Updated: Aug 14
In Customer Success—and Account Management, and Customer Experience, and Sales, and Professional Services, and Customer Support, and, and, and, and basically any customer-facing role, which I’ve tagged #CustomerEverything Functions...kinda catchy, right?—we frequently hear about how technology can give us an edge in knowing our customers through analytics and other tools. You can study the customer’s use of your product. You can find out the sentiment of their experience through surveys and NPS scores. You can even watch and guide the Customer Journey from pre-sales to onboarding to renewal through the use of in-app prompts, videos, and automated interventions that don’t necessarily require the direct help of a human being.
But technology and artificial intelligence cannot make up for the human touch of us “#CustomerEverything-ers”. Why? Because there is always a human at the other end of that signed contract. If we ignore them, we do so at our own peril.
I have been in CS for a while, but I also have a background in psychology. When you put those two lenses together, you can identify personalities amongst your stakeholders that help you give the best experience according to their perceived needs. Sometimes, those details never end up in a contract or a statement of work (SOW).
The first step to understanding your customer is to become an expert on them…kind of a “duh”, I know.
But I’m not talking about just knowing their desired outcomes, the KPIs for success, the key stakeholders, their use case, and their business as a whole—that’s the “duh” part. I’m talking about really knowing them at the human level. The good news is you don’t need to be an expert in human behavior to do this. It is part of the ‘human first’ movement to take the time to understand their problems, pain points, and what, most importantly, makes them tick.
You must be the authority on them by learning as much as you can about what motivates, inspires, and drives them forward every day.
To simplify this process, I have consolidated these various Motivational Personas into three types of stakeholders. You can identify them by what motivates them, what they are probably thinking at each stage of the journey, what lifecycle activities appeal to them, and what drives them to their desired results. Knowing and understanding the customer at this level provides you with an edge on outcome-driven engagements and bringing value to your clients. You will also know which message resonates with them the best and how to deliver that message. Then, you can deliver on their desired outcomes; and do so by speaking their language. That’s a win for everybody.
THREE (3) MOTIVATIONAL PERSONAS OF KEY STAKEHOLDERS
#1 - THE EXPERT
“Work hard, dream big”
The first Motivational Persona is the one who identifies themselves as The Expert. They’re motivated by achievement, competence, challenges to overcome, problem-solving, and many times even autonomy. They are sure of what outcomes are most important to their company and them personally at each stage of the Customer Journey. So, focusing on both is a great idea!
As a Customer Success Professional, or #CustomerEverything Professional, you will need to know what the “expert’s” professional background is. Consider it a part of your due diligence to research everything about them.
Most likely, you will find out that they are problem solvers. That means they are achievement- and goal-oriented, and to them, actions speak louder than words. They are very aware of other people’s work ethics, and no doubt will be studying yours.
You do not want to give them any impressions that you are lazy or could potentially “drop the ball” at any point of the process, especially achieving the outcomes you have set together. You will lose their trust, and the overall engagement could go downhill quickly.
The cornerstone of your process is to start every engagement by tracking toward goal- and outcome-achievement like gangbusters! It’s imperative they achieve the goals that they, or their superiors, have set out for them in the time allotted. Help them do that, and you’re in! They are motivated by other competent folks and those who don’t shy away from hard work. Smart and innovative problem solvers excite them. They want to excel at what’s most important to them. So, let them guide you.
Listen carefully to their asks and demands, specifically around the land, and adopt stages of the journey. Identify their initial goals in purchasing your product. Make sure these are detailed not only to determine measurement, but because you will never succeed in proving value without them.
Continue with a solid strategy for success tracking. They are motivated when they’re solving problems, so if there’s a challenge to get them to success, voice it, ask if they have any solutions, and brainstorm together on how to solve it. Do they have predetermined KPIs? I bet they do. Now, pose questions about what they wish to accomplish with your company’s product and how they want it to further their goals? Also, be precise on delivery. You can even create a calendar or organize a success plan with start and end dates, as well as checklists.
When it comes to adoption and expansion phases, The Expert is all about finding and filling gaps. So, align with them on finding those gaps and suggesting ways to fill them.
Then during renewal, make sure you show how close to achievement of the success plan you’ve come thus far. Through these actions, you will be speaking their language. So, focus on what always resonates with them.
#2 - THE FRIEND
“Success is best shared”
“The Friend” Motivational Persona are those who are motivated by affiliation/community, engagement, group consensus, and sometimes even nurturance and security. They have the mindset of “we’re better together”. They like for everybody to be involved in the process. More importantly, they want to make sure that you, as the CS Professional or #CustomerEverything Professional, focus on the success of your and their team together. No one is to be left out or ignored.
They believe achieving success is a group effort. A sure-fire way to tell who is The Friend? If they tend to copy many people on emails on the regular. Or if they start conversations by connecting in a personal way first, such as family & friend updates.
“The Friend” wants to see how your team and their team work together to achieve objectives. During the Land phase of the customer journey, you should begin with an in-depth walk-through of everyone participating from both sides and how each is dependent on the other. “The Friend” wants you to care about who their team is as a person and treat their team the same. It’s important to care for and listen to their pain points and their problems. You're speaking their language if you care about their end-users’ experience.
So, consider Ride Alongs, Back-Office Shadowing, and Chairsides to help you and them understand what's missing in terms of achieving those outcomes.
They enjoy customer communities where they and their end-users collaborate, vote on features and functions, and share what they learned with the entire team. Closing the feedback loop is key. Everything should aim for team benefit, group training, and collective knowledge sharing and education. This stakeholder believes all participants are a part of the same team.
During the Adopt phase of the customer journey, they will likely focus on how certain features and functions of the software will help teams be more productive as a whole. Does the implementation, training, project, new feature, etc., help them, their end-users, their team, their group, and ultimately their entire organization to be more successful and productive? As the Customer Success or #CustomerEverything Professional, that is where you will want your messaging to focus.
During the Expand phase of their journey with you, they want to learn ways their team and end-users can achieve more and better outcomes, but the process of achievement is different.
Wonder which Motivational Persona is easiest to turn into Champions? It's The Friend! But a word of warning, they could be your greatest detractor too if you ignore them and their genuine interest in your success as well as theirs.
Anything that you can come up with that allows them and their team to be part of the creation process of how you Expand them is a win-win in their book, and they will sing your praises.
You will find that they and their team are amazing(!) for beta programs, user group sessions, advisory board training sessions, and even assessment tools.
Then, of course, keep that feedback loop and follow-through going by having a discussion on how to implement those learnings in a way that ensures everybody wins.
And when it comes to Renewals, you want to focus on team success stories of how both your team and their team collaborated to achieve the value and outcomes set forth from the get-go. For The Friend Motivational Persona, it is about the alignment and success of all teams, not just them. How did they help you? How did you help them? How did the teams working together help everybody?
#3 - "THE CEO"
“Leadership is Influence”
The last Motivational Persona Stakeholder is “The CEO”. But, let’s be clear. This is not a true CEO necessarily, but the Motivational Persona of a CEO. This individual wants to know what successes and wins you are going to achieve for them. They are hyper-focused on their leadership influence. Their motivators are power, esteem, and influence. They're driven by others giving them their due respect, so avoid this ego landmine: don't ever go above or around them. That's a recipe for disaster. They’re motivated when they’re winning or if you’ve provided a clear path to the win. Whenever you have the opportunity, give them a stage or a platform to convey their expertise and achievements.
When you gather their desired outcomes, this is your first chance to give them the platform they want. Inquire what their vision is and document it. By putting that at the front of your goals, they will appreciate and know you are putting their desires first.
A great tip? Put their stated vision in quotes with their name at the top of any document you use to gather goals, outcomes, and KPIs, like my Goal Alignment Matrix. Then begin any meeting by stating their vision. Show "The CEO" Stakeholder that their vision is of utmost importance and will be at the forefront of everything you do together.
Doing your due diligence and preparing like your life depends on it is always essential, but how you accomplish this process is even more critical. First, you need to learn how they would like to engage with your organization. This is key! During any meeting throughout their journey with you, be sure to give a quick rundown of what the meeting entails, then get their agreement on the agenda by asking if that works or if they’d like to add/edit anything. Be sure to document everything they say and follow their directive.
But don’t be a pushover either, because during the Adopt phase of the Customer Journey, they expect you to have made your solution “sing”, meaning that it works, it’s functional, and you got the job done. So, if there’s a challenge with their directive, voice it. Tell them you have some ideas on how to solve it, unless they have an idea of their own? That way, they feel empowered in the change they are creating in their company.
Take every opportunity to leverage their CEO mentality, especially in the Expansion & Renewal phase of the Customer Journey. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to give them a platform and occasion to share their success with others by being a guest speaker, moderating user groups, and gaining VIP offerings, being invited to VIP roundtables, and the like. If you help them show the world their wins, it will put you in their good graces, and they’ll be an amazing advocate and champion of yours!
Another way to ensure advocacy? Find a way to give them a better deal around the Expansion phase of their journey. Just be sure to negotiate on what’s key to them “winning”.
“Winning” means achieving the goals their boss has set out for them to achieve. If expanding to another country is key to their growth, use that as the bargaining chip by giving them a deal on the licenses if they’ll do the upgrade, they’re dragging their feet on, then explain how that upgrade is a win.
Finally, during Renewal, you might have a better chance of closing that renewal if you show them they’re important. One way of doing that is getting your organization’s C-level executive to meet with them and hear what’s important to achieve next year.
THE HUMAN-FIRST SUCCESS MULTIPLIER
The most important thing to remember for any Motivational Persona is that they are a Human First (and a customer second). Being Human First, by Merriam Webster/Google dictionary definition is this:
Human: consisting of people (a customer or employer).
First: Before all others or anything else in time, order, rank, etc.
Success: the achieving of the results wanted or hoped for.
So, Human-First Success is “putting people before all others (customer or employer) resulting in what was wanted or hoped for.”
By understanding and really caring about what makes them tick, you’re speaking their language and putting that CUSTOMER'S success first...which in turn guarantees your, and your EMPLOYER'S, success, which creates exponential success for every HUMAN you touch. After all, we call it Customer SUCCESS for a reason!
What's your Motivational Persona? Any others you would add?
To listen to my Human First Lightning Talk from Gainsight's Pulse Everywhere Conference, watch the video below!
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Thanks for reading!
Your Friend first, and The Expert second ;)