- Customer Value Led Growth
- The 3 most valuable CSM skills in 2024
The 3 most valuable CSM skills in 2024
Hi, Markus here. Welcome to a free edition of the Customer-Value-Led-Growth Newsletter.
Every week, I share strategies, guides, and frameworks to help you create exceptional value for your customers and company.
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There’s a lot of debate about the most important skills in Customer Success. You will find a gazillion of blog posts and other content about it.
It’s quite strange as many of them feature lists up to containing 20 different ones.
If there are already 20 most important ones, how many skills CSMs should possess in total?
My next question would be how you could excel or at least become good in all of them.
It’s quite symptomatic for the Customer Success space though. Where “more” is still associated with better while its focus is the magic potion.
Focus on the right customers, the right activities, and growing the right skills.
As you know, I’m obsessed with delivering, growing, and monetizing Customer Value.
Consequently, today’s episode is all about the 3 skills with the highest impact in this regard:
1. Active Listening
The better you understand your customers’ needs the more likely you can help them become successful.
This is pretty straightforward. Like a doctor making a diagnosis to treat your illness with the right therapy.
It’s astonishing how many CSMs skip the discovery and entirely rely on the information they get from the sales handoff.
How are your colleagues from sales supposed to identify the education and training your customers need to become successful?
You need to use the information to follow up and find out.
It’s not about you
What I find irritating is when CSMs have conversations with their customers and they are doing all the talking.
I get it, you want to impress your customers with a show of force. But that’s the wrong way.
Your customers don’t want to hear about everything that’s on your mind. They want to feel heard.
In your customer conversations, you should be talking 20% of the time and spend 80% listening.
Like peeling an onion you are asking open questions to understand
why a problem exists
what customers have tried so far to solve it
their current skill level and knowledge
The cause of reactive work
Failing to understand your customers’ needs comes at high costs. Your customers are not patient.
They are not ok with proceeding in a trial-and-error fashion until you eventually find the right angle.
The result is escalations causing firefighting, band-aiding, and quick-fixing. It’s time-consuming, energy-draining, and very often it’s too late and futile.
What you essentially do is place bets and every time you are wrong, it’s backfiring. That’s how you get stuck in an infinite loop of reactive work.
I put Active Listening first on the list for a reason. You can progress super fast because every conversation is an opportunity to practice.
And most likely, you will always ask more or less the same questions.
What’s different are the answers. As an additional benefit, you will build trust in the shortest amount of time.
Because all customers want to feel heard and understood. As a CSM, one of your many roles is to act as a business therapist.
Taking your customers from A to B is the essence of being a CSM. To do so you need to identify your customers’ needs that are defined by
the problems they need to solve
the level of skills and knowledge they currently possess
Hopefully, the second part rings a bell as the second part accurately describes the purpose of a Customer Success Plan.
Unless you are offering (paid) professional services, you can’t offer problem-solving in a done-for-you or done-with-you fashion.
Because you don’t have enough time to spend. Instead, you need to enable your customers to solve their problems on their own.
How? By providing training and education to build the skills and knowledge they require.
That means your problem-solving abilities need to be transferred to the services and content you provide.
If you are e.g. running a group training you need to build it with a clear goal in mind.
Instead of providing broad information your customers can find in dozens of blog posts as well.
The X parts of a Customer Demo → How to make demos customer-centric
How to run projects efficiently → How to eliminate scope creep
How to increase employee engagement → How to create tailored employee success plans
Improving your problem-solving skills requires patience. There’s not the same small scope and high repetition as with Active Listening.
Customers need to solve different problems and start from different positions.
As pointed out before, you need to provide specific inputs to enable customers to solve specific problems.
That requires building sufficient subject expertise. How else could you transfer knowledge your customers don’t possess?
There are 3 effective ways to grow your skills and knowledge:
follow thought leaders in the field
use your L&D budget to buy courses and training on the subject
learn from your best-performing customers (to help the other 95%)
Armed with subject expertise you are ready to create the services and content that help customers solve their problems
Guides, E-books and Tutorials
Webinars and Training
following a certain methodology. Every input starts as a hypothesis that gets validated through its application.
Measured by the % of customers being enabled to solve the targeted problem. A solution becomes viable if it delivers the intended outcomes with high accuracy.
The success of the content and services you provide does not only depend on your subject expertise and problem-solving skills.
Your customers need to be able to absorb and apply their learnings.
That’s why I keep saying that former teachers are a great addition to any CS team. The ability to effectively transfer knowledge is a big advantage.
But that does not mean you can’t become an effective teacher for your customers without formal education and classroom experience.
If you have dedicated yourself to active listening and practicing problem-solving you have already made your life easier.
Through engaging in conversations you understand not only what your customers need but also how they are ticking.
Do they need detailed guidance? Hand-holding? Just a little spark to light the fire?
As your subject expertise is growing, you should also have an easier time making your inputs more simple and digestible by design.
The key to improving your ability to transfer knowledge is meaningful customer feedback. That means you need to understand what works, what does not, and why.
If only 50% of your customers can solve a specific problem after attending your group training session you need to improve.
You need to talk to your customers about what was missing, unclear, redundant, etc.
It’s equally important to understand what works and why to identify best practices you can transfer to other areas.
That could include everything from content, style, and format.
If you want to do yourself a favor, don’t stop at getting customer feedback through surveys.
Your customers are the most powerful source for improving your performance.
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