What challenges does your team have engaging on more strategic, business-level customer convos?

Bob London
Bob London Member Posts: 53 Expert
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Hey GGR'ers.

I'm learning a lot lately about the challenges CSMs have around engaging customers at a more strategic, business level. Wondering what challenges and experiences you've had, either internally (team behaviors) or externally (customer recalcitrance).

Here's my story:

I've worked with 6 CS
teams (~ 60 CSM's + account managers) over the last several months to upskill them on having business-level customer conversations...rising above product-level feedback. During this time, I've uncovered 4 primary areas where the REAL work is to disrupt and influence CSMs' current habits/behaviors:

Challenge 1. Ask about the company challenges and priorities. Not your customer's but the business overall. This may involve getting answers out of your comfort zone - that's ok! You're asking to learn, not solve (see below).

Challenge 2. It's OK to ask questions you don't know the answer to. That's how you get FRESH insights.

Challenge 3. Make it a dialogue, not a checklist. Go with the flow of their response vs. jumping to the next question. Probe with insight accelerators like "why," "how" and "what do you mean?"

Challenge 4: Don't solve. Again, you're there to listen and learn. Most CSMs have a natural (and awesome) tendency to be responsive and fix issues. That's not what these convo's are for. Nor are they for selling, although you may be surprised at the opportunities that emerge organically.

Agree? Disagree? How are you addressing?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


  • Kelli Shea
    Kelli Shea Member Posts: 4 Navigator
    edited April 2021
    Do the rules change based on who you are talking to? In my world, we work with different levels of contacts (starting with program administrators up to CLO's) but it's not always consistent in terms of who we can get on a phone call to talk through these questions.  I ask "why" often in these conversations- sometimes multiple times within the context of the same question. I'm always surprised how different the answers are based on who we are talking to- you'd think these various levels of stakeholders would be much more aligned.   One question that I've started to ask more and more lately is "what happens if you maintain the status quo and don't do anything at all?  How does that hurt your current business and/or learners".  I think this question uncovers some great responses and unveils their true urgency in solving their business issues.
  • Keishla Ceaser-Jones
    Keishla Ceaser-Jones Member Posts: 10 Contributor
    First Comment Photogenic First Anniversary
    edited May 2021
    Hi, Bob

    I would agree with most of these. Less so for challenge 1 in my area. We work in the K-12 education space, so understanding challenges and priorities really helps us understand use cases for our products and services. I will say that I am working with my team to gain more clarity of process and expectations around renewals. Conversations about money are often challenging for CSMs, and I am working with my team to not take it personally, work on neutralizing their language, and finding the right stakeholder contacts to move the process forward. This is also helping us support forecasting accuracy. Challenge 3 sometimes pops up, but I am working with my team in not leaping into solve mode. In addition, I think most solutions really require collaboration and commitment from the partner to really achieve success. Often times is you move into service/servant mode too soon, you can find yourself struggling with success outcomes. 

    Keishla Ceaser-Jones

    Senior Director, Partner Success

    Digital Immersion Technologies, EAB

  • Bob London
    Bob London Member Posts: 53 Expert
    5 Insightfuls Photogenic First Anniversary
    edited May 2021
    Kelli, sorry for the delayed response, which I love. Yes, the challenges do vary based on level of contact - as well as the purpose of the call and stage of the customer lifecycle. Asking "why" is a great method. And I really like the status quo question. One suggested to keep it even more open-ended is to just ask the first part: "What happens if you maintain the status quo and don't do anything at all?" Skip the second part which may be a bit leading, presuming it will hurt their business/learners. I use a similar question: "How would your life be different if we suddenly went away?" 

     - Bob
  • andresfrod
    andresfrod Member Posts: 3 Navigator
    First Anniversary Photogenic First Comment
    edited May 2021
    Hey Bob,

    Thank you for the prompt, great to take a step back and think about how we can better approach some of these challenges. For my role, I think I go into the "solve" mindset too often. I work for a construction software company and my background is working in the construction industry myself so the technical side is where I feel the most comfortable as the CSM role is newer to me.

    Similarly, challenge 1 is very unique to us as every company could be doing things differently (laws per state can vary a lot, even by city). I often ask what makes their company unique compared to the competition. How I try to approach finding their "secret sauce" or how they see themselves in the industry. I've found it can go both ways; successful by getting really great insight into their vision and priorities, or I get a response similar to "... I don't think we do many things differently than others, most of the companies in XYZ industry do it this way." A lot of it could be who's in the room (or zoom) but maybe others have insights into how to grab their attention and find what could be unique about them.

  • Bob London
    Bob London Member Posts: 53 Expert
    5 Insightfuls Photogenic First Anniversary
    edited May 2021
    Andres, thanks for the insight. I love that you ask "what makes their company unique compared to the competition." And yes unfortunately many company's cannot articulate an answer.  Another couple questions along those lines are, "What is your customers' number one priority for the next 12 months?" and "What's the problem you help them solve?"

    Stay tuned!