In this episode, we sit down with Ross Fulton (Founder of Valuize Consulting) to discuss how Valuize is reducing the time to value for customer success teams, teaching companies how to use CS as a sales differentiator and more.
Brian Brannon [00:00:01] You're listening to Gainsight's Partners Showcase a series that highlights key companies in the Customer Success ecosystem who have partnered with Gainsight to drive meaningful results across the community. In this episode, we sit down with Ross Fulton, Founder of Valuize Consulting to discuss how Valuize is teaching companies to accelerate the time to value in their customer success programs, and how they can help you do the same. Today it's my pleasure to welcome with me on the show Ross Fulton who is the founder and CEO of Valuize Consulting.
Brian Brannon [00:00:32] Ross, thanks for coming on.
Brian Brannon [00:00:33] Well thanks for having me. It's a pleasure.
Brian Brannon [00:00:35] Ross has been part of the Pulse community for years now and has had a tenure as a very successful consulting firm and all areas around Customer Success and post sales growth for your teams.
Brian Brannon [00:00:46] I'm really interested to dig into that today, Ross, interested to dig into that today and get your perspective and and also talk about, "what is Valuize?" and "Why do you started it?" First, can you give us a brief rundown on why you founded Valuize and what your background was prior.
Ross Fulton [00:01:00] Yeah absolutely, Valuize was really born out of the 17 or almost scarily 18 years now I've had in B2B software and associated services domain. I've had the opportunity to do a lot of corporate innovation work in my career building new businesses or helping legacy businesses go into new markets within this B2B software context. One of those key highlights was really building a sort of software enabled Managed Services business back i n London where I grew up which had a "gain share" contract revenue model associated with it.
Brian Brannon [00:01:38] For our audience who may not know what that is, briefly explain that.
Ross Fulton [00:01:40] Yes. "Gain share" is to me it's the ultimate revenue model in today's circles, you often might hear about performance based revenue models. "Gain share" is still probably the ultimate incarnation of that and one of the original incarnations that you still can see in the outsource BPO business process outsourcing world. But what I was doing back in this is 2005 to 2008 was really contracting with very large financial services companies and other large companies in the UK and helping them realize the value that we as the vendor or the services provider got paid out of. And so we didn't get paid as a service provider unless our customer realized realized value.
Brian Brannon [00:02:20] It's like traditional revenue built back to outcomes - that's amazing...
Ross Fulton [00:02:24] It's the ultimate one.
Ross Fulton [00:02:27] So, the value we were delivering was ultimately a cost savings through better management of their software assets from a licensing and from an asset management perspective. But it really was the ultimate, "Hey, we have shared value realization" which is a kind of core value and is really embodied in the Valuize company name and required us both presale as well as post-sale to be focused on delivering value-based outcomes to our clients because we did not get paid otherwise. And that was really ,in hindsight, a foreshadowing of now the subscription recurring revenue models that most software companies are adopting where maybe, sure, a software company is getting some financial recognition in that initial acquisition of the customer, maybe they're getting getting an annual subscription paid upfront. But still the emphasis is driving and achievement of recurring value for that customer over the lifetime and that's how we as a vendor then get paid over that lifetime and that's how our revenue model is successful.
Ross Fulton [00:03:26] So, I did that in London then I now live in Vancouver Canada which is where valuation is headquartered and there had a number of other great experiences where they included working for one of the largest software companies in Vancouver and taking helping take them from their legacy state which was perpetual revenue and on prem technology into becoming a truly such company and a subscription revenue company and all the fairly fundamental changes that brings with how they go to market how they manage their customer journey and ultimately this domain it customer success.
Ross Fulton [00:03:59] I had the opportunity to be on the forefront of and it was a great successful three year journey there and I thought, "hey, there's a lot of software companies out there that want to and need to go through this journey of understanding how to manage both their revenue model and their customer lifecycle to make subscription revenue models work." So founded Valuize to ultimately help companies do that. and yeah I've been doing that now for the last few years.
Brian Brannon [00:04:25] Amazing, it sounds like you're bringing great experience with your nation on prem world which is a huge. Many on prem businesses are becoming subscription oriented, if not all eventually will have to. And so bringing that that niche experience and bringing that greater context and really the pressure of having to grow your business the revenue that is built through realized outcomes is tremendous to bring that to your customers and your clients nowadays.
Brian Brannon [00:04:52] What does Valuize look like today what kind of services do you offer and really how do you plug into the community how to interact with customer success community?
Ross Fulton [00:04:59] So yeah we we specialize in B2B SaaS companies today. We help those companies engineer sustainable growth. We believe sustainable growth is really growth that is driven through the existing customer base. And so it begins with acquiring the right customers and then making sure that those customers are able to achieve and sustain recurring value through the achievement of prescriptive outcomes. And that motion is what we would define as true adoption and achieving adoption within the customer base. We are methodologies based on if we can achieve that definition of adoption within a customer, retention becomes an organic byproduct.
Brian Brannon [00:05:38] You're changing the mindset upfront. It's not just getting them using your product it's getting them actually successful. And that's an adoption I think that's brilliant.
Ross Fulton [00:05:47] We fundamentally believe adoption is not utilization. Just the fact that you have a customer clicking around in your product on a certain cadence or frequency does not mean that they're truly adopted because clicks do not create value unless the clicks are being performed by the person doing a certain job and those clicks in the right part of the product, combined with other sort of non product specific variables like that data that they're using, their understanding of what outcome the products should be delivering to them as a whole sort of science there. But if we can nail that science and nail the adoption piece, as I say retention becomes more of an organic byproduct pending any sort of elements that we just don't have control of stakeholders switch out or M&A activity which can create churn.
Ross Fulton [00:06:35] And also we can get into a predictable expansion motion and that expansion motion combined with the sort of shoring up of the retention piece really points towards this net revenue retention metric which is really kind of the key outcome we as Valuize delivered to our clients: an optimization of net revenue retention. If we can optimize that and get that to sort of 120-130% for our B2B SaaS clients that's where they start driving sustainable growth. So that's what we do in the strategy consulting side.
Ross Fulton [00:07:03] But we have another chapter which is really, well, great. We've helped an organization understand how to drive and engineer sustainable growth less operationalize that strategy and that's where the technology consulting comes in and specifically the Customer Success technology to say, "hey, we've shown and helped a client understand how to build that ideal revenue model and that customer journey, let's help them automate and scale it through technology." And so that's where really we we have gone down the partnership with the likes of Gainsight to really say, "Hey, let's take the market leading technology out there and take this strategy science that we've developed combined the two together to really create a a scalable model for these companies.
Brian Brannon [00:07:45] And I think on the Gainsight side, we're work really excited to partner with you because of that science and that mindset that you instill in your client base and really it starts driving the customer centricity from the beginning because what gets measured gets managed- it's a very basic rule, right. So if you start measuring the outcomes of front in the adoption process and then scale that. How you and valuzie have been teaching that methodology, it really transitions that company from being, you know, adopting maybe early stage customer success and thinking about you know customer outcomes to really truly living and breathing customer centricity. And so we're excited to partner with you because of that methodology and the way you approach and think about it and the way you treat your customers quite frankly as well has been you know industry leading. So we're excited to partner with you as well.
Brian Brannon [00:08:28] I'm interested to know from your perspective, what does the partnership with Gainsight mean for the community and how will we be working together going forward.
Ross Fulton [00:08:37] Yeah. It's really a recognition that technology is now a key part of this customer success domain. Gainsight has been rightly recognized as being instrumental in helping create the category of Customer Success both as a business market but also as a as a strategic domain. I think now what Gainsight is being recognized for is actually well yeah there is a technology platform here and it's an enterprise grade technology platform that has a lot of powerful capabilities and we as Valuize working with the enterprise companies we work with, realize and can see and can prescribe to them hey the strategy we're designing and building for you here requires an enterprise grade customer success technology platform to automate, scale, and operationalize. You can do a lot of it with some existing kind of platforms in the CRM space for example but you need a best of breed platform here. And so our opportunity to partner with Gainsight allows us to bring that market leading technology into the equation with our clients and let really let them take this domain of customer success. And what we think of as Valuzie as the strategy of Customer Success which should be revenue accountable or revenue generating and to make it a reality. It's no longer just the conversation around "the why of Customer Success" nor is it just the conversation around "the how of Customer Success" which is represented in a number of slide decks and process flows and what have you. It's now in the screen. It's intelligent it's data driven. It's in the hands of team members who aren't just in the CS organization, but it's in sales, it's in product. That's what the partnership with Gainsight really lets us do for our clients.
Brian Brannon [00:10:22] It's amazing and we're really excited again to partner with you.
Brian Brannon [00:10:26] That's not the only way you guys are partnering and certainly giving back the community. You know you're also very active at the Pulse conference every year. This year you're speaking and your team is speaking. And being an active part there are some issues of knowing what is the value of the Pulse community to you and then, you know, if anyone's in the Pulse community today or customer success manager it's looking to get involved with Valuzie, what are the top three things that your customers usually come to you with and some challenges that they come to you to fix.
Ross Fulton [00:10:51] Yeah, I think the community aspect especially considering that it's come a long way in terms of maturity but the domain of CS is still very young. If you compare it to other, I guess, means or category domains: sales, marketing. CS is very very young. So I think the community energy behind that is critical to advance the domain from a science perspective as well as from a professional perspective. And we as Valuize, we engage in the community and support in a couple of different ways. Being headquartered in Vancouver, we essentially help quarterback the community locally in Vancouver. In Vancouver there is a great technology hub but it's a relatively small city compared to the Bay Area and New York and other major cities like that. But we have over 700 I think nearly 750 members now.
Brian Brannon [00:11:44] Some big names you know like Hootsuite and...
Ross Fulton [00:11:48] Vision Critical, Vizio. Big organizations and there's a lot of big names like Splunk and SAP Business Objects etc. who are in Vancouver as well and leadership all the way down to kind of CS practitioners at a CSM sort of level are involved in this community. We meet once a month and we how often sort of 70 to 100 plus people easily at each event. And so really raising the bar around the understanding of customer success the impact of it locally is something we invest heavily in at Valuize but also looking at doing this on an international scale through our content through participation that Gainsight's major Pulse Conference and the other events you do on a world scale. Again, it's all about elevating the domain because you ask kind of well what are the main questions or asks we get from the community that we can maybe advise or support on. One of the recurring themes still is, "how do I prove/justify the business case or ROI of customer success. I think the, "why " behind the, "hey, we've got to make customers successful." is a given now. I think even now theere is a good understanding around how that translates into how it optimizes the economics of a company around that retention and expansion argument is better understood. But really doing the mapping of well, "if I can optimize my retention and expansion metrics: revenue and customer logo wise." "How does CS exactly do that?" -- That's still a education and process in our work.
Ross Fulton [00:13:22] So we do a lot of that in terms of helping to understand, "hey, what you're doing here around onboarding and its impact on actually improving retention in nine months time is a very powerful strategy." And playing that back to their C-level leadership and saying, "hey invest in onboarding, invest in technology to help with the onboarding process because it has a knock on effect your ability to drive retention and expansion later on" is a key educational track. There certainly the career progression piece. I think as customer success the domain evolves as you see has happened in other equivalent domains specialisation in the profession is inevitable and I think it's a good thing. And I think helping customer success professionals understand what the tracks that they can go down from a career specialization perspective. Is it operations, customer success operations? Is it the more revenue generating side of of what we would think of as the customer success strategy around expansion? Is it something specialized around onboarding? And we certainly believe at Valuize in this motion of pre-sales solution consulting, sales engineering, that type of role which often has different names and companies that is part of CS strategy as a critical component of Customer Success strategy. Customer Success extends into the acquisition process and so is there opportunities for CSM today to get into that pre-sales motion and become what we recall customer success architects. Architects in Valuize.
Ross Fulton [00:14:51] So we talk a lot about that as well. And then I'd say the third track is really around the the involvement and the role of technology in that Customer Success is not just the "why" or the high level "how," it's how to operationalize these strategies scale and automate it through technology and helping people understand right, "How do we build business cases?" "How do we evaluate and select customer success technology?" Once we've made the selection and say we've selected Gainsight, how do we truly adopt Gainsight and get value from it and go down our own customer journey as a Gainsight customer.
Brian Brannon [00:15:22] That's relevant to that to the customer to the user in their scenario. I love that. So there's a lot of education around that as well.
Brian Brannon [00:15:28] So in the ever evolving world of your feature parity: of platforms being more and more alike and the features doing the same thing. Really in sales cycles people are having a harder time distinguishing between different competitors. You are very passionate, we've talked about this the past, that Customer Success is the key differentiator in this sales process now and it really it's no longer a post sales concep or a post sales initiative. It is active in deal cycles and it's really a main contributor to people converting. I wanted to dig in to that with you. Why do you think that and then how is that how do you see that alive today?
Ross Fulton [00:16:06] Yeah. it's certainly a passion of mine. Again, in my 18 years in this space I spent a lot of that time really what I describe as smashing the wall that sits even -surprisingly - in new organizations as well as old software companies is this wall that sits between the sales strategy and organization and the post sales strategy and post sales organization or the Customer Success strategy. And certainly there's a strong application of, " Hey, you've got to have CS strategy involved presale as a risk management principle." You've got to make sure we're acquiring the right customers. The ideal customer profile we've got to make sure we're acquiring that customer with the right expectations and they're seeking outcomes that we as an organization on the post sale with a product that we have can deliver. If we can't we're instantly introducing churn risk into our customer journey and that's not going to work for anyone. So there's an argument and certainly we've written a lot about that and helped with a lot of companies with that. Where I now take it is actually we don't just look at the role of CS strategy in the acquisition motion in sales as just being a risk management or risk prevention exercise, because ultimately sales professionals aren't particularly incentivized around that subject. There's plenty out there that they understand and certainly care about it and want to be proactive on that subject. But at the end of the day, they're there to land customers.
Brian Brannon [00:17:35] They're compensated strictly on their conversion rate. They are not concentrated on the renewal and or anything like that. Usually - in most organizations.
Ross Fulton [00:17:42] Usually, if it is a true hunter motion. Again we've successfully applied throughout my career and what we have successfully helped companies play in their own companies is actually recognizing that, hey, what we as at least as Valuize is defined as a well built well-designed customer success strategy should actually be part of your value proposition presale and actually is your biggest differentiator now for a B2B SaaS company. To your point, the commoditization and the saturation of a lot of B2B SaaS market categories, you can't sell still just on the feature function basis because everyone has pretty much the same feature functions. Everyone is a AI enabled and they've got API's coming out of their ears. You don't want to win on price but that's a race to the bottom right.
Brian Brannon [00:18:28] It's not good for anyone.
Ross Fulton [00:18:29] And so how do you differentiate? You differentiate by taking what we define as a well-built customer success strategy, which is a prescriptive set of outcomes that are designed and sequenced to enable a customer to realize recurring measurable value once they become a customer. Those outcomes are mirrored or matched and supported by a set of plans we call them value formulas that are very prescriptive, very specific, and say to the customer, "this is how we're going to get you to achieve this outcome, this is how we're gonna get you to achieve this outcome." And again sequence that out and prescribe that presale and explain to them hey this is what we're going to do as a vendor. This is what we need you to do as our customer. This is where the product fits in to get to these outcomes. And this is a prescriptive motion. This is not reinvent the wheel per new customer per sales cycle ,this is the science you pre-built as the vendor based on your knowledge of your product the value enablers in your product, the jobs that your your customers are performing, and how your product supports those jobs, and how those then create what we call value based outcomes which when aggregated together across the customer lifetime have a massive contribution to achieving that customer's big hairy sort of strategic goal. And ultimately the big hairy value proposition that the B2B SaaS is offering to the market. But don't just stop at that big that value proposition and selling against the big strategic goal. Give them a prescriptive. How that's gonna be achieved if you can do that in the sales cycle, you're appealing to a number of the very subjective value types that B2B software buyers are making decisions against today. Because everyone is out there is offering them improve top lines more revenue, costs , less risk, etc. etc. They're just table stakes.
Ross Fulton [00:20:21] Bain did a great sort of value pyramid a couple of years ago where they mapped this out and what they had identified was look hey there's all these other subjective value types, some of which become quite personal to the individual buyers and we need to be to appeal to those and a lot of that is around reducing the risk perceived risk of the investment, in that person's mind, is increasing their confidence that they are going to realize measurable value if they make this investment and that value isn't just about increasing their company's top line or decreasing costs it's about hey it's going to make me a better professional it's going to allow me to add more value personally into my organization it's going to help make my team happier which is important for beef be for be a B2B leaders these days. So we believe that you can design this strategy and the way we describe and apply it presale, you can actually win more customers, have faster sales cycles, get larger deals done up front, and you're still doing that risk mitigation risk prevention exercise around making sure you're acquiring the right customer, with the right expectations, with agreement to follow the plan that you're going to take them through in onboarding and beyond and get them to value which then allows you to play the retention and expansion
Brian Brannon [00:21:32] Amazing. I love it. And if you're listening and you want to find out more of how your organization can really accelerate your customer success strategy not just pulse but how to use it pre-sales and how to use it as a company mission and in a very tactical and out-of-the-box way.
Brian Brannon [00:21:48] You want to contact Valuize and Ross personally and get started. Ross, where can they do that?
Ross Fulton [00:21:53] Yes we are valuizeconsulting.com. We have a lot of content on there and white papers on a lot of this subject as well as other associated subjects especially around the Gainsight platform and customer success technology.
Ross Fulton [00:22:07] I'm on Linkedin look me up on LinkedIn Ross Fulton. We're on Twitter, we're on most places and certainly we're often in and around Gainsight events. So maybe look us up there as well.
Brian Brannon [00:22:20] Wonderful for us. Thank you for joining us today.
Ross Fulton [00:22:22] My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Brian Brannon [00:22:25] Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Partner Showcase series. We hope Ross's conversation about Valuize and how they're delivering results for their customers is help for you. If you want to check out more of our partners, visit our website at www.gainsight.com.