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What Customer Success Leaders Look For In Mentees

A guide to what Customer Success leaders look for in those they mentor, and how to find a mentor.
Ben Winn
December 8, 2020

We asked coaches from the Catalyst Coaching Corner—some of the top CS leaders in the industry—to weigh in on what they look for in those they take on as mentees.

As you can imagine, their schedules are quite packed, and making time to mentor others is something that these folks elect to build into their busy days because they feel that it is important to give back to our industry and support others who are building their careers. 

Folks they choose to lend their time to are diverse in many ways, but they also share many core characteristics. Here are the top things our coaches look for:

1. A continuous improvement mindset

Mentees must have a strong desire to learn. They must be eager to absorb knowledge, ask insightful questions, and take action based on learnings.

2. Organization and preparedness

Mentees must be organized, particularly when it comes to preparation and follow-up. Sending an agenda and clear goals for the coaching calls in advance is imperative. Taking notes and sending a follow-up email after coaching calls is also a fantastic way for mentees to not only stay organized, but to reinforce to their mentor that they were actively listening and had tangible takeaways from their session. 

3. Empathy and kindness

Critical attributes of any CSM, but especially critical in a mentoring relationship. Mentors want to lift up people who they believe will then lift up others. 

4. Drive and ambition (but also humility)

Coaches want their mentees to aim high and dream big, but also to remember that there is always more to learn, and that they must always show appreciation and gratitude for those who help them in work and in life. Coaches don’t want to waste time on people just looking to "check a box" on their LinkedIn profile - they want to dedicate their time and energy to help.

5. Open-mindedness and curiosity

Mentees must be open to learning new things and hearing new points of view. Being willing to try new things that might seem difficult or intimidating is at the core of mentorship. What is a mentor for if not to push those they coach and help them grow.

6. Respect for their time

Being respectful of the coaches is table stakes for being involved in any mentorship program. That includes being respectful of their time by coming prepared and on time, as well as being respectful of their ideas, philosophies, and advice.

7. Charisma and a sense of humor

No one likes being bored. This point is not to say that mentees should prepare a standup comedy routine for their call, nor should they feel any sort of pressure to “entertain” their coach, but coaches enjoy seeing the personalities of those they coach shine through. Often people hide their personality for the sake of “professionalism” and more often than not, this works against them.

8. Passion for their work

“The law is reason-free from passion.” Any Legally Blonde fans out there? No? 

Well either way, this Aristotle quote definitely does not apply to Customer Success. Customer Success people are incredibly passionate about what they do. It’s in their bones. They love the work, they love the mission, and they love the Customer Success community. Mentees should not be shy about what their passions are. It excites coaches to know that they are helping someone pursue something they’re passionate about.

9. Clarity of objectives

Mentees do not need to know off the bat exactly where they want to be in 5 years, or what they want to do with their life, but they do need to provide some objectives to their coach. “Determine what my professional objectives should be” could actually be an objective! Many coaches will be happy to help flesh out what their mentee’s goals are. Wherever possible though, objectives should be specific and sent in advance (i.e. “I would like to be promoted to Senior CSM in 2021.”).

10. Collaborative professionals

Customer Success is a team sport! Collaborating not only with customers, but also with other departments internally and community folks at large is critical for success. It’s also important to understand that collaboration is something that should be done laterally as well as upwardly with senior leadership. Looking for opportunities to work with and lift up peers is a key indicator of a future leader.

How to Find YOUR Customer Success Mentor

There are a few things you can do or start doing today to find your own Customer Success mentor.

You can apply for the Catalyst Coaching Corner. If you do, make sure to put a lot of thought and care into your application to make it stand out. If you’re accepted into the program, your future coach will also be looking at your application responses.

Alternatively, you can find a mentor yourself, and the best way to do that is not (surprisingly) to slide into someone’s DMs and say “Hey, I really admire your career, will you be my mentor?” but rather to approach it as if you’re finding someone to be in a long term relationship with…

  • Research them thoroughly
  • Determine why you think they’re a good fit for you and why you’re a good fit for them
  • Message them to schedule a one-time meeting to chat about something specific
  • A warm intro through a common contact is always best, but cold outreach can work well too
  • Don’t ask to “pick their brain” - find something specific (a challenge, a goal, etc.) that you want to get their thoughts and feedback on
  • Send a follow-up after the call thanking them for their time and recapping key takeaways from your call (this shows you listen and you’re coachable)
  • If you felt like there was a great fit, ask at the end of your call or in your followup email if they would be open to meeting again the following month to discuss how implementing their advice goes.
  • You can repeat this monthly and if you strike up a rapport, a mentorship relationship will evolve naturally
  • If you don’t have rapport and you aren’t getting strong vibes from your potential mentor, respect that and take it as a sign that you weren’t the right fit for each other, and find someone else to reach out to

Mentorship relationships are only truly valuable if both the mentor and mentee “click” and sometimes it can take a while to find the people you “click” with, but that’s what makes those relationships so incredibly valuable.

For more information and to get involved in the Catalyst community, click here.

Better relationships. Less churn.

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