CX Insights

CX Insights Episode 5: Learn from every Customer every day

Richard Rans, Sr. Director of Customer Success at Terminus

He has worked as a trusted advisor to numerous Fortune 500 companies, primarily in the financial services, energy, and consumer products industries.

He has extensive experience in a variety of roles, including building and ongoing operations of strategic Customer Success teams, System Implementation, Product Management and Business Development.

Here are some of the highlights from this episode:

  • Scaling Customer Success Team
  • Customer Success Goals
  • Customer Retention
  • Customer Adoption


Welcome to the show. Our guest for today’s episode is Richard Rans. Richard is a senior director of customer success at Terminus. Rich.

Welcome to the show.

Thank you. I’m very excited to be here, and I can’t wait to hear some of your podcasts coming out. Absolutely.

Hey Rich, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Yeah. So, I started in professional services & consulting, and then probably about eight years ago; I discovered this thing called customer success. I’d never really heard about it. And it was fascinating because it took the consulting you get to work with and help customers, but it didn’t have that always be billing mind-set right behind it.

You’re there just to help. And so for about the last eight years, I’ve been. We’re focused on customer success. That’s a great way to put it always be building, still be creating value and, you know, tell us about Terminus. It sounds like you’re an account-based marketing software company.

Tell us what you guys do. Yeah. So Terminus created the account-based marketing category. Historically, if you look at marketing, the role of marketing was to disseminate a brand, harvest leads, and then dump those leads over to a sales organization. Ideally, the more, the better, and the way Terminus views the role of marketing, especially B2B based marketing, is that your part is to identify those targeted accounts that would best benefit from your products and services.

To generate demand within those accounts and then to work in lockstep with sales, through the opportunity, through the deal, through the customer expansion and renewal processes. And so Terminus, through our products and thought leadership, it’s transforming marketing in those ways. Yeah.
That’s pioneering work right there because traditionally. Marketing, sales generally play well, but they’ll always have this exciting relationship where the leads and the quality of the leads and how those are accounted for, etcetera, matters a lot. And Terminus is an exciting play.

It is quite frankly effective in aligning marketing and sales around those areas, especially for large accounts. And it sounds like you guys play a lot in the enterprise space, but tell me more, like, are you guys in sort of large enterprise, enterprise? Do you also guys do mid-market SMB?
How are you? How are you focusing on the market? Yeah, our customer runs the gamut through those segments. We have everything from 5 and 10% accounts that are, you know, they might have a real exact target account market, in healthcare or government or some things like that to some of, our large enterprises that are selling into and working with Exxons and Citibank’s and organizations like that.

So we run the gamut. What’s interesting about it is. Are the folks that are the early adopters of this new perception of this new perspective of marketing? How are you moving into really shifting your focus from how much, you know, how many leads can I generate as you’ve mentioned yourself to okay.

Here are the accounts that are going to best benefit us and how we generate demand? That’s great. And from a go-to-market standpoint, do you, this tournament is focused on particular industry segments. Or is it across the spectrum from an industry standpoint as well? It’s across the spectrum, but we see the most traction in technology.

I think part of that is because, as I said, we’re, we’re really creating a category, and we’re transforming a long state dentist’s business process. So who are the organizations that are going to be early adopters to that? And that’s, what’s been part of the challenges as you create this category. We’re spending a lot of our time on education.

A lot of our time on really proving the value of what you’re trying to do with this approach and transforming the way folks are working with their marketing organization. Because of that, you’ll see the Bay area being some of our, you know, up and coming are our hottest markets technology and challenging ex markets.
But we’ve got like I said, the entire spectrum of accounts that we’re going out. And you mentioned value, and that’s an area which is near and dear to my heart as well. So how does, how does the team demonstrate value to the customer? Let’s take customer success. For example, how do you demonstrate value?

Is it like, are you sort of addressing, maybe marketing’s needs and showing value? How marketing can. You know, drive more campaigns and more effective ways of drumming a business in accounts, or is it more sales or is it both like, how do you guys demonstrate that value to customers? Yeah, this is where I’ve been spending a lot of my time.

And, if you look at, especially in emerging markets, like if you’re selling an email platform, you probably aren’t spending a ton of time demonstrating value. But if you’re looking at something a little more, you know, on the emerging spectrum, we’re spending a lot of time on that. And the way I look at it and say like, look up a step and what are the three or four ways or reasons that customers are investing in your platform?

Maybe if I take an example of something everyone’s familiar with, like a CRM. If you’re buying a CRM, you’re buying a CRM to generate more new business opportunities, right. To generate more new business. And so that’s kind of one of the very high-level reasons that you’re buying into the platform. Not so much at the use case level, like a, I think a mistake, a lot of people make is focusing on those use cases.

It’s really, if you strung together a collection of use cases. So in our analogy, right, I might. I might need to create an account. I might need to progress an account. I might need to run a pipeline meeting. Those are each use case. None of them in and of themselves really provide value. But if you string five or 10 of those together, you’ve got a real reason someone bought your platform.

So my first role was what are those three or four reasons people are investing in the Terminus platform. And for us, it was driving brand awareness, creating opportunities. Progressing and nurturing opportunities or expanding customers. So those were the four key areas, our main ways that people are purchasing our platform, and everything we’re doing after that is really aligning to one of those four facets.

Yeah. I like that. I like how those different use cases are laddering up to the outcomes and the value that your platform is providing. So maybe this is a good time for us to get into sort of the go-to-market and the customer journey a little bit. And, traditionally at least, what we’ve seen for enterprise B2B products.
And it may or may not hold true for Terminus, but let’s see how that works. You know, usually, we see there’s like a buying team or at least a collection of stakeholders that have bought the product or who are kind of responsible for signing the check. If you will. And then there’s another section of the team, which is the consumption consumers of the product they are using the product day in, day out.

And so how do you make sure that your approach towards customer success and you’re a go-to-market, etcetera, aligns to both those teams? You take care of both of those types of teams, right? Exactly. So backing up to really our go-to market right now, we’re taking those key buying, Dimensions and working those into the sales motion in the sales organization.

So coming out of sales, what we want to have is for each customer coming out of sales. Is understand which of those four dimensions that they’re really aligned to and what are the measures that are going to use to measure success. Those. So that’s really step one. And we’ve got to get that language into what we’re taking out into the market.

During their sales motions to, in our collateral, what salespeople are saying, those kinds of things are happening. Right. Once a customer closes, and they come over to our team, right? Theoretically, we’ve already aligned at least a high level on what those real buying objectives were. And then we’ve got two roles that we, you know, you stand, and we call him the decision-maker and the POC, which I think kind of aligns to what you were describing.

So our decision-maker would ideally be aligned to that business value reason that they bought the platform for. Right. So our goal then is to reaffirm that reason for purchase. And to drill down and actually set real number targets for each of those things. Like I want an actual number. If we’re trying to create opportunities, how many opportunities, what’s the dollar value of those?
If you’re trying to drive brand awareness, what does that mean? What’s the actual number that we’re trying to get to? Because I feel like if we can have that number down on paper, then we are really well aligned with the decision-makers part of that process.

All right. The second role you called out was who we call the.
The POC and they’re the ones. Well, okay. That’s what I want to do. How do I get there? Right. What are the ten use cases that I have to string together to get there? And what are the actual steps I have to take to implement each one of those? So that’s where we’re having the conversation. That’s like, okay, first you need to implement this use case, right?

You need to set up so you can create an account in your CRM. Obviously, that’s not what we do, but it’s something that everyone’s familiar with. So here’s the steps. Here’s how you configure it. Here’s how you roll it out. Here’s how you make that happen. And once that use case is completed, we can check it off and move to the next one.

And once we’ve strung all those together, we shouldn’t be getting the results that you’re hoping for. Oh, that’s interesting. Rich. And it’s interesting in the sense that on one hand you’re taking care of the buyers by saying, okay, let’s figure out what are the specific outcomes that you’re looking for.

Right. Let’s make a goal. I haven’t seen a lot of customer success teams create a goal, for their customers. And maybe the goal is not the exact terminology used, but it’s something else, but it’s saying. Yes, you’re going to create outcomes, but here’s the measurement of that outcome. Here’s how we’re going to measure it over the next so many quarters years.

Right. And then, on the other side, let’s help your team get the workflows and the activities, et cetera, required to achieve them. So to do this at scale for so many customers, do you guys use a playbook? Do you have like a standard methodology? Do you have like a 356-page manual every day? What do you use? It’s challenging.

There’s, yeah, no doubt about that. And I’ll say, I think the reason we’re right now a little rotated heavily on having that goal is because we’re in a more emerging market segment. I think if you’re, if you’re in a more mature industry, you might not need that. Prescriptive of measurement as part of this, nobody has a measure for how many emails are sent in their email system.

The company I was with just before this, we were a corporate intranet, right? So everyone knows they need to have one. Yes. The most things you do on it, the better, but no one really had a specific goal for how it was used. When you come over to this side where you’re trying to transform a business process and trying to educate your customers.

It’s even more important to have those specific outcomes really well-defined, and that’s why we’re really trying to drive hard towards that, that key metric, and having that measure in place with the customer. Yeah. It’s, it can be challenging at times, right? There’s no doubt about it. What we’ve found out is there’s really a couple of different approaches to this.

We try to be prescriptive as we can because we find that just putting this in the hands of the customers, they get a little bit overwhelmed. You want more, right? I want more opportunities and more money, more customers. Right? So that’s the obvious answer. The more prescriptive we can be in that, I think that helps, shepherd the conversation along with the other approaches.

You want to have a top-down, so if we can align, the question I always ask is what are, what are the goals of your CEO or, in our case, sometimes the CMO, what are they aligned to? So if they say, Oh, we want to create. New opportunities in the fortune 500, we need, $10 million of expansion and AMEA.

So if we can connect to those senior goals, then you can have a top down and a bottom up approach to get to those target goals. And you can work from both sides of the spectrum. It does have challenges to scale. And so I can understand how some people would be afraid to make that level of a leap, but that’s what we really feel like we need to get to, to be confident that our customers are happy with their investment in the platform.

Yeah. And you know, sometimes you have to do things that are sort of not actually scalable in the immediate term, but over a period of time, they become scalable because. You learn the muscle of doing that top-down and bottom-up type of an approach, right? That’s a that’s fascinating to me. And as you developed this mechanism for scaling your team and then delivering value to customers and quite frankly, helping customers sort of peg outcomes, what was the most difficult thing that you learned in this process?

What was sort of the most challenging thing that. Made Richard and team say, what the hell? Why are the customers? Or is it like, why can’t we do this? Why can we scale this? Like what was sort of the most difficult thing that you experienced? So of course you overcame that, but we’d love to hear that story.

Yeah. I think that the challenges, that’s how surprisingly rarely that the customers really know that reason for buying and have those, you know, those key targets in mind. Most of our customers really come in and two categories. One is they’re not perfectly aligned to what they can do in the platform to account-based marketing that they’re still there.

They know they need to do account-based marketing because it’s the way. Marketing is transforming a; we know it’s the future. And so they want to start doing those things, but certain parts of their organization are still in sort of a different model and an older model. And so there’s a little bit of tension in this alignment there.
So there’s a group of categories in that bucket and group of customers in that bucket. Then there’s another group that is basically bought in. But because it’s a relatively immature concept that they don’t have those targets that they’re like, I don’t know what an appropriate kind of measure for these kinds of things is.

And so it’s surprising to some extent, I mean, surprising and not surprising that customers don’t have that end objective in mind that we all just want to do better and we want to do more, but we don’t really know what we’re going to be happy with until, until it either has come or hasn’t come right. That’s interesting, you know?

Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s hard to kind of drive that change and especially a new concept that you’re bringing to the market. And quite frankly, you guys have been pretty successful at that. I I’m, I I’m in the customers that I’ve been talking to, that they’re very, very aware of ABM and they realized I need to do something in this space, especially in current times where everybody’s trying to chase more revenue.

Yeah. You mentioned something interesting there that I would like to unpack a little bit, which was about in a new concept that customers themselves also have to drive change internally. Are there things that can be done to help your immediate stakeholders so that they can take the message of ABM within their teams and sort of, not so much preach the gospel, but more like, can they actually get more people along in a journey?
Towards ABM so that they can sort of show these proof points, maybe some success stories, things like that. How, how does that work? Like are they able to take that message internally and spread that message? Yeah, that’s a, that’s a really great point. And it’s, it is one of the challenges we see is that this isn’t something that just impacts.

One stakeholder, right? Certain products, you know, you’re selling to one stakeholder. That’s the person who makes the decision. That’s the only one infected. They have complete authority over their business processes, so they can sort of wave a magic wand and change how everything operates to conform to your platform.
Something like what we’re doing, touches, you know, touches, marketing touches, sales touches, customer success, you know, touches all these different parts of the organization. And it’s really only successful. When you have that broad alignment. So what we need to make available to our customers is not only thought leadership and collateral services, but I ask actually just willing to go that extra mile to do, you know, enablement within these other organizations.

And you have to, you know, it’s a, it’s a classic CS. Responsibility to broaden your footprint inside these accounts. So while our initial sales might be to a CMIO, we really need to drive into the sales organization and build relationships with them and help do enablement and education within their organizations for, okay, marketing’s going to do this differently now.

Here’s how it impacts sales. Here’s how they’re going to give you an example. We’re going to give you 10% of the leads, but they’re going to be a hundred percent more valuable. Right? And so, how do we make that shift to the sales team and educate them on that? How do you go to customer success and say, hey, here how we’re going to monitor your customers and show you?
Risk flags and show you how to drive expansion in existing customers. So we really have to go wide, and we have to be prepared to run those use cases that actually engage other stakeholders. So I talked about the four dimensions under each of those. There’s a series of use cases that are kind of encapsulated underneath those.

And some of those use cases are directed at other parts of the organization than marketing. And you have to be successful in all of those. And it’s a great visual, because you can look at this visual and say, okay, your goal is to create new opportunities and you’re identifying your target markets.

You’re putting display advertising in front of them, but you’re not giving that data to sales. Here’s all these use cases about giving the data to sales, and there’s a big red X there. And so you can really see this flow break down at this one part where you got to really engage that team to ultimately get your KPIs.

So that’s why that plan, I think, works really well for us and helps get all those various stakeholders involved. That’s a great idea. And I love the way you’re taught fully approaching this because when you can get more stakeholders as part of the journey, along with your main primary stakeholder, it makes it easier for the primary stakeholder to drive more change in the company, as well as.

Quite frankly, become more successful and drive more value for sales as well. And that’s a great way to sort of getting marketing sales and maybe other teams involved. So nicely done. I wanted to turn that question back into sort of internally, how are you guys working with different teams internally, whether it’s product teams or sales teams, how’s that relationship, and how do you guys manage those relationships?

Yeah. I’m, you know, fortunate to be in an organization where CS had a really great reputation as continued, been tremendously valued. We get great feedback from our customers and that works well through our organization or currently aligned within.

The sales organization I’ve been in CS teams that have been kind of all over the map in terms of where we’re aligned.
Being within sales obviously has a lot of good benefits in terms of, as we move into a renewal, we’re really well aligned with the account management team that helps us drive through the renewal process. We’re really well aligned in terms of. How we grow the organization, right? When sales seems, like they’re getting a whole bunch of these sales, then we can kind of expand our CS team accordingly to be in lockstep with that.

So that’s working well for our product team. We make a couple of motions where we’re doing, reviewing our customer enhancement requests and key issues. We’re doing that on a weekly basis with our product team. And we get to have a lot of influence on how we prioritize some of those things on their roadmap.

Obviously, they’ve got to—a huge vision of where they want to take this transforming concept. And so we don’t always get every individual request on to their overall plan, but we have great relationships where we’re heard we can advocate for the issue. They can consider that with their team.
And then our product team is always willing to engage directly with customers on customer calls and things like that. So, you know, At most, they say you’re not pulling us into enough customer calls. So that’s a great spot to be that they’re eager and willing to step in and hear it directly from the customer.

Oh, that’s outstanding. It sounds like you’re grabbing all the right relationships within the company. And that’s important to have that unified go to market to the customer. It’s one of the hardest things for a new CSM. Is that in any organization, is that so much of it is just, how do I, how do I take all the resources available within my company and bring them to bear for our customer?
And part of that is just figuring out where those motions are, who those contacts are, even within your company, is something CSMs have to spend a lot of time on. Oh, absolutely. And then, you gather the right touchpoints and deliver them to create delight with customers. Good. Hey, as we wrap up here, Richard, how about we wrap up with this question?

So if you were to share one piece of advice to the listener on customer success, what would that be?

I would have to go with, learn something from every customer. I think in customer success. It’s, you know, I fight every day to make sure we’re not focused on this is how we do things. This is how we view the platform.

This is how we view how account-based marketing should be done. You know, you’re in an enviable position of working with experts in their field every day. And so there should be something you can learn from each and every customer in terms of. How they’re doing their business, how they’re using your platform, how they’re executing these business processes, and what they hope to get out of them.

So, I would say, yeah, be sure to learn something from every customer every day.

That’s outstanding advice. Rich, thank you so much. And for folks to follow you, what’s the best way for them to do that? Is it Twitter or LinkedIn? Where do you at just to look for Richard Rans on LinkedIn? Awesome. Richard, thank you so much.

It was so valuable to have you on the show. Appreciate it. Awesome. Thank you, Abhijeet. I appreciate it, and by the way, we’re hiring CSM, so feel free to reach out. Absolutely. So please reach out to Richard Rans and get your profiles ready, Richard. Thank you.

Thank you, Abhijeet. It was great being here.