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Chris Bishop Talks Customer Success and Revenue as a Lifecycle

5 min read
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Revenue is often thought to be the domain of the sales team. The truth is, revenue lifecycle management involves every part of an organization. Conga’s Chief Marketing Officer, Randy Littleson, recently talked with Chris Bishop, Chief Customer Officer at Conga, about the importance of revenue lifecycle management for customer service and customer experience teams. Following are some key takeaways from their discussion. 

Revenue operations breaks down organizational siloes 

Randy: There’s been a lot of talk about this new organizational function related to revenue operations. What does that mean to someone who leads customer service and customer experience? 

“At a high level, it means we now have a seat at the table,” Chris responds. “If you look at the precursor to revenue operations—which was sales operations—it’s all about what happens during the sales cycle. I call that ‘first order revenue.’ Teams that are concerned with second order revenue, like renewal and expansion opportunities, had their own set of operational processes.” 

The problem with sales operations is that it tends to result in siloed organizations. Sales processes are designed to close the initial deal, so they’re focused on things like territory planning, compensation, and the deal desk. Meanwhile the teams and processes related to user adoption, customer experience, and renewals are entirely separate.  

Chris continues, “Revenue operations brings everyone together under one umbrella and creates a holistic revenue lifecycle. It starts with first order revenue, but it also helps to deliver a customer experience that generates second and third order revenue. There’s an extra set of obligations, but it also creates opportunities for other parts of the organization to participate. Everyone from sales and marketing to legal and finance is part of the wheel that drives growth for the company.” 

Benefits of a revenue lifecycle approach 

Randy: In the past, we thought in terms of a linear ‘quote-to-cash’ process, with a clear start and end point. How does an organization benefit from thinking of revenue as a lifecycle instead? 

Chris answers, “As the Chief Customer Officer, I’m deeply interested in the customer journey. Historically, we’ve thought of that as a linear journey, too—when in fact, it’s a complete lifecycle that we move through with our customers. A revenue operations mindset drives us to think holistically about the entire spectrum of activities that happen throughout the customer journey.” 

Conga has applied the Jim Collins “flywheel” concept to revenue lifecycle management. When we define customer success, we include both the customer experience and the outcome that we deliver to customers—and those are the places where we want to apply force. That force begins to spin the flywheel and create momentum, which drives the growth of the company. 

“The flywheel metaphor has really broadened our thinking, which is a key part of approaching revenue operations as a lifecycle,” he adds. “As leaders looking to drive growth in our companies, we should always seek out ways to marry together different parts of the business—like revenue and the customer journey.” 

Earn your customers’ business every day 

Randy: As you think about managing revenue as a lifecycle, what can companies do to maximize customer lifetime value? 

Chris replies, “If you’re not paying attention to customer lifetime value, you’ll eventually wish you had. As soon as you make a sale, you should start thinking about retaining that business. There will always be competitors willing to take extreme measures to take away your customers, and switching costs get lower every year. If you want a customer for life, it’s incumbent on you to earn their business every day.” 

He explains that sustaining the revenue lifecycle beyond the initial sale requires a deep understanding of each customer’s relationship with your products and services—all of which can be unlocked through a unified data platform. This includes things like: 

  • What products or services are they using? 
  • How often are they using them?  
  • How deeply are they embedded?  
  • Which features are they using? 
  • What benefits are they getting? 

“In order to stay connected to your customer and retain their business, you need to understand the experience and outcomes you’re driving for them,” Chris concludes. “The minute you lose sight of that, someone else is coming to replace you.” 

5 elements of digital transformation success 

Randy: Most of the companies we work with are tying the revenue lifecycle movement to a broader digital transformation initiative. From your conversations with customers, what have you learned that can help those efforts succeed? 

“I’ve been working with digital transformation projects for years,” Chris says. “And their success always comes down to the same set of key principles.” 

Chris goes on to describe the five critical elements of successful digital transformation: 

  • Clear guidelines and objectives. Every team needs a “North Star” to keep them on track throughout the transformation process—otherwise it’s just another software implementation project. 
  • Commitment to change. You need to have the courage to go all-in on digital transformation. Too many transformation projects fail because organizations can’t get past the way they’ve always done things.  
  • Executive sponsorship. A half-hearted endorsement is not enough. Without the committed support of top-level executives, digital transformation efforts will not succeed. 
  • A dedicated team. Digital transformation is not a part-time project or something you can hand off to summer interns. It requires a dedicated, empowered team that’s focused on the project’s success. 
  • Ongoing evangelism. Every digital transformation encounters disruption and objections. Throughout the project and beyond, you’ll need to remind the organization of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and the benefits of the initiative.   

Success starts with quick wins 

Randy: You’ve laid out the key areas of focus, but how can companies actually get started? 

Chris responds, “The revenue lifecycle approach can be daunting. It encompasses everything from proposals and quoting through negotiation, execution, and fulfillment, and finally renewal and expansion. Within each of those stages are dozens of possible starting points.” 

He explains that it’s dangerous to try and accomplish too much, too soon. Instead, identify your organization’s biggest pain points because that’s where you’ll derive the most benefit. Start with small, discrete projects where you can get a quick win, and build from there. 

“It’s important for both companies and solution providers to think about incremental steps that will get users onboard,” Chris says. “Quick wins are crucial to overcoming the inevitable disruptions you’ll encounter, and you just iterate from there. That’s my best advice for getting started.” 

To learn more and get first-hand insights, watch the full video with Conga leaders Chris Bishop and Randy Littleson.      

This blog post is an abbreviated version of the video that's been condensed and edited for readability. 

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