Customer Success Managers: Here’s How to Become the Consultant Your Customers Need

June 26, 2020
Celonis customer success managers talking about consulting
Celonis

Relationship-builder. Product expert. Revenue generator. Voice of the client.

These are just a few of the hats a customer success manager wears on any given day, but excelling at any of these roles takes serious time and training. Just ask the following San Francisco CS teams, who shared their top tips for moving beyond “product expert” to “bonafide consultant.”

The CSMs we spoke with recommend having ongoing conversations with stakeholders, diligently researching clients and even holding on-site workshops to understand the full scope of customers’ pain points and goals. These practices, they said, allow CSMs to become more consultative and excel at their roles. 

Once a client is onboarded, these CSMs said it’s important to collaborate with teammates through knowledge-sharing and workshopping their best practices in meetings, on Slack and through internal resource channels. Employees use learning materials that evolve with the products and teach their learnings back to instructors as practice. 

The biggest takeaway? CSMs should adopt a mindset focused on continuous learning to act as effective client partners. Keeping up with the pace of technology requires adaptability and resilience. 

 

Wesley Williamson
Senior Customer Success Manager

What steps do you take to better understand the goals of Celonis customers?

Aligning to key strategic goals with our customers ensures that our insights will drive meaningful changes in their organizations. One of the key ways we align with their needs is through “discovery workshops.” There, the CS team digs into a customer’s strategic goals, as well as the targets and pain points of the individual business teams using Celonis. We take a consultative approach and co-develop a plan for our analyses with specific use cases and KPIs. This plan not only sets the expectations with customers, but also guides them on what to tackle first with us. CSMs come prepared to share key learnings from our experience working with other customers in similar processes and industries. 

We also have regular meetings to knowledge-share and are building a growing process library from our customers, as well as gathering research from the top management consulting firms that we partner with.

A wealth of training enables CSMs to move beyond product experts to consultants.”

 

What trainings help your CSMs become products and industry experts? 

All employees spend a week onboarding at our Munich HQ. While this week covers the basics of the product, organization and culture, CSMs have an additional onboarding plan to guide their first six months. This plan covers product trainings, CSM strategy and the business processes we commonly work on with customers. 

The CS team has regular enablement sessions that are always recorded and part of our internal knowledge-share library. These sessions can be a useful reference to ensure we never go into a customer engagement without a solid background. In addition, the Celonis Academy team provides online trainings for our product and internal processes. Having a wealth of training enables CSMs to move beyond being just product experts to be consultants on driving strategic change.

 

What soft skills are the most important when consulting clients? 

Being able to challenge the status quo. Encouraging stakeholders to consider new ways to execute a process can be a challenge. While the natural inclination is to start by presenting the opportunities discovered with Celonis, I’ve learned it works better to connect the need for change to the interest of individual stakeholders. I start by asking what is top of mind for them and then look for ways to tie change to that objective. 

Since the platform provides a data-driven viewpoint, I can present the evidence for how process change meets their needs. This practice requires a lot of active listening from a CSM and being a bit vulnerable about what they don’t know. But at the end of the day, the client appreciates that you came to listen and learn rather than preach a solution.

 

Johanna Hoang
Sales Enablement Manager

What steps do you take to better understand the goals of Sensor Tower customers?

It starts with showing that, as a company, we’ve been listening and are thoughtful about their business. When bringing on a new client, I work to get them closer to their goals by learning from the account executive and the research questions I ask. Some of that research comes from the Sensor Tower platform. 

Additionally, we cover expectations, their north star and what success with us looks like. Constant communication is key and in our touchpoints, I prepare insights or showcase a workflow based on previous conversations. This communication helps us understand what is and isn’t helpful and allows us to iterate. Goals can also change in a blink of an eye so having monthly meetings, a shared Slack channel and business reviews allow us to adapt to current needs, like prioritizing a new feature or putting together thoughtful analyses. 

When we provide our CSMs with the right training, clients see a partner who speaks their language.”

 

What trainings help your CSMs become products and industry experts? 

All new hires start their week at Sensor Tower with an introduction to the mobile app industry to contextualize the value we provide in the ecosystem. Our CSMs undergo training on key features, navigation, methodology, industry terminology, common use cases, customer stories, what to expect in our roadmap and other FAQs. We also incorporate activities for a fun learning environment and presentations where they teach back the material as practice before speaking with clients.

When we provide our CSMs with the right training, clients see a partner who speaks their language, can relate to their needs and whom they can trust to work with on their goals. 

 

What soft skills are the most important when consulting clients? 

Earning my clients’ trust is important to consulting and having meaningful partnerships. Armed with client information that was provided with trust, CSMs are in the best position to provide timely, relevant and actionable insights. And getting this information comes from demonstrating that we understand their needs through active listening, asking the right questions and producing products that are informed and thoughtful. 

A company culture of sharing and continuous learning is a great thing to have in the CSM toolbox. I strengthened my tools for effectively consulting clients with a great team that I can ask for coaching and constructive feedback.

 

Campbell Browne
Middle Market Customer Success Manager

What steps do you take to better understand the goals of PitchBook Data customers?

We come into conversations with an open mind and a willingness to ask questions. We may be experts when it comes to the platform, but we’re not experts on every client’s team. Questions need to be anchored around a client’s specific business and role, not solely focused on showcasing an array of product features. Instead of asking, “What do you want to see in PitchBook?” we ask, “What challenges are you facing in your role?” This question helps us reset our client’s expectations of us as more than just a provider of financial data, but also as a strategic partner to their business. 

The more we understand each individual and their firm’s goals, the better we can offer the solution that best fits their needs. Our roles as CSMs are to assist in that translation and give clients the ability to obtain the data they need quickly and efficiently.

We’re regularly workshopping our own approaches and sharing success stories.”

 

What trainings help your CSMs become products and industry experts? 

PitchBook’s leadership equips us with a set of tools to understand the context in which we operate and how to best serve our customers. The program helps establish a foundation on which we’re constantly building, regardless of past experience in the finance world. The variety of clients we serve makes it important to understand that we don’t operate in a one-size-fits-all model. We provide solutions based on the problems at hand using the breadth of data we have, which requires a broad knowledge base of our industry just as much as our own product. 

PitchBook’s focus on these values has a significant impact on the relationships we establish with our clients, allowing CSMs to build more credibility and trust from the start. The complexity of our client base makes it essential that our ongoing training is also strong and nimble. We’re regularly workshopping our own approaches and sharing success stories to ensure we’re continually improving and meeting our clients on their level. 

 

What soft skills are the most important when consulting clients? 

There are a lot of crucial soft skills that come to mind, but the few that stand out and overlap are reflective listening, creativity and accountability. Reflective listening is vital. To be a valuable resource for our clients, we can’t just hear a buzzword or key phrase and immediately show a product feature. We need to listen to, clarify and understand the problem each client is tackling since the solutions are often nuanced. 

Creativity comes into play here as well; we need to be creative in our recommendations so that our solutions are truly solving a business issue. Accountability goes beyond being a reliable communicator and consistently seeing projects through to completion. I hold myself accountable to work closely with our product, research and support teams to give feedback on behalf of our users. The CSM role has a unique opportunity to advocate for our users and play a role in helping PitchBook adapt to meet the changing needs of our clients. 

 

Joe Scheip
Customer Success Manager

What steps do you take to better understand the goals of Gladly customers?

An understanding of why a customer bought the product, and the business goals that product helps them achieve, are paramount to customer success. Knowing how these goals relate to the product can help frame conversations and inform actions and customer health. But there are times when the answers about goals will be tactical, and therefore hard to map to the organization’s strategic initiatives. 

A lot about my approach falls on pre-work; determining a customer’s public message, what they’re discussing on their earnings calls and their market differentiator. Armed with this knowledge, a CSM can presuppose how their product could support these strategies and initiatives. Use this information to outline goals and find a product that could support them, and use that as a jumping off point to start the business-goal alignment discussion.

Knowledge-sharing supports my goal of being a subject matter expert.”

 

What trainings help your CSMs become products and industry experts?

We value transparency, which means information and motive is accessible throughout the organization. We live these values through products like Notion and Slack, where everything is done in a public forum. This transparency lends itself to insight as customers gain an understanding of what we offer.

Another tenant we try to live by is reading and writing. Discussions throughout the organization, which include deep insights on our industry, are at my fingertips instead of hidden in an invite-only meeting. This knowledge-sharing supports my goal of being a subject matter expert and trusted advisor to my customer. 

 

What soft skills are the most important when consulting clients? 

I believe empathy is the most important characteristic in any human relationship, including the relationship with my customers. Understanding and internalizing the goals, wants and apprehensions of stakeholders provides the information I need in order to act. I try to hone my sense of empathy through observation, like looking for cues in tone and phrasing. 

 

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