The Path from Customer Success Manager to Product Manager: Is It Possible?

customer success manager to product manager
customer success manager to product manager

On this blog, I share everything I know about how to get started as a Customer Success Manager. I think it’s a great way to get into tech, using many of the transferable skills that you already have from other jobs. That’s not all I talk about though. More than you becoming a CSM, I care about you having a long, fulfilling career, which is why I also discuss pathways related to CS.

Once you get started in tech, you’ll find that there are other departments that you interact with. Undoubtedly, one of them is Product Management. If you haven’t heard much about Product Management, here it is in a nutshell:

  • the role is known as being the “CEO of the product”,
  • you care about how to make the product the best it can possibly be,
  • it’s very cross collaborative.

It also pays quite well as well. It’s not an easy job though, but for people who are interested in the above key points, it might be a role you consider moving into from Customer Success. Here are some key points to keep in mind if this is you.

Absolutely Ace CS

There is no way in hell that you would be considered for a jump to a different part of the business unless you were already killing it in your current role, period. Arguably, if you were already doing really well in your current role, your manager would probably want you to stay in that role, otherwise you’ll leave her with a headache and a huge hole to fill.

But your strength as a CSM lies in your ability to build customer relationships. That is going to put you in good stead as a PM, as you will still be talking to customers a lot. Leveraging those relationships will become critical in you being successful, especially as you get customers’ feedback on new features.

In terms of “playing the game” though, definitely build a strong case for yourself to be considered for a side step. Management will always be more inclined to consider a strong performer rather than a mediocre one.

Build Strong Relationships

If you do become a Product Manager, you might not feel that your job changes much on some days. Know why? Because just like a CSM, as a PM, you’ll be speaking with people across the business. That’s why as a CSM, you should be building those bridges with people that you will keep working with.

While you should generally be approachable and talk to everyone, you should particularly focus on:

  • engineers, as they build the product you have in mind and you need to consider their workload and resources,
  • designers, as they’re the ones who have to design the product. Like you, they’re really in tune with customer needs and you’ll be working together to build the right thing from the get go.
  • sales/CS/GTM, basically anyone and everyone customer facing. These are people who get all the insights from the customer about the product. They are your fingers on the pulse and should be telling you the moment that a customer doesn’t like something.

If you’re considering a move into PM, start building these relationships yesterday.

Show An Interest In the Product

This sound super obvious, but being product-focused will put you in a good position to be considered for PM roles if and when they pop up. As a CSM, you enable your customer to use digital products well. You’ll cut your fair share of bug tickets and feature requests. There are different levels of dedication though:

  • Low – cut the tickets, forget about them until engineers respond, then mention them in passing to the customer that it’s been acknowledged,
  • Medium – follow up on the tickets, add more context from other customers who have said the same thing, keep the customer in the loop throughout the process,
  • High – become a “mini PM”, where you’re an ambassador for the feature/bug to be fixed, build a strong case for it to be escalated, do customer research, talk about why it should be prioritized, pull every string you have to get eyeballs on it.

I can tell you that it’s a lot of energy to be high dedication but if you are, it won’t go unnoticed. Plus, you can use it as a case study for when you are being interviewed for the position.

So if you’re considering future pathways after becoming a CSM, Product Management is totally possible. Follow these three suggestions and you’re well on your way. Good luck!

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