Success Managers. The reality is that your customers have overflowing inboxes and their own priorities. You need to take an unconventional approach to get their attention if they have ghosted you. While the alligator gif has the right idea of evoking an emotion, comic relief only goes so far. You need to hit your customers at a deeper level.

You can argue that things never should have got to this point. Establishing the right customer relationship and setting communication expectations needs to be done right from the start. The reality is much different. CSMs need more advanced weaponry with the rapid turnover that exists in our current economy. In this post I’ll outline some email techniques that are guaranteed to bring your customers back from the dead.

Using the Power of “No”

The first goal in reviving your customer relationship is to get your customer’s attention. You need to get past the inherent desire to delete your email with one finger swipe. How do you do this? The technique that I recommend is from author and former FBI negotiator, Christopher Voss in his book “Never Split the Difference”. He suggests leading with no-oriented questions in the subject line to evoke a response.

Here are some examples of no-oriented subject lines:

  • “Is this project no longer a priority to you?”

  • “Is X (your solution’s value prop) no longer important to you?”

  • “Have you given up on X?”

  • “Are you walking away from X?”

  • “Is it ok if the information you’re giving your boss is incorrect?

  • “Haven't heard from you – were the revenue reports not helpful?” (this example was recently used by one of our CSMs and the client responded in a few hours)

These “no” questions work as they give your customers the illusion of control. You’ve handed over authority to them by framing the question in a way where they feel obligated to respond. This technique also helps quickly build trust as you are focusing on their most important interests. You get right to the point so you don’t waste their time.

The other reason that this technique works is that most people hate being perceived as quitters. That’s why questions that include terms like “giving up” and “walking away” are very effective.

WARNING: This technique may make you feel uncomfortable. That’s OK as that’s how it’s supposed to make your customers feel so it jolts them back to life. You have to get past this.

One last thing to keep in mind: use this technique sparingly. Think of it as the red glass case you only break in case of an emergency. You have one shot so make it a good one.

Securing the Response

You’ve done a great job crafting a virtual shockwave with your no-orientated subject line. Your customers are guaranteed to open your email but will they actually respond? Chris Voss’ son, Brandon, has outlined two additional techniques in his recent blog post to help you here. He suggests ending your emails on a positive note and using “email softeners” so you you are perceived positively and as having your customer’s best intentions at heart.

Ending on a positive note: Ending positively goes beyond using a cheery salutation such as “I can’t wait to hear from you”. Conclude your email with a powerful, yet simple call to action. For example, “I would like to discuss this further. Here are some dates and times that I’m available. How does this sound?”.

Using email softeners: You may have been told never to appear weak or to apologize in your communication with customers. Brandon suggests the opposite approach. Negotiation is all about emotions and if you demonstrate empathy and that you care, you will establish trust. Have a quick read through your email before you send it and add in phrases such as “I’m sorry” and “I’m afraid” where applicable.

Here’s an example. Instead of writing “If you don’t make this change, you will risk losing an estimated $20,000 in revenue,” try: “I’m afraid that if you don’t make this change, you will risk losing an estimated $20,000 in revenue” or “I’m sorry but if you don’t make this change, you will risk losing an estimated $20,000 in revenue”. Which approach do you feel tries to elicit emotion and build rapport? It’s OK to add in some touchy feely to your communications. I’m sorry but you’ll have to accept this idea or risk this technique not working as expected.

Ghostbusting

I challenge you to pick out a customer that has ghosted you and go on the offensive. Start by crafting a no-oriented question that will provoke a reaction and follow that up with a positive ending that will compel your customers to hit “reply”. Mix in a few email softeners and you have the perfect ghostbusting formula. Who’s afraid of those ghosts now?

The Success League is a customer success consulting firm focused on building top performing leaders and teams. Does your group need more ideas on effective customer communication? Our CSM Certification Program includes classes like Asking Great Questions and Difficult Conversations that tackle some of the most challenging situations CSMs find themselves in. Visit TheSuccessLeague.io for more information about our consulting and training solutions.

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Chad Horenfeldt - Chad is a customer success executive with 15+ years of experience building and developing high performing teams. Currently, he is the Vice President of Client Success at Updater. Prior to Updater, Chad held CS leadership positions at Bluecore, Influitive, and Oracle (Eloqua). In addition to writing for The Success League, he also writes regularly on the topic of customer success on his blog The Enlightened Customer.

Join Us at Customer SuccessCon Denver Next Month!

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The Success League will be at Customer SuccessCon in Denver next month. Come to hear industry leaders discuss Customer Success Profitability Blueprint strategies. Save 10% on your registration by using discount code “TSL10” at checkout. Take a peek at the agenda here.

When: Tuesday June 4, 2019 from 12:30-7pm MT
Where: The Magnolia Hotel, Denver, CO

Looking forward to seeing you there!