Is being a Customer Success Manager a Sales Job?

is customer success manager a sales job
Is customer success manager a sales job?

Some people possess the gift of the gab. There are heaps of cliches: they can sell you the shirt off your own back, could sell ice to an eskimo, etc. For me, this scene from Wolf of Wall Street comes to mind.

It’s… um… a nice pen?

Safe to say, they know people and what to say to get them to part with their hard-earned cash. Give that Customer Success Managers work so closely with people as well, does this mean that it’s a sales job? That’s what I’m going to talk about in today’s blog.

Well yes… but no.

In the purest sense, Customer Success Managers are sales people. Before you scream and run for the hills, away from all those scary KPIs, hear me out. While there is still some muddiness around what a CSM’s job entails, you don’t have to pick up a phone, cold call and close deals. You don’t even have to close warm deals (inbound).

Customer Success Managers should only work with existing customers, who have been handed over from the sales team. Once more, for those in the back: Customer Success Managers should only work with existing customers, who have been handed over from the sales team.

You might find some roles that state that there might be sales involved. Those companies either:

  • don’t know what Customer Success is,
  • are smaller companies, trying to “buy” a BDM and CSM bundled into one (stay away from these companies),
  • are still trying to figure out exactly what they need for their business at that stage (also stay away from these companies).

A well-oiled tech company has a sales team (or even just a sales person) who handles everything pre-sales, before doing a clean hand over to you so you can help that customer start using the SaaS solution.

Note: there’s nothing wrong with companies who have a single salesperson and CSM. I’ve worked in that set up before, building a good relationship with sales (critical for increasing customer confidence in the business) such that we could see each others’ blind spots.

Bigger tech companies that have been in the game longer will talk about specific ratios of AE (Account Executives) and CSMs, whether there should be more sales or more CS, but that’s a topic for another article.

So what did you mean that CS is a sales role then?

While CS doesn’t have any sales targets to hit, they should still see themselves as a salesperson, in the sense that they’re trying to build a relationship and encourage the customer to invest time and energy into it as well. Besides money, there are several things that a customer can give to a tech company that’s valuable:

  • Testimonials: positive, on-the-record comments that can encourage prospects sitting on the fence to come over,
  • Product Dev Sessions: when the product and engineering teams are trying to get input on new features, a 30 minute conversation with customers can clear up blockers and put the company on the right track,
  • Positive Word of Mouth: the most powerful conversations are the ones that the CSM isn’t a part of. What the customers say to other customers or prospects that we don’t know about is ultimately one of the strongest votes of confidence, in that it’s unsolicited. The only way we know about it is if a new customer joins and specifically mentions that they only heard good things from another existing customer. And when that involves you as their CSM… fewer things can make your day!

The above list isn’t exhaustive but they are all valuable when it comes how customers can help tech companies. They won’t enthusiastically agree to help right out of the gate. It only comes when they feel that the value they’ve gained has exceeded their expectations and that it’s only fair that they give something back.

So yes, when you do become a Customer Success Manager, see yourself as a salesperson, even if you aren’t knocking down doors and dialing for dollars. Your job is as important, if not more important…er.

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