Text Version of the Interview
How To Make GTM Successful?
Go market strategy is a thing that starts at the very beginning when we are evaluating target organizations because we have to think about the value that a particular target will bring to our organization.
Once we understand that value and have a picture of what the combined value of both the organizations can be, we have to start working towards the ways and means of bringing the value together in a meaningful way for the customer.
And I think the best way is to identify a couple of customers at the very beginning when we close the transaction. Identifying a couple of pilot accounts where we believe we can easily demonstrate the value of the two companies together.
Once we identify those accounts, a collaboration exercise happens between the sales teams to see how we want to realize the vision that we had at the time of the transaction.
We do joint sales workshops between the acquiring company and the target. We do detailed workshops where we think about which other customers we can go behind initially, having the identified pilots. Then, we work through a customized approach for a couple of key clients to see how we deliver on that hypothesis.
Then we have to look at broader sales enablement, expanding across the customer landscape, both our customers and the target's customers. And typically, the approach will be a bit different for both types of customers. So we then look at expanding and scaling that further approach post-close.
Building a GTM Plan
The first step is to understand the vision. This typically ties back to the business case in terms of why we initially think this transaction makes business sense. Then we pick the right pilot accounts.
All of this work happens jointly between the acquiring company and the target. We do sales workshops and we pick the right pilot accounts. And then, we look at customized value propositions for those pilot accounts.
No two customers are similar. Their journeys are different. They're at different stages of their business, so on and so forth.
Also important to mention, make sure that the sales teams on both ends are rightly incentivized towards making the good market and their joint collaboration a success.
Once you have an approach around how you want to go about it, and as you put that approach into action, you need to have communication between the teams in terms of how it's going, because you have to understand that limited trust between salespeople of two organizations at the very initial stages.
So you've got to build that constant communication into the plan itself because salespeople tend to go off in their own direction. And then having a frequent assessment of where we stand with those pilot accounts and learning and redefining our approach based on feedback we're getting.
We slowly scale it until we do four or five accounts. Then we will finalize what kind of approach that works for the type of customers that we have.
Can You Give an Example?
One of the companies we acquired a couple of years ago was a company in the niche consulting space. And the vision there was, they could bring the niche consulting capability in a particular technology area.
And we can back that up with a much broader offshore scale capability that we traditionally have as part of our business. So they can come and do the consulting work, and that should generate downstream opportunities for us in terms of larger-scale programs.
It was part of one of the pilot accounts that we picked up during our initial GTM planning because the customer was on that journey of moving to the Cloud. So there was an opportunity where we thought we could try this approach.
So we looked at the customer scenario, and as a result, we picked a customer. And the company that we had acquired went in as a niche consultant and did a bit of work. We did a few months of core consulting work and had the customer craft that entire implementation plan.
Once that happened, the customer rolled out an RFP for the broader piece of work. And because our consultants had developed a plan, we were obviously in a much better position in responding to the larger opportunity.
We wouldn't have gone close to that if we had not gone in with the acquisition first. We deliberately let the acquisition lead that, at the beginning of the opportunity, because they brought a certain value that the customer needed at that point.
And then, once that happened, the larger organization took over to respond to the broader piece of work. It was a clear recognition of that vision that we had identified at the beginning of the deal. These guys can bring the consulting, and we had the scale, and we can bring it all together.
There were a lot of challenges. First of all, just the way we sell is different. And it's hard for people who manage customers to let go of their control.
The biggest challenge is to acknowledge that some of our acquired companies have very different ways of selling. There's no right or wrong in terms of the approach; it's just different. And our guys don't understand why the consultant company was selling in a particular way.
Likewise, the consulting company wouldn't understand why our guys were so price-focused because our guys had eyes on the larger piece. The biggest challenge was that both teams wanted to do right by the customer, but the way they looked at it and the stakeholders for both parties differed.
So it took a lot to bring the two teams together, which goes back to my point on communication. Both teams have very different approaches, even on responding to the customer proposal.
When we start doing this go-to-market integration, we don't even have the common tools. We don't even have a common collaboration platform. We had a lot of technical challenges in terms of getting information across, trying to ensure that the right people are working on the deal.
Day to Day Aspect of GTM?
It's a lot of problem-solving. There's a lot of playbooks, working models, and everything else that we define, even pre-close or soon after the close. But every day, there is a scenario that you have to deal with.
So I'll give you an example. We have situations where both companies have contracts with the same customer. So every time there's a common deal, then you think who's paper to put it on? Whose rates are better? What does the customer say? So on and so forth. And there are legal considerations that you have to look at.
So then have problem-solving around that. You have to think about issues around finance around whose rate card; what is the message we are sending to the customer? How do we price a particular deal? So on and so forth.
Then that is the pure operational aspect because we haven't really integrated the systems process of people as yet. There are more fundamental challenges around okay, our company resources in their customer accounts, their resources in our accounts, and there's always something with cross companies, staffing and all of that.
So day-to-day, I think there are a lot of operational issues and problem-solving that I get into, and that could really range from anything customer-oriented, all the way to tax finance operations, depending on the way my day starts.
Overcoming Those Challenges
First, we have to anticipate uncertainty. Because one of the things that we struggled within a lot of integrations is to follow the plan that we initially built. But Go-to-market is actually different. It's very agile and the market will not wait for 18 to 24 months for us to start showing value in the business that we've bought.
They're not going to wait for us to finish our full-blown corporate integration to start showing value. So at the end of the day, Go-to-market is the first thing that kicks off even before we have an integration plan in place.
So I think learning to anticipate uncertainty is the most important and customize the approach for each customer. At the end of the day, every customer's journey is different.
You want to scale to the extent that you can, but at the same time, every customer needs to feel that it's their problem that you're solving.
Importance of Agility
Everything in this field, being in the tech field and around go-to-market, everything is agile. The industry is evolving so fast. By the time we get our heads around the particular acquisition, certainly something new in the market we're thinking about in terms of building capability or adding on to our acquisitions.
Day-to-day go-to-market is very agile because, as I said, there is a customized approach, and you have to keep refining the plan and the approach based on the experience that you have.
So that feedback loop that I talked about, I think that has to be very agile. You have to keep thinking about every week, where do we stand with our top accounts? What have we learned over the week? Refine the approach; how do we make changes when needed?
We cannot hold it to a big-blown waterfall into the GTM integration plan because customers won't align with your plan. Customer needs are evolving faster than your big-blown integration plan. So you have to have an agile approach to solving the client problems.
Changing a Company to be Agile
That's where my role comes into play—having somebody from the business involved from the beginning of the transaction, not post-close. You have to be able to understand the target's business even before they become part of you.
During the course of the journey, people who understand the business are able to assess the value that the target company can bring in and what are the challenges that we can foresee in terms of the way they sell.
And I use my pre-transaction time as a way to capture learnings - from the way they sell, the way they do things, and then possibly identify potential challenges that I will see during integration.
So first of all, for companies that are not doing it that way, you have to have somebody from the business who runs across the transaction. That helps keep the team honest about what the real value is.
The other thing is because I own synergy, and I deliver on synergy. I also don't over-promise. I make sure that the synergy numbers that are there are something I can stand up and deliver on as a salesperson in the integration. Having somebody accountable for the overall life cycle helps to have more skin in the game.
Secondly, use the pre-transaction time, as effectively as you can to evaluate the nuances around the challenges that you're likely to face in go-to-market integration.
We can't really do customer level conversation until post-close because of confidentiality reasons, but nothing prevents you from doing cultural assessment of sales teams in terms of your conversations through the transaction. And then what's the best approach to bridge those gaps.
Ideal Person To Lead GTM?
First of all, having a business-oriented mindset is critical. You've got to understand the pulse of the business and that can come from various ways, but understanding the company's core business is very important.
And I think people's skills are really important. We underestimate the need for having good people skills in such roles because, like you said, stakeholder alignment is so important at the end of the day.
You also have to make sure that all parties trust you. Your parent organization needs to know that you have the right interests in mind; at the same time, the target needs to know that you will not go and do something against their objectives or that doesn't work for them.
And lastly, given the way the role touches literally every aspect of integration, you need someone who understands various functional streams.
You don't need to be a tax expert or a finance expert, but at least understand how things would work. So that if there is a problem, you can unpack it and at least go to the right people to fix it.
When Do You Get Involved?
I pretty much get involved when the information memorandum lands on my desk, or sometimes I have an eye on the target, and then we check with banks if they might be up for sale. I'm involved at the very beginning.
I'm looking at the target the moment somebody comes and gets it. So the advantage with that is, I get to see if they will complement what we have, and during diligence, I get to confirm if they do what they say they do.
Because everybody knows how to sell, everybody has those fancy presentations. It's about digging into the contracts, looking at lists. I go through the customer contracts and statements of work to understand, are they selling and delivering the way they are?
So I think trying to understand and unpack the sales pitch versus actual data. That's a very critical part of my job in terms of understanding that and seeing where the gaps are. And then what kind of risks that possibly poses for us from a business standpoint.
Relationship with Corp Dev
I'm the voice for the business as far as Corp Dev is concerned. We work together. We work very collaboratively. I don't get involved in the corporate part of the transaction. I look at everything just with the business lens.
That helps add value to the transaction in terms of really thinking through synergies properly, making sure that the business case lines up.
And then I work with Corp dev and with the business leadership to build the presentation materials for our investment committee approval, so on and so forth.
I contribute to the business case in terms of the vision that we defined, then thinking about the synergies and then the logic behind the synergy. So I am putting a number behind the synergies; what is the rationale or the logic behind the synergies.
Obviously, Corp Dev owns the model, but I give the input from the business side to the model from a synergies perspective, they'll still do the other modeling from the standalone numbers to endpoints.
How to Avoid Overestimating Synergies
It's a two-phase thing. One is having this structure that we need to think about in terms of looking at their customers, our customers, what we know of the opportunity in many of those customers, and so on.
So you start to think of a structured way of developing a model. And then I'd be lying if I didn't say there is a bit of gut in there as well. You have to apply your instinct around what you know of the market and the business to try and adjust the synergy numbers to the right amount.
It has to be a structured approach towards logically thinking about it. But at the end of the day, you need instinct around what is realistically achievable and you have to apply that experience that you have to whatever the data is saying.
Key Elements in GTM
At that point, we can't have too many conversations with the target around futuristic synergies. So what I do from a process standpoint is really start to think about how they sell and what kind of culture they have in the sales teams.
I start to try and interact with as many people as I can, which is hard sometimes. They don't open up to a lot of people until the transaction. But essentially, I try to assess the cultural aspects of their go-to-market.
The idea is not for me to come and build something brand new. The idea is for me to think about what we have, what they have, and how we bring it together in a meaningful way.
Working with the Target Company
At the high level, we share the vision, make sure that they understand it, and agree with it. M&A is successful when both parties are in it fully.
We also take their input because they also think about what value they want from a company like ours. Often, my targets come and tell me that they had an opportunity, which they left on the table, because they don't have the capability to do it, but we have.
So they of course, absolutely contribute to that vision. This is not a one-way thought process. It is a collaborative thought process every step of the way.
Example of Over Estimation of Synergies
As a business, we often want to push a transaction over to the line. And just because you want to make the model work, there is this tendency of overestimating synergies a little bit.
So that's where that reality check has to come in, and think about how we will deliver on the synergies. It's not just a number that's going into some Excel sheet. It's a number that all of us will be accountable for the foreseeable future for the next 36 months.
I almost always have to dial back on the synergies because teams generally tend to blow them up a little bit. You have to logically question some of those assumptions and show a lot more data. I think that helps.
There is a lot of gut, but then you have to have data as well. Otherwise, people wouldn't take you at face value. So you show the data, show the list of customers, talk through a lot of that.
So during diligence, we have account-level information. So I take the customer level of revenue information for both the companies. Then I compare and combine the two pieces of information to see how big the account is.
Also, include the customer potential that we know from our market research, and bring all the data that exists together to create a picture that makes sense.
So their current revenue and our current revenue. Also, the quality of the relationship matters. Sometimes, it's declining because the stakeholder has changed, and it is a huge account for us. If that's the case, then I cannot be extremely upbeat about potential customers.
And then you'll get the pipeline as well. So there's a customer-aspect and the pipeline aspect. So what are their prospects, and what kind of pipeline they have, and some of the big customers? So we bring it all together and create a meaningful picture.
Then we do confirmatory diligence. Corp Dev takes care of that. At the end of the day, we start to think about what integration looks like from a business standpoint.
We have to have a high-level view of what the integration model will look like. So we have to put, at least, the high-level vision in terms of what the opportunity might be, what the high-level vision is, and what the approach is.
Go-to-market is part of the integration plan. So there is an overall integration plan that Corp Dev is driving, which happens with or without me. But Go-to-market is something that I would own as part of the integration plan.
Parts of a Go-to-market Plan
- How do you sell?
- What do you sell?
- How do you generate revenue?
- What is it that we take to market?
- What is it that they take to market?
- Which other areas where we can collaborate?
These are what we are going to focus on from a go-to-market standpoint.
- Who are our customers
- Who are their customers
- Who are the common customers
- Which customers will be pilot accounts for synergy
We look at the offerings and then see which of those offerings will work with which of these customers. And then, we will have a customer map offering.
So once we do that, you are in a position to start to do the sales workshops, get the teams together, talk to each other, and think about the approach that we want to take to target that particular client.
I do two types of sales workshops. So one, the broad level where we're creating awareness for each other. That pretty much happened almost at the beginning, within the first-week post-close. We try to get the target company to present back to us salespeople everything that they do.
Likewise, our guys present to the target everything that we do. We're showing them everything we have, at least at a high level in terms of these other services. So when the target company talks to customers and they hear something around this kind of service that we have, they can connect it back and come back to us, at least if they sense an opportunity.
Then we do account-specific sessions. So you take one of our largest customers, we'd get the sales team on both sides, who'll work on that customer to talk to each other. And that becomes more specific to that customer, especially how we go forward with that particular customer.
And then, as you go forward into the journey, we started to go to more specific enablement workshops on the key offerings that we've identified from a synergy standpoint. This is where we implement what we did for the pilot customer, and now we're ready to expand it and scale across a broader portfolio. So that's the third type of workshop.
A lot of times, corporate functions have a structured way of doing things. They have a definite plan, but sometimes the business just needs something different. And I think pushing through that is the challenge.
And to be honest, my biggest challenge today is fighting back globally on why Australia is different. Often, I feel like the bigger organization's integration approach isn't customized to the nuances that a certain business or region might have.
And, for example, the issue with multiple common accounts. It might be just an exception for some other regions. But for me, it is a daily problem because any company that we acquired, it is Australia that has only four banks and two retailers and two telcos.
So for me, having common customers in multiple contacts is a huge challenge. Our system doesn't necessarily support it because it is treated as an exception anywhere else in the world. So I think there are challenges, there are nuances that come from a regional standpoint that I have to deal with.
And like I said, aligning sales incentives sounds easier than it is because different companies have different compensation models. And it takes a lot to work through that, and you're not always very successful with it as well.
Biggest Lessons Learned
The biggest lesson learned is, it's not a one size fits all scenario. With go-to-market, you have to be open; you have to have an open mind. Things will change. You can define a vision and specify a plan, but at the end of the day, you have to have an open mind.
You will have to be prepared to deal with any change that comes in due to a customer change. And I guess that's where people make mistakes.
And the other thing is, you have to have an approach where you deliver on the pilots and then try and make a big bang. If you try and do a big bang go-to-market integration on day one, you will most definitely fail because there are just too many people talking to too many others.
You have to be slow and steady with your approach as well. You have to identify pilots, make it right, and then expand.
We periodically check for customer feedback and see what is the message that they're getting. Since we are telling something and we're doing something that's assuming they will receive it that way.
For example, sometimes, the customer still sees you as a different entity. Then you have to take that feedback positively back and think about what we can do differently in terms of how we are engaging with the customer.
Take that feedback, and apply it to the next customer. Improve that messaging so that we don't get the same feedback. So customer feedback is very iterative and plays a very critical role because at the end of the day, you're validating it based on actual practical customer experience.
Listen to your customer and to the people on the ground because they know what they're doing at the end of the day. There may be different approaches, but at the same time, they've both been successful in their space.