New leaders are vulnerable in their first few months in whatever discipline, including customer success. With the absence of a 90-day plan, the rest of their time in that position may be an uphill battle. There are integral parts of your first 90 days, such as developing relationships with your colleagues and customers, building trust, and gathering data and ideas for your career growth. Therefore, it would help construct your framework for what you plan to do to satisfy your daily objectives.
Irit Eizips, CEO of CSM Practice, had a fireside chat with Irene Lefton, Acting Vice President of Customer Success at EmpInfo Inc., and discussed the significance of creating a 90-day plan for the first 90 days when joining a company.
Irene Lefton is a customer success executive and evangelist who is passionate about start-ups. Typically she joins a company in the early stage and helps start-ups build out their post-sales function, including support and professional services, customer success, training, and managing renewals.
What is a 90-day plan?
Your first 90 days are crucial to getting started on the right foundation when you join a company. A 90-day plan gives you a sense of direction about what you will do and shows your management what to expect. Creating a 90-day plan involves assessing the status of where things are or what the situation is in the company.
A 90-day plan gives you a sense of direction about what you will do and shows your management what to expect. Creating a 90-day plan involves assessing the status of where things are or what the situation is in the company.
In an early-stage company, you need to set a proper strategy in place for the short-term and the customer success function. You might need to be evangelizing the customer success function and educate people to ensure you will be successful. In this scenario, your 90-day plan focuses on developing your very own approach.
If you are joining a later-stage company, there’s a high chance that the plan for CS may already be in place. In that case, your 90-day plan will be different. If the function is doing well and is asked to come in and execute an existing plan or grow a team, your onboarding will have to include getting up to speed on existing processes and understanding gaps. If the company is experiencing some complexities in other areas like expansion selling cross-selling, you may have some retrenching to do and may need to spend your first 90 days assessing what to revamp and adjust in the strategy and plan.
However, regardless of what the situation is, your ultimate role for your first 90 days will be building relationships and gathering data – and it all starts with listening.
Creating a 90-day Plan
Having a roadmap for your new role is vital, as it helps you prioritize your time in the short term. Although it will be different for every company, it’s still essential to have a framework for what you plan to do. Without planning, you may end up in a reactive mode, dealing with difficulties in allocating valuable time to build a forward-looking strategy. By creating a 90-day plan, you can ensure that when you balance time spent in reactive mode and time spent laying the foundation, you will succeed as a customer success leader in the long run.
A 90-day plan also helps build credibility with peers and bosses; hence, setting expectations based on your 90-day plan goes a long way to establishing trust in those relationships.
There are no specific critical elements in drafting and finalizing a 90-day plan as it always depends on the company you are joining in. How you will structure your plan for your onboarding in the first three months will vary widely depending on the situation. Early on, it is needed to decide what the top priorities will be and comprise your 90-day plan.
Five Things to Focus on in Creating a 90-day Plan
As an experienced customer success executive, Lefton shared the five things to focus on in drafting a 90-day plan.
- Listening and learning
- Building relationships – with customers and internally
- Documenting/updating the customer journey and looking at the gaps/opportunities
- Evangelizing and educating the customer and the customer success function to the rest of the company
- Presenting your long-term plan to the board
With the given recommendations by Lefton, the situation will still tell you what to focus.
- Spend time listening and learning.
- Talk to customers as much as you talk to internal staff to get information and ideas necessary for your career growth.
- Build your relationships with your functional peers (Sales, Product, Engineering, Finance, etc.) You will need these to be successful.
- Address the quick-fix solutions for your customers and staff. If you hear a theme that is easy to fix, get that initiative going, so you have an early win.
- One of the ultimate red flags in creating your first 90-day plan is spending too much time on customer issues and putting yourself in a reactive mode.
- Start talking about and implementing all your ideas – hold on to them until you have a more profound understanding of internal politics, and present them as a result of what you have learned. It is better to plan well rather than rush things.
- Don’t be too aggressive in what you want to promise. Make sure the expectations you set are achievable.
Your responsibility is to understand and decipher the missions and goals of the company. Mission statements are vague and broad, and for your first 90 days, you are unlikely to get to the point where you can even create the customer success mission statement. Instead, you may focus on what you want to accomplish and make sure you address them. That is the foundation for building trust and relationships internally and with your customers.
Remember that your 90-day plan doesn’t have to be sophisticated. Ensure you are keeping it simple and relevant to the company you are working with by setting expectations that are achievable within the given time frame.
Most importantly, turn up your curiosity and have fun – listen and learn! It’s a new adventure, and there will be twists and turns, lumps and bumps, but this can be the most fun time.
As Lefton puts it,
“Most importantly, turn up your curiosity and have fun – listen and learn! It’s a new adventure, and there will be twists and turns, lumps and bumps, but this can be the most fun time. Every company has challenges, so the trick to being successful in your first 90 days is to carve out strategy time and not get bogged down with all the reactionary stuff that invariably comes with any new role. Keep a positive attitude!”