This series highlights the talented Zilliant Customer Success Group. Today’s post features Director of Customer Success David Dewerse, who joined the group in 2012. In his role, David advises senior leadership teams in matters of profitability optimization, sales enablement, portfolio management, cost mitigation and change management, as a complement to the deployments of Zilliant prescriptive pricing and sales solutions. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from John Brown University and studied at the ICHEC Brussels Management School.
1. How did your background prepare you for your role as a customer success manager?
My track record of standing up and leading global, multi-billion dollar B2B and B2C pricing practices to material contributions lends credibility to my efforts on behalf of my clients. I have walked those trenches — both socializing tools for pricing practitioners and gaining buy-in from go-to-market partners — and managed entire business divisions out of the ruts of status quo value-propositioning. The daily challenges and decisions my clients contemplate, today, are part of my business DNA. I’ve been there, done that.
2. What’s the biggest misconception about price setting or sales effectiveness you encounter?
“If you build it, they will come” (Field of Dreams, 1989) could not be further from the truth. Change, in the form of pricing optimization and/or sales enablement tooling, has to be championed, monitored and reinforced. Companies don’t partner with Zilliant to manage the status quo; they rely on us to bridge gaps, correct trajectories. Our science allows clients to intuitively connect-the-dots and it opens their eyes to the possibilities. That’s the Zilliant change proposition.
3. What does a day in your life look like?
That’s the beauty of role: No two days are alike. On some days, your customer-facing activities may involve briefing oil and gas executives on 2H15 demand generation, or manipulating Zilliant Analytics Designer with a pricing director, or discussing the competitive landscape of trans-pacific shipping with a shipping client. The next day may be punctuated with best-practice sharing sessions with maturing CSMs, innovating on inside sales representative benchmarking analytics, or helping a client demonstrate ROI to their leadership. Embracing ambiguity and change is the name of the game.
4. What’s the No. 1 question you hear most frequently related to change management or adoption?
“How do I convey this message to sales reps and sales operations? How do I gain buy-in?” And the answer is fairly straightforward: Educate the field. Don’t shove a mandate down peoples’ throats and expect them to comply; that’s fundamentally un-American (apologies to my international clients). Help the subjects of change understand why the change is happening, what will change, and how it will change. Show them what’s in it for them: Increased productivity because recommended price envelopes are served up on a virtual platter, which equate to greater potential to hit quotas in a sustainable, profitable fashion.
5. If you could send one message to company leaders that are considering deploying prescriptive sales and pricing guidance in their business, what would it be?
Align your go-to-market functions on a shared trajectory. If yours is a differentiated offering, enhance and protect that distinct value-proposition from procurement through product, marketing, pricing, merchandising and selling. If, however, you deal in commodities, scale your cost-to-serve structure and maximize those low-touch channels, which will allow you to eke out some operating income. Once you’ve figured out your go-to-market execution, embrace prescriptive science. You have to do your strategic due diligence first.
6. What industry do you have the most experience in, and what are some common pricing or sales challenges in that industry?
Fifteen years at Dell in finance, branding, pricing and sales ops. Is that considered manufacturing, assembly, or distribution? This tenure provided a rich education in high-tech dysfunction. Weighted-Average Price Position (WAPP) — an index measuring competitive price positioning for configured and non-configured offerings — was the focal metric: Scrape competitor sites, de-engineer their configurations and component pricing, and one-up them at the next, often-weekly, pricing cycle. Impact: Price-wars and value dilution, even for just-released technologies.
Too many companies put their competitors in the driver’s seat by focusing on competitive pricing of homogenous offerings, when they should be focusing on those heterogeneous offerings which negate cross-shopping on price alone. At the other extreme, many companies led by R&D and product groups fail to recognize the phases of the product lifecycle which gradually, but invariably erode differentiated value. They try to retain premium positioning, even as third-parties introduce “me-too” alternatives. Somewhere a tenuous balance must be struck. Remember: The one constant is change; evolve with it.
7. What part of your work with customers is the most rewarding?
Teaching clients to fish; I could hand them the fish — insights — but the upside to them would be momentary. Besides, that approach would never scale. Watching clients’ eyes light-up as they connect the dots through their own manipulation of Zilliant-designed analytics, is by far the most satisfying part of the CSM job. Everything thereafter takes care of itself.
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