ArticleAugust 27, 2015
How to find the Perfect Customer Success Manager Image

How to find the Perfect Customer Success Manager

By Alex McClafferty & Nils Vinje of Glide Consulting

“How do I find the best Customer Success Manager for my team?” 


Every week, we field this question from Customer Success leaders. In this post, we’ll share an actionable framework and a free 11 question CSM hiring checklist to help you find the best Customer Success Manager for your company. Hiring great CSMs is tough, so our goal is to make you feel like this when you next dive into hiring:

sunset and happy man


We’ve combined job descriptions, personality traits, skills and experience to create three CSM personas. These personas helps to specify which CSM suits which company. ‘Relevant experience’ refers to the time a candidate has dedicated to a role in Customer Success or another closely aligned field.

  • A Level 1 CSM has between 0 – 12 months of relevant experience
  • A Level 2 CSM has between 12 – 24 months of relevant experience
  • A Level 3 CSM has more than 24 months of relevant experience

Let’s get started with the needs of a late stage company. 

We define late stage as either pre-IPO or publicly traded. You have a well-oiled Customer Success machine, operating at scale with the support of multiple departments. Most importantly, you have executive level buy-in and support. 

Customer Success Managers at late stage companies are typically more sales oriented, as they drive expansion and upsell opportunities to help contribute to the bottom line. A late stage company affords a lot of opportunities for career growth; including moving into leadership roles like Director or VP. A Level 1 CSM, with up to 12 months experience, can be a great fit at a late stage company.

The ideal candidate should have a growth mindset, which means they are motivated to both learn and grow. They should be ready to learn the art of sales, be a team player and be prepared to crush their targets. 

Let’s track back to an earlier stage company.

As a mid stage company, you’ve raised a B round and are marching towards your Series C. You have formalized Customer Success processes, have Customer Success training in place, have strategically invested in your Customer Success team and perhaps, your Customer Success platform. Your plan is to scale your Customer Success team. 

The ideal fit for a mid stage company is a Level 2 CSM. The CSM should have a proven record of consistent execution and focus. They should also be improvement-minded; championing ideas and initiatives to help improve Customer Success processes.

An ideal candidate will have: 

  • working knowledge of Customer Success best practices
  • mastery of soft skills; like building rapport and negotiation

A Level 2 CSM should also possess a consultative flair. They should feel at home asking powerful questions to uncover the real issues that a customer needs help with. They should be able to manage and/or escalate customer issues, when appropriate. A Level 2 CSM is a maestro – they orchestrate an organization’s resources to fulfil customers needs. 

If you’re planning to hire this type of CSM, make sure you have the necessary groundwork in place to welcome them to your team. This includes creating a rock-solid onboarding program and a CSM-specific training course, like a boot-camp.

Finally, we’ll finish where it all begins – the startup.

As an Early stage company, you’ve raised a seed round and are marching towards your Series A. Your priority is discovering how to best serve the needs of your customers as they bear with your growing pains, rapid change and product pivots. At this stage, Customer Success structure and processes still need to be built – so its all hands on deck for your Customer Success team. 

In practice, your ideal CSM should own and run their domain without too much supervision. They’ll have a bias towards action, instead of reliance on management. For this reason, CSMs who are simply looking to ‘punch the clock’ or ‘go through the motions’ at early stage companies are quickly left behind.

Even though early-stage startups are very attractive to, well, nearly everyone… the first hire should be a Level 3 CSM with a few years of ‘in the trenches’ experience. To borrow a concept proven by Gabe Luna Ostaseski in scaling sales, the ideal persona for this type of role is an architect. The CSM will blueprint the foundation of the Customer Success practice.

An ideal candidate will have: 

  • an ownership mindset
  • a ‘no job is too small’ mentality – they’re ready to roll up their sleeves
  • the ability to create structure, get things moving and deliver

On top of this, an ideal early-stage candidate should possess an entrepreneurial flair. The candidate should also come armed with their own field-tested Customer Success playbook, which includes: 

  • lessons learned about what works and what doesn’t
  • how to run a successful Quarterly Business Review
  • the exact steps to run a successful onboarding process
  • how to deal with renewals and manage upsells

That sums up what to look for in your perfect CSM, regardless of company stage.

So, what questions should you ask your CSM candidates? We’ve got you covered – please download your free 11 question CSM hiring checklist here.

Please email us at if you have any questions for us.


Alex McClafferty & Nils Vinje of Glide Consulting
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  1. Alex
    Sep 9th, 2015Reply

    Hi Dan, thanks for your input. What quantitative measures do you think are important here?