Why Is Change So Threatening? (With Proxyclick's Harish Peri)

Media Thumbnail
  • 0.5
  • 1
  • 1.25
  • 1.5
  • 1.75
  • 2
This is a podcast episode titled, Why Is Change So Threatening? (With Proxyclick's Harish Peri) . The summary for this episode is: If there's one thing we marketers can count on, it's change. In fact, Harish Peri (CMO of Proxyclick) has made a career out of it. While some people run from change or refuse to it admit it's happening (come on, we've all been in those meetings), Harish is someone who runs toward change. He embraces it. On this episode of CMO Conversations, you'll learn how to drive (and sell) transformation internally, what Harish says is the secret sauce for building trust, how to get endorsements from your detractors, why change is so threatening – and what you can do about it. Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Tricia on Twitter @triciagellman @HYPERGROWTH_Pod
How the sausage is made
01:29 MIN
The reason why something has worked for 35 years
01:58 MIN
Driving transformation internally
02:04 MIN
Trust is power
01:40 MIN
The CMO/CFO relationship
00:55 MIN

Tricia Gellman: Hey everyone, this is Tricia Gellman and I am the CMO of Drift and I'm excited to have you here for a new episode of CMO Conversations. In this CMO podcast I like to interview other CMOs to talk about what I call CMO 3.0. 3.0 is the evolution of the CMO world to really have a strategic value and strategic seat at the table with both the CEO and the board. You know, in the future I believe that the CMO is one of the most strategic roles where they're playing a role across defining the market, defining how the product team is building to go after that market, and then coordinating sales, service, and marketing together to go after the customer because revenue is really coming from not just new business but renewals and cross sell, up sell, and so it's really important that as a CMO we kind of look across the business. Today I have with me Harish Peri. He's the CMO of Proxyclick and he's recently moved into the role of a CMO, so I'm excited to talk to him today about how he's made that move. Proxyclick is a smaller company, less than 200 people that is working in the visitor management systems for global enterprises and I'll get him to explain what that means because it's a little bit of a mouthful. But he's a great product marketer, so I'm sure he has a good answer. He and I go way back. We met during our days at Salesforce, but what's really interesting about Harish is that he worked at Salesforce, hyper growth stats company then took his career to what I would call like older more traditional companies of Nielsen and ADP and in those companies he was responsible for leading new business units in sort of modern business design and really driving change from within the company. So, today we're going to talk a lot about driving change, which is even more important today as we're accelerating digital transformation. So, Harish why don't you give us a little background on yourself?

Harish Peri: Absolutely. Thank you Tricia. Super happy to be here and thank you for having me on the podcast. Yeah, so I'm Harish Peri. I'm currently the CMO of Proxyclick and as Tricia mentioned we are one of the leading players in an interesting place called visitor management. But if you think about what we actually do, is our role is to help companies of all sizes manger their people flows. People goes beyond visitors. You're talking about employees. You're talking about contractors. You're talking about delivery people. You're talking about visitors. Our job is again to say who went in and out of the building, where do they go in the building, are they supposed to be where they're supposed to be. It's that notion of managing the flow of people and it's even more relevant in today's world where the notion of going to an office doesn't even matter anymore. You could be at home, you could be in somebody else's office and being where you need to be and being able to be in that place and knowing if that's correct or not is a huge thing. So, we're inaudible cusp of that space and yeah, it's a very exciting industry. I'm a fan of industries that sort of operate in the background but add huge value. That's like the classic enterprise B2B play and so yeah, we're poised for good things.

Tricia Gellman: What would you say... I mean, now you made this switch to be the CMO. You kind of started a little bit more on the product side and being very close to like what does the user need, etcetera, but how would you describe your secret sauce of being a marketer?

Harish Peri: Yeah. As you mentioned, you know, I actually grew up as an engineer if you will, professionally. Wrote code for many years and then ran product teams, actually got trial by fire product learnings at Salesforce because if there's one place you want to do it at Salesforce, so that was great experience. Then moved over into product marketing and what I realized is if you really want to be an effective marketer you kind of have to know enough about how the sausage is made across the entire company. Because if you want to have a meaningful conversation with the product leader it's the worst kind of conversation you can have is to say this is not working, make it happen. Right? That's the worst kind of conversation. The conversation you want to have is this is what I know about the market, these are the segments that we operate in, this is the nature of the buyer, I've spoken to 50 of them and this is what I understand they want. Now, let's have a conversation about how we can prioritize what you're doing because I respect what you do and let's have a conversation about prioritizing that so we can build something together. Right? That's the conversation you want to have as opposed to just being a typical like leads, leads, leads. I mean, leads are important, that is the game. I'm not at all saying that isn't important but having a meaningful conversation about the business is really I think what I've learned to have. The tongue in cheek answer is being an ex- engineer, I'm able to call BS on other engineers if they come back with an answer of, "Oh, this can't be done." I'm like, " Well, have you thought about this angle?" Right? So, that's helped me be more of a multi- purpose executive really.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. That's awesome. I think... I mean, I'm starting to see more of a trend of engineers that are becoming CMOs I think because there is this idea of the problem solving and how do you put the pieces together where I started in design, which is similar. You're trying to figure out the problem in the system but I think it is especially in tech enterprise inaudible, it's a powerful place to be from engineering because there is so much conversation to be had of what can we do, where can we drive the product, and especially as you try and align both product and sales to really win as a company, which is I think one of the key super talents of successful CMOs. You've been, as I was mentioning before, in... You know, you were at ADP, you were at Nielsen. You've been spinning up these new things. You've been spinning up these new business units and you've been driving change in industries that they'd probably be successful whether they drove this change or not, they've been around for so long, the kind of fabrics of society, and then as you said now you're in this really up and coming industry where it's kind of the fabric in the backend. It's not really like the sexy front end B2C kind of thing. So, what about your background do you think prepared you for being this change agent inside of these older companies or now with a company that's trying to change an old industry?

Harish Peri: Yeah. I think it's... You know, one part of it is what you just mentioned which is problem solving. So, if you... You know, digital transformation, if that's sort of the macro theme here, at the end of the day it is very complex problem solving because what you're trying to do is you're saying we've got... Let's take ADP as an example, right, there's a vision to build the next generation in human capital solution and kind of merry the best of the old with the best of the new. The journey to get there is very complex because you have to unravel and unlearn a lot of ways of doing things and then fit them into a new way of doing things. So, that you require very, very complex problem and visioning problem solving and articulation skills. That's one big part of it. Then the other piece really is empathy, right, and by having sort of a multifaceted background you understand where not just an engineer but somebody that works in operations that's been in the billing side of things for 35 years, right, you get to understand why they do something the way they do. If you've just come in as a new hotshot I know best, you're one not going to earn the trust of anyone, especially inaudible transformations, but two you're probably going to be wrong because the reason something has worked a certain way for 35, 40 years, 80% of it is probably correct. Right? It's just that it's been... It's so entrenched that ripping it out causes this kind of pain of change. So, you need to approach it with empathy but you need to approach it with extremely clear problem solving. So, those are the two things that I've learned over the years that have helped me and that helped me over the last couple of years to actually make meaningful change in these very legacy companies. That being also like being in a marketing role, which also is kind of a surprise for a lot of these legacy folks, like why is the marketing guy doing this?

Tricia Gellman: How have you taken that part of being the marketing guy? I mean, I think... My story is that when I was told I was in marketing at Apple it was through a reorg and I went home and I cried. I don't know if you know that story. I really thought marketing didn't have a seat at the table, it was very fluffy. So, I would assume at some of these bigger companies actually marketing isn't really at the table, marketing is kind of off in the corner and then here you come in, you know, the perception I'm sure is like younger, hotshot, new business, shiny object and now you're telling me I need to change my way I've done things for 30 years.

Harish Peri: Yeah. That definitely was a big challenge for a period of time but I think the key sort of marketing skill that you can bring... You know, there's again two parts to that. One is, just the ability to sell. Right? Because ultimately you have to convince... That's what we do all day long. Right? Whether it's doing simple things like copy testing, A/ B testing or doing something large like coming up with an entirely new sales positioning, we're selling all day long even if it's not directly. So, that skill internally is incredibly important, right? You can have the best end state but if you can't convince someone at their core that you need to join me on this journey or transformation, the game is over because ultimately it's all people and that same thing applies even when you're selling product to a customer. So, the selling this is a big thing and then the storytelling part is the other kind of piece that you have to keep in mind is people are not going to want to change unless there's a story that they can believe in. Right? So, that's the other part of digital transformation that you kind of need to... You know, the cost cutting, the efficiency, the operational gains, all that are secondary. There's a core why, which is almost convincing the legacy folks in a nice way, that if you don't make this change you will probably become irrelevant. inaudible or AI will take your job and so being able to convince people to come on board, part of that... You know, the empathy piece there is... One thing I've learned is you kind of have to get the old guard to help solve problems with you because if you just come in and try to solve all the problems yourself, one of the things you'll see is a lot of these legacy companies have meeting heavy cultures and all they do is they go to meetings, they look at stuff, they say something and then they walk away. Nobody owns inaudible even if it's an internal spreadsheet or a presentation which requires thought. So, getting people to do the work and actually solve the problem and then having them present back, which is another kind of internal sales skill, is another way to get people on board because then they feel attached to the solution. Then it almost becomes one of those things where they're like, " Of course, this is the way we have to do it. This is always... I've been saying this from the beginning." It was like, " Actually you weren't but now you are so that's perfect. Let's just keep moving."

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I can't remember where I worked but there was one place where it's like I had a manager or a senior level manager that was like if I didn't come up with the idea then it's just not going to happen. So, getting to that state where you're trying to convince your idea in, you're selling your idea in and they're like, " This is my idea. What's wrong with you? Of course this is my idea." But then that's when you know you've won.

Harish Peri: You can't have an ego about it because if you do then that's the worst thing, right, because you're as a digital transformation like change agent, the sustainable change comes when the people with the skill and the will for the inaudible actually start to own the problem and that's more sustainable and they can run with it.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: If you end up doing everything you're going to burn out in two months.

Tricia Gellman: So, why do you think... I mean, we were talking here about emotional components to growing a business. Typically like I had a different episode, we talked about emotional component to leading your team and having empathy with your team, especially in this time working from home and everything else, but here we're talking about the emotional component and the empathy needed to drive change. Why do you think change is so threatening for people, especially in these larger companies where of course you need to adopt new technological ways of doing things, but it's just so scary to people. A lot of the time it paralyzes them.

Harish Peri: Yeah. In a lot of these legacy... I mean, especially, at least in my experience, right, the work that people do becomes part of someone's identity and there is a tremendous amount of pride in knowing that for 35 years I've been the person that sales has gone to for questions or I've been the person that knows where the thing is that's behind the other thing that five widgets depend upon, right? When being the widget person is a source of pride, what happens is people over time lose the ability to solve problems and they've just sort of become very good at doing a certain part of a value chain. It's threatening because first you are questioning, you're almost questioning or making them question the value that they're going to provide in a future state, right? So, one of the big things that I personally had to go through in my prior role was unlearning a lot of my assumptions and being able to define problems, create artifacts that are the answer to the problem, drive people and keep pushing to execute hard. It was a skill that I learned later in life and this whole adult learning model is very inaudible because people don't want to be told they don't know something and then they don't want to do something a new way because it actually hurts at your core. So, there's... It inaudible... On multiple levels it's threatening inaudible is my job going away? The second thing is are you saying that I don't know how to do this because that's been a source of pride? The third piece really is actually learning a new way to do things is very difficult past a certain age, like it's just very hard. So, in a lot of legacy companies you have a population that's older, either professionally or actually older and so just for them to have to relearn things is incredibly just painful. That's a good thing to look at is who are the people that will actually make that change. The other ones inaudible probably you'll want to keep, right, because a lot of digital transformation efforts are also about cost cutting and kind of reducing the workforce to bring in more automation. So, the people that can actually make that change and unlearn and relearn a new way are the ones that you want to keep. So, it's very easy for companies in our world that are tech companies because we thrive on change. Right? We sell the fact that everything is changing.

Tricia Gellman: And we live in a world that's changing all the time.

Harish Peri: Yeah. That's how we win. But for a lot legacy, like they win because of stability.

Tricia Gellman: Uh- huh.

Harish Peri: So, how do you marry agility and stability? That's the big thing and it's painful. It's very painful for everyone involved but you have to kind of drive through it.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. It seems like you've done this multiple times. I mean, even when we were working in Salesforce we kind of acquired this company and then we're like, " Okay, maybe what you guys thought you did isn't exactly what you should do" and we kind of had to drive a bit of change there in terms of where is this going to fit in the Salesforce stack, how are we going to sell it and how's it going to scale because it's okay to be a great business at the size it was but it needed to get bigger. So, you've been doing this for a while and it seems like maybe not on purpose, you don't have a formula, but I feel like you have a formula, like there's a way that you approach driving the change when you... Maybe you're translating it even now into your new company of how do you help the company be successful but how are you looking at making success and not just running in and everyone being like, " Oh my God, you're like a tornado that got stuck in the room." Yeah. That bull in the china shop.

Harish Peri: It's interesting you mention that. I've only been here I would say two months but in the first two weeks I got some feedback from my CEO saying like, " Hey, listen a little bit more." Right? So, it's like very direct because, you know, he's a super nice guy but he's like, " Look, if you want to be successful you got to listen more." It's funny, for a series B startup or a scale up, even there there's entrenched ways of doing things. Right? For us to transition from the kind of platoon in the woods startup phase to this hey now we have an infusion growth equity and we have to start scaling, many people's behaviors have to be unlearned. So, how you make that happen is at the end of the day like you, you know, for as much as I talk I have to force myself to stop and listen. With each of my peers on the executive team, right, the head of customer success, the head of sales, the chief product officer, it's just stopping and listening to where they're coming from but then that's where the marketing skill comes in, is you listen to everything and then you paint this vision, this connected vision, and you get buy in again from it but then you make it so compelling that people are like, " Yup, this is where we need to go." Right? Like we're redoing our packaging, we're going to be relaunching our whole web presence, all the standard stuff you would do at a company of our size. But that same formula, even at the world that we came from, right, changing the way we talked about the nature of data in a business and why certain types of data are relevant for a certain growth stage, that's a connected story. Right? It's not inaudible, " Hey look at my fields are better than your fields." It's more like this complete package from us will help you go to the next stage of your growth. Right?

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: inaudible growth data thing that we have done. So, that's... And that's threatening because it may not be what some people had had in mind but the key is to listen to everyone and then come up with this connected story and I think to bring it all home, that's where I think product marketers are kind of secret weapons because all what we do all day long is connect the dots. Right? We have to connect the dots for sales to communicate value. We have to connect the dots back to product to help influence the road map. We have to connect the dots with our customers to again, from a value perspective, so that ability to be a connector, inaudible connector, is a huge I think a massive secret sauce that helps actually I think product marketers, if they learn, to become powerful executives across the board.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Yeah, I was just talking with a startup founder. Really small, even smaller than the company you are in. They were getting ready to have their first marketing hire and they were telling me that what they're doing is disrupting a market but it's not really a replacement of one thing versus the other, it's like a whole different story. I'm like, " You need a marketing leader who understands how to do product marketing because you're telling a story about how your solution solves a problem, it's not about the widget. It's not about the feature. It's about a whole new way of looking at the world and that's about storytelling and so you need someone who understands go to market but also storytelling."

Harish Peri: Like you were saying earlier like for digital transformation, because it's the same thing. Because if you can... If stories that connect with people, then you can kind of light a fire deep within people to make the change. Otherwise you're just going to be dragging people, dragging people, and you likely will burn out in a couple months.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Well, one of the things we talked about before, I think you've kind of touched on a little bit but I want to like... I really feel like it's a part of your success formula and it's helped you in all these different companies is you talked about sort of the people who they've been in the company for a long time, like they're... You're probably not going to have success if you just come in and say, " I'm going to bring in a whole new team." There's something about the people who have the intellectual property of the company and have been there a long time, they know behind all the little rocks and turning them over what's good and what's bad, but at the same time maybe a lot of those people don't want to change so can you talk about how do you work with these people to kind of actually create a secret sauce of driving change?

Harish Peri: So, in addition to the things that we've touched on, trust is huge. Trust is massively important and it's like the simple thing. So, actually spending time to talk to people about their interests, how many kids do you have, what do you do inaudible...

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: Just the little social banter, I mean, this may be a U. S. specific example, I mean, there's ways to do it in other cultures but from my experience that trust building is incredibly important. It's actually... It's interesting. In the beginning when I had started on the digital transformation side of my prior role, I used to find that annoying because I'm very let's get to work, what's the thing we're talking about? What numbers do we have that we need to make better? People would spend 15, 20 minutes just shooting the breeze and that's a maturity and learning on my part is that builds trust and then what happens is when you can unlock the trust you actually unlock this thing like discretionary effort, which is a thing that we all want from people that we work with, was when they go above and beyond and they want to do the thing that you want them to do. Right? So, it's almost like... It sounds Machiavellian but trust is almost power. Once you build that trust you then have a massive amount of power because people will want to do things for you that you didn't even talk about, right? I had inaudible some of my biggest opponents or detractors when I was switching roles, they were like, " Look, you're probably the smartest person I've worked with, best person I've worked with." That just came from having the trust. Right?

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: The trust came from just talking simple things like shooting the breeze. I feel like in our tech world we get so enamored in drive forward, like, "What's the thing? What's the cool thing?" Versus like, " How are you? How's life?"

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Well, I think especially in hyper growth environments, which a lot of enterprise inaudible is hyper growth, it's about go, go, go, go, go and people get stuck in that list of how can I get these things done versus really connecting as humans and I think that's so important and hopefully in today's today as we're all separated, I think we've started to see that this human connection is even more important than ever. I love the fact that inaudible this idea of the currency of trust really helping to drive change.

Harish Peri: Mm- hmm(affirmative). inaudible.

Tricia Gellman: Right? Because you're not going to get people to give up the old ways that they did things if in the end of the day they don't trust you.

Harish Peri: Yeah. So, that's the personal side but on the professional side you have to repeat and repeat and repeat the script that you're not doing this because you want to be better than them or you're trying to replace them, but you actually have to approach it from a little bit of a service mentality, which is I'm doing this because I believe that this company can be better than what it is today, as do you, which is why you stuck around for 40, 35, 40 years. So, we actually have the same end goal and crosstalk...

Tricia Gellman: I love that. Connecting in the same, like creating that unified goal and like the direction.

Harish Peri: Yeah. It took me some time to learn this but the human part is bigger than all the business cases and presentations you can make. That's probably just me unlearning being an engineer because you got to get right to the...

Tricia Gellman: I mean, I actually think it's a maturation thing. I think when you're younger in your career I think you think it's about getting the things done. Right? Achieving the goal and your manager wants to make sure that you've checked those boxes and things like that. I think if you're on this quest to grow your career I think a lot of people think like I have to be able to say I did that myself. Whereas I think if you look at people that are very successful early on in their career or just in general start to build their career and move up, I think if you look around you'll see that the people who are the most successful are the people who gather others and build this trust like you're saying. So, it's not about what they did but it's about how as a team did they work together. I think that's really important. I mean, you're talking about it in the context of driving change, but at the same time, if you can't do that at all then actually people as you get more established in your career, I think it becomes toxic.

Harish Peri: Yeah. Yeah. It's the you have to be very transparent about you're doing this for a goal, for a shared goal that has nothing to do with you. Right?

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: It's about our common mission. The mission changes over time, but if you kind of keep that mission in mind then that's a way to bring people along. So, yeah. Yeah, that's... I think being a product marketer is I think a super skill to have to drive this stuff internally or with customers.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Is there a time... Like do you have a high level example, I don't want you to talk about some secret sauce within a company but a time where you really got stuck, you know, you're trying to drive success of an initiative and you really got stuck but you were able to maybe leverage one of the older legacy people in their point of view to kind of break through?

Harish Peri: Yeah, most definitely. I think it's... In the role right before this I was responsible for sort of the whole go to market of one of the digital transofration initiatives. I don't want to get into too much specifics because of industry crosstalk...

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, yeah. You don't have to talk about specifics...

Harish Peri: crosstalk.

Tricia Gellman: But just generally why do you think it got stuck-

Harish Peri: crosstalk.

Tricia Gellman: And then how did leveraging people who had more history help you?

Harish Peri: Right. So, part of that change required a massive amount of operational system change. The go market is not just the way we settle the product, but it's also billing and operations and implementation and all the things to get that future customer successful. In any digital transformation, if you bring in a consultant the thing that they will point out is the billing and operational part is the treacle. That just does not move, it's the roots that's been there for years, you know, 35, 40, 50 years and it's the hardest thing to change. So, this is the example that I eluded to earlier, is it was actually the person that runs that in this initiative, you know, this person that inaudible there for I would say 35, 40, like a long amount of time and inaudible and it took me a good... It took me a while to realize that the way to move forward was by building that trust, by listening and it's very small things like not interrupting this person in a meeting. He's on a soapbox, let the soapbox play out. If you need to get another meeting after that, let it happen because if you interrupt the soapbox you're done. So, these are personal learnings but this person was the core, the decision maker. The whole team looked to her to say, " What should we do?" So, that kind of human learning, but then being able to actually really structure arguments and structure the thinking and bring real solutions to the table with optionality and not show up saying, " This is the solution." Right?

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: These are all small things but it took me a while to learn that, but that is how then we were able to break through and actually flip it around and have her be a proponent of the options we were taking to the point where she would shut down other detractors. It was beautiful to watch. Right? So, to the point where she was like, " Wait, why are you switching now?" inaudible let's do this for the whole company, right, not just this one initiative. So, it was crosstalk-

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I mean, well that's I think... Like that's so personally fulfilling when you take somebody who in the beginning you think is a big detractor, you interrupt them once and they're like really giving you the stink eye and then you realize, oh, this is the way to build trust with this person. Oh, now this person's advocating with me. Now we're having big impact in the company. I mean, when I've worked on initiatives that I see other people really driving success and change, not me, it's like I just feel like it's really fulfilling because it's almost like you watered a little seed and it grew.

Harish Peri: Exactly. Yeah. You want to be the gardener not the tree. You know, that's the way to think about it.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. When you're in a new industry, you know, your current solution, you're trying to change an industry or when you're in a company do you think the change has to come from the outside to kind of instigate people or is there a way that people can really think about approaching a new mindset or bringing change into the company that they're in right now?

Harish Peri: I think it's a bit of both. Right? What I've seen is that it's better to have one change agent brought in from the outside but then their job has to be to spark the change in others. Because sometimes it's... And this is another human thing where you almost get a little bit more credibility and license to be a little bit of a bull in a china shop if you come from the outside. But that has its limits.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, with some permission. You walk in with permission...

Harish Peri: crosstalk.

Tricia Gellman: Because you're not from here basically.

Harish Peri: Yeah. You don't want to overdo it because you'll piss people off. You have to do it the right way.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: It's a bit of both. Now the mistake a lot of companies make is they kind of spin off these units. A lot of big companies, they spin off entire units, innovation labs, they'll cut off a part of the company and they just say, " We want tech talent. We want smart people from the Valley or from Chelsea, New York." Like it's equivalent right? Or Silicon Alley.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: Out there, those people don't know anything about the soul of the mothership.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: Right? That matters. The connections, the people, the why certain things are a certain way. So, you almost want this hybrid team, like Lincoln talked about a team of rivals. You want that to be able to have the best of all opinions, but as long as the person in charge is sort of an external change agent that usually is what I've seen as a good recipe for crosstalk.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. So, maybe back to what you were saying before it's like the external person kind of listens and understands like okay, what is it that we need to drive success and then paints that story.

Harish Peri: Yeah.

Tricia Gellman: When it creates that connected story, but then by having that connected story you can kind of bridge across the old, the new, the different parts of a company maybe and then that helps you to kind of successfully bring it altogether and drive results.

Harish Peri: It brings me the legacy people in to actually do some of the work. inaudible just presenting and waiting for approval, it's like, " Well, okay, this is the wrong. What should we do?" Right? Can you come back... And that's where you marry the two rather than... A lot of legacy approach is just to speak in meetings and then walk away. You want to flip it around and say, " Can you come back with a model? Can you come back with a spreadsheet?" Then the old world sees how hard it is to actually drive change and they're like, " Oh yeah, I should... I'm on the hook to do something. I don't want to look like a fool so I'm going to put some time into it." Personally I've seen like people then call me on the side. They're like, "Hey, can you help me with this?" Exactly. Change is hard. Let's all do it together.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: It's very interesting inaudible.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I like the idea of holding people... Giving people assignments, holding them accountable and helping them to kind of develop the solution. I mean, I think even in startups and hyper growth companies, when you are going from one phase to another or you move from one target audience to another, you have to drive some amount of change and people think, " Oh, that's easy" or, " I don't need to do that" but I think the more that people can help to drive that accountability and the ownership for what the solution should be, like again you're back to that broader group of people and everybody starts to get bought in and it just has a much bigger impact on the company.

Harish Peri: Yeah. One other point is I've seen that the... Back to your notion of how you create that team, you definitely don't want to bring in a change agent that just kind of pontificates. You actually want someone that will do.

Tricia Gellman: Oh, that's an interesting concept.

Harish Peri: Well, because by definition change means you don't know the direction that you're going in. So, the change agent has to show in the beginning what good looks like, what great looks like. So, even in a startup like if you're going from startup phase to scale up phase or scale up to hyper growth or IPO path, the concept that you produce, like something as specific as a First Call Deck for an enterprise customer, right, that's going to look very different in one phase versus the next. So, if you're trying to transition to the other phase, people from the current phase are not going to know what good looks like. So, the change agent that's brought in has to create that. So, you want people that are creators, not forever, but they have to show a couple of examples of like, " Hey, this is how you would do it" and then be like, " inaudible please." Right?

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: inaudible sell the concept then people will take that and even make it better. That's when the magic really happens.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I've seen that first hand and I couldn't agree more. Now, I think the thing we talked about is that change is really difficult and scary for people. So, once you kind of make this effort I think we also inaudible the elephant in the room. Some people hate it and they leave. So, it does happen, but in the end of the day I think when you're on this path it's very easy to just continue on the path and move forward like change this, change that. You've got your list of check boxes again. I think it's really important maybe to celebrate the milestones and are there ways that you have not just focused on driving that change but on celebrating and creating visibility in terms of what's been accomplished?

Harish Peri: Yeah. It is. It's huge. It's kind of like in any company, right, if you have values, like the way you get values to become part of people's behavior is you recognize people that are living those values.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: So, inaudible publicly inaudible, " Oh, if I make these behavioral changes I'm going to get a hoodie as well." I'm using a startup example but...

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, yeah.

Harish Peri: But at a larger scale, the celebrating is huge. You know, the form in which you do it. I mean, again, it depends on the specific example but they key there is you want the people that have made the change to talk about it. So, again, it's one thing if the new guy talks about. That gets boring after a while. You want the old guard, the people that you're getting on board, to actually send out the emails or make the big town hall presentation. Or publish a dashboard, whatever it is or whatever your metrics are and your forms are, you want them to do that. Right? Because then that signifies to the other folks that are just like them that hey, this is something I should do too. It's very akin to creating customer heroes.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: Saying look-

Tricia Gellman: Like internal customer heroes.

Harish Peri: Yeah, exactly. A lot of parallels to kind of enterprise sales and success as well.

Tricia Gellman: Are there certain ways that you kind of build out a project with metrics so that you can maintain sort of that success and that engagement you talked about, that percentage of effort that people will do I think the celebration kind of plays a lot into how much energy and how much will people go above and beyond?

Harish Peri: From my experience these large internal transformation things are multi- year painful large projects and so it's very easy to get lost in like, " Oh, we got to do these 100 things and we're going to hit this milestone." There's a lot of them inaudible waterfall planning. You almost have to create these softer milestones, right, that may from a project and overall let's say cost cutting or efficiency perspective, they're meh, but from a people feeling perspective they're huge.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: That's the part that you want to celebrate. It's like, " Hey look, we've now finished this pilot for the billing transformation or for the operational transformation." You know, this is... This me, this is a huge deal because we've done this thing the same way for 30 years but now we have directional indicator that we can be better. So, let's talk about that. So, the actual metric may not be a huge move but the emotional metric is huge so those are the things you want to celebrate more because people can connect with that.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I think it becomes a leading indicator into what's possible instead of people wondering, and maybe even clears out some of the super doubters that, " Oh, this can't happen. This can't happen." If you... You know, you take the time emotionally to help people celebrate the big emotional journey they're on, but then also that reinforces to more and more people that it's possible to drive that change.

Harish Peri: Absolutely. Yeah. That's inaudible.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I think as a leader it's really important to map out those milestones and to not just map them out but to really celebrate them and to take the time because it has a very big impact on the team.

Harish Peri: Yeah. Like you mentioned in a hyper growth environment, you know, switching gears like you can get lost in it's kind of addictive to move from the thing to the next thing to the next thing, right? We're all kind of driven people but stopping to be like, inaudible listen, it's not like we delivered a massive amount, let's say you're operating in a sprint structure, we didn't deliver a massive amount this sprint for this team but we actually worked together for the first time in this new way of working. Right?

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: This is actually a current thing that we're going through and we've changed the way in which we work. Right? So, just that is a leading indicator that if we do this even better than next time, our output's going to go through the roof. So, just take that and run with it, you know, every individual please because you guys all did it together.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Totally build that momentum and I mean, I think in all parts of business it's important to have the leading indicators and the lagging indicators. If you're on a two year journey and you get to the end then it's a lagging indicator that the journey is done.

Harish Peri: Yeah.

Tricia Gellman: But along the way, if you're just like, " Oh, I think I'm going somewhere, I'm not sure where I'm going" and you don't have those indicators that you're actually on the right path, it gets very difficult to sort of get people to follow on in the path with you, which is an important lesson.

Harish Peri: Mm- hmm(affirmative).

Tricia Gellman: What would you say, you know, after talking about you being an engineer, you did product marketing, you did product, you're this super agent in rebuilding empathy it sounds like in these companies, how does that help you in your current role as the CMO?

Harish Peri: Yeah. So, I'm... I think it helps me tremendously because I'm operating a little bit more like a CMO with a strategy hat. So, I have my day to day operational metrics that my CEO and the board hold me responsible to, right? That's good. That's what you need. But there's the team is there that's really owning and delivering the work against that. Right? So, what it helps me do is my new best friend is our head of product. Right? We have these long lengthy conversations about how do we change the packaging, what segment should we be focusing on, how do we deploy our capital the best, and these are strategic conversations. Right? It's not about, " Hey, let's create a new E- book that's going to get us more leads." That has to happen and that happens and I think the other thing for me is less focusing on the minutia but focusing on building a machine that can create 1, 000 of the minutia. Right? That's the piece that... So, that's where the systems thinking comes in to say like how do we create a better way of working within the team and also then something that's replicable when we do hire more people...

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: inaudible systems kind of org design. The second thing is it's like being able to just think truly strategically and asking the questions that actually will make my other executive peers feel uncomfortable sometimes. It's like, " Hey, well why are we doing this a certain way?" Then say like, " You can ask me the same things. That's okay." Right? We want to make each other feel uncomfortable because it's a safe space. So, it helps me transcend beyond sort of a pigeon holed role of a chief marketing officer if you will. So, it's that true like you can marry marketing and strategy. I've heard of this notion of like the chief market officer inaudible that concept quite a bit because your marketing is a core part of it but knowing, like zooming out and seeing what are the segments that we want to be in, where are we getting, where are we not, should we be investing here, should we not be investing here. If we want to invest here, how do we need to get the product, the sales that go to market and the messaging inaudible aligned to make that happen, that's kind of what I'm able to bring after... As sort of the amalgam of all the experience to date. So, I think that's like what wakes me up every morning.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I mean, I truly believe this is the secret sauce of what a CMO role is today because marketing, there's nothing consistent about marketing. If you talk to the CRO they have a number to make, they have to make the number, they have X number of people, they have productivity per person. I mean, it's kind of this formula that you kind of stick things in and you have one, you have two, you have 500, it's kind of the same formula across. Right? But in marketing you have so many different functions and in part you have to work with sales, in part you have to work with customer success, in part you have to work with product. I mean, it's really across the full business and then all the different tactics have different flavors of how you do them and how you measure them and so the mind of a marketer who understands all these things I think is really positioned uniquely to help bring the company together. I was talking on a different podcast about how I actually think one of the best marriages within a company is the CMO and the CFO because they're both the people that see across the whole business. When you can pair that together and say, hey, what's our path for this segment versus that segment? What about this industry versus that industry? Where do we actually have the best synergies? Okay, now let's figure what does the product do for those places where we win.

Harish Peri: Right.

Tricia Gellman: And bring all of that financial data and the market data and everything together, it really can unlock a lot for a company and puts that chief market officer in a real win location around the strategy and as well then execution.

Harish Peri: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, it's... I think it's a wonderful time to be a strategic marketing leader as long as you don't lose focus on the day to day. That's the other thing, right, you mentioned that marketing is always changing. Even as a marketing leader, it's very seductive to get caught up in oh, what's the big picture.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Harish Peri: You take your eyes off what's happening right now, you're in trouble. So, it's a weird thing where you have to live at multiple, you know, variable Zoom as it's called but I mean, I still think it's... This is a really, really good time to be a marketing leader because also with the world blowing up the way it is and everything changing, when we do go... I almost joke like it's not there's a new normal, we're now in a world where this is no normal. You have to constantly be thinking about how do we reposition and talk about ourselves, in every company, to adapt to this world where there is no normal anymore. Right? Ways of working have changed, ways of selling, customers, everything. Expectations have changed, and so marketing is the one that will stare into the void and say, " Okay, how do we redirect where we want to go?"

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I think just touching on that point that you had before of getting so enamored by the strategy and really looking as your job as helping to bring the strategic long term thing together for the company, the way I look at that is that you have to make sure that your house is in order, that gives you the permission to go and do the rest but if your house isn't in order, why would anybody keep you around, right? At the end of the day you are doing marketing as a part of that chief market officer and that alignment.

Harish Peri: That's right. That's right.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Okay. So, we're getting toward the end of our time and I wanted to just kind of... I always close with the lesson. So, we talking now about this strategic ability to bring things together and I know that's sort of one of the lessons that you have learned is that there's this huge strategic opportunity for the CMO, but if you think about it as a lesson for the listeners, what's the lesson you would pass down to the listeners of maybe how they can become this more strategic marketer or what do you think is your one thing that you've learned in your career that you would want to pass down to the listeners?

Harish Peri: I think it would be spend some time in the shoes of the other functions. However you can. Right? So, if you want to learn more about sales, be annoying, go talk to your sales counterparts, your sales leader and say, " Can I sit in on as many sales calls as possible?" Right? Ask the product leaders, " Can I sit in on release planning or sprint planning or whatever ritual you have and understand how you think?" Because unless you really get to that level, you won't be able to have credibility to bring things together as much as you may want to. Then at the same time have complete transparency into decisions you make in your own function why you're making them a certain way, with all of your peers. Right? So, that ability to just literally walk in other people's shoes is massive and will set you up for great success as a marketing leader.

Tricia Gellman: Well, this has been very insightful and really has brought I think new insight into the concept of change and we're in this world where there is no normal like you said, which means we're all living through change every single day. I think your insights people could probably look into them and think how that even just relates to their private lives in terms of the change that they're going through and how they rethink it. If people want to talk to you more about change and potentially get your advice, what is the best way for people to connect with you?

Harish Peri: I mean, you can hit me up on LinkedIn, hit me up on... You know, we can probably put my email on here, HPeri @ proxyclick. com. I'm happy to help anybody with any questions in this area and bounce ideas off of. I think we all need a little bit of that in this world.

Tricia Gellman: I think what's been so fun in doing this podcast series, especially when we launched the first episodes they had been filmed in person and people freaked out because I was sitting in a room with other people but then it's been great as a way to just connect and have kind of like a collaborative conversation and learning with lots of other CMOs in different companies and different situations and I love the fact that in this episode we're able to talk about change and about how the CMO, which maybe is an unsuspecting role for most people, to be that change agent and to be the person in marketing helping to disrupt a little bit of the old ways of a company. But to do it in a way where you have empathy and you build trust and that actually helps to drive almost like an organic change within larger groups of people which is really, I think, a great lesson. Thank you so much for being a part of the CMO Conversations. If everyone that's listening loves this episode then please go back to wherever you downloaded the podcast and give us five or six stars. Also connect with me on LinkedIn and comment when we post the episodes, you can always comment back in the thread about other people that you would like for me to have on CMO Conversations or other topics. I think this topic of change, as I said, it's very topical for today but maybe you're challenged with something else in inaudible in the marketing field or you want to learn and grow about an area. So, please let me know and I'm more than interested in engaging and continuing to have this dialogue of the future of marketing and how we can be more strategic and really help to drive value within our organization. Thank you so much Harish.

Harish Peri: All right. Thank you Tricia.


If there's one thing we marketers can count on, it's change. In fact, Harish Peri (CMO of Proxyclick) has made a career out of it. While some people run from change or refuse to it admit it's happening (come on, we've all been in those meetings), Harish is someone who runs toward change. He embraces it. On this episode of CMO Conversations, you'll learn how to drive (and sell) transformation internally, what Harish says is the secret sauce for building trust, how to get endorsements from your detractors, why change is so threatening – and what you can do about it. Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Tricia on Twitter @triciagellman @HYPERGROWTH_Pod