Inside Customer Success: Winning by Design

December 5, 2018 Gabriella Sutarno

Winning by Design is a premier provider of strategy consulting and coaching programs for SaaS Sales and Customer Success organizations. The company was founded in 2014 as a small team in Silicon Valley and has quickly expanded across the U.S to regions such as Australia, Europe, Brazil, China and now Canada. They are the leaders in SaaS Sales consulting and training, and have recently added Customer Success to their area of expertise.

Amity sat down with Julie Perofsky, who leads their Customer Success practice, to ask her about all things Customer Success. Read our interview with Julie to learn about Winning by Design's approach to Customer Success. Readers tip: there are some great take aways for CEO's and Customer Success leaders that Julie shares in this article!


Can you tell us about your responsibilities at Winning by Design? 

I have two core responsibilities at Winning by Design. First, I am building the Customer Success practice, our methodologies and courses. We have a great course designed for Customer Success Managers that teaches CSMs the essentials of Customer Success such as; how to orchestrate the beginning of the customer relationship, how to develop impact and growth. We are about to launch our second course designed for CSM’s and Account Managers in charge of expansion revenue. This is a hot topic as customer facing teams begin to shift their focus from renewals to growth. 


What is the team like at Winning by Design? Are there a lot of consultants based in Toronto? 

We are a super collaborative and cross-functional team at Winning by Design. Each region has a Director who typically has one or two areas of expertise based on their experience as executives at prior companies. For every project, we look at the client needs and create the ideal team of experts to best drive results. We specialize in remote work leveraging tools like Zoom and a studio set up to bring the classroom or workspace to life through video, so we can call upon any of our experts across the world to contribute to a project. 


What’s the benefit of being remote? 

So many teams are remote these days, they rarely have their entire Customer Success, Sales and Marketing team in one office. If every person is in front of their computer, with the video turned on, everyone has the same experience as though they are sitting in the front row. By having all consultants and trainers at Winning by Design set up their studio optimized for video, the experience is far better than in person especially if you have a few people on your team who are remote. 
Also, especially with training - if anyone misses a class, the video session is the same high quality as the live session, so this scales as your team grows. It also gives global teams access to the experts that they need no matter where that expert is located. 


Why did Winning by Design decide to add Customer Success to their list of consulting? Why did they decide to just add it now?

In a way, Winning by Design always had elements of Customer Success. What I mean by that is, if you look at the traditional sales funnel it stops at Closed Won,  but in SaaS 75% of your revenue potential comes after the initial sale.  Winning by Design’s SaaS Sales Methodology is a bowtie that starts with the typical sales funnel steps (i.e. education, awareness, selection and purchase); however, the reason we call it a bowtie, is that, once they buy, the funnel starts to open up again. That’s where you have stages like, onboarding, usage, retention and expansion. 

As the team got more involved with Sales, they realized just doing work with a Sales team was only half of the process, so they started doing work with Customer Success teams. As the demand increased, they asked me to join to specialize and build out the programs and curriculum. By bringing on someone with Customer Success expertise, we can really help our clients across all revenue teams, driving alignment and growth. 

Just doing work with a Sales team is only half of the process

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When you said that they decided to look at Customer Success more seriously, would you say that because Customer Success has become more prominent?

Due to the compounding revenue of SaaS, 75% of the revenue of a SaaS customer comes after the initial sale, so yes it’s more prominent. I think the challenge has been, and one of the reasons why they didn’t focus on it more, that companies are still in this mindset that they invest so much into Sales training and upfront logo acquisition. They overlook the need and impact of investing similarly into Customer Success teams, and I think that is a shift we are starting to see. It’s still a struggle, CS leaders don’t have the budget sales leaders have. 
However, what I’m seeing is with so many SaaS products out there, if you are just focusing on getting new clients, you’re going to lose. You have to focus on the retention and growth of your existing clients in order to be a successful SaaS company and continue to exponentially grow. In order to do that, CEOs need to invest in their Customer Success team through process, designing the proper playbooks, to arm your Customer Success team with the know-how to actually run plays on renewals and grow and then training the team to execute.

You have to focus on the retention and growth of your existing clients in order to be a successful SaaS company.

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Who are Winning by Design’s customers? 

Winning by Design’s customers are mainly in B2B SaaS and our customers range in all sizes of organizations. We help teams when they are optimizing for their current size as well as preparing to get to the next phase. 
At a small 2-30 person company we are coaching CEO’s and team leads.  As you start to grow to 50-60 you start to hit bottlenecks in your process and need to analyze your metrics and design processes that everyone can follow that optimize your sales and CS execution. We see this again at the next phase of growth 100+ and then again as you really hit scale up phase. I just met with a new CRO of a client we worked with months ago, we did a quick review of our assessment and design. After he said to me “You just saved me 3 months of work, so now I can hit the ground running.” I found that really interesting, because so many clients want to wait until they have the full team in place to do an engagement with us, but there is so much benefit to using external help to get you through the times of transition so when you do get the right team lead in place they can build on a strong foundation. It is so effective and powerful. 


How did you get started in Customer Success, and how has your path led you to your current role? 

My path was far from linear. I started as an Advertising Account Executive in New York. After that I was an analyst at a consulting firm for all things “below the line marketing”. I loved this job, getting exposure to the first email marketing and analytics companies. When I left New York to move to Toronto, I joined Eloqua and found myself as a Customer Success Manager. From there I’ve worked at companies in a variety of roles and helping them grow through different stages. My role at Winning by Design really combines all my years of experience working with CEO’s and on the front lines growing technology companies. It’s a lot of fun getting to use my experience to help other companies as well as continue learning.  


So you transitioned from Customer Success Executive to Customer Success Consultant. What is the biggest difference between those two roles now that you have experience in both?

The biggest difference is, as a consultant, I am able to step away from the day to day and see the big picture of what is going on in an organization. I’m away from the personalities, the internal politics and  conflicts and let the metrics tell the story. As a front manager when you’re in the thick of it and constantly dealing with team challenges and customers and you often don’t have the time to provide 1:1 coaching, call reviews and role plays with your team members. I am able to come into an organization and look at everything going on and see the gaps, identify what could be improved and help leaders implement a coaching program or new process.

You’ll notice that all Winning by Design consultants have worked as practitioners in the areas they consult. Our methodologies come from years on the field and experience. We roll up our sleeves and help teams implement the processes we design. We know how hard change management can be and we support our clients through implementation. 


I see you also do sales consulting and Customer Success training, aren’t the teams so different? How can you do both? 

When I was at Influitive, I went from running a Customer Success team to starting and creating an Account Management team. I was part of the Sales team. This was a defining moment in my career because I experienced first hand how to run a sales team, as well as different sales training courses. I started to apply Sales methodologies to Customer Success practices like renewals and expansion and the performance of my team sky rocketed. We had predictability in our renewals forecast and much better execution of expansion revenue. 


What is one thing you think Customer Success teams need to do?

Customer Success teams need to invest in their people and develop a science based process to execute against. They also need to shift their focus from usage and renewals to impact and growth. If you are just focused on renewing, you are missing out on a huge chunk of revenue potential. 

Customer Success teams need to invest in their people and develop a science based process to execute against. They also need to shift their focus from usage and renewals to impact and growth.

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What would you say are the best customer success companies doing differently? What are the trends you are seeing in Customer Success?

The companies that are doing the best have figured out how to really do expansion. The companies I see struggling are still focusing on usage and preventing churn. What I am seeing a trend in are Customer Success Leaders and CEOs asking for help training their teams on generating expansion revenue. I’m seeing Customer Success Leaders realize that they need to bring more revenue to the table in order to keep a key seat at the table. 

I also see product taking a bigger role in churn. Customer Success teams can be a band-aid for churn, but ultimately the product should drive usage and renewals. CS leaders should drive impact and growth. 

I'm seeing Customer Success Leaders realize that they need to bring more revenue to the table in order to keep a more important seat at the table. 

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How would you say the role of CSM’s has changed in the time you have been in Customer Success?

When I started in Customer Success, there were basically only 50 people in North America doing Customer Success, it was so unknown and you always had to explain what we did and how we did it. No one really knew how to do it and there were no tools out there to help. Now every SaaS company has some form of Customer Success team, there are so many tools out there to help you do your job more effectively and efficiently. That way you can focus on being aware of the triggers, getting more proactive with your customers, and on building the right relationships with key decision makers to drive greater impact and expand. 

Now every SaaS company has some form of Customer Success team, and there are so many tools out there to help you do your job better and more effectively and efficiently. 

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What do people want solved when they hire you? What is the biggest thing you’ve noticed? 

Three big things I’m noticing: 

Customer Success teams aren’t trained on expansion and growth, which is huge because that is critical to build a successful company in SaaS. 
Sales and CS team members get promoted to team lead positions with the assumption that since they were a great individual employee they will be a great team lead, then they fail. Companies need to train their managers to be better coaches - the skill set is completely different. 
Organizations are missing their targets because they rely on individuals to perform well on their own without putting the right processes in place to give everyone the right tools to succeed.

What it takes to be a great Customer Success Manager is so different than what it takes to manage a team. 

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Do you have one piece of advice for Customer Success professionals who are just getting started today?  

Get training and treat it like a profession. If you want to be better at what you are doing, you need to go to school, take courses, learn how to do the job. If you are joining a company in Customer Success ask for training so that way you can hone your skills.


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About the Author

Gabriella Sutarno

Gabriella is a Technical Writer at Amity. When she isn't keeping herself busy with a new art project or the latest Netflix series, you can find her coming up with new creative ideas for her future best seller.

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