Steven Smith joined Zilliant seven years ago as an Engagement Manager focused on customer implementations. Shortly after Zilliant moved to a SaaS model, Steven transitioned to customer success manager and is currently the director of customer success. Prior to Zilliant, he worked for Accenture focused on leading customers through large, complex system integration initiatives involving people, process and technology changes. Steven holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Texas Christian University.
1. How did your background prepare you for your role as a CSM?
With years of experience in the consulting business, I’ve worked with several Fortune 500 companies defining and implementing solutions to solve complex business problems. I’ve worked on all aspects including project planning, requirement gathering, process definition, testing, change management and roll-out. All of these aspects are important for successfully executing a pricing or sales effectiveness initiative.
As an engagement manager at Zilliant, I worked with our customers to make key design decisions to best configure the solution for their business. With my deep knowledge of the Zilliant solutions and experience of other customer implementations across various industries, I am fully equipped to make the most informed recommendations for specific customer requests.
2. What’s the biggest misconception about price setting or sales effectiveness you encounter?
The biggest misconception is around sales effectiveness – particularly the idea that by giving sales reps more time by streamlining or removing non-selling activities they will sell more. To effectively use the extra selling time, sales reps need the right information at the right time. If the information is not timely or it’s not relevant to the situation, then the sales reps end up wasting their valuable time.
3. What does a day in your life look like?
I have some recurring activities such as monitoring ETL jobs, checking data quality, reviewing price results, refreshing Visual Analytics workbooks and researching/explaining optimization results. Other activities typically surround the execution of each customer-specific success plan. For each customer, we define a plan that outlines the overall goals for the initiative and the specific actions required to achieve those goals.
Since every customer is at a different stage or level of maturity with Zilliant, there will be different goals and related activities. For one customer I could be working on reports to provide further insights into the compliance of price recommendations, while for another customer I could be working on identifying improvements to evolve the pricing model.
4. What’s the No. 1 question you hear most frequently related to change management or adoption?
How are other Zilliant customers handling X? Our customers face similar challenges when implementing a solution involving a very sensitive topic … pricing. As a customer success group we have team members with deep experience ranging from running pricing organizations to helping customers successfully manage significant change in their organization. We are continuously sharing our collective experiences and developing best practices to answer these types of questions and avoid potential roadblocks.
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?
Don’t underestimate the change management effort involved with this type of initiative. Leadership involvement and support is critical to success. If execs don’t invest their time, then why should the field?
I’ve been at Zilliant long enough to experience successful and not so successful pricing initiatives. The difference between the two have always been related to change management and sponsorship of the initiative. The Zilliant tool alone is not the “easy button” for solving your pricing challenges … if you don’t have the involvement of leadership and a sound change management plan then the initiative will fall short of expectations.
6. What industry do you have the most experience in, and what are some common pricing or sales challenges in that industry?
I’ve worked in several industries and each have their specific challenges, however distributors with a very large catalog of products have similar challenges regardless of industry. One that I see quite often is when a distributor has product relationships that must be maintained when prices change. For example, in the auto parts industry, a right and left part must have the same price or private label part must have a lower price than the branded part or when there are good, better best versions of the same part the pricing must be aligned. With a large catalog of products there can be significant number of these relationships so any price change can be time consuming and prone to error. With the Zilliant solution these relationships can be setup as constraints in the model so you get an optimal price for every part while ensuring that rational relationships are maintained.
7. What part of your work with customers is the most rewarding?
I think it’s when we work together and generate insights into their business that they haven’t seen before or are unable to generate with their existing tool set. Then, based on these insights, they are able to clearly define their strategy and sell it within their organization.