Success Happy Hour is a weekly newsletter for Customer Success leaders. Each week we feature one digestible piece of advice or a framework from a top Success leader, along with the best resources from that week. Subscribe here.
Despite being the group with the closest understanding of the use cases and qualities that make for successful and unsuccessful customers, Customer Success rarely has a strong influence in defining the company’s Ideal Customer Profile.
So yesterday we held a roundtable with 5 powerhouse leaders to discuss how Customer Success can influence the ICP in the right way. Thank you to all our panelists for the engaging conversation around a topic that needs more showtime:
- Alex Hesterberg (CCO at Delphix)
- Rachel Orston (CCO at SmartRecruiters)
- Kate Walsh (VP of CS at Klaviyo)
- Victoria Chernova (Director of Product Marketing at Gong), and
- Jimmy Daly (Cofounder and CEO at Superpath).
What follows is an excerpt of the conversation where each panelist shared one thing CS leaders can do this quarter to influence the ICP. (You can also re-watch the full discussion here.)
CHRIS: Let’s go around and share one takeaway or one action that you'd recommend CS leaders working on this quarter to have a bigger influence on the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Rachel, why don't you start us off?
RACHEL: For some of us who are planning for Q4, strategizing for 2022, and thinking about budgeting cycles in the next couple of months, now’s a great time to revisit the ICP. How is your company doing on the ICP? Think about the data and go back through your growth analysis. Where have you won? Where have you been successful? Where have you not been successful? Does the ICP definition reflect reality?
But be part of the solutioning too. Don’t just say, “We need to revisit this.” Actually come prepared to make changes and have the data to back those changes up. It's the Customer Success leader's responsibility to be the internal voice of the customer and share the customer experience your company is providing with data.
Come to your strategic planning sessions for the subsequent year saying, “Hey, this is where we're seeing success. CMO, can I better understand our ABM strategy? Are we targeting the right people? Or, “Hey, Here's where we're really struggling and finding friction. We need to revisit our marketing or sales process here.”
But this can only start with the CS leader having a strong voice about what's working and what's not, and really being the person who kicks off the conversation.
I don't think we do that enough in the sales cycle. We go right into OKR planning and we start with the targets and then back our way into it. This isn’t bad, but I think that there is an opportunity to pause and reflect before we jump into next year and say, “Well, how has this past year been?”
That sits with the CS leader in many respects. It's a great opportunity for them to show their leadership and bring the right data points forward to the rest of the leadership team.
CHRIS: Amazing. Thank you. What do you think, Jimmy?
JIMMY: You know my experience doing sales was a lot harder than I thought. Frankly, it was really frustrating when I would bump into the Customer Success team often saying ‘no’ to deals that I thought were good.
So I would say if you're coming from a sales perspective, have empathy for your Customer Success team. And if you’re coming from the CS side, have empathy for your Sales team.
There's probably nothing better that you could do than develop a really healthy relationship there, where lots of information is passed back and forth and everyone understands the other parties incentives. The relationship might be dynamic, or a fluid thing. Healthy tension in this relationship can be a good thing, but having open lines of communication between Sales and CS is super important.
KATE: Pulling from what Jimmy and Rachel have said, proactive data and communication is what CS leaders need to focus on. They should be leading the conversation and showing like, “Look at these customers that are successful. If we sign up more of these types of customers, this is what our business looks like 12 months, 24 months, five years, 10 years.”
And then on the inverse, CS leaders need to share data around what happens if the business doesn’t do that and what that would look like. We're all shooting to build that healthy business, so as we’re heading into 2022 planning (which is crazy), how can we do more to get our target ICP customers across Marketing, Sales, and CS. It requires building a plan together.
VICTORIA: At every company I've worked, Customer Success teams carry a ton of clout. There's just so much power in aggregating and analyzing those customer insights that you're seeing every single day. But it’s even more powerful when CS leaders add a layer of commentary about how those insights affect the ICP.
Whether that means, reinforcing it, expanding it, or maybe going a little deeper. It's so important to come to those conversations with that data and that point of view and then aligning with your cross-functional stakeholders on what that means.
ALEX: Couldn't agree more on having the data around the ICP—what's worked, what hasn't, who is in that ICP today? The second thing I'll agree with is that the Customer Success org is gaining more and more clout and influence on major strategic decisions, particularly as we go from subscription into consumption.
Most companies now are trying to get more than 50%, sometimes as high as 70 or 80% of their business for the year (or revenue for the year) from their installed base. So we've seen that shift happen and as it happens, I think the most important thing for CS leaders is to have the confidence to influence and change compensation plans.
Your CS organization and your Sales organization should both be compensated on renewals and expansion deals—not necessarily at the same rate. There are different sorts of ratios your company may use, I get that. But both functions should be incentivized and compensated on both so that there is discouragement from selling deals and customers that we know are not in the ICP.
And at the same time, incentivizing both teams should drive a lot of alignment through reward for going after the right profile and working together to get those companies, not just renewing but expanding.
CHRIS: Great. Thank you. You know, we've heard today from five very forward-thinking, exceptional leaders in the Customer Success space and I think the message is coming through loud and clear that CS has to be playing a prominent, if not the most prominent role, in helping to drive, define, align, and communicate the ICP to the company.
This week's top posts
Avoiding Management Debt
Here’s Rav Dhaliwal on the pitfalls to avoid when considering candidates for CS positions. He offers five “variables to help better identify the contextual skills and experience a candidate would need to make their customers successful.”
The Fast & Furious Career Path of Kellie Capote
In this piece, Gainsight’s CCO offers a trove of tactical advice for accelerating your career in CS. She shares habits to build, tactics for getting leadership to place a bet on you, how your focus will change at different management levels (including the transition from VP of CS to CCO) and more.
Customer Success Post COVID
What does the future hold for Customer Success? We’ve been seeing a lot of startup activity to solve the remote interaction paradigm of the future and this piece by Dave Jackson provides some hypotheses as good as any.
The Role of CS Ops in Tech-Touch – The What, How, and Metrics That Matter
Next Tuesday, we're hosting a discussion alongside Insided to get some clarity on how CS Ops should work within tech-touch. The panel of experts will cover how to get started, the most important tasks and responsibilities for the CS Ops team, the metrics to measure, the tools to use, and more.