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Customer Success Training & Certification. Should you invest?

By Alan Fecamp

Yes…if you’re an early stage B2B SaaS company

Customer Success (CS) is a long way behind sales when it comes to official training and recognisable methodologies and certification.

Challenger, SPIN, Sandler, MEDDIC, MEDDPIC, Miller Heiman, HubSpot Inbound, BANT…

I could fill the page with known, credible methodologies widely used by sales professionals across the world.

In fact, it’s commonplace for a client to request specific methodologies like these when briefing us on hiring projects. That’s perfectly understandable given the maturity of Sales vs. Customer Success.

Sales has existed since people started selling things…and was professionalised in the early 1900’s by IBM, around the time Dale Carnegie started publishing books on the subject. Now there are millions of salespeople plying their trade across the globe.

Customer Success – taking off without training

In contrast, Customer Success was invented by Salesforce back in 2005. It has only really started to gather momentum as a profession in recent years and now employs around 120,000 globally.

I can’t recall a single instance over the last 10+ years of hiring Customer Success roles where a client has requested any specific training, methodology, or certification. The reality is for a long period there just weren’t any standout and recognisable training options in the markets for aspirational CS folk to look towards.

The usual brief - beyond experience in CS at an appropriate level - will usually contain a requirement for domain experience, a bias towards either growth, renewal, or retention depending on the role. After that, it’s all about the personal characteristics that make a strong candidate, such as high EQ, empathy, and so on.

However, there are signs that this is changing.

So, why now?

The Customer Success profession has seen rocket-propelled growth in recent years and is consistently featured in LinkedIn’s biggest growing jobs reports.

It’s an attractive career path for many from a multitude of backgrounds, such as Project Management, Account Management, Consulting, Pre-Sales, and increasingly Sales transitioning.

Aside from a Covid driven market shake-up between March and August 2020, demand has been consistently high for CS professionals, particularly in early stage B2B SaaS companies building out new teams.

In the UK, the amount of people with Customer Success Manager as a title has grown between 30-40% every year for the last four years. It’s a similar story in the US.

With so much growth in the market, and very little defined career path into CS, it’s crying out for a standardised framework and recognised best practice to be adopted.

An industry standard operator guide if you will, that helps everyone understand what great looks and to develop team members accordingly.

As teams grow and leaders look for an edge, the subject of CS training and certification has increasingly come up as a subject on client briefing calls. At the same time, our partners and friends at PracticalCSM have experienced the same uptick in client interest.

We’re not at the point of it being an essential requirement - but it is an interesting subject that clients are increasingly keen to discuss.

You get out more than you put in

In my opinion, the role of a VP of Customer Success in developing team members is far harder than the VP of Sales who is supported by the training methodologies mentioned above.

But, if you’re an early stage B2B SaaS company aiming to build best-in-class Customer Success, then investing in training, certification and a best-practice framework would be an exceptionally smart move.

I believe a company making this investment would have an edge in a highly competitive market that attracts quality people looking for a new employer:

  • It sets you apart from almost everyone else right now.
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  • It demonstrates the value the leadership or founder team places on CS
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  • It shows you’re ahead of the curve - doing something positive at a time when few companies have adopted this
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  • And it’s a great message to send out in your marketing collateral to potential candidates.

Start right, grow fast

Onboarding new candidates into a high growth business can be a challenge. Not many get this right and it goes beyond having a swag bag sent on day one!

Having a formal CS training programme to run alongside your company’s specific training will set candidates up for success.

It will bring structure for recruits and relieve some of the pressure leaders face when a new team member starts. To me, it represents a great long-term investment with a significant ROI.

Your programme should feature a high-quality CS framework utilising best practices that have been carefully built into it. This will increase both the productivity and effectiveness of your Customer Service team. It will also help you measure and analyse what they do, making it easier to report back on ROI – something that many CS Leaders currently struggle with.

That’s good for the team… but for me, the real winners are the founders and leaders of early-stage business who are relying on CS to build their brand and grow revenue.

Do you agree? We’d love to hear your views and feedback on any Customer Success specific training programmes being implemented at your business.

Fancy a chat?

Alan Fecamp

+44 (0)1494 360 360

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