• Chief Revenue Officer

5 Ways to Put Customers Front and Center

Cornelius Willis headshot

Cornelius Willis
CMO, Clari

Club Revenue banner featuring Christine Gilroy, VP of Sales at Splunk

Sales leaders often like to emphasize the importance of a customer-centric approach. Understand the customer’s goals, and help them achieve those goals, and you’ll win them as a customer for life. 

But ingraining that philosophy into a sales organization, outside of customer success, is easier said than done.

For Christine Gilroy, the vice president of sales at the enterprise data and analytics platform Splunk, customer focus is non-negotiable. I spoke with Gilroy about how she operationalized her customer-centric approach on our latest episode of Clari’s Club Revenue, brought to you by Nasdaq. Watch the episode, and read on for more insight.

1. Don’t break the chain

The handoff from sales to customer success is a notorious pain point in the customer experience. To reduce friction, Gilroy, who oversees sales and customer success, removed that handoff altogether. The same sales reps work with existing customers and new logos.

This “allows us to expand our portfolio within these listing customers while we’re also looking to bring on new customers,” she says. 

Reps have separate targets for expansion revenue and new logos. Their compensation structure rewards them differently for each type of sale. But the important thing is that the sales relationship, and the trust that those relationships have built, remains intact.

“Once we land a customer, we have several different solutions they can sell, and we don’t want to break the relationship with the customer,” she says.  

2. Always keep the customer’s end game in mind

Gilroy organizes every motion of her team around the customer’s goals. 

“A lot of the coaching and a lot of the things that we do with the reps is [we always] ask them, ‘What does the customer want? What are they trying to achieve?’” she says. 

The outcome a customer wants to see needs to be more than just a field in the CMS—it should be a key driver for more detailed conversations with the customer, so reps can help buyers use Splunk to achieve their business goals through data. 

“What’s the story that they’re trying to see in the data that they’re reviewing from Splunk?” she says. “When you develop that mindset, that it's about the customer's outcome, all the selling motion starts to fall into place to put the customer in the center.”

3. Plant the flag to match sales targets with customer needs

Gilroy runs what she calls a plant the flag exercise with reps to connect the dots between customers’ goals and the full spectrum of Splunk’s offering.

Splunk’s teams review the customer lists for every rep, and examine what types of interactions they’re having with the customer across their product line. 

“That allows us to say, we project these kinds of revenues coming from these customers, but also these are the outcomes and the goals that the customers want to achieve,” she tells me. 

Output from the exercise is built into customers’ CMS for activation, and everyone has visibility into the customer’s goals and which Splunk products might help them get there.

4. Map the operations customer experience

Gilroy has a customer experience background, so one of her first moves at Splunk was to put together what she calls Operations CX.

That entailed examining the customer journey and optimizing it for consistency across various teams and roles at Splunk. 

“So instead of a random reaction to our customers, it’s a very thoughtful process,” she says. “Not only the buyer journey, but the journey after they buy, and how they interact with the organization so that we know—and our cross-functional partners know—what each other is doing on a very scheduled cadence.” 

The net result is a more systematized and orderly customer experience. 

5. Mirror the customer

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sales and customer success. Instead, Gilroy tailors her approach based on factors like location and company culture. 

“You have to hire people on your team that look like your customers,” she says, “even if it’s from the standpoint of where they’re located.”

For example, she tries to avoid having a Florida rep call prospects in New York or Texas.

“We’ll have events from a local [Texas] rep that will be a crawfish event,” she says. “And we’ll have speakers there that will talk to things that are relevant to the [Texas market]. But if I invited a New Yorker to a crawfish event, they might wonder what’s going on.” 

Same goes for attire. If they wear suits, you wear suits. If they wear hoodies, you wear hoodies. 

“It’s making sure that you understand the customer’s culture and behaviors,” she says. “Appreciating their culture versus trying to force our high-tech culture on them. Those are things that I think you can refine and do pretty easily, but they really stand out when you do them well.” 

Watch Club Revenue

Club Revenue is Clari’s new video series on Nasdaq, airing bi-weekly. 

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