How I Buy – Natalie Fedie, VP of Customer Success, Doxly

 In #HowIBuy

 

One of the most interesting trends in B2B these days is the evolution of the role of customer success, and how it relates to the growth of existing customers.

I had a chance to sit down with Natalie Fedie, VP of Customer Success at Doxly, who was recently named one of the Top 100 Strategists in Customer Success.  Given that she is a forward thinker in a space that is going through significant change, her views on the role of thought leadership in the buying process were particularly interesting.

Here are Natalie’s insights for the #HowIBuy series:

Natalie, thanks for taking the time today, let’s start off with your role; can you give us a sense of what you’re responsible for at Doxly?

I’m the Vice President of Customer Success at Doxly.  We are a startup in the legal tech space. Customer success is an interesting role as everyone seems to define it differently with different organizational structures.  In our case here at Doxly, it means full responsibility for generating growth with the existing client base.

That means that I keep my team aligned with the entire customer lifecycle.  We are engaged from understanding a client’s key objectives during the sales process through implementation, training, and all the way to expansion and growth.

You seem to be half way between classic customer success and account sales.  It’s an area at the forefront of how revenue is evolving nowadays. Because it’s new, however, do you see a challenge in balancing your needs with the current capabilities of existing systems?

Put simply, I need to see close alignment between CRM on sales side, and technology to measure customer outcomes on the CS side.  Together, these provide one source of truth. That single source of truth is more about the customer’s own view of their journey than anything else.  

As a customer success team, when we are looking for tools to scale our CS organization, we need to see tight alignment with the customer’s original definition of their need.  If that does not become the foundation of how we view the rest of their customer lifecycle, we are starting in the wrong direction.

I’m a bit more advanced with my customer success methodologies than some, since I’ve been leading customer success efforts for 5 years.  Because of that, I have operationalized the key part of the system. I’m a believer in the viewpoint that you can’t inspect what you can’t measure.  

I’m looking for the next step beyond that baseline.  Not everyone is there yet in terms of operationalizing customer success, so I’m looking for companies that are advanced in their thinking about the future of the role.

Given that you’re already leading at the forefront of CS thinking, do you look to stitch together tools to map to your own vision?  Or do you look for thought leaders who already have a vision of CS?

In any area, the most successful companies are the ones who help their customers succeed.  As such, it’s important for me that I have deep conversations with the potential vendor so I can understand how they are going to keep me evolving and delivering more success to my customers.

A vision is not just a view of what’s possible with technology, a vision is a path to a future that is better than the present.  I need to understand that the vendor I’m about to partner with has a view of not just what the distant future looks like, but how they will help me along the road to getting there.

How do you evaluate whether (and how well) a company will push you and help you evolve?  What are you looking for in the conversations in order to evaluate that?

A lot of it comes down to demonstrations of thought leadership.  I look to be drawn in because they have interesting content that teaches me something and challenges me.  From there, we might progress to a conversations and a demonstration.

I love the way that the customer success community has grown and shares stories.  It has become so easy to get a sense of what’s working for folks who are also in the industry and how successful they have been at pushing limits and delivering more value to their customers with that new approach.

The point on thought leadership is a very interesting one.  How does new thought leadership come into your world?

It can come into my world in a number of ways:

  • I might hear of a vendor, go to their website, and look for thought leadership.  
  • I follow various thought leaders in the industry and through them, I might discover a vendor and dig deeper.
  • In discussions with peers, when we explore new ideas, I might then seek out the thought leader behind the concept.

In general, it’s a combination of all three.  If I have a problem, I’ll seek out information in the usual ways, through my own research and through conversations with peers.  From there, thought leadership will appear, and it is that thought leadership that draws me in more deeply.

It’s a core part of how I’ve grown in the industry. I seek out these folks who are thinking and writing about the cutting edge, and through them, often discover new approaches and new technologies.

I believe that thought leadership is a core requirement for any company who is looking to gain customers who are qualified.  If there isn’t that sense of a bigger picture, things quickly deteriorate into just feature comparisons, which is not good for anyone involved.

Once you’re in the discussion, what is the role of the sales person within the conversation.  How do they translate organizational thought leadership into a good relationship with you in the buying journey?

Sales reps need to understand the core value of the product that they’re selling.  From there, they need to map that knowledge to a vision of what type of outcomes I will be able to achieve  by leveraging it. If they don’t, they end up down the feature-to-feature path.

The first step is to seek to understand my goals.  Then, from there, they need to map in how their offering can help me attain those goals.  They need to show more than just the vision of the technology, they need to show the path of the ongoing relationship I will have with them.  I need to be able to see a path to how the value is going to be achieved. This will include not just the features to be used, but the services, onboarding, and overall relationship to be expected.  

How do you tease out the bias in thought leadership? Obviously all vendors are biased to promoting their own solution.

The key is making sure that there’s an agreed-upon plan on the goals and objectives and how we’ll measure that in our relationship with that vendor.  That has led to an interesting shift in the industry (and especially with us) towards shorter contracts before value has been proven.

Customers are looking for the fastest time to value, and there are almost always options for shorter contract terms.  Given that, the shortest route to a clear proof of value is the best option. If you can prove value in a real scenario, you are on the path to a longer term commitment, but the proof comes first.  You don’t have the luxury of waiting a year to prove value in today’s world.

Thank you Natalie for those great insights!

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Experienced SaaS CTO. Founded and guided the building of Eloqua to a market leading position in Marketing Automation. Now Co-founder and CTO at Nudge. Author of the book “Digital Body Language" with a passion for innovation, cloud computing and software evolution.
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