Why A Salesperson’s Best Friend Should Be Their CSM

“Customer Success is where 90% of the revenue is.” – Jason Lemkin at the 2015 Gainsight Pulse conference.

In other words, the bulk of revenue is no longer sourced from the initial sale but from renewal, upsell and cross-sell opportunities that exist down the road with your customer’s success.

Knowing this, the key to hitting your sales quota will largely depend on how well you work with your customer success manager (CSM) given their focus on making your customers successful and tapping into these high-potential revenue reservoirs.

There are three key reasons you’ll want to be best friends with your CSM.

1. Effective selling = good storytelling = real customer success stories

Stories are one of the greatest ways to engage your prospect and inspire change/action. As Dale Carnegie said, “He who can arouse in the other person an eager want, has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.”

This is because as humans we’re genetically wired to favor stories: we retain only 5-10% of information shared through statistics but 65-70% when these stats are accompanied by a story.   

While the persuasive power of storytelling is well understood, it’s worth evaluating what makes for a good story and how customer success could be the key to unlocking more potent ones.

For a story to be powerful, and elicit the intended action (purchase), it must:

    1. Have a beginning, middle and end and;

    2. Be relevant and meaningful to the individual prospect

#1 – The story structure

As stories have saturated the selling process – everybody now has a story, even your grandma’s gardener “has a dream” – our modern day prospects (or suspects) are more scrutinizing.

This means you emphatically do not want to tell a beginning-to-end tale describing how results meet expectations. This is boring and banal, and likely seen as BS. Instead, you want to display the real struggle between expectation and reality in all its nastiness. Offer the good, the bad, the ugly: the whole story. This increases your credibility in the eyes of the prospect.

Walk them through how the hero (resembling them) overcame challenges not just during the sales process but post-sales too. How after an early blow perhaps, maybe a disastrous user training or onboarding experience, the hero still emerged victorious using your solution.

In short, give real customer stories. Not just Chapter One (pre-sales) but Chapters 2 and beyond (post-sale).


Alas, to craft better stories, you’re going to need to find out what actually happened to your heroes after you sold to them. Generalizations won’t cut it for our cunning audience; they are too easy to forget. The devil is in the details. Specifics – concrete deliverables, metrics, difficulties etc. – are more memorable so tap into these.

You may like to start by asking your CSM some of the following questions:

  • Did the hero stumble? (Did we face technical challenges when onboarding?)
  • When they fell, what was it on? Was there severe bleeding? (What was the first challenge? Did we lose any buy-in/momentum?)
  • Who else came to assist? (Did we bring in other stakeholders?)
  • How long before they made it to that first peak? (What was the time-to-value? When did they reach their first value milestone?)
  • When the hero looked back, what was their overall feeling? (Were they relieved, delighted, disappointed…?)
  • What’s the next summit? (What’s the next milestone?)

Remember, as the old credo goes, “‘If you want to be interesting, be interested.

#2 – Stories need to be relevant and meaningful

The other key to making a story impactful is making sure it’s relevant to your prospect. The problems and goals of your protagonist need to mirror those of the prospect.

This means one story won’t fit all. You’re going to need stories that fit an XS, S, M, L and XL company – in a range of colors that suit different personas too.

Who has the raw materials for manufacturing these shirts? Your CSM, of course. They have all the details you need to pull together the right shirt (or short story) that will fit your prospect best.

I recently had one of my AEs ask me how we’ve helped customers (similar to their prospect) who are still new to ABM execute on this strategy. Not only could I share a good example of one customer who’s successfully used Node to do this, but I could let the customer do the talking, and happily made the intro.

So if you haven’t already, set up a weekly meeting with your CSM, or better yet, take them to lunch and find out what happened to those long-lost heroes (the prospects from a while back). Value-based storytelling is an expectation in today’s competitive sales environment.

2. Effective selling = refining you ICP = knowing what customers are successful

In the SaaS economy, it pays to take into account not only if prospects are “ready, willing and able to buy…the baseline characteristics of an Ideal Customer Profile” as Lincoln Murphy at Sixteen Ventures says. “But you can do even better by applying the value-add inputs of Successful, Efficient Acquisition, Expansion, and Advocacy Potential.”

After sitting with your CSM and learning more about what happened to your customers down the road, you’ll be in a better position to refine your Ideal Customer Profile and laser focus on those that will bring in bigger dividends later, as well as dollars now.

Can you together identify common characteristics among those customers that churned or failed to realize the full potential of your solution?

If prospects aren’t sticking around and aren’t growing this can undermine your own ability to hit quota. Particularly, if your business adopts a customer success driven mindset and has it such that you receive commission based on renewal and upsell values from that customer.

3. Effective selling = adding value = bringing in CSMs into your sales process

We’ve heard time and time again, that the most successful salespeople are those that add value during the sales process. Despite this, “80% of buyers said that the salesperson did not ‘educate them with new ideas and perspectives’” according to RAIN Group’s ‘Insights Selling’.

So what are some of the ways you can add value?

Start by bringing in your CSM before the deal closes. As mentioned earlier, the CSM can provide invaluable customer stories to help educate your buyer. They also can work with you and the buyer to ensure expectations will be met by your team/solution, which reduces churn risk.

Further, adding the CSM to this meeting 1) gives them valuable context needed to efficiently onboard the customer, expediting their time-to-value, 2) serves to reduce the knowledge transfer burden required of you post-sales and 3) helps them develop the relationship with key stakeholders to ensure ongoing success. Hence it’s a winning play all around – for you, the CSM, the customer and your company.

So take a moment to think for a second, if you’re an AE, “How close are you with your CSMs?” If you’re a sales leader, “How close are you with your CS leader(s)?”

If you cannot answer this with, “We’re basically Batman & Robin,” then you’re almost certainly undermining your potential to close more deals. If you align, you’ll increase the bottom line.

Emilie is a Customer Success Manager at Node; the first Account Based Intelligence platform making the 1:1 sales and marketing dream a reality. She co-organizes the San Francisco Customer Success Meetups and is a contributor at SharpHeels. Biking, coffee & technology are a few of her favorite things. You can follow her on Twitter @emilieldavis3

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