Customer success teams are in an ideal position to orchestrate expansion sales. And, staying anchored on customer value makes expansions a role-aligned activity. 

“Our first focus always is providing value to our customers,” says Leslie Ortego, VP of Customer Success at SchoolStatus. “Sometimes that means we are in a ‘sales’ role as we look for new, mutually beneficial ways to deepen our relationship with the customer.” 

SchoolStatus offers K12 district and school leaders a combined analytics, communication, and parent engagement platform. Leslie recently came into the role of VP of Customer Success to help build a proactive, strategic customer success model across all product lines.

Leslie used to say the customer success manager (CSM) was like a quarterback: “Sometimes you run the ball yourselves. Sometimes you throw to a teammate, but ultimately you’re calling the plays.”

But then she read Donna Weber’s book Onboarding Matters, which describes onboarding customers (and CS in general) as an orchestra, and now Leslie prefers using the analogy of a strategic CSM as a conductor.

I recently spoke to Leslie about her approach to strategic CSM work and how she leads her team to anchor continuously on value for customers.   

CSM as an Orchestra Conductor 🎶

“As a CSM, you’re a conductor of an orchestra,” Leslie explains. “Everything is going at the same time — you’ve got training going, support going, sales going, and expansion, etc. You have to get all those people all playing together to make beautiful music for the customer.”

And if one part of the team is not doing their part, the whole thing will sound off. It is in the interest of CSM to make sure everyone across the GTM team is aligned. 

Her team achieves this by: 

  • Ensuring everyone understands the goals and objectives of their incoming customers 
  • Involving integration and implementation teams early on to make sure customer goals align with the SchoolStatus value prop
  • Conducting regular customer check-ins – typically once a quarter but as frequently as needed – to make sure activities are aligned across departments and roles 

“Before the customer even steps through the door, we already know what their goals and objectives are, so we can start aligning towards that. The CSM conductor is conducting an orchestra of internal resources as well as external resources.”

Developing a Customer Health Score 🎼

Like any successful conductor, a CSM needs to listen constantly and have tools and a framework to measure customer health. It enables them to call on the right instrument, tempo, and volume.

Leslie’s team uses various tools to help score accounts and identify areas of improvement. Their health score includes both quantitative and qualitative measures of health:

  • Quantitative measures include things like customer utilization, frequency of use, number of tech support tickets as well as ticket resolution 
  • Qualitative measures include alignment with customers’ current and future goals and the CS’s assessment of customer satisfaction temperature – negative, tepid, happy, or fantastic

“At the end of each customer check-in,” Leslie says, “we ask our CSMs to complete a survey to confirm whether they used the meeting to cover the customer’s previous goals, identify their future goals, and if there are opportunities for expansion into other departments.”

It is the qualitative check-in on the customer temperature as well as current and future goals that has the most value in Leslie’s view.

Segmentation of Account Potential 💯

“We’re always tracking the total addressable market, of course – companion products, other areas of expansion and upgrades,” Leslie says. “However, we’re not focused solely on the dollar amount. We always go back to the customer value.”

Account potential matters and Leslie’s team uses a tiered approach based on the customers’ current spend and their total addressable market of cross-sell or upsell opportunities.

But the SchoolStatus CS Team is committed to lower tier accounts with a high level of value as well. Leslie’s team has gotten creative with how they deliver that service including group webinars and online training courses, 24/7 customer support, in addition to various levels of one-on-one training. 

And with bigger, higher potential accounts, Leslie explains that her team “is always looking for expansion opportunities. But we’re not looking for sales that aren’t the right fit.”

Instead, Leslie’s team follows the REAP model, where prospecting is at the end, not the beginning, of the customer engagement:

  • [R]elationship building
  • [E]mpathy
  • [A]ctive listening
  • [P]rospecting continually  

“You can’t come out of the gate prospecting,” Leslie says. “You’ve got to build that relationship. Relationships have to be built on Empathy. And you cannot possibly deliver value for a customer without Active Listening to truly understand your customers’ current and future goals. Prospecting then becomes a natural, mutually beneficial outcome.”

Customer success teams have different roles and responsibilities than sales teams. However, as Leslie’s CSM team at SchoolStatus shows, CS teams are in a great position to identify and orchestrate expansion sales in ways that are win-win for everyone.