Going Strategic (CSM Edition)

CSMs are often told they need to be “more strategic”. What does it mean and what can they do about it?

Simply put, having a strategic relationship with customers means that the CSM is well connected to the decision makers (executives) and can easily translate product benefits into contributions to the customers’ business goals. Here are 6 tips to become more strategic.

  • Create and continuously enhance a client org chart. Every time I ask a struggling CSM to draw an org chart, we inevitably find that they know only a couple of individuals (by name, let alone have had a conversation with them). Having a visual record of the organization illuminates what’s missing.
  • Use online research tools. LinkedIn, press releases, and annual reports are excellent fodder for independent research. Set a Google alert with your customer’s name.
  • Use your network. Start with the obvious, the sales rep, but think of anyone who used to work for that customer, inside or outside your current employer.
  • Get your champions to introduce you. Many CSMs have a cordial relationship with the technical contacts. That’s wonderful, but they need to move up the chain. Get the contact to introduce you to their manager (perhaps you can sweeten the deal by promising to praise the contact)?
  • Understand the customer’s business goals. This is a bit of a chicken-and-egg issue since the lower-level contacts may not fully understand the larger business goals, but try. Don’t just stay at the technical level (we need to move to the new release)– understand whether they are in cost-cutting mode, acquisition-integration mode, or whatever else. Then, you can relate your product or service to their goals.
  • Have a believable value proposition for executives. Getting an appointment with the LOB owner is your goal, as the CSM, but what’s it in for the LOB owner? They probably are not dying to meet you (and if they are, you would know about it). What can you tell them that will help them? It could be sharing best practices, or showing them how your product is helping solve problems for them.

How are your CSMs becoming more strategic? Please share your techniques.

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