Industry Expertise or CSM Skills? w/ CSM Office Hours

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This is a podcast episode titled, Industry Expertise or CSM Skills? w/ CSM Office Hours. The summary for this episode is: <p>A weekly segment:</p><p>CSM Office Hours</p><p>Every Tuesday. 11:30am ET.</p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>--</p><p>If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join Gain Grow Retain: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...</p><p>Jay Nathan: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Jeff Breunsbach: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>
Really Strong CS Chops
00:44 MIN
Be A Pure Listener
00:43 MIN
2020 in Terms of Resume
00:42 MIN
LinkedIn Insights
00:34 MIN
Document, Document, Document!
00:56 MIN

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast.

Gabriel: Let me kick it off with a summary of what we talked about and then we can go into the questions that are in the Slido. There were a few that were dropped in there. I think, besides the movies, we also talked about things for next year, and we had a pretty good conversation. I enjoyed it. About the CSM certification, kind of the value found there. Karen asked," Do you find value in it for those of you that are doing it?" And that'd be a really neat conversation. Go ahead and put it in the chat if you guys have been certified, whether it's through Gainsight, SuccessHACKER, or some other platform. I think the general consensus of the group was that it adds value. It's not the same as let's say a PMP certification or some other more specialized certifications that are out there, but for the industry that we're in, it adds a ton of value, and it is a resume builder. So it can definitely be helpful, especially if you're not coming from the CS world, and you're wanting to jump into it. Anyone want to add anything else there? I'm seeing comments go up in the chat. All right, let's go over and look at the Slido questions, and I'll open it up. I'm really great at if I see no hands up, I call them people. So just a heads up there, but let's see. The one with the most votes is," What's more important for long- term career growth, industry expertise or CSM skills?" I've been debating this one myself, honestly, and I'll kick it off really quick while we wait for people. I would say that it depends so much on what your long- term career objectives are, right? Depending on where you want to go to and what you want to see yourself at. In my case, I've been debating this because I'm in a very specific, public SaaS industry. And I'm not sure if I want to be there, which is why I've been thinking about it. But I'd love to hear from people around the group, especially if you're more seasoned, if you've been in SaaS for 10, 15, 20 years. What are your thoughts around this? And I know I'm seeing some people I really know. So I'll call you in a second. Okay, Michael, go ahead. I think I will get your last name right. Buccellato.

Michael Buccellato: Look at that. There we go.

Gabriel: See, Jeff. Jeff doesn't get it, but I got you, dude.

Michael Buccellato: Jeff, Jeff consistently butchers it. I'm glad we got somebody who can appreciate it a nice Italian last name. So here we go. It's a common debate per se. You see a lot of posts on LinkedIn around industry expertise versus a kind of the skills, core skill set to be a CSM. From my perspective, there is a lot of variance, right? It depends right? In terms of where you want to take your career. If you are interested in marketing per se, marketing tech is a very saturated market where it lends itself to becoming an industry expert while you're a CSM, right? If you are an industry expert as a marketing folk, you can really serve your customers and build really tight relationships and be that strategic advisor. So there's a dependency on, I think, vertical you play in. Yeah, I think it also depends on the organization. If it is a larger organization, there are a ton of specialized roles that you might be able to jump into after being a CSM. You might be able to be a vertical expert. You might be able to go into some sort of customer success engineering or more of a sales engineering role, where you're you're seen as that industry expert. So it's really where you want to take your career, the vertical that you play in, as well as the organization. If it is a larger organization, there could present itself an opportunity to be that specialized person because of your industry expertise.

Gabriel: I agree with that completely. Scott, you want to add to it?

Scott: Yeah. Well, I'm going to take the other side a little bit, that I think the basic account management and other skills are important to give you longevity of industry, maybe allowing you to find that expertise or maybe a better way to say it is that it allows you to grow an expertise in an industry if that's something that appeals to you. But certainly if you have the core skills that employers are hiring for in the space, you can kind of go take half steps place to place to place that give you a wide range of experiences.

Gabriel: Yeah. I would feel like if you're at the start of your professional career and all the way through, let's say early, mid- thirties, the skills can allow you to transition to different opportunities. But if you want to go, in my sense to that next level of director, VP and so on, you're going to need that industry experience. Right? I feel like I got the job that I have right now because I have the CSM skills, even though I didn't have the industry experience. But if I were to try to apply for being the director or even further up, I know they would require more industry experience. Again, some people really to try different things. Go for it. Diane,

Diane: I just want to weigh in on that. So I've switched industries half a dozen times in my career, and I always started at a company without any experience in the industry that that company has. Now, it's always a nice to have, but I think what companies are definitely looking for is really strong CS chops. So if you understand what the role of CS is and the important role that it plays in retention and expansion and you understand how to build infrastructure in teams to drive to those numbers, it won't really matter whether you knew about education or... Right now, I'm doing email deliverability. I didn't even know that was a thing before I joined this company. Oh, you send an email and people get it. No. So I don't think you need to worry that much about that. I think as long as your other skills are really strong, and naturally, I think that might be a little different depending on industry. So for example, if I wanted to go do this for pharma, I think the industry domain experience would be way more important, but across software technology, SaaS software technology, I don't think it matters. I've done sales enablement software, web search software. I don't think it matters as much. So I wouldn't not apply for things because of that.

Gabriel: I agree with you. I do think it also depends on what role within CS, right? You're going for. If you're more of a technical or implementation... Adam, you want to go for it?

Adam: Yeah. I think it also depends... I think it solely depends on the org, and the org stance on CS, right? So if you're coming from an organization that is I would say more business- focused, they're going to be more keyed- in on the CSM skills because they understand that that's transferable across that. Or if you come from more of a support instance or a reactive approach, I think that's when they're going to look for more industry experience. So I do think it's kind of depending on kind of the take of the company as to what they're looking for. And I think a strong CSM should possess the EQ enough to kind of get there through the interview process and present themselves as such or pivot that throughout the process. And I think that's why CS interview process is key for us is because getting to the EQ questions and being able to get through that is honestly exactly what we need to do for our customers and making sure we're flushing out and getting ahead of the headlight. So that's my take there.

Gabriel: Thanks for that. Matt?

Matt: Yeah. And really to kind of piggy back off what Diane was saying and what Michael bringing up earlier, sometimes it's not necessary. It's good to come in and really know the road that your role will take you, but also good to know where the organization needs to take it. Number of interviews that I've gone on across the year, really seeing all different directions that organizations need to go in, depending on either their needs, their later investor's needs, depending on the situation that they're in. But a common thread throughout customer success is having that EQ, being a listener. It's something that I think that both Jeff and Jay really hit on, and they highlight a lot when they came into Higher Logic, doing that a hundred days, a hundred clients. So really just getting a chance to sit down and speak with your people, speak with people that you can be representing. What are your needs? How can we best serve you? Then let's go ahead and craft what we're going to be doing. And I think as a CSM, one, that's essential, but then two, is a client being introduced to someone like that, that you're allowed to talk about... How you distinguish CSM between other people on the account team, CSM's going to be there to listen to you. CSM is not only going to be there and listen to you, you're going to see the action after speaking with them. That I think is the indistinguishable characteristic. Now, if you come in with the industry experience along with that, okay, maybe at the offset, you have that opportunity to do a little bit more back and forth. But I think going in without it, and myself being in that situation a couple of times, I've found to be able to just sit back a lot more and be a pure listener, have them drive, because you really don't know how many times you can find that so many different facets of clients could have so many different needs, therefore driving what your action would need to be. And I feel like if you may go in with a preconceived notion, you may influence on that. However, that could also lead you to be more of a trusted advisor. So I think it points to both sides, but nonetheless, a great debate. And I know that there are also continuing it over on Catalyst. It's one of their hot topics.

Gabriel: Good point. Ashley, you want closing statements for this question?

Ashley: Yeah. I think that makes sense. I asked the question, so yeah, I appreciate all the insight. I'm surprised no one said both, ideally. But yeah, I think it's hard, and that's one thing I've been thinking about, so appreciate the input. Yeah. I know it's a common topic. There's a good podcast. Sherry, a couple people talked about it recently on, it might've even been this podcast, but anyway. Yeah, no, I think it depends. For me, am I coming into a thing it'd be hard to come into without any industry expertise? So at least... Just gives you more learning to do upfront, but agreeing that I think industry expertise is easier to learn than empathy. So like Joshua was saying in our group, I know I can teach you the industry. I can't teach you empathy necessarily, or it will take much longer. But yes, I think that was a good conversation. And that's all I'll add for today.

Gabriel: Awesome.

Speaker 9: Exactly, exactly that point. There's another company, BenchSci. They have PhDs on their team, but they're working with pharmaceuticals for developing regions, for testing and vaccination. So yeah, exactly to that point where someone's doing automated testing, you definitely want someone that's inaudible cybersecurity. I know we have those meetings on Wednesdays. You might need that industry experience there, but yeah, definitely, always depending on the needs of the organization.

Gabriel: Yeah. And Ashley, thanks for pointing out that I did not ask who asked the question and for explanation. So I will do that for the next one. The next question with the most votes said," How do we exemplify how we survived 2020 in a resume? Or how are you portraying your resume for the upcoming year? And examples here is whether you got laid off or skills or sort of surviving a lay- off and picking up the slack. A lot of us are probably working with less head count than we need." Who wants to kick that one off? Alex Thebert? I might be mispronouncing it, but you want to chime in on this one?

Alex Thebert: I think I got to... You caught me in a moment of distraction. I will fess up. Let me pass, and I'd like to listen on this.

Gabriel: No problem. Absolutely. inaudible. Nathan, you want to throw something in here?

Nathan: Sure can. Yeah. So this is interesting. So in my company, we definitely survived 2020, I would say, in a lot of ways. I am not currently in a position where... We're actually still adding head count because we know that the business is going to bounce back in the industry that I'm in. So I'm not maybe the best one to say how do you position yourself on the resume. But I'll be honest with you. This has affected everyone on every level and hiring managers, HR, they know that. If there's a gap on your resume in 2020, that's probably not going to raise so many eyebrows for people because 2020 has been a really hard year. So that might just be a... Kind of remember that this isn't just happening to you if you've been laid off or if you're in that spot where you're like," I'm in a stuck, stuck spot. I need to get out." It's happening across the board to a lot of people in the industry. And yeah. So I think just be honest and open with that too. I don't think it's going to stop anyone from getting a job. If it does, that'd be surprising to me, especially in the SaaS industry and if you're working remotely. Yeah. I think you can add those skills in, right? I do now, unfortunately, way more Zoom calls than I used to do on a daily basis. Those are skills that I can actually now put on a resume and say," Yeah, I'm proficient at Zoom and backgrounds." Not this one. That's my actual office, but I actually know my way around Zoom. I can handle that stuff. Those are things that can go on my resume if needed. Even if it's not needed, right? Again, I think going back to the last question, is it needed? Is the industry requiring it that I'm going into it? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe know what you're looking at. Is it important? Is it unimportant? And build your resume off that for 2020.

Gabriel: Yeah. Yeah. I would say that one thing that this season has helped with is that people are probably proficient on more than one, more than the main conferencing tool that your company uses. Right? Whether that's Zoom or WebEx or whatever. You have to learn the other one because WebEx and Teams and BlueJeans and Google Meet and whatever it may be. So yeah, I agree with that. And it also is what are you doing in the time in which if you were laid off? What are you doing in between? I've met people on this community, I know many of you have, that are plugged into the community, have been getting certifications, have been networking, or are trying to enter a new industry. All of that is stuff that you can highlight. How to highlight it? Not the expert, but Jody knows a lot more than I do on this topic. So I'm going to switch over to her.

Jody: Hi guys. So thanks, Gabriel. I feel that we have to be careful what we put on LinkedIn and that we make sure that our LinkedIn past positions really focuses on our jobs. I think that the way that people can show what they've done is on their cover letter. And we just had an interesting conversation in my group about cover letters. There's a lot of speedy... You can speed through your resume, your application in LinkedIn. I didn't do that. I feel like you get out of it what you put into it. So I don't believe in this method of spray and pray and go through these speedy LinkedIn things where your resume's automatically sent. I definitely took the time to find jobs that I was qualified for. And then I created... Admittedly, I don't often pat myself on the back, but I created a killer cover letter that was unique. And I stood out. And I actually got a ton of responses back from companies that didn't have a job posted that said... I probably got four interviews from jobs that didn't have a job posted. And they said," We don't have a job posted, but we loved your cover letter. And we want to talk to you." In those cases, there wasn't something that... It was more of an AM and sales- y type role, so it wasn't quite for me. But anyway, I still networked based on that. So I feel like your LinkedIn profile really needs to help you stand out because as we just talked about in my group, the ATS has ruined the world. I think the ATS has ruined the world more than the pandemic has. And it's allowing a lot of people to be in positions that they're not qualified for because they're counting on the ATS. So you have to stand out. You have to really have a killer LinkedIn profile that backs up what you say instead of using words like managed and supervised and" I did this." You have to really back up all of the things that you did with numbers and dollars and amounts, et cetera. And then use your cover letter to show your continuing education and what you've done over the last six, eight, 12 months to continue to grow in CSM. That you've joined GGR. You participate. You've learned about this. You've done this other thing. You joined this group. You're reading this newsletter. Those are good... The cover letter, in my opinion, is where a lot of that stuff should go.

Gabriel: Paul, go ahead.

Paul: Yeah, no, I guess I would reiterate what everybody said here. having gone through cutbacks in the past, fortunately not in 2020, but I think it's just being honest. When you've had these cutbacks and what's going on in the economy. I think people are now more understanding and empathetic to people who've been out of work for periods of time, but I think it is a lot about what you do and how you use that time. I did a lot of volunteering when I was off. I took a lot of time to network, but I also took the time to really focus and ask myself a lot of questions around what do I want to do. And then I tried to craft my story, being honest about it when you get asked that question," Well, why are you out of work? Or why have you been out of work for an extended period of time?" And really just having a good, polished answer. And it really never was an issue. It was one question and then it literally just brushed over, and you'd get on with the rest of the interview. But trying to hide it, I think is probably the worst thing you can do or trying to cover something up, that-

Jody: Couldn't agree more with that.

Laurie: Yeah. And I'll just say that Jody was in my group, and I'm one of those that, and I shared in mine, that I was laid off back in March due to COVID, and it's been a roller coaster of a ride, but at the same time the I'm usually asked once the interview starts," So what brings you to looking for a new position?" And I have no problem sharing what happened, but I do feel like that is kind of a number one question that you initially get. Why you're interested in this company, or what puts you in the job market? And I feel like on LinkedIn, I've noticed a lot where hiring managers will say that they're really trying to help those of us that have lost our jobs due to COVID. So they're like," Who's been out of work because of COVID? Please let me know. I really want to reach out to you and help you." So I see a lot of empathy in LinkedIn. Now, of course, don't get me wrong. There are others that reach out and then you never hear back from them again. But I do feel like there is great empathy within the LinkedIn community, but I always mentioned I found Gain Grow Retain, and I'm thankful for it because it's kept me up on my skills. It's kept my spirits up. It's been something I've looked forward to weekly, and I've grown from it. So I always do throw in that as well, that I'm continuing my education and still looking, but I'm keeping up with my skills.

Gabriel: Thanks for that, Laurie. Not sure inaudible for Scott, but jump in.

Scott: Yeah. I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, and it's been an area that I've gotten a lot of opportunities all over the place in SaaS, whether it be a more technical role or something that's more customer success oriented. And it's about focus, in terms of your profile. I don't think it matters so much that you hide some of the things you're doing currently in a cover letter as much as, do your roles look consistent? Or can you weave in consistency into the set of roles you have out there? Because the way LinkedIn works tends to look at density in terms of how those recruiters are finding you. And certainly you have to be active. You can't be a wallflower and expect people to ask you to apply for their job.

Gabriel: Yeah, I agree. And I think I follow, I believe his name is Austin Belcak, might be, but he put some really great tips on how to just be on the job hunt. And I think his whole thing is how to get a job without ever applying for it. But his steps are really great if you don't know him, definitely check him out. I'll see if I can catch his profile and put it in the chat before the end of this session. Michael.

Michael Buccellato: Yeah. All great insights, and I follow him as well. He's excellent. You need to approach it like a sales cycle. If something that you're interested in, create a top 10 list, and go out there and prospect managers and try and build relevancy through messaging and liking and sharing and network with those people at that company and understand more about the role and what might resonate with them. Once you do get the interview, I would really address the elephant in the room. Diffuse the negative and reinforce the positive. It's all about transparency, and if those hiring managers or folks on the other end don't like it, then they're not the right fit. So I think that's how I would do it.

Gabriel: 100%. Yeah. It can also be a big red flag, during the hiring process, depending on how they're approaching your reality as well. I think we can squeeze one more in here. We've probably talked about this one a lot, but what CSM tool, or what CS tool, I would say just what tool is everyone using? It'd be interesting to see now that we have been in this pandemic nine, 10 months, how has that changed? Is there a new tool you're using? What have you added to your arsenal? We just got WalkMe to just try to do in- app training, in- app messaging and onboarding. So that's the new tool that we have. It got launched about three weeks ago and really exciting. On top of that, we have Salesforce and HubSpot, which I've been trying to use more and more. Recently got those too. But yeah. See if we can hear from some new voices, Haley Lundgren, what tools do you use?

Haley Lundgren: Yeah, so we implemented Gainsight in February, so it was right before the pandemic hit. So it was kind of the perfect time to roll that out. We previously used Salesforce, but now our sales team strictly uses that. They also use monday. com. I don't have access to those too much anymore. So Gainsight is just really our single source of truth. Documentation is key. A lot of my team actually comes from the healthcare industry. And so we just knew document, document, document. That was drilled into our head's in the healthcare industry. If you didn't document anything, it didn't happen. That was always code in healthcare. So that holds true in Gainsight. We need to make sure that if one of us is out or something's going on with family, for the pandemic, we needed insight into every account that we're managing. So someone can easily step in, know exactly the health status of that account, and what needs to be done next. So Gainsight has been a huge tool. We're just about to roll out Tech- Touch so that we are helping to scale that onboarding experience. So it's been a good experience for us using Gainsight.

Gabriel: Awesome. I've heard great things about Gainsight. I haven't had the privilege of trying it out. Tim. I'm not even going to try to pronounce your last name. I don't want to butcher it, man. But you asked the question. Why don't you share some thoughts there?

Tim Gilhooly: Gilhooly. There's not many of us in the list. But yeah, I just wanted to ask because I'm interviewing for a position with a company that doesn't have a CS department or team right now, would be one of the first few. So if I were to get this position going in, okay, if they don't have a program like Gainsight or ChurnZero, what are some of the ideas that I can bring up? Based on the company, but I'm hearing things from Google Sheets to Gainsight. I know it's a mixed bag, but would love everybody's input.

Gabriel: Thanks for sharing that. I think that definitely adds a lot of context. I'll actually speak on this one for a minute and hope we can at least one other person to share. I joined a company that had nothing, not even Google Sheets, absolutely nothing. And I started with Google Sheets, right? And trying to get set up with our CRM and everything. And then I found out, no one had told me, that our sales team used Salesforce. And so we migrated all of the spreadsheet- based CRM tools to Salesforce. So a good question would probably be what tools do they have? What is their tech stack currently? And it could be tools that you can leverage for CS because you might not get right off the bat buy- in, especially for a tool as expensive as Gainsight and a few others out there. But yeah, there's a lot of neat things you could do with Salesforce if, for example, that's what they have. Anyone want to add to that? I see hands up, but I think that might've been from the previous question or no? They've been up the whole time.

Speaker 17: Hey, Gabriel, I would like to crosstalk in our group, and one of the things that we recommended, and I've kind of stolen this, right? From a couple conversations, Pendo is super huge and tools like that. And it just helps to make our CS jobs easier, right? Because it doesn't allow for us to inaudible. We don't have to do as much fact- finding and discovery, right? So it's, I would say, a really good tool is if you only have the budget for one would maybe be looking at something like a Pendo or WalkMe to help hedge those conversations about how customers are using your tool. So that's kind of my two cents.

Gabriel: Thanks, man. Anyone want to share any more thoughts before we start wrapping it up?

Matt: I'm just saying, again, it depends a lot on what the organization's needs are, and I've spoken to a lot of folks who have been afraid of Salesforce and the abundance of information, as we're hearing a lot now, where it's lot coming from sales teams to kind of step out of the box of just the tech. There's also the organizational structure. I like to always reference conversation, the points from Christie, where she said we want to get CSMs involved at absolute inception, when they're even a prospect not even signed with us, which means that there's... You're not even dealing with a handoff. So you don't have to worry about so much of a source of truth because the CSMs are there, present at the beginning. They can own that information and then watch it throughout the process. So something like Salesforce may be good for them. So I think that really, it all depends on the organization that you're getting into. Our earlier discussion was that also could depend on the industry that you're getting into, for the type of information that you're collecting and seeing that how it would need to travel throughout the organization. And of course, what your use case is? If you're employing tech doctors, if you're employing a lot of email, abundance of check- ins with customers, or if you just need someplace to keep your information. I think it's always important to look at what's out there, and especially as the industry is growing with technology, just go after what you need. All offer different things. Hopefully, they'll continue to offer more. I know many folks who are developing their own things, but again, always important to go about what you needed.

Gabriel: Right. Thanks, Matt. And one last thing, Tim, is that sometimes if they've never had anything CS at all, you kind of have to help guide them to the right solution because they might not even know what they want, or they don't know really what they should want. And so that's kind of where our role comes in, and that's what I've been doing at my company. All right. I think with that, we're going to wrap it up. Quick summary, y'all. Last session this year. Invites have gone out to make sure you get those so that you're ready to go in the first week or second week of next year. Really neat chats going on in the GGR community and the job posting community especially. So if you are looking, that'll give you a place to start. There's a few there, and I'm sure a ton more are going to be added as time goes by. Great session. I really enjoyed it. I hope it was great. Share your feedback with Jeff. If you don't think I did a great job, let Jeff know, and don't let me know. I'm joking, but have a great one. Take care, everyone.

Speaker 18: Hey guys, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain Grow Retain podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.


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