Trying to Land a Customer Success Role Without SaaS Experience? Here's Where to Start.

Trying to Land a Customer Success Role Without SaaS Experience? Here's Where to Start.

Written by Kevin Leonor- Contributor for CS Insider

Why should I hire you?

This is the question you need to answer during an interview.

Interviewers might not ask this question explicitly, but it is their duty to know.

But what if you’re applying for your first Customer Success role without having any SaaS experience?

You might think that most companies won’t hire you without it.

Here’s the truth:

  • You don’t need direct experience.
  • It’s possible to show you’re fit for the job.
  • You need to prepare.

Here’s how to position your past experience when applying for your first CS role, based on the skills companies look for in candidates.

Managing a book of business

If your customers referred to you by name and worked with you long-term, you have managed a book of business.

Ways to showcase this skill:

  • Describe how you have worked with your customers after closing a sale. How did you help customers achieve their goals after post-sale? How did you continue to build the relationship with them?
  • Think of a time when you have worked with high-value customers on a cyclical and intentional basis. Emphasize the annual spending of these VIP customers to show your capability of working with them.

Showcase how you went above and beyond for the customer, even after the sale.

Onboarding and training customers

If you've trained, educated, or set expectations with a new employee, customer, student, etc., then you've onboarded someone.

Remember, anyone can be your customer; even other internal departments.

Ways to showcase this skill:

  • Think about a time when you taught or trained someone else. Describe how you helped them reach their goals.
  • Outline how you designed a lesson plan or training workshop. What was your approach? Describe how you knew it was successful.
  • Explain how you leveraged technology in the classroom or training environment. Describe how the technology amplified your impact.
  • Describe a time when you broke down a difficult or complex topic into digestible chunks. What was the topic? How did you make it easier to understand or click for your audience?

Showcase your ability to teach others and set realistic expectations.

Working with software

You’ve worked with software if you have worked with computers. Employers want to know if you are competent with technology.

Ways to showcase this skill:

  • Think about all the applications you use every day to do your job. Even if the software seems simple, it is an experience that can show your ability to learn multiple tech stacks, including point of sale systems, customer loyalty software, email, support systems, etc.
  • If you use software for personal enjoyment, describe it. Do you know how to use editing software? How about coding? Even if you aren’t going to use these skills in the role you’re applying for, by describing what you do know now, you’re demonstrating what you can do later.
  • *Bonus points if you’ve ever learned the admin side of any software. Share how you built your mastery of this aspect of the software.

Showcase your ability to learn new software without excessive hand-holding.

Collaborating cross-functionally

It is impossible for one employee to do every job in a company. Unless you are a jack of all trades, you have worked with other departments.

Ways to showcase this skill:

  • Think about a time when, through collaborating with another department, you were able to achieve better results. How did you work with that department? How did they help you and how did you help them? How did you achieve better results by collaborating?
  • Think about a time when you had trouble working with a difficult peer. What made them difficult to work with? How did this affect your ability to get your job done well? Describe what did you to tackle this challenge.

Showcase your ability to work with others towards a common goal, even when you have different immediate goals, backgrounds, and experiences.

Handling difficult customers

Almost everyone has handled an irate customer.

The difference in Customer Success is that you own the long-term customer relationship.

There’s little chance to buck them off to someone else and make it their problem.

This means that you are responsible for helping solve their problem and providing a great experience along the way.

The difference comes down to how you turn a bad situation into a good one and maintained it that way.

Ways to showcase this skill:

  • Think about a time when you turned around an upset customer. What was the situation? What did you do to deescalate the situation? What was the outcome?
  • Think of a time when you interacted with an irate customer that wasn’t willing to listen. How did you handle the situation? What would you do differently next time?

Showcase your ability to operate well under pressure and emphasize with others.

Working in a fast-paced environment

You may think that your job is fast-paced. In a software environment, your world can change in an instant.

New product releases, restructures, new responsibilities, company pivots; all these things can and will happen. So the company wants to know if you can handle the rocky waters ahead.

Ways to showcase this skill:

  • Think about a time you faced a huge change in your work environment. How did you adapt to the change? How did you help others adapt to that change? What was the outcome?
  • Think about a time when you were stretched beyond your comfort zone and had to adapt quickly. What was the situation? What approach did you take to adapt to your new environment? What did you learn along the way?

Showcase your ability to learn on the fly, roll with the punches, and drink from the firehose.

It’s Your Turn

Hopefully, you now see that you aren’t too different from other Customer Success professionals.

Now it's your job to prove it to recruiters and hiring managers.

As you work on these thought exercises, use the STAR format. Be concise and stay resilient. You will join the ranks of CS professionals soon.

You will join the ranks of CS professionals soon.

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