Software Executive Magazine

August/September 2017

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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At SPLICE, the pitch is pretty simple. The compa- ny sells a bundled package that's tailored to a specific shortcoming in the dialogue its clients have with their customers on the path to purchase. SPLICE sales con- sultants are trained to analyze the consumer journey in client environments and discover where the client sees room for more personal, accurate, and timely dialogue. Customers pay a setup fee that falls north of a couple thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of the client environment. That covers call center testing, loop integration, routing, email/phone/text preference evaluation, CRM integration, and so on. Then, the client purchases a pay-per-touch package with pricing based on the volume of touches per month. With such a straightforward sales model, SPLICE sales consultants might be tempted to sell the package to anyone willing to pay for it. Not on Kelly's watch. "We've said no to some prospects that many of our competitors might consider really good, juicy custom- ers," says Kelly. Her two-factor litmus test for acceptance is simple. You have to be nice, and you have to want to squeeze every drop of value out of the application. The first reason SPLICE will say no is if the prospect company amounts to what Kelly terms "a bunch of jerks to work with." "We don't work with assholes," swears Kelly, in the congenial way only Canadians can. "We've pulled out of two big projects that were underway when we said, 'You know what? We're just too different. This isn't going to work.' I won't ask any of my employees to work with someone who's a big jerk." Kelly surmises that if a company hires jerks, its employees will treat each other like jerks, and there's a good chance those employees will treat their customers as poorly. The second — and more frequent — cause for cessation happens when a SPLICE customer runs into what Kel- ly calls a "value issue." If the company doesn't support SPLICE, won't refer SPLICE, or uses the application to such a lame degree that it reflects poorly on SPLICE, chances are "super good," says Kelly, "that we'll just say, this is money we don't need. I call it bad money. Bad money is money that takes you away from your vision." Kelly admits that labeling "bad money" is hard in the moment, but she says it saves money in the end because it allows her to evolve SPLICE toward her vision for the company. Of course, with the controlling share of a committed board, it's relatively easy for Kelly to unite the top brass at SPLICE toward the vision of highly per- sonalized, AI-driven uniqueness that gets it right every time — and with select customers. But, convincing sales reps to say no when commission checks are at stake is quite another challenge. Kelly says it's important to reinforce the bad-money phi- losophy with sales reps. "Reps need to understand that if they take a customer that isn't in line with our vision and ready for what we have now, and we're seeing this in a really much bigger way across many more verticals." DEFINE YOUR CUSTOMERS AND ADVOCATE FOR THEM In its first decade, however, the company has opted for vertical specificity in an effort to go deep, not wide. "We've sought to understand everything about the re- tail customer's experience, and we made a conscious decision to focus on retail so that we could get as thor- ough an understanding of the competitive landscape as possible," she says. In the early days, that retail em- phasis was narrowed even further, hyperfocused on the furniture segment. There, La-Z-Boy and Raymour & Flanigan are among its marquee clients. While SPLICE has fielded plenty of interest from finan- cial institutions — perhaps ironically given the software company's origins — Kelly says retail is where the need for personalization is most dire. "Banks are so sticky be- cause it's painful for us as consumers to walk across the street to reset and redo all of the automation and infra- structure that's baked into our banking relationships," she says. "Despite the lip service, driving the greatest customer experience is actually not that high on their list." By contrast, says Kelly, retail relationships aren't so sticky. It's very easy for a consumer to walk across the street or jump to another site to buy a T-shirt or a sofa from another place. In the insurance market, it's become almost equally easy to switch coverages and companies online, which is why Kelly's next big bet might be in the insurance arena. "The best verticals for us to work with right now are those with companies that are deeply committed to the experience, so that when you're with that brand, they're taking care of you, and you're moving up that value chain into perceiving your needs versus just behavioral and transactional data." Healthcare, she says, is another greenfield opportuni- ty for personalized, contextual dialogue. The company's latest release, a data-driven voice application for Alexa Skills-enabled devices like Echo and Echo Dot, allows consumers to just as easily inquire about an expected retail delivery as they can order a prescription refill. "We're looking for people that have a need to com- municate not just more frequently, but more critically important data. Those are fundamental to the way we identify market opportunity." HOLD SALES STAFF TO A HIGH STANDARD Of course, leading the company to full troughs in op- portunity-rich markets is just one part of being a soft- ware executive. Getting salespeople to drink the water is quite another. 19 SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017

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