#CustomerSuccessLooksLike… A Unicorn

//#CustomerSuccessLooksLike… A Unicorn
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#CustomerSuccessLooksLike… A Unicorn

By | 2018-06-22T10:01:37-04:00 October 31st, 2016|Customer Success Manager|2 Comments
You’ve seen job postings for a Customer Success Manager:

“Real Customer Success comes from the heart. You have the best customer management and business consultancy skills around. You’re passionate about engaging your customers and expanding their use cases. You have impeccable relational skills and can create win/win environments for all parties that you work with. If this is you, there are a lot of people who are adopting our product and we would love your help in taking care of our customers!”

Searching for such a person can feel like you’re hunting for a unicorn.

How do you find this elusive consultant with the heart for customer service, and “impeccable relational skills”? Not to mention the technical skills to address customer needs with tactical approaches that show how your product/service can address their pain. All of this while having the talent to expand your customer’s use cases. That special combination of technical talent, heart, perception, and communication skills can be difficult to source. As the need for top-notch Customer Success Managers continues to grow in the SaaS B2B world, the challenge to source them escalates.

Before we get too worried about never finding a great CSM, let’s back up a moment and take a look at a CSM’s job responsibilities. (These may vary from business to business, but this list reflects some common duties that most CSMs perform.)

  • Orient customers to the product
  • Work with clients to define their goals
  • Serve as a trusted advisor to your clients
  • Advocate on behalf of your customer
  • Drive continued value from the product with your customers
  • Manage account escalations
  • Identify and cultivate opportunities for upselling

What kind of person will be successful at performing these duties? What skills does it take to excel at Customer Success Management?  Some job postings seek:

  • Technical expertise
  • Prior experience in selling and customer service
  • Strong communication skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Team player mindset
  • Analytical approach to problem-solving

These are definitely on the standard list for desired attributes for a CSM. But the one thing missing from this list is the one thing that’s hard to identify through the recruitment process, and a sure indicator of likely success. Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is essentially the horn that turns your horse into a unicorn.You can vet and/or train most of the qualities of an effective CSM, but finding someone with Emotional Intelligence is really the key to finding the right person for the job.

Meet “Emma”. Emma is a CSM for an Indianapolis-based SaaS company that provides their customers with branded email signatures. Emma’s daily routines include e-mailing and calling customers about issues they have encountered, being proactive with customers to encourage maximization of the product, conducting demos, helping with implementations, and assessing customer usage patterns to provide customers with suggestions for reaching their targeted goals. She has about 85 accounts she’s responsible for. She is part of a Customer Success department.

Sound familiar?  By all accounts (her boss, her colleagues, and her clients), Emma is really good at what she does. She knows and believes in her product. She is an effective communicator. She can multi-task. She can think on her toes. She knows when to refer a client to someone else. She’s able to identify opportunities for growth within the account.

But, the thing people remember most about Emma is that feeling of being heard. Emma listens to her clients, her boss, and her colleagues, and appropriately (judiciously) responds to their needs. This is emotional intelligence.

Emotionally intelligent people handle relationships with empathy and judiciousness. They are not reactive. Rather, they are responsive, or, better yet, proactive.  An emotionally intelligent person knows their customer’s needs and goals, and is always thinking about them when on a call.  They listen, and then draw upon what they already know about their client to perceive their needs, and offer strategic counseling. The ability to listen, think about the needs of the other person, and respond tactically and appropriately is the key to being successful at Customer Success Management (actually, it’s the key to success in lots of other jobs, as well).

Now the real question – how do you find someone with emotional intelligence? You can’t simply ask them if they’re emotionally intelligent. However, finding this exceptional unicorn is worth the effort. Here are just a few tactical suggestions for identifying this rare and valued character trait:

  • Look first within your own organization. Who are those people that other people are drawn to? Why are they drawn to him/her? If it’s because they are empathetic listeners who offer good counsel, take a closer look at their potential to perform the CSM duties.
  • Consider having prospects take an EQ (Emotional Intelligence) test. These tests gauge a person’s level of perception and empathy, which are good indicators of their abilities to listen to their customers and advocate for them.
  • There ARE certain interview questions that illuminate Emotional Intelligence. Ask questions that force a candidate to self-report on a time when he/she perceived a negative reaction from a customer or colleague. Is she self-aware? Is he able to reflect critically on how another regarded his behaviors? Follow on by asking how he/she resolved the situation.

These vetting tools are not the end-all-be-all in finding the ideal CSM candidate. But, they are a start. While you will start your search by looking for someone with sales experience, technical chops, strong communication skills, and the ability to keep lots of balls in the air at the same time, you will know you’ve found your unicorn when you identify that self-awareness and judiciousness traits that point to a strong Emotional Intelligence.



About the Author:

Haresh is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Bolstra. Haresh is a veteran B2B SaaS industry executive having served in key roles with emphasis in product strategy, sales and marketing.


  1. […] Unicorns: Unfortunately, great customer success teams can’t be comprised of mediocre talent. Whether your team consists of different people managing implementation, adoption, and retention, or a single resource for all, they do all need to have the emotional intelligence to be able to know and anticipate their customers’ needs. […]

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