CSM from the Trenches: Mentors – Erica Newell; Manager, Client Development; Marketware
For those just joining our blog series CSM from the Trenches, welcome. This series, now a community for frontline Customer Success Managers (CSMs), discusses trends, best practices, and advice that can help the frontline.
Being on the CSM frontline allows us to directly influence the success of our clients. I love that; as our clients are successful, we’re successful. Each day we learn from the trenches what it takes to make clients happy and successful.
We recently launched a new segment of the series that focuses on 7 mentor questions for the frontline. The goal is that by sharing our experiences, we’ll be able to learn and apply more practical advice / practices to our careers.
Let’s get started with this week’s post!
What is one customer success best practice you’ve applied in the last few months that has had a positive impact on your success in your role? How has it helped you?
I’ve actually learned to better utilize LinkedIn! Though it’s primarily thought of as a platform for sales, job-seekers, and recruiters, it can be equally as powerful for customer success professionals. My strategic use of the tool has enabled me to help build client confidence, form strong relationships, reduce churn, and even increase revenue – results that come from balancing professionalism and authenticity. While I by no means consider myself a LinkedIn guru, I have learned quite a bit through research and utilizing the features available to me in the platform.
For a full list of the best practices I’ve learned, check out my other CSM from the Trenches post 5 LinkedIn Best Practices to Build, Grow, and Improve Client Relationships.
What are one or two things you typically do during the first hour of your day that leads to a productive day?
I’m a classic “night person”. I get energized in the late afternoon and can easily stay up all night working on projects. As a result of my long working nights, mornings used to be really challenging for me. For years, I felt like it took me forever to get to peak performance in the morning. One way I’ve overcome my distaste for mornings is in setting clear routines. I try to start each morning with the following:
1. Establish early wins by making my bed and taking the stairs
Both these actions seem trivial, but are worth the minimal time investment. These small acts get you moving and give you something to check off early in the day.
2. Get inspired by learning while I’m getting ready
I listen to podcasts while I shower, get ready, and eat breakfast. This opens my mind early and helps me apply principles learned throughout the day.
3. Plan with intent; record thoughts by writing them down
Writing typically bookends my days. I start by setting intentions in the morning and quick review in the evening. In the morning, I typically ask myself (1) What am I working towards?, (2) What is the single most important thing for me to accomplish today?, (3) What am I grateful for?, and (4) Where can I meet someone new today?
What are one to three books, blogs, or thought leaders that have greatly influenced your career, and why?
I started reading “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown because I liked the concept. I had no idea within a year of reading the book I had given over 15 copies to friends, coworkers, and family members. Reading this has helped me scale my business, say “no” more, better define priorities, and make time for the things that really matter. This book gives practical advice on how to accomplish more by doing less.
I also am a sucker for a good podcast. The three I find myself listening to the most right now are:
- Mike Kim’s “Brand You Podcast”. As you expect, this podcast is around branding and marketing principles. Since I help clients understand and develop marketing strategy daily, I find this is applicable to my role and also in my personal professional growth.
- “The Tim Ferriss Show”. In Tim’s podcast, he interviews interesting people. The interviewees range from famous directors and CEOs to survivors of trauma. I always learn. This podcast was what first helped me focus on establishing solid morning and evening routines.
- “How I Built This with Guy Raz”. Customer Success lends itself well to entrepreneurial spirits. In this podcast, Guy Raz interviews business owners and they tell the stories of how they reached success. Entrepreneurs need to work effectively with all parts of the business to bring clients, and their company success. Understanding how other businesses grow helps me daily in working better internally and with clients.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, during your time as a CSM set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure”?
When I first started as a CSM, I was overwhelmed with the onslaught of emails. I answered each email as quickly as I could. When I couldn’t respond to all of them, I would work all night long. I noticed quickly that when I sent emails at 11pm, I wouldn’t get as many responses. For a while, I was determined to work as late as possible to completely clear my inbox.
This went on for far too long, and truthfully, I’m still not perfect.
I learned many things from this- the first was that my 75-hour work weeks were not sustainable. I knew I needed a change. I stopped using my email inbox as a to-do list and started thinking and acting more strategically. I realized every email did not need a response. I also learned that if I took time to respond to reactive (non-urgent) emails, clients started communicating more efficiently. I set better expectations with my clients about response times.
When I do work long hours, I now delay the send through outlook. This means my client will get the email I wrote at 11:30pm at 8am their time (or whenever I set it).
A few weeks into making these switches a client made a joke about how relieved they were to not be getting work emails so late. I hadn’t realized that my working late could be impacting my clients’ home lives. Changing the way I approached email has made my clients happier, improved our communication, and helped me spend more time being proactive.
What do you find most fulfilling about being a CSM?
Since I work with many clients at once, I get the opportunity to work with different goals and constantly learn. In Client Success, the goal is to become an indispensable partner to your client. I love when we get to work together to find, develop, and test meaningful solutions to challenges. My passion for Client Success is in coaching and strategy. I love diving deep. As a coach, I’m with my clients every step of the way and fully invested in their success. I love sharing best practices and technologies that make an impact.
If you had to give one piece of advice to another CSM, what would you say and why?
As a CSM, you will need to influence outcomes, often without having power to directly make the change. Sales, marketing, product, business intelligence, accounting, and the other groups you work with all have vastly different goals.
If you can understand their goals and deadlines, it will help you better communicate, build relationships and influence positive changes for your clients. Building quality internal relationships will impact your ability to influence positive changes internally perhaps more than anything else. Do not eat lunch alone. Vow to meet a new member of your team and foster a genuine relationship daily. These will pay off personally and professionally.
What is one customer success principle you try to live by?
Customers ultimately do not care about your product; they care about the solution or outcome it can give them. In order to retain customers, reduce churn, and grow ARR you must understand the outcomes they’re trying to achieve. Although it’s easy to group clients by ARR, organization type, or the products they purchase- the company culture, goals, and the unique skills of your clients will vary.
You cannot decide a customer goal and you cannot decide on a customer goal based on their tier. We need to have more meaningful conversations. Ask meaningful questions and listen to the answers. Goals will also change, so keeping a cadence with your clients is key. Do not assume why they signed up with your product is the same reason they are renewing. Understand where they are finding value. Redefine goals, needs, and pain points periodically.
Want to share your mentor advice? Submit your answers here.
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