So you signed your CSM offer letter, now what? Image

So you signed your CSM offer letter, now what?

Congratulations!  Customer Success positions can be some of the most rewarding and challenging positions at any company.  After companies spend all that money to acquire customers, keeping them delighted, renewing and wanting to buy more is absolutely critical to long-term success.  So how can you hit the ground running in your new CSM position?  Well – I suspect that you have experience drinking from a fire hose so jump right in and start learning the product, the people, and the processes that will help you drive business value as quickly as possible.

A few things to remember:

  • The good news is that when you’re new to an organization any questions are fair game.   You come to the team with the freshest set of eyes on everything.  Use that “new-ness” to your advantage!
  • On the flip side, you basically know next-to-nothing at this point.  But keep in mind that everyone goes through a similar ramp up period so there’s no point in beating yourself up.  Identifying priorities and setting short-term goals are very important to keeping your sanity.
  • If you thought the interview process was the hard part, think again.  Remember that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.  And the number of (what I like to call) ‘first impression encounters’ is off the charts when you start a new job.
  • Regardless of whether renewals and upsells are part of your CSM role or whether you just support those efforts, I think there are definitely some fundamentals that hold true for CSMs to understand and learn right away to be successful.

A few tips to hit the ground running:

  1. Obviously, you’re going to learn the product on your own by clicking around, absorbing any training materials you can get your hands on, and through other people in the organization. But if the product is complex, make a concerted effort to stage learning into reasonable chunks.  For example, start by mastering a product demo to learn the value prop and lingo, which may represent knowledge at the 10K foot level.  
  2. Then move down to the 1K foot level by mastering product training for example.  And finally focus on the details of the implementation or onboarding process that will ensure that you’re becoming a true product expert.  If the product is not very complex, you may want to reverse the order and start with the implementation. Bottom line – Don’t overlook product complexity when choosing your best learning path!

  3. You’re not on an island (even if you work remotely) and your peers are a great resource for compressing your learning curve.   Get to know the people in the organization, their responsibilities, and what they expect from you.   Listen to sales calls and other CSM calls with their customer.  Shadow an implementation.  Talk to the product team about open issues and feature requests.  Learn how marketing expects to interact with customers to create great success stories.  Bottom line – If new employee boot camp isn’t available, create your own because it’s worth the investment in time!
  4. Take the “people” part to a deeper level to ensure you know not only roles & responsibilities but the key processes and handoffs within the organization. Another important objective is to make sure you know how you’re going to be measured and how that fits with the overall company goals. If there’s no alignment, find out why right away.  Be prepared to make suggestions around renewal goals, upsell opportunities, better survey results, and improvements in overall health of a customer.  Bottom line – we’re all motivated through goals and those goals typically drive behavior so validating objectives can help bring clarity to most situations.

Finally, as you’re learning the product, the people, and the process, you’ll also be learning your customers.  This is where you have some of your most important “first impression encounters” of all. If you’re thrown in to a customer situation day 1, fall back on “the basics”.  By that I mean, start meetings on time, have a thoughtful agenda, be organized on behalf of the customer, summarize meetings and conversations succinctly by documenting action items, owners, and due dates.  It’s amazing how these small things can go a long way to building credibility and demonstrating your commitment.   Every CSM I’ve ever worked with has been resilient.  So if when you get knocked over by that fire hose a couple of times, just jump back up and keep drinking!