Searching for Success: Job Hunting Part 2

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By Ashley Hall


This is Part 2 of an earlier post about how to kick off the process of hunting for a customer success role. This post continues the journey through the interview process.

Great work! The effort of networking and applying for jobs has paid off. It’s time to get ready to interview. Do not panic! Interviews are naturally stress-inducing, but great preparation is the key to success. Here are some guidelines that will help you to arrive cool, calm, collected and ready to nail the interview.

The Phone Interview

Phone interviews are a common first step of the process. Just because it is over the phone does not mean you should take it lightly. This is an integral step to create a strong first impression and preview of your personality and background.

First, a few style notes. Talk slowly. Nerves will, of course, cause you to speak a bit faster than usual. Taking a deep breath and remembering to speak slowly will help you be heard loud and clear. Be sure to smile while you’re speaking! They can't see you, but the positive energy of your smile will come through while you are speaking with the hiring manager.

Summarize your professional, not your personal life. “Tell me about yourself” is a common opener to these conversations that should be taken seriously. It may feel more natural to just wing it on this response. I recommend rehearsing your answer to make sure you focus on the professional and highlight your strengths as you answer this question.

The Onsite Interview

Once you ace the the phone interview you will be invited to come to the office for an in-person meeting. Here is a checklist that will set you up for success.

Know who you are talking to

Be sure to get a list or schedule for the interview by at least the day prior to your interview. This way you can come up with unique questions for each interviewer as well as study up on their LinkedIn profiles before meeting them in person.

Get your act together

Arrive a few minutes early. 10 minutes is too early: You'll put unnecessary pressure on your interviewer. That said, a few minutes early will give you time to take a few breaths in the lobby before meeting everyone.

Always bring a bottle of water. It sounds silly, but every time I don’t bring water I get a little tickle in my throat I can’t clear! Having your own water will ensure that you don’t run into an awkward scenario where you must excuse yourself.

Prepare questions and answers

Be sure to have unique, pointed questions for each interviewer. Also prepare your notes and answers so you can respond to questions like “Why are you the best candidate for the role?” “Tell us about your greatest successes in your last role.” or “Tell us about a challenging customer and how you dealt with the situation.” Having talking points for these scenarios will help you showcase your ability to prepare and be a few steps ahead of anything the situation calls for.  

Bring your homework

It’s standard practice these days to ask candidates to complete some sort of assignment to secure a role. It could be a presentation or a simple writing assignment. Be sure to complete your assignment on time and have it printed out for reference during your onsite interview.

Send thank you notes

Be sure to send individualized emails to each interviewer you meet with. This is the polite, professional thing to do, but also another opportunity for you to highlight why you are the right person for the role. It also gives you a chance to combat any opposition or push-back you encountered during the interview.

Finally, be yourself! Do your best to channel your nerves into positive energy, and try to have a bit of fun! Don't forget: Interviews are a chance for you to learn about the company you might be working for, as well as for them to learn about you. Being yourself will help you to avoid a culture misfit.

Want to be prepared for your next customer success role? The Success League offers a CSM Training Program that covers 8 core skills you need to rock your interviews and land your next job. Learn more by visiting our website -

Ashley Hall - Ashley loves to lead account management teams; from training newbies to building processes out of chaos to working directly with customers. With an eye on the future she is a powerhouse in building scaleable frameworks that support and drive growth. Ashley serves as an advisor to The Success League, and is currently working for as an enterprise account manager. She holds a BA from the University of Colorado, Boulder and enjoys living in San Francisco, CA.

Customer Success Leadership & CSM Training Programs Start Next Week!


Please join us for our final customer success training series of 2017. We'll be covering all of the skills you need to plan for next year so you can hit the ground running. Sign up today to reserve your place in our program!

Customer Success Leadership Program

Tuesdays at 12pm Pacific / 3pm Eastern

  • Team Metrics & Goals - October 17, 2017
  • Building a Playbook - October 24, 2017
  • Planning a Team Structure - October 31, 2017
  • Developing Compensation Plans - November 7, 2017
  • Hiring Top Performers - November 14, 2017
  • Onboarding New CSMs - December 5, 2017
  • Goal-Based Management - December 12, 2017
  • Reporting on Results - December 19, 2017

CSM Training Program


  • Customer Goals & Outcomes - October 19, 2017
  • Quarterly Business Reviews - October 26, 2017
  • Customer Onboarding - November 2, 2017
  • Time Management for CSMs - November 9, 2017
  • Selling to Customers: Methodology - November 30, 2017
  • Selling to Customers: Process - December 7, 2017
  • Difficult Conversations - December 14, 2017
  • Managing Churn - December 21, 2017

Classes include 60 minutes of instructor-led, online training, group discussion, exercises to extend your learning, and tools you can implement right away. 

Strikedeck Radio - Episode 15

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Matt Edwards joins me for Episode 15 of the Strikedeck Radio podcast. Matt is the Vice President of Customer Success for Alation, and our discussion centers around how to build a high performing team by focusing on the people side of customer success. He talks about how passion is an important part of creating engaged employees, and provides practical advice on how to drive performance with a strong team mission

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.

One-to-Many Customer Success - The Webinar!


I'm excited to be joining Amity next week to deliver a free webinar on One-to-Many customer success. Are you building or refining an automation-driven customer success program? Want ideas on how to provide an amazing customer experience using tools and technology? This is the webinar for you!

October 11, 2017 at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern

Interested in more information on this topic? Here are a couple of recent blog posts you should check out:

Hope to see you at next week's webinar!

Kristen Hayer, The Success League

Customer Success Compensation: Excellent Execution

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By Kristen Hayer


Last week I wrote an article about the 5 Key Decisions you need to make in order to build an effective customer success compensation plan. This week I’m going to focus on how to get your comp plan ready and roll it out successfully. Execution can make the difference between a plan that drives high performance, and (as this Forbes article highlights) a plan that gets you into serious financial or legal trouble. Here are 5 steps you should take to make sure your plan drives the desired results.

Step 1: Model Performance Expectations

When you built the plan, you established the expectations for a typical performer. On average, your team members should hit their goals and achieve 100% of their variable compensation. As a test, build a model of what both a low and high performer would earn under your current plan. Ask yourself if there is enough of a difference between the 3 levels of performance. Will your top performers feel like the reward justifies the extra work they put in? Will the low performers step it up or move on? If not, you may need to revisit your plan before you roll it out.

Step 2: Consider Negative Side Effects

People can be very creative, and some members of your team may look for loopholes in your plan. Generally, a few simple ground rules can help you avoid this problem, so think about the ways that someone could game the system. Aside from this obviously negative side effect, there can be another, subtle problem - a shift in focus. If your team has a compensation plan which rewards a single goal that can cause your team to neglect other, important aspects of the job. Make sure your compensation program is balanced to avoid this problem.

Step 3: Document Clearly

Write up the plan details and rules in simple, clear language. It shouldn’t take a lawyer to interpret a compensation plan. That said, you do need to consider things like what happens if an employee leaves the company, what happens if a deal falls through, and what happens if the CSM moves to another territory. Most HR departments have a compensation plan template, and most of them are too complicated. However, they can serve as a good starting point, and can help ensure that you cover all key points.

Step 4: Get Necessary Approvals

Depending on the size and maturity of your company, you’ll have different hoops to jump through to get your plan approved. Start with your boss. In small organizations, that may be enough. In larger companies your plan will probably need to go through the HR, finance and possibly legal teams. If you do need your legal team’s approval, push back on any jargon and ask them to use simple language. If they insist on legalese, be sure to have them explain any clauses you don't understand. Don’t communicate anything to your team without full approval.

Step 5: Communicate (Almost) Excessively

When you’re ready to go over your new compensation plan with your team, expect to feel like that’s all you ever talk about for a while. You should roll out the program to the team in a meeting, where you’ll cover general details like how the plan works, what it rewards, how you’ll measure results, and when the team will be paid. Then go over plans individually with each team member to review any details that are specific to them, as well as answer questions that they might have. Once team members have had a chance to review their new plans, expect a lot more questions over the next few weeks. You should also start to review performance against plans in weekly one-on-one meetings once the program goes live.

These 5 steps should help you avoid the potential downside of variable compensation, and ensure that your team embraces their new plan. If this is your team’s first experience with variable comp, thoroughly planning the roll out will help alleviate any fears they might have. If your team has been on a variable plan before, they will appreciate having a simple plan that clearly explains how to earn money. Best of luck as you plan for 2018!

Need ideas for your compensation plan? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers an online course on Developing Compensation Plans. Our next classes are offered on October 10 and November 17, 2017. For more information on this class, as well as other courses in our CS Leadership Program, please visit