Protect, Defend, Grow: B2B Customer Success Team and the Golden State Warriors


Manage B2B customer success like the Warriors

For non-basketball fans who clicked because it’s your job to build a Customer Success team, you may have heard the buzz around your office about the historic 73rd win by the Golden State Warriors, breaking the Michael Jordan and the ‘96 Bulls’ once impervious record of 72-10 by a single win.

It would behoove you to know that this team was built by someone a lot like you: Joe Lacob, majority owner responsible for day-to-day operations, is a Venture Capitalist and Silicon Valley Veteran, and his executive board includes pedigrees and personnel from Zappos, YouTube, and Facebook.

Bruce Schoenfeld’s NY Times Profile, Lacob’s described as “the first to operate according to what might be called Silicon Valley precepts: nimble management, open communication, integrating the wisdom of outside advisers and continuous re-evaluation of what companies do and how they do it.”

You can use this same philosophy to build a Customer Success team: hire the right people, install processes and tools to position them for success, and use analytics to measure and replicate that success and fill in the gaps.

Seventy-Three wins should encourage you that anything is possible, especially for your Customer Success team; the question is how?

  • Culture Tip #1: Create a charter to establish the importance of Customer Success and communicate the vision and mission internally and externally.

Upon purchasing the team in 2010, Lacob realized his vision of winning a championship in five years, a goal they completed by beating Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015.

While the road to a championship was not paved with gold (pun intended), it was his vision that guided every action taken by the Warriors' front office, from trading fan favorite, Monta Ellis, to creating minutes for budding superstar, Steph Curry, to firing coach Mark Jackson and hiring Steve Kerr, five time NBA champion and understudy to coaching legends Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich.

Your road in establishing a customer success culture, even with organizational support, will require significant decisions and changes in the pursuit of substantial financial gain. What charter would you provide to contextualize your goals to both your team and your executive suite?

  • Culture Tip #2: Organize for success by establishing executive sponsors and leadership, as well as defining roles and responsibilities across teams.

Basketball and B2B Customer Success both require a holistic organizational approach to achieve championship results. One should select leaders that are tacticians and motivators, recognize and nurture the skills of the players--giving them reason to buy in. Lastly, define their roles to put them in a position to succeed.

Both coaches, Mark Jackson and Steve Kerr, operated as the Chief Customer Officer. Jackson established chemistry and culture before departing, and Kerr instituted the X’s and O’s that leveraged his players’ unique skills to create their vaunted “Lineup of Death”. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green comprise a Mach speed, position-less assault on offense and defense due to their rounded skills and versatility. This small-ball strategy was instrumental to their success and revolutionizing the sport.

Much like his players, your Customer Success Managers (CSMs) will start with strengths that align them to roles in the customer success journey:

  • Landing/Onboarding – Service Enablement & Deployment
  • Adoption – Usage Analysis & Optimization Recommendations
  • Expansion – Identifying Upsell/Cross-sell Opportunities
  • Renewal – Proactive Renewal Management

As your success and team grow, the skills your CSMs develop will provide the versatility required to scale teams responsible for each function.

You may have players that excel at one or all of these roles, and team leaders that are either tacticians or motivators. It’s of the utmost importance to recognize who and what you have, assign them to roles that maximize their current skills and the team’s success, and develop the rest of their game to create your own "Lineup of Death". But how would you measure results and player development?

  • Culture Tip #3: Use data to drive the right customer engagement at the right time

From a team development standpoint, internal analytics and KPIs point to strengths and weaknesses based on performance, allowing your leaders to focus on planning, role definition, and coaching appropriately.

From business to basketball, analytics has taken over in the last ten years, and are leveraged quite similarly in both. A quote from Rusty Simmons’ SF Gate feature:

“We always want to be pioneers, first-adopters, because we believe that having the most information gives us the best chance of making the right decisions,” said Warriors Assistant General Manager, Kirk Lacob, who often spearheads the team’s analytics staff. “I don’t understand anyone who says, 'I don’t like analytics,’ because they’re basically saying, 'I like to just guess.’”

When handling customers, while each company will have individual measurements for success, all Metrics should, as noted by ServiceSource, Customer Success Expert, Angel Rogers, “revolve around a ’Protect, Defend, and Grow’ strategy”:

  • Driving adoption and utilization helps PROTECT the base and avoid customers canceling or down-selling
  • Fighting churn or loss through save plays DEFEND dollars from leaving the install base
  • For strong, stable, using customers to GROW revenue through upsell and cross-sell strategies expands your opportunity and dollars in the lifecycle
customer success and the Golden State Warriors

Seventy-Three wins is not something achievable overnight, and neither is a high performing Customer Success program.

Both are rigorous journeys, which require effort and support from the right people, using the right tools, all aimed to reach the right goal that will ultimately have an indelible impact on the organization.

Later in Schoenfeld’s piece, Lacob attributes his team’s success to his vision: “The great, great venture capitalists who built company after company, that’s not an accident,” he said. “And none of this is an accident, either.”

If you have further interest in building a championship Customer Success team and developing a culture of excellence, check out these resources: http://www.servicesource.com/solutions/customer-success-management


Authored by Eric Nguyen – Business Development Executive for ServiceSource.
In his role, Eric Nguyen is responsible for market and industry research while creating and managing new business relationships. During off-hours, you’ll likely catch him analyzing sports, films, and music, all in a fresh pair of sneakers.