CTAs That Will Impact Revenue Process: Interview with Maria Pergolino, VP of Marketing at Apttus
During the Salesforce Dreamforce conference, Maria Pergolino, VP of Marketing at Apttus, filled us in on the benefits of Apttus’ Quote-to-Cash solution, which operates behind the scenes on the Salesforce platform. According to Pergolino, users might not even realize that they are using Apttus—and in her eyes, this is a beautiful adaptation of the product. The company aims to improve business processes that directly impact revenue. In this vein, Apttus has recently expanded its feature set; this includes a new contract product which Pergolino described as a natural complement to their quoting product, from an end-user perspective. Commenting on their presence at Dreamforce, Pergolino said Salesforce is Apttus’ largest investor, and that the two companies work closely together.
Tell us about your vision and mission—why was Apttus at Dreamforce?
Apttus is a leading Quote-to-Cash company. When we say “Quote-to-Cash,” we’re talking about three categories: quoting, contract management and revenue management solutions. One of the things that is very important to our customers is that we’re built entirely on the Salesforce platform. For a user of our type of product, who is in Salesforce already, the opportunity to just be able to click and say, “Let me create a quote” or “Let me create that contract” is invaluable. The user may not even realize that they are using Apttus, but this is a beautiful adaption of our product. It’s just right there as a CTA in Salesforce, so they don’t have to go to another system. This is not a single sign on system; we are actually built on the platform.
Salesforce itself is one of our customers. Dreamforce is important because not only are we both selling to the same ecosystem, we are mutual customers. They are our largest investor. So our partnership and this conference are very exciting.
What kind of company needs Apttus? Are you best suited to certain industries, or is it more about company size and the complexity of the quote?
Originally, we started out selling to very big companies. Some of our customers are the biggest everyday brands. But now we have evolved into selling to smaller organizations as well. We’ve found that we are a good fit for smaller companies with complexity around their quotes, who face challenges similar to those we address for our larger customers. Because we’ve shifted downstream, we developed an additional edition of our product to serve smaller companies that have slightly less complexity size-wise.
In terms of industries, we have solutions for manufacturing, financial services, health care and life sciences as well as telecommunications and high-tech. Each one has different challenges, so we really have to provide specialized solutions. For example, in manufacturing we do a lot of customization in terms of supplies and different parts. We allow for complexity in the order process, and manage the custom pricing all the way through to the contract. But that situation is very different than over on the insurance or financial services side, where there might be complexity because a broker is involved. Industry customization is an important piece of our value proposition.
We also encourage our customers in each vertical to get together to talk about best practices. We do this here, with our lounges at Dreamforce, as well as at our own user conferences. With some groups, like telecommunications, we do a user conference call and they can mix and discuss over the phone. It’s great for them, and it’s important for us because we can listen to their needs and find out how they’re using our product day-to-day. Our Telco customer advisory board is really helpful. The customer voice helps us to improve, and it gets other customers interested in the product. We kicked off our first customer advisory board two years ago at our user conference, and it has been important as far has helping us learn about the best practices in both CPQ and contract management.
What is the key pain point Apttus solves with this set of products?
Companies are doing a lot of different things on their own to improve processes, but with our product the improvements are directly tied to revenue; the growth that you’re seeing in this space is coming from the impact of that revenue process. When we talk about quoting, your reps are going to be happier because they don’t want to spend their time thinking about approvals and figuring out price points.
Even a company like Salesforce—when you think about their pricing, it may seem easy because each user should cost “this” much, but their marketing cloud for example is priced not by users but by the size of the database. Then they have other products that are priced for the whole platform as opposed to individual-specific licenses. This can be really difficult for a rep to learn, so Apttus guides you through the process, recommending products and showing what other customers have bundled together. This not only makes the sales rep happier but also impacts revenue, both by selling more products and by selling the right bundles.
One great feature where Apttus stands out is that we have a contract process, in addition to quoting and revenue solutions. Once users have a quote, they can click one button to turn that quote into a contract, eliminating the extra step of writing out a contract both for that initial contract and for renewal.
Can you talk about your Quote-to-Cash intelligence product that’s powered by Wave?
It has the ability to bring in multiple data points, even from outside of Salesforce, to give customers additional reporting capabilities. The predictive analytics from Wave give our Quote-to-Cash intelligence product the ability to produce Amazon-style product and bundle recommendations. It also allows the management level to run forecast reports and factor in the effects of any potential future tweaks or incidents on revenue. We are able to pull data from multiple sources in to where a company’s sales data lives, which can be really powerful.
Apttus just had a pretty big feature release. Are there any particular themes to that? What are the trends and strategies that are driving where you are going?
This feature release is really about making sure we were adding functionality in every part of the product. On the quoting side, we added the ability to do eCommerce and promotions. It’s a tool for marketers to more deeply understand the financial impact of different types of offers and track how promotions affect revenue.
Also, Salesforce announced their Lightning experience, which is the new UI. Because of our strong alignment with Salesforce (we’re in on almost every beta they do), we have modular pieces in place to showcase our new UI along with Salesforce’s new Lightning UI. We’re working with SIs so that our client’s partners, like Deloitte, are able to take our solutions and implement the full Apttus suite for their industries.
With the expansion of your features, you’re getting into new markets and potentially new competitors. As you grow your offering, do you find it more difficult to fit into existing ecosystems?
Outside of our niche, very few people I’ve talked to can imagine a quoting product and a contract product not created together. We see it as two products from a development and go to market perspective, but for sales reps, it doesn’t feel like using multiple products within the flow. Through our revenue management product, we’re trying to bring transparency to the back office/front office exchange of information. We’ve developed this by the request of our clients, based on the flow of their quoting, contracts, and pricing processes. In reality it’s one process that we’re optimizing, and people just purchase our products in different buckets.
When I first got to Apttus three years ago, people were buying CPQ software separately from our contracts or revenue recognition tools, and we are seeing that change drastically with people buying the entire Quote-to-Cash solution altogether. Becase we had the first all-in-one tool, we control the road map—creating a competitive advantage for our customers, since they get our products first while our competitors are still building out capabilities that we already have.
What percentage of clients require outside help for the implementation, either from you or the system integrator?
Every client is either using a system integrator or working directly with us. In some cases, we’re significantly changing a big process right away. Salesforce turned off all of their previous pricing in one day and the next day turned ours on, and it definitely required the work of a systems integrator. We have what we call a Sprint addition for smaller companies, and this is a more common case. That use case involves walking clients through how to use and set up the product, as opposed to high customization for a single product (although that works great as well).
Our service arm is a revenue center. Our goal with services is for more people to have our product up and running—as opposed to profitability. We often work with and even shadow SIs, especially newer ones, to make sure their teams are well-trained. This affects a company’s revenue processes, where there is almost zero tolerance for issues.
Take a company like EverString, just getting off the ground and choosing our Sprint product, which we implemented in one day. I don’t tell this story very often, because I worry that people might not believe me. We brought them on stage on the morning of our user conference and said, “If we get this up and running for you by the end of the day, will you sign?” We got them working with our engineers in the morning, and by the end of the day we had not only implemented Apttus but actually taught one of their salespeople enough that the rep was able to give an onstage demo for us.
Megan champions research at TrustRadius. Her mission is to ensure we gather the highest quality data from authenticated reviewers, and provide useful curated reports for prospective software buyers. Prior to joining TrustRadius, Megan was Director of Sales and Marketing at a media company. She holds MA degrees in Journalism and Latin American Studies from the University of Texas.