Teacher turned CSM — how to make the move

Customer success roles are a great way to break into the edtech space for those teachers looking to make a transition. But it can be hard to position yourself if you don’t have an understanding of what the job entails, so I wanted to share some tips on how you can transfer your classroom skills into a CSM position.

As a CSM, you will be responsible for a book of business. This basically means the accounts you are responsible for. You can think of it like the students that are in your classes as a teacher. Your job as a teacher is to provide support to your students to help them reach their learning goals and move to the next grade level. As a CSM, you are responsible for helping your customers meet their implementation goals and renew their subscription. So as you are writing your resume, you might consider phrasing your accomplishments to match. For example, “Developed and delivered daily instruction to help __% of students achieved end of year mastery targets.”

Let’s talk a bit about onboarding. Onboarding simply means when the school or district first becomes an actual customer of your company. This means the sales team has received the contract and they are ready to officially start using your product(s). This is when the CSM role typically starts - you take over as the manager of the account. Now, some companies will have an onboarding specialist who handles these details, but in many edtech companies, this falls into the CSMs hands. To make a connection to the classroom, onboarding is a lot like the beginning of the school year. This is your chance to make a good first impression, and to really build relationships with your accounts. So you will want to make sure you do some “getting to know you” types of activities. This might be an implementation planning call to learn more about their goals, a set of onboarding emails to get them started with your product, or setting up expectations for roles and how often you will touch base. Get creative with your resume here - “Successfully onboarded 25+ students every year into my classroom through community building opportunities, goal setting activities, and expectation setting.”

As a CSM, you will have software that will help you track indicators of success for your customers. This typically includes things like usage statistics, activities completed, etc. As a teacher, you likely have similar software that tracks indicators of success for your students - your grade book, diagnostic testing software, formative and summative assessment, etc. As both a CSM and a teacher, you need to monitor this data to help you make informed decisions on how to best support your customers/students. Again, you can tie this into your resume with something like, “Regularly used progress monitoring data to identify trends in student learning to guide instruction and provide interventions where needed.”

Through progress monitoring as a teacher, you will notice areas where additional support may be necessary. Sometimes, you will be able to provide interventions yourself. Other times, you may have to pull in specialists, such as SLPs, special education teachers, literacy coaches, etc. to provide the necessary support. Similarly, as a CSM it is your job to identify concerns in your accounts where schools or districts are not meeting their implementation goals. Sometimes, you will be able to provide them with the support they need through monthly check-in calls, providing detailed data reports, or sharing resources. Other times, you may need to pull in your specialists to provide professional development, technical support, product feedback, etc. Again, use your teaching experience to show how you have these transferable skills. “Worked with a cross-departmental team to develop progress monitoring plans. Met with the team regularly to track progress towards identified goals.”

This also ties closely into differentiated instruction and personalized learning. Just like you modify instruction to meet a variety of needs in your classroom, you also differentiate the support you provide your accounts. You might think of this similar to tiers in RTI or MTSS. Your Tier 1 supports are things you offer to all accounts. This might be things like a great onboarding experience, developing an implementation plan, sending regular update emails, and regular checkpoints throughout the year to make sure they are on track to meet their goals. For your Tier 2 and 3 accounts, this is where you might call in some of your specialists to strategize - what additional supports do they need to be successful? You might have more regular check-ins with these accounts or even develop a plan to help you more closely monitor their progress. You might include something on your resume about how differentiation allowed your students to reach their goals.

As the CSM, you are typically responsible for the customer renewing their contract and continuing to do business with the company. CSMs also try to look for opportunities to upsell, which means helping customers see where other products or services your company offers may help them reach their goals. This is where relationship building really is important! As teachers, you build relationships with your students, their families, your coworkers, and your community. Think of initiatives that you were involved with where you helped your students reach a goal. Maybe you convinced your principal to let you pilot a new program at your school or helped the PTA find creative ways to fundraise for the school. How could you phrase these activities to show how you added value and helped your students/classroom/school reach their goals?

These are all thoughts based on my single experience as a CSM and my slightly fried brain from two weeks of the worst cold I have had in years (plus 3 sick kids to boot!) I would love to get feedback from other teachers turned CSMs. What did I get wrong? Anything to add to help teachers looking to transition know if a CSM role is the right fit? And teachers - I would love to know if this helps explain the role of a CSM better. Feel free to reach out with questions as you embark on your journey!