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Episode #1: Driving value to the max

Chris Dowse is a Vice President of Customer Outcomes at Smartsheet. Chris has been a game changer in the value management space for quite some time. Chris is responsible for enabling customers to drive maximum value from their use of SmartSheet. In his role, Chris leads a team of customer success managers who are focused on helping customers achieve their desired outcomes.

Chris has a deep understanding of Value Management and he has helped many organizations to improve their Value Management processes. Chris will be sharing his insights on Value Management with us today. I’m really excited to have him join me for our very first episode of Driving Value.

Listen to the episode.


Tim Page (00:22):

Welcome to Driving Value: Your Morning Commute. Our goal with Driving Value is to do short segments with different people who are all trying to solve the same challenges across sales, marketing, and success.

Tim Page (00:33):

Of course we want our businesses to be successful, but we want them to be successful by our customers in turn being successful. So our podcast is going to highlight leaders from across organizations who understand the key to making an impact in their organization by leading with value to their customer.

Tim Page (00:49):

My guest today is Chris Dowse, Vice-President of Customer Operations at Smartsheet. Chris has been a game changer in the value management space for quite some time. I'm really excited to have him join me today with our first episode of Driving Value.

Chris Dowse (01:03):

Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here. Lots going on in the value space.

Chris Dowse (01:09):

As you mentioned, I personally have led and transformed a number of value outcome consulting practices across software companies over the past 10 years, and then before that, I had my own consulting firm and I was really doing more sort of user adoption with buyers, but the conversation around value and how much value they were going to get out of adoption was pretty central to that business. So, yes, I've been loving the value space for a long time.

Tim Page (01:44):

Great. Yeah. Your reputation precedes you. So I'm glad to be chatting with you for a little bit.

Tim Page (01:51):

So, take us back to the beginning, right? You've mentioned you had your own company consulting in the space. My background had been hiring people with really smart financial degrees and understanding product management and kind of tying it together what your value was, and top deals inside a company would get this type of group's attention. We've all spent millions of dollars on these kind of things.

Tim Page (02:15):

Take us back a little bit to the beginning and a little bit how you got started in the sales space, in the value space, and what your path's been.

Chris Dowse (02:25):

Yeah. I was trained as a cadet right out of high school with KPMG. So the math side of value I came to pretty early, but probably further into my career, around that dotcom crazy period, that was where I really crossed over into sales more fully. So I was doing IT consulting sales in the Bay area.

Chris Dowse (02:55):

So that's really where I first got into sales, and then when you have your own consulting firm for 18, 19 years, then you're constantly selling every day. So, really tested the skills there.

Chris Dowse (03:09):

Along the way, one of my customers at ServiceNow convinced me to swap over and be part of the go-to market functions, pre-sales functions that I'd been doing transformation work at with VMware and a bunch of other software companies.

Chris Dowse (03:28):

So, finally today now I'm at Smartsheet. So I do still own the outcome value consulting practice in pre-sales and through to post-sales, and then I also manage the professional services sales organization as well. So, value at the center of all of those for a long time.

Tim Page (03:52):

Yeah. It's great background. I remember that era well. We're dating ourselves a tiny bit but-

Chris Dowse (03:57):


Tim Page (03:57):

But I commiserate all the accounts that we were in and then no longer exist. That's actually a great illustration of how things were not done right for a while, and then some companies really did do it right and they still exist today, which is pretty amazing.

Tim Page (04:18):

What were maybe some of the turns you took at first? Because, again, I don't think people had really heard of companies having what we call value engineers today or a value program. I'm talking to more leaders lately that have talked about redefining of what that value group should actually be doing and that type of thing.

Tim Page (04:39):

What were maybe some of the wrong turns you made and some of the lessons learned and how you came to the thought leadership that you and probably there's a half dozen, maybe a dozen, of you guys that really have done very deep thinking around the space.

Chris Dowse (04:56):

Yeah. Wrong turns, lessons. I think probably when you think about if you're a product company, software company, you're going to think of value from the inside out, and I think I probably in doing that consulting engagements for a number of software companies definitely believed in that philosophy.

Chris Dowse (05:24):

But I think if that's not paired with the outside in from the customer's outcome objective lens, then what you really end up with is a value consulting, value motions that are way too about the math and way too about this sort of myopic degree to which the product can change a business KPI.

Chris Dowse (05:54):

But the reality is, the product, the service has to live in this business context that's broader than that, and if you don't have that connection, then you get into a lot of arguments over your math around the product contribution. So I'd say that's definitely something that if I had a time machine I'd go back and say, "Let's make sure we have that outside in from the beginning."

Chris Dowse (06:22):

I think in terms of a best practice, closely related, but again, value consultants, if we have our classic accounting financial training, we do tend to get too caught up in the math. So, storytelling is paramount in this situation. If you can't present the solution that you're selling and the value of in that broader context that I just mentioned, then that's less compelling and not in alignment with buying.

Chris Dowse (07:00):

And then also, there always needs to be a bad guy in the story, right? So, I see a lot of value motions where they try and say, "If you don't act in the next three months, you're going to lose this much value." That's not Darth Vader, right?

Tim Page (07:18):

Yeah. Yeah.

Chris Dowse (07:19):

You need something way more disturbing, sort of like a 20 times the... if you've got a value of a dollar, then a 20 times business issue that the executives are worried about. So storytelling and that big, bad business issue, evil guy in your story, is a good best practice in my mind.

Tim Page (07:42):

So I have a question for you. It just triggered thinking through. So, I've held all kinds of different roles in my past. Started off in engineering and ops and sales and you name it. One of the things I've seen in a couple CEO seats now is I always say you look at things differently depending where you're sitting.

Chris Dowse (08:00):


Tim Page (08:00):

But one of the big things... I'm kind of leading the witness, but I'm interested in how you do it today. At the end of the day, a company has to solve pain for a customer in some form, right? You're either enhancing something they do, you're doing it better, you're doing it safer. You're doing it, right?

Tim Page (08:17):

On your thinking, how much does what I'll call a value team or a value initiative throughout a company feed back into product groups? Because who's building product, and everything from feature function to ease to... How much do you see that actually happening or think it should happen?

Chris Dowse (08:41):

Well, I definitely think it should. Since value is largely driven by usage, and especially if you have a value practice or value motions that are really telemetry driven, so if you're really analyzing the behavior, and then in addition, of course, when you go out to do value realization, or even in the sales process where you're trying to drive to ground why the customers are buying something, then that demand signal and the product signal is absolutely there.

Chris Dowse (09:17):

So I think that if you've got a solution marketing organization and a product marketing organization, your value practice wants to be really tightly connected to both of those because it drives the future, what's just over the horizon in a two year horizon, and you start to talk about thought leadership, value claims that are new, but then it also is perfect for rubber hits the road feedback straight back into a product group.

Chris Dowse (09:48):

So I definitely think that in a mature value practice you should have that synergy and interlock, for sure.

Tim Page (09:58):

Yeah. Interesting. What do you think the relationship is between outcome selling and value selling?

Chris Dowse (10:03):

Yeah. Obviously they're related, but I think probably, I don't know, maybe the past five to 10 years in the value selling space it's been stronger over outcome selling.

Chris Dowse (10:20):

As we are trying to put both of those disciplines into Smartsheet over the past 18 months, I really focus my value selling more on the concepts of deal win rates, focus it more on preventing discounting, outcome selling and getting outcome conversations early in the sales process really about that alignment, deal expansion, really opening up the possibilities with the customer.

Chris Dowse (10:56):

So, ideally you'd have both, but your value selling has tended to dominate more in value practices-

Tim Page (11:06):

How do you think-

Chris Dowse (11:07):

... purely by its name, right?

Tim Page (11:09):

No, it's true. Having consulted in the area and owned your own company, you just got me thinking through, because I'm seeing a big shift but in pockets, right? So what's your view of what you're seeing I'll call the C-suite adopting the need to have... the concept of a real value organization really permeates throughout the company, because it does help in time to sale and discounting and your ongoing customer retention and you name it if you do it right. How do you see that?

Tim Page (11:40):

I could maybe even ask you what got you into Smartsheet, thinking what did they need to fill the gap and how do you see... So, two questions. What got you to Smartsheet to do the position you're in today, and where do you see things going in general, I think? Because some of these are-

Chris Dowse (11:58):

Yeah. I obviously can answer the first one easily, and this is the same reason why I went from my own consulting firm to ServiceNow. When you're actually designing a full customer lifecycle journey and that's going to thread through sales, it's going to thread through solution engineering, it's going to thread through professional services, it's going to thread through customer success, and then it's going to find its way back to threading through marketing back to selling again.

Chris Dowse (12:37):

So that full lifecycle and that customer outcome journey, that takes the value conversations and value all the way through the business. So, for Smartsheet, as an example, that was literally the role. It was like taking 10 years of my value consulting transformation experience with ISVs and rolling it all into one role. So that was a no-brainer.

Chris Dowse (13:07):

But we did the same thing at ServiceNow. We had the professional services organization was moving to outcome value-based lines. I think we did something like 800 value realization motions at ServiceNow.

Tim Page (13:22):


Chris Dowse (13:26):

We scaled out of the value practice. So there's a finite number of value consultants, professionals, in the world, in the industry, like you said before. So we scaled value out to solution engineering in the sales organization. We had two and a half thousand reps and solution consultants doing their own business cases, like almost one and a half billion dollars of pipeline-

Tim Page (13:56):


Chris Dowse (13:56):

... value being led by the field. So, if you have that customer outcome journey, then you're able to thread it throughout all the functional players to get the best result.

Tim Page (14:11):

It's interesting. You were a piece of it, but a few years ago I looked at top 25 tech companies that had exited over three billion, either going public or not, and kind of what their motions were. It's funny because one of the big pieces permeated throughout all of those orgs at every company... I don't want to name them because I couldn't name all 25, but what I saw was... You know them, right? The companies that you just know did really, really well. They had value permeated from the top down, right from the CEO, the COO, kind of through.

Tim Page (14:44):

You see some of these companies that flounder and you look into why and there's definitely a connection to the ability to be able to articulate to your prospect the value it's going to show them and allowing them to communicate that up.

Tim Page (14:57):

You mentioned value realization. We're seeing a big shift happening. For me being new to this whole space, I probably saw it seven months ago. So, for me, it was when I just started thinking through this as it relates to a sector, and we've done a lot of development in this space over the last seven months.

Tim Page (15:19):

Tell me about your experience and the impact of value realization motions as you've seen them.

Chris Dowse (15:24):

Yeah. For a SaaS company, it's just table stakes now. It should have been all along. It is really powerful. It's my favorite value motion for a couple of reasons. If you can get a decent value to spend proof point value ratio, then it usually does get you in front of senior buyers, and then you marry that with like, "I'm going to tell you where your value leakage is and how others are getting sort of... If you've got to 12 times the value, how are others getting to 15?" So it really smokes out a senior player. So I like that aspect of it.

Chris Dowse (16:14):

At the tactical level, so I just mentioned we did 800 engagements. We doubled our upselling by a factor of two at ServiceNow-

Tim Page (16:26):


Chris Dowse (16:27):

... using value realization. I'm at an earlier stage here at Smartsheet. Our goal by the time we get to the end of the year will probably have hit a third of renewals by a dollar perspective.

Tim Page (16:44):


Chris Dowse (16:46):

But we already have those incredible stories. We had a renewal probably it was like two quarters ago, I think it was, a Fortune 50. I think we showed up with a 14 times value to spend ratio-

Tim Page (17:04):


Chris Dowse (17:04):

... and their procurement department was, "Wow. This renewal's going to be tough." Well, it wasn't tough for us, it was tough for them. In that example, they actually renewed a month early, which is even more impressive.

Chris Dowse (17:19):

So if you can get it working well and then scale it into customer success, that's just the perfection. That's the perfect scenario, being able to bring senior buyers to the table, getting your upselling, and then every now and then you'll get that big early renewal.

Tim Page (17:40):

Yeah. That's super impactful. It is interesting because we're finding ourselves with this recession going on, or we're seeing people tightening their belts.

Tim Page (17:50):

I talk to a number of CEOs constantly to just understand what they're doing and what they're going through in the startup world. And even the [inaudible 00:18:00]. A lot of our customers are big Fortune 1000 customers. One of the things they'll all tell you the C-suite is, they care more about retaining and expanding a customer base than just adding new, right?

Chris Dowse (18:12):

Yeah. It's our quarter end in a few days and we have this pretty large deal with an electric vehicle maker whose name I won't mention. Even though they might be rethinking their IT spend in total, our ability to have a pretty powerful value realization story... And the other thing is, it's even better if you can do it in a survey-based way that the customer's own employees actually put the measurements on it instead of you, right?

Tim Page (18:53):


Chris Dowse (18:53):

So they can't argue with their own employees saying, "Hey. We avoided $14 million in spend in the past 12 months because of X, Y, and Z." So that's pretty powerful stuff.

Chris Dowse (19:06):

So, for any SaaS company that has access to usage data, which they should, then weaponizing that and figuring out how to get the customer sharing that story, it's very powerful.

Tim Page (19:20):

Yeah. That's great. That's impactful, Chris. Hey, one more question and we'll wrap things up a little bit, in our attempt to stick around 20 minutes. Where do you see this whole discipline going? Now that could be an hour conversation, but high level, where do you see this whole... As you know, like I said, I think there's a half dozen maybe, maybe a dozen professionals that really get it to the extent you do in my year and a half into this area. Where do you see the discipline going? Do you think it's going to be something systemic throughout companies? Is it going to get more standardized into what it is? What do you think?

Chris Dowse (20:02):

Well, I definitely agree. We talked about the customer journey before. I definitely think that connection and that holistic full lifecycle view, I think that's going to definitely become more pervasive.

Chris Dowse (20:17):

We were lucky at ServiceNow. Bill McDermott, the CEO, he's an old school value zealot.

Tim Page (20:31):

He's the father, yeah.

Chris Dowse (20:35):

Him pushing that alignment through value management throughout the company, I think that's going to become more and more mainstreamed.

Chris Dowse (20:50):

There's not enough value professionals in the world to go around. So digital motions is going to rise, right? So you're going to see that not just in scaling something as standard as a business case, which everyone should be doing now, but then you're going to see a lot more sophistication, I think, in the telemetry-based value realization motions. That's still a young frontier. We did ours at ServiceNow only two or three years ago.

Chris Dowse (21:23):

And then probably lastly, there's another thing that's sort of... I don't know if it's just specific to a Smartsheet lens, so I'll just say it out loud and we'll find out. In the past two and a half years, COVID, everybody's struggling, there's been a real human awakening in the workplace. So I think also what we're seeing is that classically value practices run 100% on enterprise value propositions as opposed to individual.

Chris Dowse (22:02):

So I think what we're going to see is a shift where being able to articulate human value and, more importantly, value to individuals, so things like trust, control, empowerment and engagement, we're starting to see that in our business, in our selling process. Because Smartsheet is, effectively, an empowerment platform, it's like a no-code platform, so citizen developers can create anything. But I think that concept's going to spill out as part of the fundamental transformation of the workplace.

Chris Dowse (22:43):

So that shift to human value and end user value or individual value, that's something new that we're seeing.

Tim Page (22:52):

Interesting. Chris, it's been great chatting for sure. I can't wait to host a few of these with you and listen and learn as I have been for the last year and a half in this space.

Tim Page (23:03):

Any parting thoughts for listeners that you maybe thought of through our session?

Chris Dowse (23:11):

Well, obviously I'm biased. So everybody-

Tim Page (23:15):

It's all value.

Chris Dowse (23:15):

Everybody should be trying to extend their value practices, their value motions. I think it's just, as you said, as potential of a recession gets tighter, the value of these practices only goes up, business cases in the pre-sales and value realization in the renewals.

Chris Dowse (23:37):

So, I think just keep plugging away and keep expanding your coverage and your motions.

Tim Page (23:47):

Great. Thanks, Chris. Can't wait to do some of these series with you. Thanks for taking the time.

Chris Dowse (23:51):

Yeah. Thanks for having me, Tim.