The Mindset of a PM

What is the mindset of the Product Manager you ask? The role of a product manager is to be an advocate of the customer first and foremost and understand their roles, personas, and sentiments deeply.

It is a unique position which will align customer needs with the business strategy. It is no secret though, that if the customers are happy, business outcomes are almost always happy. Rather, I cannot think of an instance when that isn’t so.

The Mindset of a CSM

In my opinion, Customer Success managers who have a similar mindset, which means they are customer advocates, understand the customer needs deeply and also know the business strategy are the ones that succeed.

The mindset must extend to the fact that a customer might be asking for something that does not completely align with the business goal but delving deeper on the “needs”, will help the customer success manager figure out if that is indeed what the customer wants.

I looked at a couple of mind maps and tried to hone on key skillsets that apply to PMs, as well as Customer Success Managers; I found that the critical ones are the same.

Product Manager vs Customer Success Manager

Skills for Developing a PM Mindset

Here are a couple of key skillsets that will help Customer Success Managers develop that Product mindset. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a great start.

Know the Product Roadmap: Knowing the product roadmap in detail and keeping yourself up to date is critical to your success, as well as the customers’ success. I mentioned it in this article that having a PM partner is essential. You know now why the roadmap is structured that way, and what is driving it.

Understand the Definition of the Product: You need to know what problem the product is solving for and how it operates. It’s also helpful to know what the product can do, and NOT do. You should always understand the definition of the product, and be clear about the problem it is trying to solve.

Be Good About Getting to the Problem Statement: What makes a PM really good in their role is the ability to communicate and articulate the problem statement. Customer Success Managers should be able to hone in on the problem statement, and be able to communicate that to all stakeholders. The key here is understanding the difference between wants and needs.

Align with the Business Objectives: A Product Manager designs an offering with a sweet spot that not only provides a delight-inducing experience to the customers, but also finds alignment with their business. That is exactly the mindset a Customer Success Manager should try to emulate. Being on the front lines means that you are in a unique position to influence the future of the product.

Know What a Delightful Experience Means: You need to exhibit intense focus on wowing your customers. Having an opinion on the usability of the product, whilst being able to understand the usability feedback from the customers, will allow you to deliver that message back to the Product team.

Product Manager vs Customer Success Manager

Understand Your Market: Understanding your customers’ competitors will help you be the trusted advisor of your customers, and keep you apprised of what is happening in their markets. Isn’t that what your goal is?

Know Your KPIs: Love data, be driven by it, know when to stop looking at it. PMs are really good at that. Know what you are shooting for, know how you measure it, and know what you are delivering against. Be obsessed with KPIs. There are a lot of metrics to concern yourself with, but at the end of the day, key performance indicators are the metrics your company will use to judge your effectiveness.

Be a Dreamer; Be Creative: Think outside the box, challenge convention, and always question your processes. Is this the right thing for the customer? Will this lead them to success? Come up with creative solutions to problems and impediments, and don’t be afraid to try something that may not be successful initially.

Document Customer Inputs: If a Customer Success Manager is not documenting their conversations with the customer, there may be valuable insights lost. Each conversation with the customer is an opportunity for growth. Make a habit of documenting all interactions, and know what the important takeaways are from those conversations. Product Managers do this all the time, especially with direct customer interactions. It doesn’t have to be in a formal tool, and can be recorded in something as simple as MS Excel or word. (Of course, using a CRM or CS platform will help you aggregate this feedback much more easily!)

Continuously Evolve: Be open to change; you are a change agent! Change processes, streamline best practices, and be prepared to really disrupt the status quo. A customer first mentality will never let you down.

Making the Mindset Transition

Customer Success Managers should be able to highlight strategies that they use every day to defend the user experience, reach their KPIs, keep business on an upward trajectory, and customers happy. That is why a product mindset is essential to evolve the product roadmap, and grow the Customer Success function in an organization.

Pallavi Gadepalli

Customer Success Product Manager, Security Business Unit , Cisco Systems

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