Interview with Haresh Gangwani, CEO and Co-Founder, Bolstra
Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to start a B2B SaaS Customer Success company?
When I was the Chief Revenue Officer at a SaaS company, we were excelling at acquiring new business, but we weren’t garnering the renewals we wanted. You might say, we had a leaky bucket. We could point our fingers at a slow (poor) implementation process, but I knew this wasn’t a software problem. It really was about not being able to provide a continuous value to our customers. When I looked for a solution to help us, I really didn’t see anyone out there tackling the work management “blocking and tackling” approach to helping delivery (implementation) teams do their jobs better. So, I decided (along with my partners) to take on this challenge from the ground up.
How do you see companies leveraging Customer Success technologies for better overall financial returns (What impact does a good CS practice have on ARR?)?
Any B2B business in the subscription economy (not just SaaS companies) knows that their business is going to make it or break it based on recurring revenues. When up to 90% of a customer’s value comes after the initial sale, retention isn’t something you want to just pay lip service to. Everyone in this economy is clamoring for a way to operationalize their customer success approach. I talk to businesses daily who are looking to incorporate technology to enable and support their customer engagement efforts. They want a single view of their customers, a way to manage their work stream in support of their revenue goals, and a way to collaborate across their enterprise so that it’s not just a customer success team that’s responsible for retention and growth.
What are your predictions for B2B CX technology? How should CMOs plan to utilize/implement these technologies in 2018?
CMOs who have traditionally been focused on the top of the funnel are now working in tandem with customer success teams to garner loyalty. Where Sales and Marketing were once tied at the hip, it’s now Marketing and Customer Success that are focused on existing customers and cultivating their advocacy. Since your best prospect is your last customer, CMOs are as invested in technologies that help them align their efforts with the rest of the enterprise. As the marketing journey transcends the customer lifecycles, Marketing becomes a partner in expansion efforts by helping form customer advocates. They, like the rest of the organization, will only benefit from a technology which helps them collaborate with one another through a single view of their customers.
What marketing and sales technologies and automation tools do you use to achieve better ROI?
We use SFDC to track the sales pipeline and Pardot to manage our marketing campaigns. And we use our own Bolstra platform to link the two. It’s the heart of our Customer Engagement and is used to connect our customer success approach with our expansion and renewal efforts.
What startups in the martech/sales intelligence industries are you watching right now?
I’m interested in martech companies that are finding creative and productive ways to use social media data points to inform us about our existing (and prospective) customers. While it’s not a start-up, I am watching Sprinklr as a leader in this vital space of helping inform and shape marketing plans based upon the real-time data that comes from social media.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader? How do you leverage AI capabilities at Bolstra?
AI-centricity is really powerful in the B2C world because of the volume of data available. While some of the Customer Success technologies out there are incorporating AI, I think the application of AI technology in a B2B world is still relatively young. Enterprise Customer Success is a high-touch, Human-to-Human, “authenticity in action” discipline. AI isn’t really the key to our industry, in my opinion.
How do you inspire your people to work with leading technologies at Bolstra?
I start by hiring the best of the best people. If you surround yourself with innovative people who bring great ideas to the table, you never lack for inspiration. We also align ourselves around a grand vision – of creating a culture of advocacy both within our organization and for our customers.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
We drink our own champagne! We can’t live without Bolstra! It aligns all of our work around a single view of our customers and is a prerequisite for knowing them and delivering to them what they need.
What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Having the best and brightest people on my team is my best hack. Spend the time up front to build your team and they increase your productivity tenfold.
What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I’m re-reading The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I know I’m repeating myself, but the best advice I’ve ever received is to surround myself with A players. Even if it takes time to find them, don’t waste your time on B players.
Thank you Haresh! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Haresh is an experienced B2B and SaaS industry executive having served in key roles with an emphasis on product strategy, sales and marketing.
Bolstra. Delivering better. Together. Bolstra is a Customer Success Management solution company that organizes and optimizes workflow and work management through an agile framework enabling companies to prescriptively deliver a superior experience to their customers.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.