The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 4 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've got 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. This time I'm interviewing I'm e. bend off, the founder and CEO of Gong Dot Io. We love going for a bunch of different reasons, most notably they were a sponsor for salescacer podcast, but also, I meant comes from a sales background. So when he talks about building the sales engagement platform and for building a platform to help all of us become more productive, it really really resonates. So this is an interview that we did once again on a boat in the middle of the Hudson River. I hope you enjoy it. The second 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 productivity of sales teams and empower them to drive predictable and measurable revenue growth by prioritizing the right activities and scaling customer engagements with intelligent automation outreach makes customer facing teams more effective and improves visibility into what really drives results. Thousands of customers, including cloud are our glass door, Pandora Zillo, all rely on outreach to deliver higher revenue for sales route. So thanks for listening and let's listen to a meets interview on a vote thanking and I meet Bendoff, founder and Cege of 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 in the 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 of the areas that I think is is most interesting. But that meets. So, first of all, welcome to the sales hacker afternoon boat thing. Thanks for 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 Gong does. Sure. So, Gong is the Fourth Company that I'm leading of being in technology companies. My entire career boats is a VP and and the CEO of a company. And I was scratching an itch where. So my Toolik, previous company, were growing a really, really fast. Not as fast as gone, but pretty fast. What were those two companies? Pan IAH in a earpiece, asspace and sicness Salspropis ands intelligence, based in New York. 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 deals were not winning? How many sales before not succeeding? And we never really knew why. Oh, we had with metrics like number of calls, number of leads and conversion rates that often, you know, looked good, except that sales were not okay. So we never really knew if we just made a bit higher or just didn't take a ding have a good training program for sales people, or the leads weren't good. Sometimes they're not. I mean sales people will always see that, but sometimes they're right, right, most all the time, the leads them good. Yeah, I mean we will see that video. The leads are week, sometime they are. Yeah, we're getting leads, but they don't have a sense of urgency, why do you even make a decision or understand if eighty percent of your leads, if you're getting right now, don't have a sense of urgency. The crux was looking inside the conversation, not how many conversations, but the quality. Are we 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 spend a lot of time on flights from New York to Tell Aviv and sometimes I'd asked the team just give me like five recordings so I could instead of watching the movies, I could get a feel for what's going on. But it was anecdotal and not on a scale downs what the the for gone something the scans hundred percent and gives supposed to sales people and the management team a better picture of what's happening inside the conversation, not just helping conversations. Walk us to the timeline of having the idea for...

...the business. And now are you guys be as a series be or I feel like you have so much momentum it's you're well advanced, so walk us through that evolution. It's kind of an odd question because we're in a but for some company will be a be maybe like a seat sort of size. Our EARC was six million. I've heard the term avocado set like a pretty big and we raised twenty two serious a also large. Yeah, and we started the company. So I had the observation there's so much going to waste and sere and doesn't give us the information that we need to make decisions and management company team and I did do things. First, I found a cofounder, a Lawan by CTEO and the technical genius behind these and we kind of like divided the work. I started validating the business idea with fifty sales leaders that I know, and this was in the valley. This was UNTELL avive day. Was We were or intelliviate, but we were calling people, like most in any us. That's where our 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 your teams are having. What do you think? You know, can it work? Would you buy? How much would you willing to pay? And we had 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 cost associal. That's we need to make sure we have a business model. And the 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 they don't. But at least you said on the surface you will set out and then a lawn. Check the what's available technically for a natural language understanding speech recognition. was to see of the art. What can we realistically deliver today? Not We want to do science fiction aidle work in five years. One is something that we could sell today. So with that we had a validation. Was this two thousand and fifteen? Sixteen say, was late two thousand and 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 a technical cofounder for like a split second, and I think it's one of the best decisions I've made, not just a first him specifically, but having a partner is as a great help. I mean sure, it does cost something and but having him is phenomenal. You know, I don't know what's the right numbers, like two or three founders. I mean, you know, different companies working in different ways, but it is a real partner. So you did validation. You basically put together focus group. We got some market feedback. What happened next? So I cobbled to get her slide deck and met 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 great record. Like three companies succeeded before, but not everybody thought that was like a fantastic idea. And the interesting part sometimes if you raise money for some kind 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 thinks that they understand right, especially take with VC's and board members and they said, well, sales people are going to hate it. They're going to see is a big brother. Legally you can't record and the technology is inaccurate and 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 raised fairly quickly and then we hired the first team. I got a lot of a lot of emails from people says we definitely regret not investing you in you guys, but we did take those concerns into considerations, I mean because they're we 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 sure sales people love it and actually, how...

...can we make it in a way that they'll be willing to pay out of their own pocket, even if the company is not sponsoring on that? So we built a product in a way that addresses disconcerned. We had a team of five developers from a loans previous company. We were sitting in a small space in we work, seven of us, six starving, will work in me. There was a strange period because it was an ask alone. That was meet November two thousand and fifteen and asking a loan. We have the few Beta customers as signed up. When can we get a product? And it says met January, and I kind of used to like adding three months to whatever engineers telling me. Even that I don't believe until I actually see the product. It was like very slow period and my wife was asking, I meet, what's going on at you've lost your energy. It's not you. Is like, listen, I've nothing to 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 thing to explode. People adding sessions and users and the first customer at a hundred sales people and I know what to expect what it worked. So that was it was a pretty good event. How did you come approach pricing? You basically of just release the product. You're talking about customers, assuming they're paying something. How do you think about getting to your target average deal size? Great Question. So when I did the initial focus group, I asked him how 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 make sure that we are always profitables and have margins, so based on usage, and the other ones. Is all you can eat per user, just kind of 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 start with that pricing because it's we want to make it easier for people to make the decision, even if it's not an optimal pricing structure. Just make it simple, 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. We do have costs of processing speech and recording videos. Does have real more than the traditional Sau see it. It is something that we're very mindful ands was and 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 for a year. We the very first customers. So just try to product. We wenter in trying to sell because we wanted to develop a product. But early on I decided to want to charge full price, and the reason is not the money, it's the learning that I'm going to get out of debt and I wanted to know if people will be going to pay, which is be good, and if not, what do we need to do? Either change the product, the pitch or or the value so people will be want to pay whatever is economical for us. Had you done some kind of a competitive assessment? Did you know where you sat in the pricing ecosystem when you you know, the most expensive product in the market and middle of the road when 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, but they're in stealth mode. Fortunately for me, and I meant some of them later says, I was actually looking to buy something like Gong and I couldn't find 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 charging your customers and the question I get at every conference is when, and you probably get it to when should you hire your first vp of sales and how do 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 was hired, but I also hired hours later on. So it depends. If you're roughly an engineering CEO, if you just finished Stanford and they have like a fantastic idea of and you know nothing about sales, you may want to start by hiring an experienced, seasoned sea level executive. Early on I took that position. That a previous company.

We have kind of both. I do 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 brought a 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 of time they'll be looking at the director level or even us to hire a rep and I'm asking why you're looking for someone is not as experienced, and usually it'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 quickly and if you're off you want to know about faster as season sales executive will be 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 her or 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 are competitors. We won't name them, but they're out there, but I feel like your marketing is better than anybody else's. How do you at least in this sort of the subspace that you're operating within? Is that just a function of investment? Is that part of your strategy? Did you hire, you know, VP of marketing really early? How do you think about allocating demand generation investment so that, because I think Gong has the highest name recognition in the space for what you're doing, we do invest, but it's not a function of the investment. Some of the best thing we're doing do not cost a lot of money, like being on a cruise with Max. I really think it's and every know people said you're marketing is good, if they mean in a positive or something. Is the marketing and not the product. But the 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. So if you're good, people talk about and that's we get a lot of user marketing, both within organizations and outside. Second, we use content that, and I'll use it a previous company. That is short. The immediately applicable and relevant to the audience that we sell to is is tweets, a short linkedin posts. Is the data linkedin posts, that data in it, this lenny data. So the open rates that aren't getting this is what you should say in a phone can, right. So we thought what's the strategic message and that we're thinking about and how we can support it with content that people would actually be almost willing to pay for it, but then we'll give it for free and that's what we do. So the strategic message was there's a lot of ignorance and opinions are going on about what to see on sales calls. All right, you know, you read this book. There are tenzero books on Amazon and nobody really knows. I mean a lot of people have at best, and I don't like we've been evidence for some companies that they're work at so we're going to share some data. will be like the the first images from the Hubble telescope or first time the people saw images of the titanic. There are a lot of like hypothesis where it lays, but just when people developed a technology from mapping the ocean, then they're able to see clearly what's going on. These are kind of imagery that we wanted and we started 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 up pricing in a conversation based on data. And what are the answers? What are some interesting insights that emerged from your annustment? There aren't that. Those are your there's a ton. So we found objection handling. So first the one that's very easy to understand. He is of talk time, talk to listen. Ratio Right, and it's a common problems, special with younger sales before people are just high art. They talked a lot, sometimes eighty five percent of the conversation and compared to some of the more experience it to see them at forty six percent on average, so to just more relaxed and and God is pressured. So that's an easy one. Patience factor. Just wait before you respond, responding to an objection...

...with the question. These are all things and a good thing you could actually show it to people. There is very strong evidence that you can't fix what you didn't their right in the discovery call, 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 later on are very low, no matter what you do. So the star is very, 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 shares every month. We do work on it. There's there's a team that's working on a 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're not at ten yet. Okay, but close, close. So a series a company, close to ten. How big is the marketing organization? When we're thinking about the size of investments we should be making, tell me about the 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 company rose us? Job Question One. So when I when we started, says so the first like very early days I had nothing to do. It was like primarily engineering. When we got the first support cases, a great now I've got work. So early on I did all the selling myself. I was getting people writing event if in even SDR I was getting people scheduling demos and there are like going directly to my calendar and I was doing them day in, day out, having a blast practice in the peach learning what to do. Then I hired a couple of Reps. I was acting the PO sales 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 operational work. 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 of the company and managing the management, the business, development and hiring. I steal interview every hire that we're making a company and my rules usually until we're hunting twenty people, every person I'm the final step in interviewing. So a lot 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 I think we have probably room for for three or four questions and I'll I'll pass the microphone around to anybody that wants to ask one. My question is there's a 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 leaders in the room that are aspiring to be your partner from not just zero to ten, but zero to a hundred, what are the qualities of a sales executives that you think will help he or she scale to the point at which, you know, all of our equity is is very, very valuable. I think these are the two words sales executives. The first executive and I always look at any executive hire as another mind around the table. The Management 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's the right thing to do in interest of the company. And sometimes it's a 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 seriously and and they're important, but you want to make sure send someone who's like as a long term view of the company and acts like it, like an officer. That's key. Second is the importance of long term planning, especially in hypergrowth company. People don't realize how fast things change and you got to shift gears. It's like a like a car with many if you don't shift like early enough and you notice that that the game has changed, it's too late 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 next year, 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 on and probably is a higher as it should...

...making today to do that. So how you hired a team, how you think about your team building as a strategy? I probably don't need to know. Most people know that, that you're not the superhero sales guys. I mean your most sales are probably better sales people than anyone else, but that's not why you're hired. It's still great to have and if you aren't, might be hard to be a great sales leader, but that's not what you're hired to do. You're hard to build a team and win a market. There's third things that I like to see is also have a bit of economical understanding, and it's a ties back to 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 of like contradiction in terms. So you can hire the most expensive a eas but he's or choos incredible right. But you know what about their corea is it's like proportional right. So things like Kak and commissions, they're important, not very important in very early days, but when the number starts to grow it becomes increasingly important where you hire, who you hire, and sometimes the the first hires tend to set the tone and the norm, right, so you can 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 hit their numbers or if they don't, then nobody else will, right. But then you have not developed a skill to hire people that are more economical all down road. So that's an important to think about long term. Do you have a business model and not just the numbers? It's very helpful questions in the audience, though I'm Ra small and greenhouse. When you think about gone generally it's for account executives to maybe like reflect on a conversation they had with a customer. It could be for leadership to do some coaching. One thing that 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 would recommend sales leaders look at? So when you're looking at the data holistically and not 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're stuck in the sales process, because you never know just one thing that there's individual performance there's performances a company, right, maybe you're what you're teaching the sales people is wrong, or maybe not totally wrong but not exactly the best strategy. How do you know? You could look at things that are like types of calls and conversion and prison the war. So let's say our is our wing rate in competitive deals better than some of the others, or is it 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 on calls. In second you could see the market is evolving, some of the markets that they are very, very dynamic. New Com better is just come quickly and with new products. And if you're not on top, you're not analyzing lays, trending, you know, conversation, you know, but the time you'll realize what's going on it might be too late. So the conversation is is the trenches, if this is a battle feels it's where it all happens and and it's a fantastic data of the mind. Hey, I'm slown barber, I'm the VP of sales for hired I have a pretty strong market segmentation. SMB been market enterprise wraps, ranging from two years of experience up to coliny right and ACB from, you know, thirty two, six figures. Where do you see the biggest impact of this type of product in terms of wraps? I would assume it's more junior people, but also, again to 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 have been selling pretend fifteen years when they're sort of feeling like someone's maybe looking over their shoulder? But how do you know sort of implement this type of product into the culture? First it is used across the board, both from big market SMB's and enterprise in different ways. The Nice thing about it there's nothing that people need to do. It's a nonintrusive system, so it just works if you don't want to use it. If you don't use it, that's the 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 applicable yet is sales, where there's a lot of facetoface going on right so mostly it'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 few people that push back. It's not a common phenomenal you want to maybe come in from. We have someone who's using them both for for both our high short experience. So I'm Jason Evert was Linkedin and we are a happy Gong customer and I think when we first scaled going across our sales organization, the big concern from our reps was that their customers were going to push back and there was going to be some discomforts that the sales reps would feel from them as a result that. You know, it's a little message that says this call has been recorded, but we've heard almost none of that and at the end of the day it really felt like more of just a change management project than anything that was really happening in our conversations with our customers. Last question and 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. Considering your background over what a I'm sure a very, very great career. I was wondering what is the evolution of sales executives, epiece of sales? How is that change over the course of differing business models and markets being entered very quickly? What are the eighty twenty that that you're looking for? How's that change? So, I'm sorry, eight and twenty. Ti'm looking in terms of one of the key lovers of it, that a sales executive. I guess can still pull to make sure that you know, get what you're looking for, but it was sort of tells and whistles that have maybe changed over the course of times. I think that the fundamentals haven't changed. It's like find a problem and solve it. That's what it boils down to. That's the most important things and then up just being, like always, like the challenge for a lot of people. Really it's easier said than done, but that's if there is a problem and people that can buy and you have a great solution for that. That's what it is. How to do it now is harder. People do use are more a word today. There are a lot of sales training program going on, there are more books, they're more of 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 work from there. That's agrees and yeah, absolutely I think it's sales is about listening and asking questions primarily. Thank you so much pleasure. Let's give a meter 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 and with bunch of other folks for that sales tacer boat retreat featuring a bunch of members from the New York revenue collective. Sorry if you weren't able to make it. Hopefully you'll be able to make the next one. One of the things 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 just don't appreciate the value of silence. And you know the research that Gong has done and other Call Recording Platform and call coaching platforms, they all teach us that when you were talking, they have the power and when the prospect is talking, you have the power. I meant mentioned of forty ratio, meaning their prospect is talking sixty percent of the time and you're talking forty percent of the time. I tend to like seventy thirty. But the point is that you should be asking questions using silence and letting the prospect fill up the silence with their answers to those questions, and aggressively talking into the silence is not going to help you win that deal. So if you're new to the sales game or you're practicing on sales, practice not talking so much and practice being comfortable with short answers, with asking open ended questions, with pressing the mute button on your phone so that you don't...

...force yourself to uncomfortably talk into the silence. Use silence to your benefit. It can be very, very powerful if you are simply comfortable. And there's a an incredible sales leader out there now. He's a CEO, as names John Schoff, we call them, the professor back at axeal, but he was somebody. He would be willing to sit in silence for up to two minutes while the prospect was thinking about the answer to that question. So if you're out there and you're practicing or you'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 check out the show notes, see upcoming guests and play more episodes from our incredible line of of sales leaders, visit sales hackercom podcast. You can find us on itunes or Google play. And if you enjoyed this episode, please do share with your peers on Linkedin, twitter or elsewhere. We always love it when we see people sharing content and telling their friends. We've been growing every month, so we're super excited about it. Thank you and finally, special thanks again to this month sponsors at outreach. See more at outreach dot ioh forward, sales hacker. Finally, finally, if you want to get in touch with 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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