Originally published on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-i-buy-jocelyn-brown-vp-customer-success-allocadia-steve-woods/
If there is an executive who understands the art and science of customer success better than Jocelyn Brown, I have not met them. As the newest discipline in the SaaS world, customer success lacks the history and patterns that make leadership easier, but Jocelyn has thrived in the role, leading the customer success organization at Allocadia.
For the next installment of Nudge‘s #HowIBuy series, I caught up with Jocelyn and got her perspective on how she thinks about her priorities, and how she buys
Jocelyn, first tell us a bit about your Allocadia – what do you provide to the market? Also, give us a sense of how large you are as a business so we can put your thoughts on buying into a bit more context.
Allocadia is the leader in Marketing Performance Management (MPM) software, helping marketers run the business of marketing. Though we are a startup we serve global enterprise organizations like Microsoft, VMWare, Juniper Networks, Red Hat, and more, who leverage our platform to manage marketing plans, investments, and results. A great example can be found in this recent Forbes article about how Box uses Allocadia to invest their budget dollars with confidence on their journey to ROI.
What is your role within the organization? What kind of things do you spend money on throughout a year?
I am the VP of Customer Success so most of my budget is allocated to a team of talented people. After that, I invest in technology made specifically for my team and pay for some of the technology that supports other functions as well. I also have program spend related to customer marketing and occasionally services to support that. I am a direct buyer on a few things and an influencer on a bunch of other stuff.
Customer success is such a new area, let’s talk about how you learn about the latest developments. How do you discover new ideas, concepts, or ways to solve problems?
My network will always be my first and best stop for finding what is out there, either directly through a recommendation or because much of the content I consume is also curated by that same network. I also attend conferences and read general industry blogs and publications. I especially take notice when a company or person that I admire calls out a particular tool.
When a decision is made, how does that happen? What’s your role vs. the role of your team?
My role in the decision is generally related to the acuteness of the pain that I am feeling or observing. I am never buying technology, but rather the solution to a problem that I have now or anticipate having as we scale. I will also generally stick my nose in if the output will be seen or experienced directly by our customers. My front-line leaders have a significant influence over my decision.
A tool is no use to me if I have no one to manage it, so I need to see the ownership or ongoing maintenance of a tool or program fitting into someone’s role or interest. Otherwise, I simply won’t be moved to action. If I am going to use a tool or leverage a service, I want to be using it to the level where I would happily advocate for them. It’s important that a purchase both solves a problem for my team or my customers, and fits well into my organization.
How do you prioritize what initiatives are “now” and what are “later”?
Priorities are influenced first and foremost by my team, as it relates to our #1 priority, our customers. I have a running list of ‘what’s’ that I am keeping tabs on and that alone can put something in my top 3. However, the most important initiatives, the ‘now,’ are pretty much always going to come from the team. First, I need someone to own the solution long term, and second, we need to be solving a problem that has bubbled to the surface either through customers asking for something or the team not being able to deliver the experience that we want for customers.
If you’ve prioritized a concept and then need to select a vendor, how does the evaluation happen? What do you most value in the evaluation process?
It’s interesting. My last few purchases have not really been head to head competitions. If you are solving my problem, I have some validation from my network, and I trust that you are invested in my success, I might not look at anything else. That said, I have done both free and paid trials. I am happy to put some skin in the game on an evaluation.
If we get to that point I am already 90% of the way there but typically need to prove something – for example, how you play with the rest of my technology and/or process environment. Videos and case studies play a part very early for me. In the later stages of my decision, I need to know if we can work together and work through whatever bumps in the road there might be.
What is different about buying today than buying a decade ago?
The ability to get feedback from a broad network is so much easier today. Within an hour I can have opinions from 5 or 6 trusted peers on something I am struggling with. I can also find out a lot more about not just the company but the people who work there and the people who advocate for them. I probably do more research on people – and through people – than I might have a decade ago.
Where do salespeople play a role in your overall buying process? What is the most valuable thing a salesperson can do in selling to you?
I am buying the solution to a problem. Understand what that problem is and speak to that. I am very open with sales people about what I am trying to accomplish and where I am in my buying cycle. I will give people an out on their investment of time so once we agree to continue then we have a bit of a contract. Until you speak directly to solving my stated problem I am not interested in what else you can do for me.
You can probably reframe my problem but you are not going to distract me with all the other things you do enough that it will get me to buy. It is possible that you can accelerate my timeline, but you would have to get my team on board to do that. Treat my front-line leaders the same way that you treat me. Nothing will lose my attention faster than if you do not respect my team as important.
What is the biggest mis-match between what you need and how salespeople try to sell to you?
One situation I find frustrating is to receive the generic pitch after I have spent time to tell you what I am trying to accomplish. I understand that new people will be involved in the sales process, but they should have some knowledge of what I asked for and respect my time enough to lead with that, or at least ask permission to show me other things. If you make me sit through too much that has nothing to do with me, I will tune out. Also take care in how you speak about customers. Being a CS professional I am super conscious of how and when people talk about their customers in a pitch.
How do you leverage your network in understanding the landscape or individual vendor offerings?
I am genuinely curious about how people are running their operations so I make time to keep in touch with what people are up to. Sometimes I ask customers about their experience with other CS groups to identify new opportunities to improve. It is not hard to strike up a conversation with a peer when you start with ‘your customer told me that you do this really well.’ If I am down to a final decision I will just ask directly about their experience.
Thanks a ton for sharing your experiences and perspectives, Jocelyn. Very much appreciated!