Sales Resources for CSMs

By Kristen Hayer

I have to admit that I have a soft spot for selling.  I started my career as a salesperson, and find it fun to talk to people and help them find tools and products that make their jobs easier.  Plus, there’s nothing like the rush you get from closing a deal! 

That said, many Customer Success professionals are being asked to sell but don’t have any experience doing it.  Most CSMs in this situation admit to feeling uncomfortable with the idea of selling, and often don’t have formal sales training available to them.  If you’re a CSM who needs ideas on how to improve your sales skills, or a success team manager who needs sales training tools, here are my top 3 sales books for CSMs.

SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackham

“SPIN Selling” sounds like the worst possible collection of sales tactics, but SPIN is actually an acronym for a method of asking questions that helps uncover real customer needs.  This book was first published in 1988 but has stood the test of time, probably because it is based on so much real-world sales data.  Like most sales books, it is geared toward the new sale, but I like it because the methodology is simple to learn and can easily be applied to discussions with existing clients.

When to use it:  When you are new to selling, or when you have a team that needs to learn basic solution-selling techniques.

The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson

This book is the hot new thing in sales, but definitely not just a passing fad.  Based on a tremendous amount of research on what makes a top salesperson, this methodology provides reps with a strategy to elevate their message above competitors.  Again, the focus is on new sales, but you can easily apply the tactics to create a more valuable vendor-customer relationship.  It does assume some sales ability, so if you are new to sales I’d start with SPIN Selling.  There is also a fantastic chapter on what it takes to be a good sales manager that I think applies to success managers as well.

When to use it:  When your sales skills need a boost, or when your success team is asked to take on more complex sales.

Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton

This is another older book, but it is still popular for teaching the art of negotiation.  I’ve taken many sales and success teams through this book to help them learn to create agreements that work for both the company and the customer.  Many times the renewal is a more difficult negotiation than the initial sale, and it is made even more challenging by the fact that you want to maintain a great relationship with your client.  This book can help you navigate that scenario.  Bonus: It might also help in negotiations with your significant other!

When to use it:  When you deal with lengthy or complex renewal negotiations, or when you have a CSM team that discounts too quickly.

Book Clubs

Many of the companies I work with are startups, and don’t have the time or budget to implement formal training programs.  A great way to deal with training when resources are slim is to start a book club.  If you’re a customer success leader, consider carving out 30 minutes a week to discuss a book your team reads together.  Are you a solo CSM?  Find like-minded success professionals at other companies to join you for drinks and a discussion once a month.  One chapter a week is a pace that most people can keep up with, and group discussions help everyone understand how to apply what was read. 

Do you have a favorite sales resource?  Comment to share that with the group.  Wondering whether your CSM team should even be selling?  Here are two recent posts on the Pros and Cons.

The Success League is a consulting firm that works with customer success leaders who want to unlock the retention and revenue potential in their team.  We partner with success teams to gather and present customer data in a way that allows them to advocate for customer needs and drive true change in their organization.