Leadership Insights podcast | episode 1
How to avoid misleading
SaaS sales tactics
Leadership Insights podcast
In this episode of Leadership Insights, Nintex CEO Eric Johnson and CRO Ben Brewer discuss why it’s important for both sellers and buyers to see their relationship as a partnership – rather than a business transaction.
00:04 | Hi everyone, Welcome to Leadership Insights from Nintex. I’m Eric Johnson, CEO of Nintex.
00:10 | We are a leading a process management and automation provider with over 10,000 customers and 800+ team members around the globe.
00:20| Leadership Insights came about when we recognized the need for more thought-leadership expertise around automation investments. Before becoming the CEO at Nintex, I was previously serving as our CFO and regularly witnessed the headache that many leaders suffered after investing in automation software—or really any technology—that didn’t provide profitable returns that they were expecting for their business.
00:46 | I want to help change this pattern by offering insights for leadership professionals or anyone who is making large technology investments.
00:55 | In each episode, I’ll share experiences from my leadership career along with knowledge from my peers who are proven leaders in their space.
01:02 | Today, I’m excited to introduce Ben Brewer, our very own Chief Revenue Officer here at Nintex. Ben is a highly-respected leader who is propelling the Nintex sales team into record-breaking success each quarter.
01:17 | Today’s topic is about share how to identify misleading sales tactics – so you don’t waste your hard-earned time, money, and resources on the wrong technology.
01:30 | Before we get started, I’d love to give our guest Ben a proper introduction—so Ben—hello and welcome to today’s episode of Leadership Insights. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and what led you on the path you are now on?
01:49 | Absolutely, Eric. Good to be with you today. Excited about this conversation.
01:52 | So as you mentioned, I’m the chief Revenue Officer here at Nintex. Basically what that means it’s a fancy name for overseeing everything revenue. So whether that’s our renewals, obviously, our direct sales, our channel, our account management, etc.
02:08 | Then before coming here, I’ve spent the last 15 or so years as an operator through different SaaS companies. Doing the same type of thing, managing revenue, client success, account management renewals channel, and it’s been a lot of fun, so happy to share some of my experiences today.
02:36 | Thank you, Ben, I’m confident that your experience in software sales will be helpful to our listeners as you can shed some light on various sales strategies and tactics—both good and bad—so we can all avoid the headache of a bad purchase.
02:49 | For those listeners who also enjoy reading, I have a paper available on this topic called “6 Signs Your Automation Platform Provider is Misleading You”. You can find it on Nintex.com or from the link provided in our episode description.
02:51 | So, Ben, let’s get started. First question I wanted to ask you today. What do you think of the bold claim when sellers say something along the lines of “we’re the only automation platform you need” or “we’re the only technology you need”? What does that make you think?
03:06 | Yeah, you know. That is—well it makes you cringe a little bit I think, as a buyer, but also as a sales leader. But obviously, you know, it’s problematic for multiple reasons.
03:15 | As you know, and I think many of our listeners probably know as well. Companies are extremely unique, but especially the projects that they’re tackling in regard to automation. Those are unique. And so making a bold claim like that is obviously not getting off on the right foot in a partnership. You know, there are different ways to look at automation, Eric. And also, you got to start off with what are you trying to do? What sort of business outcome are you actually trying to drive? Look, if you’re just trying to get rid of paper, and maybe automate one or two things, then you may be working with a vendor that could possibly do that. But if you’re truly trying to drive a business outcome that’s going to better your business. A statement like “we’re the only technology you need” well that can be a troublesome start to that partnership.
03:55 | Great, Ben. That’s some really great perspective. I think that’s—unfortunately—a little all too common sometimes out there in the market.
04:05 | You know another interesting thing I know a lot of companies are thinking about right now is robotic process automation. For those who aren’t quite as familiar with it. This is technology that frees up human time by deploying bots to complete highly repeatable tasks within a process. So effectively it’s software code that eliminates manual work. Which—of course—can be a very good thing. Now this area has a lot of hype. We’ve seen a lot of good momentum – some of it well earned, but we’ve seen some bold claims and maybe over-positioning that we’ve certainly heard out in the market.
04:37 | One of the claims that I wanted to run by you Ben and see what you think of it when you or your team hears it is: “RPA is the only automation tool you need.” What do you think about that?
04:49 | You know, like you said Eric. RPA is one of those extremely popular things. It’s a word that comes up (or acronym that comes up) quite a bit. And it should, because it’s a powerful piece of any solution. But you know, honestly, what comes to mind when I hear this, “RPA is the only solution” stuff it reminds me of that old saying that, if you’re treating the symptom, and not the cause, you’re not actually going to solve the problem.
05:18 | So highly repeatable manual tasks are definitely a challenge. But it’s often not the root cause of the problem a company’s trying to solve – though it’s definitely a piece of it. Oftentimes, RPA is not the only solution. So again, it’s kind of back to: as embark on the buying journey, as someone who’s leading a project, you start with the true business outcome you’re trying to drive and you work backwards from there. So again, if you’re just looking at getting rid of some very manual, repeatable parts of a process, then RPA is definitely going to solve that. But oftentimes, you’re looking at, you know, rebuilding restructuring the way a process is going to work, then you’re going to need other parts of different solutions to solve the entire problem itself.
05:55 | That’s some powerful perspective there, Ben. Thanks for sharing that. I think our listeners will really appreciate that.
06:00 | Next question I’d like to ask you about it. So sometimes we hear about these automation projects, and we hear wow you know this provider has told me our solution will take months to implement. So long-term projects what are your thoughts around that? Do customers always need to in months before they have a solution in place? What’s your perspective on that?
06:20 | Timeline and price. Those are two very important questions that you should be vetting out immediately. Especially with timeline, right, because it is a challenge when you are working in process automation that no one has extra time. And partly the problem there that they don’t have extra time is because a lot of their processes and things they are trying to automate are not automated and broken. So, they want to know, hey, this, this all sounds great, but how long is this gonna actually take to implement and actually start to drive the outcomes we desire? So number one, the timeline and automation projects, you got to remember, they’re gonna vary greatly. And they usually correlate with the complexity of the project. You know, we see people automate solutions overnight – that really drive great business outcomes, especially we saw this a lot during the pandemic.
07:03 | But also, you want to remember that you got to be cautious of timelines that seem way, way too short. And on the other side, stuff that seems too long. I think timeline, Eric, you really got to look at this thing—when you join it with a vendor that you are looking to make purchases from—it’s a partnership.
07:20 | The biggest part of that partnership starts really with the implementation. And so as much as you want to ensure that you understand what their deliverable are, and what their team of people is going to be doing for you in the implementation. It’s also as a buyer, you got to make sure you clearly understand what’s expected of you. That’s going to be a big piece of the implementation timeline. It’s a mutual thing. The good vendors out there that are truly again, driving those good business outcomes. They look at as a partnership.
07:50 | So there’s going to be things as a buyer, that’s expected of you during the implementation, as well as obviously the vendor that’s implementing it. So, making sure you have a clear understanding of what’s expected of you. I think that’s when you really arrive at what is an honest, true understanding of how long it’s going to take. But obviously, complexity of projects is probably the number one indicator to start off with.
08:10 | Yeah so complexity of project, bring the right technology to the right need, and make sure you have a partner that’s really going to partner with you and be more than just a vendor. Some really great perspective Ben, really appreciate you sharing that.
08:20 | Now another one of these things—when you think about the technology lifecycles that we all live through. One of the hot topics these past couple years has really been about AI and the related concepts – machine learning can impact business outcomes. Sometimes I’ve heard some providers out there trying to suggest “AI can do everything” and “we’re the AI experts.” That seems like some really strong positioning. What’s your take on that?
08:80 | AI can do everything. I mean that that is, you know, I kind of smile when I hear AI. I think it’s an incredible piece of technology is doing some incredible things. But it definitely has become the new buzzword. You know what I mean? Like, four or five years ago, automation was the big buzzword. And some people would say that, for example, if I’m sitting with my dad, and he’s always asking me different technology questions, and he pictures, AI as like a machine that’s going to be serving him dinner at some point. And so I’ve always got to explain him actually what it means.
09:22 | But I think the statement AI can do everything. I think, obviously, it’s problematic, you know, I think number one, you’ve got to take a holistic view on everything when you’re looking at process automation, because everything is connected.
09:35 | So AI—extremely powerful—and it’s going to drive some great business outcomes for your company. But remember, you know, ai refers to the simulation of human intelligence, in machines that are programmed to think, like humans and mimic their actions. Now, remember that word mimic their actions. So just like anything else, you’re only going to get a good output based off what you put into it. So if you are taking a broken process, and using some AI functionality, right, it’s going to be mimicking a broken process. And it’s going to mimic the results of a broken process.
10:11 | So while AI, I completely agree, extremely powerful, and it has some great use cases, that are going to help you drive good business outcomes. You need to make sure you’re working with a vendor that truly has that holistic view and understands that everything’s connected. Kind of similar to what we talked about with RPA. It’s definitely a very powerful piece of a solution. But it’s definitely not the end-all-be-all, and its success is going to be highly dictated upon how you’re using it and what sort of things that it’s mimicking. And if you’re again, automating a broken process just to get rid of some paper or just to eliminate some manual tasks and not be looking at a driving a true business outcome, then I’m not sure AI is going to deliver the true outcome that you want.
10:54 | Spot on, Ben. Thank you for sharing that perspective. You know, one of the other things I thought would be good is if you could share some of your experience with our customers and our sellers, partners. I’d like to give you the open floor – is there anything else people should know while working with sales teams?
11:18 | Yeah, you know, there’s so much over the years that I’ve not only learned from teams I’ve worked with and built, but obviously just working with some great customers. And again like I mentioned earlier, having these partnerships. When you approach it that way you learn a ton from the companies you work with obviously as well.
11:35 | But I can kind of summarize into a couple of things. Maybe the law of threes let me break it down into kind of three things. So number one, can they articulate back to you the problem that you described to them? You know, Eric, you and I had this conversation before, and you gave us an example that I think a good one to use here. Is that seller that you are personally working with it? Are they the rabbit or the alligator? And what I mean by that is, does the person have the big ears and the small mouth? Are they really listening to what you are saying? Or the alligator? You know, no, no ears and a big mouth? I think that’s a good way to kind of look at it. Can they articulate back to you? The problem you’ve described?
12:10 | Number two. When you engage with them, are they actually teach me something? Are you learning something new – whether it’s about the business or the industry? Because remember, this is a partnership, the actual transaction of the purchase? That’s just one step. And what should be a long-standing partnership. So if you’re learning something new in your engagements, whether it’s a quick call, or whether it’s a full on, you know, meeting to uncover objectives and deliverables. Really take a step back, are you learning something? Because that’s going to be a very good indicator of the value of that partnership moving forward.
12:43 | And then, number three, kind of relates to that as well is, are they providing stories or examples that you can relate to? They’re not just reading from a PowerPoint or reading from a script. Have they actually lived this? Have they felt the challenges that you felt? Because that’s going to give you a good indicator of how committed they’re going to be to this if they’ve experienced it? If they have actually have specific examples and stories and you vetted those out? Again, it’s a really good indicator, you’re going to work with someone who’s going to be a partner. And in any good partnership, you’re going to learn from each other. And so you want to make sure that you’re learning from the vendor new things about your business, or maybe they’re helping you mitigate, avoid risk or see around the corner. These are things that you can kind of take a step back right now and then say, look, you know, in my engagements, are we learning new things? One of the first things they’re going to say, it’s funny, they often don’t talk first about the tech itself. They often talk about the relationship, whether it was learning something new, or being connected to someone in the network of customers they work with or the relationship with clients success, the tech is extremely important. But again, I think it’s just one piece of it. So but there’s so much like I said, I think those are the probably the top three I would say for people out there listening to really hone in on and focus on when you’re looking at that starting that partnership with a new vendor.
14:08 | Ben thank you so much for coming out today. What a powerhouse first edition. I’m honored that we could do this together and you’re a part of the Leadership Insights series.
14:20 | Most importantly, I want to thank everyone who is listening today. Wherever you may be in the world, we appreciate your use of time. I also want to welcome you to reach out to me directly. I have an email firstname.lastname@example.org – share your ideas, your stories, your inspirations regarding Leadership Insights or anything else we can help you with.
14:40 | At Nintex our mission is to transform the way work gets done with process automation and management. We do that by listening to our customers, our community, and by building what you need to do your best work.
16:52 | To learn more about this Leadership Insights podcast series, please visit Nintex.com/leadership-insights