08 May We need to talk: Why CSMs should communicate better with AEs
by Grant Acosta
As customer success managers (CSMs), we have plenty of things vying for our attention: the health of the engagement, priority cases, utilization management, renewals, micro-projects. . . The list goes on and on. While we receive outstanding support from our teams, many of us fail to leverage a vital member of the team whose knowledge of the client and the engagement is invaluable: the account executive (AE).
If you’re like most CSMs, you engage with your AEs for renewals or major escalations but miss the full value and potential of the relationship because you don’t communicate with them as much or as well as you should. When you make it a priority to communicate with your AEs, you get multiple channels of communication with the client, visibility into the client as a whole, and strategic direction for your partnership with the client.
Multiple communication channels
The top reason you should communicate with your AEs is so you can be aligned on your client communication strategy. Looping in your AE may feel like just one more thing to check off on your to-do list, but the long-term benefits are significant. For example, when you’re dealing with an escalation, a well-informed AE can help you respond and craft compelling messaging. They’re also positioned to engage stakeholders and key players in the client’s business who are not involved in the day-to-day relationship with Managed Services. Connecting with these individuals makes all the difference in creating a strong relationship with your clients.
These relationships are strongest when the AE is looped in on the week-to-week status of the engagement as well as escalations and renewal discussions. To be clear, you don’t have to call your AE every time there is an escalation. It can be as simple as a quick email or a CC to keep the AE up to date on the status of the engagement.
Holistic insight into your clients
As opposed to standard delivery projects, managed services professionals have the unique opportunity to get to know their clients over the long term. This long-term relationship gives the team great insight into their clients’ business processes and strategic directions. But even with the longevity of the engagement, you may not have insight into the company as a whole.
Enter the AE. AEs offer holistic insight into your clients. They can provide a higher-level view of your client’s business, exposing opportunities to expand your managed services offerings and giving insight into company-wide pain points. Their insights can pick up issues in something as small as a micro-project, which could be indicative of a larger problem. These issues may not be visible from the CSM’s perspective.
As your company and practice continue to grow, your managed services engagements will become more strategic. These engagements will require more than just a weekly status call and a 90-day NPS check-in. It will become increasingly important to follow up regularly, address utilization trends and future resourcing needs at specific quarterly check-ins, make material changes, and decide on a long-term direction for your accounts.
On top of these touchpoints, it is crucial to have internal communications. Hearing the AE’s insight into the strategic direction of the client can help guide how you plan the future growth of the account. Your collaboration with the AEs also helps them; they will have a better idea of how to craft messaging and what expansions they can propose for your managed services engagements. That crucial line of communication goes both ways.
Whatever stereotypes you may hold about account executives, there is enormous value in establishing regular communication with them. You get multiple channels of communication with the client, visibility into the client as a whole, and strategic direction for your partnership with the client. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team, and engaging with AEs makes your team stronger!
Grant has over 10 years of management experience. He currently is the Customer Success Manager for Simplus’ largest Managed Services engagements in the Western United States. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Redlands and a Master of Science in Information Systems and Business Analytics from the University of Utah.