Emotional intelligence, thorough research and adaptability can help you take client relationships to the next level.

Emotional intelligence, thorough research and adaptability can help you take client relationships to the next level.
Written by Remy Merritt
September 15, 2021

Winning over a new buyer and staying relevant with existing clients is trickier than ever. According to a Salesforce study, 66 percent of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations, and 80 percent consider the experience a company provides to be just as important as its products or services.

As the general sentiment around sales pushes for greater transparency and personalization, closing new customers and retaining existing clients depends considerably on a nuanced approach.

“Understanding the needs, goals and expectations of our customers is imperative to developing the right strategy,” said Addy Earles, vice president of sales at AdCellerant. “A cookie-cutter approach in 2021 is not going to cut it, and won’t get you the sale.”

To learn more, we met with three local sales leaders who take a consultative approach to customer success. Each shared specific strategies to enhance client partnership and consultation soft skills and training suggestions to help lead the entire sales team to success.

Sara Duderstadt-Cape

At Travelers Haven, helping individuals secure temporary housing takes a balancing act of variables, each dependent on a customer’s individual situation. Interactive learning tools, client surveys and emotional intelligence help Duderstadt-Cape and her team meet clients’ changing needs.


What steps do you take to better understand the needs, goals and expectations of your customers?

What success looks like to the customer is always changing. For example, many of our customers have their own department goals. We collect their new quarterly goals at their monthly and quarterly reviews, which we build into daily success. I am also a huge fan of surveys; understanding our customers and the full experience we give them shines in a survey and is a quick way to show which successes will affect the largest audience.

Soft skills separate a good CSM from a great CSM.”


What training is in place to help CSMs in your organization become experts on your products and industry?

We have recently taken a giant step as an organization to improve training for our senior and new CSM members. We just rolled out Spekit, an interactive learning tool that really helps employees stand on their own two feet. This takes a 30-day employee to a 90-day employee, as it organizes and gives them new materials to review as they progress in onboarding.

For employees who are more senior with greater expertise in the ever-changing housing industry, we hold a monthly market analysis that shows how the industry as a whole is looking. We also have bi-weekly skill sessions for our selling and success team to strengthen current skills and to understand our product and market audience.


What soft skills have you found to be particularly important when it comes to consulting your clients? How have you strengthened those skills over time?

Empathy, communication, adaptability and overall emotional intelligence. Soft skills separate a good CSM from a great CSM. Being able to meet your client where they are and partnering with them along the journey is not easy, and is solely dependent on these soft skills. They allow for our team to connect on a deeper level with our clients and help to solve for their root need in all their housing matters.

Strengthening soft skills is challenging. We develop soft skills in every one-on-one and discuss how our approach to situations matters. As a team, we highlight skills in a bi-weekly training activity and share podcasts and books on emotional intelligence.