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Practicing profitable customer success
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“If you don’t deliver revenue, you’re not sitting at the table,” confided my boss, the Customer Success leader for our company. She reported to the CEO and owned renewals and shared upsell. She owned a piece of the pie and sat at the table with the big kids. She shimmered when she walked.

She imparted this bit of wisdom in an off-hand response to an impromptu question I asked. But sometimes, at work and in life, you get a gift. Clouds dissipate, seas part, and there is a shining truth:

If you’re a cost center, you’re a second class citizen.

Customer Success teams that operate on a cost center/support model may suffer from step-child syndrome. They can struggle to get resources to execute on their mission and can get less recognition than their Sales or Professional Service siblings. This isn’t desirable for the company or the Customer Success team.

If you’re a B2B company selling to enterprises, your customers expect you to deliver valuable services that ensure they are successful. For a 6-figure deal, paying an additional 10-15% as an accelerator or insurance is a no-brainer. Services enterprise customers can leverage include:

  • Premium success
  • Training and workshops

In this post, I’ll focus on training.

Why Customer Success Can Own Training

Customer Success in B2B enterprise companies can own training for obvious reasons:

  • Training/education are key tools that CSMs leverage to help customers realize value
  • CSMs have the right skills to develop and deliver training

For a younger company, the earliest forays into training development don’t start with a “university” project. It starts with customer onboarding. In the first 90 days, customers are trained and educated about your solution. CSMs educate customers via meetings, webinars, newsletters. CSMs can have a great ability to drive traffic to the training.

Resources Needed

For a young or smaller company, the first step is NOT to hire a trainer or curriculum designer. Rather, hire CSMs that have excellent written and spoken communication skills, and who have the other skills that effective trainers have:

  • Listening
  • Public speaking
  • Presentation

You can find talented CSMs who have been trained by consulting firms like Accenture and Deloitte. You can expect these team members to be quite skilled in crafting effective and high value experiences like training.

Partner with your Marketing or Design team to ensure your collateral is as polished as any board or sales deck. While useful and effective content is required, it’s the aesthetic polish that will make the difference for a paid training. Cradling a well-designed binder/package after a great training experience feels fulfilling. Your surveys should reflect this.

First Steps

To get started, create service packages that include a “training” component, like onboarding or targeted training for specific user roles, like admins. Early on your Sales team may find these line items good areas for discounting but you’re educating internal and external partners that training is part of your wheel house.

Regarding the actual training, your earliest modules can be live walk-throughs of polished presentations with structured interactions led by a product expert, your CSM. While not scalable, if effective they are of high value and allow you to rapidly improve your content. Also, when conducted via the Web, can be recorded and saved for the customer. This is a tangible asset they will value and can be added to your QBR as a delivered asset.

As your CSMs gain more domain expertise based on interactions with customers, and through your leadership, they’ll capture best practice. You’ll build playbooks that your CSMs will use and test with customers. You’ll track what works. Eventually, you can develop extended training or workshops.

Training is a great vehicle to help your customer success organization to be more effective and more profitable. It doesn’t take a professor or big technology investment to get early wins. It takes a leader, with the right team to realize a rich vision.

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