Customer SuccessA Solutions-Oriented Approach to Technology Sales

Successfully climbing the top of a steep rock on a beautiful summer morning

You will notice that one of the new curated job channels we have on the site relates to Customer Success jobs. These jobs are an exciting new category that came out of the Software as a Service (SaaS) boom of the last decade. Customer Success jobs are now being broadly adopted by enterprise and cloud software companies. These roles marry traditional sales with deeper customer engagement, technical consulting and solutions management — providing both the customer and the employee a richer, more rewarding experience, and resulting in better sales and better retention.

What is Customer Success Management

Customer Success Management is the marriage of traditional enterprise sales with operations, technology and customer domain expertise to deliver quality customer solutions and help customers to extract maximum value from the product. These are akin to Technical Account Managers, in the pre-SaaS technology era of the 1990s. Customer success coordinates technology, product and account service teams to help the customer maximize their utility from a SaaS product suite, thereby driving up-sell and retention.

There is a perception that customer success is basically customer service or support, or worse, it’s just a dressed up version of sales. At pioneering SaaS companies and emerging startups, customer success is more than a buzzword. It’s an organizational shift, and customer success teams are empowered to work cross-functionally to solve customer problems, thereby effectively creating a virtuous feedback loop between sales, marketing and product. So from a jobseeker perspective, it’s important to look for these jobs, but also diligence what the role entails at the organization you were considering joining.

What Makes a Good Customer Success Manager

At Tapwage, we are seeing a sharp rise of Customer Success jobs, both within large tech organizations as well as in emerging SaaS startups. These are typically roles within mid-level sales, or technology. A 4-year degree followed by 3 to 5 years of experience in a client-facing role is typically required. Some companies seek technical experience, or even computer science degrees, but this isn’t common or always required. The key skills of customer success specialists and managers are:

  • Strong communication and client management skills. Prior client interaction experience, especially with large enterprise clients is really useful.

  • Domain expertise in the client’s field. This often helps in crafting effective solutions for clients by better understanding their workflow and pressure points.

  • Excellent internal leadership and management skills. This is critical, especially in CSM roles at larger organizations where the Customer Success Manager often has to work across functions to deliver the client solution.

  • An understanding of technology and an ability to speak a technology language. This doesn’t mean a computer science degree, or an ability to code, but it requires a degree of comfort talking to technology teams both internally or at a client in driving a successful solution.

Who are These Roles Perfect For?

We think these roles are great for a wide variety of professionals who meet the above criteria, but can also be really effective career stepping stones for the following types of professionals:

  • Technology-focused individuals with great people skills looking to make the leap to a sales or marketing role in the future

  • Junior and mid-level enterprise sales individuals looking to build on a career path towards product marketing and management

  • Technology Account Managers looking to further build on customer skills in a more strategic client facing role

Customer Success Management and Account Management are Different

Customer Success Manager’s are seen as proactive in their approach to customers vs account managers. They have a holistic view of the clients needs and relationship with the organization, and are focused on retention, renewal and life-time customer management. Account Managers are focused on metrics like up-sell and day to day account support. They are both sometimes required in an organization, so if you see an organization with only customer success roles, it is worth doing your diligence on whether these roles are really empowered or whether the company merely changed account manager titles.

We think this is a new category of jobs that creates a much more interesting sales dynamic, and it requires a new category of professionals who can wear a range of hats within an organization. As technology companies continue to move to the cloud and subscription solutions these roles become more critical to ensuring that customers fully benefit and appreciate the value of the products.

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Pathfinder Paul is a team of Tapwage writers and guest contributors who discuss career paths and how to navigate important transitions in your career