Believe in yourself but make sure it’s something you are good at. David Cummings writes a great blog. I’m amazed at the number of times I’ve read something along the lines of “I want to be an entrepreneur; how do I find ideas to be/do that?” Seriously??? Go get some experience, identify something that you are good at, think your way to a solution to a problem, find out somebody else is already doing it, go back to the drawing board. Rinse and repeat until you answer 1, 2 and 3 in the strong affirmative and know without a doubt you are good at whatever it is. Then, prepare to start learning.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Berryhill.
Jim Berryhill is the CEO & Co-Founder of DecisionLink. Jim spent over 30 years in enterprise software sales and sales management, leading high-performance teams at ADR, CA, Siebel Systems and HP Software with a focus on value selling. He founded DecisionLink with a vision to empower companies to make customers for life by delivering the first enterprise-class platform for Customer Value Management. Jim is a graduate of the University of Georgia, resides in Atlanta with his wife Elise, and has two children and three grandchildren.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Well, it was really a series of Aha moments over the course of more than 30 years. I was a green sales representative when I won my first major deal. The prospect was using IBM mainframe computing systems and had an unbudgeted expenditure of 10M dollars planned due to the need for increased computing capacity. I put together a “value hypothesis” that the company I was representing could defer the upgrade and avoid the expenditure. I won my first six-figure deal of over 250K dollars, displaced three competitors, achieved almost half my annual quota, and did so in less than 90-days. Needless to say, I quickly learned the importance of selling business value over features and functions.
I’ve spent over 30 years in enterprise software sales and sales management, leading high-performance teams at ADR, CA, Siebel Systems, and HP Software with a focus on aligning to customer value. John and I founded DecisionLink with a vision to make customer value management (CVM) a strategic asset by delivering the first enterprise-class platform for CVM.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There have been many, and I’m not sure if this is the “most interesting” but it was impactful.
In 1983, very early in my career, I had the opportunity to meet the base commander at Arnold Air Force Station in Tennessee. We had just made a 500K dollars sale there — a huge number at the time. I spoke with him about how excited we were to work with them and the great things we were going to do together, to which he replied:
“Young man, don’t take my comments the wrong way. My people are very excited as well and I know you will do good things. That said, I didn’t want to fund your project. There were a couple of others more important to me. BUT, you had your business case together, the justifications necessary, and processes required. We knew your project would ‘pass muster’ to be funded and that’s why we went forward. Keep doing the work to satisfy internal requirements and you will do very well.”
I never forgot the lesson that you have to win two competitions: external versus your competitors and internal versus alternative use of funds.
Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
John and I started DecisionLink with the big vision to evolve CVM into a category that many believe will eclipse CRM, Sales Enablement, Marcom and other “key technologies.”
ValueCloud® is our enterprise class solution for scaling CVM. Having a platform with comprehensive integrated applications for CVM in and of itself is cutting edge. There are multiple transformative capabilities that are available as a result.
The “Value Benchmark Repository” is an example. Since there is a common repository for data gathered from the ValueCloud® Web Calculator, the Value Hypothesis Builder, the Business Case Builder, and the Value Realization Analyzer, a massive amount of statistically valid empirical data for customer experience is collected. That data are actionable in a myriad of uses such as pricing, competitive differentiation, case study building, market analysis and valuation, and many more.
The Value Benchmark Repository is just one example of a first-of-its-kind capability.
How do you think this might change the world?
The world of selling has been talking about moving from features and functions and feeds and speeds to solution selling that results in customer value seemingly forever. Some might say it’s been “talked to death.” The consensus of any survey of buyers reveals a desperate need for less talk and more action.
It takes people, process, AND technology to affect broad adoption, and the technology was missing until the advent of ValueCloud® Systemically enabling customer value means that every conversation with a prospect and/or customer can be about them and the value of products, services and solutions to them.
Imagine the impact for buyers and sellers when conversations are about business value versus product features, functions, and capabilities.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
It wasn’t a singular breakthrough really, there were several tipping points, a series of technological problems solved that got us to “Minimum Viable Product.” Each was a “breakthrough” and there are more coming. One of our investors observed that “DecisionLink is an overnight success that took ten years!”
One story though.
“Value Statements” consist of many components, one of which is the mathematical calculations that arrives at economic quantification. There is massive variability associated with a single value statement, for instance, if a Value Statement applies to five industries, five use cases, five geographies, five competitors and five buyer roles, that is over 3,000 possible permutations and values. And that is before considering how one of those combinations might affect other value statements. This is one reason for the prior absence of an effective application for CVM.
We solved this with ValueCloud® Situational Variables, which allow the complexity to be contained in the underlying value statements and value models and for the customer-facing user to be able to interact with the ValueCloud® system based on what they already know and are already doing. So as a user, I interact based on who the customer is, what industry they are in, what use cases apply to them, where they are located and who I believe I’m competing with.
ValueCloud® resolves all the variability automatically, giving me a situationally correct result in minutes — as opposed to the hours or days it would take a skilled, expert analyst to complete.
That is one of the many breakthroughs or “tipping points” that got us to what we call “the Democratization of Value” — or, value for everyone.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
There are several things, starting with the awareness that such a thing as ValueCloud® exists. There was a day when companies built their own accounting systems. Over time, commercial systems were built, became available and buyers became aware of them. Awareness follows existence. Same here.
Part of awareness is the scope of CVM — that it is (or can be) an enterprise-wide covering of the entire buyer journey versus just the production of a ROI analysis for an individual sale. At VMware, their program is called the “Customer for Life Mission.” At ServiceNow it is the “NOW Value Methodology.” Those programs and others touch every aspect of the seller/buyer relationship.
Next is broad availability, easy access, and low barriers to usability. We’ve done a tremendous amount there and have a 60–90-day deployment program that delivers guaranteed results.
Beyond that, making this available to individuals in addition to corporations. Today, we sell to businesses, later this year we’ll deliver an individual subscriber version of ValueCloud®. Imagine as a sales rep being able to subscribe to a system and build or deliver your first business case in less than an hour. Global individual availability is a panacea of sorts as sales pros will no longer have to wait on what corporate may or may not be doing.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I was a first-time entrepreneur at 58-years old, so the mistakes are too many to count, but I will share a humorous story that continues to have big implications. Early on John and I were having a conversation about something a prospective customer wanted in our product. This is THE way successful solutions get built. I describe to John and he hems and haws about the barriers and difficulties, the impediments, why it probably can’t be done with our meager resources. I don’t remember what it even was but do remember I was convinced of the difficulty and dejected.
The next morning John calls me and says, “I think I have it figured out!!!” Sure enough, he did, and I thought “that’s great.”
A couple months later I had a similar situation. Again, I’m thinking “this is important, how are we going to overcome it?” A few hours later John calls and says, “I think I have it figured out.”
Not too long and it happens again. By the third time, I realize I’m partnered with somebody really, really special. So now I expect impossible problems to be solved by John and his team…they are our secret weapon. The lesson? Find talented people and turn them loose on hard problems that have business value.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
There are a couple of things. First, if we help customer facing professionals be better and more effective at their jobs then everyone wins. The customer has higher satisfaction, we have NPS data to support that. Sellers win more business, have lower discounts, lower cost of sales, better customer retention and so forth. Again, plenty of customer statistics to support.
But then there are softer benefits to the individual. Greater job satisfaction. Increased ability to take care of family and loved ones. Improved relationships.
Finally, DecisionLink as a company uses a portion of our revenue to help those less fortunate. During COVID we supported organizations targeting the most vulnerable and most highly affected by the pandemic. We seek to be socially responsible and caring toward our customers, employees, and communities.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
First off, I was a first-time entrepreneur at almost 60-years old. I’m neither an expert nor novice at “entrepreneurship.” I’ll leave off the “surround yourself with good people,” “prepare to work hard and sacrifice,” etc. because those are a given.
1) Identify an unmet need in the market. For me, it was bringing automation to a manual task of value enablement. Value selling isn’t new, automating value selling and value management is. Lead a market, don’t chase a market.
2) Be an order of magnitude (10x) better than the status quo. If your idea is a “better mousetrap,” make sure it is a lot better. 10x better or more. Nobody cares about 10% better and you’ll devolve into price commoditization if that’s your differentiated value.
3) Make sure your solution is valuable. Really valuable. There are way too many examples of solutions in search of a problem. Will somebody pay for it? What is the value they will derive from it? Without a doubt your primary competitor will be “alternative use of capital,” not a direct functional competitor. So, you have to win two deals. The first is the external competitive deal. Once you win the competition for what you do, then you will then have to win another deal to get funded. Think about this, you will be associated with one of 10 different projects being considered. Your prospect can do three of them. You have to be really valuable, and you have to be good at communicating that value, if you want to win that second competition.
4) Believe in yourself but make sure it’s something you are good at. David Cummings writes a great blog at https://davidcummings.org/. I’m amazed at the number of times I’ve read something along the lines of “I want to be an entrepreneur; how do I find ideas to be/do that?” Seriously??? Go get some experience, identify something that you are good at, think your way to a solution to a problem, find out somebody else is already doing it, go back to the drawing board. Rinse and repeat until you answer 1, 2 and 3 in the strong affirmative and know without a doubt you are good at whatever it is. Then, prepare to start learning.
5) Have great enthusiasm, be ready for “hard,” be ready for disappointment. Over 90% of tech startups fail. A Harvard Business Review study said 75% of venture backed start-ups fail. That’s amazing as those are companies with smart people willing to spend money. Only one percent of businesses started in the US achieve 1M dollars in revenue. You’ll get told no ten times for every yes.
All that said, believe in yourself. I heard a smart man speak a long time ago about “what is the most valuable thing you have to invest in?” The answer most of the time is yourself!
I’m being realistic, not negative. I profoundly believe in the American spirit of opportunity that drives entrepreneurialism. I think the five items above will give you a fighting chance.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m not a person of great influence. If I were, my movement would be to see the love and principles of Jesus brought more into the world. Forget the religious arguments, hypocrisy of Christians arguments and all that stuff. Just see His principles and teachings at work.
So, I support #EndITMovement which is about human trafficking. Desire Street Ministries that helps people who minister in the inner cities. My church ministries to the poor, homeless and displaced. My friend Bill Warren’s Good Samaritan Health Center that provides healthcare services to poor people in Atlanta. Jesus said “‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.” His movement is the only one that matters from my point of view.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The message that is too often misunderstood relates to “do unto you.” If I would want others to do good to me then I must be valuable! This is the essence of the Christian faith, that Jesus gave His life for me because I am valuable to Him and that I should do likewise to others.
So self-respect is at the core. Not self-infatuation, self-aggrandizement or because I am good, but because HE loves me and therefore I should do unto others accordingly.
Frankly, this transcends religion. We try to put that into action at DecisionLink with the strategy that if each of us as employees put the interests of our customers, colleagues and constituents ahead of our own, that we will prosper in many ways.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
The two most important words in CRM are customer and relationship. Customer relationships are based exclusively on Customer Value and no commercial system in the marketplace addresses the value actually achieved by buyers. Not CRM, not marketing automation, not customer success or anything else.
No one would use spreadsheets and experts to do their financials, HR, manufacturing, CRM or other mission critical business functions. Enterprise business applications address these core functions.
ValueCloud® from DecisionLink is that enterprise system for Value, delivering the technology required to make CVM a holistic, enterprise-wide capability. ValueCloud® is in use by leading companies such as ServiceNow, DocuSign, CrowdStrike and more to deliver higher revenue, increase competitive wins, reduce churn, accelerated sales cycles and much more.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter @jimberryhill https://twitter.com/jimberryhill
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.