Chris De Vylder

Head of SMB Sales Strategy & Operations

,

Atlassian

   |    

July 8, 2021

On this episode of the Enterprise Monetization Podcast, we sat down with Chris De Vylder, the Global Head of SMB Sales, Sales Strategy, and Operations at Atlassian. Chris offered insights into product-led growth and some of the myths around it.

Podcast Transcript:

Sandeep Jain:

Hi. Welcome to the 7th episode of “The Enterprise Monetization” podcast. And this is your host, Sandeep Jain. In this podcast, we invite thought leaders from monetization space that has CPQ and billing, so that you can learn about challenges, opportunities, and best practices in enterprise monetization. Today, I'm very pleased to invite our guest, Chris De Vylder. Chris is a seasoned sales executive who's currently serving as Global Head of SMB Sales, Sales Strategy and operations at Atlassian. Now, folks don't know what Atlassian is. Atlassian is the builder of popular collaboration products like Jira, Trello, and confluence, and a poster child for product led-growth companies. Prior to joining Atlassian, Chris had sales BD operations and product roles at companies such as NetApp, Concentrics, and Siebel. Chris is also a growth advisor at open view, which is an expansion stage VC firm with a strong focus on product-led growth companies. Chris, it's exciting to talk to you again. Chris and I spoke a couple of years ago, when I was researching into the Quote-to-Cash base and had a terrific conversation with Chris at that time. So it's such an amazing thing to speak with him again, and get his viewpoint on how Atlassian scales the sales part. So Chris, welcome to the show.  

Chris De Vylder:

Thanks, Sandeep. We're looking forward to this. It's been great seeing the evolution of what you've done. So, it's good to go into.  

Sandeep Jain:

Serendipity is the name of the game for me.  

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah, that's right.  

Sandeep Jain:

Awesome. Before we start, Chris, can you share sort of a quick fun fact about yourself before we go into the deep innards of billing and CPQ?  

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, one thing I was thinking about, as you kind of as I was preparing for this, like, a lot of people in the US specifically talk about Timbuktu. And I can actually claim that I have visited Timbuktu and being there and it is effectively a remote place. But it was an amazing journey to get there.  

Sandeep Jain:

Amazing. So what made you decide to go there just because people…?  

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah, I used to travel a lot when I was in College and Post College. And so, this actually happened a little bit after college. But we always tried to kind of raise the bar as to where we wanted to go and how remote we wanted to go. And so I had a friend with whom I traveled quite a bit. And this is one of those destinations that we had in our mindset. So, Timbuktu is actually in Mali. I wonder if you ask like 20 people, how many we would know which country Timbuktu is in? It's in the North Central Mali. And Mali has actually a lot of interesting sights. And we decided to make it a three-week trip there. And we ultimately ended in Timbuktu. And from there, we made our way back home. So, its good.

Sandeep Jain:

That's fascinating. I was, that would have been my next question. Where is this place, actually?

Chris De Vylder:

It's in Mali, so Central Africa.  

Sandeep Jain:

Amazing, amazing. I had a travel buddy as well. And we did like about 20 countries together. And we decided to leave the countries like UK at least Switzerland, you know, post when we have kids or families. We were trying to rough it out.  

Chris De Vylder:

Exactly, that's exactly what it was. And so, I've kind of slowed down the roughing it out a little bit. I hope to go back to it in the near future.  

Sandeep Jain:

Okay, all right. So back from travel to now Quote-to-Cash. So, could you give us a share of like, share your background with the listeners like, how do you like, you have a product role, you had ops roles, and now your sales at Atlassian? So, give us an idea about your journey, like how you ended up here?  

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah, I mean, it's interesting. So, I grew up in Belgium, went to college in Belgium, and I was in you know, I'm an engineer. Obviously, I have a technical background. But after college, I really wanted to explore the world. So that was kind of my way of substituting for rough travel. And I ended up finding a job in South Korea where I was for a startup. I was focused on selling semiconductor equipment. So, we build the software that was going into semiconductor equipment. And that's really where I got my kind of first exposure to sales, you know, solution selling because we were selling very expensive equipment. It was a very small company. And we grew the business in this very traditional B2B sales environment. You got to imagine it's like $500,000 a piece, at least for the equipment. And so, we were dealing with these large semiconductor companies. And that gives me a good taste for what sales and channels sales was like, because we were working with channels in the Far East. And you know, the company that well made some money there and was able to afford to go to business school. And it was a long-time kind of ambition of mine when I was back in Belgium to come to the US for business school. So I was able to realize that ambition and after business school you know, I was looking for ways to kind of get into product management because I wanted to build products. And I was intrigued by the CRM space in general. And I ultimately landed at Siebel systems, where I was able to use that knowledge of channels to help build out the initial what they call “Partner Relationship Management Products”. And that's kind of the connection between these two. So just able to kind of take that experience that I had fresh from Asia and leverage it into a product management role at Siebel. So we build our products there. You know, I ended up spending about four years at Siebel, which was you know, really cool kind of sales graduate school. Like, if you look at the salespeople that Siebel had at the time, and you know, for those who remember, obviously, was a company that was known for a very strong culture. Some people liked it, others hated it. But I actually really enjoyed it. And I met some amazing salespeople there. And so that continued kind of that like a trajectory of learning about how salespeople operate and how B2B sales transactions were conducted. I didn't want to go back to startup lando. And so I ended up joining this company called uncover. And interestingly enough, it was in a very similar spaces as you are in right now, like we were doing or building a solution. So I joined them as a Product Manager. But we were building a solution that was essentially an add-on for the traditional Quote-to-Cash systems at the time that allowed them to do subscription-based billing. And at that time, most of that was support contracts, as well as security products that were already sold in a subscription version in essence. And within that company, we initially build out the product, we build it out for channels, which was also a key component, how do you sell these products to channels and enable channel partners to resell these products? And we continued on that trajectory. So ultimately, we were too early to the game. And so, at that time, there were clearly customers that needed it for certain use cases, but it was not broad enough. It was also very difficult because the API's etc, were not ready at the time to connect our system to the system. So, every build out of our solution was a heavy integration exercise. And so that ended up being a factor that limited our growth. And as a consequence, we ended up deciding to become more of an outsourced sales play. And I was asked to build out an inside sales organization. And what we did is we shifted from a software sales company to a company that or where we offered services primarily to Tech Companies to sell these subscription based products on their behalf, and that's what we did. Did that for about six, seven years, we ended up selling the company to a large US distributor of tech products.

Chris De Vylder:

And say not the most successful exit, but you know, that keeps the motivation going. And I ended up then being recruited by one of my customers from the startup to really help them run their support renewal business, and so restructure that that was net up, we restructure that business, we grew it from about 600 million to a billion dollars. And you know, at some point, I was kind of done with that, well then the opportunity at Atlassian popped up. And I was like, wow, this is a chance to really learn about this unique business model. And this was now five years ago, and ultimately, they hired me and I was brought in to look at the PLG model and figure out how we could layer in an enterprise sales model in essence.  

Sandeep Jain:

Awesome, awesome. Fascinating journey, Chris, from timber to Atlassian, I guess.  

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah, yeah. They went to somewhere in the middle. But yeah, it's good.  

Sandeep Jain:

Awesome. So, we talked a little bit about what Atlassian does, but can you tell us more about Atlassian and your particular role there, Chris?  

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah. So, as I mentioned, so Atlassian is obviously famous for its PLG model. And I would say that the company can probably claim to have invented that model. But five years ago, there was already a motion in place that was starting to focus more on enterprise level customers. So what we found out or what the company had found out is that there was a need for some of these companies to have a more advanced engagement than the pure PLG based model that the company was built upon. And so, what they wanted me to do, and I came in from a sales operations, sales strategy and operations perspective was to really look at our business and say, how do we build out more established relationships with these enterprise companies? How do we essentially expand our revenue from these different customers that we already have in the install base? So ultimately, like the common thread that was there, you know, through Siebel, and cover and all these other companies was that I had built up an expertise and installed base selling, like, how do you figure out you know, what you have? And how can you make as much money as possible from these customers? And obviously, at Atlassian, we wanted to maintain the culture of the company, which was to not be overly aggressive in sales, but to really offer customers the value and the advice that we could give them to build more trust in our product. So, we build out these motions over time that really capitalized on the install base, identifying the right customers to follow up with building the infrastructure to do so and then handing that over to sales in very specific sales playbooks. And initially, we started with one sales playbook that was more of an upgrade sales playbook. So, taking customers from standard versions of our product to enterprise grade versions of our product. But over time, and over the course of like four acquisitions, we've gradually built out more playbooks to plug into our customer base, and also build out a sales organization that now I would say resembles more traditional sales organization grafted on top of the PLG motion, but still maintaining some of the or actually maintaining some of the core principles that made it lasting great. So some of them being pricing transparency. You know, obviously, the tactics that we use are nowhere comparable to what traditional B2B companies would use. But anyway, those models are outdated now anyways, but that's essentially what we've done here. So now we've got you know, fairly sophisticated sales organization that ranges from business development reps to an inside sales team to field sales teams, etc. Obviously, complemented by an extremely strong channel organization, that really has helped us not only expand our reach geographically, but also allows us to get into accounts of different levels sometimes, then we have access to.  

Sandeep Jain:

Awesome, awesome. One of the notions that I've heard is like product-led growth companies don't have salespeople. A lot of times I've seen people mentioning that, but that's like a wrong thing. It seems like because every, when you take these customers who are paying you, like $10 a month or something like that, you actually then have to grow them into an enterprise.  

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah, that's fine. I mean, if they're large companies, not only, do you want to do that as a company, because there is significant upside potential for you. But also, the customer is really demanding it. Because they do want a different level of service than they get when they swipe their credit card essentially. And so ultimately, as you grow, you have to build in those motions to support those types of customers.  

Sandeep Jain:

Awesome. So, can you talk more about this, like the Quote-to-Cash stack at Atlassian to support end of customers?

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah. So, we sell through three different channels. So, we sell through Ecommerce, which is actually the core of the business, or what's the core of the business and what the business was founded upon. We sell through channel partners, and we sell direct now. And all of these channels obviously need to engage with each other. So because at the time, there were really no products available in market to support these combined motions, Atlassian ended up building a fully homegrown stack, at least when it comes to the front end of the process. So, the quoting and the interfaces to our cash collection and accounting engines. So the front end is homegrown, the back office is NetSuite, and obviously a bunch of add-ons to make it work from a tax perspective and all the other things that you typically need with systems like that.  

Sandeep Jain:

Understood, and Chris, for a company that's starting now, and that wants to sort of have this trifecta of channels, but want to be able to share the same things, are the tools available right now that have just solved this problem any better than what it did? I don't know, five years ago when you guys decided to build your own?

Chris De Vylder:

Well, this was built way longer ago. Atlassian has been in business for like, close to 20 years. So, I don't know exactly when in the history this was built out, but I would say, you know, the answer is probably really. No, I mean, there are some systems out there, I mean, being one of them, that allows you to be more flexible in your pricing mechanisms. But, you know, systems that really allow you to combine the scale that you get with what's more like a B2C sales motion, but then also allow you to get a little bit more sophisticated in your interactions that you the things that you typically require in B2B sales motions, those combinations are really not available in market right now. I mean, you can look at obviously, any large company like SAP or Salesforce is going to claim that they have these solutions, but they're typically different acquired companies that are still require a lot of integration work to make that work together. So I'd say there's no real off the shelf solution available that allows you to do this effectively.

Sandeep Jain:

Understood. And, Chris, is this a big bottleneck in the growth of the companies, or is it like a small fraction? Is it a big friction?  

Chris De Vylder:

Like, I mean, it's a challenge, for sure. Like, you know, the scale at which you need to run your commerce infrastructure, obviously, is nowhere close to an Amazon or any of these Ecommerce sites, but still, the scale is large, and the number of customers, we have close to 200,000 customers that purchase from us, and don't quote me on that number officially, like it's about that number. But you know, the scale and that combined with the sophistication that you need is just very, very hard to do. And so we are struggling with that for sure. As we tried to keep up with the creativity of our product people, obviously, Atlassian is a product led organization, which means lots of new ideas come out of the product. Organization, we make significant investments in new products, because we obviously want to stay ahead of the curve there. But then fitting that all into an infrastructure that can flexibly accommodate that and, evolve with that and combine the scale within the sophistication of B2B transactions. It really it does slow us down sometimes, and we've had to make up for that with more resources to support these processes manually.  

Sandeep Jain:

Understood. And in this process, do you have both expansion, like a free customer becoming enterprise, but you also have this other workflow where an enterprise customer contracts, or they reduced back to do an individual sort of workflow?

Chris De Vylder:

I mean, that doesn't happen that often. Like we're fortunate that most of the customers keep growing with us. So, I wouldn't say that is still a challenge, we do see some challenges in terms of, yes, graduating customers. Why? Because I mean, in our case, it is in one system, because it's the homegrown system. But I've seen other companies that ended up combining, you know, different types of transaction systems, because there is nothing that supports both of these motions elegantly. And then obviously, you're starting to deal with the issues of like, well, where does my customer sit? And how do we get the information of the customer that we have about them in a self-serve environment, and also make that accessible in the more B2B transaction systems that support it? We don't have that issue, because our systems are homegrown. But that's part of the core challenge, we do have some of these issues or challenges on the marketing side, for example, where you have similar challenges really were like scaled systems for more B2C marketing are not don't have the capabilities of the more B2B oriented systems. And again, you need to exchange information between those systems as customers graduate, or potentially get demoted from one category to another.  

Sandeep Jain:

Got it. And Chris, could you give us a sense of how many SKU’s that you guys transact in and how many currencies that you have?  

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah, I don't know the exact numbers SKU’s. But I would say that compared to some of the companies, other companies I've seen, it seems like it's significantly lower, but it's in the 1000s let's say. And right now, we are selling in USD, AUD and JPY. So, these are the three currencies that we support. So it's interesting like even in Europe today, we don't offer directly through our own systems, we don't offer Euro based transactions. That being said, our customers can always go and purchase through our channel partners who offer all of these flexibility to purchase in different currencies, payment terms, etc.  

Sandeep Jain:

Understood. And Chris, is this a function of the inability of existing systems to support like multiple currencies, or is this just a choice?  

Chris De Vylder:

I mean, part of it is a choice, part of it is, it's like, it's flexibility. Like, obviously, there are certain currencies, that we are gradually layering into the system. And you know, the existing infrastructure makes it a little bit more difficult to do so fast. Mostly, because it's still spans multiple systems and multiple changes across systems. It's also a matter of choice in terms of financial management, because obviously, the more currencies you have, the more you need to start thinking about hedging and all these other aspects of it. So it's a balancing act between you know, these things, and obviously, the customer experience that we want to provide. But we have a, you know, I'm going back to our channel, there is this strong capability that we have, and that allows us to build a layer around our infrastructure that really provides those capabilities to their customers and our joint customers essentially.  

Sandeep Jain:

Got it.  

Chris De Vylder:

But yes, I would say, clearly, infrastructure is in some ways, preventing us from moving very fast in some of these things.  

Sandeep Jain:

Got it. So, what would you say, Chris, is your biggest challenge in the scope of cash? Because you're the Atlassian, being the poster child for product-led growth? Like this is the heart of the company, right?  

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah.  

Sandeep Jain:

What are the some of the biggest challenge or challenges in this Quote-to-Cash, from your perspective? Like, if they were solid, I mean, then your revenue can be accelerated in a much faster pace?  

Chris De Vylder:

I mean, I think it comes down to the ability to combine scale and speed of Ecommerce systems with sophistication of that you need for these B2B interactions. And so as we discussed, there is like, no real system on the market that allows you to do the two in one system effectively and right. Ultimately, like a lot of the core functions are shared by these two. Like our pricing, our core pricing model, and our product catalogs, and all of these things are the same across the two motions, and we want to offer them, most of them, we want to offer to both channels, or be able to offer to both channels. But the fact that there are no systems on the market that allow you to manage that one central catalog and kind of push it through an Ecommerce site and at the same time, make it available to more traditional quoting systems. That is really the key bottleneck. I think that everybody who's in PLG, either is already facing or will be facing very soon. And that's been validated by conversations I've had with other people in the industry that that they're struggling with the same issues and ended up using two separate systems, which then require separate maintenance and orchestration between the two, which has massive overhead.  

Sandeep Jain:

That's really interesting. You mentioned this, Chris, I had a previous guest on the show. They had the product catalog in their B2B system. And then the other way, like they were kind try to do the B2C workflow. And so they ended up replicating the product catalog in AWS somewhere. And from there, they were trying to build the online experience. But your point, they have now two separate catalogs, and they were trying to synchronize…

Chris De Vylder:

They need to be synchronized and maintained. And that's, I mean, that's just work and lots of room for errors.

Sandeep Jain:

Right. So, and we talked about this a little bit earlier about this B2C and B2B being together. But Atlassian, you know, you're doing both bottom up and top-down sales. Anything specific that it means to your internal systems that were designed to support this? Anything specific, anything interesting you guys did there?

Chris De Vylder:

I mean, we did a number of a number of things. Like, part of the challenge was what's kind of very different between the PLG motion and the B2B sales motion is that, ultimately, in the PLG motion, you want to collect as little information about your customer as possible, as you want to get them into the product and make sure that they experienced the product as fast as possible and get value out of the product as fast as possible. So, ultimately, you just want to get like, you know, an email address, or minimal information. You don't want to ask company size all that stuff that you. And so you know, you get their email address, and I know some companies advertise, then they can provide you with all the data required to figure out who that is. And you know, some of these companies do provide quality data, but it's not complete enough, and it doesn't really tell you exactly who you're dealing with. And so those are some of the things that we've built out here internally is the ability to kind of bubble up from these large amounts of data that we see in our PLG motions to bubble up information about the companies and to really build a profile about both the individual and the company that we can then leverage in more sophisticated ways in our top of funnel activities around marketing, but also bottom of funnel once we start selling to these companies. And essentially booking orders from them.  

Sandeep Jain: Got it. And, Chris, if there's one thing that can help solve your existing Quote-to-Cash problem, what would it be?

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah, I mean, it ultimately comes down to like, that's centralized catalog, and then an ability to APIs, or kind of plugin quoting modules for your enterprise salespeople, it is to support the kind of motions that you need to support. Like, if you think about it, ultimately, that product catalog needs to be centralized, the pricing rules need to be centralized as much as possible. Like you need to be able to access that to an Ecommerce front end, which is either typically something people want to build out themselves or their, they want to, they can buy off the shelf systems. But ultimately, like the most companies build custom front end for their Ecommerce sites. So you want to have that centralized back office that allows you to drive the scale and the transaction levels that you need to drive on the commerce side, but then also make that available and provide, I would say at a minimum level, the quoting interfaces for both your channel community and for your direct sales teams to build those more sophisticated transactions that require a whole lot of other capabilities, like the ability to combine multiple assets on one quote to co-term them to provide discounts to have approval flows, wrapped around that all of that stuff that comes with a traditional B2B sales motion, you also probably want to have the ability for your partners to plug into that directly, and to leverage API's or more electronic interfaces into your company to get pricing and to conduct transactions that way in parallel to more traditional quoting interfaces. So, it's really like the centralized engine within all of the different modes of interaction that you need to provide to different actors that need to use it in either the B2C motions or the B2B motions. That's kind of what I'd say is what would be the Holy Grail.

Sandeep Jain:

And so, Chris, why do you think like nobody has come up with a product to solve this exactly what you're just talking about? Like why, since this is like a core problem for growth for a product-led growth company, yeah, the non-product led growth companies as well. So why do you think…

Chris De Vylder:

I think it's something people are now starting to pay attention to. I mean, Quote-to-Cash is one area where this clearly is an issue. It's complex. Like, you need to be able to handle volumes of transactions, and then this complexity of the transaction. And obviously, larger companies like ourselves, it's difficult to just like rip this whole thing out and replace it with something else. So it's not an easy sales cycle. It's clearly not a PLG sales cycle, the sell a Quote-to-Cash solution. So that's one aspect. But you see this across the board, like you see similar issues come up in the marketing space, as I alluded to earlier, like the inability to combine these real volume based processes with more, like, Marketo versus Salesforce marketing cloud, for example. Like they're built for different purposes, and they are good at one specific purpose. They're not necessarily good at combining purposes, which in PLG, you need to be able to very flexibly or fluidly go from one motion to the other potentially. And so marketing doesn't have the systems that the systems that allow you to interface with PLG streams from a sales perspective. You know, we've seen more and more activity there in terms of companies that are starting to build out solutions for that, you know, pokers being one of them and some other companies in that space. But I think that's one of the areas that you're seeing a gap that is now gradually being, well, at least I think people have identified the gap and are now starting to build solutions for that. CDB systems is another area where you're struggling with combining the scale with the sophistication of what you need to get done. So those are different areas of like the kind of IT infrastructure that are probably due for some level of refresh.

Sandeep Jain:

Interesting. And I've seen this at other companies, but this Quote-to-Cash because this is becoming more of an infrastructure engineering problem. I've seen this moving from an IT responsibility to engineering responsibility. Is that some of what happening at Atlassian as well?

Chris De Vylder:

It is. I mean, in some ways, and you know, maybe it's a channel that I haven't talked about enough, given that we're a product-led company, like, obviously, the product is also a purchasing channel. And so when you're actually transacting in PLG, the first transaction often happens in the product. And so that's another emotion that you need to be able to facilitate. So the integration between product and commerce infrastructure as a consequence, or product and marketing infrastructure becomes much more intertwined. And therefore, it does make sense to combine these into potentially the engineering organization.

Sandeep Jain:

Got it. A lot of times, I hear this question about how to structure the teams for monetization, because it spans like finance, sales, engineering. And so where do we put this functionality? Is this an IT role? Is this becoming a more engineering role with an oversight from an IT? So that's…?

Chris De Vylder:

It's a difficult question to answer. And I think, you know, I mean, it's not just a Quote-to-Cash challenge. It's like any kind of cross functional business process, which in PLG somehow, they manifest themselves even more, because you have to go even further in terms of the cross functional nature of what you're doing, including product and marketing and everything else. I mean, everybody needs to collaborate to actually get to a business outcome. So ultimately you know, I believe in like the notion of what Jeff Lawson outlines in his book, which is the “Amazon way”, but also what Twilio at least seems to be implementing, or has implemented, which is the combination of multiple people that are focused on solving a customer problem, and then align resources across functions to work on that customer problem. And obviously, with Quote-to-Cash, it's a little bit more difficult, because everybody is relying on that same quote with the cash infrastructure. But I think you have to start from there as like, what are the customer problems that you solving? And who in the company needs to be working on that? The two pins are box roll. Like, let's limit it to as few people as possible, like I recently coined the term Minimum Viable team in terms of like, what you need to get the job done, because otherwise the collaboration just becomes very difficult to orchestrate. And so I think you're gonna see more and more of that having to happen just so that you can get to the outcomes faster. And from a Quote-to-Cash perspective, ultimately, you will have to absorb inputs from all of these different business processes or different outcomes that you need to orchestrate to kind of build the infrastructure against for them.

Sandeep Jain:

It's interesting, because you mentioned this, like people getting together across different functions to solve a customer problem. And I'm reminded of this, I was exploring something in customer support a few years ago. And enterprise companies, there is a tier-one support there is a tier-two and tier-three. Sometimes you're being passed over multiple tiers. And so, there's a new concept and support where when you first put a call to a customer support person, they will solve your problem. They will be the point of contact, and they will pull in other people as needed to solve that problem. I'd like to your point about customer experience, you're not being thrown from one party to another. But customer support is also getting this kind of a model where one person solves your problem, and they might have to pull other people from different directions.

Chris De Vylder:

And they’re accountable for solving it.

Sandeep Jain:

It's interesting. Chris, changing gears a little bit. Do you have any thoughts on usage-based billing? That's a new thing that we're hearing a lot in enterprises. Of course, you have public clouds that live and breathe, usage-based billing. But in enterprises, you know, we've been talking about this. Any perspective on this? Like, is it a hype? Is it reality? How are companies doing usage-based billing? Any thoughts on that?  

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah, I don't think it's a hype. I think it's you know, companies like Amazon and others have proven that people are willing to live with that kind of model. I mean, not just because it offers them the flexibility. But it's just the right way to do it in some ways. The challenges with it typically come in with some of the larger organizations who still want to have predictability of what they purchase and predictability of pricing. So, in many ways, you have to be able to support again, both notions. So I don't think usage based billing is a fad. I think it's here to stay. I think it's attractive for many companies. But it will have to be combined with some level of prepackaged pre prices offerings that are offered larger organizations, more predictability around budgets, and what things will cost them, but certainly here to stay in my opinion.

Sandeep Jain:

Got it. And Chris, do you think it's like an incremental change to the existing systems to support this kind of billing or is this like, on an exponential or a different scale for companies?

Chris De Vylder:

I don't think it's easy to build. I mean, as we're obviously build a business on this, like, that was the initial premise of, at least from what I can tell. So I think it's, you'd stay it's hard to combine with existing systems, typically, because they don't support it natively. So I think that's another challenge to layer on top of the scale versus sophistication challenge, and then you know, layer into that, like, different flexibility, ultimately comes down to flexibility. Like you want to be able to sell on the website, or through a salesperson or through a channel partner, you want to be able to offer fixed pricing, or usage-based billing, depending on essentially what the customer preferences are in terms of how they want to purchase these things.  

Sandeep Jain:

Interesting. Now, it's interesting. You mentioned this, Chris, like when I was researching this space a couple of years ago, if you're the CEO of a company, if you're building a product, like you should be held accountable to how fast or how better, you can build a product. But when you're out selling, you should be able to decide I want to sell in Japan and Japanese yen tomorrow, I want to show this to partners, I want to know usage-based building. Near other folks, these are like couple of years’ worth of projects, and they even fail at times. It kind of sounded very absurd to me that like, these systems in a very ideal world should be like air and water. They should be transparent. But they are a fundamental reason that you exist. But they don't show their existence in your face, and this is it. It's kind of hard for me to fathom that, that nobody has kind of build that. Well, you do the business that you want to. And this system is like a transformer or adapts to the way of selling company on the planet. They will start with maybe subscriptions. They'll go to one time. They'll go to use it.  

Chris De Vylder:

Absolutely.  

Sandeep Jain:

I've channeled partner B2C and B2B marriage. And it always was a fascinating thing for me like why nobody has built this?

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah, because it's hard. As the fundamental reason, I think it's hard. Like, there is infinite amount of creativity in pricing schemes, discounting schemes, all these things. And I think sometimes too many really. And, obviously, it's difficult for assistants to keep up with that.

Sandeep Jain:

Right. So, Chris, maybe you answered this question earlier, but how do you think this industry is going to change in the few years? Do you see, I think the biggest thing that I'm hearing from you is the scale versus sophistication? B2C versus B2B, like combining these motions, or what do you think about AI, ML, is there a possibility of using that or anything else?

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah, I mean, I think so. I mean, ultimately, PLG is a model that's here to stay, that's clearly not a fad. It's just means like, you actually build a product that's good enough so customers can get in on their own and use it on their own, and that's a testament to the quality of your product. So any good product company, obviously there are exceptions to the rule, like there are certain things that are not as easy to sell in a PLG motion, but it’s here to stay. And so the whole CRM industry is going to have to evolve to accommodate that model, which means reconciling B2B and B2C, which also means getting more sophisticated about how you collect customer data. And so the whole infrastructure around like the CDP's of this world will have to evolve to be able to collect the massive scale, all the stuff that happens in the product, all the interactions that you want to kind of react to viscerally with, like you know, very quick responses based on what a customer is doing in your product or on your website, all the things around personalization, versus then the more sophisticated that long range motions around like, well, what's the best next thing that I'm going to go sell to that customer? And so, both of them will have to rely on AI and ML probably at some point. And you can start with more heuristics and simple rules. But ultimately, you know, the way that product responds to a customer will have to be based on models where you understand like, based on these actions, I'm going to provide these types of responses or these types of interactions in the product or on a website or in an Ecommerce, shopping cart type of environment. And for the longer-range activities to help salespeople, obviously, you want to do similar things. You want to understand the full profile of the customer, not just what they just did in the product and how they acted. But like, who are they? What's their profile? What's their role in the company? Who is the company that we're dealing with? What vertical are they in? What kind of industry are they in? And based on that, what kind of decisions do I make about what to tee up to them next? So, I see a big role for AI and ML there for sure.

Sandeep Jain:

Awesome, Chris. Here with this, we have come to the end of this fascinating conversation, Chris. It was amazing to speak with you. But before we go, could you share a resource like a book, a podcast or a blog that has created an impression on you, and why?

Chris De Vylder:

Yeah. I mean, I mentioned it earlier, I did enjoy Jeff Wilson's book. Ask your developer because it kind of resonated, a lot of it resonated with me, even though a lot of it is kind of common sense within the valley, but still there's a lot to be taken away from it. From a podcast perspective, you know, I'm a big fan of the “Open View” guys. So, they have a great podcast that I listened to on a very regular basis. And those are like from a business perspective, those are things that are things that I enjoyed recently, and that I listen to all along ongoing basis.

Sandeep Jain:

Awesome. Chris, hey, thank you again for your time. And this was very interesting conversation. A lot of people I know are struggling with Product-Led Growth. So, I’m sure you get pinged by…

Chris De Vylder:

It's becoming more fashionable for sure, every day.  

Sandeep Jain:

Well, Atlassian assured that there's plenty of money to be made thinking that way.  

Chris De Vylder:

It works. Okay, great. Well, thanks Sandeep. This is great, great conversation.

Sandeep Jain: Hi. Welcome to the 8th episode of “The Enterprise Monetization” podcast. And this is your host, Sandeep Jain. In this podcast, we invite thought leaders from monetization space that has CPQ and billing, so that you can learn about challenges, opportunities, and best practices in enterprise monetization. Today, I'm pleased to invite Navin Persaud. To this podcast, Navin has a deep expertise in running sales and marketing ops. He's currently the Head of Revenue Ops at a company called 1Password. I'm pretty sure all of you would know what that company is for. But for those of you who don't know, 1Password is a private company based out of Toronto, Canada, and they do password management for both businesses and for personal use. So they are like a Product-Led Growth company, if you're familiar with the term Product-Led Growth. Prior to that, Navin managed operations at several companies such as Fixed Software, Ceridian, Leader, Lenovo and IBM Canada. With that, I want to extend a very warm welcome to Navin. Navin, welcome to the show.
Navin Persaud: Thanks, Sandeep. Happy to be here.
Sandeep Jain:  Awesome. So, before we start, can you share a quick fun fact about yourself that you'd like to share with the audience of this podcast?
Navin Persaud: Sure, sure thing. I think people who know me know I love to fish fishing. I'm not exactly a great fisherman, but I love the analogies that that fishing offers me in my work life to my personal life. And really that persistence, the amount of effort preparedness, these are all things that work in both elements, whether, you're fishing or whether you're that sales rep trying to close that up order.
Sandeep Jain:  It's interesting. I don't fish but I could never call it that analogy. Well, we've all seen the fisherman just sitting and just waiting for the hook to be engaged. I don't know, what's the right phrase there? But I can imagine the patience and the diligence required to get this thing done, it's very interesting. Do you fish often, by the way?
Navin Persaud: Anytime I can get.
Sandeep Jain:  Wow. Okay. So I'm assuming you're close to a place which allows you to do what you want to do?
Navin Persaud: Proximity water doesn't stop me. If I have time, I'll go find it
Sandeep Jain:  How much is this, if you don't mind me asking this, the paying for this activity is like a few hours like what's the time commitment?
Navin Persaud: Yeah, usually, you have to know that you're gonna go a day before because then you have to pack the vehicle and make sure you have all your gear, have bade know that you're waking up early the next morning, and then you go.
Sandeep Jain:  Got it. And once again, my goodness, but is it kind of a solo sport, or is it?
Navin Persaud: It's either, but like, the great joy for me is taking my son. So my son is 18. And he loves fishing as much as I do. And sometimes he's pulling me to go fish when? No, I'm not thinking about it. So it's actually really great.
Sandeep Jain:  That's interesting. That's interesting. My son is eight years old, probably, that's a good dad and son bonding exercise, I guess. So thank you for sharing this, by the way. Let's come to some other fun stuff that we want to talk about today, which is monetization. So I give a quick summary to our audience. But Julie, just quickly share about your professional journey. You know, it seems that you started in marketing, sales, and then you're now into revenue operations, which is sort of an over encompassing thing?
Navin Persaud: Sure. I started my career as an IBM 15years, right at a university, I thought I was going to be a lawyer at IBM. Opportunity at IBM was amazing, as you know, entering the workforce, starting off as you know, an operations moving into sales roles, finding a home operations, and then eventually moving into SaaS organizations Rev Ops 2015. And then learning SaaS from there on in having never experienced Salesforce, didn't really know what SaaS was never sold software, moving from like a commodity based business to software and, you know, looking back, I wish I had done it sooner.
Sandeep Jain:  Go ahead and dial up one password. Can you talk more about the company and your role at 1Password?
Navin Persaud: Sure. I've been to 1Password for just over six months now. It's been an amazing journey, their Product-Led Growth Company, they serve as both individuals so like a B2C model, and companies as a B2B model. They're on an incredible growth curve at the moment. Product-Led, and my role here as leader of Rev Ops is to really just look at the internal processes and systems and sort of help the team remove obstacles, to just keep that efficiency rolling out, it's been a great journey. I've enjoyed the ride. And I look forward to more projects and initiatives that we're about to embark on here shortly.
Sandeep Jain:  Understood. And could you talk more about, like how your role is structured within is apart of the sales organization? Because revenue operations crosses the multiple boundaries of multiple functions. So that's why I'm curious about how it is organized at your company.
Navin Persaud: Yes, for sure. So I reported to our CRO, so we're part of the go to market organization, which is effectively sales, and that's typically what I've seen in my career. I think, once I've reached this particular level, I've always reported into either CRO or CMO. But generally in sales, because that's where the pain is felt. That's where they need someone to help them with the systems, and the process, and the reporting and the data. So it's a natural fit, and a natural home sales affords you the opportunity to be on the same team on the same page, so that you're working with each other as opposed to against each other, which is always great. In order to get things done, get buy in, and to generally just move initiatives forward.
Sandeep Jain:  Understood, and what companies have a separate revenue operations function, do they also have a Sales Ops as a function or is it kind of merged with the Revenue Ops?
Navin Persaud: I think Rev Ops is a new creature in the last few years, it's a buzzword. I think sales ops was more of a legacy term that companies are sort of just shifting away from. In the past, I've seen sales ops, I've been a sales ops leader, and it's really about, you have an MQL, you've created a customer, you have an MQL, you've created a customer like that was the journey. And your role was to operate within that. Whereas Rev Ops is a lot more encompassing is you have an MQL, you have a customer, then you have an upsell, you have a renewal, you have a churn, you start all over again, you have expansion. It's more of a full cycle. And it marries well into organizations where you have a CRO, who owns not only the new customer sales teams, but also the customer success and expansion teams as well. So it's a nice little wrapper.
Sandeep Jain:  Awesome. I think you explained this very well. And I mean, I've talked to quite a few people on that, but I think explanation hits the mark. So thank you for sharing that. And so look, we talked about a Product-Led Growth scenario. So can you talk about the challenges in this journey that you talked about, from a view point of a Product-Led Growth company?
Navin Persaud: Yeah. So first of all, it's great to be working in a Product-Led Growth company. Because here you have great virality in your product, great demand. And really what you're coming in, at least from my perspective, to fix are effectively the plumbing of all the systems and the billing and the process and the lead flow sand how all of that works in behind the scenes. And your hope is you're just trying to fix things and those processes to get out of the way of a product. So that the velocity people can you can acquire new customers that can move through your sales teams, and then into your customer success teams at great speed. Whereas the inverse is if you're not working in a Product-Led Growth company, you're really trying to fix those things to help drive velocity where it doesn't already exist, and that's where it's really challenging. In terms of challenges, I would say, having the ability for customers to self-serve is paramount. Lot of Product-Led Growth companies has the ability to acquire customers. So they would have like an Ecommerce solution where customers can sign up for a trial and then buy on their own. But not a lot of them have the ability for customers to move to different forms of payment. They have to get to a human in those instances. And that's where these bottlenecks start to appear and surface. And if not built and sort of planned appropriately. You run into scaling resourcing issues, because then all of a sudden, this, this big wave of customers who potentially needs to be upgraded or pay in a different way, needs a human to do it. And therefore you need more humans to kind of meet that demand.
Sandeep Jain:  So let's just focus on that. So this is the B2C workflow that you're talking about. And is there like the tools existing tools don't have that. They don't have an answer to that workflow that you're looking for. And you have to build these experiences yourself, or the experience is not great from the like, what's the problem there?
Navin Persaud: Well, this is actually B2B as well. But I find that a lot of Product-Led Growth companies, their product, and the way in which they bill is something that is inherent and built within their product from the get go. And over time, they extend the reach of the product to service billing and integrate with other systems. Sometimes it's not ideal, like it's not the best way or not really what the intentions of the product were solely there to solve for. And then you reach that period of limitation where it's either you, you scale back what the product is, and you buy something that just doesn't well in the market to solve for those pains, you just have to reach a certain amount of growth where you have to make that decision. And in the meantime, you have to make things work with the product you haven’t place, and the structure and a process that's already built into your platform, to scale allow for growth, and give that flexibility and upgrade paths etc.
Sandeep Jain:  Understood. And with respect to this particular like there are two workflows from B2C and B2B.And the tool that comes there is the CPQ, which is workhouses, the product catalogue, do you see any challenges there having a CPQ service these different channels, where your customers are coming from?
Navin Persaud: WithB2C, it's pretty simple. Like you try the product, you like it, you put down a credit card, you pick your tear away, you go, it's really not, from what I've seen, the CPQ use case there, where CPQ is most prevalent is on the B2B side, specifically, where you have a customer putting their hand up saying, you know, I hate pricing. CPQ is really your subscription engine, your ability to understand what the customer needs price of that quote, and then turn it into a customer with a subscription and a contract to be able to amend upsell down, sell churn renew over time. And it's really the management of that engine across 1000s of customers that makes it complex, if not done quickly. And in an efficient way, I've seen significant challenges with companies where they've waited. And then they decided, yeah, you know what, we need to go do this, and the work is just a lot longer, a lot longer. So because CPQ, and the systems I've dealt with are complex, it's that you have to translate or almost rinse everything that what was built into the CPQ framework, so that it can spit out what you need for it to go forward. And that's where all the challenge lies.
Sandeep Jain:  Understood. And then you'll experience Navin, for product like good companies, even for the customers coming from B2B. Is there a requirement for a self-serve CPQ that I don't want to put my credit card, but I'm gonna do a deal of several $1,000 or10s of 1000s of dollars. But I'd still want to talk to a salesperson, is that a valid scenario that companies should think about?
Navin Persaud: Absolutely. For the point that I raised earlier, if you're aren't building a fly wheel within yourself serve engine, your website's always on, and the ability flexibility for customers to buy what they need, without necessarily always having to talk to a human to get it done. You're hurting yourself, because then you're really relying on your ability to scale on the people that you have to service that demand in a timely fashion with the right price points, and all the other administrative actions that follow it. Companies who are Product-Led Growth and build that flexibility in from the start before them the ability to ramp sales teams over time to be extremely targeted, focused on a specific cohort of customers, whether it be in your enterprise or specific industries, or specific product types, etc. that’s really powerful. But if you're really requiring on the humans to service your demand, because you have a limitation of what someone can buy on their own, then you're sort of at the bit at the mercy of the people that you can hire and putting see.
Sandeep Jain:  Got it. And so one side of the CPQ may have been but the other side is a billing for that. Do you see any challenges with billing for both your B2C and B2Bcustomers?
Navin Persaud: Yeah, from personal experience, B2C is a new thing for me, so I won't go into that. I see. That's pretty straightforward. A lot of vendors out there I think Stripe was one of the most predominant ones. From a B2B standpoint, yes, because even if whatever CPQ you decide to choose and use, you then have to play nice with your billing system, a lot of companies that I've been with almost all of them, except for one, use NetSuite, which is typically your ideal stack. And you have to basically have the two systems play nice like you're going to do a set of calculations and understanding of ARR, and subscription and term and everything else and then basically tell the other system, here's what you need to go and do with that data. Here's how you need to create sales orders and invoices and renewals and billing schedules. And at any point, we may send you something else to upsell and down sell, etc. and your systems need to be handling that. I've never seen it. I've never joined a company where that process was great at the get go.
Sandeep Jain:  Understood. Well, from a NetSuite perspective, running subscription billing, do you find this, is this flexible? What do you think about the flexibility of the tools to support the amendments and renewal cases? That's something that is brought by all, every time I speak with somebody who say I have a very complex or unique renewal process or an amendment. And so what do you think about the complexity of the tools or ability of the tools to do service, this core requirement of SaaS businesses?
Navin Persaud: It's never really that can solution, do it. It's almost always do you have the skill in house to make it happen? I've seen this time and time again. So I mean, we just came off of a CPQ implementation, it was a huge lift. We're now sort of like cleaning up thereafter. But now we're focused on the next piece, which is like how do we integrate this data that we're getting on a CPQ, to our billing system, and what needs to change or what needs to be accommodated so that we can automatically send data back and forth. So it's not a capability issue, it's whether you have the skill and hours to turn on the feature functions that are necessary to accommodate. Quite often, I've seen that suite instances really just be stood up to generate invoices, and a lot of manual work being done by a finance team, just to accommodate that. You really don't want to be building like a massive building team, because that's just an administrative burden into GNA. What you want to be able to do is understand the areas whereby you can automate things, so that you can eliminate the time it takes for you to send out invoices, so you can improve the time it takes to collect cash, so that you can keep customers happy and renewing. So you can just be sort of pro active. And so like to recap, it's never the capabilities of the systems. It's the complexity and the resources of skill to actually make it happen.
Sandeep Jain:  Got it. And Navin, any thoughts on usage-based billing?
Navin Persaud: As a customer, I've seen it. So I've bought a lot of SaaS in my SaaS career. You have Salesforce and DocuSign, all these other solutions. And I'm constantly managing how many users do we have available today team, because we're hiring more people. And I need to make sure that I need to either go buy some or use what I have. And some companies do really well, they get you right when you need that license. You know, you can go into their self-serve like Sales force, the greatest example, I can go on self-serve my own licenses right now, whatever I need, I don't have to talk to anybody, will I get a deal? No, but I will get the licenses I need right now. If I'm thinking I'm going to need to make a bigger purchase off to call up my rep, and we'll have to talk through it that way. But night or day that's afforded to me, and that's available. Other companies have soft caps. I've dealt with a number of vendors whereby you can go over we'll catch you on a true up either at renewal or at some interval that you reach through their head. It's easier for me as a customer, because then you know, I can deal with it. It's more of like a deferred pain and it doesn't interrupt my business flow. I sort of liked that model being the vendor. I'm not sure how much I like that model, because I'm potentially leaving some error on the table, or I'm potentially hoping that my team has the right visibility to the reporting to understand where those trips scenarios exist. So they can go after that revenue at the right time.
Sandeep Jain:  Understood. So you're talking about mostly like a seat-based model where your number of seats are growing…
Navin Persaud: Unless you're also referring to like how much you use the product, DocuSign is a great example of that, I believe they have two models. I've used both where you have seat based or you have envelope based. An envelope base where they basically say, you get this many envelopes in a period. And you can just have as many different users in the system as you want doesn't matter, we're just going to charge you based on the number of envelopes you send out. And when you exceed that, we're automatically just going to bump you to the next year.
Sandeep Jain:  Got it. So I was asking more about that use case, which is, as a revenue offset, 1Password,that's if you decide to have usage billing for your own product. I don't know if you have it currently or not. But if it is based on I don't know, number of different sites, or number of different licenses that are stored in 1Password,and you charge your customers on the basis of that, does that add complexity to your own billing, like how you build your customers and how you do your operations for your customers?
Navin Persaud: On the self-serve side, companies like that, not really. I mean, every time you add a user, you get a charge. And when it's done through like systems like Stripe, or otherwise, the get you as soon as you add the user your credit cards on file, you get sent an invoice immediately. Where it becomes more challenging is when you have to move to invoicing as terms of payment, or something other than credit card. That's where you're having to understand that the change in usage, translate it into your billing process, and then issue an invoice. That's where it can be more complicated if you don't have the right systems talking to each other at the right times to actually automate that work. If that work is manual, it's not scalable.
Sandeep Jain:  Got it. I think the first use case which is more an advanced sort of billing, so pre-buy is what you need. So if I'm going from 5 seats to 10, I go and do the transaction on the website, which is going to be simple versus the scenario where somebody has to monitor how much I'm using. And then at the end of the quarter, month or year, generate an invoice based on how much I used; this requires a different billing scenario.
Navin Persaud: Great. Other companies are also adopting like packs or bundles, whereby you can pre buy, you know, like a bundle of 30or 40 seats. And then you can, you know, start using them and filling them upas you go for the company. You get the immediate purchase of that number of licenses straight up for the user, you have a threshold right away that you can fill and then figure out once you get past it.
Sandeep Jain:  Got it. So, Navin, when you look at this from now, let's say 100,000 foot view, B2CB2B,CPQ billing usage. And you look at this whole thing, is there one big challenge that sort of comes out for you saying, well, if somebody would have solved that actually will make sense or make your life easier as a RevOps person?
Navin Persaud: So I'll say this, the start, I love Salesforce. I'm like, I absolutely adore the platform, because it has made a different career for me. But the way that it's designed, unless you have the right skill in house, and your know what you're doing, and you have a plan, you can fall off the Yellow Brick Road in an instant, you can then decide to go and customize a bunch of things. And then realize, oh my god, I should have just configured some things because now it's so much complexity. You know, CPQ is a great product. I've implemented it three times now. And the biggest challenge each time that I've implemented, it was that we didn't start with it. We ended up with it. Because we realized the homegrown or existing process we had just wasn't going to cut it anymore, was creating downstream problems with our billing our ability to invoice, track renewals, understand churn, we needed something systematic programmatic. And moving to that system was the biggest pain every time that I've done it, not because the system is a pain, it's because you have a wealth of migrated data that you have to translate over. So there's advice that I could give to someone, it's don't wait. Don't try and build it on your own. Figure out a plan that's scalable for your business now, and portable life and when you need to move to something else. But if you don't allow for that, you're just deferring a whole lot of pain for your future ops team that's going to come in here and try and solve what you didn't plan for from the get go.
Sandeep Jain:  Got it, got it Navin. Anything about the interface between the CPQ and the billing systems. I think you alluded to that earlier. I think he talked about NetSuite versus and there could be other accounting systems as well, or billing systems, I should say?
Navin Persaud: You really need a partnership there with your ops team or whoever is going to manage your CPQ and your billing systems because you know, your hand in hand, you have one solution, generating quotes and renewals. Another solution highly dependent on that output to generate invoices and ensure payment. They have to be speaking the same language from like how you're recording revenue, if you have ramp deals, what are you going to invoice, is it staggered? What amendments look like? And then related to that is compensation, something that we're not even talking about here, but you have another team and finance needs to figure out how to pay your sellers, and how to incent them, and how to ensure that the revenue and the data they're getting is accurate and aligns to the plans and programs that are in place. So it's not just billing and solving that issue. There's another element of compensation that also has to play nice in this world.
Sandeep Jain:  Got it. And follow up on this. This the management of this accounting system of the billing system fall into the RevOps team or the finance team sort of owns that, I'm assuming it's a mixed responsibility, but I was just curious too?
Navin Persaud: It is definitely a mixed responsibility. One I'm continuing to learn and understand and grow through. And in my world today, if it's in Salesforce, my team owns it in terms of understanding untangling, making sure the data is accurate. We then partner with our finance teams to ensure that their invoices are accurate, and they go out the way they need to go. Finance owns everything, once it's passed it over to their system, invoice collections, all that thing. The ongoing management of subscription is where you really need to ensure that you have the right resources in place, regardless of which team so that you can understand those one offs, those nuances, you know, sales reps will always you know, apologize in advance to all my sales reps, they will always take the simplest path again. And because that's the nature of the beast and I applaud them for it. And I'm always trying to make them have that simplest path. The reality is, you got to make sure it's right, because then you have so many other things hinging off the accuracy of that an accurate invoice accurate comp, a renewal that needs to go out in a year's time, an amendment that could happen at any notice, a notice of churn expansion, etc. All these things hinge off accurate data and your system. And if you're billing if you're CPQ engine isn't accurately you know, keeping track of that data and managing contracts, you've just created a cycle of pain
Sandeep Jain:  Actually a good segue to this is how to structure the teams. Like you have done earlier talked about Sales Ops being more tactical, RevOps is now being more encompassing term. But now there is also this billing piece we were just talking about. So what's your recommendation, how to structure the teams to sort of minimize the friction and maximize your and go to market efficiency, I guess?
Navin Persaud: Yeah, I can talk a little bit about my team, we’re structured into three pillars, I have like a technical side of the team that handles our CRM and all the related integrations. They manage for of our projects and what we prioritize, I have a Reporting Analytics and soon to be managing the subscription or deal desk function. There did generally ensure that you know, the top of funnel is working, pipelines progressing, deals are getting closed accurately, rinse repeat, and then the analytics from that. The third function is a newer one, one that I'm starting up in sort of like the growth ops function. A resource or team of resources dedicated to understanding the customer success business, to ensure that there are renewals and amendments and upsells and growth. A repeated trend that I've seen in every SaaS company had been with, you grow through expansion, you may acquire logos on acquisition, but you grow on the backs of your customers. So ensuring that you have the right level of insight and data around how your customers are performing over time, their health, their metrics, etc. is absolutely vital for that engine to be, you know, firing on all cylinders.
Sandeep Jain:  That's very interesting. You describe that, Navin. And so companies have a customer support function, which is a post-sales support, but there's also customer success, which is post sales account management. Is your customer happy enough? Are we solving their pain points so that you know once the time comes to renewal, you see the flywheel effect at that point. Is this, How is your this third pillar correlated with a customer success team?
Navin Persaud: So shout out to all my customer success colleagues, customer success as a function, they're the quarterback in my mind. If you follow sports, specifically football, they're the quarterback. So sales makes a sale, they get the glory, then it's off to the customer success rep to make you successful. So speaking as a customer, I've worked with some amazing customer success reps that have increased my time to value with their software simply by being a knowledgeable and accessible resource around their product. And that's no different now, like with our customer success mission is ensuring that we have successful onboarding, that we have a single point of contact on all product related questions that were up to date on new feature functions, that we have our renewals on time. Like it's a super important function, because any subscription business cannot succeed if subscriptions aren't renewed. And your customer success function is the one that is totally armed at making sure that happens.
Sandeep Jain:  Got it. So what you're saying is, look, there is a place for customer success as a project manager or as a quarterback to make sure that the account is overall successful. But this third pillar that you talked about, how does that function relate with the overall customer success team?
Navin Persaud: Yeah, partner in crime almost like to help that team, understand their customers, segment them, help them understand renewal, help them coalesce all of the data that comes that companies like us collect to understand the health of that customer adoption usage, whether they're happy, generate a health score, which can then understand customers that are likely to renew customers are not likely to renew, what actions can we take to mitigate? What actions can we take to create advocates and promoters to grow and expand and create virality within your product, and more advocates, all of these things are data points that lives scattered in your CRM, or if you're lucky enough to have like a solution, like a gain site. They live there. But you need people to help pull it out and present it in a way that you can action it on a daily, monthly quarterly basis.
Sandeep Jain:  It's really interesting you're talking about this. Over the weekend, I was talking to a friend, he's a Sales Engineering Director at a security company, they are like the 5 billion in value that file. So they're a big company. And he's like Sandeep, I'm in sales engineering, I need visibility into what happens. It is what is happening with my existing customer accounts. And I think they're using gainsiteas well. It's like, well, I don't know, the visibility into the data that I can give to my team that they can make some sense out of it, and they can start helping them. So his particular ask was, look, I need to find out what features are being used by certain sort of customers like, what are the tickets that they're finding out? Are there about feature requests, which means that you're engaged with the product, or is it about more complaining that, hey, this thing doesn't work? So he's like, I'm flying blind. So can just somebody provide me the data? And so I can kind of relate that comment with what you were talking about, is there's a separate customer success team, but your team is in the middle that can help provide that visibility.
Navin Persaud: Absolutely.
Sandeep Jain:  So very interesting. Another related question, when you look at this whole B2B and B2Cworkflows for a product, lead growth company, is there like one of the minimum number of tools that you think teams off such as yours have to deal with to get things done? Now there's a CRM going to be there, there is a billing system CPQ. Like for usage, would you think about another system? Like how many systems do you think people shouldn’t?
Navin Persaud: Generally, SaaS companies have what I call like the SaaS spinal cord, you've got your marketing automation, that passes through your CRM, and then you have your billing system, and then connected to all of those things should be your product or way to provision it. Those are like the four core things that should be standard in every SaaS company. How are you marketing acquiring customers? Are you managing pipeline? How are you billing them? And then where are you provisioning them? Every SaaS companies should have those elements, it could be all one element. And then you have another element for your product, but they've got them all represented in some way or another. Each of those pieces of tech though, require ownership. So that you understand both the process and the data as your workflow moves through them. Without like naming any names, but I feel like companies tend to focus in one area and not so much in the other and they leave these bottlenecks. For example, great acquiring leads, but don't really think about how to make sure they get to the right humans at the right time so that they can make the right impactful connections to create pipeline, where they have a great CRM and don't think about, how are we going to sell a product? How are we going to price it quoted, renew it, etc. We're having an invoicing system that just does invoices and leads you to hire so many people in finance, because it's all manual. And lastly, don't have a means to provision the product in a timely manner. That's probably one of the things that I've seen in a lot of other companies and that it's super manual, it's not connected, there's no connective tissue when you close the deal, it says it starts here, when does it actually available to the customer for use? Those are all like, I say that the four key areas that you need to have structure and teams around and specific ownership to those systems, and then they all need to be sort of working together collaboratively. So if there's an operational function across those departments, they should all be talking to each other.
Sandeep Jain:  Got it. And Navin, if there's one or two things that you think can solve your biggest pain, what would those be assuming Gods are smiling at you today?
Navin Persaud: Let's play this fictitious example. Let's say in year two, I landed another SaaS company. And I get in there, I'll be like, okay, day one, I wouldn’t know how I'm doing it today, if you're selling anything, if you're just starting out, or if you have at least some inertia, we need to standardize this now. Because the pain, it's a road of pain, to get to CPQ once you have a lot of customers, because then you have this massive amount of history to crawl through to accurately understand all of your customers, their commitments, what they're worth, when they renew, etc, that the project that could be simple, becomes quite extensive. And I think a big barrier for a lot of companies is that, yes, Salesforce is a great product out there. But they feel as though they have to reach to a certain size before it makes like financial sense to get there. Totally get it, they got to figure it out somewhere in between, because like waiting, makes what could be simple, really difficult. CPQ like the Salesforce product, it's not hard to implement. What makes this hard is the time that you've waited, before you actually decide to go and do it. That was that's what makes it difficult. So they need a bridge, that there's definitely a market for companies that are atX to X size, that needs something to just manage that within their CRM in a more structured function. Format, don't do custom will try and build something, find something that's successful in the marketplace, it's compatible, and run with it.
Sandeep Jain:  One thing that's a great piece of advice, Navin, and one thing that I was thought about while you're speaking is if I'm a customer, and I will self-serve experience. Now if I'm dealing with two separate products, one with a CPQ and billing. So I need to self-service experience for buying. So that's brought by the CPQ. But I also need a sales of experience for invoicing. Now, if those are two traditionally separate systems, what happens to me as a customer? Am I looking at two different universes then, or how does that work? Actually, I'm just thinking aloud here.
Navin Persaud: Yeah, from a self-service standpoint, if it's a credit card transaction, it's typically one system. You buy you transact, you get invoice it all in one, sort of stripe is making a killing. It's when you get to limitations in your product, because your product is sort of like an extension or a legacy billing system that is maybe reaching a little further. And you didn't build a way for customers to move from tier one to tier two. And you then say, well, you've got to talk to a human. So there's a little problem, you have to go to a human. And you add, like inadvertently, you're adding friction to that.
Sandeep Jain:  Yeah, got it, Navin. Actually, I was referring to that particular workflow because what I've heard from folks is, look, credit card payments is easy schmoozing. You know, that's everybody gets it. But the problem is when the deal size goes up, your number I've heard is more than $2,000, some companies have limits on how much money you can put on the corporate credit card. So they say well, I need an upgrade for $3,000. I know what I want to buy as a sale person, so could you give me a quote, a self-serve quote that I can give it to my team. And I want to get an invoice as well there, but without talking to anybody. So that's where the self-serve CPQ self-serve billing, and bank to bank transfers and all that thing sort of comes up, which is I think what you're saying is a human has to get involved. As the consumer doesn't want it, the vendor does want it. But it just so happens that that you have to deal with.
Navin Persaud: Huge pain point, think of government entities, nonprofits, companies with you know, certain invoice requirements, like a lot of companies would love to buy self-serve, but can't because they have rules and policies that requires a paper invoice or a digital invoice, or they have a VAT ID or they have some kind of requirement that prevents them from transacting through a credit card. And that almost always in what I've seen remains talking to human.
Sandeep Jain:  Got it. So how do we get human out of the quote of the cash?
Navin Persaud: It's not always how you get out, its how do you ensure that you're deploying your humans in the most effective way as possible. Like, if you're you know, I love sports,so it's a great time loving sports right now with football and hockey and basketball and baseball going on. And you think of yourself as a manager, how do you deploy your players so that they can be efficient and lead you to winning outcomes, and deploying sellers to small transactions that are high volume, that's not success? That's employee churn. That's difficult to manage, it's difficult for your reps to get to quota, your response time suffer. So those are the things that you've got to look for to understand, okay, you've got great volume and velocity here. But you don't have an automated means to. It's all for it. And what you really want to do is put your humans on these larger customers to expand them and grow them. And that's what maybe takes more time. This smaller flywheel stuff that opens and closes quickly, you need a system to do that quickly. You know, there's a stat out there today that says, most buying decisions are 60% made before even talking to a human. And I agree, any SaaS that I've looked to buy, I've already done my research, I've taken as much of my demo, I've gone into G2 crowd or Trust Radius. I've looked at their support documentation. I've done everything that I think I need to do. Then at the last point, I'll be like, Okay, let me see your demo and send me a quote, that's when I'll engage as human.
Sandeep Jain:  That's a good way of putting in. And it's not about taking people out of the equation, but figuring out where they are most useful. And I think that's the big, big challenge in quote to cash today. Awesome. I did hear that calendar bell, a few seconds back. So I know the clock is ticking. So before we let you go Navin, do you have any recommendation on a resource, like a book, or a podcast, or maybe a blog that you want to share with our audience, that something that you identified with, and you want to share why as well?
Navin Persaud: Two things. One, I'm a huge Ted Lasso fan. Anyone who knows me probably knows the character that I fit in really well there. So I won't say it. The book that I've really enjoyed, as I've worked through it, as it's called “The subtle art of not giving enough”. And it's a great book, it really just summarizes that. There's only so many things in your life that really requires all of your attention, and effort to actually like, throw your passion behind it. And really be upset when you don't have the outcome. Everything else just work through it, it happen. Because if you don't, you're just going to stress yourself out. You're gonna have these outcomes, you're gonna have this all around you where people are not going to want to approach you, you're going to be combative, you're just never going to be happy. And once you realize that there's this inflection point in your life where so many so many things that I can manage within my control, to really, really care about and the rest, I still care about them. And if it's out of my control, it's out of my control. And it's a super resource. Mark Manson is the author, the subtle art of not giving a f$%^, basically the counterintuitive approach to living a good life. I recommend for anyone in a high stress situation.
Sandeep Jain:  So between fishing and this book that's how you manage your time, I guess.
Navin Persaud: I do. I try and get away from the screens as much as possible connecting with nature. And it's really for me, it's not about fishing. It's about being somewhere, some quiet some nature, focusing on just a single thing that bobber in the water and letting everything else just kind of like leave my mind. It's amazing. It's refreshing. It allows you to recharge and come back. Focus on the 30 things that enter my mind, the minute Monday 8am rolls around.
Sandeep Jain:  I love this, Navin, and I'll actually read this thing. The book that you suggested is just makes so much sense. While I hear you say that. So hey, look, it's been a fascinating conversation. I wish you the very best of luck at 1Password. The company is doing awesome. That applies for a lot of growth, which means a lot of work. Good work for you and your team. So best wishes there and thank you for your time today.
Navin Persaud: Great, thank you. Take care.