Myth: CS teams don’t need sales skills

With Nadav Shem-Tov, Founder & CEO, NST Success Consulting, ex-Senior Director - Customer Success at Gainsight

In this edition, we have Nadav Shem-Tov, a CS thought leader with extensive experience building and scaling CS operations. With a background in management consulting and leadership roles at firms like Bain and Gainsight, he brings a wealth of experience in shaping top-tier Customer Success organizations. 

As the Founder and CEO of NST Success Consulting, he advises on building and scaling Customer Success operations in areas such as CS strategy, leadership development, and operational efficiency.  During his tenure at Gainsight, Nadav led the Enterprise Customer Success segment.

What's a common myth about Customer Success?

That the skills needed for customer success are completely different from those in sales. 

There’s a belief that CS should stay away from anything that resembles selling.  This comes from a narrow and stereotypical view of what sales means. 

But if you understand how modern enterprise sales should be – authentic, customer-centric, discovery-based, and focused on problem-solving – you can see how close CS is to sales.

Skills like persuasion,  storytelling, active listening, challenging customers, multitasking across various threads, etc. are table stakes for CS today.

How did you find your way into the world of Customer Success?

My CS journey started about ten years ago when I was in management consulting.

One of my projects was focused on how exceptional customer and employee experiences can fuel each other in a virtuous cycle. That got me excited about the potential of being customer-centric.

Then, a couple of my friends joined Gainsight in its early days. They offered me an opportunity to be part of defining what customer success meant – it sounded like the kind of challenge I was looking for. 

That’s how I found myself at Gainsight where I wore multiple hats within the customer success team and eventually led the enterprise CS function.

What advice would you give somebody starting their Customer Success?

Focus on becoming a trusted advisor to your customers. 

Invest in understanding your customers' businesses. Dive deep into their earning statements, keep up with their latest updates and announcements – make it your mission to know their challenges,

It's not about pushing product features or trying to get them to adopt everything your company offers – it's about understanding their business to help them achieve their desired outcomes.

Equally importantly, don't get caught up in reactive tasks like handling escalations or dealing with support cases. Stay focused on driving change and helping your customers reach their goals.

What advice do you have for CS leaders?

Think about it as a true 360-degree  role. 

There is a natural tendency to focus 100% of time and effort on managing downwards to build the team and the org. But you’ll need to manage sideways,  upwards, and internally to drive true career success.

This means actively working on your relationship with your peers in Sales, Product, Support, Services, etc. You need to upward-manage your relationship with your boss.

Equally importantly, you need to understand your career goals, set clear intentions, and advocate for yourself within the org

Customer Success comes with another dimension – managing outwards. You need to align your face, voice, and brand with your customers' overall success.

Why does your organization invest in Customer Success as a function?

There's a simple equation that captures it perfectly: 
Customer Success = Outcomes + Experiences

This makes CS everyone's job in the company. 

The leadership team has to champion this idea and the importance of customer success across the org

The key is to think of CS beyond just gross revenue retention – towards expansion with net revenue retention and not to forget the impact customer advocacy can have on new logo sales as well, – to drive a true growth engine. 

Successful companies understand that CS is a true differentiator in the marketplace today.

What do you think is the future of CS?

CS is at an inflection point and about finding the balance between the human and the digital.

Digital CS and the move to more efficient CS motions will be front and center – especially given the opportunities to leverage AI.

Speaking of AI, how do you think it is going to impact CS?

AI's impact on Customer Success is going to be massive – there's no denying it. We're still uncovering all the ways it'll reshape our approach to CS and business overall. We're going to see some pretty fascinating shifts, not just in how we serve customers, but also in how we build products. 

I think our next big task is finding the perfect balance between human interaction and the efficiency of AI.  

With this huge emphasis on AI and automation, do you think there’s a way to put humans back at the center of value delivery?

Humans will remain at the heart of CS – for the foreseeable future.

CS is about understanding and connecting with other humans to build trust and rapport. 

Every company I work with talks about digital CS or technology/automation, but they also talk about using human resources efficiently and for the highest value-add activities. 

The idea is to use technology to eliminate redundant, tactical tasks so they can connect with customer outcomes, customer value, and customer relationships.

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Myth: CS teams don’t need sales skills

With Nadav Shem-Tov, Founder & CEO, NST Success Consulting, ex-Senior Director - Customer Success at Gainsight

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