Last year, I started sending “Tip of the Day” emails to my team. Sometimes I sent a Tip when I noticed a smart tactic that one team member used, and wanted to make sure we replicated it across the team. Other times I noticed a mistake that shouldn’t be repeated. Sometimes I had an idea for a process innovation and wanted the team to start thinking about it. Sometimes I wanted to spread certain norms and values.
In this post I’ve gathered the top tips from last year. Feel free to steal these and send them to your team!
There are a few benefits to sending Tips like these, including:
The entire team knows what’s top of mind for me.
They keep us agile, focused on continuous improvement.
The tip can inspire a new process improvement.
All team members can brainstorm about how to design that process, even if it’s their manager or our Ops lead who formalizes it.
I can inspire action even before we roll out that process improvement in a formal way.
Additional channel beyond meetings for training the team on important skills.
#1: Being a Rock Star
What does it mean to be a “rock star” on our team?
Rock stars do their job extremely well. But they don’t stop there. They go “above and beyond” by contributing to the strategic direction of our team.
Here are some examples of how you can be a rock star:
Identify repetitive activities that our team is doing and propose ways to scale (such as 1:Many communication and the CoPilot Welcome Email below)
Propose ways that we can specialize more
Own or contribute to a quarterly play
Identify trends across your customers and post them to Chatter
Do an analysis that shows a pattern across our customers – eg what are the most common feature requests? what are the most common upsell opportunities?
Propose analyses that show whether our efforts are paying off in terms of adoption, renewal, upsell
Come up with new techniques for driving adoption
Put on your VP hat every day – even better, your CEO hat
…And the list goes on!
What are some other ideas?
#2: Career Development
Some of you who are earlier in your careers might be thinking, where should I go with my career?
Several years ago, I interviewed for a role with a CEO. The CEO asked the following question, which I’ll never forget.
Say there’s an international festival that’s similar to the Olympics, except that instead of the competitions centering on athletic events, there’s a competition for every possible skill you could imagine. There’s a competition for juggling, for doing mathematical proofs, for cracking “knock knock” jokes, for being a good friend, for memorizing dates of historical events…the list goes on indefinitely.
Everyone in the world is participating in the festival.
Which competition would you participate in, in order to maximize your chances of winning?
The point is: Think about what you’re really good at, relative to everyone else out there. Think about what makes you shine, what makes you special.
#3: News Alerts
Have you set up news alerts on your customers?
Learn about an acquisition, merger, or other major company event right away. We all know that timing is super important for staying on the right track through a critical transition.
Obtain pieces of information (e.g. on product launches, strategic position, competitors) that you can refer to in customer conversations and in developing Success Plans. One great way to drive NPS!
#4: Childlike Joy
Every time we design a new process, let’s insert some childlike joy into it!
Example for brainstorming: In new sponsor process, we send a singing telegram to welcome the new exec.
#5: Internal Meetings
Let’s sharpen up our way of planning and managing internal meetings.
In advance send agenda + state concretely the specific objective(s) for the meeting. In other words, what counts as success for the meeting? What do you need to accomplish?
Do as much of the work as possible for the group ahead of the meeting. Then the meeting will be focused on gathering reactions to a strawman, rather than starting from scratch on a complex topic, which puts people on the spot and can become disorganized.
Note: even brainstorms require structure and significant advanced preparation in order to be effective.
Send the work you prepared 24+ hours in advance of meeting
Try to invite only the critical people to the meeting; no one likes joining a call where they’re not really needed
Recap agenda + objectives at start of call
Manage the conversation so that you don’t get off topic
If someone strays from the topic or is long-winded, politely redirect the conversation and explain that while you appreciate their input, your intention is to keep the meeting on track.
If there is disagreement and it doesn’t look like you’ll get consensus by the end of the call, explain that you appreciate everyone’s input and will be making a decision after the call (assuming you are the decision-maker), or else set up more time if the debate is productive.
Recap your conclusions + next steps at end of meeting
End 5 minutes early
Send a recap of what you decided after the meeting
#6: Thoughtful Communication
What does it mean to “communicate thoughtfully”?
Who is your audience?
Consider seniority, personality, background, function, internal/external.
How are they probably feeling right now?
Can you gauge their mood? Given what you know about what they’ve been experiencing, what is probably keeping them up at night right now?
What outcome are you aiming for?
What are you trying to influence them to do? How do you want them to perceive you?
Given 2 and 3, what tone is appropriate for your audience?
Cheerfulness? Seriousness? OK to joke?
Given 2 and 3, what information is appropriate to share? What isn’t appropriate to share?
Some people probably shouldn’t know what you did last weekend. On the other hand, you might bond with others over a weekend activity.
Communicating thoughtfully is particularly important as you become more senior. The best leaders are extremely skillful at this.
When a customer isn’t happy, speed is of the essence. Many companies we work with make decisions super quickly.
Before our team meeting 1 week from today, I’d like for each of us to think through 1 way that we can improve our reaction time + turnaround time in situations such as these:
We learn that sponsor is going to depart (but new sponsor hasn’t joined yet)
New sponsor joins
We will discuss during our team meeting in 1 week.
#8: Emotional Intelligence
People with high emotional intelligence tend to do better in their careers. From Forbes: “TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills, and found that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.”
In an earlier team meeting, we talked about 2 ways to drive NPS:
Reduce the # of Detractors
Convert more Passives to Promoters
What are ways that we can get turn High Passives into Promoters? Besides doing our jobs extremely well, I’d like to see us give “The Special Touch” more often.
What are some examples of “Special Touch”?
Gainsight CSM calls an individual CSM at the customer, just to say hi, check in, see how we can help.
We send Copilot emails that express Childlike Joy.
We join every meeting 5 minutes before the start, so that we’re always on the phone when they join.
We turn on our video during the meeting, so that they can see our enthusiasm.
We send gifts, either spontaneously or at important milestones — Gainsight apparel (customized with their logo too?), cupcakes, etc.
We come up with other ways to create “delightful surprises.”
What are some other ideas?
#10: Clear Communication
When you’re drafting an email, writing that Chatter update, creating a slide, or writing a blog post, you’ll want to communicate your point super clearly.
Rule of Thumb: Would your grandpa or grandma understand the email — Gainsight product features aside? If they wouldn’t understand it, it’s time to re-write.
Use as few words as possible to get your point across.
Use as few phrases within a given sentence.
Add periods instead of commas.
#11: Communicating with Execs
It’s important to be thoughtful when communicating with execs internally. Not for hierarchical reasons, but for other more important ones.
Execs have limited mental bandwidth, since they are involved in many things. They tend to develop impressions quickly. They also need to make decisions quickly.
Here are some tips for communicating with execs, which also apply to communicating with managers more generally.
Show up to every meeting with an agenda, materials already drafted, and objectives for the meeting.
If you’re dealing with an escalation and need help, create your own proposal in advance of asking for help. That way the exec has a starting point that they can offer feedback on. You will get much higher quality feedback this way.
If you can achieve your objectives for the meeting in 15 mins rather than 30, all the better.
Make updates concise and to the point. Highlight the takeaway for the exec at the top, then include details later.
Update your manager on your accomplishments. If you only contact them when you need help, they will develop a skewed understanding of your capabilities. That’s not good for them or for you.
Have a great weekend all!
You might have seen Nick post this article a little while ago on “radical candor.” It makes the point that offering candid feedback can actually be a form of generosity.
I’m a big fan of candor and believe that investing in our team means providing the feedback that everyone needs in order to grow. At one of my prior jobs, we used the slogan “feedback is a gift.” Think:
What might be holding you back from giving the feedback that those around you (or reporting to you) need to succeed?
What might be holding you back from getting the feedback you need to succeed?
#13: Response Time
My dad, who is not exactly tech savvy :), is a doctor and bought an app for internal messaging in his practice. He wasn’t happy with the product and indicated as much on a survey. Within 20 minutes, he received an email from concerned people on their customer happiness team. They fixed the problem and now he’s a promoter.
Response time really matters. What if we responded right away when a customer submitted an NPS rating? What if we followed up on customer meetings not just same-day but right after the meeting? This is the kind of effort that shows we care.
Let’s think about Rapid Response as a strategy.
We should have an agenda for every single customer meeting. If you have recurring meetings scheduled with a customer, and you don’t have a set of objectives for your next meeting, then this meeting is most likely not worth the customer’s time.
#15: Automating Your Job
The CEO of eShares wrote a compelling post about the culture at his company. This statement in particular was powerful:
“Nobody at eShares does the same thing everyday. Everyone is working to put themselves out of a job. This is our “creative destruction” that drives us to evolve, grow, and adapt.”
Figure out how to automate your job, and you will always have a role at Gainsight. And, you will always be working on something exciting and innovative.
#16: Congratulating Customers
Whenever a customer gets into Green or Lime, we need to let them know! I’d suggest the following playbook:
Get on the phone with the customer and make sure you understand their perspective on what got them to that level of adoption — let’s learn as much as we can
Assuming that you believe they’re at a sustainable level of adoption, congratulate them!
To celebrate, send them a gift — cupcakes, a bag with Gainsight apparel, etc.
I welcome ideas on what else we could be doing.
#17: Meeting Preparation
Whenever I join a call with one of your customers, make sure you do the following:
Align on the agenda with the customer in advance. I never want to be blindsided by a customer not agreeing with the agenda — and more importantly, they don’t want that, either.
Set up a quick call with me (~15 mins depending on complexity) 24+ hours before the meeting (again, time frame depends on complexity) so that we can align on agenda, content, and desired outcome for the meeting
#18: Contact Maintenance
I am visiting too many C360 profiles where not all contacts are listed (exec, adoption champion, admin). This makes it difficult for me to reach out to execs and know whom we’re working with. Don’t let it be your customer the next time this happens!
#19: Predictable Adoption
Every time a customer goes into Green or Lime Habits [our measure for sticky adoption], we should be able to tell a narrative about why that happened. This is the only way to refine our approach to adoption so that results become predictable.
What actions did you take? Did you do a strategy session, align with them on a success plan, see that they attended a webinar, forwarded a blog post, got their exec involved, or take some other action?
What factors contributed on the customer’s side?
I want to see each of you be able to tell a thoughtful success story like this by end of quarter.
A margarita for every successful story!
#20: Content & Documentation
I’m at a CSM conference this afternoon. One speaker said:
“Every time our SMB team gets on the phone with customers, we consider it a failure of our documentation.”
Let’s continue to build content to cover all those gaps. If you notice a gap, point it out!
#21: Organizational Charts
For each of your customers, are you able to picture their org chart, from CEO, to exec, to individual contributor?
Knowing this will help you figure out how to help the customer drive and manage change.
Every Strategy Session for new customers should include a quick discussion on the org chart.
#22: Aligning on Next Steps
You’ve probably noticed that when we gain buy-in from the customer on action items over the course of a meeting, they’re much more likely to take those next steps.
I’ve noticed that in some meetings, we go over a ton of content and don’t get buy-in on action items during the call, and instead email the customer afterwards with a list of action items.
Let’s pursue the first approach.
#23: Continuous Improvement
Have you been at Gainsight for 1 week?
If so, that makes you a veteran!
Heck, even if it’s your first day, you’re probably observing a ton of things that we could do better as a team. In fact, sharing your fresh perspective is extremely conducive to our goal of continuous improvement.
I would love to see new team members participate more in our team conversations. Your impressions and suggestions are super valuable.