Pushing back to Sales and Product (and how it helps your relationship)

Do you want to be taken more seriously as a Customer Success Manager? You need to push back. Here’s how and why pushing back will help you collaborate better with your colleagues.

It was more than ten years ago. My first day as a Customer Success Manager! I barely understood what I was getting into – at that time, I thought *everyone* is a Customer Success Manager, somehow… right?

As CSM’s, we’re masters at putting ourselves into our customers’ shoes. It’s equally important for us to put ourselves into our colleagues’ shoes.

But I think there are two opportunities where we have to push back.

Handing customers back to Sales

Every customer that gets handed over to a Customer Success Manager needs to be properly qualified and discovered. The salesperson needs to fully understand what we are solving for this customer, and why.

I have a set of 4 questions that I believe every handover should answer.

Back on my first day as CSM, I got an email from Sales with an email address – “here’s your new customer”. But I had no idea what the story was. Why the customer signed up. What success looked like.

At the end of the day, you are responsible for churn. And during that first handover, you can create the first problems that will – eventually – lead to churn.

My view on this really changed when I witnessed a power move by one of my CSM colleagues. She just handed a customer back to Sales. “Do your job first”, she said. “So I can do mine”. Goosebumps, right?

It’s your responsibility to make sure that the key questions are answered during handover. If Sales doesn’t take care of that, hand the customer back – until they do.

Pushing back to your customers

“If a request comes from Customer Success”, a friend of mine, who works as a product manager, told me. “It is usually not important.”

What a shock!

We love when our loyal customers want to engage with our solution and make it better. But we can’t just walk to our product managers and tell them about it. It will drive them crazy…

Instead, we need to push back to our customers. This can take different forms:

  • Cut it at the source (“the button is green because researched showed XYZ – so according to this research, a red button wouldn’t help most of our users”)
  • Ask what they want to solve with the feature. “It would be so helpful if I had data on usage of X” – Why would that be the case? And what would it solve? What would the data looks like.

I made it a habit in our monthly get togethers to show the product team the amount of ideas and requests I actively deflected. This was eye-opening for many a product manager, as they suddenly realized that I don’t just come asking anytime a customer says anything.

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