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  • Kuba Płonka

Who we are and where we are going a few words about development in the CS


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The end of the year is fast approaching and, thus, a time for every busy CSM to relax. But it’s also an excellent time to recap everything you’ve done and think about your plans for the coming months.


Today, I am sharing my thoughts on developing in a customer success role and giving you some suggestions for books and courses that you might use in the coming year. Enjoy your reading!


But before…

Before the details, I have broken down development into a few areas that best address the needs of this position. As everything is related to clients, some overlap and suggestions will address similar competencies. I have been versatile enough to ensure something for everyone, regardless of the sector. Finally, this is not a ranking; all things are equally important.


Soft skills

The obvious one. Everyone, everywhere, wrote already that soft skills of all kinds are essential. I have two suggestions for you to take a look at instead of writing in general terms if you don’t mind.


The first one is creativity.

It’s not something you can learn straight away, but for me, creativity is a specific process or path you go through yourself or with a team or client to change something for the better. There are a lot of different frameworks or techniques, but I recommend that you take an interest in design thinking. This approach involves creating or changing products based on customer needs. And while is primarily used by the product teams, who better understand and use the customer’s needs than a team that cares about that customer’s success. There are a whole host of books and courses on the subject, but I’d recommend you start with the following. A guide to design thinking, or how to use design thinking in business, by Piotr Grocholinski and Beata Michalska-Dominiak.


The second competence I suggest to you is presentation skills. And under this term, for me, two things are hidden.

  • First, how to present, speak and discover your unique style. The best course I’ve ever been on was almost entirely practical, and we showed selected things under the watchful eye of the trainers and…the camera. If you can’t afford dedicated training, start presenting yourself at home, but record your speeches. Watching them will be awkward at first, and it’s no better later, but it will allow you to observe your shortcomings and work on your technique at home.

  • Second, the presentation itself. There are plenty of guides and courses on how to create a good indication on the internet for free, including those using examples from reputable consultancies :) I especially recommend you Storytelling and how to create presentations using these principles.

Product management

An extensive topic. On the one hand, you may wonder why you should learn product management skills in a position where the customer matters. As you have already noticed from design thinking, these areas are strongly intertwined, and to help the customer succeed; we need product people to deliver top-notch solutions. On the other hand, the product team needs feedback from customers and people who can give a different perspective on functionality. In addition, during design or testing, the CS team can help either by attending workshops or by suggesting to customers who could participate in testing.


A good product cannot exist without the CS and product teams working together. I plan to write a whole separate article about this soon, so please let me know if there is anything, in particular, I should touch on.


Training and books. I recommend Product Discovery Pro training to you. I think Adam and Michael do a great job of showing how the discovery process works. And while I’m not planning a career change any time soon, the knowledge I’ve gained helps me in my day-to-day work.


Project management

Everything is a project today. This truism captures how important it is to understand the basics of project management to work effectively. There are many different methodologies or frameworks, both cascading and agile, but I would put my money on something related to agile working, such as scrum, SAFe or LeSS.

It depends on what the approach is in your company. A good idea to start with (if you haven’t already done so) is to ask your team members if they can tell you about it.


Besides, there is much training on LinkedIn Learning, Coursera or Udemy that, at little cost, will tell you more about any method you choose. Remember this, you are not supposed to become a project manager, but it is good to understand certain concepts and use specific tools, such as how to create a schedule, what is the difference between a task and an epic and what is a user story.


Sales

I wanted to know whether to put this section under soft skills or, after thinking about it, I decided it was worth separating this as a separate category.


By sales, I mean the most apparent effective cross-sell and up-sell activities, but sales, for me, is also the ability to ‘sell ourselves or our ideas.


In any organisation, there are usually more ideas than opportunities and resources to implement them. In this case, whether our vision wins will often be determined by whether we can adequately sell it to others. Also, if you are planning your career, one of the decisive factors will be how well you display your skills against others. In other words, whether we sell that out to everyone, we are the ones who deserve to get a promotion.


I don’t have a good course for you because I believe practice is the most important thing. Storytelling skills will undoubtedly help, but you have to start practising. No one is born with the ability to sell, and while you may have an aptitude for it, anyone can learn it!


What’s next?

That would be enough. I could add more things, but I am madly curious to hear your opinion! What is missing from my list, and what would you add? Do you agree with my suggestions, or do you have better ideas? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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