The two barriers to entry in Customer Success: SaaS experience and Domain experience

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Kevin Mitchell Leonor
Kevin Mitchell Leonor Member Posts: 248 Expert
First Comment Name Dropper First Anniversary
edited February 2021 in CS Org Conversations
Hello GGR,

I'm working with some aspiring CS professionals who are not getting traction and it is no secret that SaaS experience is the number one barrier to entry.

So I want to pose a question, what do we define as SaaS experience and what are some complementing experiences an outside candidate can use to show ability to work in our environment.

My opinion is that they need to show ability to work cross-functionally, in a fluid and everchanging environment, with limited supervision, and without clear defined processes.

What are your thoughts?
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  • Susan Maarup
    Susan Maarup Member Posts: 8 Contributor
    First Anniversary
    edited February 2021
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    @Kevin Mitchell Leonor thank you for posing this question to the community and for sharing your thoughts on top competencies.  I am one of those professionals looking to bring my years of experience with customer relationship building, end-to-end project management, and team collaboration from the hospitality industry to the SaaS world.  My goal is to be able to articulate how those skills translate into relevant experience, placing me in a position to be just as qualified as any other candidate. 

    I am really interested in hearing thoughts from other leaders on this topic.  

     
  • Jeremy Mulder
    Jeremy Mulder Member Posts: 26 Expert
    First Anniversary
    edited March 2021
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    Great question, @Kevin Mitchell Leonor. I'm a domain generalist and have SaaS and non-SaaS experience in many Customer Success roles (IC-->CCO).  When experience is the barrier, I think substitution skills are the path forward. Here is an initial framework I use when hiring CSM candidates with no prior experience (in SaaS, in the domain, in Customer Success, in a mission driven company, in startups, etc).

    Does adding this candidate to the team make it more likely we will:

    • Achieve our Company Mission?
    • Increase our current best understanding of how best to reach that destination?
    • Increase our ability to execute against the plan?
    An observation: 



    image


    Want to join a community? Bring overlapping experience. Expert communities require greater overlap for admission; the less overlap, the more likely the community sees you as an outsider and excludes you from the candidate pool. Hiring mangers use overlap in experience as a proxy for hiring as it allows them to answer yes to the framework questions re: mission, plan, and execution.

    A way to overcome this general rule: use your substitution skills.

    The legal tech company seeks candidates who are lawyers with experience in both customer success and B2B SaaS. If you lack that combination of experience, then be prepared to challenge the hiring manager's notion that you are an outsider. Here are are few ways to do so:

    CS Outsider

    • Background is a related field: Account management? Support? Service? Technical implementation? Relationship management? etc
    • Take CS certification courses. Certifications can be a proxy for experience.
    • Be honest: we are all CS outsiders! The field is still fresh and evolving. Speak to how you've been doing some version of this all along, just by a different name.
    • Provide examples of exuding these traits:
      • Curiosity - The ability to understand a customer's or colleague's context through asking questions and listening
      • Work Ethic - Pursuing the company mission with a high degree of energy and daily activity
      • Outcome Focused - Set objectives. Measure progress. Drive to completion.
      • Solution Oriented Empathy - The ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and be their trusted advisor on the journey towards a (mutual) goal.
      • Cross-Functional Magician - The ability to listen, converse, locate the right resource, convey, guide, align, support, and lead tasks to completion with both internal and external actors.

    Business Outsider

    • Provide examples of business activities similar to SaaS or desired business model:
      • Consulting and customer facing roles in a large corp are similar to B2B
      • Retail, hospitality, and restaurant experience are similar to B2C
      • Prior experience working for a company that is a customer of the company you are applying to
      • Prior startup experience
      • Aptitude, experience, and love of constant change and new technology

    Subject Matter Domain Outsider

    • Provide examples of relevant similarities:
      • Paralegal, law librarian, law student, and pre-law major are similar to a lawyer
    • Point to areas of your life where you live the mission of the company

    If you can make a convincing case that you are not an outsider, great, do it. If not, (perhaps because you are an outsider and/or perhaps because the experts of that community really only accept other experts), then consider moving onto another job opportunity or consider ways to get that experience elsewhere (school, internships, different jobs within the company, etc). On a personal note, try as I might, despite my interest and experiences, the local genetics company sees me as domain outsider and won't hire me. So I'll keep moving on.

    Thanks for the great question. Interested to see what others have to say on the subject...

  • Melina Oliveira
    Melina Oliveira Member Posts: 1 Navigator
    edited March 2021
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    That's such a broad and helpful answer, @Jeremy Mulder. Thank you a lot for putting the time to write it.  It made me re-consider a few of my own steps in tis process.

    I also think that if you don't have experience with SaaS directly, you can try to leverage your experience working with SaaS products/solutions/tools in your previous role for a non-SaaS company. This was my case while working on a craft brewery as B2B account manager and having a close relationship with customer success managers from our Inventory Management System, our Project Management system and so on... 

    SaaS is still a relatively new business model and it keeps growing on a lightfast rate. So I believe that at some point CS executives and recruiters will have to consider professionals without the direct SaaS experience and value indirect and cross-functional related experience. 

    The extra challenge at the moment is, of course, the devastating and global effect of the pandemic in the job market.... so many folks lost their jobs that it disproportionally increased the offer of professionals from all sorts of industry backgrounds and experiences. 

    Interested to hear what others have been experiencing about it. 

    Great question, @Kevin Mitchell Leonor. I'm a domain generalist and have SaaS and non-SaaS experience in many Customer Success roles (IC-->CCO).  When experience is the barrier, I think substitution skills are the path forward. Here is an initial framework I use when hiring CSM candidates with no prior experience (in SaaS, in the domain, in Customer Success, in a mission driven company, in startups, etc).

    Does adding this candidate to the team make it more likely we will:

    • Achieve our Company Mission?
    • Increase our current best understanding of how best to reach that destination?
    • Increase our ability to execute against the plan?
    An observation: 



    image


    Want to join a community? Bring overlapping experience. Expert communities require greater overlap for admission; the less overlap, the more likely the community sees you as an outsider and excludes you from the candidate pool. Hiring mangers use overlap in experience as a proxy for hiring as it allows them to answer yes to the framework questions re: mission, plan, and execution.

    A way to overcome this general rule: use your substitution skills.

    The legal tech company seeks candidates who are lawyers with experience in both customer success and B2B SaaS. If you lack that combination of experience, then be prepared to challenge the hiring manager's notion that you are an outsider. Here are are few ways to do so:

    CS Outsider

    • Background is a related field: Account management? Support? Service? Technical implementation? Relationship management? etc
    • Take CS certification courses. Certifications can be a proxy for experience.
    • Be honest: we are all CS outsiders! The field is still fresh and evolving. Speak to how you've been doing some version of this all along, just by a different name.
    • Provide examples of exuding these traits:
      • Curiosity - The ability to understand a customer's or colleague's context through asking questions and listening
      • Work Ethic - Pursuing the company mission with a high degree of energy and daily activity
      • Outcome Focused - Set objectives. Measure progress. Drive to completion.
      • Solution Oriented Empathy - The ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and be their trusted advisor on the journey towards a (mutual) goal.
      • Cross-Functional Magician - The ability to listen, converse, locate the right resource, convey, guide, align, support, and lead tasks to completion with both internal and external actors.

    Business Outsider

    • Provide examples of business activities similar to SaaS or desired business model:
      • Consulting and customer facing roles in a large corp are similar to B2B
      • Retail, hospitality, and restaurant experience are similar to B2C
      • Prior experience working for a company that is a customer of the company you are applying to
      • Prior startup experience
      • Aptitude, experience, and love of constant change and new technology

    Subject Matter Domain Outsider

    • Provide examples of relevant similarities:
      • Paralegal, law librarian, law student, and pre-law major are similar to a lawyer
    • Point to areas of your life where you live the mission of the company

    If you can make a convincing case that you are not an outsider, great, do it. If not, (perhaps because you are an outsider and/or perhaps because the experts of that community really only accept other experts), then consider moving onto another job opportunity or consider ways to get that experience elsewhere (school, internships, different jobs within the company, etc). On a personal note, try as I might, despite my interest and experiences, the local genetics company sees me as domain outsider and won't hire me. So I'll keep moving on.

    Thanks for the great question. Interested to see what others have to say on the subject...