SalesTechStar Interview with Gabriel Smith, Chief Evangelist, Pricefx
Chief Evangelist and Vice President of Innovation at Price f(x) – Gabriel Smith joins us in this SalesTechStar interview to share his thoughts on the evolving martech and salestech segment while also discussing the top skills and qualities every B2B marketing and sales person needs more of to navigate the marketplace with ease.
Catch the excerpts:
Can you tell us a little about yourself Gabriel? Given your journey in the tech industry, what are some of the biggest learnings you’ve come away with?
I went to UC Berkeley and started off in the CPQ team at Cisco Systems. I held several roles there in sales and marketing technology around incentives, programs, channels, and lead to order.
I moved to a leading first-generation price optimization company in 2007 where I held roles in consulting, product management and sales then in 2015, I was asked to start the US business for Pricefx by the founders in Europe.
I drove quadruple digit growth for a couple years then moved into product strategy, started the pre-sales solutions team, and became the Chief Evangelist at the beginning of 2019.
In terms of learnings, I would say:
- There are different skillsets required at different stages of growth. I am more of a builder than a scaler and tend to be asked to establish things as I operate well with ambiguity
- The differences in a subscription-based business mode versus selling hardware or even perpetual software licenses are far reaching and impact every facet of the business
- The similarities and differences in pricing vary across different industries. You see companies in the same industry doing things very differently and then some companies in very different industries that are very similar, like high tech manufacturing and construction materials both use a lot of rebates and ship and debits to differentiate pricing and incentivize certain behaviors.
How did the idea behind Pricefx come about initially, can you talk about some of the ways customers of Pricefx have used the product to streamline their pricing decisions?
The idea of Pricefx came about because of frustration in the market that the established players were not able to meet the needs of many customers or change with the market. Pricing is the most powerful profit lever and every company should focus on it more and use the data they have to improve, but the first-generation providers were only a fit for the largest companies. There was this massive whitespace that was not being served. Ironically, fast forward to 9 years later and more than half of our current customers are large enterprises. That said, we are always looking for ways to deliver value more rapidly and for lower cost.
When it comes to solving the MANY challenges in marketing and sales, martech and salestech has evolved to offer users everything they need and more. Yet, some of the basic challenges still remain for marketing and sales. Can you talk about some of the most common challenges that you feel martech/salestech won’t solve because to solve them requires a mindset change?
I think that martech and salestech is reducing the need for certain types of sales reps and marketing admin functions by automating process and using AI to reduce workloads, and compressing CPQ and digital commerce, but I do not believe these will ever fully replace the need for a sales person in more complex solution selling scenarios or for larger ticket items.
In other words, the order take sales reps are going away, but the challenger and solution sales reps will continue to play a key part in selling, especially in B2B but even in B2C in more complex scenarios like home theatre, interior design, etc.
In the B2B/technology marketplace, talent acquisition and retention is a big problem today, especially for tech startup founders / new product companies. Can you share your thoughts on what it takes to build, on-board and manage a successful sales/client-facing team.
Hiring is one of the biggest challenges any company faces, but it’s even more key for startups as each team member can have such a huge impact on the trajectory of the company and the culture.
When building a sales / client facing team, I believe the following are key attributes to look for:
- Listening skills – Many people are very impressive and well spoken, but a key to success with customers is listening to their problems and showing them how your solution solves their problem
- Flexibility – Can you adapt to changes and wear many hats? This is key in a startup.
- Entrepreneurial Spirit – Are they a self-starter? Do they thrive in ambiguous environments? Are they hands on?
- Continuous learning mindset – ask questions about what they are reading and doing to improve their craft?
- Presentation / public speaking skills – test by seeing them in action.
A key is to be assessing fit immediately and not being afraid to admit that you might have made the wrong choice. It happens, and when it does its best to move quickly to nip the issue in the bud
What are some of the TOP skills you wish every Marketing and Sales leader as well as their team members imbibe in order to create a good balance between a good work culture and goal-driven marketing/sales environment?
A team approach between sales and marketing is key. Everyone is on the same team and has the same goals, to increase sales by whatever target you have. Too many companies have separate goals and metrics between sales and marketing and this can cause a lot of finger pointing when things do not go according to plan
Being data driven is important. Making decisions based on data and using leading indicators to make adjustments to the plan is crucial. This can be challenging in a startup as there is little data to work with at first, but there are many benchmarks you can use to understand where you should aim given your KPIs. As the use of cloud software and data lakes increases, the data available to new companies is increasing every day.
Allowing flexibility to work from where you want and when you want as long as you are getting the job done is also key to a good work / life balance.
Fostering transparency and collaboration amongst the entire sales and marketing organization is also a key to success, trust and a good culture!
How have you seen the martech/salestech industry evolve over time? What are some of the latest innovations that according to you will be game-changers in time?
Definitely the evolution and prevalence of CPQ from only being in certain industries to becoming the normal. Speed and frequency of price changes is increasing every year and Digital commerce is becoming more and more table stakes.
For emerging trends, Augmented reality will be a game changer in analytics, software and CPQ, Natural Language processing as the primary user interface and Personalization will continue to offer differentiated experiences and companies using it will perform better. I also see more Dynamic pricing options in B2B.
How do you see the role of the typical B2B/technology marketing and sales professional evolve given the everyday innovations in marketing and sales technology?
Increased understanding of data science will be key.
As ML/AI progresses, it will be more about figuring out what problems you should be solving instead of solving the problems yourself, but also designing the model and making sure you have the right data incorporated into the model so the AI can make the best predictions and prescribe the right actions
What are some of the common pain points you observe in technology sales and how would you advise sales teams optimize/overcome these challenges by optimizing use of their sales tech stack (and how).
Long sales cycles: As the ACV goes up, the sales cycles go with it. Challenge yourself to understand and remove friction from the buyer journey at every step. How can you quote faster than your competitors and give sale better guidance? How can you integrate your process, functions and systems to enable faster turnaround times and increase collaboration?
Tag (mention/write about) the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read!
Marc Benioff, CEO at SalesForce!
Could you share your favorite Sales/SalesTech quote and also some of your favorite entrepreneurial / leadership/ sales books that have been a valuable read
- Innovators Dilemma
- Challenger Customer / Challenger Sales Rep
- The Lean Startup
- Predictable Revenue
Tell us about some of the top sales/salestech/ other events that you’ll be participating in (as a speaker or guest!) in 2020!
- Pricing and Revenue Management Summit
- Professional Pricing Society
Pricefx is the global leader in SaaS pricing software, offering a comprehensive suite of solutions that are fast to implement, flexible to configure and customize, and friendly to learn and use. With more than 100 customers in more than 37 countries worldwide, Pricefx delivers a complete price optimization and management platform for both B2B and B2C enterprises of any size, in any industry, in any part of the world.
Gabriel Smith is the chief evangelist at Pricefx and has 19 years of experience in Quote to Cash, CPQ, Pricing, Promotions, Consulting, Product Management, Sales and General Management.