A lot of managers

    This article was written with Ekaterina Korneeva (Customer Success Manager). Ekaterina is a professional with 4 years of experience in sales and customer service.

    In modern companies that distribute their product under a subscription ( SaaS), the number of managers involved in working with clients at different stages has increased significantly. Previously, the approach was somewhat different: as a rule, companies preferred to take traditional roles (such as CAM - key account manager, technical support officer, etc.) and slightly modify them. But as they grow and develop, there comes an awareness of the importance of a fundamental redefinition of roles (sometimes this has to be done from scratch). In order to maintain a competitive advantage and offer customers the best service, roles must be clearly marked and, importantly, the presence of each of them must be clearly justified.


    Unfortunately, the following tendency is observed both in the Russian and foreign markets: instead of understanding why each role is needed, what functions are performed by the employees occupying it, the companies simply rename the existing positions into “fashionable” new ones, while leaving position unchanged. The substitution of concepts is revealed very quickly: a brief discussion of the functionality of the position of an employee is enough to understand that the “Customer Success Manager” is, in fact, just a renamed Account Manager, and the “implementation specialist” is an employee of the technical support department.

    In this article we will analyze what falls under the responsibility of employees occupying each of the roles, the functionality of which partially overlaps, and how these roles can and should complement each other.

    Before proceeding to the description of the various roles, we would like to emphasize that in small companies several roles can be performed by the same employees. So, for example, an account manager can partially perform the functions of a CSM and a subscription renewal manager, and a technical support employee can provide professional product implementation services. This is one of the main reasons why we will use the term “role” rather than “position”. But, of course, with the growth of the company, the closure of each role becomes a separate full-time unit. Also note that the roles are described in the same order in which employees interact with the company's customers.

    Note: for convenience, we present the established role names in English, because In Russian, there are often various translations.

    Stage 0. Sales development representative (SDR. Also, may be called Inside Sales Representative)

    The very first contact person for a future client. After a new user leaves his contact details on the site in exchange for a trial period of use (trial) of your product, the SDR contacts him to find out if there are questions about how the testing process goes, etc. The main purpose of this call or calls is to validate a client request, to see if there is a potential opportunity to convert such a “lead” into an “opportunity” (eng. Opportunity). Next, the SDR transmits such a “lead” Account Executive. As a rule, the main KPI for such an employee is the number of calls and the number of opportunities created.

    Stage 1. Sales Manager (Account Executive, AE)

    In small companies, the role can be combined with SDR. The employee, whose name the client will remember for a long time, since it is he who paints all the charms of the product before purchase, conducts a full-fledged demonstration for decision makers, examines the needs of a particular company in order to understand which version or type of product from the line will work best.

    In complex user cases, it can attract a deployment specialist (Deployment Consultant) or a Customer Success manager for in-depth analysis and evaluation of the possibility of developing a personal solution to customize the product for the needs of a particular company (for example, integration with current company products - CRM systems, accounting software, and so on. ).

    Stage 2. Customer Support Specialist

    The only specialist who helps the user throughout the life cycle (from the trial period to the end of the subscription).

    Depending on the type of product, the support team may be divided into several “lines” :
    Specialists who handle the entire mass of requests (calls, live chats, letters, answers to marketing mailings).

    Specialists who are given technically more complex situations (a bug in the product, help with the individual integration of a third-party solution).

    It is important to understand that in support will apply not only when something does not work, but also on issues of payments, as well as just for advice on setting up the product. In the latter case, the client’s contacts should be transferred to his Customer Success manager for further work.

    Stage 3. Customer Relationship Manager (Account Manager, AM)

    Since the purchase of your SAAS solution, AM is the first contact person for a client on almost all issues. The role of AM on the business side is to expand the customer’s subscription by increasing the number of users, selling additional functionality or new versions of the product. The client can turn to AM on the issues of setting up the product for a specific task or process, if he cannot cope.

    Since the Customer Success manager covers only a small number of the company's largest clients, and not all acquire the implementation service, AM sometimes takes care of adapting the product. Moreover, a good AM knows in detail the user's case of a client, for which he actively participates in collaboration with other managers (he is present on calls with an implementation specialist or Customer Success manager).

    Stage 4. Implementation Specialist (Deployment Consultant, DC. Also may be called Implementation Specialist)

    In an ideal scenario, working with a product implementation specialist should begin immediately after purchasing it. The main task of the employee occupying this position is to seamlessly introduce the product into the client’s company based on its specificity. Here, there are the tasks of organizing basic training for the product, its customization to the needs of the client and drawing up, together with the representatives of the client, a plan for using the product at the initial stage.

    Many companies consider the services of an implementation specialist to be redundant and discard them, which in the long run can lead to poor adaptation of the product by employees, and also significantly increases the time frame for product deployment across the organization. However, practice shows that small teams can successfully implement the product on their own.

    Stage 5. Customer Success Manager (CSM)

    In the subscription-based business, after the accumulation phase of the majority of customers, the emphasis shifts from attracting new customers to retaining and developing existing ones. Of course, the new features continue to be worked out by the AMs and SDRs, but the customer success is responsible for retaining customers.

    CSMs work to preserve existing customers by building trust and long-term relationships with them, defining goals and objectives that the client wants to achieve with the help of the product and regularly working together to achieve these goals.

    Also CSMs are responsible for finding opportunities for client development. These features can take various forms - from increasing the number of users in the account to transferring the client to a new, more expensive type of subscription with advanced features. In this case, the principal factor is that in most companies CSM is not authorized to negotiate the price - after learning about the client's needs and specifying details, the information is transmitted to the client relations manager, who is already starting this dialogue.

    Stage 6. Subscription Renewal Manager (Renewal Specialist)

    The field of activity is clear from the name of the role. The key task of the employee is to extend the client’s contract, increasing the amount or term of the contract (the product, in the development of which significant resources are invested, implies a change in value, however, the client can get a significant discount when signing a contract for 2 years or more).

    The subscription owner will find out about such a specialist a maximum of 3 months before the end of the contract. Somewhere in a month, the basic price negotiations begin.

    Sometimes AM itself performs the function of an extension specialist. For example, when, before the end of the contract, the client decides on the expansion of his package and coordinates it with AM. In this case, the extension manager does not contact him.


    In accordance with our classification, it turned out 7 different roles. If you manage to build their work correctly, the client will be surrounded by care, attention and an effective product for him! We hope that the article helped you determine which of the roles your company really needs and added clarity to the question of the differences between them. We would also be very interested to know in the comments what roles are present in your company.

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