Engagement Month: “Not Strategic Enough”

By Russell Bourne posted 17 days ago


Gain Grow Retain proclaims July 2021 is “Engagement Month” and in this week’s blog, I’m going to start us off by discussing something I hear often from frustrated CS leaders: “my team isn’t strategic enough”.

At its core, this complaint is a little bit about a CSM’s mindset, and a lot about how a CSM engages with their customer contacts.  So what can a CS leader do to improve the strategic engagement their team provides their customers?

Strategic Mindset

Do your CSMs log into work every morning to a list of CRM-generated tasks absent of any context?  Email these customers, refresh those reports, follow up on these project steps.  The days of the production line drone are over!  If you want the people on your team to feel their work is meaningful and perform at their best, you must lead them to think about why their activities are important.

One great way to do this is to include them in creating or changing the customer journey for their book of business.  There’s a lot of advice out there about how to create a journey.  Make sure you choose a method that starts by having you explicitly list the customer’s desired outcomes, and helps you cascade down to activities that support those outcomes.  By being a part of the process, your CSMs will arrive at activities they agree are meaningful, and will understand how they fit into the bigger picture.

Strategic Engagement

If your CSMs have a strategic mindset, how do your customers know it?  In other words, how do they know your activities point toward them reaching their desired outcome?  The answer really depends on who the contact is.  Some segmented ideas to share with your team:

For executive contacts in a high-touch segment, ideally you create a joint success plan at the beginning of the relationship.  The success plan explicitly lays out their outcomes and any metrics that support the outcomes.  Then, you run EBRs for executives where you can thoroughly cover the results on those metrics.  It’s also a good idea to communicate with the executives between EBRs.  Remember these people are usually strapped for time, so allow them the chance to digest information on their own time.  You can always start your email subject line with “No action required” and provide mid-stream updates on the metrics.

For high-touch end-users, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of project work that loses sight of the major goals.  This is where you want to focus on making your end-user look good to their executive team.  Make sure they’re prepared to talk to their bosses about how your project work aligns to executive goals.  

For customers in a lower-touch segment, you can do the same as above, only automated.  GGR’s own Jay Nathan talks about how to create success plans for the long tail toward the end of this article: https://churnzero.net/understanding-the-joint-success-plan/.  In short, you bucket your customers based on common goals, and then you automate a digital success plan designed around each goal.  It may be useful to segment executive users from end-users, if the customer’s organization calls for it.

Ultimately, strategic engagement is not complicated.  It’s all about understanding where you fit into your customer’s success, approaching your activities with the big picture in mind, and communicating with your contacts in a way that’s meaningful to their position in their company.

1 comment



16 days ago

Such an important topic. In speaking with a number of CCOs and heads of CS recently, this comes up at or near the top of the list of desired upskill areas. 

I've been working with some of these leaders and their teams to have more strategic conversations with their customers. Specifically I recommend a series of much bolder, open-ended questions that actually disrupt (in a positive way) the customer's thought processes. In turn, the customers give answers that are "outside the lines" of a typical convo, leading to fresh insights.

The key is to just start asking one or two disruptive questions and share insights in team meetings. Do that every other week and the habit begins to form.

Here's an infographic ChurnZero created that summarizes the questions and the strategic convo techniques overall. https://churnzero.net/infographic_strategiccustomerconversations/

Hope this is useful! Would love any and all feedback.


Bob London

PS: Here's a LinkedIn post with a great story on this topic.