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What Does Being "Strategic" Mean For Customer Success Managers?

"If Customer Success Managers (CSMs) were more 'strategic,' they would be better at their jobs."

Years ago, when I was leading a team, I received similar feedback: I was told that I needed to be more "strategic."

I replay that conversation at least a few times a year because... What does that even mean? 

What are we really asking for when we tell someone to be more "strategic"? 

This feedback, although well-intentioned, can leave many Customer Success Managers (CSMs) puzzled. What does it really mean to be "strategic" in the realm of customer success?

Decoding the 'Strategic' Buzzword

For CSMs, the term "strategic" might conjure images of proactive planning and a focus on long-term goals. It's about aligning every customer interaction and service with overarching objectives.

A strategic CSM is someone who anticipates needs, understands client business goals, and tailors their approach to aid customers in achieving these goals through your products or services.

However, this broad definition often feels like fluff.

If we peel things back, we’re picturing a CSM who embodies a set of skills and knows when and how to use them effectively. When we ask a CSM to be more strategic, we’re asking them to: 

  • Know how to connect with different individuals

  • Figure out what these individuals want/need + their business wants/needs

  • Get people to trust you enough, so they’ll take your advice

  • Lead conversations that give them access to critical information 

  • Be effective project managers–stick to the scoop and keep everyone aligned 

  • Clearly articulate the value and impact of the product/service 

  • Have knowledge of tactics they can implement to get specific results 

Here’s where we can land on a definition:

The Path to 'Strategic' is Not a One-Step Journey

Becoming strategic isn’t an overnight transformation. It's a gradual process of minor improvements and skill enhancement. The next time you're asked to be more "strategic," don't hesitate to seek clarification. Aligning expectations is key.

For CS Leaders

Clarity will be essential if you aim to cultivate a more strategic team. Define what "strategic" means in your context and provide resources to develop these skills. And if you're looking to train your team on how to become more strategic, I can help!

Your Guide to Becoming "Strategic"

Drawing on my own experiences and the insights gained along the way, I have created an in-depth guide specifically designed for CSMs who want to become more "strategic" and CS leaders who want to enable their teams.

This guide is more than just a compilation of tips; it is a comprehensive blueprint that will guide you through the process of tapping into your "strategic" skills. Download your copy of the guide!


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