Magazine Article | August 1, 2019

The Physics Of Software Business Operations

Source: Software Executive magazine

By Abby Sorensen, Chief Editor

The COO of Moogsoft explains how simple changes to customer success, marketing, and sales operations can set the stage for growth.

Amer Deeba
There’s a common — albeit oversimplified — belief in the software industry that you either write the code or you help market, sell, and support the customers who use the code. Amer Deeba is the rare executive who can do all of the above. During the first decade of his career he described himself as a “hardcore developer,” deep in the weeds of building software. In fact, Deeba was one of the original engineers on the Acrobat project for Adobe. That said, he’s always been drawn to the product side of building software, especially when it comes to understanding the customers who benefit from it. Since his days as an engineer, he’s held roles as a GM, CMO, CCO, and VP of corporate development and strategic alliances at various tech companies.

Being able to wear both technical and non-technical hats is serving Deeba well in his current role as chief operating officer at Moogsoft, which builds AI solutions for IT operations teams. This relatively new category of tech — dubbed AIOps — didn’t even exist when Deeba started developing software. According to an HTF Market Intelligence report in February 2019, the AIOps platform market is projected to reach $11.1 billion by 2025. This is more than 34 percent higher growth than originally forecasted for a market that was valued at only $800 million as recently as 2016.

In short, Moogsoft is in a prime position as an early market builder to capitalize on this enormous growth opportunity. Deeba joined the Moogsoft team in October 2018, a few months after the company’s $40 Series D round closed, to take over responsibilities for all go-to-market functions. Today, he takes a hands-on approach to leading the company’s sales, marketing, customer success, and strategic alliances. “Ideas are wonderful, but bringing them to life by executing is really what makes a company succeed and scale,” Deeba says.

TURN CUSTOMERS INTO CHAMPIONS

The very first idea Deeba brought to life after joining Moogsoft was to formalize a customer success team. Within his first week, he had given a mission to this newly formed group to build relationships with customers that would ultimately impact how the product, technical support, and engineering teams would operate. The goal is to have customers become champions for Moogsoft, not just companies that continue to use the platform. That’s a tall order considering some of Moogsoft’s customers include big names like American Airlines, Intuit, Yahoo!, and GoDaddy.

“It's important that customers feel they have some ownership and feel they can help you shape the future of your product – that’s how they become your champions.”

For growth-mode companies like Moogsoft, acquiring customers can easily trump building relationships with customers. This is especially true for companies that have raised several rounds of venture funding and are feeling the pressure to show investors a return. Moogsoft checks both boxes: Its worldwide customer base doubled last fiscal year, and Deeba’s teams have implemented a plan to turn those customers into brand advocates. That plan involves forums for customers to provide ongoing engagement instead of communicating only when something goes wrong or when it’s time to renew the contract. Deeba helped create ways to engage with customers via webinars, social media exchanges, and a customer advisory board.

“During each sale we always like to say, ‘This is in partnership with you, because this is a new market that we are forging and forming together,’” Deeba explains. “It’s important that customers feel they have some ownership and feel they can help you shape the future of your product — that’s how they become your champions.”

GET MARKETING & SALES TEAMS IN SYNC

Deeba didn’t just want to ensure customers could be taken care of after the sale. He wants to ensure his marketing team knows exactly how the sales team is selling Moogsoft. Understanding the “how” and the “why” behind the sales process is critical to scaling. One of the adjustments he made was getting the marketing team directly involved in sales conversations. Deeba points out a critical mistake marketing teams often make: They don’t understand how the software is actually sold, so they toss leads over the fence to the sales team without fully knowing if those leads are a fit. Since sales and marketing teams are often isolated from each other, a marketing team can think it is performing well, when in reality the sales team isn’t closing enough of its leads.

To avoid that disconnect, Deeba involved the marketing team in the creation and delivery of a new sales deck. Existing customers were asked to give feedback on the new and improved pitch, too. “Our refined deck is not just marketing buzzwords on slides with pictures,” Deeba says. “That kind of marketing doesn’t add up anymore.”

Having Deeba as a senior hire who oversees both marketing and sales certainly helped foster this symbiotic relationship between marketing, sales, and customers. That said, it’s never too late for a software company to go through an exercise of understanding product positioning and the physics of its sales process.

UNDERSTAND THE PHYSICS OF SALES

One of the first things Deeba wanted to learn when he joined Moogsoft is what he calls the physics of the sale. This process is more than a way for him to learn the ins and outs of a new position in a new market. “You can’t learn that by sitting in your cube and talking to people; you have to go out and visit customers, immerse yourself in the industry, and get educated,” Deeba says. True to his word, he phoned in to an interview with Software Executive from his car (he was in a customer’s parking lot having just left a face-to-face meeting). “You have to understand how you’re going to sell successfully by showing a customer value at the end of the day,” Deeba explains. “You can’t start putting processes in place or hiring before you do that.”

At Moogsoft, the process starts with a sales rep opening the door to a new customer. A technical sales engineer takes the reigns from there to understand requirements and provide a proof of concept. In order to provide that, the sales process is highly consultative and customized to the data each prospect provides. What’s unique about Moogsoft’s process is that it puts customers first even before they become customers. The customer success, technical support, and delivery teams are engaged with prospects during the sales process, not just after the contract is signed. This way, the handoff from the sales team to the post-sale customer-facing team (or to a partner overseeing the implementation) is seamless.

"You have to understand how you’re going to sell successfully by showing a customer value at the end of the day. Don't start putting processes in place or hiring before you do that.”

The cross-functional collaboration during the sales process also applies to the customer. For example, Moogsoft provides educational trainings and videos for the frontline IT operators who use the platform. Those resources are available during the sales process and are geared towards the users who will see the biggest impact from Moogsoft (even if those users aren’t typically the ones involved in the sales cycle). Engaging with the frontline personnel instead of just influencing purchasing decision makers also makes the post-sale deployment phase easier.

Not all software companies are at the stage where they need to grow their executive teams or where they’re ready to scale rapidly after an injection of capital. And not all software companies have a product and a sales cycle as complex as Moogsoft’s. But you don’t need to wait for a new (or first) chief operating officer to evaluate customer success, marketing, and sales operations. Deeba’s parting advice holds true for companies at all stages of growth: “There’s no cookie-cutter approach. Try to understand what you’re selling and what your software does and be part of that process from the beginning.”


Moogsoft

Headquarters: San Francisco, CA
Offices: Los Altos, CA and Broomfield, CO
Year founded: 2011
Number of Employees: 200+

Customers: 120+ worldwide including SAP SuccessFactors, American Airlines, GoDaddy, and Verizon Media Group

Funding: $92.9 million

Investors: Goldman Sachs, Redpoint, Northgate Capital, Wing Venture Capital, Cisco, HCL Technologies, Dell Technologies, ST Telemedia, Singtel Innov8, Sand Hill East

Honors/Awards/Recognition:

  • Achieved Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Management Tools Competency status
  • Named one of Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces 2018