Dear Insider: Why Is There a Wage Gap Between Sales and Customer Success?

Dear Insider: Why Is There a Wage Gap Between Sales and Customer Success?

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Q: I would love to hear your take on account transfers (as CSM's move to other positions, between teams, accounts get upgraded, downgraded, etc). How do you look at this and execute? thanks!

Account transfers are a necessary evil and can be tricky if not executed correctly.

First, let’s align on when an account transition might occur - CSP gets promoted, CSP resigns, new hire, customer request, re-segmentation.

You need to make sure that you have a plan that is mapped to each of these unique events as they will require you to manage the transition in a particular way.

The first few things you need to do:

  • Have a plan - Establish a plan to manage the internal communication, customer communication, and project management to ensure everything happens correctly.
  • Manage internal communications - Make sure that everyone in the company is aware of the change; you may not need to broadcast the changes but minimally ensure that if anyone needs to know who is managing the customer, they can find that.
  • Track your activity - Have a way to track all of the tasks and activities - internal and with customers. You cannot manage what you can’t measure.
  • Manage customer communication - Communication is key here. Make sure to manage communication with customers and set proper expectations.
  • Execute with ease - You have your plan, and now it’s time to execute flawlessly. Make sure everyone knows what to do, when, and with whom.

When you are outlining the plan make sure there is clarity around who the owner is, make sure to identify who will own the communication, ensure knowledge about the customer is flowing freely, and determine what’s next- executing the transition with the customer.

There are three things that will determine the success of your account transition:

  1. Customer communication
  2. Proper and aligned expectations
  3. Flawless execution

Transitions are inevitable but if done properly do not have to introduce risk into the partnership.

Q: As a thought leader in my organization, I would like to establish the principle that I am invited to the discovery meeting with the customer (the meeting that positions Customer Success before the onboarding). What topics would be of interest to the customer for me to address beyond presentations? Thanks!

If you are referring to the first formal meeting after the sales process and prior to the commencement of onboarding then this meeting should be focused on aligning with the customer on their business goals and objectives, discussing the partnership expectations, addressing any potential roadblocks and making sure everyone is clear on next steps.

This meeting establishes the partnership. If you are a thought leader in your space, this meeting could be a good opportunity for you to discuss your experience and expertise and how you will be able to serve as a resource for your customer.

Discuss the value you will bring to the partnership, how to leverage and engage with you. If you produce content that they should follow or engage with, point them in the right direction; share articles, videos, podcasts, social media profiles and more.

If you are going to join, make sure to position yourself as an added value to them.


Want to get advice from CS Insider and Kristi Faltorusso?

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Q: How do you address the wage gap between Sales and Customer Success?

Sadly there will always be a pay gap between Sales and Customer Success. We do different work and as such it must be incentivized differently.

I don’t compare the work I, as a Customer Success Leader, do to the work of an Engineer. It’s a different job.

All sales reps have quotas, numbers that they have to hit within a specific period of time; this will ensure we continue to grow the business at a particular rate over time.

These quotas drive behavior - they motivate the sales rep to close new customers and revenue at all costs and the value for them is in the close. Most AE’s have a much lower base salary with the potential to earn a lot if they are able to do their job well.

For Customer Success professionals the value we provide happens daily.

It’s not tied to the renewal or the upsell, those are the results of the work we do on a daily basis - all of the calls, emails, training, strategic conversations, collaboration, enablement, advocating for them, etc.

If we are doing our jobs well, the customer will renew and if you understand their goals and business needs, you will present value in the additional product at the right time.

Setting quotas for Customer Success professionals would drive the wrong behavior. It would encourage CSPs to push products based on their own internal objectives and not based on the timing and need for the customer, and it’s this motion that changes the dynamic of the partnership.

What I do think we will see over time is a stronger base salary aligned with the market, variable compensation models tied back to retention and growth. But remember, retention is not the result of the CSM, its the result of the company’s ability to deliver a strong product and a great experience.

There is very little actually in your control so you don’t want the bulk of your earnings left in the hands of someone else. You want to control your destiny.

In my opinion, instead of comparing your salary to another function, focus on negotiating a competitive salary for yourself based on your skills, experience, and your value.

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