Customer-centric Growth by Lincoln Murphy

Customer Status: The Hidden Motivator You Can’t Ignore

In Customer Success we’re always concerned with the status of our customers.

We keep track of their health score, their adoption velocity, usage, satisfaction, and other metrics that tell us whether or not they’re successful.

And while all of that is obviously what we should be looking at in our Customer Success operation, there’s another type of customer status that we very often overlook.

A type of status that is the key to going from simple retention to growth and advocacy.

The status of the customer stakeholders: the actual human people that work at our customer’s company.

Let’s explore, shall we?

The Hidden Motivator

I was reminded about this while revisiting the book Expert Secrets, wherein the author, Russell Brunson, talks about selling products or services that don’t make the customer faster, better, or smarter.

Rather, he talks about selling a product that increases the customers’ status.

In fact, he says most buying decisions boil down to the customer asking a form of this question: “Is this thing I’m considering going to increase my status or decrease it?

Which further reminded me that in another book The Status Game: On Human Life and How to Play It, author Will Storr says,”status is what researchers call an ‘ultimate’ rather than a ‘proximate’ drive: it’s a kind of mother-motivation, a deep evolutionary cause of many other downstream beliefs and behaviours that’s been favoured by selection and is written into the design of our brains.”

Everything is a Status Game

Your customers – the humans that make up your customer company – want to hit certain goals, achieve specific metrics, perform certain tasks, finish a project, implement new software, etc. but those things all exist within the ever-present, but often hidden status-seeking motivator that’s actually driving their decisions.

It’s like how science is discovering that at a physical level, humans are really just a vehicle for bacteria to do their thing; at a psychological level, humans are really just a vehicle for status to do its thing.

Uncovering the Status-Seeking

In really small companies, the individual contributors often have goals and desires that are tightly-coupled with the company’s goals and desires.

This is generally the case because the individual contributor has much more of a direct impact on the results that the company achieves.

What this means in practice is that the motivation for someone in that role may be more to avoid status loss than to gain status because inside the company they already have the amount of status that they could ever hope to achieve.

Of course, if they are able to gain a level of status that then puts them in a position to go to work at a different or bigger company and move up the career ladder in the process, that’s something to keep in mind.

But generally – read that again; generally, there are always exceptions – in a smaller company, fear of status loss is often the main driver (at least outside of Sales).

But in a bigger company, since there is often more upside potential in their career path, and given the fact that the individual contributor often doesn’t have a lot of direct impact on the company’s overall metrics, it really does come down to just their perceived success in their role and their personal feeling of accomplishment.

A Game of Status Twister

Paradoxically, I often see CSMs that work with people at smaller companies spending time really getting to know those stakeholders better. The work to understand what drives them, even though what drives them is really just what drives the company.

If the company is hitting their goals, the person you’re talking to is successful in their role.

This is not to say that they shouldn’t be getting to know these people at the smaller company, but they should for sure be getting to know the stakeholders in larger companies.

However, what I see all the time is that when a CSM talks to their counterpart at a larger company, they never talk about the individual person’s goals or desires in their role.

They only talk about the task at hand, or the goal to be met, or the job to be done.

They will only talk about the company’s goals and how that person “impacts” those goals.

Of course, the sad punchline there is that the person who “impacts” those goals, actually doesn’t; at least not to the extent that they might say or that reality dictates.

It’s often a team effort, and sometimes it only appears that way, with most team members completely detached from the outcome.

Which is why it’s imperative to this person that they have the appearance of impacting those outcomes. They look good in the process. That they not just maintain, but elevate their status.

Elevate their Status

Customer Success organizations – and CSMs in particular – that understand how to discover the status requirements of the humans they work with, and then work to elevate their status, are the CS orgs that generate not only raving fans, loyal customers, and vocal advocate, but they hit and massively exceed their core CS KPIs like Net Revenue Retention (NRR).

So think about ways you can elevate the status of the people you work with.

Some ideas to elevate the status of the people in your customer companies are:

Now it’s your turn. How can you raise the status of your customer stakeholders?

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