Best Practice: Open and Transparent Communication (Opening the Kimono)

One of the key things I love to do with customers takes inspiration from Patrick Lencioni’s Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty: not being afraid to be vulnerable with and challenge customers. I refer to this best practice as “opening the kimono”. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, it essentially means open and transparent communication.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask to the Hard and Right Questions

This form of communication comes down to the way one interacts with their customers and challenges them, not being afraid to ask the hard questions. By society’s standards we try to avoid risks and not make people uncomfortable or angry, but I’ve found that challenging customers in what might be an uncomfortable situation empowers them to become more successful in the end. I believe this practice can help you stand out as a CSM if you ask the right questions beyond the standard business objectives or success criteria because it establishes a relationship based on trust.

Example of Being Open and Transparent – The Hard Questions

There was a situation where I challenged a customer to think about why they don’t require managers to have regular 1:1’s with each person on their team. He processed the question for 1-2 minutes. Reflecting. Radio-silence on the call (which is important…. let there be silence!). After he had time to process, he told me he didn’t know why they don’t require it. In fact, he admitted that he was scared to mandate anything – scared that the team wouldn’t receive a “mandate” in the best light.


After this question, the switch flipped in his mind. He realized providing managers with resources and training for great 1:1’s and making it required would have a positive impact on employee engagement (which they wanted to improve). So the question made him think about what he was doing and why, and when he realized something wasn’t right, it compelled him to take action. He figured it out on his own right before my eyes. All I did was listen without judgement.

Key Takeaways

1. Ask the right questions. I’ve found that challenging the status quo with thoughtful questions for customers builds “CSM-cred”; my contact began to think outside-the-box and solved the problem on their own and I became a trusted advisor.

2. Ask customers why, how, and for more context regularly

3. Be curious. There’s usually something deeper to understand which will enable you to truly make them successful.