EVP of Customer Success demonstrates how customer success grows revenue and enterprise value.


Our guest on SBI TV is Gaye Gilbert, Executive Vice President of Customer Success at First Advantage. Gaye has already implemented customer success initiative while most companies are just now starting to think about getting started. Anyone in customer success in the early stages of implementation or optimizing a team has a lot to learn from today’s show. To download the full transcript of the interview in a word document, click here.


First Advantage is a global, technology enabled services organization and their focus is pre-employment and post-employment screening. They help find the largest customers in the world find and hire the best talent and manage their risk along the way. Gaye shares her customer success journey, detailing how she grew revenue by retaining and growing customers, specifically through the proactive managing of the customer life cycle. Since the interview took place, Gaye has started a new role as Vice President of Customer Success for Workfront.


To follow along, leverage SBI’s How to Make Your Number in 2018 PDF Workbook and turn to the Customer Success section on page 411.


So, why the topic of customer success? Business models are changing from transaction based revenue models to subscription based revenue model. Companies dependent on the recurring revenue have to pay special attention to revenue retention and customer lifetime value. As a result, reactive customer service approaches built to lower the cost to serve are being replaced with proactive customer success approaches built to increase the revenue per customer. So when your customer becomes more successful as a result of using your product, they buy more of it.


Matt and Gaye discuss the concept of driving enterprise value and increasing shareholder returns, and how customer success is a massive piece of this entire client experience that CEOs are trying to sell.


Gaye details her bleeding edge work relative to hyper-segmentation of the customer base for customer success. Specifically how and why she did that, and what the output of that was as she structured her team:


“When you think about the concept of recruiting and background screening, it’s evolved significantly from when it used to be private investigators trying to learn about people, to all of the technology now that’s in place for recruiting. It’s moved from a different buyer persona, to security compliance, to recruiting and talent acquisition, along with technology enabling those solutions. So, our customers are looking to us to become more consultative, to become driving benchmarks.


That’s one of the reasons why we moved into verticals. Because, each of the verticals that we’ve identified serve different markets with separate needs. Some of them have regulated needs, they’re driven by regulations and government requirements. Others are driven by market requirements, or they have high turnover and high volume recruiting, so their needs are different. So, when we look at our segments, our priority is making sure that we build the expertise and knowledge to enable us to consult with our customers. So we can build benchmarks for our customers and guide them to the best, specialized programs and how can they be optimized most effectively.


That focus on the verticals, on understanding the customer, keeps them ordering. Because we’re not software-as-a-service, where if the customer doesn’t log in, we still get paid. If the customer doesn’t order, we don’t get paid. So, adding value every day is something that we have to do for our customers, from a customer success perspective.”


Gaye goes on to share how she keeps segmentation current, so that she’s properly allocating against those key verticals:


“There’s a next level of segmentation I want to talk about that really helps us keep it relevant, and also helps me align our teams and our people, which is looking at it within the segments, the types of accounts, and the customers that we have.


We have customers that use all of our services, so our footprint is high and wide, and our focus on those customers is to serve and protect. To retain them and how to focus on making sure that we retain that revenue, we retain that relationship.


We have customers on the other side of the spectrum, in which we have a small piece of the business and where there may be another competitor that has a larger market share of that footprint. So, we want to focus on aligning our relationships and our people, specifically our people who have the eye to pursue diligently, to say, ‘How do I displace that competitor, how do I use all my resources, my best practices, my innovation strategies, my sales strategies, to pursue and get the rest of that business?’


And then we have the customers who are in the middle, where they may have a large footprint, but we have more to gain. It’s how you make sure that we’re delivering on the relationship, retaining the revenue, but have an eye on continuing to get more business there.


When it comes to segmentation, we’re always looking at making sure, within the context of our strategic large and mid-segments, that we’re balancing and understanding the mix of our products, and how we’re evolving those customer relationships.”


Gaye elaborates on the concept of buyer segmentation, describing how a customer success team should leverage buyer personas and positioning statements:


“It’s easy to talk about buyer personas at a basic level. You’ve got procurement, and you’ve got finance operations. We’ve built a model around it that tells a story and links our buyers within that model, we call it the four factors, and it’s the four factors that our customers have to balance around our programs.”


First, they’re managing risk, why would they do background screening if they didn’t have to, right? It’s about managing risk in their business. It’s also about speed and time to hire, so speed is very important to our customers. It’s the candidate experience in the process and then it’s the cost. So, when you think about the buyer personas, it’s really linking the personas to those four factors. So, we create a model that’s very easy for us to understand, because it helps us understand who do we need to be talking to, based on what the customer cares most about, or how they balance those four factors.”


So within risk management there’s security compliance buyers, speed, recruiting, and hiring managers that care about success. We link our personas into those four factors, and when we have conversations with our customers we understand what the key drivers are, so we can make sure that A) We have the right people in the room for the discussion, or B) If cost becomes a factor then we have to look at the other factors and say, ‘What might we have to give up in those other factors in order to service that persona?”


Skip to the 21-minute mark of the video to watch Gaye give advice on the hiring process for customer success talent, specifically what she looks for when filling customer success roles. At the 28-minute mark, Gaye also shares how she got her organization to rally around her and aid in her customer success goals. 


Additional Resource


Here is an interactive tool that will help you test and rate your Customer Success Strategy against SBI’s emerging best practices.


Sales Revenue Growth


Matt Sharrers

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by embracing emerging best practices to grow revenue faster than the industry and competitors. 

Matt Sharrers is the CEO of SBI, a management consulting firm specialized in sales and marketing that is dedicated to helping you Make Your Number. Forbes recognizes SBI as one of The Best Management Consulting Firms in 2017.


Over the course of nearly a decade at SBI, Matt Sharrers was an instrumental early partner guiding SBI as the Senior Partner. Matt’s functional responsibilities included acting as the head of sales where he led SBI’s double-digit revenue growth, and was responsible for the hiring function to build SBI’s team of revenue generation experts.


Prior to joining SBI in 2009, Matt spent eleven years leading sales and marketing teams as a Vice President of Sales. Matt has “lived in the field.” As a result, he is the foremost expert in the art of separating fact from fiction as it relates to revenue growth best practices. CEOs and Private equity investors turn to Matt’s team at SBI when they need to unlock trapped growth inside of their companies.



Read full bio >