Why customer success managers should own renewals, expansions, and upsells
Because the CSMs “own” the customer relationships.
If I had to give an estimate I’d say that 90-95% of all interactions (hopefully) with your company happen between the customer and your CS team.
If customers spend half the time with your support team, you don’t need to worry about who owns the commercial part because you have much bigger fish to fry.
So it really comes down to the question: Why would customers rather buy from an AM/AE they’ve spent maybe 15min with than from their trusted advisor?
That does not make any sense.
1. CSMs should not be afraid of being “too commercial”.
I’ve heard that pretty often: “I want to focus on delivering value and don’t want to hurt the relationship with the customer over the commercial part”.
I get it, your concerns are very reasonable but if you’ve served your customers well you’ve earned the rewards.
If you have helped customers achieve their goals renewals will become a mere formality
If your customers buy more resources and features to achieve their next goal it’s because you helped them achieve their initial goal and raise the bar
If they want to give actual referrals they’ll promote you, not your product or your company
2. The size does not matter
Yes, if you are working with larger accounts there will be all kinds of stakeholders. The people who use your product, their direct leaders, and the budget holder.
Yes, you probably don’t have a relationship with the person who is calling the shots on whether to keep paying for your product.
But the people who are working directly with you will try harder to keep what they have with you and not someone else.
3. Selling without selling
There’s a big difference between the initial sale and all sales afterward. The initial sale happens based on customer expectations. All other sales - renewals, expansions, and upsells - happen based on outcomes.
If you don’t deliver enough value, no customer marketing nor sales motion can make customers buy again. That means you are actually not selling, you make customers want to buy.
This is the mindset you should “wear” when you meet customers for the commercial part. Start all these conversations with a recap of all the value your customers got up to this point. Of course, it requires knowing what they actually got.
If you ensure customers are aware of all the value they got so far and how much they can get in the future, the costs of renewals, expansions, and upsells appear much smaller.
4. How to make it work
I haven’t met a single CSM who complained about too much idling time. Owning the commercial part on top will likely not work out. In a best-case scenario, you identify activities that are redundant and simply replace them.
The alternative is to reduce the number of customers per CSM (most ratios are too high anyways). Maybe you’ll find AMs/AEs that are willing to transition into a full-time customer success role to provide additional resources.
What do you think about it?
Have you ever asked your customers whom they want to buy from?
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