In this bonus episode, Doug C. Brown speaks with Noel Goggin, the CEO and Culture Leader of Conga. Doug and Noel discuss how to keep your business growing while maintaining simplicity. They discuss how to keep revenue recurrently coming into your business, aligning your messages with your outcomes, simplifying your business through intelligence and automation, and much more.
Noel Goggin is the Chief Executive Officer and Culture Leader of Conga, the global leader in scalable Revenue Lifecycle Management (RLM) solutions, where he is responsible for directing the company’s growth at scale and furthering its leading position in the digital transformation of business processes. He is a highly accomplished tech executive with nearly 30 years of leadership and management experience within the software industry that includes CEO, EVP, and SVP positions.
Visit his website: www.conga.com
In this episode, I have a super-intelligent guest. His name is Mr. Noel Goggin. He’s The CEO of Conga, a technology company. They focus on revenue management through the life cycle management of your clients. We’re going to talk about different things on how to increase your sales and profitability through using and streamlining intelligence and automation.
We’re going to talk about revenue leakage that people are having in the company, how to improve your profitability, how your quarterback and your whole sales process is your salesperson, and how you can support that person. By giving them the intelligence and the details so that they can maneuver and do things quickly, thus increasing sales, profitability, and making it easier on your particular buyer and your ongoing buyers within your company. Without further ado, Mr. Noel Goggin.
Noel, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for being here.
Thank you, Doug. Great to meet you and great to be with you and your audience.
You and I were talking about Denver and the snowy Denver plains, so please do not send it East to New Hampshire where I am. I would appreciate that. You’re the Chief Executive Officer of a company called Conga. You are a global leader in scalable revenue lifecycle management. For those of you who don’t know what that means, we’re going to get into that. Noel and I, when we’re talking about how salespeople are the quarterback of a company. Now, for those of you who don’t know what a quarterback is, that is the guy who gets the ball in football and then throws the ball. He hands it up to someone else and runs the field and the team. Let’s talk about why are salespeople the quarterback when it comes down to it.
If you take a step back for a second and you look at the construct of revenue lifecycle management, at the end of the day, revenue defuels for every organization. Without revenue, payroll is not met. Core to revenue management, there are two dimensions in reality. The first dimension is the ability to acquire new customers and get new customers. That’s always expensive. It’s hard because there’s a high cost of sales to that. There’s also the ability to sell existing customers new products and expand the usage of existing products.
Typically, it is an easier lower cost of sales, but it’s still hard. There’s lots of work to go do with it. The third one is the ability to renew existing businesses that customers have and sustain an existing business. You can start to increase over time the lifetime value of customers. If you look at salespersons or salespeople, they’re on the front lines. They’re the people in front of the customers and who see the field of play.
They’re able to read what’s going on, but they have to make decisions at the moment. The sooner they can be equipped with the details, the signals, the information, the tools, and the processes, the more effective they can be, then the quicker they can run their place. They can play more succinctly, outfox the competition, be more creative in product bundles, and bring the full breadth and depth of product offerings to bear that allows them to compete against their competition. It’s a complex job, and some of the highest-valued people in most organizations are their salespeople.
They’re a combination of strong relationship-building skills, trust, and credibility, but then also they’re able to negotiate and balance this commercial acumen with what the customer needs and what they can supply competently to that customer. As much as we’d like everything to be 100% team-oriented, a lot of it comes back to who it is, who’s going to call the plays, run the plays, and be able to win the game effectively.
I love what you said the more details they have in real-time and the more effective they are in the process of understanding what those details are, they can make decisions at the moment. We all know in most sales, not all sales, they’re made quickly once these details are laid out. The competitors, if they don’t have the details and we have the details, the trust level goes up within that situation, and people generally will buy more on rapport than they will buy on need.
That’s what I have found over the lifetime of doing this as well. You said three great things, which is acquiring new customers is expensive. The second thing was selling to an existing client, and the third thing was renewing the business again and again. Now, I have found that most people focus on the first. They’re like, “How do I get new clients?” They neglect to sell to the existing base or get them to buy more frequently. Do you agree with that? If so, why do you think that happens?
If you didn’t have the history of any organization to get started, they have the 1st or 2nd product. They get good at selling a point solution. They’ve been able to sell one product into a market, but it’s a very different motion. I’ve been able to sell one product to become an expert in the one product versus being able to sell more platforms or a solution set that goes across multiple products. Whether it is in technology, drugs, or any product, that ends up being the natural evolution of companies happens.
What happens is oftentimes you have salespeople who become strong domain experts. If I take eSignature as an example, people can get very deep in understanding every use case you can do for eSignature. To be able to sell a revenue lifecycle management end-to-end process is a very different process and sales motion. It’s a lot more personas and complex to do that. Now the business impact of that is much broader and of higher value, both to the customer and also to the provider. The notion of transitioning from being a point solution to a company to being in the point product being a solution to a company is a tricky transition for people to make.
What’s important is understanding the full product set that’s available like the enablement of salespeople around to sell all of the pieces, the configuration of the bundles that are relevant to the segments, and the geographic regions that they may serve even through the distribution channels that they may serve. Packaging that in a way that the packaging, the pricing, the rebates, and the incentive structures are set up in a way that people will pull more products into their customer base. It’s not a trivial thing to do.
I want to dig into this because everything you said is scientific, methodical, and laid out. It’s more objective management than subjective management. What I find in companies is they bring salespeople in and they’re subjectively going, “Nice people. They can talk to people and do the job. No problem. Let them figure it out.” I find that a huge mistake and a lot of bleeds happen in there. It’s hard to streamline revenue in that process or to make the sale more profitable in that type of process because there isn’t a process. Is that what your company handles throughout the increasing revenue and profitability?
It’s for sure been able to help people win more deals. How do you win more deals? You have proposals that are more fit-for-purpose and on point. There’s data science behind what’s the packaging and pricing, depending on the competitor that you’re competing with or the region you’re working in. Maybe even depending on a partner distributor you’re working through to make sure you’re pricing an opportunity in a deal that’s going to give you the highest probability of executing that deal under the science and logic behind that.
Making sure that when you sell that deal, the music matches the end. What you sold is what was contracted and what was invoiced to the customer, so you’re able to deliver on the commitments you made to the customer. Nowadays, with multiple revenue types, it could be a one-time fee for a piece of hardware, a recurring service to break and fix the hardware, or a software recurring service or usage-based model. It’s on top of that as well.
There’s a lot of complexity that comes with all these different revenue types that all have to be managed in a very customer-oriented way so that the customer is not confused. They’re not going through challenges, reconciliations, and rebates within the business. That’s quite complex too. I would say there’s probably another element to this as well. As companies introduce new pricing models, the whole movement in the industry is to move to a recurring revenue model. The SaaS industry clearly has shown that there’s tremendous shareholder value creation in those recurring business models because there’s so much more predictability to the business.
All other industries are following suit. Whatever that revenue model is, hospitality and transportation, they’re all trying to get to what is a recurring revenue model. Instead of buying the hardware, you’re renting the hardware, as an example. Those new revenue models also have to be introduced thoughtfully.
There’s a translation and education that has to go among customers. The same in the field. Systems have to be updated so they can sell contracts, invoice and fulfill those different types of models. There’s a lot of complexity to what the ever-changing nature of multiple products, revenue types, and pricing models.
The music matches the dance. I am going to use that from this point forward with your permission. I see so many companies where the customer thinks they’re buying the cha-cha and they’re delivering the polka. There’s significant leakage in the sales process through that. What I’m hearing you say loud and clear is how we reduce revenue leakage by bringing processes and increasing profitability by streamlining those processes through the company. Maybe this is an unfair question to ask of you, but I think you’re the guy who can answer this. Why don’t companies do this anyways? It’s logical. What’s the impedance?
There’s a lot of complexity when you look at the end-to-end process of revenue lifecycle management. If you’re a multi-product company and a multi-revenue type company like hardware and software services as an example, many companies have grown up over time. They have multiple ERPs and multiple billing systems in the backend. Am I have a billing system for recurring revenue, services, and one-time products? They’re multiple ERPs, different ERPs have come regionally through acquisitions, or come by product lines they’ve acquired. Typically, you have a multi-backend infrastructure that has to come together.
When you look at the ability to sell a product, contractor to product, deliver a product, service a product, and renew a product for a customer, there are multiple personas within an enterprise that are required through that. There’s obviously all the sales team, the legal team, the supply chain, the finance team, the customer service, and the support team. It’s a huge orchestration of all these end-to-end processes. They are very fragmented, bespoke, by product, limited by the backend systems, and based on regions. Every variance creates more manual work, a lack of streamlining, and consistency.
That has the ability to create a real contractual risk in your business. The contractual risk could be associated with compliance, data compliance, cyber compliance, data residency, and regulatory compliance. Lots of companies have a lot of regulatory things you have to deal with, whether it’s health, life sciences, and financial services. All that risk is unknown in many ways because they’re all in different pieces. There’s no holistic singular view of the entire commercial and fulfillment relationship with customers.
You said something that variances create additional human labor and work, which then will, in most cases, decrease profitability and reduce the ability to sell more. Is that a fair statement?
One hundred percent. Complexity is always the enemy of repeatability and scale because the more salespeople you have, the more scale you have in your business. Repeatability and consistency are important. Every time you introduce complexity, you introduce new processes, new bespoke things, and new exceptions. That could have downstream implications for revenue recognition, forecasting, utilization and consumption. It becomes an ongoing search for a single source of truth, which typically is not available.
I was having this conversation with my wife and you said this perfectly. Its complexity is the enemy of repeatability. If we don’t have repeatability, we can’t have recurring. I was having this conversation and I was joking with her a bit. I’m like, “Remember, complexity is the enemy of repeatability.” All of you men reading, do not say that to your wife. I can tell you that is not a good idea. If we are creating complexity, what we’re doing is we’re creating impedances in the process and we’re mucking up the whole thing. I agree with you 100%. Why do we, as human beings, want to create something complex versus making it simple and getting the job done?
At some level, it becomes down to ego. Human beings are smart people. Sometimes people get lost in their own ability to narrate, pontificate and have big storytelling that goes behind it. The problem is it’s hard to get repeatability on that because you can have the genius with 1,000 helpers, but everything has to come back to the single person. Things have to be broken down where it’s not only the product being sold, but the experience that’s been sold has been delivered.
That’s where the recurring natures of customers and repeatability customers add on customers because that’s where trust grows. Trust grows from people doing what to say they’re going to do. My father has got a great phrase, which I use liberally at work. It’s, “When all is said and done, they’re going to be more said than done.” When people say they’re going to do things, is that what they deliver? Customers are making decisions and they’re making their business criteria on it. If they’ve been let down by their suppliers, they’re in trouble and in defensive mode all the time as well. To me, the natural human condition is going to look for complexity.
It’s inherent in the thinking. If you can take complex things and simplify how you package, sell and service them, that’s where there’s some real magic. It’s by hiding the backend complexity from the customers. The customer’s experience is the connected experience. It’s high on retainability, CSAT, NPS, and whatever metrics you measure in your business. That ability to create loyalty over the course of time is what’s going to allow you to earn your right to maximize customer lifetime value. That’s important. Some companies are world-class at doing that. Apple is world-class at doing that for example. Companies are not and they come and go, but they do not have predictable in their business models.
Disney comes to mind. When I lived in Florida, people in Florida are Disney brand loyal more than anybody I’ve ever met. I know people who have spent three weeks at Disney, and they go tell all their friends, “I’ve been at Disney.” When Disney comes to mind, we don’t care what goes behind Magic Mountain when we get on the ride. We just want to experience the ride. There are engineers, software, legal, human resources, and electricity. We don’t care. As human beings, we want to have that fun ride. I have a good friend, his name is Andy Miller, and he said to me one day, “Doug, keep things simple and get rid of distractions. You’ll be much happier and your clients will be too.”
My good friend Frank Blake, the former CEO of Home Depot, talks about, “Stop chasing the shiny objects.” People get enamored with the great new areas. AI is a great topic for people. There’s so much shiny object syndrome around AI, that people are trying to land on Mars when in reality, they’re trying to get their kids to practice. It’s getting things to be pragmatic, repeatable, relevant, simple, and value-additive.
Can we say that sometimes making real money is boring?
It’s repeatability. For smart people, repeatability oftentimes becomes too mundane. We’re talking about the quarterback in sales. There are certain elements of sales processes themselves that can be automated. There are certain repeatable tasks that you can enable self-service around. You can look at people that can configure their own products, do add-ons to certain products, and do extensions to certain products, but equipping the customers to be able to do that themselves quicker leaves up the process for the customer.
They don’t have to necessarily go through a salesperson all the time. They understand the dependencies and are only going to order products that are compatible with the products that they have. All those rules and they get the benefit of their pricing and their discounting tiers and everything else. That’s good for a salesperson because what it does is it gives them more capacity back for them to tell where are we going next with this customer or a different set of customers. This whole notion to be able to reduce the cost of sales is important for companies, particularly in the current climate. It also frees up the salespeople, particularly the smart people that can do the more transformational big expansion deals.
I agree with you 100%. I do want to throw this in because I love talking to you because every time I talk to you, it’s like, “I learned this.” Where does it become a point that we have to be concerned about it becoming almost anti-human? I’ll give you an example. I went into Whole Foods, my wife wanted to return a package that was bought on Amazon. Before, you used to walk up to the counter and say, “I’d like to return this,” and then they’d help you with the return. Now it’s like, “Go see the kiosk.”
You go over to the kiosk, and quite frankly, I don’t know who laid this out for Amazon, but it’s not all that intuitive. Now there’s a frustration level there. The frustration level is with Whole Foods and with Amazon. It’s creating some discourse and dropping trust from my perspective. If that’s the case, how do we prevent that from happening in our desire to automate and make things more profitable and easier for the client, but not make it more difficult?
That’s not an easy thing to do because it has to start with what’s the brand experience I want to create. What’s the emotional experience I want to create? What’s the customer journey I want to have with our customers? That customer journey has to be mapped right across the entirety of the lifecycle from “you are interested in my brand” to “have you looked at products?” It evaluates and purchases products, but then right through the entire fulfillment, delivery, renewal, add-ons, and even offboarding at the end.
You may exit at the end. All of those touchpoints, whether it’s support, services or experienced managers. Whatever that brand experience has to be thought through the customer journey. The actual emotional journey of what people are trying to do has to be thought through. It then has to back to, how I deliver that experience?
I can do things that are going to be very easy to use and the data are going to be available. I can see my history as I add in new stuff. I don’t have to make fifteen phone calls to go do it. The ability to streamline transparency is your friend, and that usability is a massive part of it that is not dehumanized, but it’s allowing them to do more themselves and still have the human factors in the experience that the people are trying to deliver for the customers.
If you look at retail, it is a great example. We went through the whole omnichannel transformation of retail which was largely store based. You went to the store, touched the product, felt the product, and bought the product and you went back and returned to the store if you didn’t like it. If you look at omnichannel where it brought in digital and physical and tried to harmonize the experience and bring products to life was very different. Some people did well at that. Nike was exceptional. Other companies were terrible and they’re out of business.
If I look at people like Gymboree, Pier1 Imports, or Payless shoes, people and kids need a furniture in their apartments. People need affordable shoes and babies being born needs clothing. They were not able to build that omnichannel experience for their customers that married digital and physical together. As we go through the revenue lifecycle around B2B transformation, building that brand experience, making sure you identify it, but then understanding how you bring that to life through software, technology, processes, people, and partners, that’s hard work. If you’re not clear about what you’re trying to do and you don’t know what the goalposts are, it’s going to be impossible.
Everything we’re speaking about translates not only from enterprises but down to medium and small businesses. When medium and small businesses are willing to automate the intelligence, look at revenue leakage, and make their sales team, even if it’s a team of 3 or 5, the quarterback of the company and to drive what you’re talking about magically revenue and profitability go up. You brought something up in the beginning that I wanted to circle back because you said the more details, the more they have the intelligence and things of that nature.
The easier that they can be Tom Brady versus some other quarterback that’s not doing as well as Tom Brady did over the years. You said something to me earlier in one of our conversations, which was, “Taking a lion’s share of the revenue and putting it back into existing customers to grow the existing base.” I see companies not doing this across the board. I think it’s a mistake that I wanted to bring it up with you. Why is it important or invaluable to be putting money back into the existing customers that grow that customer base?
If you look at the thesis, a company starts and grows against a certain scale. It’s been innovating its products, but then they come to a stage where they start acquiring products so they go through an M&A. People will bring in products that are adjacent and complementary to the products they already have. You hear this land and expand sales motion. This is the big thesis that everybody rationalizes their M&A around.
There are two dimensions. One, we’re going to have land and expand. We’re going to take all these synergies up because we leverage our sales force and carbonize back-office systems. It’s great in theory. Now the problem with land and expand is if you’re not able to consolidate all your products into the bottom product catalog or you’re not able to harmonize all your pricing, rebates, incentive structures, and promotion structures, they’re simple and easy to consume in the eyes of the customer.
You go through this trough of disillusionment because you get the salespeople all excited. They then try and come in and sell these new products, but they’re in multiple systems and multiple things with different contracts to govern them, pricing structures and incentive structures.
Customers get frustrated and they’re not able to understand how they bring them to market. That’s a very classical thing. If you’ve got all this excitement at the start and people get frustrated, they tend to seldom realize the benefit of the thesis of the expansion motion. Core to that, for me, is contracts.
Most people do not know what’s in their contracts. They don’t know either how to maximize or monetize the commercial aspects of the agreements. They don’t understand how to harmonize, which is the better incentive structure to bring with a customer. How to bring that, design those and evolve those contracts to something that’s more customer friendly, but also balances their ability to maximize revenue. One of the biggest things for people and contracts is price inflation. If you’ve got, let’s say, 500,000 contracts, how do you understand what’s in those contracts when it comes to price increases? Who bears the burden of inflation? You or your customer? I can guarantee you go back across the contracts.
It’s going to be different in a lion’s share of those contracts, the wording, what can be done legally, and what he can do business-wise. The harmonization of all of that is the understanding and building that into a commercial strategy that allows you to do things that are logical but also allows you to preserve the customer experience is important.
It goes back to simplicity and minimizing the variances. If somebody wants to learn more about you, the company, customer revenue management, customer life cycle management, and even how to configure proposals, quotes and streamline all that technology, how do they find you? What would you recommend for them?
People are very welcome to come to visit Conga.com. We’ve got 12,000 customers. We’ve got the biggest of the big customers in the world. We’ve 9 of the top 10 house life science companies in the world. It became a big large multi-billion-dollar enterprise to small growth-oriented companies that are growing crazy.
Across those 12,000 customers right across both the US and APAC, we’ve got 5 million users. Customers are expanding the use of the products by about 55% over the past year. Conga can give people examples and use cases of different customers that have done across the entirety of the lifecycle itself.
Noel, I appreciate you being here on the show and bringing your A-game. I will comment on that and reinforce what Noel is saying. If we, as business owners, do not look at client lifecycle management and experience, we’re leaving a lot of money on the table and working way harder than we need to. Thanks again for being here.
How many notes do you have? I have a ton of notes. The pages will turn here as we go along. Keep things simple and reduce distractions in the company. Remember that “Complexity is the enemy. If you keep complexity in there, it is the enemy of making things recurring.” The more recurring revenue you can put in there, and the more you can automate these things without taking out the human touch, the more money you’re going to make. Sometimes, making lots of money is about doing a repetitive process and it gets boring. We, as human beings, and as Noel said, “Ego gets involved” and we try to innovate on things.
Innovation’s not a bad thing. It’s a great thing. Innovation to distraction is a bad thing, and I see that happening a lot in companies. Don’t forget to make your quarterback salesperson in the company. Equip that quarterback with what they need to drive the ball downfield and win the game for you.
They’re winning. Your clients winning. You are winning throughout that whole process. Don’t forget to put the lion’s share of revenue back into existing customers to grow and leverage. Remember what Noel said. Acquiring customer is number one. Working on selling an existing client is not so hard to do and your profitability is much higher because your initial marketing and sales expenses have already sunk into the initial sale.
Obviously, getting them to buy more frequently, getting that recurring process going, and allowing them to have more self-service in the process is also a wonderful benefit for you and your company. If you love this content, give it a five-star review. I would appreciate that. If you have content yourself or you know someone who’s an expert on something and you go, “I’ve been tuning in to this show. The audience would love this topic,” reach out to us at YouMatter@CEOSalesStrategies.com. Let us know. We review all the requests and we will look at those and let you know whether it fits or not. If it does, we’ll have you on the show and your referral on the show.
If you, yourself, or you know someone who’s looking to be in the top 1% of earners through selling, please reach out to me directly at Doug@CEOSalesStrategies.com. I am also @DougBrown123 on LinkedIn. We are running out a university that we have tested already twice on how to create yourself, someone you know, or someone who wants to be a top 1% earner in selling in your industry. We’ve got it down to a science. If you’re interested in that, let us know. We are starting a waiting list for that process, and we will go from there. If you’re a company looking to seek 1% producers, those who can hit the 1% earners rate and make you a lot of money as well as make themselves a lot of money, let us know that as well.
Reach out to me again at Doug@CEOSalesStrategies.com. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being a loyal reader. Go out and sell something today. Sell a lot of it. Play win-win. They win, you win, and everybody wins. That’s how you generate more referrals and more repeat business by playing win-win, giving your client that customer, the trust and loyalty so that they can rely upon that which creates brand loyalty to you, and in return, expansion of your sale. Until next time, to your success.
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