Leveraging the Management Consulting Toolkit in Customer Success Roles

by: Daniel Baker, JD, MPP, Ph.D.


Key Takeaways:

  • Management Consulting experience provides skills valuable in customer success roles. A consulting toolkit prepares individuals for investigating company goals, expressing those goals in indicators, and linking indicators to projects.
  • Trust is built with the customer by demonstrating empathy about their goals, showing logic in connecting your product to those goals, and remaining authentic throughout the relationship.


In the episode “From Consulting to Customer Success,” ECA CEO Ken Kanara speaks with Ken Hooton about transferring the skills he developed while at Deloitte to build a customer success practice. Hooton is Principal Business Partner at Anaplan, a software company looking to streamline planning activities and improve on Excel by allowing different sections of the company to work together simultaneously on important internal projections.


Like many SaaS companies, Anaplan’s success depends on building relationships with clients who will be long-term customers and consistently renew their licenses. To build these relationships, Anaplan must provide services to clients, including platform expertise, industry expertise, and process consultations.


However, Hooton was much more focused on looking beyond these services to ensure that customers get a good return on their investment in Anaplan’s software. When customers succeed, Anaplan succeeds, and here, Hooton’s consulting skills were forefront.


Ensuring customer success requires a strategic, long-term focus on sales, implementation, and ongoing support to ensure that the customer understands how Anaplan’s software can boost those metrics. To learn this, Hooton prepares as if he is still a consultant, including (1) reading the customer’s public statements and financials, (2) investigating the customer’s top-down goals, (3) and linking what the software can do to the CEO’s or CFO’s overall goals. Each of these makes the software sticky by making customers more successful in their jobs.


Kanara added a very useful concept of the Trust Triangle, developed in the recent HBR article, “Begin with Trust,” by Frances X. Frei and Anne Morriss.



The Trust Triangle demonstrates that building trust requires three factors: authenticity, logic, and empathy. Management Consultants are trained in each of these and Hooton has successfully transferred that training to his customer success practice.

  • (1) Hooton shows empathy by investigating the success indicators of the client. By caring about how the client sees their top-down goals—rather than projecting his own goals on the client. He understands and anticipates both problems and solutions.
  • (2) Hooton shows logic by investigating indicators of success for the client, then demonstrating how the features of Anaplan link to those indicators and ensure that they are met.
  • (3) Hooton shows authenticity by being transparent about his goals and his actions in working with the customer. Especially in comparison to an agent who is merely trying to sell the customer on the service, working with them to build success in a symbiotic way allows the agent to retain authenticity at all times with the client.


Hooton’s insights show how former consultants can transfer their skills into the area of customer success. Using empathy and logic, the former consultant can ensure a long-term, symbiotic, and authentic relationship with the customer, where each party is working for shared success, and renewed licenses are rote and mutually beneficial.


To hear stories from former Management Consultants about their career paths, listen to Beyond Consulting, a weekly podcast hosted by ECA’s CEO, Ken Kanara.



Daniel Baker, JD, MPP, Ph.D. is a Project Manager at ECA. He can be reached at [email protected]



Daniel Baker
Project Manager

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