With the dust settling on its annual user conference Enterprise Times had the opportunity to talk to Tony Kender, Chief Revenue Officer at FinancialForce. FinancialForce is seeing a resurgence in growth. It also unveiled its latest release, Summer 21, at FFX and spoke about what is coming in the Fall. Enterprise Times first asked Kender how FFX went.
“It was a great success. The reason it was a great success is we created a new messaging framework for the entire company. It wasn’t just Scott Brown’s keynote. It was the messaging that goes along with that. How we’re going to go to market. What my salespeople will say. How that will connect into the solution, etc. It also laid the groundwork for where we’re headed as a company, launching a couple of very interesting new products.
“The early anecdotal feedback we got from customers was extremely positive. We have a customer who’s in the process of evaluating and buying PSA for the professional services organisation. About the customer success operations product (due out in the Fall 21 release), she said, ‘Are we buying that? I think we need that.’
“I think that the number of customers, the diversity of those customers, the industries, the sizes, the way they use the product was also very helpful. So I was extremely pleased in that regard.”
On the new messaging
Some of the messaging talked about was around being “in full-colour”, is that what you mean by the messaging?
“Well, that’s our branding, the full-colour piece and the messaging around what Scott Brown talked about as far as customer-centricity in the services economy, and what’s happening. The main thing that resonated with me is, we used to say, ‘Quote to Cash’, but now it’s ‘Opportunity to Renewal’. That’s a much broader continuum. That’s what we look at, and we think we can impact with our current and new solutions. Getting that message out there and then showing how we can deliver a solution against it further differentiates us.”
Another Chief Revenue Officer?
Before Scott Brown, CEO, joined FinancialForce, it had been through several Sales and Marketing leaders. Brown, as he stated, has a “bias for stability”. Kender joined in January 2020 and is a key person in driving growth forward. With Brown keeping the leadership team unchanged, it is enabling him to deliver on his strategy. Why did he join the company?
“It’s an interesting question. I had an opportunity to be the president of a company three times the size of FinancialForce and had been at Oracle for two different stints. I just liked the people and the things they said they needed to fix around sales execution, marketing and messaging. It fits into the experience I’ve had in my career. I felt that if we fixed that, that we had a rocket ship here. I feel that way, even more so today.”
What is the scope of your role as CRO at FinancialForce, as the role can vary between different organisations?
“I’m responsible for marketing, alliances and channels, pre-sales, sales, sales operations, and sales enablement—the entire piece from when we find an opportunity to when we sell it. Then we turn that over to our chief customer officers organisation for implementation, support and customer success.”
What do you like most about your job?
“I love the people, and I’m doing what I have had the experience to do over the years, in a way where we can make business decisions based on the facts, weighing the pros and cons and then executing quickly. You come from a big place like Oracle, and that slowly gets taken away from you to a point where you wake up one day and say, Hey, I’m a Senior Vice President, which is equivalent to an Executive Vice President at Salesforce, but I can’t make any decisions. Then you see all these things that you think need to be changed.
“While I loved my time at Oracle and my colleagues there, I get to take that experience and come here and make quick decisions. The people that work here now are saying, “Wow, Isn’t that fantastic that we can make decisions so quickly.” It should be just a normal course of business. Unfortunately, so many people weren’t used to that. So that’s the thing I liked the most.”
Looking back, what were your key challenges when you joined?
“The key challenges were process, structure and talent level. All the other problems that people said we had stemmed from those three things. We weren’t structured properly for our go-to-market. We were missing certain key roles. I didn’t have anybody who ran our North American business, which is the large majority of our revenue. I brought somebody in to do that. The structure below them wasn’t correct. Our enterprise sales structure was being devalued, and I reinvigorated that. Almost half of our salespeople and the majority of our sales management are new talent. We did all that while driving the car at 100 miles an hour as the business doesn’t stop.”
What happened after you joined?
“We had this fantastic plan, and COVID hit a couple of weeks after I got here. So we took that opportunity to do what we dubbed “fix the machine”. Which was, let’s look at the processes, look at the policies, look at the systems, look at how things are implemented. (We looked at) compensation plans, how we’re marketing, the messaging structure, how we’re training people, all of that. It was those areas that I had to focus on.”
What are your challenges now?
“My challenges are getting our new messaging out and increasing awareness in the marketplace. Even though we’re the number one provider in our space, there’s still an awareness issue. Working with Salesforce, it’s a challenge for us to educate those salespeople and get them to work with us. Once they figure it out, though, they’re blown away because they see how we actually complete the equation for what they do in the front office. So it’s a really fantastic fit.”
Kender has a different view from many in the last year. Where some organisations shut up shop, he believes that customers will have business issues they need solving. As a result, FinancialForce sold a lot of new business during COVID. While some were delayed, especially for the large enterprise sector, the company finished the year strongly with a top-five Q4 and its best-ever Q1.
Despite focusing on improving the hygiene of the pipeline, it remains strong. Some sectors were down. He called out Services and Software, whose user license purchase generally fell during the pandemic. What does he hope to achieve by the end of 2021?
“My feeling for the future is very, very positive. In my SMB business, we can build in the quarter pipe and close it in the same quarter and spin up a business very quickly. In the enterprise business market, it takes time. A lot of those companies don’t even understand PSA. They have to get educated. Why? They’re using spreadsheets.
“You’ve got to evangelise. Those salespeople have now built a pipeline, and those sales cycles take longer. We’re seeing them come online for the second half. This year we’ve stabilised the business, we brought in the talent, and this year the mantra is to execute with efficiency. So that’s what we’re doing, and it’s my personal goal to drive a 40% plus growth year for the company.”
On international expansion
FinancialForce is accelerating its geographical coverage faster than ever. How will that evolve?
“I look at a couple of things. I look at the market coverage, and I look at the market opportunity. We will expand in Europe. I want to do that with strong resellers and especially if they’re in that Salesforce ecosystem. Salesforce is helping us with that. I think the Middle East is another area that is very intriguing to me. Frankly, we get interest there without trying, and I think it’s time to pay better attention to that. I think a partner there would be important.
“In ANZ, we have a team on the ground, and we are recalibrating our partner strategy, moving into someplace like Singapore. In North America, we have so much coverage and opportunity to build territories out for our existing sales team. There’s plenty of room to expand there. At the same time, we inject additional products, as you’ve seen us announce. Those two things together spell an awful lot of growth opportunity. That’s what I’m excited about.”
No mention of LATAM
“Not at this time.”
The book question
What is the latest book or business book you read?
“I’m currently rereading The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi (Amazon Aus, UK, US). It used to be required reading in the ’80s for Harvard MBA students. I dusted that off. He’s actually behind me on my wall. I’m trying to decide. It is either going to be The Black Swan ( by Nassim Nicholas Taleb Amazon Aus, UK, US), which is obviously interesting [considering] what we’ve just gone through. Also, Sapiens (by Yuval Noah Harari – Amazon (Aus, UK, US) was recommended to me by my cousin who’s a doctor.”