The Latest from the ABM Experts
March 19, 2019
When do you need a Chief Evangelist?
Written by Sangram Vajre
This post is based on a podcast with Dan Steinman. If you’d like to listen to more #FlipMyFunnel Podcast episodes, you can check them out here and listen to this episode below!
Tech evangelists have been with us since the beginning of the Macintosh operating system.
While the evangelist title is undeniably cool, when is it necessary for your company to deploy one and whom should it be?
We sat down with Dan Steinman, co-author of the book Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue and Chief Evangelist for Gainsight, a customer success company which helps businesses secure and surpass their customers’ desired outcomes and deliver consistently amazing experiences.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- Stepping stones to becoming an evangelist.
- What you should evangelize.
- What is the ROI on evangelism?
- Who on your team should be an evangelist?
- Why you should write a book.
- Sangram’s Summary.
- Dan’s Challenge.
Stepping stones to becoming an evangelist.
After successful stints at Epiphany, NearbyNow, Mozes, and Marketo, Steinman joined Gainsight seven years ago as the Chief Customer Officer. During those early days, he really enjoyed the energy that comes from being a startup. When Gainsight moved from the startup stage to the scale-up stage, Steinman got bored.
“I am truly a startup guy, and when things get to a certain level of scale, I’m better off getting out of the way. And so I went to my CEO and I said, ‘I’m not the guy to run this. It’s clear we’re a big company. I’m not a process guy. I’m not a data guy in that way. I think you need someone else to run this business.'” said Steinman.
The CEO created the evangelist position because every single time Steinman talked to a customer or a prospect, the value of the company went up. “So I want you to do that more.”
What you should evangelize.
A lot of people mistake evangelizing with selling the product. That’s the kiss of death.
Steinman focused on preaching the new gospel of customer success. He rarely mentioned Gainsight.
“Maybe half the time it would be about customer success kind of philosophically,” says Steinman. “But the other half would be about, ‘what does your technology do?'”
When those leads did come, Steinman would pass them along to a salesperson, if the prospect wanted.
With this concept of “edusales,” the idea is to preach to the problem, not your company’s solution. If you’re speaking before groups who have the problems that you could solve, don’t worry. The very interested will ask about your solution. Think of it as self-prequalification.
What is the ROI on evangelism?
Evangelism doesn’t really lend itself to handy metrics. You could measure it by audience size, how many people you interact with via public speaking, webinars, or online but the ROI on such efforts is hard to quantify.
Originally Steinman was more scattershot in the groups he spoke to. Over time, he became more systematic.
“We found that VC firms, private equity firms were really good targets because they were willing to put us in front of their whole portfolio,” says Steinman. “The easiest way to get in front of as many companies as possible is if 50 of them are in the room at the same time. We create a ton of credibility really fast by speaking to those groups. We were truly just evangelists.”
Who on your team should be the chief evangelist?
If you are creating a new category, the CEO is the first evangelist. They have to create a vision that motivates the other founders, the development team, investors and potentially the end customers.
A new category necessitates evangelism.
If you are not a new category but a better mousetrap, you still need to evangelize about how the new way is better.
“The first ten minutes of my presentation is almost always, ‘This is the way we used to do it. Those things are gone. We can’t do it that way anymore. Here’s the new way of doing things,'” says Steinman.
Evangelism works best in the early days when you are establishing a new market, a new way of thinking. Mature industries generally don’t benefit from evangelism.
Why you should write a book.
Not everyone needs to write a book, but if you’re an evangelist, it can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Of course a book establishes thought leadership in your industry. It also provides a platform for speaking engagements and press interviews.
Steinman’s book, Customer Success, has sold 50,000 copies which is huge for a business book.
“My editor recently said to me, ‘I’ve done lots and lots of business books. This is the first one I’ve ever seen that sold more the second year than it did the first year and more in the third year than in the second year.’ And that told us we hit the market at the right time,” says Steinman.
Of Gainsight’s 600 customers, 25% of them have come from or have read the book. The book does evangelism while you are sleeping.
A book also points to new markets.
“Wiley has translated the book into Portuguese and Japanese, which means that the next two Gainsight offices very well might be Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo because the customer success movement is really hot in those two places,” says Steinman. “We use that as a barometer, along with our events, to say, where is the next place that we could potentially go and actually sell our stuff?
Steinman says that evangelism reveals a new way of thinking about solving the pain points of your prospects at the macro. You are talking about the solution to their problem in a way that is solution agnostic. Your company’s solution is a merely one of many good ways that embodies this new way of thinking.
Here’s Steinman’s evangelistic challenge:
“If you don’t think your company needs a Chief Evangelist then I would ask you hard questions about how much you’re moving, because, if you’re a real innovative company there’s a leading edge opportunity to evangelism.
“If you don’t see the place that a Chief Evangelist would have an impact over the next two months, then you are probably in an older industry, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re trying to be innovative and you don’t see a place for the Chief Evangelist role, I would argue that maybe you’re not being innovative enough.
“I would challenge anybody out there to either carve out the role, or at least carve out the messaging of that role. It doesn’t have to be just one person, but it might be valuable to give somebody a 12-month period where that’s their title and let them go find large groups to talk to about how we see the world differently than the way it used to be done.