Transforming CS to Drive Sales and Secure Retention in an Economic Downturn

Elliot Kohtz


VP of Customer Success


Elliot Kohtz
Elliot Kohtz

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have Elliot Kohtz, the VP of Success at Mixmax, a leading sales engagement platform.

In this episode, Elliot shares his insights on the evolving landscape of customer success (CS) and its pivotal role in driving sales and securing retention, especially during economic downturns. We delve into the challenges of tool consolidation and budget constraints, discussing strategies for becoming an indispensable tool that companies consolidate towards rather than away from.

We then explored how Mixmax leverages its comprehensive suite of tools to enhance sales engagement and customer success, making it a Swiss army knife for revenue-generating teams. Elliot also highlighted the importance of having meaningful, sometimes tough, conversations with customers about consolidation, budgeting, and the value Mixmax delivers.

Wrapping up, we discussed the importance of adapting CS strategies to maintain and grow customer relationships in challenging economic times, emphasizing proactive engagement and the need for CS teams to be equipped to handle commercial conversations effectively.

Mentioned Resources



Introduction: Elliot Kohtz, VP of Success at Mixmax00:01:11
Discussing Economic Pressures and Tool Consolidation00:01:37
What is Mixmax? An Overview of Features and Benefits00:02:53
Customer Conversations: Navigating Consolidation and Budget Constraints00:03:55
Vendor and Customer Dynamics: Maintaining Relationships Amid Economic Challenges00:07:14
Training CS Teams for Commercial Conversations and Renewals00:09:57
Pros and Cons of CSMs Managing Renewals00:14:27
Reflecting on CS and Retention Strategies: What Works and What Doesn't00:25:54


[00:00:00] Elliot Kohtz: Even if you lose a customer for one year, you might have them come back when the economy turns around. So you want to leave them with a good taste in their mouth. So I try to treat our vendors how I'd want to be treated, which is just like fair and transparent, right? Where I might come to one of our vendors and say, hey, guys, the economy is really tough. I actually have to cut a few seeds. Is there anything you can do to give me like a little bit of a discount so I can show my leadership team, hey, this vendor actually really wants to keep our business, right?

[00:00:35] Andrew Michael: This is, the podcast for subscription economy pros. Each week we hear how the world's fastest growing companies are tackling churn and using retention to fuel their growth.

[00:00:47] VO: How do you build a habit forming product? We crossed over that magic threshold to negative churn. Unique to invest and customer success. It always comes down to retention and engagement. Completely boosts that profitable and growing.

[00:01:01] Andrew Michael: Strategies, tactics and ideas brought together to help your business thrive in the subscription economy. I'm your host, Andrew Michael, and here's today's episode.

[00:01:11] Andrew Michael: Hey Elliot, welcome to the show.

[00:01:14] Elliot Kohtz: Thanks, Andrew. Happy to be here.

[00:01:16] Andrew Michael: It's great to have you. For the listeners, Elliot is the VP of success at Mixmax, a sales engagement platform. Prior to Mixmax, Elliot was the director of customer success at QuanticMind, and prior to that spent time at Zenefits. So my first question for you today, Elliot, is what's keeping you up at night and giving you gray hairs?

[00:01:37] Elliot Kohtz: Yeah, there's more gray hair than I'm used to seeing when I look in the mirror these days. I think it's tool consolidation and chart. Right now, I think it's tough being in the current macro economy is tough. And a lot of companies, SaaS companies are trying to find their own ways to navigate it. And yeah, I think what's causing my hair to go gray is really, you know, how do you prevent customers from consolidating away from you? How do you become a tool that everyone consolidates towards? Because you can see everybody's so tight with budget in the past 12 to 24 months. So.

[00:02:11] Andrew Michael: Yeah. It's funny. Like obviously before the show you mentioned giving you gray hair. So it's not me just taking the piss out of you just for the listeners. Like I was thinking now on the weekend, my sister looked at my beard. She's like, "Hey, you've got white in your beard." And it's like, "Hey, you also got ginger in your beard. It's like, what do you call that?" Is like, cause normally I think she's like, "You have salt and pepper. Oh, do you have a spicy beard?" Something like that.

[00:02:35] Andrew Michael: But so I noticed this in the market, this consolidation at Avrio as well. Even in the space we're in, we're starting to see acquisitions happening. More and more tools are gravitating to become these all in one solutions. So I would, I was just saying that before we get started, maybe you can explain to us a little bit about what Mixmax is and what you guys do.

[00:02:53] Elliot Kohtz: Yeah, for sure. So we're like a sales engagement platform, mainly for account executives, SDRs, and customer success managers. So basically anybody who touches, you know, revenue, and we do a lot of things. It starts off with an email sequencing tool to engage your prospects and customers with. We also are a scheduling tool where we have like full calendaring. We're also a Salesforce tool where we sync all your data to Salesforce and can do workflow automation off that.

[00:03:18] Elliot Kohtz: And then we also have open tracking. So we're really like a Swiss army knife that is extremely powerful and intuitive. Like easy to use, easy to set up, easy to onboard. And we sit on top of Gmail natively. So if you're a Gmail shop and you want a really like user-friendly tools to run like your sales and success engagement teams off, Mixmax is, it's a great, great option.

[00:03:39] Andrew Michael: Nice. And yeah, so you mentioned then this consolidation, something you're seeing in the market, obviously you speak to a lot of customers and I'm sure having some difficult conversations on that end, what are some of those conversations like and what are you hearing when it comes to consolidation?

[00:03:55] Elliot Kohtz: It's really interesting depending on who's driving the need to consolidate, right? What function is having to consolidate, but really it's just everybody has less budget and if you were a nice to have, you're getting cut and if you're a must have, even then, you're going to be evaluated on, okay, we need this job to be done. Is there a tool in our stack that this overlaps with that we can do it for less money?

[00:04:19] Elliot Kohtz: Maybe it's even less functional, but we don't mind that. As long as we can have the job to be done at a certain level, we can save money for the business. We can't because in SaaS right now, every board is telling everybody you need to be optimizing for runway, right? And everyone is for runway is the, you know, the most protected asset you have. You know, series A, series B company right now and everyone's off.

[00:04:41] Andrew Michael: Yeah. And I like that as well, sort of where you sit on the stack and some of the budgets. Like I often mentioned this, but one of the favorite lines I love from David Dominen this year was like, when you're building a company, like a great measure to understand if you're building something worthwhile is like, just ask yourself where on the budget list you lie. Are you the first to go or the last to go when it comes to when things get tough and you'd never want to be in that place where you're the first to go as a cost saver. So you mentioned it just really depends on the people you're having the conversation with and where it's coming from. Why do you think that is?

[00:05:14] Elliot Kohtz: I think it depends on what your tool does and what need you're serving. So let's say I'm talking to a customer success team. I want to make sure that we're really powering their workflows with Mixmax, which would maybe be saying, Hey, we're powering your renewals. Renewal motion, it's very powerful. That ties directly to dollars. I know that we probably are very, got priority in their tech stack where when maybe we're talking to a marketing team. Now marketing is not.... I think generally, Mixmax is like perfect, ideal core, like I see people like ideal customer profile. And that marketing leader might have another tool that does mass email outreach to like you know, a hundred thousand prospects in one in one.

[00:05:57] Elliot Kohtz: Mixmax does outreach to, but we're much more about targeted outreach for like an, a working on like one to one conversations with the prospects. So we've had conversations with marketing leaders might say, hey, I have another tool that can do like email sequencing. So, you know, I'm going to have to cut Mixmax, even though I think our AEs really like it. We're going to go to this other tool. It's come down to not just usage, but like what business use case are we really powering, right? And do people see the value of it?

[00:06:23] Andrew Michael: And to the point of being sort of being able to directly tie that to revenue, which in a much stronger position to make a case for internally with the company.

[00:06:32] Elliot Kohtz: Yeah, exactly. Right. You, you want to tie everything to dollars, you know, it's fun selling to being a customer success leader. Our customers are other CS leaders or other sales leaders. So I always feel like I'm talking to a colleague when we're working with our customers and you just understand, hey, if it's a sales leader and SDR leader, they have a number to be hitting. And if we're helping them hit that number, we're going to feel a lot more protected when it comes to renewal and have a lot more chance at continuing the partnership. So...

[00:07:01] Andrew Michael: And are you having any similar conversations yourself? So obviously the one is like coming towards Mixmax. Like have you had to have be on the other end and have these conversations with other service providers yourself?

[00:07:14] Elliot Kohtz: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, one of the big things that I like about Mixmax is we want to be a good actor in the space. We want to be easy to work with. I'm sure you've heard people say like, hey, even if you lose a customer for one year, you might have them come back when the economy turns around. So you want to leave them with a good taste in their mouth. So I try to treat our vendors how I'd want to be treated, which is just like fair and transparent.

[00:07:39] Elliot Kohtz: Where I might come to one of our vendors and say, hey, guys, the economy is really tough. I actually have to cut a few seeds. Is there anything you can do to give me like a little bit of a discount so I can show my leadership team, "Hey, this vendor actually really wants to keep our business, right? And that can be really helpful, right?"

[00:07:55] Elliot Kohtz: So I've had to have the same types of conversations where it's like, "Hey, is there something that you can do? We want to grow in the future. And you know, we'd appreciate it." And I think the good people, they take that to heart, right? And they know like a year or two from now, we'd, we'd want to say, Hey, we want to keep this vendor, we want to grow with them because they helped us out.

[00:08:12] Andrew Michael: Yeah. It must be challenging though, as well, when you're having pretty much every conversation similar to that way. It's like, "Hey, we need a discount. We need to show our leadership how we can maintain." How do you manage these conversations then? And how do you effectively try to carve out a nice middle ground?

[00:08:31] Elliot Kohtz: I think one thing is you can, sometimes you can understand when someone's just basically running a play on you and they're like, okay, they've literally set the step. And that's okay. I get it. Like people have a job to do and they've been told to do something. And so I think it always just starts from a place of being like honest and transparent. Like, "Hey, this is how we're powering your business. This is what your usage looks like on the platform." And like, "Based on that, like we feel like our pricing is fair." Right. We might have someone who's going to ask us for a discount, but they've reduced seats because they had a layoff.

[00:09:04] Elliot Kohtz: I think you have to absolutely be able to say, "Hey guys, since you've laid off seats, I can't give you a discount that's against our volume pricing schedule," right? Or, "Hey," you know, you say yes to things. "Yes, I can give you a discount, but I need you to grow. If you can commit to those extra 20 seats, I'm happy to give you that price that you're looking for," right? Trying to find those win-wins. Or if you do say yes to someone, you're working on a mutual concession, right?

[00:09:30] Elliot Kohtz: You know, what, what things can both companies give each other where, Hey, if we're giving you some price flexibility in the short term, what can you do to maybe future the partnership, a case study, something that makes it mutually beneficial for both parties.

[00:09:43] Andrew Michael: Both. Yeah. And when it comes to sort of preparing the team, obviously having a lot of these conversations now and seeing consolidation, what are some of the things that you're working with your team to try and help alleviate the pressure?

[00:09:57] Elliot Kohtz: Yeah. I think, you know, when we first hired our CSM team, it's a smaller team and they were much more suited towards classic customer success more. So our CSMs actually handle the renewal conversation. But the people that we've hired at Mixmax, they're not salespeople. They're not account managers. They're not coin operated. They're driven to get the people to value to be really product led. So there has been a bit of a shift in like, "Hey, how do we train these folks to have the commercial conversation?"

[00:10:27] Elliot Kohtz: And it really is one set yourself up to have leverage in that commercial conversation by doing everything right. Coming when it comes to onboarding implementation and making sure that customer has a successful outcome, like in the first three, six months. Because then the commercials can take care of themselves. It is on just training folks on, here's how you deal with objections. Here's how you can actually say yes to something but ask for something in return.

[00:10:50] Elliot Kohtz: Here's how we can make sure that if someone asks why, maybe we're doing a price increase, we can speak to, here's the 10 or 15 features that we rolled out that are actually the customer's using. Things that affect them and they can take to their boss and say, hey, this is why you know, we have the price we have on Mixmax. So it really is just, it's a training thing, right? It's like working out, you know, how do you get good at doing renewals or how do you get good at having pricing conversations? It's just like weightlifting, right? You have to put in the reps, you have to put in the time. And our team's gotten a lot of reps when it comes to commercials in the last six to 12 months. The amount of time we spend on commercials is, I'd say, risen exponentially. So... Yeah, we just we just work together on it every week, hashing out different deals, different things that we can work on. And it's been great to see folks grow.

[00:11:38] Andrew Michael: Interesting. And you say that sort of the work on commercials has risen quite a bit. Is that due to the downward pressure in the market specifically? Or is it also growth that you're seeing at Mixmax?

[00:11:49] Elliot Kohtz: It's both really, right. So we have larger customers coming in, right. And those type of commercial conversations are going to be more mature with more mature buyers. And it's also just due to the pressure in the market, right? Everyone to your point is going to be asking, you know, Hey, Elliot, Hey, Mixmax, what can we do on price? We're cutting tools. And if you can't help me, we're going to have to cut. I think those are the same conversations happening, happening everywhere in SaaS today. And that's just a different buying cycle. It's just a different renewal cycle than say what was happening in 2021. Or early 2022. It's just different, different types of conversations.

[00:12:29] Andrew Michael: Yeah. And so obviously the one side of things is discussing and negotiating, renegotiating terms when it comes to their, their contract that they have with you. What are some of the other ways that you and the team are handling these discussions of consolidation and winning back or retaining your customers effectively?

[00:12:50] Elliot Kohtz: I think one of the other tools that we have is really, you know, how do we keep customers as sticky as possible? And for us that's making sure for any new feature releases that we have out, We recently had a fairly substantial upgrade to like our reporting capability in Salesforce. And we wanted to make sure we go to market with that for all the applicable customers and make sure they're using it. It's just one other hook that we can get in and make sure that when that economic pressure comes on we can say, hey, actually like we're serving this we're pushing this and we're also helping, like in Salesforce as well.

[00:13:29] Elliot Kohtz: So aside from training them and getting them reps and like, you know, here's our stance and here's how we help folks, it's also going back to the core role of a CSM and saying, hey, also if you do your job when it comes to focusing on adoption and partnership, it doesn't solve everything, right? It's not like a silver bullet, but you're gonna put yourself in a better position.

[00:13:50] Andrew Michael: Yeah. So obviously, as you said, like sort of renegotiating terms, then focusing more on engagement and how you can increase adoption with certain features. So when it comes to those conversations, it becomes a lot easier to have them and gives the CSMs a little bit more firepower. The other thing you mentioned as well was that your team operates a little bit different to most other CSMs and they're having these conversations. What do you think the pros and cons are? So what do you think works really well in the setup? Having CSMs manage their annuals and then what do you think maybe is a bit of a con?

[00:14:27] Elliot Kohtz: Yeah, I think it works really well, especially maybe in some earlier stages of growth or depending on like what your contract sizes are. And it takes out a lot of the friction of sometimes people don't like being sold to, right? Once they've bought once they're like, okay, this is my main point of contact. They know they're not in another sales cycle. They know they're not being handed off to another person. When you have these really, you know, complex kind of enterprise models where there's going to be a sales manager, there's going to be an implementation manager, there's going to be also an account manager and a CSM on an account.

[00:15:00] Elliot Kohtz: And maybe even a technical account manager, like you can get up to like four or five people assigned to an account. And customers can really confuse that. So I think having a single dedicated point who literally says, "Hey, from this point on my job, I get paid to make sure Andrew renews," right? That's kind of a powerful statement. And it's almost like, hey, as a CSM, I work for the customer. I don't work for Mixmax. I work for you. That's great. And I think some of our customers love that, how streamlined it is.

[00:15:26] Elliot Kohtz: And sometimes the commercials aren't that complex, right? If the contract values, if you're not always dealing with the procurement harm, maybe you're dealing with a, you don't have to go into a, we try to keep our contracts simple when we can, fairly boilerplate terms of service that are industry standard. Sometimes CSMs can handle that. And I think it just, it streamlines the process for the customer. And also I love building teams. It's great for your CSM team because they get used to touching the money.

[00:15:52] Elliot Kohtz: And that's actually really great for your business because you can attract certain people and say, Hey, I'm going to help you grow your career and help grow your resume, which is what I think a lot of people who are starting out first in customer success or sales, joining the SaaS company, they're looking for that exposure. So really cool for the customer. And also I think cool for the people that are working for me.

[00:16:10] Elliot Kohtz: Where this breaks down, right. Is sometimes you do need to have someone who is very experienced talking commercials on a million dollar contract, who does understand MSAs, red lines, terms of service, indemnification, liability, all of these things that council might come in and start actually trying to negotiate against the price. And it becomes a much more in the weeds type of conversation. It takes a certain person with experience to be able to navigate that.

[00:16:33] Elliot Kohtz: So there's just a certain level of complexity where it becomes misaligned to have a CSM handling that. Also in certain cases, you need separation between church and state, as I like to say, to get really aggressive when it comes to negotiating a contract. This is, I think, kind of the most obvious reason that people break up these functions and have an account management function because you don't want to have the same person who's getting really aggressive on price and have to take a hard stance in a negotiation be the person who also was handling an escalation with this account a week ago.

[00:17:06] Elliot Kohtz: And as D levers themselves or the person who was, has to be really nice and friendly to this account a week ago, cause they were working on training. There needs to be some of that separation there to make sure you have like the most leverage going into the conversation. So those are the reasons why I think it makes a lot of sense to break it out eventually or in certain cases. And we'll do that even at Mixmax where we'll say, actually, we're going to have, you know, one of our renewal specialists or an account executive handle this, this particular one.

[00:17:32] Andrew Michael: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think it's it's one of the things I'm hearing more and more now over the last few weeks. And actually is this, this growing trend where customer success teams are being held a lot more accountable when it comes to the revenue they generate and what the ROI is for the business. And even conversations like recently Christie Falter has said, like, what have we been doing all this time? Why haven't we been doing this? And we probably guilty in the space of not asking ourselves these questions sooner because.

[00:18:00] Andrew Michael: And I've had conversations where like, the best relationships you have with your CSM. So why are you passing them off onto somebody else when it comes to the renewal time to close those deals? And I think this is definitely what, at least from my feeling and speaking to people in the market, becoming more and more of a trend and a norm where your success team is now being much more closely bettered and measured against the revenue that they retain and increase as well when it comes to expansion.

[00:18:28] Andrew Michael: And I'm keen to as well here then like from a metrics perspective and the way you measure the team's performance, like, how much does this factor in the renewal to their performance?

[00:18:39] Elliot Kohtz: For us, it definitely ties into a significant portion of the performance. I look at like three main things, right? I'm going to look at net revenue retention, nothing crazy there, activation, as well as some level of upsell. So we track, you know, NRR, but that's very much a lagging indicator, but we're compensated on that when it comes to the CSMs, like on target earnings.

[00:18:59] Elliot Kohtz: And then we want to have more of a leading indicator on activation. What our accounts look like in their first 90 days of using the product. How deeply are they using these different Mixmax functions based on what we presume means they're going to be in a place to renew, right? If we see an account using these five things, we know that we're going to have a much better chance to have a strong renewal conversation. So that's more like the leading indicator.

[00:19:21] Elliot Kohtz: And then we also have a metric on just to what you were just speaking of, how much revenue pipeline can they generate for the sales team? I'm not expecting CSMs to like carry a quota, but they do have a quota when it turns, when it comes to creating opportunities for sales. You know, understanding that, hey, we've sold to these two business units at this account, but not the other one. So I'm going to see if sales can get in there or, hey, I just had a really strong signal from my decision maker that he might be wanting to add in 15 seats from as they grow like a quarter from now.

[00:19:53] Elliot Kohtz: Create an opportunity for the sales team. So we also compensate our CSMs on that. We just call them CSQLs. I think a lot of businesses have this as well. CS-qualified leads, how much returning over sales. Leading indicators in activation, kind of the mid-contract phase piece of some level of expansion that they're quoted on, and then the lagging indicator of NRR. Anything more than that, you can build some really complex models, but at the end of the day, I like keeping comp fairly simple, especially when you're running sort of like a full-service CSM team that goes all the way from implementation to renewal.  Like hey, here's the three things that I need you thinking about every day, and like go out and execute those.

[00:20:29] Andrew Michael: And do it. Nice. Yeah. So I think that's also like a great way then when it comes to putting CSMs in control, they really have like understanding of what the final output is that the teams measure on overall, but what are the inputs that impact it and then how they can influence those inputs for themselves specifically. I'm keen to hear as well, like, are there anything interesting or surprising that you do at Mixmax when it comes to customer success that you think listeners of the show might not have heard of or think would think quite different as well. I'm keen. Like if you were listening to the show, what would be something that you think would be surprising for others to hear?

[00:21:06] Elliot Kohtz: Gosh, surprising. You know, I don't, I don't know if it's, if it's surprising, but I think one of the things that I'm always coaching my team on is when you're dealing, or maybe when you're maybe a younger CS team or maybe you have younger CSMs or just younger business, you're kind of shy away from bad news. I always like tell my team, like, you need to be asking like the scariest, worst questions as much as possible. I kind of have this saying I'm a little cynical naturally. And I have a saying like the best CSMs are very anxious where they think, Hey, if that customer is quiet, could things be okay? You're like, they could be, but actually like, you should probably be asking. And that's like, maybe it's not surprising, but when I've worked with other teams, sometimes folks are like, well, things seem fine.

[00:21:54] Elliot Kohtz: If you pick at that a little bit more, you're like, well, have they told you that? Or are you just assuming that? And I think sometimes there's this sentiment to say, well, I don't want to have the tough conversation and say, are you looking at other tools or, you know, how do you feel about the state of the partnership or are we actively in an evaluation because maybe they're not, and they're going to leverage that against us or use it as a sign of weakness. To me, any signal is good signal, right?

[00:22:20] Elliot Kohtz: And that's something I think is just you could get away with that maybe last year or a year or two ago where you're like, okay, things seem all good. Why would I want to bring up if the relationship is at risk?  And today I think our customers appreciate it where it feels, it almost feels like you're continually trying to win their business. So always be asking the hard questions, right? Is something that I even feel like we weren't doing enough of as ourselves that we're really trying to do more. I don't know if that's surprising, but I think it's easier to get away from doing that when business is good.

[00:22:53] Andrew Michael: Absolutely. It's sort of those things like when business is good, like the car just going off, renewal, it's done. But the point you made as well, that's like any sort of engagement is good engagement, whether it's like negative feedback or it's like praise. If you're not hearing from customers, I think that's when you need to actually worry the most and have those conversations with them. What's been the biggest mistake that you've made as a leader leading your CS team?

[00:23:19] Elliot Kohtz: I think the biggest thing was not having enough process in like initially. We're, you know, kind of at a certain stage of revenue where I would be biasing towards hiring people that I'd say, "Hey, I'm going to throw you into a very kind of sink or swim environment," right? I'm going to hire people that I know are going to do a good job in that environment. And I think the assumption I was making there was like, "Oh, everyone's like me." I think that not having that process and really telling people, this is how I expect you to act was tough.

[00:23:51] Elliot Kohtz: And we felt some pain from that because I think it's, it was just a shortcoming in myself thinking, oh, well, I know how I approach the situation. So I assume everyone is going to be motivated the same way I am, have the same motivations, do things the same way. And in reality, you know, any leader, once they've gone and started managing teams, you realize that's like absolutely not the case and you have to have this framework in this process, even if it's not perfect, right?

[00:24:19] Elliot Kohtz: Even if it's just something to give a little bit of guidance, I think that's so important. I mean, we've certainly built that out at Mixmax, but that was one of my first missteps where I think it was just, you know, I was a leader, you assume. Okay, you know, as long as I can create a bunch of people like myself, we're going to be like in a good spot. And that is just so such a dangerous way of thinking. And I think something I absolutely stepped in early on when we were building up the team.

[00:24:47] Andrew Michael: Yeah, it's nice. I think it's sort of, as you mentioned, you have those sort of expectations. And I think when you expect people to operate the same as you, that's sort of like the easiest path for you to be let down. And people are different. They come from different perspectives and backgrounds and have different approaches to problem solving. And I think I've also been guilty of this in the past of like working with people and having certain expectations and then just getting disappointed by them.

[00:25:11] Andrew Michael: But when really you should be actually looking and trying to understand how these people work and operate and how you can get the best out of them in their unique ways, but at the same time, giving structure and guidance into. What are the expectations and what are we trying to achieve? Having a system, I think, is a great way to help both parties work better together.

[00:25:29] Elliot Kohtz: Yeah, I mean, I think that's just the key to good management is just trying to find, hey, here's someone who's really well suited to a specific strength, and it actually aligns really well with the problem that the business is solving. When you can find those two things and put it together, that's where you get really happy people, really motivated people, and really solid results.

[00:25:48] Andrew Michael: What's one thing that you know today about channel retention that you wish in you when you got started with your career?

[00:25:54] Elliot Kohtz: I think it really is that we always, I remember even back in a Zenifitz and my other job, we would always struggle on kind of like building out this model. And I think a lot of a customer success software out there, they have this idea of, you know, turn scores based on any various amount of inputs you can put in, you can have 50 M you can make this as complex or as simple as you want.

[00:26:18] Elliot Kohtz: And I think early on when we look at some of the stuff, especially if you're managing a team at scale, like talking 500 thousands of accounts, there's a reason you have to do this just to scale the business. But I think you also have to realize how imperfect it was and how imperfect these models and things can be. And I didn't know that early starting out. I remember we had a particular score that was like, maybe it was like 65% accurate. And we're like, "Oh, this is pretty cool." And I'm like, "Yeah, but woof, that's rough."

[00:26:48] Elliot Kohtz: The learning is like there's so much nuance and that is where I think CSMs make their money. It's like being able to understand that nuance.  You want to be paying people to do high EQ, high intelligent work where they can maybe validate one of those scores as opposed to being the person who's just being like, well, I sent this QBR and usage is at 60% so this account is great.

[00:27:15] Elliot Kohtz: That's not what I want to pay a CSM to do. I want a CSM to come in and say, actually, I disagree. This account isn't green because of this, that or the other. And so I wish I knew early on, or I had made the mistake that these, these scores aren't perfect. And I know a lot of reasons that they get sold as such because they can work extremely well and some of the models work well, but there's just so much nuance in dealing with, with customer relationships and SaaS and evolving products and the markets that it's not the end all be all. And I think that's where CSMs can be really impactful, right? Having a human eye to that.

[00:27:49] Andrew Michael: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I think it's like, if you talk to the data enough, it'll confess to anything. It's like a quote I've heard previously and it's fantastic. I think it comes the same way as well. Like when we spend too much time focusing on data and not really understanding that behind these numbers are actually humans and humans are unpredictable. I think it's always important just to take that stance and look back and say, okay, yes, maybe this is what we're asking, but there's a myriad of reasons for the way that we behave the way that we behave.

[00:28:15] Andrew Michael: And from a larger majority of the time, it may be correct but there's also that good percentage of time where we need to question things and be a little bit more cautious. Yeah, I like that, I love it. What's one way and what's something that you'd like to share with the listeners before we drop off? I see we're up on time now, but is there any sort of final thoughts you want to leave them with? How can they keep up to speed with your work?

[00:28:38] Elliot Kohtz: Yeah, if you want to keep up to speed with what we're doing at Mixmax, you can follow our product blog and just go to I love the space we're in right now. It's just so… Sales engagement is such an interesting space with everything that's happening around the different solutions and everyone's working a safe dollar. Sales engagement solutions are all about actually having positive ROI and driving your sales motion, so we'd love to get anybody to check us out at if you're interested in that. And I would just leave people with like, be good to each other. I think it's easy.

[00:29:11] Elliot Kohtz: Some of my easiest conversations even if we're talking about a tough customer that I've lost or a really tough escalation. You build the most rapport with folks when you respond to challenging times in a professional manner. I think I always take note of that. That's how I always think of vendors and I think, especially in the current economy in SaaS, we're all under a lot of pressure and I think it was just sort of. It's the golden rule treat your customers and your vendors how you'd like to be treated. And maybe karma's not a real thing, but eventually at some point, someone's going to come back and say thank you and that can be a great thing for your business too. So I'll just be good to each other out there.

[00:29:5] Andrew Michael: Very nice. I like that way to end the show as well. And thanks so much for joining. It's been an absolute pleasure having you on the show today. And I wish you best of luck now as you navigate through these different times that we're in.

[00:30:01] Elliot Kohtz: Thanks, Andrew. I appreciate it, man. Thanks for having me on.

[00:30:04] Andrew Michael: Thanks. Cheers.

[00:30:12] Andrew Michael: And that's a wrap for the show today with me Andrew Michael. I really hope you enjoyed it and you were able to pull out something valuable for your business. To keep up to date with and be notified about new episodes, blog posts and more, subscribe to our mailing list by visiting Also don't forget to subscribe to our show on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you have any feedback, good or bad, I would love to hear from you. And you can provide your blunt, direct feedback by sending it to Lastly, but most importantly, if you enjoyed this episode, please share it and leave a review as it really helps get the word out and grow the community. Thanks again for listening. See you again next week.


Elliot Kohtz
Elliot Kohtz

The show

My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.

In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros working in product, marketing, customer success, support, and operations roles across different stages of company growth, who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.


Listen To Next