Visibility, Insights, and Outcomes: The Secret Sauce to Sustainable Growth
In a sales cycle, the magic moment occurs when the customer becomes more interested in a company than the company is interested in the customer. If you can’t identify that point and replicate it, you can’t scale effectively. Kustomer didn't want to miss out on those opportunities.
is a customer service CRM platform that helps our clients effortlessly manage high support volume. We operate as a true SaaS model in that we want our customers to have a single hand to shake (or a throat to choke) both pre-and post-sale. This model allows us to make smart business decisions in terms of customer acquisition, and better fulfill our promise to ensure they get the full value of the product.
I joined the company as VP of Sales just a few months after our market launch, but within 90 days the CEO asked me to take on the Customer Experience team. It was supposed to be temporary, but four years into the journey, I’m the SVP, Global Sales and Customer Experience. The entire revenue funnel from customer opportunity all the way through execution and renewal falls under my remit.
More Customers, More Control, Less Visibility
In the early days of Kustomer, it was all very simple. We had a lot of theories about how our customers would use our platform, but not a lot of evidence to back it up. So I worked to build a team of smart, nimble account reps who could keep up with our growing customer base and support them however they used our platform. Our key goal was to ensure customer satisfaction, so it was critical to make sure our early adopters got the full value of the platform, provided good feedback, and gave us quality references.
Our little machine had begun to run effectively, but as we began to scale, we reached a point where the machine wasn’t living up to my expectations. Initially, I had a small team and was intimately involved in the sales cycle, enablement, and coaching. As we grew and brought in that next line of managers, I was able to scale the team but lost visibility into the day-to-day lives of our sales team.
At the same time, our platform was undergoing a lot of changes. We released new features frequently, and our competitors had begun to notice our presence. I couldn’t be everywhere at once, and losing visibility meant that I also lost insight into gaps and vulnerabilities in our process.
A Tool That Brings Value to Multiple Teams
In the fall of 2019, I was introduced to through one of our board members. Gong is a revenue intelligence platform, but I initially viewed it as a tool for coaching, allowing managers to listen to sales calls. I couldn’t be in 10 meetings at once, so I thought Gong would let me play Monday morning quarterback and give feedback to our sales reps.
As I took a closer look at the platform, however, I realized that Gong could provide management with visibility into things that we were flying blind on before. With that, we could make truly data-driven decisions, not just on the sales side, but on the CX side as well.
An example of a former blind spot was the insight into the sales cycle. For example, Gong will show us if there’s been a reply from a contact in the last 30 days. If there’s no reply in the last 30 days and the account executive (AE) continues to make overtures, that tells me there’s no sincere interest from the prospect. We can then choose to try another tactic or reallocate time and effort to more fruitful activities.
Another thing we can see with Gong is whether pricing has been discussed. Believe it or not, some deals get to the later stages without ever having a conversation about pricing—and because of that, it can fall apart quickly. I can’t sit in on every call or be involved with every deal, but Gong lets me identify where things could go awry.
I’m not the only person who uses Gong data. My ops team, for example, uses it heavily for pipeline attribution and rules of engagement as we segment our sales team into commercial, enterprise, and strategic clients. We use it to give our product team customer feedback on a feature or product set. It’s also very useful for my professional services team, particularly when it comes to scope creep and managing customer expectations.
Of course, Gong’s most obvious value is in coaching and helping our sales and enablement teams set a strong foundation for customer relationships. With Gong, these teams can better understand where deals are and gauge their veracity. Is this deal real or not?
Uncovering Insights During a Trying Time
Contact centers have been running since the late '70s at scale. Kustomer takes a modern, unique approach, but as a customer service CRM, we know that the space is not new. I anticipated our sales as being evangelical, built on relationships and trust, so I initially purpose-built a field sales team. Whether a customer is going to switch out a core system often comes down to their connection with the account executive and company brand, rather than simply being about features. Being in the field was integral to our early success.
We did not, however, anticipate the global pandemic. Being unable to meet in person and go into businesses meant that my field salespeople became inside salespeople. I don’t know how we would have survived it without Gong. Early in the pandemic, Gong enabled us to identify the most pressing concerns and challenges of customers and prospects. We pivoted our messaging to respond to those anxieties, and that paid big dividends.
We were also able to identify some deals that were getting stuck deep in the funnel. Our leadership team listened to those calls and asked ourselves, “What would our response to this customer be?” We realized that an AE didn't have the authority to offer or approve the things that we could, so we fixed that and changed the script for when a customer raised certain objections. Without Gong, we wouldn’t be able to ride shotgun on those calls and respond so swiftly.
Using Data to Replicate Success
Gong isn’t just for identifying what’s going wrong, though—we can now see trend lines easily and pick up on what’s going right. Sales are increasingly complex, with several stakeholders involved in every sale. One of the things we noticed from our Gong deal boards is our win rates are five times greater if we have three or more contacts involved in a sale.
It’s one thing to tell AEs that they should be multithreaded—it’s another thing to show them that their chance of winning increases fivefold if they have three or more people involved in the sales cycle. That visual resonates strongly and motivates AEs to put that knowledge into action. We’ve set up deal warnings in Gong so we can flag opportunities that are missing key data points, such as the number of stakeholders involved. Not only can we see whether a conversation is multithreaded, but also the titles of the people we’re engaging in these conversations.
We have also begun to look at the activities of our top performers and use that data to up-level the entire team. Some of that data is surprising. In deals that we ended up winning, our top performers were 44% more likely to tell the origin story of the company in the early stage of the deal. If you think about it, it makes sense—we’re in an entrenched space, going up against two of the biggest SaaS companies in the world: Salesforce and Zendesk. If a potential customer doesn't understand why we would want to build another CRM platform, they’re less likely to buy from us.
Another thing we learned is that our top performers tended to talk about the features that appealed more to leadership, whereas other salespeople discussed features that have less impact on the executives who ultimately make the buying decision. As part of our onboarding program, our enablement team now coaches AEs on the feature sets they should emphasize, because they have a big sales impact.
Collaboration Throughout the Customer Journey
Using Gong has also led to more collaboration. A CX manager or AE who gets into a difficult conversation with a customer or prospect can share that conversation with their manager or other team members. Some of our teams even meet regularly for a Gong call review, to critique one another and give feedback and coaching. It’s given people a new opportunity to collaborate, share ideas, and improve.
There’s always some initial hesitancy when rolling out new technology, but I’m so proud of how quickly our team understood the value of Gong. The best salespeople don’t want to win alone and they don’t want to lose alone, either. They want those opportunities for coaching, and crowdsourcing feedback helps everyone get better.
Gong also eases the transition from one team to the next. Kustomer is an enterprise platform, with multiple touchpoints during the customer life cycle. A sales team handles the evaluation process, a professional services team deals with onboarding, and then the customer success and support team ensures the customer receives the full value of the service. Gong has eased the internal knowledge transfer from one team to another, ensuring there are no knowledge gaps along the customer journey.
Recently, Kustomer reached an agreement to be acquired. Credit goes to the team for getting that done, but I don’t see how it could have happened without us hitting our topline goals. Gong played a key role in that by allowing us to zero in on what we did well and where we could improve. I don’t think Kustomer would be as successful as we’ve been without Gong, nor would we have navigated the pandemic as well as we did.
Better Than Anyone Else
Recording and replaying sales calls is helpful, but you can record calls with any number of solutions. The real value lies in the analysis, which Gong does better than anyone else in the market. That’s the secret sauce.
As an early-stage company looking to grow big in a mature space, I see us using Gong for more market intelligence. Being able to share what customers are saying about their top priorities and the competition with executive, marketing, and product teams will help us as we move onto a bigger stage.
As we continue to grow, we constantly ask: What are the next big trends? Every company asks the same things, and I frankly believe our customers are telling you what they are. The question is, are you listening? With Gong, we hear them loud and clear.