Episode 42 Nov 11, 2021

Getting Change Right

Zilliant Vice President of Customer Success Nathan Rabold returns for his second guest appearance on the podcast, this time going deep on a topic near and dear to his team’s work: effective change management.

Sometimes overlooked, this foundational process makes the difference between success and disappointment for any major B2B commercial transformation. Years of pricing and sales implementations have honed the Zilliant approach to change management, and Nathan explains each of Zilliant’s eight drivers of benefit that are crucial to each project.

Listen to learn why getting organizational change right is particularly important given the recent market turmoil caused by tariffs, COVID-19, inflation and supply chain disruption.

Nathan Rabold

Nathan Rabold

You want to think about the expected business challenges of 2022 and prep your change drivers now. What are people doing to assemble quickly to decide on priority areas of change and strategy implications? Do you have data accuracy, integrity across the organization for areas that are expected to change? And how quickly do you think your people and systems allow you to react to changes, go through the change drivers, identify weaknesses or bottlenecks now, and then, invest and mitigate where you can. 
- Nathan Rabold, Zilliant

Episode Transcript

Nathan Rabold: You want to think about the expected business challenges of 2022 and prep your change drivers now. What leaders, what are people doing to assemble quickly to decide on priority areas of change and strategy implications? Do you have data accuracy, integrity across the organization for areas that are expected to change?

And how quickly do you think your people and systems allow you to react to changes, go through the change, drivers, identify weaknesses or bottlenecks now, and then, invest in mitigate where you can/

Lindsay Duran: Welcome to B2B Reimagined. My name is Lindsay Duran, and I'll be your host for this episode. I'm joined today by Nathan Rabold, Zilliant Vice President of Customer Success. Nathan, welcome back to the podcast.

Nathan Rabold: Lindsey. Hello, thanks. Thanks for having me. It's great to be back.

Lindsay Duran: You were actually one of our very first guests on B2B Reimagined back on episode 3, I believe. Tell us how your role has changed since we last spoke to you.

Nathan Rabold: Yeah, certainly. So, for some context I've been with Zilliant about eight years now. I initially [00:02:00] joined on the solution side helping customers configure and create analytics for our pricing solutions. Now, as our success team grew, I jumped at the opportunity and was a CSM for three years.

I really enjoyed working with customers, developed my own personal playbook to help customers measure, understand value and building long-term strategical relationships. Since then, I've been working in a few roles to standardize and ensure the quality and evolution of our customer experience and outcomes.

And as you said, most recently by leading our global success team.

Lindsay Duran: Congratulations on your promotion. Before we dive into the content for today, I want to start off just a little bit differently this time. So, our listeners can get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us something fascinating or surprising about yourself that doesn't necessarily come through on your LinkedIn profile?

Nathan Rabold: Absolutely. Happy to. The main one that comes to mind, outside of family and work, music is a big interest and passion of mine. And I've actually played drums since I was a kid and played in a variety of jazz and [00:03:00] rock bands through high school, college, and early into my career. I'm sure with a little bit of internet sleuthing, someone could dig up a few relics of my musical past.

Actively playing has taken a back seat recently between having a family -we have some young kids and work, but I still enjoy going to live music and exposing my kids to some of my favorite musical influences.

Lindsay Duran: I will certainly accept the challenge of digging up those videos and sharing them broadly with the team that Zilliant. Challenge accepted, Nathan.

Nathan Rabold: Yeah. Good luck.

Lindsay Duran: All right. We're happy to have you on today to talk about an extremely important topic, change management. It is often the biggest concern of prospective Zilliant customers, as well as customer, yet often an overlooked or underestimated part of a pricing or sales project, but really is the most critical success factor.

Nathan, starting out with IDCs recently published price optimization and management [00:04:00] Marketscape, Zilliant was lauded again for its level of customer satisfaction and customer success delivered. What does that mean to you as a longtime member of the customer success?

Nathan Rabold: Yeah. It's extremely rewarding to be recognized.

And I think really showcases the strength and talent within our CSM team. Each CSM is exceptionally talented and working with their customers to deliver strong results. And I'd say as a time member of the team, the IDC feedback on customer satisfaction really just shows how well we've systematized and create a real playbook and journey to help our customers onboard, execute, measure, and realize value.

Lindsay Duran: Taking a step back for a moment for those listeners that may be less familiar or thinking to themselves: “What in the world is a customer success manager or customer success program?” Can you just define for our audience what that means broadly and then specifically what it means at Zilliant?

Nathan Rabold: Yeah, absolutely.

Customer success is [00:05:00] best summarized as helping customers understand how products work, develop a plan to use the products all in the context of realizing some type of business outcome. So, the core tenet of Zilliant success team really focuses on strategy and results. The first question is: “What person or what people are working with within each customer to define, a strategy vision for a business change?”

And then, within that: “How can we help them use our tools, frameworks, and measurement methods to realize their business change?” These types of questions materialize into what we call a success plan - a joint vision for how we define and how we measure outcomes, jointly with each customer.

And this idea of mutual success is central to our team. And I'd say the success industry more and more broadly.

Lindsay Duran: And who are the types of people who are the customer success managers at Zilliant? What type of industry or pricing or sales knowledge might they have?

Nathan Rabold: Yeah. So specifically, this idea of mutual success at Zilliant, it really comes through in the tactics and touch points we [00:06:00] have to drive benefit. In terms of what a Zilliant success manager does day to day, they're engaging weekly with customers to keep the system running, hit tactical open items and questions. We're meeting monthly with our project teams and our exec sponsors to make sure we're tracking well against benefit goals and making any necessary course corrections.

And then we're conducting periodic business reviews to ensure that we have top level alignment on both sides on value realized.

Lindsay Duran: Great. And tell us, Nathan, what is typically the makeup of the team? What's their previous experience? How did they wind up at Zilliant and how do you think that adds value to our customers?

Nathan Rabold: Yeah. Good question, Lindsay. So, I'll start with just the structure of our team. So, I lead our success team globally and then we have a few directors in the U S and in EMEA that lead teams of CSM. And I say, each director is an industry, like a deep industry expert, meaning they'd been with Zilliant for many years, and typically have [00:07:00] five years to decades of experience in pricing and industry before they joined Zilliant.

And our directors are really a repository of best practices, lessons learned and industry expertise. And for questions that come up from our customers: What are you seeing across industries? Or how would you handle this exact change manager situation? Our directors really hold long-term knowledge and can provide deep advisory on what to do. Within these director's team, we have our customer success managers. And we pull our success managers from two profiles. The first being strong consulting backgrounds - a pricing consultancy, a strategy consultancy, or a software systems integration consultancy. The second profile of our success manager would be, I'd say more of an industry profile where they sat in the shoes of our project leads on the customer side. As a pricing manager, as a sales ops director, or as a change management leader. And I say within our team structure, we're able to add a ton of value because we have the experience and best practices [00:08:00] within our directors. And then we have specific CSMs to assign a specific accounts based on various levels of business knowledge needed, change management knowledge needed, or specific software experience.

Lindsay Duran: It sounds like the knowledge and experience of the team is a very significant value add for our customers. Let's dive a bit more into the change management aspect, because that is so key. I always tell our customers and prospective customers that it's great if we provide your sales team better prices or better sales guidance, but if they don't use the prices or the sales guidance, then it's really all for not.

So, let's talk a little bit about why change management is so integral to achieving the benefits that our customers typically realize. So, Nathan, you recently led a webinar on accelerating value with effective change management. What about our current collective environment makes this topic timely?

Nathan Rabold: Yeah, great [00:09:00] question.

I'd say the topic it's especially timely now because of the need just to quickly pivot and execute against a new business constraint or a new business goal. And we think about the last few years - tariffs, COVID, supply chain constraints, inflation - it's increasingly becoming common that we will hear: “Something's changing in a few weeks. We need to rally the business around new strategy, execute, implement, and track all within a few weeks after we hear about the change.” Change management, and I'd say some of the frameworks I can take us through, are incredibly important because business is changing so quickly right now.

And we want to make a change. We want to ensure, very quick execution and follow through of that change.

Lindsay Duran: Conceptually, it's quite obvious that fundamental changes need to be made in every B2B business, given the current market conditions that we're facing, but it's often harder to make that leap practically.

Do you see companies avoiding necessary action because the change just feels too daunting?

Nathan Rabold: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's a combination of the change [00:10:00] feeling too daunting, too multilayered, too complex. And perhaps there's just not the right person or the right group of people armed with the right change management frameworks to really take it on.

So, the decision can languish or never be delayed.

Lindsay Duran: We often see concerns about change management as a primary reason why companies are not even willing to embark on a pricing or sales related project, because they just view that sales adoption and change management process to be too challenging. What are some of the things that you've seen companies do well to gain sales team buy-in at the start of a project, or perhaps even before a project starts such that it helps them be successful in the long run?

Nathan Rabold: Yeah, I'll answer that question. Maybe in two phases. First, I do want to talk through some typical benefit drivers. We keep customers focused on summarizing what they [00:11:00] are. And then, too, I can speak to some recent examples as well. Any of our current customers will be very familiar with what we call the eight benefit drivers.

And these are from our years and years of project and support experience. I’d say the distillation of tons of lessons learned. And we had these eight benefit drivers to help our customers keep focused on the areas that drive the most impact. The first of these drivers is leadership. And, within leadership, we're thinking about: Do we have the right executive sponsor leading this initiative?

Do they have the decision authority influenced to ensure that every other benefit driver I'll talk through are properly staffed, delivered, and measured? And can they make corrections and hold people accountable as the changes roll? That's leadership. The second is data. And this is the question of: For the business change we're trying to make; do we have reliable and accurate data to understand what is changing and how it's changing? And do we have data to provide [00:12:00] mechanisms to track the rollout, impact and usage or adoption of whatever change we're trying to roll out. Project area three, very, I'd say Zilliant-specific, is around just the quality of the recommendations.

Whether it's pricing guidance or sales guidance, we're trying to produce. And just making sure that the recommendations are tuned to effectively, not only be maybe statistically significant for the data, but also to more importantly, master the business strategy, and within whatever modeling we're doing of the segmentation or the business rules, simple enough to explain to end users.

So that's just the quality of recommendations. Area four is measurement. Can we measure the revenue, the transactions, or some notion of activity that corresponds to system usage? And then, on that data, have we with our leadership and any other impacted party, agreed to an opportunity or a definition of success?

The fifth is organization. And this is all about people. Do we have the proper team in place with the proper skills to [00:13:00] drive the new processes before and after go-live? Sixth is process. Do we have our key processes discussed, documented and agreed upon before the change happens? And then are we revisiting these processes and reinforcing them at some interval appropriately after the change happens? Seven is training.

Have we delivered effective training to all relevant and end users? And do we have plans to retrain users on any type of cadence? And finally, eight would be incentives and, across the end-users and across our impacted parties from the change, do they have any incentives in their comp, their work structure, that could discourage them or encourage them to adopt a change?

Those are the eight areas we help our customers focus on, make sure we have plans for and monitor during a change. And I would say, one recent example that I think went really well. I'll focus on two of the drivers. The first list was sponsorship. We had a great leader from the top that was, before the change [00:14:00] even started, was involved with multiple other leaders in the business to get buy in for the change. Describe why a system and process overhaul within pricing was needed. And get a real collective buy-in on the to-be state where it wasn't necessarily one finance leader trying to push a pricing project through. It was a finance leader getting buy-in from sales and product and the change management support team for what the change would look like and how it would go.

And we started off with an excellent perspective and focus from leadership. As the project rolled on - and I think a great litmus test is - the training. You fast forward the project, six, seven months, we're about to roll out to end users. What do we see in the training? And in this case, I was very impressed by the training.

The quality, the quantity ratio, it's just the right amount of content and got all the end-users they needed in under 30 minutes. It had the why; words from the sponsor that explained why the business need to change what the business impact would be and what value would drive for stakeholders. [00:15:00] It explained just enough of the system we were rolling out so users would trust it.

And then most importantly, it hit specifics of - as an impact of user - this is when you need the change, this is how your selling process will change, and this is when I will first assess you for progress and how I will assess that process. And we're a few months in now we're seeing great result.

Lindsay Duran: I think those are two really great examples. The eight benefit drivers are all certainly valuable. Might sound a bit intimidating for folks who are just starting out on their journey. How do you advise companies or leaders to get started with the change process?

Nathan Rabold: As a step one, just make sure you identify the right people to have the discussion around. What is the change? What is the business impact? How are we going to change our strategy? And what is the desired outcome we're trying to get to? If you can't get agreement at that initial phase, the rest of change management isn't going to work well. And there's not really a point to starting.

So, I say, step one, just get agreement on who should be [00:16:00] involved and what the outcome will look like. From there, I think there is a lot in eight drivers. And while I talked to them for a while, if you were to put them on just a piece of paper and go through leadership, data, organization, process, I think with maybe a half day or day of planning, you could probably pretty quickly identify any weaknesses or bottlenecks that you have now and try to investigate and mitigate those well ahead of the project.

There's a lot of complexity, perhaps as you dig into each driver. At a high level, they can serve as a great, pre change readiness checklist to say: “Even though we may need to staff this project with 20 different people. Do we have the people available, and do we know who they generally would be?”

You can get to those questions and answers pretty quickly early on when you're scoping a change.

Lindsay Duran: A lot of people think about change management as a point in time activity. And I think we know from experience that's not necessarily true. Can you talk about how change management becomes an ongoing process in a business? And some [00:17:00] tactics to continue to engage and enable and ensure adoption over time?

Nathan Rabold: Yeah, absolutely. I would say change management by its name will require different levels of monitoring, engagement, and focus, once initiative is rolled out, just depending on how that initiative has to change or adapt to the external business circumstances.

I would say at a minimum, outside business landscape aside, at a minimum, it makes sense at least once a year to check your project progress against eight drivers again. Do we still have a leader engaged? Have we maintained our data quality? Have we retrained our users or gathered our user feedback, do our measurement methods, data, and success metrics still make sense?

I think those types of questions you always want to go through at least once a year to make sure no complacency is rising up within the project. And too, where we think is still important that we take customers through an annual success planning process to answer those exact questions.

I would say, in a landscape where you are expecting more changes [00:18:00] or you need to adapt to something happening externally very quickly. The eight drivers may make sense to do on a more frequent basis, particularly at maybe a department or a regional level. So that way, if you're expecting certain business trends to occur within a certain product vertical or within a certain area of the country, you can at least use this eight-driver framework to assess that particular scope for its ability to change and be ready for a change.

Lindsay Duran: Great. Thanks Nathan. One thing that I think your team has done very well with many of our customers is actually gone back and gathered feedback from end users after a pricing project or a sales project has been live for a while. Can you talk a little bit about how that process typically works?

Nathan Rabold: The end goal is to get real data around. One: Was this useful to you? But two: For a particular type of recommendation, do you understand what it is? Do you understand how it was derived? Are you comfortable using it? And how [00:19:00] often do you think you used it? And I say, depending on the size of the rollout, this can be done via email.

Most often I think a survey is the best method because you can standardize the question / answer structure very easily. But again, the goal is to make sure that in addition is understanding if the users actually use the data points or try and understand how effective our training was in conveying the why, the how, and just holistically how this new change and new system works.

Lindsay Duran: Yeah. That feedback loop is so important. Do you have any parting thoughts or words of wisdom that you'd like to leave with our audience before we wrap up the episode?

Nathan Rabold: Yeah. I think just to reiterate maybe an earlier point made, think about the expected business challenges of 2022, and prep your change drivers now.

What leaders or people do you need to assemble quickly to decide on priority areas of change and strategy implications? Do you have data accuracy, integrity across the organization for areas that are expected to change? And how quickly do you think your people and [00:20:00] systems allow you to react to changes, go through the change, drivers, identify weaknesses or bottlenecks now, and then, investigate and mitigate where you can?

Lindsay Duran: Nathan, I want to thank you again for taking the time to join us for this episode and sharing your experience and perspective with us.

Nathan Rabold: Absolutely. Great to be back. Thank you, Lindsay.

Lindsay Duran: And I want to thank each of our listeners for joining us for this episode. Be sure to check out the link in the show notes to the on-demand recording of Nathan's change management focused webinar.

We're committed to your success at Zilliant. And if you need assistance and would like to explore how we may be able to help in your sales or pricing challenges, please reach out to us. And if you're enjoying the content, please take a moment to rate and review the show as it helps us to continue to put out great free content. Until next time, have a great day. And thank you for listening to B2B Reimagined. [00:21:00].

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