One of the challenges I had in the earlier days of building out a customer success function was developing predictable renewals and expansion measures. For context, this was when we were still collecting performance data and our historical data could not yet provide sufficient predictive power.

If someone were to ask me today what are the best early indicators of renewals and expansion, I would say they are in the observable traits and behaviors of the Customer Success Manager.

There are five traits and behaviors that I have observed in the CSMs who consistently drive renewals, expansions, and customer satisfaction. I’ve mainly worked with high-touch B2B SaaS CSMs, but I believe this holds true for anyone in the profession.

From my observation, high-performing CSMs are:

Courageous and action-oriented

If I had to choose, this would be my pick as the most critical indicator of a successful Customer Success Manager who will drive results. A high-performing CSM may fear saying the wrong thing or looking stupid and choose to give it a go anyway. They are action-oriented as they know the best remedy to uncertainty and anxiety is action.

Because they focus on taking action, they inadvertently create ‘luck’ for themselves. Each successful attempt increases the likelihood of catching an expansion opportunity or critical information impacting renewals.

If a CSM only wants to do things that they can succeed at, they’ll eventually throw in the towel because as human beings we are more often wrong than we are right.

What makes a good Customer Success Manager great?
At Customer Success Collective, we love hearing from Customer Success Managers. In fact, we’re obsessed with them and the work they do; our small contribution is to create a hub of educational resources for global CS enthusiasts.

Firm and flexible

High-performing CSMs embrace structure and processes as guides, not set-in-stone rules.

For example, they may take the pricing plan as a guide but create alternatives that balance the customer’s budget and the company’s objective. They are firm with the customers on what can be delivered but do their best to offer alternative values and so rarely disappoint.

I have also noticed that customers have more respect for CSMs who are firm and flexible. They are more likely to be seen as trusted advisors than those who give the customers everything they ask for.

Have an abundance mindset

Being genuinely customer-centric is on everyone’s lips but not necessarily practiced. I’m not just talking about tactical actions like avoiding jargon, favoring easy-to-understand words, or being a good listener.

If a CSM has an abundance mindset, they also tend to be genuinely customer-centric.

Why is this so? CSMs who operate from an abundance mindset see that there are always options and resources.

Because of this,

  • They are more likely to believe there is a solution to any problem, which drives them to explore and take action.
  • They trade instead of negotiating. Winning by Design explains that,
    “Negotiating is pitting one side against the other. It’s an adversarial relationship where the goal is to get the other side to give up as much as possible. Trading is when both parties are on the same side of the table, finding a solution together. An example is offering something you both have in abundance, in exchange for something the other has that you find valuable, being fair for both parties”.
  • They are not locked into a zero-sum game of needing to always ‘win’ and look good. This frees them to be genuinely curious and ask plenty of questions to understand the customer’s pain points and needs.
  • They embrace the limitations of the existing product and services as an opportunity to grow rather than a hindrance.

An abundance mindset puts the CSM more easily in the customers’ shoes as they pursue a win-win outcome.

Have a robust understanding of how the product works in the backend

The best-performing Customer Success Managers spend time understanding the product’s technology to equip themselves to think through solutions for the customer.

This helps them to not over-fixate on the existing product and services as the company’s only value. Instead, they focus on the customer’s needs and the company’s overarching mission and do their best to devise solutions that creatively combine the two. They are not limited by the pricing plan and package menu they receive from their managers.

I’ve noticed that these CSMs actively seek opportunities to build relationships with the engineering, product, and data science team.

The complete guide to customer support, success and product development
“Just input the API key into the POST API field, delete all of the HTML lines above it, and hit refresh,” the support agent said.“Excuse me, W H A T?” I hollered into the phone. Doesn’t that sound like every customer service call EVER?

They always have a plan

The best CSMs always have a plan for the outcome they want to achieve.

They are objective-driven, spend time thinking about where they want to go and work backward to achieve their goal.

10 out of 10 of the highest-performing CSMs I have worked with will follow an explanation of the challenges they are facing with a plan they would like to experiment with. The odds of them achieving their desired goal increase when they combine this plan with being courageous and action-oriented.


If I were building a team of CSM today, all five of the above traits and observable behaviors would be at the top of my hiring scorecard. Are there any other traits or behaviors you have observed as good indicators? I’d love to hear them!

Become a CSC content contributor

Did you like this article? We hope you did, as it was kindly contributed to our site by Sylvia.

If you want your words to appear on our website and be shared with over 4,000 CSC members, then have a read of our contributor guidelines and see if we're the right fit for you.

Create and contribute | Customer Success Collective
Want to pop your content in front of 1,000s of your incredible customer success peers? Start building your personal brand? Prime yourself as an industry authority? Even just do your good deed for the day by imparting your wisdom with others?