What does it take to Hire a Successful CSM? Skills overview & a pool of interview questions

Hire a successful CSM

Hiring the right talent is critical.

A CSM should be the ultimate source of guidance that helps their respective clients navigate toward success. a CSM is a trusted advisor who must proactively collaborate and quarterback multiple stakeholders by nurturing trust (“Walk the Talk”), understanding their surrounding environment, and reacting fast. 🤝

As such, a CSM needs a combination of soft skills and previous experience and is not a junior position. Nevertheless, the previous experience can be diverse, and a potential candidate can come from business / organizational consulting, sales, Support, project management, and more. (Tech/non-tech)

Here are the primary five “soft skills” I focus on when interviewing a CSM as a recipe for identifying great talents based on dozens of hiring processes:

1️⃣ High emotional intelligence – People who are good at talking but to the point. People who love people, love to develop a conversation, know how to build a relationship from scratch, convey messages, and are good at listening. People who feel relatively comfortable with people they do not know are good at making people around them feel comfortable. In addition, the ability to coordinate expectations on an ongoing basis.

2️⃣ Commercial capabilities – People who stay put when seeing numbers and contracts. These skills can be developed (negotiation, what to say, and when), but with a basic orientation, it is easier and will lead to a higher success rate.

3️⃣ Excellent analytical skills – The ability to look at data or signs in the ecosystem and draw correct conclusions. The exact word is sharpness. And it’s essential for a CSM to identify a problem and understand how to solve it or generate added value for the customer by making the correct information accessible.

4️⃣ Flexibility and Durability – a CSM must know how to deal with uncertainty and stress as things are imperfect and still win. It is unsuitable for everyone, and past experience in similar environments is a big plus.

5️⃣ Time management– People who can manage time effectively, translate ideas into tasks, build a mechanism to follow them, take ownership of their responsibilities, and close the circle in time. All of these build trust.

Here is a pool of questions that I use to identify the right talent who possesses the necessary soft skills and previous experience to be successful in this role.

A few disclaimers before we dive into the questions:

👉 There’s no one-size-fits-all template for interviewing candidates. These questions are just a starting point; you should adjust them based on cultural aspects, your intuition, and the vibe you get during the interview.

👉 Some of the skills will be tested through a simulation of a customer interaction that will include preparing a presenting deck based on a challenging realistic scenario, such as a QBR with an unsatisfied customer or a drop in usage.

👉 We should remember to be kind and sensitive as searching for a job could be exceptionally tough mentally.

✅What is Customer Success in your view?

✅Why did you choose Customer Success as your career?

✅What do you like/dislike about being a CSM?

✅What qualities a great CSM needs to have to succeed?

✅If I had asked your existing/former manager to tell me about you, what would be the first things they would say? (Same question to your friends/team members)

✅What is the one thing you learn from your existing/previous work experience?

✅How do you make a customer feel comfortable with you?

✅What steps do you take to align expectations with your stakeholders?

✅Tell me about a time when you had to negotiate with someone to reach a successful outcome. What was your strategy, and how did you know when to say what?

✅Can you give me an example of a problem you identified and solved for a customer? How did you use data or other information to draw the correct conclusion?

✅ Describe when you had to deal with uncertainty or stress in the workplace. How did you handle it, and what did you do to maintain your well-being and focus?

✅ What methods do you use to manage and follow your tasks?

✅ What do you do if an answer for a customer depends on an internal stakeholder and it is taking them too long to get back to you?

✅ Can you describe your ideal working environment and how you would fit into a CSM role at our company? How could you contribute to our team’s success?

✅ What challenges will you face while working at our company based on everything you already know?

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