CSM and Sales Responsibilities - who has the time???

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BenB
BenB Member Posts: 76 Expert
5 Insightfuls Name Dropper Combo Breaker First Comment
edited August 2023 in CS Org Conversations

Since there was a healthy amount of discussion on this topic during today's Office Hours call, I ifgured I'd continue the discussion. 

In effort to share work and not just ideas ill detail how we are currently setup.   Today the CSM is responsible for all renewals and expansion.  Depending on the product/service they are trying to promote they will leverage a sales executive to come help with demo and sales cycle.  I joined my current company to first help with renewals and build a more repeatable process and second to then build out account management (with CS department).  

I do not think there is one right answer on this subject because so much can depend on the complexity of the product being sold, the solution your customers are trying to implement etc... I think we struggle with these questions becasue we're all managing this in phases.  Even if you think CSMs shouldn't be managing upsell i doubt you can just hire 10 great Account Managers over night.  Meaning CSMs will be resonsible until there is a new team in place etc... 

I think its possible (but difficult) for a CSM to stay a "trusted Advisor" while trying to upsell. However i think the greatest issue will be focus and time.  

If I'm a CSM and have been tasked with helping 25-50 customers adot a complex solution, AND I've been tasked with an aggressive quota of upsell. The CSM will keep focus on the adoption and fail at the expansion.  Likewise, you give an account manager an agressive quota and also tell them to drive significant adoption ... they will fail at one.   

Telling a CSM to grow this base by a small % is one thing. but to have an agressive account management campaign takes significant amount of work. A lot of time is needed to prospect and study the true opporutnity within a terrirtory, put together sales pitches and be practiced, manage opportunities and sales cycles, ask for the sale and NOT leave anyone behind....  

I also think CSMs have it in them to succeed in either... but when I start looking at the true potential of upsell in our existing user base, and then consider the effort it will take to close even 30% of that potential I'm not sure my CSMs would have the time.  Somethin would suffer. 

So I think much of this quetsion depends on how agressive are our growth plans?  and do you expect someone to acheive these company goals with divided attention.   Hopefully this helps fuel some brainstorming :) 

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  • Ed Powers
    Ed Powers Member Posts: 180 Expert
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    edited August 2020
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    Totally agree, @Ben Bunting. The other issue is division of labor and specialization. Skills improve the more tasks are repeated. In my view, we expect far too much of CSMs--we want them to be project managers, teachers, change managers, marketers, AR clerks, technical experts, and salespeople--making them mediocre at all of it. Given customers engage in the buying cycle only about 3% of the time, why not bring in the specialists when a professional job is required?
  • Brian Hartley
    Brian Hartley Member Posts: 185 Expert
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    edited August 2020
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    Agree 100%.  As we are a small organization we ask an awful lot of our CSMs which leads me to fear burnout.  What has helped me is alignment with our sales director as well as the leadership team.  Our CEO is a sales guy by trade which can make this a tricky subject to navigate.

  • Ja'Rod Morris
    Ja'Rod Morris Member Posts: 16 Thought Leader
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    edited August 2020
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    Hi @Ben Bunting, new to the community here. I was part of a small organization that asked CSM's to manage renewals as well as some upsells, in addition to core CSM functions. As part of the renewals, we were measured on increasing ACV a part of the renewal negotiation cycle, to your point. In terms of pure upsell, there was high-level delineation depending on if the additional revenue was a new add-on to the solution, or if the customer wanted to expand their existing investment (by adding additional licenses, geographies, or business units). There was much gray area here, and I recognize the challenge small companies face in this arena. At the same time, we had a small, but effective Enterprise sales team that could handle these deals, so there was much confusion around who should drive these opportunities, and what the collaboration should look like internally. What I have found is that something has to take priority, so it's either: 
    • The customer's success with the solution is the priority (based on how success has been mutually defined between the organization and that customer), even over upsells, OR
    • Upsells are the priority, even over the other factors that drive the customer's success. 
    There should be a guiding principle on what takes the lead when the decision has to be made. There are companies that can do both, but therein still lies the question of how effective they are at doing so. I'm an advocate for the former, as customers that can see measurable progress being made on mutually agreed upon objectives are more apt to increase their investment, versus the CSM feeling pressure to add sales items to the agenda, even if there are other items that take priority. 

    One other thought, a team may be able to use less Account Manager bandwidth if the CSMs are trained to effectively identify opportunities, and engage an Account Manager / Account Executive accordingly to close the opportunity. 

    ------------------------------
    Ja'Rod Morris
    Tribe Strategy
    ------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 07-30-2020 14:18
    From: Ben Bunting
    Subject: CSM and Sales Responsibilities - who has the time???

    Since there was a healthy amount of discussion on this topic during today's Office Hours call, I ifgured I'd continue the discussion. 

    In effort to share work and not just ideas ill detail how we are currently setup.   Today the CSM is responsible for all renewals and expansion.  Depending on the product/service they are trying to promote they will leverage a sales executive to come help with demo and sales cycle.  I joined my current company to first help with renewals and build a more repeatable process and second to then build out account management (with CS department).  

    I do not think there is one right answer on this subject because so much can depend on the complexity of the product being sold, the solution your customers are trying to implement etc... I think we struggle with these questions becasue we're all managing this in phases.  Even if you think CSMs shouldn't be managing upsell i doubt you can just hire 10 great Account Managers over night.  Meaning CSMs will be resonsible until there is a new team in place etc... 

    I think its possible (but difficult) for a CSM to stay a "trusted Advisor" while trying to upsell. However i think the greatest issue will be focus and time.  

    If I'm a CSM and have been tasked with helping 25-50 customers adot a complex solution, AND I've been tasked with an aggressive quota of upsell. The CSM will keep focus on the adoption and fail at the expansion.  Likewise, you give an account manager an agressive quota and also tell them to drive significant adoption ... they will fail at one.   

    Telling a CSM to grow this base by a small % is one thing. but to have an agressive account management campaign takes significant amount of work. A lot of time is needed to prospect and study the true opporutnity within a terrirtory, put together sales pitches and be practiced, manage opportunities and sales cycles, ask for the sale and NOT leave anyone behind....  

    I also think CSMs have it in them to succeed in either... but when I start looking at the true potential of upsell in our existing user base, and then consider the effort it will take to close even 30% of that potential I'm not sure my CSMs would have the time.  Somethin would suffer. 

    So I think much of this quetsion depends on how agressive are our growth plans?  and do you expect someone to acheive these company goals with divided attention.   Hopefully this helps fuel some brainstorming :) 



    ------------------------------
    Ben Bunting
    Director of Renewals and Expansion
    ------------------------------
  • BenB
    BenB Member Posts: 76 Expert
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    edited August 2020
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    @Ed Powers - that list of responsibiites gave my hives... but its true.   We can't treat the CS team like a catchall forever. 
  • BenB
    BenB Member Posts: 76 Expert
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    edited August 2020
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    @Brian Hartley - thats critical.  Because as we grow there is no one perfect answer. but having leadership that sees the potential for adjustment makes the path so much easier!  
  • BenB
    BenB Member Posts: 76 Expert
    5 Insightfuls Name Dropper Combo Breaker First Comment
    edited August 2020
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    @Ja'Rod Morris - thanks for sharing! 

    "One other thought, a team may be able to use less Account Manager bandwidth if the CSMs are trained to effectively identify opportunities, and engage an Account Manager / Account Executive accordingly to close the opportunity.  "

    This is where I'm focusing my efforts.  These are valuable skills and processes to establish regardless of the direction and outcome. 
  • Kristoffer Blom
    Kristoffer Blom Member Posts: 1 Navigator
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    edited August 2020
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    Great to read through the comments! I couldnt agree more @Ed Powers. It's been a key focus of mine to ensure that CS in our organization does not come a swiss arming knife that can do everything. Being best is at everything is certainly not possible, and does eventually lead to burn-out and sense of not coming through. Thats simply not satisfying for anyone.

    We are splitting things in order to preserve credibility towards the customer. It may sound cliché, but our focus is service, and to service them well. As goes for the credibility, Sales handles all renewals and upsells while CS focuses on adoption, retention, satisfaction etc. With that being said, CSMs does act as an initial spotter for any opportunities that might come up while working with the individual customers. Any information about possible opportunities is logically fed into Sales to drive and support the upsell.