The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

16. How to Scale a Tech Startup w/ Amit Bendov

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

On E16 of the Sales Hacker podcast, we're chatting w/ Amit Bendov, CEO & Founder, Gong.io about how to scale a tech startup in 2018. Tune in!

One, two, one, three, three. Quote. High folks, welcome to the saleshacker podcast. We'vegot a great episode. This is the final episode in our yacht day episodes. The first one we interviewed Brad for Luca from primary ventual partners. Thistime I'm interviewing I'm e. bend off, the founder and CEO of Gong DotIo. We love going for a bunch of different reasons, most notablythey were a sponsor for salescacer podcast, but also, I meant comes froma sales background. So when he talks about building the sales engagement platform andfor building a platform to help all of us become more productive, it reallyreally resonates. So this is an interview that we did once again on aboat in the middle of the Hudson River. I hope you enjoy it. Thesecond thing I want to say is thanks so much to this month sponsor. This month sponsors outreach the leading sales engagement platform. They triple the productivityof sales teams and empower them to drive predictable and measurable revenue growth by prioritizingthe right activities and scaling customer engagements with intelligent automation outreach makes customer facing teamsmore effective and improves visibility into what really drives results. Thousands of customers,including cloud are our glass door, Pandora Zillo, all rely on outreach todeliver higher revenue for sales route. So thanks for listening and let's listen toa meets interview on a vote thanking and I meet Bendoff, founder and Cegeof gone, besides being a sponsor of today's event, to my mind,one of the fastest growing sales enablement platforms that I know of, so inthe universe, because I don't think there's a sales anybone platforms on other planets. So Gong is one of the fast scoring platforms that it's also one ofthe areas that I think is is most interesting. But that meets. So, first of all, welcome to the sales hacker afternoon boat thing. Thanksfor inviting me. After those that don't know going, tell us your story, tells who you are, how you came to be starting and founding Gong, and then give us the elevator pitch for what Gong is and what Gongdoes. Sure. So, Gong is the Fourth Company that I'm leading ofbeing in technology companies. My entire career boats is a VP and and theCEO of a company. And I was scratching an itch where. So myToolik, previous company, were growing a really, really fast. Not asfast as gone, but pretty fast. What were those two companies? PanIAH in a earpiece, asspace and sicness Salspropis ands intelligence, based in NewYork. And the companies were growing fast. But and the metrics look really good. I was seeing what's happening inside the sausage factory. How many dealswere not winning? How many sales before not succeeding? And we never reallyknew why. Oh, we had with metrics like number of calls, numberof leads and conversion rates that often, you know, looked good, exceptthat sales were not okay. So we never really knew if we just madea bit higher or just didn't take a ding have a good training program forsales people, or the leads weren't good. Sometimes they're not. I mean salespeople will always see that, but sometimes they're right, right, mostall the time, the leads them good. Yeah, I mean we will seethat video. The leads are week, sometime they are. Yeah, we'regetting leads, but they don't have a sense of urgency, why doyou even make a decision or understand if eighty percent of your leads, ifyou're getting right now, don't have a sense of urgency. The crux waslooking inside the conversation, not how many conversations, but the quality. Arewe discovered pain? Are we getting the right leads the right decision maker?And the only way to do it was listening to calls and I was spenda lot of time on flights from New York to Tell Aviv and sometimes I'dasked the team just give me like five recordings so I could instead of watchingthe movies, I could get a feel for what's going on. But itwas anecdotal and not on a scale downs what the the for gone something thescans hundred percent and gives supposed to sales people and the management team a betterpicture of what's happening inside the conversation, not just helping conversations. Walk usto the timeline of having the idea for...

...the business. And now are youguys be as a series be or I feel like you have so much momentumit's you're well advanced, so walk us through that evolution. It's kind ofan odd question because we're in a but for some company will be a bemaybe like a seat sort of size. Our EARC was six million. I'veheard the term avocado set like a pretty big and we raised twenty two seriousa also large. Yeah, and we started the company. So I hadthe observation there's so much going to waste and sere and doesn't give us theinformation that we need to make decisions and management company team and I did dothings. First, I found a cofounder, a Lawan by CTEO and the technicalgenius behind these and we kind of like divided the work. I startedvalidating the business idea with fifty sales leaders that I know, and this wasin the valley. This was UNTELL avive day. Was We were or intelliviate, but we were calling people, like most in any us. That's whereour market is and it was a simple call and I asked them first,I'm thinking about developing something and they'll give you visibility to the conversation that yourteams are having. What do you think? You know, can it work?Would you buy? How much would you willing to pay? And wehad a certain number that if people say yes, we're willing to pay that. This is okay. We have a business idea, because they're also costassocial. That's we need to make sure we have a business model. Andthe feedbook was was great. It versus yes and says, you know,kind of we question, would it really work? Sounds like science fiction,but forget like the technology. Would you buy? And people said yes.I still wasn't sure because a lot of peopeople will say yes and and theydon't. But at least you said on the surface you will set out andthen a lawn. Check the what's available technically for a natural language understanding speechrecognition. was to see of the art. What can we realistically deliver today?Not We want to do science fiction aidle work in five years. Oneis something that we could sell today. So with that we had a validation. Was this two thousand and fifteen? Sixteen say, was late two thousandand fifteen. One more question. Did you consider starting it without a lawn? Did you consider starting the business and maybe eysourcing development or not having atechnical cofounder for like a split second, and I think it's one of thebest decisions I've made, not just a first him specifically, but having apartner is as a great help. I mean sure, it does cost somethingand but having him is phenomenal. You know, I don't know what's theright numbers, like two or three founders. I mean, you know, differentcompanies working in different ways, but it is a real partner. Soyou did validation. You basically put together focus group. We got some marketfeedback. What happened next? So I cobbled to get her slide deck andmet with some investors that I know and we closed around really, really quick. It wasn't like a walk in the park. So I have a greatrecord. Like three companies succeeded before, but not everybody thought that was likea fantastic idea. And the interesting part sometimes if you raise money for somekind of a pure technology, it's easier because nobody understand anything. All right, so as like virtualization, back up and throw some AI stuff in there. This is okay, this is cool, is a you know, accomplice founder, what the Heck? But sales, like psychology and marketing, everybody thinksthat they understand right, especially take with VC's and board members and theysaid, well, sales people are going to hate it. They're going tosee is a big brother. Legally you can't record and the technology is inaccurateand Google's going to kill you because they own voice and all these things,and these are not you know, these are valid concerns. But we raisedfairly quickly and then we hired the first team. I got a lot ofa lot of emails from people says we definitely regret not investing you in youguys, but we did take those concerns into considerations, I mean because they'rewe also went in to what's in meed for the sales people. All right, these are not stupid remarks. You know, we want to make suresales people love it and actually, how...

...can we make it in a waythat they'll be willing to pay out of their own pocket, even if thecompany is not sponsoring on that? So we built a product in a waythat addresses disconcerned. We had a team of five developers from a loans previouscompany. We were sitting in a small space in we work, seven ofus, six starving, will work in me. There was a strange periodbecause it was an ask alone. That was meet November two thousand and fifteenand asking a loan. We have the few Beta customers as signed up.When can we get a product? And it says met January, and Ikind of used to like adding three months to whatever engineers telling me. Eventhat I don't believe until I actually see the product. It was like veryslow period and my wife was asking, I meet, what's going on atyou've lost your energy. It's not you. Is like, listen, I've nothingto do. In a company is like watching rocks grow and income speech. January, we turn the system on and I'm waiting for the whole thingto explode. People adding sessions and users and the first customer at a hundredsales people and I know what to expect what it worked. So that wasit was a pretty good event. How did you come approach pricing? Youbasically of just release the product. You're talking about customers, assuming they're payingsomething. How do you think about getting to your target average deal size?Great Question. So when I did the initial focus group, I asked himhow much would you be willing to pay? And there are two ways to charge. So we either by the number of calls, which would first makesure that we are always profitables and have margins, so based on usage,and the other ones. Is all you can eat per user, just kindof like what people know it's like, and most people say, okay,we're going to will and to pay like half of sales ports right where.We didn't like that, kidgeon holing, but we decided we're going to startwith that pricing because it's we want to make it easier for people to makethe decision, even if it's not an optimal pricing structure. Just make itsimple, easy and we don't want to have risk in many different vectors.We just want to choose one to the product and not the pricing. Wedo have costs of processing speech and recording videos. Does have real more thanthe traditional Sau see it. It is something that we're very mindful ands wasand the other thing that we did we charged full pricing from day one.We did not have introductory pricing. We not have like tried for free fora year. We the very first customers. So just try to product. Wewenter in trying to sell because we wanted to develop a product. Butearly on I decided to want to charge full price, and the reason isnot the money, it's the learning that I'm going to get out of debtand I wanted to know if people will be going to pay, which isbe good, and if not, what do we need to do? Eitherchange the product, the pitch or or the value so people will be wantto pay whatever is economical for us. Had you done some kind of acompetitive assessment? Did you know where you sat in the pricing ecosystem when youyou know, the most expensive product in the market and middle of the roadwhen it comes to broadly to find sales and ablement technologies? I didn't know. I didn't know that there are competitors and and apparently they're were, butthey're in stealth mode. Fortunately for me, and I meant some of them latersays, I was actually looking to buy something like Gong and I couldn'tfind it, so I started a company. So the competitiveness was more like,and that's what people use as a bench park, is sales force,not as a product competitor but a kind of like as a pricing framework.That's the one of the most on questions I get. So you're now chargingyour customers and the question I get at every conference is when, and youprobably get it to when should you hire your first vp of sales and howdo you think about building and scaling your sales organization as a business minded CEEO. All right, it depends. I was the first bbo sales that washired, but I also hired hours later on. So it depends. Ifyou're roughly an engineering CEO, if you just finished Stanford and they have likea fantastic idea of and you know nothing about sales, you may want tostart by hiring an experienced, seasoned sea level executive. Early on I tookthat position. That a previous company.

We have kind of both. Ido have a computer science degree, but also sold a lot of stuff.So I started selling myself because I wanted to earn a pitch and I broughta VP of sales once I had a couple of reps that they're hating order. So these are the two I get a lot of CEO's that asked me. You know phus. You're hired. I know people and a lot oftime they'll be looking at the director level or even us to hire a repand I'm asking why you're looking for someone is not as experienced, and usuallyit's a cost issue. You know my advice. You're thinking about it wrong, because your biggest challenge right now is to get the product market fit quicklyand if you're off you want to know about faster as season sales executive willbe able to figure it out a lot faster than someone is less experienced.And if someone is less experienced, you'll never know if it's him or heror your product right or someone's like more accomplished. You're minimizing the risk.That is the selection, but for your product. It's a really interesting perspective. One of the things that Gong has done incredibly well because it there arecompetitors. We won't name them, but they're out there, but I feellike your marketing is better than anybody else's. How do you at least in thissort of the subspace that you're operating within? Is that just a functionof investment? Is that part of your strategy? Did you hire, youknow, VP of marketing really early? How do you think about allocating demandgeneration investment so that, because I think Gong has the highest name recognition inthe space for what you're doing, we do invest, but it's not afunction of the investment. Some of the best thing we're doing do not costa lot of money, like being on a cruise with Max. I reallythink it's and every know people said you're marketing is good, if they meanin a positive or something. Is the marketing and not the product. Butthe product is kind of pretty close to viral. People talk about it.The audience that we sell to our usually pretty vocal and social media. Soif you're good, people talk about and that's we get a lot of usermarketing, both within organizations and outside. Second, we use content that,and I'll use it a previous company. That is short. The immediately applicableand relevant to the audience that we sell to is is tweets, a shortlinkedin posts. Is the data linkedin posts, that data in it, this lennydata. So the open rates that aren't getting this is what you shouldsay in a phone can, right. So we thought what's the strategic messageand that we're thinking about and how we can support it with content that peoplewould actually be almost willing to pay for it, but then we'll give itfor free and that's what we do. So the strategic message was there's alot of ignorance and opinions are going on about what to see on sales calls. All right, you know, you read this book. There are tenzerobooks on Amazon and nobody really knows. I mean a lot of people haveat best, and I don't like we've been evidence for some companies that they'rework at so we're going to share some data. will be like the thefirst images from the Hubble telescope or first time the people saw images of thetitanic. There are a lot of like hypothesis where it lays, but justwhen people developed a technology from mapping the ocean, then they're able to seeclearly what's going on. These are kind of imagery that we wanted and westarted sharing data from calls. You know how many questions you should ask?Type of question that actually worked well. How to went to to bring uppricing in a conversation based on data. And what are the answers? Whatare some interesting insights that emerged from your annustment? There aren't that. Thoseare your there's a ton. So we found objection handling. So first theone that's very easy to understand. He is of talk time, talk tolisten. Ratio Right, and it's a common problems, special with younger salesbefore people are just high art. They talked a lot, sometimes eighty fivepercent of the conversation and compared to some of the more experience it to seethem at forty six percent on average, so to just more relaxed and andGod is pressured. So that's an easy one. Patience factor. Just waitbefore you respond, responding to an objection...

...with the question. These are allthings and a good thing you could actually show it to people. There isvery strong evidence that you can't fix what you didn't their right in the discoverycall, if you didn't build it right, if you can't develop the pain,and that's the right questions, then your chances of closing a deals lateron are very low, no matter what you do. So the star isvery, very important. Is just a few. There's really a ton.Like there's usually about everything is great. So those links, those posts,they get about a couple thousand likes and tens of thousands of views and sharesevery month. We do work on it. There's there's a team that's working ona data out there, thinking about the subjects, what would be useful, interesting and we can realistically bude a data for. I'm just speculating.Maybe you're somewhere in Arr between ten and forty, but probably, and we'renot at ten yet. Okay, but close, close. So a seriesa company, close to ten. How big is the marketing organization? Whenwe're thinking about the size of investments we should be making, tell me aboutthe size that that content team at, to mention and team there's for people. Have two questions. One, how is your job changing as the companyrose us? Job Question One. So when I when we started, saysso the first like very early days I had nothing to do. It waslike primarily engineering. When we got the first support cases, a great nowI've got work. So early on I did all the selling myself. Iwas getting people writing event if in even SDR I was getting people scheduling demosand there are like going directly to my calendar and I was doing them dayin, day out, having a blast practice in the peach learning what todo. Then I hired a couple of Reps. I was acting the POsales a lawn. My Partner Focus more on the RD team and a product. Today I'm blessed to have an executive teams doing the majority of the operationalwork. I'm still involved mainly with the product direction some of the strategic accounts. That's where working on think about the future competitive strategy and market strategy ofthe company and managing the management, the business, development and hiring. Isteal interview every hire that we're making a company and my rules usually until we'rehunting twenty people, every person I'm the final step in interviewing. So alot of my time goes through interviewing the talent. That's a great rule.It's great that you have a framework for it. Last question and then Ithink we have probably room for for three or four questions and I'll I'll passthe microphone around to anybody that wants to ask one. My question is there'sa lot of sales leaders in the room and sales leadership, I think,as speaking from personal experience, high turnover. So, as you've got sales leadersin the room that are aspiring to be your partner from not just zeroto ten, but zero to a hundred, what are the qualities of a salesexecutives that you think will help he or she scale to the point atwhich, you know, all of our equity is is very, very valuable. I think these are the two words sales executives. The first executive andI always look at any executive hire as another mind around the table. TheManagement Team just still add more than just S, not the corely numbers,and if you want to hit it Bigge, get to think long terms. What'sthe right thing to do in interest of the company. And sometimes it'sa very fine it's very easy to get caught in like the quarterly numbers.And again, I don't you know, I treat them very, very seriouslyand and they're important, but you want to make sure send someone who's likeas a long term view of the company and acts like it, like anofficer. That's key. Second is the importance of long term planning, especiallyin hypergrowth company. People don't realize how fast things change and you got toshift gears. It's like a like a car with many if you don't shiftlike early enough and you notice that that the game has changed, it's toolate by the time we recognize it. So we're already building planes. Okay, what the meat level management here is going to be like meet the nextyear, because you can't be it's hard to just parachute of just an example. You can just parachute me level man at the got to build them onand probably is a higher as it should...

...making today to do that. Sohow you hired a team, how you think about your team building as astrategy? I probably don't need to know. Most people know that, that you'renot the superhero sales guys. I mean your most sales are probably bettersales people than anyone else, but that's not why you're hired. It's stillgreat to have and if you aren't, might be hard to be a greatsales leader, but that's not what you're hired to do. You're hard tobuild a team and win a market. There's third things that I like tosee is also have a bit of economical understanding, and it's a ties backto the first point. Being part of the executive in it's one thing,and you know our motto's growth at all cost within reason. They're kind oflike contradiction in terms. So you can hire the most expensive a eas buthe's or choos incredible right. But you know what about their corea is it'slike proportional right. So things like Kak and commissions, they're important, notvery important in very early days, but when the number starts to grow itbecomes increasingly important where you hire, who you hire, and sometimes the thefirst hires tend to set the tone and the norm, right, so youcan hire, okay, I'm going to hire two expansive sales people early on, and it's always a tough question and because I know they're going to hittheir numbers or if they don't, then nobody else will, right. Butthen you have not developed a skill to hire people that are more economical alldown road. So that's an important to think about long term. Do youhave a business model and not just the numbers? It's very helpful questions inthe audience, though I'm Ra small and greenhouse. When you think about gonegenerally it's for account executives to maybe like reflect on a conversation they had witha customer. It could be for leadership to do some coaching. One thingthat I think people might not leverage as much, which could be really interesting, is what are some of the like analytics across a team that you wouldrecommend sales leaders look at? So when you're looking at the data holistically andnot an individual call, where do you see customers getting the most value?Yeah, it's great question. We used it early on to understand where we'restuck in the sales process, because you never know just one thing that there'sindividual performance there's performances a company, right, maybe you're what you're teaching the salespeople is wrong, or maybe not totally wrong but not exactly the beststrategy. How do you know? You could look at things that are liketypes of calls and conversion and prison the war. So let's say our isour wing rate in competitive deals better than some of the others, or isit worse? Or Types of competitors? What where messages are people positioning?Are Customers reacting? And by ability to reveal large number of calls quickly,be able to correct the story that you're training your sales people to tell oncalls. In second you could see the market is evolving, some of themarkets that they are very, very dynamic. New Com better is just come quicklyand with new products. And if you're not on top, you're notanalyzing lays, trending, you know, conversation, you know, but thetime you'll realize what's going on it might be too late. So the conversationis is the trenches, if this is a battle feels it's where it allhappens and and it's a fantastic data of the mind. Hey, I'm slownbarber, I'm the VP of sales for hired I have a pretty strong marketsegmentation. SMB been market enterprise wraps, ranging from two years of experience upto coliny right and ACB from, you know, thirty two, six figures. Where do you see the biggest impact of this type of product in termsof wraps? I would assume it's more junior people, but also, againto want to make an assumption and also sort of second part of the question. What is the adoption like when you get into these senior reps that havebeen selling pretend fifteen years when they're sort of feeling like someone's maybe looking overtheir shoulder? But how do you know sort of implement this type of productinto the culture? First it is used across the board, both from bigmarket SMB's and enterprise in different ways. The Nice thing about it there's nothingthat people need to do. It's a nonintrusive system, so it just worksif you don't want to use it. If you don't use it, that'sthe worst case, but we do not ask you to do any extra step. So that's why the adoption is fairly...

...good. and where it's not applicableyet is sales, where there's a lot of facetoface going on right so mostlyit's remote selling. Right now. We have people of the field sales,but they also have a lot of on line communications and there are very fewpeople that push back. It's not a common phenomenal you want to maybe comein from. We have someone who's using them both for for both our highshort experience. So I'm Jason Evert was Linkedin and we are a happy Gongcustomer and I think when we first scaled going across our sales organization, thebig concern from our reps was that their customers were going to push back andthere was going to be some discomforts that the sales reps would feel from themas a result that. You know, it's a little message that says thiscall has been recorded, but we've heard almost none of that and at theend of the day it really felt like more of just a change management projectthan anything that was really happening in our conversations with our customers. Last questionand then we're going to move to the next section. How's it going?Everybody beencher but go from legal sifter but made thank you very much. Consideringyour background over what a I'm sure a very, very great career. Iwas wondering what is the evolution of sales executives, epiece of sales? Howis that change over the course of differing business models and markets being entered veryquickly? What are the eighty twenty that that you're looking for? How's thatchange? So, I'm sorry, eight and twenty. Ti'm looking in termsof one of the key lovers of it, that a sales executive. I guesscan still pull to make sure that you know, get what you're lookingfor, but it was sort of tells and whistles that have maybe changed overthe course of times. I think that the fundamentals haven't changed. It's likefind a problem and solve it. That's what it boils down to. That'sthe most important things and then up just being, like always, like thechallenge for a lot of people. Really it's easier said than done, butthat's if there is a problem and people that can buy and you have agreat solution for that. That's what it is. How to do it nowis harder. People do use are more a word today. There are alot of sales training program going on, there are more books, they're moreof technology to help people do it, but the fundamentals, I think,are still the same. Thinker of his help as a doctor. Right,people come to you, ask questions, you try to diagnose the problem,see that something that you understand, that do you can solve and then workfrom there. That's agrees and yeah, absolutely I think it's sales is aboutlistening and asking questions primarily. Thank you so much pleasure. Let's give ameter around of a plot. Hey, everybody, this is Sam's corner.Was a really fun day out on the Hudson River with a meat bends andwith bunch of other folks for that sales tacer boat retreat featuring a bunch ofmembers from the New York revenue collective. Sorry if you weren't able to makeit. Hopefully you'll be able to make the next one. One of thethings that a meat said, which we've talked about on the podcast before,and it's just always worth repeating and thinking about young reps. often they justdon't appreciate the value of silence. And you know the research that Gong hasdone and other Call Recording Platform and call coaching platforms, they all teach usthat when you were talking, they have the power and when the prospect istalking, you have the power. I meant mentioned of forty ratio, meaningtheir prospect is talking sixty percent of the time and you're talking forty percent ofthe time. I tend to like seventy thirty. But the point is thatyou should be asking questions using silence and letting the prospect fill up the silencewith their answers to those questions, and aggressively talking into the silence is notgoing to help you win that deal. So if you're new to the salesgame or you're practicing on sales, practice not talking so much and practice beingcomfortable with short answers, with asking open ended questions, with pressing the mutebutton on your phone so that you don't...

...force yourself to uncomfortably talk into thesilence. Use silence to your benefit. It can be very, very powerfulif you are simply comfortable. And there's a an incredible sales leader out therenow. He's a CEO, as names John Schoff, we call them,the professor back at axeal, but he was somebody. He would be willingto sit in silence for up to two minutes while the prospect was thinking aboutthe answer to that question. So if you're out there and you're practicing oryou're deploying your trade as a sales executive, just remember you silence to your advantage. This has been Sam's corner. Thank you for listening. To checkout the show notes, see upcoming guests and play more episodes from our incredibleline of of sales leaders, visit sales hackercom podcast. You can find uson itunes or Google play. And if you enjoyed this episode, please doshare with your peers on Linkedin, twitter or elsewhere. We always love itwhen we see people sharing content and telling their friends. We've been growing everymonth, so we're super excited about it. Thank you and finally, special thanksagain to this month sponsors at outreach. See more at outreach dot ioh forward, sales hacker. Finally, finally, if you want to get in touchwith me, find me on twitter at Sam f Jacobs, which,unfortunately for you, may be overburdened with political and Washington capitals related tweets.But if you want professional correspondence, find me on Linkedin at linkedincom in Flash. Sam F Jacobs. I'll see you next time.

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