Hiring a Rockstar CSM Made Easy as A,B,C

Save time and ensure your investment by using these tips to find the perfect rockstar CSM.

Today we talk about a very interesting subject that is often overlooked. Hiring Rockstar CSM! Companies that have had customer success teams for years usually figure “we got customer success''. We have been doing this for a while now. We know what works or doesn’t. Lets hire people that have been CSM’s before and we can teach them to support our product. On the other side companies that have first time CS leaders or have recently created a customer success department; Think “lets just hire people based on experience”. Idea being we don’t have a lot of experience so lets hire people who have experience. Problem solved. If life was ever that easy. In the real world both of these approaches are mistakes.

The problem with both of these approaches to hiring is focusing just on years of experience discounts the nature and applicability of that experience. These generalized assumptions lead to so many of the challenges customer success teams face today. Hiring the wrong people for the job starts before the job is even posted. When putting together a job description there are factors that if not evaluated properly will lead to casting nets for the wrong fish. Learn how to determine what you need in a CSM to be a rockstar for your clients below. After that, I will bring in a special guest to share some of their unique insights on how to source CSM’s to help you know where to look. Once you finish this blog you will be more than on your way to bringing in the next rockstar to serve your clients. So let’s get started.


The top two factors that you must consider when defining the scope of your next CSM hire are:

  • What is the complexity of your product?
  • What is the nature of your relationship with your client?

First thing about how complex your product is. If it requires a lot of configuration or a lot of maintenance. You might need someone who can work with clients through technical challenges. Being someone who understands the complexities of your customers' industry will help them leverage that empathy to keep clients engaged. Keeping your clients engaged and being able to solve technical challenges quickly will be key to keeping you clients happy.

Another factor to keep in mind is what is the nature of your relationships with your client. Do you find that your clients need to be engaged often to be successful? Are clients happiest when they don’t need to call you. One way to better predict this is to think about the impact your product is having on your clients workflows. Is your product disruptive? Meaning does your client have to change how they do things or operate when using your product. Or is it facilitative? Meaning your clients will not have to change how they do business much but mainly leverage your platform to do their current work processes more effectively.

For example if you are selling a technical product to a non technical user then your product is going to be disruptive. If you are selling a product that helps people build email campaigns and your client is a marketing manager who builds email campaigns. Regardless of the value prop your product provides it will most likely be a tool that facilitates your clients to do what they do best. See what to look for in a CSM candidate when you have High Product Complexity below:


TECHNICAL SPECIALIST: This is a CSM who is an expert in your product or industry and can use that expertise to solve technical problems as well as influence client behavior. They win over clients because they are truly knowledgeable and have new insight or perspectives to offer. They might not be as strong in the soft skills such as relationship building but still thrive because they have valuable information to share. Hire technical specialist if you have a complex product but the nature of your relationships with your clients are low touch.
DISRUPTOR: One of the hardest to find. Disruptors are CSM's that are not only product or industry experts but they also have strong soft skills like executive presence, influence and communication. They are capable of not only getting leaders to change behavior but solve roadblock in advance with expertise and insight that makes proposed solutions more compelling. Disruptors are best to hire when your product is transformational for your clients workflows and thus your clients will need a high touch relationship to keep them educated and engaged.

On the other side of the equation. Say you have a product that has low complexity. The product has a very short time to value. Has very few features or in general does not require a lot of configuration and maintenance. Then the nature of your CSM’s relationship with clients will be fundamentally different. Think of a tool we all use like Outlook or Gmail. Both of these email clients have the benefit of over 30 years of email being a standard tool that almost anyone is familiar with. Do both of these tools have tons of features, yes. But they are low maintenance and require little interaction because their fundamental value proposition is to facilitate activities that most people already have technical experience with: Sending an email. These would be low touch , low complexity products.

The question is what kind of CSM should you hire. What if your product is low complexity but requires a high level of engagement from your CSM. What is the difference? Most of the time low complexity products that require high touch are because they have high user counts. If you have 1 client who can have 100’s of users. Keeping those users trained and enabled will require a large amount of interaction from your CSMs. See what to look for in a CSM candidate when you have Low Product Complexity below:


GENERALIST: This is the CSM who can deal with a wide variety of challenges and surprises your customer might face within and outside of the poduct. They might not be a specialist in any one area but can be well rounded enough to cover multiple aspects that make CSM's successful. From relationship building to product expertise. Best to hire when your product is not that complex and the nature of the customer relationship is low touch.
FACILITATOR: Is a CSM who can be a driver in the customer relaionship. They thrive because they might be strong in aspects outside of the product such as relationship building and exective presence. If the product is less complex then CSM's who are facilitators can be very successful as thier lack of product or industry knowledge will be less likely o be exposed. Facilitators are best to hire when your product is not complex but the nature of your customer relationship is high touch.

Now that we have a understanding of the nature or our relationship with clients and the complexity of our product lets look at the other key factor in hiring the right CSM. Company size and evolution over time.


Two other key things to keep in mind are your company size and embracing change. Although product and nature of relationship are critical to finding the right CSM. Your company size is a universal factor. Smaller companies will need CSM's who can do many things and be very adaptable as processes are not as defined and team responsibilities are more blurred. Larger companies however will have more processes fleshed out and will be further along in regards to product market fit. Making CSM hiring at larger companies more focused on running defined playbooks. For small companies efficiency is key whereas for larger companies accuracy is more important. Lastly, like people, companies change and products evolve so always keep in mind that the CSM traits you hired for before might not necessarily be the ones that your customer needs today.

Now that we have all the factors aligned and have a clear understanding of what strengths and weaknesses are, we only need to find out where to find candidates. For this I will be bringing our special guest who has tons of experience here. Introducing Aaron Lapierre, Customer Success executive formerly at UserVoice and DoubleDutch. He has developed some very helpful tactics that he can share with you. Take it away from here Aaron:


Thanks Sam! The frameworks laid out are foundational to hiring the right type of Customer Success Manager for your organization. Now, I want to talk to you a bit about how you can go about finding that talent. And it might not be where you think.

Over the past few years, the Customer Success role has gone from niche, early adopters to being a mainstay for any successful SaaS business. And it’s not uncommon to expect to see a progression in Sales or Support, preferably in a B2B setting, before moving into a Success role. The skills learned in those roles are directly transferable to CS - problem solvers, conversationalists, convincing customers to change. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is a talented CSM can be found coming from unexpected careers.

I’ll never forget the first time I realized the potential in untapped talent pools. Early in my time at DoubleDutch I hired a contractor to help with some busy work. She was a social worker, specialized in elder care, and wanted to supplement her income. We worked together in this manner for a better part of a year. During that time, my team’s headcount was growing and I was having a hard time finding talent. Enter our contractor - she learned about the position and wanted in. I knew she was a hard worker, but had some questions about her ability to manage customer relationships and drive adoption. Her response was blunt and effective: “I’m a social worker, a core part of my job is to manage relationships and convince people to stick with programs.”

Fast forwarding, she nailed the interviews with my team, and convinced our CEO she was perfect for the job. And I’m happy to say she was. After this experience, I knew I needed to rethink my approach to recruiting. If I didn’t, I was going to miss out on exceptional talent.

Here are some tips on how to change your approach and find the right folks.

Drop your preconceived notions of ‘good vs bad’ experience: It can be all too easy to glean someone’s resume and decide if they’re a fit based on name recognition alone. Most of us have some opinion on what is considered a “good” school or place to work, which has an implication that if I haven’t heard of it, it can’t be that good, or is just “bad”. And therein lies the mistake. Take a moment to research schools or companies to look for their relevance to your role. Just because you haven’t heard of it doesn’t make their experience any less impactful.
Tap your team to promote roles in spaces you may not have access to: It’s easy to post a job req on sites like LinkedIn to source a large volume of candidates. But the visibility of the role is dependent on their ability to surface jobs to candidates it thinks might be qualified or interested. When hiring, I ask my teammates to share roles in their private networks or interest groups– spaces that I may not have access to. And vice versa for my peers, I will always share roles in the LGBTQ+ groups I belong.
Hire for skills you can’t teach: It’s common practice to hire for a well rounded team. But I also like to go deeper, and very specifically, look at my own strengths and weaknesses, especially as it comes to what I can teach someone. Despite being great with people, I find teaching someone how to build a relationship or hold a conversation daunting. As a result, when I’ve hired folks weaker on the service side, I was not able to properly coach them, and ultimately it meant that they were not as successful as they could be. Today, I’ve learned to hire people who already come with those skills and I can focus on training in areas I know I can make people successful.
Hire folks with non-traditional backgrounds: Great CSMs can come from all backgrounds, hire them! I’ve been particularly fortunate to work with former Social Workers, Educators, and Psychologists. Don’t confuse required experience for transferable skills. Just because someone hasn’t driven technology change within an organization, doesn’t mean they can’t convince someone to adopt a new process or change their mindset. In fact, a lot of social service type careers are trained to do just that.
Opportunistic (and risky) bet: hire a customer: Hiring a customer, or at least someone with in-depth industry experience, is a surefire way to up-level your success team. The insights they bring to who your customer is and what’s important to them is invaluable. On paper, they may not look like a great candidate, but their ability to relate to your customer (their peers!) will be unmatched by anyone on your team. They’ll be able to translate for you and provide the in-depth expertise that comes with years of experience in an industry.

Now that we have learned how to determine the traits your CSM candidates need to have to perform. And you have some tips and tricks for finding great candidates. If you would like to get a cheat sheet that breaks down the highlights that you can use to drive conversations internally. You can contact us HERE and will send you the Hiring Rockstar CSM's worksheet. Good news is we have built all the tools Rockstar CSM's use to be great into our flagship product. If you would like to save time and get auto generated insights using these concepts click HERE to schedule a time to connect and sign up for our Dataplant beta program.

Hopefully you enjoyed these gems time to get out their and hire like never before. What do you think? Let us know by sharing this blog, reaching out on Linkedin. Until next time, stay hungry!

  • CS Visionary, Rockstar CSM