Managing Through Change

10 Software Experts Weigh in on Managing Through Change

If you tuned into the first season of OpenView’s BUILD podcast (hosted by yours truly), you know we focused on what happens in the first 100 days after implementing or undergoing a huge change. From starting as a brand new CEO to changing up product pricing to introducing a new product, we’ve heard stories this season from some of the leading operators in SaaS. (If you haven’t been following along, you can catch up here. Once you’re all caught up, make sure to ).

So, whether you’re brand new to BUILD or just want a refresher on all the great lessons we learned in season 1, look no further – a recap of the best pieces of advice here:

Building a New Team

“Nothing else matters if you haven’t hired the right people. It’s one of the biggest challenges that we all face.”

Liz Cain, Partner, OpenView

When Liz Cain, Partner at OpenView, was tasked with building out the NetSuite BDR team, she looked to hire dozens of sales reps that could sell SaaS-based ERP solutions. The fact of the matter was (and still is) there just weren’t a ton of salespeople skilled in this area. So instead of looking for experienced (aka costly) sales reps, Cain targeted recent college grads. In three years, she built the NetSuite BDR team from 0 to 170.

You can learn more from Liz’s whirlwind hiring experience in episode 1 of BUILD here.

Expanding Your Global Footprint

“Be really thoughtful about the location you choose when expanding internationally. And select the right people from your existing major hub and get them to that site for 6 or 12 months or even permanently.”

Jeff Diana, Former Chief People Officer, Atlassian

In other words, get your ‘landing party’ in order.

When Jeff Diana was tasked with expanding Atlassian’s global footprint, he made sure to do the due diligence when choosing a next office location. According to Jeff, it’s not just about finding the right person and building the office around that one person. The location you pick must seamlessly fit into the existing culture of your company.

Looking to expand your footprint? Listen to BUILD episode 2 here.

Narrowing Your Focus

“You have to not just own, but be able to defend your hill. We couldn’t in our position so we made the decision to pivot. In order to do so, we had to be comfortable letting some of our revenue go.”

Omar Hussain, Former President & CEO, Imprivata

But in the end it was worth it. When Omar Hussain, former President and CEO of Imprivata, decided to pivot the company away from their core market to focus on a more lucrative segment – healthcare, there was some trepidation. But in the end, the company found its niche and soared to reach over $100 million in revenue. Learn more in the full episode here.

Winning Hearts & Minds Through Storytelling

“When I first began working in tech, I thought of the product as the main thing you’re building and story as the wrapping paper that you put around it to make it look pretty and help sell it. Now, I’ve come to believe that the story is the main thing you’re building, and the product is prop for making that story come true.”

Andy Raskin, Strategic Messaging & Positioning Expert

For Andy, the story acts as your north star around which to align your entire business, including your product roadmap, features list, sales pitch, and – yes – your marketing. Because story drives all these things, it can’t be developed in a marketing silo. Marketing has a large and important role, but the CEO needs to own the big story decisions.

Story is not just the window dressing on your big idea. It is your big idea. It’s the starting point and the end game all wrapped up in one. Listen to the full episode to learn how to craft your own story here.

Ditching Lead Forms

“Gating content and then using targeting ads – a standard B2B marketing approach – is like ignoring the consumer while he’s in the store and then calling him five times a day and saying, “I saw you in the store today. How did you like that thing?”

Dave Gerhardt, VP Marketing, Drift

By now it’s a well known story – viral marketing powerhouse, Drift, ditched gated content and lead forms on their site to give visitors a better experience. While the team was a bit wary at first, Drift saw its brand and content ‘blow up’ in the words of VP Marketing, Dave Gerhardt.

Learn how the company did away with forms while ramping up its business here.

Iterating on Price to Maximize Value

“We solicited feedback from our peers, our customers, and from all our employees. We even posted the new proposed pricing on our internal wiki where we had a rousing debate leading up to final decisions.”

Brad Coffey, Chief Strategy Officer, Hubspot

For Brad Coffey, CSO at HubSpot, updating core product pricing meant getting feedback from as many avenues as possible. But ultimately, going to the customer was the most important. Figuring out which price accurately reflected the value customers saw in the product determined whether or not new pricing would fly or flop. Luckily, Coffey and team nailed the pricing change.

Thinking about updating your product pricing? Listen to this episode first.

Launching a New Product

“I’ve always believed that if you organize product development based on how customers purchase from you and how they think about solving their problems in their company, everything just becomes easier from there on.”

Astha Malik, VP of Platform and Product Marketing, Zendesk

The customer in this case was Zendesk’s core target – the support buyer. Such buyers were open to the new technology, but weren’t sure how much they’d need or use it. That insight, uncovered in discussions with buyers, prompted Zendesk to go off script and offer a usage-based model for Answer Bot. (Zendesk typically charges on a monthly per-agent basis.)

You can learn more about how Zendesk successfully launched a new product here.

Setting the Tone as a New CEO

“It was important that I not get trapped at headquarters in the first 100 days, but make sure that I had been in customer offices.”

Alex Shootman, CEO, Workfront

When Alex Shootman was hired as an outsider CEO to succeed interim leader Susan Carstensen, he put the customer at the center of everything he did. From changing conference room names to that of customers to ensuring he spent time in his earliest days with the company doing on site visits, Shootman encouraged everyone to focus on the customer first. In doing so he successfully transitioned from an outsider to Workfront’s culture carrier.

Learn more about stepping into the role as a brand new CEO here.

Leading Your Company Through Acquisition (right before an IPO)

“The message we continued to drive internally was that an IPO is an event. We go and ring the bell and the next day, you’re back after it. I would submit that the six months after the IPO is far more important than even the 100 days leading up to it.”

Joe Sexton, Former President WW Field Operations, AppDynamics

However, for Joe Sexton and the AppDynamics team, they never actually got to the IPO. Just as the company was set to go public, Cisco swooped in to buy the business for a record-breaking $3.7 billion. Sexton was then tasked with helping his team pivot from gearing up to be a public company to seamlessly joining the ranks of Cisco. Learn how he did it in the podcast here.

Implementing Account Based Marketing

“To sum up Account Based Marketing in four words: Reach. Scale. Relevance. Engagement.”

Jon Russo, Founder & CMO, B2B Fusion

For Jon Russo, Account Based Marketing expert, the emergence of more than 5,000 mar tech companies over the past 6 or 7 years has led to a resurgence of ABM – a technique first developed and introduced three decades ago. Companies that transition to ABM find themselves growing faster than they ever thought possible with just a few simple changes.

Learn how to implement ABM in your business and listen to the full episode here.

Now that you’re all caught up with season 1, tune into BUILD season 2 here.

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