Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 10 months ago

Why You Should Specialize in Customer Verticals


Product knowledge is important, it’s true. What’s equally — maybe even more — important than knowing your product?

Knowing your customer’s vertical.

In this episode, Eric sits down with Megan Piccininni, Regional VP of Customer Success at Salesforce. The two talk about…

- Why Salesforce is moving to a more specific vertical model

- How their CS teams have started to specialize in specific verticals

- Ways Salesforce educates their customers

- How Megan’s team adds value to the renewal process

For more info, check out or send a message to To hear other interviews like this one, subscribe to Customer Success Leader on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Just keep it simple in that you shouldjust focus on your customer success right, like put all the noise outsideof that outside. If you just focus on doing the right thing for the customerand having that be your North Star and your vision and keeping that at theforefront of everything that you do and asking yourself, is this a high valueactivity? That's going to move the needle for my customers success, thenthat should be reginding post and so for me, that's been really a usefulperspective to maintain want to create delightful customerexperiences. You are in the right place, welcome to customer success leaderwhere you'll learn about the successes and struggles of leaders who arepassionate about their craft. Trust me. You want to stick around here's yourhost, Eric Cra, hey all thanks for joining us this week,im Aric, crane, cofounder and COO flat file, I'm here today with Mega Pach,niny she's, a regional vice president of customer success at Sales Force, HeyMegan! How are you doing I'm great? Thank you. How are you doing today?Alright, I'm doing all right. I hear you got some big news. Yeah reallyinteresting is actually. I am looking to make a move to Austin Texas in thenext several months. Oh boy, Autin's a hot spot right now, Huh yeah, I thinkyou know, with botte check industry, making it more of a name there. A lotof the big companies are going there and then also. I have a lot of friendsfrom Boh East Coast in the West Coast setting there, and I really like somesunshine- I'm actually here in New York. Now when we're AMIS, a major snowstorm,and so I very excited to get some sunshine yeah, a d plus I ee you workwith a team all over the place right. So geography doesn't matter so much asjust availability. There right yeah. I would say that you know traditionallyetcell hourse. We were a little bit more geographically focused, but histime is evolved and especially during given hat the Covid pentemic, we havebeen placing less emphasis on location. So I support a team. It's part of ourCOMSMEDI andtech new vertical that we have, and I specifically focus on thetech portion of that, and so traditionally most of us have been outin the bay area, and while we do have a large number of folks there, we alsohave folks in Denver. We have folks in other locations up in Seattle andPortland, and so you know, as a customer start to move out of the bayarea and also, as our folks or you know, have talents across different locations.We have more flexibility, you know working in a remote world and also withthe opportunity to helpfully travel once that time comes yeah, it's kind offunny. As a remote first company flat file thought you Ow, we can stand outand just go get talent everywhere, now, everyone's a Mo by requirement. So it'sgoing to be really interesting to see how and in what ways, businesses tomove back to like a ingeography centric model in the future. If that ever doeshappen, yeah I expect that you know to some degree it will be hybrid and Ithink you know much more remote work. I think that folks, in our customersuccessv organization were partially remote anyway, to a large degree nreally focusing on visiting our customers but yeah. I can expect thatit'll seem more ot that diversity going foward, so I'm really excited to dig inwith you just about, especially like you know, firmographic oriented, likeregional design of customer success, is really fascinating to me, but just toget started. I'd love to hear a little bit about how you got into customersuccess in the first place. Yeah, that's a great questioneric, so youknow my curbeer journey has been largely focused in Techon and, to alarge degree, also around sales, forse and the larger ecosystem. And so Istarted my career early days. I was in marketing actually working for whatbecame sales horts's first enterprise customer ATP at the time- and you knowI got my hands wet working with sales forces. They were implementing and Iwas actually an admen for the early days, and so I was pretty technicalfrom then I went on into consulting, and so I worked at companies like theLloyd IBM and I ended up starting up to sale, force practices from the groundup and the most recent one was Islan, and that was fantastic. I really lovebeing customer facing most of the time. selving relate challenging problemsworking with complex global enterprises, and it you know, after thirteen years,an sto of that. It became clear to me that I should probably consider workingdirectly with sales force and they had reached out and were interested inhaving me join in customer success, and I thought that that would be a reallyinteresting, a big of a career change,...

...but also want to fit incrediblynaturally, given the focus on customers and really, you know, moving in mycareer, more up to the business focus and I'm really working with theexecutive team, and so it was a really sweet transition that worked out reallywell yeah. You seem to be in a sales force. I mean it's pretty exciting,though, to see how you can grow with he business like that and Yoah SALESFORCis just scratching the surfface. I think I saw the report the other day.That's like fourteen percent Yeren Market Shar is sales forust and youthink about it being so big, but like there is so much of a market out thereto keep growing and expanding absolutely thik's, extremely excitingworking with the company and have been working aside. The company for S somany years, so tell me more about how you define customer success like whatdo you think is like the crucial aspects that really make success, whatit is in a modern, Sass business like yours, that's a great question and it'sbeen something. I think that both myself as an individual and S as acompany have been thinking through and really making sure that we're honedinon and I think that you know we- it sells fors- have gone through a bit ofa paradim shift in terms of how we think about that as well, and we'rekind of a missriht that that, right now and and really, instead of focusing onwhat our internal metrics are about success on our platform and measuringall of that, we've really realized that what customer successs are we making animpact on our customers, business objectives, their core Kpis, and are wehelping to facilitate that accelerate that growth and really grow aside them?And so the whole focus has been really shifted to be on the customer and theirsuccess and in turn it they're successful. Then we are also successfulyeah and that kind of leads into a conversation about your territory.Strategy which is more aligned around verticals than it is about geographies.So tell me a little bit more about how you do that yeah! That's that's a greatpointeric! We have been moving to Verticliz increasingly over the years,and so we force some time now have had verticals such as financial services,my sciences as well as SOM of epublic sector in retail. But more recently wehave also been working to establish the vertical then IAM, a part of which iscoms, media and technology or CMT, and so we are in the first year of it we'restill working to building that out and building some of the specializationwithin the team, but we're finding that it's really important that we'remeeting our customers where they are in bringing that industry best practice inorder to really make an impact with them. We do have parts of the businessthat are still nonvertical lives and we segment them. You know based on size,essentially in scale, and so we have some smaller companies in SMB. We havemore of admit commercial and market segment and me have a large enterprisegroup, but I think more and more will see increased virticalization as timegoes on and since you have y o direct and very immediate experience with this,I'm sure our listeners would love to learn a little bit more like. How doyou move from the you know more general model to vertical specific model whendesigning a success organization? What are the things that you've done inorder to kind of CARB OUT THI CMP group that you're working with hot yeah? Ithink that's a good question. I think you know within our CMT group. I thinkthat we have had some unofficial verticalization going on for some time,so we were organized more geographically based in Hin, the pastright and so the West in the bay area. It was largely tech right and in n, theWest in Soke. That was largely the media, the entertainment, the colmsbusiness right and then also on the Pacific northwest, and so we had someof that Todat. And so there were some gouuings of a specialization. We areworking to formalize that, but then is part of that. We realized that wereally need to do somemor enablement around those industry. Specializationsright, so some people had it to begin with, but we recognize that that needsto be more of beat Focus Aria for a team, let's around just ourselves,forse product really becoming keen on what's happening in the market. What'scompetitive landscape, all of those things and as we are continuin to buildit out, I will say that our COMS, an media part of the broader CMTorganization, has has gotten a little head of the technology pace just to tosome broader company focus on that, but I think you know, as we move into thenext year, the technology space that I...

...specifically support will increasinglyhave a focus, and I think you know we're in our FY twenty two planningright now and some of the things that we are talking about is you know,should we be even thinking about even if we're not fully ready to do it thisyear? Should we start to organize our teams around even subfertigalizationright, because we have? We have the semiconductor business. We have someservice providers, some hardward providers that are Yo, know kind of allrouped together now and, as we start to think about doing an enablement planfor deeper specialization in the industry. Should we start to group ourteams like that? Where should we start to? You know, think about how to setthat success up or that that focus up for the future as we continue to growinto the prirticle. Yeah makes a lot of sense and I'd love to learn a littlebit more about what that enablement plan is so you mentioned, like you know,knowing about the industry is really important, but how to get to the pointwhere you can actually act like an expert in sales forus about theparticular industry that lives outside of what you do yeah. I think it's a fewthings I think in the COMS and media space, for example, where we've done alittle bit more of this. We have both coranavlement teams and we have successenablement teams that are specific, that really build out these centralplans and Thesese brougter plans for the specific areas, and there has beena focus, I would say at the company level and then that Buil ters down intoour cuptomer success group on coms inmedian. So we have industry expertswe've, you know brought into the team that really start to build out likewhat's the framework. What's the foundation what's Sinmethodology,what's important to these sets of customers and Ouere, both central andthen our specific customer success, enablement team start to build it out.What that looks like in the flavor and shape of that can be in a few differentforms. We have a learning platform called trail head, it's free to work,customers to use, and they can also you know, use it as their own as mytrailhead for their own enalement inteurnal league, but we lever jobtrail head platform to really do this. selfpace learning journey, there'sinteractive components to it. Where there's you know, QNA, you can earpointit's gamified, and so we do a lot of it. There there's inntigration of video anddifferent media capabilities within that to make it engaging, and then wealso do a lot of you know: fatilitated lerving as well, where well actuallyhold sessions we host office dowrs and have different industry speakers com,and so we have a really well rounded approach to address that you know, andwe will continue to leverge some of that into the text space going forward,which we haven't really done as much today. I'll also just add from theenablement perspective I mentioned earlier that we're really shifting ourpopuse to customer value unless on the specifics of our product, and soanother big enablement Tocus for our organization is to also look into youknow. How can we enable our coates, especially in the very Bigu textbace,that I work in? How can we enable our coaps to really uplovel theconversation to really be value focused right? What are the customers Piss? Isubjectives, what are their kpes? How do the different success pass orinitiatives as we call them aline to those, and how can we make sure that weare measuring the value and the impact that we're making on our customers,business objectives and Kpis, and so we have a lot of our training andenablement focused on that and then we're also working to establish notonly just industry, but I guess the other access would be the domainexpertise so things like sales, Excellenc, service transformation, etc.You know marketing and how can we have folks go deep in those areas and getthat additional level of specialization? That is not so much focused again. Yes,you have to have product knowledge, but not so deeply. It's really more around.How can you work with a business to stop their business problems and reallyhelp them, so you work with some of the biggest customers at sales force. I'dlove to understand what it's like to try and figure out. Who is the rightfit to work with this customer? I would presume that you probably just one toone assignment for the CSMS right so like how do you find the right personto fit with this large know, enterprise customer that might be Ain tens, if notYoa more than that millions of dollars a year? That's a really good question,so you mentioned tha one woul want assignment by the way, to a largedegree, we have one on one or even one, to many assignments for these reallyreally large customers that we have. I will also add that I think we'regetting smarter about how we do that in the future. So, for example, let's saythat there's a customer that might not... in a high growth area this year andthey're, you know working with us. Things are good. We might prioritize,maybe a slightly smaller customer, putting less on that and then havingfolks work more as a specialist O, maybe fifty percent of a time person onone and then specializing and dropping into other customers. Based on thatdomain expertise I talked about, and so but yes largely, it is one to one onetoo many for these really big customers and you're right. It t is a differentsuccess motion. Then I would say, or like standard S M, and so we have beenworking to establish a newer role. We haven't really formalized the name, butwe're referring it to you know referring to it. Pornow is a success.You know executive or strategic sm and there's really something that setsthese rolls apart. They tend to be a mimarsenior and they're, really focusedon building cxl relationships being able to walk the talk around businessvalue, business impact as opposed to really being typer focused on you knowvery tactical work that might need to be done now that tectical work doesn'tgo away so to be clear about that. We still have to EADDRESS ID and thatsometimes how we end up where we have sone for some of these big customers,this one to many where you might have a strategic, Assamon and thin. You havesome other pokes that are focused more on kind of more at the day todayspecific operations and Alovso ad that we have some supporting teams that wework very closely with, and so it's not just the success manager or thestrategic sm that are in President. In these accounts, we tend to have a lotof perperal, my presentatives from our broader customer success, cord engagingso, for example, we will often have times have folks from our services. Org,we have an assurance services. Whith your act live advisors to the customer,which are more technical and Thars are paide resources. We also have Tam'stechnical account, managers that can really help intriage if there'schallenges around support issues, because we want to limit that workaround our success management capabilities, because that's not a highvalue ad activity for our customers for them to do, and then we also have thisset of really highly specialized senior technical experts that are able toengage proactively and strategically. If some of our large customers needsome executive level and technical support to get them through a phaseright S. let's say that, there's a lot of new product, inable they're workingto get you know, funding for a big invventation, but we really need tohelp get them started and maybe do some that design conceptualization. We canwork through with them. So really we have the success man ajor at the Corpe,but also there to really kind of listen sense and respond to our customers andthen facilitate engaging those additional resources that be can bringto pare for our customers. Yeah, it's almost like any one of these. You knowteams could be a business in and of itself. So how do you help that littlemini business? Make? You know affected decisions right? What are the the sortof like parameters you put in place to say like hey? This is where you canactually make decisions with the customer and help them move a certainway versus okay. We need to escalate this or move this to an even higherlevel inside the organization. Exactly Yep, so tell me a bit more about thejourney, these types of customer relationships. So you know we are muchmaller business, we're just starting to deve into what it's like to work with.You know major enterprises I' love to hear a bit more about how yourrelationship builds over time with some of the largest customers of sales.Forse, that's a good question and we actually were having a discussion aboutthat yesterday. So you know a lot of our enterprise customers, especially inthe text pace that I support. They were some of our earliest customers right,their high tech, they're ti looking bally just like sales cors and werereally adoptors or a platform, and also with these tech customers. We also tendto see a lot of technical aptitude within their own organizations, and youknow a sense of like hey. We can facilitate this on our own to somedegree right. A lot of them has SI firms and our services to help them,but there's also a lot of kind of inhous expertise also to support theplatform. I would say that in you know, early days things are exciting. Theygot started R. Our platform was fairly basic compared to how it is now I goingback. You know, Fifeen, eighteen, twenty years of Bhis plants, and weintroduced you know code at some point, so there could be more customizationover time. We have evolved our platform... really make we have something calledlightning, which is our nue Uyux Ramework. That is an actionable insidestorethen platform that we are able to really help folks to use component basebuilding, as opposed to code base right in SOM, more declarative, and so thejourney with these large customers has been. You know, I would say, at a veryhigh degree, you know really building with us. A lot of them have been inthis middle of face gotten stuck in this technical debt situation, wherewe've had to really work with them at hand in hand to really work out gettingout of that code base and really going more to this lightening framework, andthen it's also been Tass. We've seen a really big opportunity for us to justreally reengage reinvision and kind of spark the work that we do with them toreally think about something more transformation that theing forward, andso I would say, we've had these kind of Piak phases with our customers, as theevolution has gone on specifically to with our large tech, enerpricecustomers. I just I want to understand a little bit more about how you manageyou, like pricing and expansion discussions with your customers, like?Are you dicilitator for your sale team? If so like? How do you work togetherwith the sales team in order to have that conversation? Make sure it's valueoriented that kind of stuff yeah? So so our sales organization is reallyresponsible for the commercial component of the discussions, but weweren really hand in hand with them right. The Customer SuccessOrganization, one of our top priorities- is customer and our business grop rightand so we're really essential to that, and so our teams, you know, let's saythat I sales you know they have sales horse and what we're really focusing onis making sure that they are along that journey, getting the most value out ofthe product and we can actually show them quantitatively the impact thatwe're making to their business, and so when those commercial discussions orrenewal opportunities come up, we are already there. You know the customersare ready, aware of the value that they're obtaining from the platform andare oftentimes eager to expand with us. There have been times you know thispast year, where my team has worked with different components: Ind thecustomer maybe didn't have as much visibility and our cut in our successmanagement team was able to go in there. Work with them establish the baselinemeasure, the value and the customer actually proactively came to us andsaid Woll. We didn't realize the savings overall that we're getting fromworking with you. We want to invest more right, and so that's the way thatyou know our sales team didn't even have that at the forefront during theconversation, and that was a value ot that our teamas able to provide. So,yes, we work very closely with them yeah. I think a lot of customer successmotions, especially the enterprise, with like a lot like sales developmentto right, like you're, trying to define what an opportunity might look like andhow that customer seevs value yeah I mean, I think you know, of course, forCustomer Growth Focus, but we do you know we are true to our customer.Success Focus Right. Okay, so, at the end of the day, were purely you know,we are driven by doing what's thon wee to be best for the customer nd to makethem successful bute. The end result of that is that if we are helping makingtheir customer successful, they're going to want to grow with us right,they're going to Wanchom, invest more on our platform to see the value that'sbeen realized and so therefore they're interested to continue investing,whether it these services, whether it be our licenses to continue to make animpact on their business. So for you personally, what is your favorite partof the job? So I would say two things. You know the first thing is I reallylove working with people, I'm a people person. I love building relationshipswith my team and with my customers, and so that's really exciting. For me, youknow I had somebody from An. U Know, customer that I'd worked ith that Ihadn't spoken to in about a year reach out to me this week and it was justreally lovely to have an update and to contend o understand their growth, andso for me the relationships are really a paeramount. I also love coaching andbuilding the teams that I have, and so a lot of the folks in my team currentlycame up from more of our met commercial space and they've kind of gone intothis enterprise fase this year and that's an entirely different successmotion, and so I'm really passionate about making an impact and helping themto really. You know home their skills... be able to operate at the cxo leveland to really work more broadly at these large enterprises and make animpact, and so that's really exciting. For me, I think what I also reallyenjoy is you know in our in my role, I have an opportunity to contribute andtohelp to shape the future of the organization and our strategy. Ofcourse, we have teams that are, you know, really dedicated just on that,but we have a methodology or the framework that we call R B to momvisons value, ind method, and this is started by Mark Bedioff and cascadesacross the organization in terms of Whau. Our vision is for each year right.We set that an naeval basis, and so through that we were able to work withlike our strategy teams, where we can then say: okay, let's work on thefuture of the success manager. Let's work on the future of how we're goingto go to market in a specific space or how we're going to scale our businessor prioritize other accounts, and so I get to work very closely with thoseteams on projects through that dision's Malus and methods paradigm, and thatgives me the opportunity to kind of give back to the organization and toreally engauge and help what the feature strategy an our grot and so thereverse, to I' love to learn what you find challenging atbout working incustomer success. What are the things that you feel like you know, partnecessarily the glorified parts of the role yeah? I think you know we're veryclear that we are not customer support and we have dedicated fantastic folksthat are focused on that. I think, at the end of the day, you know we areoften telling you know we're the face of the customer, the postsale customer,and so sometimes we do get engaged on things. Ore, not necessarily goamorous,have to escalate andyu sort of read issue. It's good opportunity forvisibility in tern, with our teams to really go in and help a customer. Youknow through some challenging times. You know there are things that come upwith like legal requests right, and so these are just a little more. I wouldsay tactical that we would woul rather not spend our most time on, but youknow we have to do. It is part of the job at times I think we're gettingbetter and better at drawing lines to delineate where our role starts an end,though, to make sure that we're doing less in this in that overtime. So forthe technologists that are listening in I'd love to hear about something thatyou're doing manualley today that you love for technology to be able to dofor you. Let me give thoir perspective on something, so in terms of what Iwould love technology to do. I think something we've been experimenting withas a worry. That organization is the degree to which we leverage our ownSaran system to understand where we're adding BAA toour customer, and so I think that we have gone in a few different directionsand you're really cheasing out what makes sense for organization. So, forexample, you know we're a serum system right when we track activities andengagement with customers and that's the core of what we do. Of course, wedo so much more of it at the basis. That's where we started, and so we havegone. You know to a pretty one end of the spectorium over the last few years,brave an made sure that our cut our customer success and managers going andlog at a very detaile level, all of their engagement, specifying what thethe different focuses and to be able to generate some reporting out of that toprovide us sinsize, and what we've learned is that that is incrediblyvaluable for our scale business, where we have success. Managers that mighthave hundreds or over a thousand customers where you know, there's moreautomation, it's less of a high touch experience and we have some of theseactivities planned in advance in the system, and so that has been invaluableto understand the metrics that come out of that, but for a really largeenterprise customers in thes space that I'm focused on. We know, what's goingon right, like it's my job to understand for all of the accounts thatmy team supports. I know what's going on right, and so I don't need thesystem to tell that to me, and so you know I can understand that it amanagement level. We need to have some trending and analysis, but to have foakFenden a incredible amount of time to log everything sometimes isn't alwaysmaking the most sense. Now I've been really excited. We've been working withthe bender who has helped us to or in the rim early time of this, who hashelped us to do some more of this tracking, based on the time that we'respending an applications. And so we are...

...still required to Lov customer batings,which seems perfect, because we really want to make sure that we have thosexecutive sponsor. You know sessions loged things like that, but insteadit's really tracking, where we spending our time and where we adid value to ourcustomers, N, which customers were spending the most time on in a moreautomated fashion, and so we're not really stirring. The final result ofRut in the early stages of this and so overtime will have more visibility. ButI think we're probably going to end in a place and I'm hopeful that we're indin the place where we're leveraging our seram technology at the right level.That gives us really rich insights, but then has technology and automation.Doing the rest for us to give more of Ha high level lack review of whatactivities our highest value and which customers really spaying time on yeah tsort of this progression over time. Were you get to start by firstunderstanding what it is that you do right? And if you like? You- probably y?U Do that fairly well by doing all this logging and stuff, but then you want toget to the point where you can start to derive insight yourself from that, butthen also teach the system how to derive insights for you, so they can belike hey. This is predictive. I think you should go, have a conversation withthis customer, because it's been a couple days too long, since you had onright and then even beyond that taking you know this higher level, automationoutput, then feading it back into our system and using our own technologyaround we AELINSTEIN prediction, so it basically says hey if you move theselevers. This is the impact that you can have right, and so it gives us even a aricher level, withinside even beyond that so yeah we'R, looking forward tothem lm esults ye absolutely well. Thank you for spending time with metoday really appreciate it. I like to ask the closing question of all myguests on the show, which is what is the best piece of advice related tocustomer success that you've perceived from someone. I would say that the best advice I've received just keep.You know just keep it simple in that you should just focus on your customersuccess right, like put all the noise outside of that outside. If you justfocus on doing the right thing for the customer and having that be your NorthStar and your vision and keeping that at the forefront of everything that youdo and asking yourself, is this a high value activity? That's going to movethe needle for my customers success, then that should be reganding post andso for me, that's been really useful perspective to maintain yeah. I lovethe orientation around that simple question that you can ask yourself. Ioften do that with my teams as well. I say: Hey, you know what, if you'restruggling to figure out, what's a priority, here's the one question youask yourself right and so, regardless of which team they're on, I think itworks in a lot of different spaces, but for customer success, you're right it's.What is the best thing for the customer? Absolutely well! Thank you so much forjoining me today, again y'all that was Megan Peach, Nany she's, the reginalvice president of customer success at sales force, really appreciate yourthoughts and insight on the show today, Tim Mayor Crane. Thank you forlistening to this week's episode of customer success. Later you depend onthe fastest time to value for your customers. So why let Datea onboardingSOWL YOU DOWN! Stop emailing spreadsheets, creating CSB templates orsetting up ctq transfers, create collaborative secure work spaces withyour customers and their data saving you time, while providing a memorable,onboarding experience. Oh and there's no code required, you can go toflatpile, OT IO lashcs leader to learn more in get started for free. Thank you so much for joining us. Forthis episode, Customer Success Leader is brought to you by flat file ifyou're a fan of the show and want to help us share these conversations withothers. Leave us a rating on Appe podcast, just tap the number of stars.You think the show eserves! That's it for today catch you in the next one.

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