Gary Cottrell has seen it all - almost - when it comes to Xactly. The vice president, product marketing at Xactly started with the company in 2006, and he’s seen it evolve over the years. It’s latest evolution, he says, may be its most exciting. That has him charged up over this year’s Xactly Unleashed event - and the several sessions he’s leading himself.
We asked Gary about the historical importance of Unleashed, why he thinks the event is so important to Xactly’s customers, and what the trend toward revenue operations means for sales and for the keepers of data within businesses.
Q: How many Xactly shows, have you been a part of?
A: All of them! With getting close to 15 years under my belt, I think I missed the launch event at a Dreamforce if you include that one, but by the first Xactly event I was there, when we called it CompCloud. I've been at every one, and this year, I’ll be there on my Zoom screen. It's been fun to watch them change over the years. We've gone from conferences that were very product-specific and almost training-specific to becoming an industry conference, where you can learn about bigger things than just how to use our products. Yes, of course, we want you to see what we have to offer, because at the end of the day all Xactlians come to work to build products to help make other companies successful. The primary intent, when we look at what we're doing this year, is to inform and educate and work with our clients and prospects.
Q: You talk to people internally all the time about the product. What does it mean to you to see what's going on with the product in use with our customers?
A: Anytime I can bring real users in and talk to them about what they're going through or what they’re feeling, I think it adds a lot of depth to the conversation.Because while I can sit here in the office and spend an hour telling you best practices, these customer conversations bring out a layer of depth that you just don't get in a presentation. For example, when I'm interviewing Schneider Electric for an Unleashed session, I can be the listener for the audience. When I do interviews I try to think of myself as the representative of everybody listening. It's not my job to ask my questions, it's my job to ask their questions. So I try to listen with the ear of the audience. Of course, I have certain things that I’m going to ask, because I’m one of the audience members as well. But a lot of times I'm really listening and I'm just a curious person, so it's easy for me to ask those questions.
Q: You have a lot of sessions you’re involved with and you're talking about several different important parts of the Xactly portfolio. Is there one session this year that’s your personal favorite?
A: There are several. You know, to lean in on your question and the way you worded it, all these different products and solutions and the ways we're talking to customers, that’s kind of the theme of the event - this growth beyond just commissions calculations. We've tackled this commissions thing, but how do we start to surround it with the things that empower our sales teams to be successful? When I think about that theme, and the things that have been the most fun to prepare for, I think of the Xactly on Xactly session. This year, we thought we’d do it a little different and bring a broader group of people in and talk about how we use the Xactly ecosystem of products as a revenue engine.
Revenue is not a simple topic. Every vendor out there is trying to put their flag in the ground and say they are the leaders of revenue, but it’s a complex topic that weaves through the sales team and the other go-to-market teams such as marketing and customer success, but it also is a very, very important topic for finance. When we do the Xactly on Xactly session and we talk to Finance and we talk to our Sales Ops and Revenue Ops leaders, it becomes easy to see how these different pieces all fit together to address a big equation.
Q: Digital transformation sounds like a revolutionary thing that causes a lot of disruption, a lot of confusion, a lot of concern. Do you try to explain it not as a single event but as a process?
A: Absolutely. We're not coming in and throwing the tables over and saying, “let's start from scratch, let's get a whiteboard.” We are documenting finite steps that can be accomplished and measured and made successful. Creating finite steps to tackle and put a checkmark beside and then put a measurement beside to figure out how successful we were and whether we met our goals is a much more achievable approach.
Q: It's like it's like cleaning your garage: you look at the giant pile of stuff in your garage and it's terrifying, but you take it one box, at a time, you can get through it.
A: Absolutely! On the first day of the event we're doing a whole track on transformation - not just general digital transformation, but transformation around your sales process, your revenue process, and as part of that we’re bringing in real customers who have been on this journey with us. So I get the opportunity to interview Sudhir Murthy from Schneider Electric. We're going to talk about how their transformation process is a part of a bigger transformation taking place in Schneider. I think a lot of people are feeling that as a leader of their group they're asked to not only understand what's going on in transformation for their division, but also for their entire business. That's really what that conversation is all about: how Sudhir took these bigger initiatives and really drove home that excellence into his own teams.
Q: What sessions are you most involved with that are the most different from what you’ve done in the past?
A: When you look at the forecasting side of things, which is one of the sessions I'm doing, it’s a new area for us, but it’s very much at the core of what we do and you're going to see a lot of growth in that area. We want to make sure there’s a connection between sales and finance, and that we really empower the sales team to have more understanding and visibility into how to make their numbers. We've made this new first step into this new venture; the exciting thing to me is that by our next conference, we're going to a whole new set of stuff. I love it. It's been a fun time to be around.