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What would you do differently if you only got paid if a customer succeeds?

Over the years I’ve seen business coaches, gurus, and experts ask different versions of this question, always in the form of a thought experiment. But I’m here to tell you this isn’t a thought experiment; it isn’t just a fun question to ask your team at an offsite, only to leave the answers behind when you get back to the office.

This is reality. You only get paid — increasingly, over the long term — if your customers are successful. You can only unlock the value potential in a customer if you make sure that they are able to unlock the value potential in their relationship with you.

You may get some money up front from a customer, or complete a few billing cycles before the customer achieves first value, but the vast majority of the customer lifetime value  — a lifetime that could last many years — doesn’t just come after they’re successful, it is 100% because of that success.


Account expansion (upsells, cross-sells, etc.), are a core driver of your company’s valuation, but it only happens on a predictable and consistent basis when your customer succeeds. Advocacy — when your customers spread the word about you — also only happens because a customer succeeds.

So what would you do differently if you only get paid when a customer succeeds? Well, since that’s how it actually works, you should:

  1. Develop an ideal customer profile (ICP) because you don’t want to waste your time and resources going after customers that aren’t going to work out
  2. Figure out what “success” is for that ICP by understanding their desired outcome (what they need to achieve and how they need to achieve it)
  3. Only acquire customers with success potential
  4. Create a plan to get the customer from where they are to success
  5. Get super-granular on the steps required to execute that plan
  6. Share that plan with the customer to ensure they know what they need to do to be successful
  7. Ensure they do what they need to do, and you do what you need to do in order to make sure they’re successful
  8. Intervene when they aren’t making the progress they should be making
  9. Intervene when other signals indicate that they aren’t on a positive success vector
  10. Actively seek out and bridge any success gaps that may exist
  11. Proactively share insights gleaned from successful customers to your teams to ensure this cycle continues
  12. Proactively share insights from customers that haven’t been successful to your teams to ensure you won’t make those same mistakes again

In short, because you really do only get paid — the real, long-term kind of paid — after customers are successful, what you should do differently is adopt customer success as your operating model.

You might be able to get customers and generate revenue; but if you really want to have high-value, long-term customers you have to understand that you get paid when they succeed. If you can help your customers succeed, your success will follow.

Lincoln Murphy is a founder at Sixteen Ventures and a mentor at GrowthX Academy. He is also a world-renowned growth architect, consultant, author, and keynote speaker.