With MindShare 2020 wrapping up today, we sat down with Zilliant President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Peters for a candid discussion on 2020’s economic impact on B2B companies, why now is the time to embrace commercial innovation, his vision for the future of pricing and sales, and more.
Q: We just completed our first ever virtual MindShare conference. What were your impressions of the event?
A: The virtual format for us this year was new. What we missed in terms of in-person interaction, the attendees and presenters made up for with engagement, content and attendance. I’d like to thank our customers, prospective customers and partners for taking the time to attend and for their thoughtful questions. I continue to be impressed with the compelling stories our customers share year after year at MindShare about their journeys to pricing and sales excellence. They enumerate the value of our solutions and the success of our partnership better than we ever could.
Q: The event was of course virtual due to COVID-19, just one of many things changed by the global pandemic this year. From your vantage point, what have been the biggest impacts to the B2B industry?
A: The pandemic has actually accelerated trends and challenges that were already in motion, while creating an entirely new set of challenges to contend with. Massive shifts in customer expectations and competitive requirements were already taking place a year ago. From increasing competition in the form of new online entrants to customer expectations for a B2C-like, frictionless online buying experience and increasing cost volatility.
The Covid-19 virus has only further complicated these trends. We are seeing significant impacts to global supply chains affecting inventory availability worldwide and shifts in product mix causing sharp declines in demand in some sectors and rapid growth in others. Literally overnight there has been a rapid shift in sales channels with the acceleration of eCommerce and decline of in-person interaction. And of course the concerns and considerations for employee health and safety.
Q: How can B2B companies not only survive, but thrive in the new normal?
A: As I said on the first day of MindShare, companies can’t stick to the status quo. If you are still approaching pricing and sales in the same way you were 10 years ago or even 3 years ago, it’s time to revisit it. Companies need to embrace digital transformation. eCommerce is here to stay. AI is here to stay. Organizations that make the smartest use of the data they collect in the course of doing business are the ones poised to come out on top. Only with intelligent use of data can you equip employees to make the best possible commercial decisions.
Q: You’ve led Zilliant for nearly two decades. What would you say has changed the most in that time with regards to how companies price and sell their products?
A: For a long time, companies tended to believe that sales people knew best when it came to what price to charge. And that is certainly true in many cases, but that approach does not scale. In the past two to three years, we’ve seen a major shift in terms of acceptance that AI and data, infused with strategy, is the only scalable way to ensure employees are equipped to make the best possible pricing decisions. Believe it or not, that used to be an evangelical message. Now, there is no question that price optimization solutions and predictive sales analytics work; the bigger question for companies is how they operationalize it in their business and execute on the change management required to be successful.
Beyond that, the rise of eCommerce in B2B is probably the most fundamental shift in the way companies go-to-market. We saw how profoundly eCommerce impacted retail and travel, and I would expect the same dynamics in B2B in the next few years.
Q: We just released our 2020 version of the Global B2B Benchmark Report, which again showed companies are seeing major revenue and margin leakage due to sub-par pricing and sales practices. Why do you think it’s so difficult to get these things right in B2B, and is there a silver lining in these recent findings?
A: I always say that pricing is the last bastion of guesswork in most companies — and it’s a shame because it is the most powerful profit lever. Pricing and sales in B2B is complicated and difficult and tackling these challenges with outdated or manual methods just simply doesn’t work. No one comes to work and says, “I can’t wait to make poor decisions today that will hurt the company performance.” If employees aren’t equipped with the right information to make the best decision, sub-optimal pricing and sales will persist.
The good news is that it only takes a slight improvement in price to have a major impact on profits, and the tools to accomplish that have only improved and become easier to use and more effective in the past two decades.
Q: What Zilliant innovations are you most excited about going forward?
A: 2020 has been a year of tremendous innovation at Zilliant. I’m most excited about our Campaign Manager™ solution, which we introduced this week at MindShare. I’ve always said that the hardest part of running a business is making sure that your strategic objectives are acted upon in the field, through each and every decision. Companies lack a systematic, repeatable and scalable way to make that happen. Campaign Manager, coupled with our IQ Engines, really tackles that challenge head on for our customers. We also continue to make significant investments across our product portfolio and in seamless integrations with our technology partners.
Q: What makes the Zilliant team different from most other SaaS-technology providers?
A: There are really two things at the core that separate us from our competitors. The first is our intense focus on helping our customers succeed. This is evident from the first interaction with our sales team to our ongoing relationships with customers who have been with us for a decade or more. The second is that our solutions are built from the ground up on a best-in-class cloud-native platform. We haven’t acquired companies, avoiding a Frankenstein-like solution set. This gives our customers tremendous reliability, flexibility, scalable and functionality to solve their most pressing commercial problems.
Q: Finally, any parting words for readers out there who may be considering a transformative pricing or sales investment but are still on the fence?
A: Don’t wait. The pandemic is forcing permanent shifts in B2B sales and commerce activities. Every company needs to evaluate and act to ensure their future success. Every day, week, month that goes by is a missed opportunity to realize higher margins and grow revenue. It’s the companies that invest during challenging economic times who fare better in the long run.
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