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8 ways to get promoted to VP of Customer Success

woman with background

8 ways to get promoted to VP of Customer Success

November 11, 2021
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Customer Success (CS) teams have experienced tremendous growth in recent years as more SaaS companies realize how critical CS is to increasing company valuation, and making a big impact on SaaS efficiency metrics.

If you are a CS leader and are looking to take the next major step in your career, then here’s an insider tip for you: modern SaaS implementation platforms can not only accelerate customer time-to-value and drive more revenue, but also speed up your promotion path too. 

Check out these 8 ways to become the next VP of CS, and how having the right onboarding tools can help. 

  1. Always know what’s going on

The critical activity that happens with your customers during onboarding/implementation is where your company’s brand reputation is truly forged. 

If you work for a B2B SaaS company that’s managing implementations with outdated, ineffective tools like spreadsheets, then just being the person on your CS Team who recommends implementation-specific management tools can get you noticed. 

Micro actions you can take: 

  • Know your project status at any given time.
  • If you got a call from an exec right now, would you be able to pull the project status off the top of your head? How about in under 3 minutes?  If the answer to either or both is no, we suggest systematizing how you track your projects.  If you have several projects going on concurrently, you should have a standard way of tracking progress.

Macro actions you can take: 

  • Assuming you have a deployment template, notice the changes between one implementation and another.  
  • Are there elements to change in the master template?  
  • Are you noticing a trend with a particular customer subgroup?  For example, are enterprise deployments taking longer than the enterprise template when there are more than 3 separate systems to integrate?
  • Is there a customer deliverable that is always late and should be moved up in the deployment template? For example: are customer credentials relevant in phase 3 but regularly delayed and therefore should be covered in kickoff meetings?
  • Wrap up these findings in a crisp presentation and turn observations from the field into actionable strategic improvements that make you look good. 
  1. Always know what’s NOT going on 

Pinpointing precise areas where changes are needed and how real improvements can be executed efficiently and with minimal cost to the business will no doubt impress bosses who are tired of fielding complaints. 

Micro actions you can take: 

  • Establish a standard weekly cadence for all of your projects so that you are able to run exception reports. 
  • Is it Thursday, and are you missing team inputs?  By establishing a consistent and predictable schedule of activities you will be able to manage the inputs while also easily detecting when you are missing information.  
  • Over time, missing information will be the exception as your team starts to want to deliver ahead of the reminder.
  • Prove all your suggestions with solid data.

Macro actions you can take: 

  • Wrap up your implementation findings from point #1 in a crisp presentation that has suggestions backed up by data. 
  • Prioritize suggestions that increase revenue to the front, followed by those that decrease cost/speed up the implementation.
  • Turn those observations from the field into actionable strategic improvements.
  1. Drive revenue

Remember, a signed contract is a great accomplishment, but the customer doesn’t start writing checks until the software is fully implemented. And in SaaS pricing models that are user-oriented, a stalled or failed implementation means stalled or zero ARR. 

Our experience has been that the CS personnel who operate with revenue recognition in mind, are at the top of management’s list when leadership positions open up.  

Micro actions you can take: 

  • Complete projects within budget.
  • Talk about change orders with a can-do-attitude and close change orders to cover overages
  • As an expert on the product and other customer deployments, position yourself as someone the customer can trust—and be sure to tell them when they could leverage more of your platform to achieve their goals. In other words, upsell when it will benefit the customer.

Macro actions you can take: 

  • Whenever you feel the need to escalate, put the request in quantifiable, hard-dollar terms. 
  • For example: the impact of this not happening will cost us $10,000.   
  • Hone in on observations across the portfolio that have an impact on revenue
  • Create a “back-of-the-napkin” model on the impact across the portfolio.  
  • For example: moving the request for credentials into the kickoff phase from the design phase will save an average 4-day delay on 50% of our projects meaning a saving across the portfolio of X amount of dollars. This may seem like an oversimplification of the project delivery but you are likely to know about patterns in the front line that are systemic and could turn into a meaningful strategic change.  The ability to break the observation down into an impact across the entire portfolio is systemic solution-oriented thinking.
  • The ability to articulate the observation in a way that highlights a positive impact to revenue will show that you are thinking about improving the department and company’s overall trajectory.
  1. Drive profits 

A requirement for CS leadership is a keen understanding that removing costs and time from the onboarding process translates into higher margin deals.

Micro actions you can take:

  • If an implementation system exists, know it deeply and use it meticulously
  • If no system exists, consider running your projects on an implementation project management system for increased visibility, improved client communication, and ability to manage and mitigate risks
  • Running your projects in an exemplary way means you will be the example

Macro actions you can take:

  • If an office of the PMO exists, funnel your input and observations to that function
  • If no office of the PMO exists, run your personal projects in such a manner that they could be copied for a new team-member—this will lead to you becoming the gold standard
  • Referring to point #2 where we said “back up suggestions with data”—we have found that the most compelling data can be communicated in under 3 minutes. 
  • For example, Gantt charts showing the bottlenecks in several projects will visually bring this issue to life and demonstrate where the points of friction seem to repeat, making it 100% clear to those who aren’t fully immersed in the project details. 
  1. Show your teammates’ work and give them the credit  

If you’re using state-of-the art CS tools, you should be able to provide visibility for your management team into each team member's contributions to your customers’ success. Being able to show off how impactful your onboarding team members are will highlight the productivity of your colleagues as well as reveal to management that you value teamwork. 

Micro actions you can take:

  • Look like a leader by acting like a leader.
  • As a PM, you are the representative of your company in the client-facing onboarding phase and the lead for your team
  • When possible, take the heat off your team, and serve as a cover for them.
  • Leaders point to their teams accomplishments.
  • Consistently behaving like a leader will make you a natural choice if opportunity presents itself for advancement within the company.

Macro actions you can take:

  • As you start to notice the accomplishments within your own team, you will start to notice the stars across your organization.
  • Make connections with those whom you see going above and beyond in the interest of the company.
  • Be an “inside expert” on what is working and what is not as far as team goes.
  1. Leverage audit trails to ‘show your work’

Remember that math teacher who refused to accept the test answer as correct if you couldn’t “show your work?”  Well, moving up into leadership roles is no different—you have to base strategy on verifiable facts, not hunches.  

With an onboarding tool that provides an immutable record of every single implementation project your firm has managed, you can help your company learn from mistakes, streamline the process, and get better with each new client. Furthermore, your clients can provide feedback throughout the entire SaaS implementation process. 

Micro actions you can take:

  • Create an auditable trail for your projects.
  • In a worst case scenario of reps and warranties, your company (and their legal teams) will be thankful for your meticulous documentation. Consider a tool like Baton for out-of-the-box audit trails so that this meticulous documentation takes no extra time out of your workday.
  • In a best case scenario, your projects will be used as the best-in-class example because they will be easy to understand for someone coming to the project from outside the project.

Macro actions you can take:

  • Show that you are ready to grow into the next set of responsibilities precisely because of your meticulous documentation and planning—someone can pick up today with no lag time, this means you are ready for larger and greater things.
  1. Make your boss’s job easier 

Modern onboarding management tools allow your boss to paint a picture for C-level management of how efficient their CS team has become. Our recommendation is to employ these modern implementation tools to find new ways for the entire CS team to rapidly improve.  

Micro actions you can take:

  • Deliver on time and within budget.
  • Offer positive inputs to the office of the PMO. 
  • Be the least of their problems while always offering a best-in-class example.
  • Voice that you believe in the company and are ready to contribute more.

Macro actions you can take:

  • In points #1 and #2, we suggested noticing trends and wrapping them up into crisp presentations. We also suggest showing these to your manager first and always volunteering to participate in the presentation to add color commentary. 
  1. Use your experience to mitigate risk 

Remember that today’s SaaS customers have a lot of competitive options to pick from, so the SaaS vendor who shows up with a plan revealing depth of experience also demonstrates a tendency towards greater competence. And being the face of such competence has rewards as well.  

Micro actions you can take:

  • Your experience as a team-member who has participated in other implementations of your product is invaluable to your customer. Feel free to share some battle stories of what you have seen crop up as issues/risks during other engagements in order to mitigate them in this engagement.
  • Log and manage risk—remember that mentioning risk before the risk occurs is not a burden to the customer, it’s the gift of your experience and knowledge in deploying your specific technology. 
  • Propose tactics to mitigate risks as soon as you detect them and consider the customer a partner in risk mitigation. 

Macro actions you can take:

  • Run lessons learned across projects so that the institutional knowledge can be shared across the portfolio. This is more important now than ever with a distributed team.
  • The best organizations iterate these lessons learned into their deployment templates. A product like Baton allows teams to quickly and easily update three-dimensional templates to be used across the portfolio.

The bottom line

To grow your career in CS, you need to employ the industry's best new technologies.  

At Baton, we’re seeing our users advance up the company ladder—telling us that by using Baton to add efficiencies, scale faster, cut costs, accelerate revenue and speed time-to-value, they were able to demonstrate their leadership abilities to their company’s top management. 

And speaking of demonstrations, you can try Baton for free. It may be the best career move you’ll ever make.

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