CSMs and Sales Reps Share More Similarities Than You Think

When you are with a group of CSMs, the word “Sales” often incites contorted facial expressions, bad jokes and inevitably the analogy of the “used car salesperson”.

Although sales jokes might be funny while having a drink with your CSM buddies after work, that perception is for the most part misguided.  Keeping it real, there are indeed sales reps that are deserving of the “used car salesperson” reputation, and we have all encountered them.  Fortunately, those types of sales reps are few and far between.

I was a CSM (aka customer advocate, account manager) for several years early in my career.  Since then I have worked with, interacted with and trained hundreds of CSMs.  When I ask a CSM to identify someone they consider to be a good sales rep they have worked with and why, they typically recall a sales rep who genuinely cared about his/her customers, followed by a list of attributes they like about that rep.  That list of attributes will invariably be similar to the following:

“Jennifer understands the business issues our solution solves; she understands the customer’s needs; she sets proper expectations with the customers regarding the capabilities of our solution and timeline for implementation…”

CSMs and Sales Reps Utilize Similar Skills

The people in your company who interact with your customers the most (CSMs), and who have (directly or indirectly) the most significant financial impact on your bottom line, have most likely never been trained in customer interaction and persuasion skills.

Most CSMs do not consider themselves salespeople in any way, shape or form and have no desire to become a sales rep.  Yet the most effective CSMs leverage many of the same skills and sensibilities as today’s effective B2B salespeople.

Successful CSMs help their customers achieve desired outcomes by engaging with the right people at the customer, provide timely guidance and convincing the customer to follow a proven, successful path to achieve specific outcomes, even though the customer may want to take a different path.  To persuade the customer to follow a particular path, the CSM must have credibility and finesse.  The customer engagement skills utilized by successful CSMs include:

  • Building relationships, up and across the customer organization
  • Gaining trust
  • Articulating value
  • Influencing the customer
  • Guiding the customer through a defined process
  • Continually moving the ball forward to the desired outcome

Guess what?  Those are precisely the skills successful B2B sales rep uses to move a prospect down a sales path to achieve their desired outcome, a signed contract from a new customer.

CSMs Come From a Variety of Backgrounds… But NOT Typically Sales

Most CSMs moved into the CSM role from an operational area such as support, professional services, marketing, development, etc.  Right or wrong, most CSMs do not follow the path of moving from a sales role to a customer success role.

As a result, most CSMs have never been trained on the customer engagement and persuasion skills outlined above.  Yet, CSMs likely have more interactions with your customers than anyone else in your company.

CSMs are Your Customer’s Primary Point of Contact

Let that sink in for a moment…the group of people in your company who interacts with your customers the most, and the group who has (directly or indirectly) the most significant financial impact on your bottom line has most likely never been trained in customer interaction and persuasion skills.

That should change!

What is the Solution?

Invest in the right skills for your CSMs.

As a practitioner and advocate in the Customer Success industry and a firm believer in investing in your people, I cringe when I see companies put their team members in the highly impactful role of a CSM without the proper training, especially given substantial revenue impact of the CSM team.

If you manage a team of CSMs who are proficient at the customer engagement and persuasion skills outlined above, you are one of the lucky few.  If your CSM team has not been trained in customer engagement and persuasion (aka sales) skills, I highly recommend you get them professional training on these types of skills ASAP.  More precisely, I do not recommend you train your CSMs on the latest sales “methodology”, but train them on the fundamentals of customer engagement and persuasion.

Coming up next… The Customer Engagement and Persuasion Skills CSMs Proficiency; CSMs Potential Impact on Revenue, Churn and Customer Satisfaction.


Bill Goocher TechCXO Partner and Customer Success expert

Bill Goocher leads TechCXO’s Customer Success practice as Partner, Customer Success.  In this role, Bill and his team provide fractional executive and strategic consulting services related to Customer Success.  Additionally, Bill leverages his combined experience in Customer Success and Sales to conduct onsite CSM Engagement & Persuasion/Sales Skills workshops customized to the unique needs of his clients.  Bill can be reached at bill.goocher@techcxo.com, 727-773-1121 (m).  You can view Bill’s full bio here.