What's the SDR equivalent in Customer Success?

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Jeremy Mulder
Jeremy Mulder Member Posts: 26 Expert
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edited August 2023 in CS Conversations

The SDR is an entry level position that has a direct pathway to future roles (AE, SDR Manager, etc). It adds value to the company. It builds IC experience – in both the subject matter domain and in business. Prior success as an SDR is a proxy for work ethic.

What would the equivalent role look like in CS?  What would be its focus? Its value?

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  • Allastair Meffen
    Allastair Meffen Member, CS Leader Posts: 14 Thought Leader
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    edited March 2021
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    We have an Associate CSM role and within that we can have 2 paths.  One would have them working with a Senior/Principal CSM on their book so they are learning how to handle large enterprise customers at the same time learning what life looks like as a CSM.  We also have Associates with their own book with a lower ACV than a CSM or Senior.
  • Jeremy Mulder
    Jeremy Mulder Member Posts: 26 Expert
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    edited March 2021
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    @Allastair Meffen – Love it! Your reply sparks lots of thoughts here. Has your system been in place long enough to see Associate CSMs get promoted? Do you have a shareable job description for these roles? Any lessons learned from why some CSM Associates work out or don't? How would a CSM answer this question: What is an associate CSM's main value to you, the CS team, and the customer?
  • Allastair Meffen
    Allastair Meffen Member, CS Leader Posts: 14 Thought Leader
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    edited March 2021
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    @Jeremy Mulder - We have had this path in place for 3+ years and we have had a number of Associates get promoted to CSM and we have 3 that have been promoted to Seniors.  When looking for Associates we look a lot for intellectual curiousity and empathy, which I think are two of the most important traits for any CSM.  They are typically coming in either fresh from college or another industry like retail, so we have to teach them how to be professionals along with being CSMs, but I it's hard to teach empathy and intellectual curiousity.  By bringing in an Associate into your organization that early in their career they tend to not have bad habits and you can start to mold them into how you think about customer success.  With that being said you need to have a strong onboarding program and patience because they will need time to develop.  We typically see a 6 to 9 month ramp time but those that get there have shown to be true rock stars.

    Below is our current job description and I have attached our role profile that we use internally when preparing for interviews.

    _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Here are some things you will tackle:

    • Provide web based product training for subscribers
    • Interface with sales and product teams to support client requests and development needs
    • Act as the main point of contact between Definitive Healthcare and your assigned set of clients
    • Uncover additional needs and opportunities where Definitive Healthcare may add value

    What you'll need:

    • BA or BS degree
    • 0-1 year experience in a client facing role
    • Experience working in customer support for a technical product
    • Superior communication skills
    • Ability to learn new concepts quickly
    • Strong attention to detail
    • Energy, humor, compassion, and enthusiasm
  • Jeremy Mulder
    Jeremy Mulder Member Posts: 26 Expert
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    edited March 2021
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    @Allastair Meffen - Fantastic!  Thanks for sharing your experience and resources and shaping how I think about this topic. 

    Hey GGR community – Can others weigh in here? Do you have pre-CSM colleagues that are similar to SDRs?  Why or why not?
  • Nicholas Ciambrello
    Nicholas Ciambrello Member Posts: 27 Expert
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    edited March 2021
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    We use an Onboarding position as the entry level for the CSM path. They get the user up and running understanding everything they need to find first value then we have the CSM roles that are ongoing account managers
  • Jonathan Bolton
    Jonathan Bolton Member Posts: 3 Seeker
    edited March 2021
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    Hey @Jeremy Mulder,



    Interesting question - what makes you ask? I like what @Allastair Meffen and @Nicholas Ciambrello have added, so I'll build on that with a couple additional thoughts: Customer Care and (wait for it...) SDR! What?!?! More in the video for you below -

    image
  • Will Stevenson
    Will Stevenson Member Posts: 16 Thought Leader
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    edited March 2021
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    Hey Jeremy, 

    I love the responses. I think @Jonathan Bolton's video hit the nail on the head. 

    Previously I've moved my team through a Support > CSM > Onboarding path. Here's a visual: 

    image



    As much as possible, I like to start people off on the "golden star". They get experience learning about our software, the customers, the industry as a whole, and the typical pain that our customers feel. It's a really great way to give them all of that experience -- really quickly. From there they can grow upward in that team (Sr., Team Lead, etc.), or out of that team and into a CSM role.

    If they grow into the CSM role, again they start in a Jr role (never displayed in their title or to the customer). Then again, they can grow upward in the team or over to the Onboarding role. In this scenario our Onboarders were actually our most senior team, because the product was really complex. I could see that being reversed if the product onboarding is pretty straightforward. 

    Also, at any time I could see moving people into the center (Ops, Director, etc.) where they would focus on supporting the team, rather than directly supporting the customers. 

    Last note - I've found that the personality traits in CSMs and Onboarders are really different. Usually CSMs are more relationship based people and Onboarders are usually project/task based. So in this model, when you have new employees starting in Customer Support, start looking for those traits to see where they might want to end up.

    That's just my experience though - hope this helps. :) 

    The SDR is an entry level position that has a direct pathway to future roles (AE, SDR Manager, etc). It adds value to the company. It builds IC experience – in both the subject matter domain and in business. Prior success as an SDR is a proxy for work ethic.

    What would the equivalent role look like in CS?  What would be its focus? Its value?

  • Marcus Sparks
    Marcus Sparks Member Posts: 10 Contributor
    First Comment GGR Blogger 2021
    edited March 2021
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    Hi Will,

    I love your thinking here. I would potentially have all three circles in a horizontal line with a fourth circle below, titled Customer Operations Specialist. This is an entry-level position that I recently created to provide a new team member with experience across Customer Operations. The main idea is a talent funnel for CSMs, but depending on skills, aptitude, and personal preference, a COS could choose the Onboarding, Support, or CSM path. We even brought a 10-year veteran of Implementation Management in as a Sr. Customer Operations Specialist during for three months of company onboarding...then a "promotion" to Implementation Manager. I am a fan of the I, II, III progression for titles, to provide plenty of opportunities for promotion and growth within role. Whether or not the I, II, III is customer-facing is a matter of debate and cultural/industry fit. I lean more toward CSM I, II, III being internal and if you are an Enterprise-level CSM who needs the extra kick of a Director title with your customer base, have at it.
  • Jeremy Mulder
    Jeremy Mulder Member Posts: 26 Expert
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    edited March 2021
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    Hi @Jonathan Bolton - First, love the video reply. Thank you for that. Also, I appreciate your insight on customer care/support, SDR, onboarding, and CSM roles – especially the bit about how people rotating through the different roles produces top performers.

    I have a few whys behind the question.
    1. I think in metaphor. I heart evolutionary biology and biomimicry. In Sales, butterfly is to AE as caterpillar is to SDR.  But in CS, butterfly is to CSM as caterpillar is to what?  I stumped myself.  I don't know.  So I'm asking to either find others who know or find others who also don't know. 
    2. If this pre-CSM role exists, how does it benefit the customer, the employee, the team, the business? AEs know the value of SDRs.  I'd love to learn more about how CSMs value the pre-CSM role.
    3. I'd like to help give better actionable direction to people looking to get into CS. CS as a field continues to grow. Lots of people are looking for work. How can I/we more explicitly connect the dots? Job descriptions as currently written are like bad novels that people are supposed to squint at and see themselves relative to the main character. I'd like to put in the work to explore finding a better way. Open to learning out loud here. Interested to see how others on GGR have done it. Most of my experience hiring people for CS roles has been on finding generalists with a passion for knowledge and  A+ people skills. But I've always hired them to be CSM generalists.  I've build teams 1-10. But never bigger. I'm interested in the clarity of role for an IC who is a pre-CSM.
    4. The word Manager in the CSM title is confusing for my dad, and most everyone outside of CS or account management. It clashes with competing business lingo - IC, manager, Dir, VP, CCO.  Oh, CSM is the IC role?!? Oh, it can be? Wait...what comes before CSM then?
    5. I like to poke the status quo as a means to find the future.
  • Jeremy Mulder
    Jeremy Mulder Member Posts: 26 Expert
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    edited March 2021
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    Hi @Will Stevenson - l heart visuals; it's so much easier to take in a lot of information. Really neat to see your process as a visual. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    What's your take on this: in Sales, AEs know the value of SDRs. What would your CSM team leads, strategics, and seniors say is the value of a junior?