Piyush Parikh and Matt Wolach discuss why setting up automation will help you win
Welcome to SaaS-Story in the Making. The podcast that features the people who made the software world what it is today and the leaders who are shaping the future of technology. Here’s your host, Matt Wolach.
Matt Wolach: Yes, I am your host. This is Matt, and welcome to SaaS-Story in the Making. I am really excited today to talk to Piyush Parikh. And Piyush, I have known for a little while now and he’s really, really smart guy. He is the co-founder of Equinox Agents and that company that it helps SaaS companies with omni-channel sales and support. We know, he does some really good things. He’s worked with companies I’ve been a part of, so I know that they’re doing some awesome stuff. He’s also a president at Engineer Your Business, which is an organization that helps use systems to put your business on autopilot. And this is a guy who’s had extensive technology and strategy experience, so he’s definitely someone to listen to. Piyush, welcome to the show.
Piyush Parikh: Hey, thanks so much, Matt, for having me.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I really want to hear more about what you’re doing at Equinox agents. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
Piyush: Sure, sure. So I’m the co-founder at Equinox agents. I have a business partner as well. We are a leading provider of live chat teams, like you mentioned here, in the valley. And we’re in Phoenix, Arizona. So, we’re providing 24/7 live chat teams for SaaS software companies. And, we really want to help the software industry here and globally, really, but it’s helping the B2B software companies get better at doing support and scaling their support teams. That’s kind of the initial entity of that. What I’ve found over time, like you mentioned, I’ve worked in tech for a while and, you know, been with many founders and worked with many software tools in general. And we found, as I was working with these tools, just we get sold on some tools, it’s great, we started working on it. But then it kind of falls off. And the more I think about SaaS, SaaS is supposed to be Software as a Service. So Equinox agents is, we created that to put the service back in SaaS.
Matt: I love put the service back in SaaS. That’s fantastic. I think that’s great. So how are things going? How’s it going? Are you finding some good success?
Piyush: Yes, I mean, so like, I’m in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s where I’m based. And we’ve been able to work with some of the leading software companies here. So companies like Infusionsoft, and thanks to you, a company called WebPT, which you know, that you build. So some of the leading companies here, we’ve been working quite closely with them. And the thing that has worked well has been us focusing in on software and focusing on SaaS, and specifically B2B SaaS. That’s really helped us stay focused and scale ourselves. And so when I go talk to other people and say, what do you do? Well, I do live chat teams. Okay, everyone does that. What else do you do? And it’s more about, no, we do live chat teams for B2B software companies that have at least 1000 or so users, and are looking to scale. If you’re smaller than that, we help you in certain ways, but really when we focus ourselves on certain areas that we are good at, and we know well, that’s what’s helped us stay where we are and grow. And also in these interesting times when companies are having issues, SaaS companies are having churn issues and so on, we’ve been able to help them now and we stayed in business and now growing. So things are well, at least right now. Things can change quickly. And that’s one thing I’ve learned.
Matt: Yeah, I can imagine. I think that’s fantastic. I’m glad things are going well for your peers. But what do I want to ask is how do you pick the SaaS? Of all of all the industries you could have helped, how did you hone in on that?
Piyush: Yeah. So that’s an interesting. It’s a long story, well, I trying to condense it here. It started with you said the other company I have, which is engineer your business. That’s actually how I started about 10 years ago. I’m an engineer by training. I’m a chemical engineer. And I ended up in chat support, so it’s not quite connected. And I started in the technical space. I worked in a chemical company. The thing that I did was risk management. I was a consultant for risk management company. And we worked with chemical companies, nuclear facilities, those kinds of things to help them not blow up. That was the whole, that was the job. And that I was exciting. That was good. It was very nice, exciting, fun. But I kind of, you know, I wasn’t building something. I had that itch to go and let’s make something. It’s always not making something break, that was the job. Make sure this doesn’t break. But, and I was always interested in making something and that’s when I got into helping small businesses. I got into that after doing my MBA saying, okay, what do I really want to do and help? And I wanted to help small businesses with setting up systems. I knew how to set up processes and systems and data and analyze and all of that.
And so when I came, I can’t move to Phoenix and one of the businesses I was hoping was using Infusionsoft, which is a marketing CRM automation software. And that’s how I got into the whole software space where I understood what they did. Infusionsoft was doing something similar. They wanted to automate, and process and systematize marketing and sales. And at that time, about eight years ago or so, they were the leaders in that space. And so it was great to meet with them, to learn from them, to look at flow diagrams, process flow, look at all of that stuff and create systems. So I created an engineer business to say, let me help you engineer your systems in marketing or finance or operations and so on. But let’s do it with software. And that’s how, you know, software game displays. That’s how I learned about all these different tools out there and saw the pros and cons. And most of them lacking a lot of software include support, including Infusionsoft. And so we started supporting Infusionsoft. We actually, I became a partner with Infusionsoft and I started selling the tools. And I sold tools, Infusionsoft to India. I went to India and said, let me see if I can sell it here. And I ended up doing that. And the CMO at that time, Greg Head, he was on your podcast, right, recently.
Matt: Yep, Greg was on the show.
Piyush: Yeah, yeah. So he was on the show. And you know, Greg Head was there in Infusionsoft at that time when he urged me to go try it. And I said, I don’t sell, I’m an engineer. I don’t know to do this stuff, right. And he said, I’ll teach you. So he guided me and mentored me on how to sell from the stage. So I was able to do that.
Matt: That’s a good mentor to have.
Piyush: He is a great mentor to have. We actually I had him then and then I asked him to work with us again a couple of years ago, through his company called scaling point. So if anyone is looking for a mentor, scaling point, Greg head. I would look at that. Yeah, but he really helped figure out a way to sell the software and I did sell it in India. And so when I came back here, I had to support it because I sold it. And so because we didn’t have at that time an India presence. So one of the people I sold it to, his name is Ashwin, his company called Equinox labs. And that’s how this connected which is me and Ashwin, we found common things that we liked. He had the trait of selling, I had a trait of engineering. And so we formed Equinox agents. And that’s how we support… We ended up supporting all of Infusionsoft customers. And that’s really how it grew. And that’s how I got into SaaS. [Ha ha] Let’s do it with someone else.
Matt: I think that’s fantastic. I mean, it’s so funny, a chemical engineer going to support and sell a CRM and marketing platform, and then creating your own company to help them. I mean, that’s just a natural evolution. That’s the way everybody got into it, I think, right?
Piyush: I guess so. I mean they should have given me the shortcut handbook for this.
Matt: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s fantastic. But I wanted to ask you because your company helps with both sales and customer service, and so you kind of hit both sides of the business. But in your mind after working with a lot of these companies, how should those two entities, how should sales and customer service work together in a SaaS company?
Piyush: Yeah, no, that’s good. I think, what I found that I think that it’s growing as a new, I don’t know if it’s a new type of thing that’s coming out, which is customer success. I think that’s the word that’s been around for a while. But to me, we do both sides. We do support answer and sales. We do it with chat. And, to me, support is sales in a sense. Because SaaS is a service that you pay for every month. And you may sell it the first time, but you have to keep selling it to them every month, right. So it’s the support team that’s selling the ongoing subscription. And so what we found works, just to give some examples for customer service and connecting, communications is a big thing. And so how do I take information that I’ve learned in support and feed it back to the sales team? And not only the sales team, but how about the product team? Or how about any other teams in there, right? So one of the things that we’ve worked with, we’ve done it with Infusionsoft, with WebPT, with some of the other companies we have it. We call it bells, let’s take example churn, right. That’s a big deal, we want to make sure we minimize it. So if you want to do that, well, we created something called bells of churn. And so we can hear the bells of churn early on. So that based on certain characteristics they have, or certain patterns, certain words they use, all of those kinds of mixed ways of analyzing the information. Remember, I do data, I like data. Let me set up some of these things. We came up with some, it’s not very complex, but some simple algorithms to say, if you have these types of parameters and usage scores, let’s call it a bell of churn and feed it back to the sales team, or feed it back to the customer success team. And say these accounts look like they might have some issues, you might want to look into them. And I like using the word proactive in all of this. So can we proactively do some sales? Can we proactively do some support?
And people do support reactively, which is let me get a ticket, let me get a question. I’ll answer it. We want to turn that and be proactive in any of this, which is, yes, I’ll answer it, and I’ll answer it well, but I also want to then look at are there any ways I can help you further. Not only the person that has chatted in but also the other accounts that have not chatted in. In fact, more of the other accounts that have not chatted in. Why haven’t they chatted in and what’s going on? Are you not using it enough? You know, that kind of thing. So we try to use data and analytics to really inform our support team when they need to push things back to either sales or product, and have those lines of communication open. That’s kind of one of the ways we’ve made that happen. Even onboarding, let’s say. So you have during the onboarding or initial journey, you have the free trial, you have onboarding. Let’s get chat in there. Let’s get some, not only chat, even just support in there and understand what kinds of questions are they asking? Can we analyze how likely this person is to sign on for the full product or not? Or from going from full product to upsell? When are these opportunities available for upsell? So these are all the same analysis. It’s really just saying, alright, these categories go to upsell, these guys go to product, because this feature has been requested so often, this goes to sales. Hey, these guys might turn, let’s do something to bring them back.
Matt: Yeah, I think that’s so key. That communication is so important, everyone talks about it. And when you’re just starting out, you are a small team, everybody’s got a bunch of hats and you’re sitting next to each other. And so it makes it easy to communicate and make sure you’re sharing ideas and what’s happening. But as you grow, and as you scale, that’s where the challenge comes. How can you make sure that you’re not getting your departments into silos? You don’t have customer service, seeing all of their stuff, but not passing it on. You don’t have sales, to sharing what they’re learning from the prospects and what needs to happen in the product with product and development and customer service. And so the best SaaS companies that I have seen and worked with, and the best setups are when everything is built for communication and there’s a culture of sharing and collaborating. And that’s the way I would design it if I were starting another SaaS company now.
Piyush: Absolutely. No, I like it. Yep. And what I’m finding interestingly is that’s still not there. I mean, I’m working with a few of these companies, even some of the ones recently. You know the communication pieces still siloed and there are some other pieces in there that… I’ll get to, I think, which is to do with really just usage and value. In terms of what can we build in usage into the tool. I constantly fight with some of the guys. I have to keep digging to say, I need usage. Well that’s hidden, you can see that right now. We need to write code to pull that out and connect it to our CRM. And even value, what value are we ultimately providing to the end user? And can we track that? And there’s some ways to do it, but I wish we could just, you know, building new I would say just, I would like to see it built into the tool.
Matt: For sure. Absolutely. I want to talk about you work really well on the sales side as well and your company does a lot of good stuff to help companies respond quickly. But what are some things about growth and sales that a lot of founders and leaders are really unaware of?
Piyush: Yeah. I would have to say, I think they’re aware of things. When I think about what they’re unaware of, it’s actually I think you’re aware of too many things.
Matt: So maybe not focusing on them.
Piyush: I think that’s it. I think it’s more of to get real… Well, what happens is we are all, including any founder, whether it’s a software or any business, we know what needs to be done. We have this passion to make this happen. Whatever it is, our interest is. And we are learning from all these different media and training tools and folks. And how do you filter some of that out and, like you said, focus on certain things at the right time? That’s not as easy as… And you’ve seen my history and you’ve seen my path to this. It’s been kind of a learning curve all along the way. And being open to ideas but also focusing on the thing that we set out to do and let’s get focused on this particular thing we want to build out, let’s get some results and then know when to either pivot or move or do something different, right. So it’s that. I don’t know if we need to know anything or be aware of, I think, it is self-awareness is probably most critical in here to say… When I think about what you should be aware of, I think, sometimes to make it a little too complex. I like to boil it down to something more simple and something that that can be go back to the basics kind of thing. And so when I look at, you’ve seen the show The Prophet where he talks about the three P’s, you know, People Product Processing. That’s as basic as it can get. It works every time. Now there’s details behind all of those, but really to me, do you have the people side which is the core values set up and your purpose and your mission and all of that. That’ll keep your people together. Do you have a product that has a good market fit, and on the product side, I would want to see it narrowed down or niche down to something or a certain vertical, a certain very specific thing that you’re trying to solve. And so if the product, they have a good fit.
And then on the process side, I go, I’m again data driven. Can you show me in data that this is working, getting results for our people? Do you have at least a significant sample to tell me that this will work if I do it again? So it’s a little bit more data driven is what I would say, would be better to be more aware of. in all of this. And if the data says no, I’ve seen split tests, just to make it very specific split tests on websites. What’s better A or B? Is it blue or orange? I don’t know, tell me the data and I’ll tell you which one is it.
Matt: I think that’s good because it’s so easy to get emotion wrapped up into it. But using the data makes it very black and white and very obvious, which is the right path to choose. I think that’s great.
Piyush: Yeah. And the niche too, I think. I think we end up as entrepreneurs, business owners, whatever, we end up doing way too many things, and trying to create a software tool that will work for everybody. And we’ll get there. Let’s start with solving it for this particular target and then grow it.
Matt: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Speaking of grow, what tips do you have for software leaders on how to scale quickly and effectively? Do you have anything?
Piyush: Yeah, for scaling, again, I would look at it, it’s about the third p, the process. And it really it’s getting the data and delegating. I would say, if you can do the data piece and delegate it. Well, I have my entire team. The way I build it, is we have a team of about 85 people, and the entire team is encouraged. In fact, we have certain metrics to delegate. You need to work yourself out of your job within six months. And if you’re not then you will be out of a job. You need to keep moving. That’s kind of our method. And the way to do that we teach them how to do it. It’s how do you create processes? How do you delegate certain tasks? How do you work on the most important ones? But to me, to scale anything, whether it’s your job right now of what you’re doing, or the whole business, you can delegate a lot of it. If you have, if you can… You know, it’s verify, it’s trust but verify. And so you create the data metric to verify it, but you create the process to trust them that they will follow. And they should create their own process there. They don’t know the process best. So it’s the same thing like in support. When I tell my clients, it’s like, a lot of people say, I don’t want to give my support out to somebody else to do it. I wouldn’t want to do it. Well, you’re giving it out to your agents to do it, and you have people on your team that are doing support. So whether you do it with people on your team there or wherever they are. It shouldn’t matter if the process is tight and you have data that drives and tells us that the quality is superior. And so that’s what I would look at to scale anything. And that’s for engineering businesses where this comes together, that’s kind of where I… [Ha ha ha]
Matt: I think that’s great. Also, that’s something I teach my clients. I have the perfect deal process, and I think it’s all about the process. If you really want to create a sales structure that’s going to be repeatable and be something that converts and helps you win, you’ve got to have a really strong process built on fundamentals. So that’s what I teach my clients there, that’s where they see the most improvement when they’re able to implement that. And so I’m glad you said that. I think that’s perfect.
Piyush: Yeah, the only thing I add on there is, it’s there is we create these processes. What I’ve seen when I was doing the engineer business, or I still do some of that, but when I was helping businesses create these processes, one of the things I noticed is we would create this very nice complex process. We’d write it all down, flowchart it with data and all of that. And then something changed. And now you have to go back and change all of that stuff again. So there’s some balance between making it too much every step of the way and not leaving enough room for changes and improvement. And so one of our core values is you must continue to delegate and improve. So if you delegate, that’s great, but you got to continue to improve. And think the process will change, don’t think forget to change the process, but let’s keep improving it as well. And that’s, you know, when we hit our… We have customer satisfaction scores, right. That’s how we measure ourselves. And we’ve had, we’ve always been above 90. Now, we want to go to 92, 94, 95. When we hit 98, they say our team say, well, we’re done. And I said we got to keep improving. We can keep going. Customer satisfaction is one thing, what about your value that you’re providing? Yeah, let’s look at that now. So what are our upsells? Okay, let’s do that one next.
So there’s always room to improve as you create these processes. Well, I agree with you. I think it’s a key to even getting started, just get the process down. One thing I say is if you’re doing something more than six times, it can be created into a process and automated or repeated by somebody else. And when I say automate, I don’t mean tech automate. It’s a mixture of human and tech. I sometimes automate with 100% humans.
Matt: Yeah, I think that’s something that people forget is you can definitely make sure that you’re getting rid of some menial tasks, even if you’re not automating and even it’s not a tech solution, you’ve got somebody else that can do that.
Piyush: Yeah, yeah.
Matt: That’s great. Well, Piyush, I really appreciate you coming on. This has been some really great stuff. A lot of good information for our audience to chew on. I want to make sure that if they want to reach out to you for further questions or information, how shall they get touch with you?
Piyush: Sure, sure. So, a couple of ways. One would be on the website, Equinoxagents.com, Equinoxagents.com. That would be a way to just look at our site and you can see what we do as well and then connect with us. Or you can get into LinkedIn and connect with me there as well.
Matt: That’s awesome. Yeah, I’ll put all that in the show notes for everybody. But Piyush, thank you. This has been great. I really appreciate having you on.
Piyush: Hey, thanks so much. And next time, I would probably talk to you about all the same questions.
Matt: That’s great. I look forward to it. So that’ll be a good time. Well, thank you, everybody. Take care and see you next time.
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