Customer Success Manager vs. Technical Account Manager – What’s the Difference?

customer success manager vs technical account manager
customer success manager vs technical account manager

I’ve done quite a few comparison posts, looking at Customer Success Manager vs. other seemingly similar positions; this might be the last one for a while. On your job search, you might have seen a few roles that have asked for Technical Account Managers and clicked into them. The JDs had quite a bit of overlap with that of a typical CSM, but the salary guide might have varied quite a bit. In this blog, we’re going to look at what the differences are.

Hard Skills + CSM = Technical Account Manager

The equation above is the simplest way to understand what a Technical Account Manager is. A lot of what they do is the same, I’d say up to 80%. The remaining 20% is where the technical part comes in. What makes companies look for a TAM specifically is their domain knowledge in areas that have a lot of depth. Examples are:

  • network security,
  • cloud platforms,
  • programming languages,
  • data analytics,
  • change management,

These are areas that you can pick up by working in the industry, but it’s far more likely that you learn them via a certification or by working a role that primarily operates in the field. For example, you might be a Network Security Engineer who decides to transition to a Technical Account Manager, or a Ruby on Rails Developer who decides that you want to try a role that’s more human oriented, while still working in your area of expertise.

What if you’re missing the technical skills?

There are Technical Account Manager roles that are within the same salary bracket as Customer Success Manager roles. Their technical requirements are still there, but perhaps they don’t need you to have 5+ years of experience in the field. If you possess some working knowledge of the area and have quite strong soft skills, it’s possible the employer might actually take you on and upskill you.

This is where good, old initiative can make the difference. Say you’re lacking in technical expertise in cloud platforms, but you can demonstrate in contrarian ways that you’ve upskilled yourself over time, e.g. running a blog, newsletter or community that looks at developments in the area, that can work well in your favour.

Who earns more?

So in the previous paragraph, you saw that I mentioned that TAMs and CSMs can be in the same salary bracket. In terms of USD, this can be $60-120K. However, you’re less likely to find Technical Account Manager roles being advertised in this bracket, simply because those who are entering the industry are less likely to possess that technical knowledge.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Some Technical Account Management roles can pay quite well, simply because there’s more of a sales and expansion focus. You take your technical knowledge, combine it with your people and stakeholder management skills and drive adoption and/or change in an organization. Just check out this job listing from five days ago here in Australia.

Customer Success ManagerTechnical Account Manager
Works with people, focus more on soft skillsWorks with people, employed because they possess hard skills in specific domains
Your title might be CSM, but you can actually be quite technical if the industry you’re in requires it. Can allow transition to TAM in the future. You can also get in with initiative and very strong soft skills.Domain knowledge is a prerequisite. Often, people transition from roles whose responsibilities are primarily in the field into a TAM to get a more balanced skill set.
Salary: $60K-$120K USD, $150K+ USD for leadershipSalary: $80-$120K USD, $180K+ USD for very senior/leadership
customer success manager vs technical account manager – table summary

So there you have it. Technical account managers are essentially CSMs with more of a technical, hard skill focus. If you’re trying to transition into a Customer Success role, maybe it makes more sense to transition into Technical Accounts Management if you’re more technical to begin with. What are your thoughts? Keen to hear what role you’re working in now and why you’re moving into Customer Success.

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