Customer Success: Three things effective CSMs do to grow their accounts

adam azoff

Adam Azoff is an experienced Customer Success leader working in B2B SaaS. Here, he shares the three top activities that effective Customer Success Mangers (CSMs) do to grow their accounts.

1. Create Your Account Tiers

Taking into consideration multiple inputs; including product ease of use and deployment, number of accounts being managed, renewal dates, and combined ARR of your portfolio (to name just a few), the most effective CSMs create their own tiers and associated “touch plans” (touch plans refer to the number and types of engagements you want to employ on specific segments of your portfolio).

Why is this so important?

Inevitably every CSM will be faced with an onslaught of competing tasksYou’re responding to client issues, planning account reviews, onboarding new customers, reporting to management, providing feedback to the sales and product teams, and more…

Faced with these common day-to-day challenges and competing priorities, having a clear hierarchy of clients in your book of business helps to cut down on the guesswork, and helps you to prioritize your time. It also eliminates any feelings of guilt associated with not responding to a certain client within a given time frame.

There are dozens of email tricks that can be deployed, such as pausing your inbox, tagging emails, etc. to keep priorities in check and avoid the temptation of responding to a lower value call-to-action. But at a basic level, it’s important to know which customers get the lion’s share of your attention; so make sure you list them out, or tag them in your CRM, and revisit your account tiers on a regular basis (I always do this quarterly).

If all of your customers are special, no one feels special

2. Account Planning

For each account you need to understand, document, and remember the basics. It’ll help to focus your engagement and improve your chances of growing an account through upsell or cross-sell.

  • Why did they purchase the product? What were the initial pain points and business drivers?
  • Where are they in their customer journey? What have they done to get to this stage?
  • What does product and feature utilization look like?
  • What is the competition, if any, within the organization?
  • What does your network look like with the account (e.g. how many champions, decision makers, IT personnel, etc. are you in contact with)? Where are your gaps in terms of relationships and stakeholder buy-in?
  • When is their renewal date and when are they entering into internal budget cycle discussions?
  • Have you considered if current news and events may be affecting their business?
  • Most importantly: Where do you need to get this account in 3–6 months?

3. Create your customers’ buying journey

Ok, you have your priorities in order, you understand your customers, and you have an educated guess as to which ones have the biggest growth potential, or are most at-risk. You’re now ready to assign activities according to their use case, and based on the relevant metrics and tools at your disposal.

Make sure you understand all of the tools that you have at your disposal.  Does your platform have the ability to send out tailored in-app messages? Do you have contact information you can use to promote new features to a cohort of end users (or potential new users)? Do you have an account champion who can connect you with a key contact in a different line of business? Can customer plans be upgraded to include new functionalities (and added value)? Start with a list and run it by your team to see if there are any gaps or missed opportunities.

Hopefully, you’re in a good position both in terms of CS tooling (metrics, messaging apps, content creation platforms, etc.) and customer contacts, because having a number of options at your disposal is an obvious plus, not to mention it allows for greater testing and experimentation over time.

Choose the activities that get your accounts where you need them to be in 3-6 months

From there it’s a basic matching exercise. Look at your prioritized accounts and, given the data and insights available on each one, understand which of your potential courses of action has the highest likelihood of getting the account where you need it to be?

From my experience, this is where the “art” of Customer Success comes into play. Initially you might pick growth activities that simply don’t work. Perhaps the same playbook will work on another account, or the timing was off. Don’t be disheartened; as long as you are tracking results and updating your CRM, you should be able to learn from your experiments and get better at prescribing the correct course of action, at the right time, for the right account. 

Depending on the activity chosen, you might also need to work collaboratively with your marketing department, product managers, or others on the account team. Getting buy-in will be easier — you’ll be able to clearly outline your hypothesis, citing current account value, metrics, and your rationale for taking a specific set of actions.

Regardless of how many new opportunities result from your efforts, contextualizing your customers in this way and explaining why you’ve elected these specific actions will make you look like a rock star in the eyes of your growth-oriented sales leadership!

Adam Azoff is a Customer Success leader passionate about growing and scaling companies by building incredible customer success and sales programs. You can follow Adam on Linkedin and Medium.

This article is based on an original post by Adam which can be found here.

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