The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 4 months ago

170. Building a Company from the Ground Up w/ Zach Rego


This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Zach Rego, VP of Sales & Marketing at Unstack.

Building a company from the ground up comes with its set of challenges: calling hundreds of leads, setting up the website, and learning skills as you go. With the right vision, and keeping an eye out for professional opportunities in your current job, you can position yourself for success.

Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:10]
  2. Unstack Explained & Insight into an Early Stage Company [2:33]
  3. Zach’s Professional Background [8:21]
  4. The Sales Development Representative Role [15:56]
  5. Running a Marketing Function & Advice for Building a Company [18:09]
  6. Zach’s Biggest Influencers [20:53]
  7. Sam’s Corner [23:14]

One two one: three: three o everybody at sam jacobs, welcome to thesale sacer podcast today on the show we've got. Zachris is vps and marketingand unstack he's a great sales leader. He talks about building str teams. Hetalks about something that you can do to change your career to day and how toget the most out of your job today, and he also just talks about you know:building a company from the ground up because that's where unstack is andit's grostete so great conversation before we get there. We want to thankour sponsors. We got three. The first is our reach. Outrage has been a longtime sponsor the podcast. They were the first sponsor and they've got a placenow where you can learn how or a race does outreach how they use their owntool. Learn how the team follows up with every lead and record time learnhow the team runs account base plays, manages reps and so much more, usingtheir very on sales engagement platform, everything's backed up by data fromtheir customer base, when you're done you'll be able to do it as well as theydo had to out reach out io forward, slash on outrage to see what they'vegot going on. We're, also sponsored by pavilion. The community formally knownas revenue collective pavilion is the key to getting more out of your career.Our private membership connects you with the network of thousands of likeminded peers and resources where you can tap into leadership opportunities,training, mentorship and other services made just for you with a pavilionmembership. You'll build deep connection who hears access, a fullsuite of training and certification programs for sales marketing, acustomer success and unluck over a hundred different job opportunities.Every single week share between members and entrusted and private setting go tojoin pavilion com to learn more and then finally ambition, a great company,and i'm, i would say friends, i would say friends he's not my best friend butfriends with their founder, but every sales leader feels the pressure topredictably close. More deals, take control with ambition and end to endsales management, software platform, that sinks with your cram and existingtext tack to turn over woman detta into real time goal. Tracking and instantrecognition for your team see why brands like fedex at p waste managementoutreach in the phoenix suns used ambition and check out exclusive offerfor sales. Hackers listeners at ambition, com forward, slash saleshacker now without further. Do let's listen. My conversation with zachriseverybody at sam jacob's, welcome to the sales hacker podcast today on theshow we've got zachris is the vp of sales and marketing for a reallyinteresting company called unstack. Before that he was the gm of wardstreams agency business. He is also the host of the zero to a million podcastwere excited devon on the show zac. Welcome to the sales hacker podcast sam.Thank you so much for having they were excited to have me so first part of ofour conversation is typically learning just a little bit more about where youwork, the company, where you work. So what is on stack? He on stack is a nocode. Marketing platform really meant to empower marketers to build and scaledigital businesses, so we work mostly with sass founders and marketers andother digital products, so folks that are selling e books or courses online,but really our or our core customer is a sass marketer or a founder. And whatdo you do for them? It's. You know it starts with a websitejust because that is their digital presence, that is kind of their digital,real estate and footprint that drives the demand to their product, but itscales from just a website into landing pages, testing, analytics, dashboardand contact insights content and all the things that assass company reallyneeds to thrive online. It's kind of all in one and on stack. Our goal is tomake those tools work seamlessly together, which historically, theyhaven't, which really slows down the velocity of sales and marketing teams.That's cool! So in some ways it's almost like a marketing driven squarespace. So it's easy to clean a website, but you got attribution and leads andall the things that you need to actually grow your business withunstack. Now that yeah square space is kind of the small business, you knowlocal small business, where the digital s ndd start up tool that really allowsyou to mark it online so that it's a...

...really good analogy awesome. How longhas the company been around the founders started on it close to twoyears ago, we really haven't been in market selling for a little over a yearwe kind of did a product hunt launch last summer that was kind of our bigcoming out party, and then it's really been heddle to the metal since then, sowe're coming up on a full year of really sales and marketing pushingpushing this thing, cool awesome, so you're running sales and marketing, butit's a small team. If i'm not mistaken, o, how big is the company very small,so we are fourteen employees about to be fifteen, so so still a very earlystage, but it's been a lot of fun, and so you know, i think it's probably auseful question since you're also the host of of the zero to a millionpodcast. But when you take a job and the company is so early stage andyou're running you're going to be you're in charge of helping them buildand grow revenue. Where do you start? How do you get the engine going? Whatare the first set of activities and then how does that change over thefirst six to twelve months yeah? So it's a good question. You start in theinterview process by making sure the co founders are bought into your visionand and you're really well aligned on where the company is going, who thetarget customer needs to be, and i did probably eight months of due diligenceand you know, grant the cofounder did eight months of due diligence on me aswell before we decided to work together because it is going to be a long,difficult grind. So you want to make sure that you really bought into thevision on both sides, but i started by hitting the phones. You know i've run alot of our demos. I've sent a lot of emails to every new lead that comes in,and i scrub each of them individually, along with you know, a sales rep orsome of the marketing team. Now, but from the jump, it was very hands onmostly to get a feel for where these leads coming from, which ones are mostinteresting. What features are really resonating? What our demo process be?How long should our demo be? How do we make it? So we don't need to have ademo long term. So really trying to get my hands intoall of that, and then the next step is: how do you automate it right? So ican't do that forever. So you start really looking at what tools can we useto either automate email, work, flows and sequences? When should those comeinto the fold and then what features and product on boarding can we changethat kind of become the most sticky in the free trial experience that peoplejust want to keep going and that's something we're really diving into now?So a lot of the first eight months or so i was, i was working on refiningthat marketing process for finding that sales process. Now it's i know whatmakes people tick after running, close to six seven hundred demos. What isthat real feature on boarding in product experience that we need to nailand we're working on that over the next few weeks? So what have you learnedafter you know to your point right, seven hundred conversations you'vetalked to a lot of different people. What was confirmatory about the productand really the market and the pain that you suspected before you joined andthen what's what's one or two things that you know you had to were new weresurprising to you in some way. Yeah. You know it's hard to have a wedge tokind of get your product into the company's door when a lot of folks are coming to us,starting with a website. A website is a big project that is overwhelming andit's usually multiple stakeholders and it becomes something, that's very bigand it takes a long time to plan. For so one thing that i was reallysurprised by was our sales cycle is a lot longer than it should be, andthat's a factor of just what we're selling and also how we were marketingit. So one thing that we're starting to think about and shift towards his hey.Our wedge can be landing pages. If we can get people building landing pageswith us and using us for ab testing and analytics, then it becomes really easyto start to build a website because their content, their founts, theircolors, their branding. Their media is...

...already kind of in our platform, sobuilding new pages becomes really efficient, so we're you know we'restarting to find some interesting ways to just weazle our way into the rightpeople in the organization and get them using us and then expand from there,which isn't how we initially went to market, but with something we'repivoting to there. You go that's exactly the kind of insight that issuper interesting that you learn from doing as opposed to theorizing about.What's your background, how did you find this job in the first place, andthis feels like to the point of you know your conversations about likewhat's the on boarding experience was the product experience, and then wewere talking of flying that this is a marketing driven kind of in some ways.Product led growth experience, but is that your background? Do you haveexperienced? Do it going to market in this way, or you know what were youdoing before? One thing, i've learned from every job that i've had is what idon't want to do next, as well. As you know, what i, what i do want to want tokind of be a part of my next role, but i was in sales. My first kind ofoutside sales job was selling consulting services to it, directorsand cios, four to five hundred companies, long painful sale cyclegetting hung up on a hundred and twenty four out of a hundred and twenty fivedials and the one connect hopefully turned into an opportunity. Six monthslater, like those were my days- and i really quickly learned like- i don'twant to sell services, and i don't want to sell to it department like it's justnot who i dive with so that was my first transition. Then i went to wordstream, which was a sas platform, so i knew i wanted to get into software as aservice as opposed to selling services, and i loved it and we sold to marketersand entrepreneurs, and i loved that, like it was just something that i everydemo was different. You know i was always learning about people'sbusinesses and how they were making money, and i just thought it was everyconversation was so interesting and it made it really exciting to go to workevery day as a sales rap when sometimes sales can be youu know a bit of a grind.After you know, eight years there i moved into a general manager roleleading a department which allowed me to get really involved with product andmarketing and get kind of out of just sales. It was obviously a big focusstill, but i love the marketing peace. I loved working with the marketing team.I learned a ton from the marketing team at word stream. They were outstandingand i knew in my next role. I wanted to lead more than just sales. I wanted tokind of keep some of that general manager responsibility, and i alsolearned that i wanted to go to a company that was the platform, didn'trely on the platform, so word stream relied on google and facebook becausethat's where we ingested data to provide our customers value. I knewthat my next to the next company i worked for, i did not want to work witha platform or a product that relied on a platform, but i knew that i stillwanted to be in sass and selling to founders and marketers, which is youknow where i found on stack, is kind of a good sweet spot there. How did youfind the founders? Originally, you know i, throughout my entire career, havealways kept an eye on like who's raising money.You know what companies are getting a little bit of buzz here and there ithink venture, fiz or or mass challenge or someone had wrote something aboutunstack and i just connected with grant the ceo and send him a message beinglike. I sent this out to a bunch of of ceos when they raise money like superinterested in what you're building you know, i've been in martek for x amountof years, mostly doing sales and marketing. If you ever have anyquestions or want to run your demo by me, i'm happy to review it. That's agood, be that's a good email descend, yeah yeah. I've done, i actually got anyou know: an advisory roll out of it with a small start up in raleigh.That's doing very well now that i still meet with the ceo and the bpo marketingregularly. So it's yeah, it's worked for me. It's got me a lot of reallygood conversations with people even on linkedin, and some people take me up onit and i love listening to non sales. Folks that are doing demos,because founders are really passionate...

...and they have a lot of the pieces torun a successful demo, but they're missing a few of the sale skills thatwe could really help them out with. So it resonates well with with founderswhen they're at that pivotal point of raising money and being overwhelmedyeah, and it's not you're, not you're, offering you're not asking for anythingand you're, not even asking for a call, which sometimes is the thing that youknow sometimes when people just ask for a call and you're not quite sure why itkind of you know it's off putting a little bit.You were at work too for a while. Did you start just as an individualcontributor? I did yeah, so it was. It was a very early stage at that point. Ithink we had twelve sales folks, two sales managers and we all like you knowwe doubled that team within me, starting my team, my kind of hiringclass starting and the next one starting but yeah. We were all salesfolks, so there was two managers in the vp sales at the time. So what was thejourney? Like i mean gm is a fantastic role. You've got oversight andresponsibility for so many different functions when you think about yourjourney upwards at that company. What do you? What did you learn? And what doyou tribute that your success to you know i think, mentors the leaders atword stream? While i battled with them a lot and we you know, we had ourdisagreements. I think we always we always found our way to the other side,and i think the ceo, when i was a sales rap ralph falls who's on the board etun stack now and is you know still, a mentor of mine was always like veryopen to sitting down with me or any other sales rips, and he did such agreat job of like taking sales rebs out of the sale seat and putting them into theceo seat of like hey zack, that's a bad sale because it churned and here's whenit turned and here's how much it costs me to pay you and marketing, andeverybody else, and here's so much the company lost, because that deal turnedin four months and as a sales person. It's like that stinks like thanks for paying me,but, like i hate that i hurt the company, you know, like you get thatfeeling of like shoot now. I really understand why these claw backs happenand this stuff and he always was open to other conversations like i, you know,rewrote the commission plan and brought him a pitch on like why. I think weshould rewrite it a different way and he actually took some of my ideas andput it into the new commission plan. So it was a really cool environment wherethey got sales folks into a bunch of different parts of the organization,product or marketing meetings or pricing meetings, and it was it made mereally excited about learning more about the entire business and lessabout just being an individual contributor on the sales team. That'sawesome and did you build an str team at word stream yeah, so i started as anae became a team lead, managed and sold with, like four people reporting to meas a team lead and then transition into a manager built that team up to, ithink, at its peak fourteen sales, reps with a couple team leads under me,managing some reps and then luckily, a sales manager had left and left thisteam that exclusively sold to agencies kind of high and dry. There was justthere was six reps: they were very talented. They were all just kind ofthere. They didn't have a manager, they were lost and i saw an opportunity tomake a move to become a director. I kind of had a director that was aboveme. That was just always my boss and i could never get out from under him, andthis was my chance to do so. So i went to the vp. I gave him a proposal and heaccepted it, but it meant i got to report directly to the vp as opposed toreporting to the director, and it gave me a much larger team. You know twofull teams or close to three full teams and after a while, i started reallytaking a like into the agency thing and redefining how we went to market withit from a marketing perspective and it started to really grow. So i grew theagency team to i think, edits peak, maybe twelve sales, reps and added sdrsto that as well and started testing that model and it worked so then webuilt an str team which ended up reporting to me as well down the line.And what did you learn from? I think you know there's. I hesitate to call ita debate, but maybe it's a debate, but...

...there's some debates, there's someconversations out there. I think o a scott lease is a big advocate for fullcycle reps that don't have sdrs that do their own prospecting and you knowstart to finish, handle everything and then and there's just conversationsabout whether or not the role of the str is still relevant, still the rightthing and whether buyers really like being handed off from one person toanother to another over the course of a buying journey. So what's yourperspective on just the role of the sdr yeah, i agree with scott, like i, ilove being a full sale cycle. Rap like i thought it wasit was. It was nice. It was empowering. I think it increases the velocity ofthe sale. The way we did, we built the scr team at a word. Stroom was a littlebit different than most the sdrs. There actually managed old, dormant accounts,so we at word stream, we're getting. You know. Thirty thousand first actionsa month, so thirty tosend new emails were entered into our database everymonth. Three thousand of those, let's say, turned into sales. Qualified leadsacross just to use round numbers, elps i'll, say thirty reps. It was more thanthat, but you know that gives them a hundred leagues each every month. Well,they can only manage so many in boundles at that type of velocity, sothat we kind of found that there were segments that were getting left behindafter sixty days. You know eighty percent of our deals closed if theywere going to close and after ninety days, ninety eight percent of themclosed. So we kind of said: hey, like sales rips get to hold their leads forninety days and they're going to get ninety percent of their lead, theirdeals out of it and the other two percent like there's something therebut they're just getting left behind and never worked. So we built an sdrteam to route those dormant accounts to and just do a really high touch. Whatwas it? Maybe seven calls seven emails through all of those accounts, just nonstop going on and passing them around and it worked really well like we got.You know we got some incremental demos out of it incremental deals out of it,but it was just a way to wake up a database that was getting left behind,because the sales rep was always worried about like what's the shiny newlead, that's coming in right. That makes a lot of sense. So, what's been,you know you're now running a marketing function, not yet a team, but one day,but soon it will be a team. Anything surprise. You now that you've gottenyour wish and you get to run. You know you get to run marketing that that youdidn't expect yeah. I don't tell anyone, but i know a lot less than i thought idid. I am very much like a strategy ideas. Guy execution is way moredifficult than the folks that i used to come up with the ideas with and be likeall right cool. How long will this take in the bit got us today, but it takesme way longer than a day, so i'm learning a lot being kind of the doer,but it's fun. I mean it's empowering because i get to come up with ideas andgo and do them without having to ask. But man is it challenging not having ateam of a very talented people around you to come up with ideas andbrainstorm with and then have them execute on, and i have that you knowi've got an email, marketer she's outstanding, an amazing content team,but there are a lot of things that i'm still doing hands on myself. That isnot not my sweet spot. You asked me to create a display ad, i'm not great at creating to play. Yetit takes me hours and they end up looking for so that's where an agencyor contractor mike exactly instead ask for budget any sort of like principles you knowyou've been, do you've been working now for a while you've built teams you'renow you know building a company from pretty much the ground up any lessonsor key principles around business or your career that you want to share withthe audience things that sort of guide how you make decisions or how you thinkabout taking action. Yeah. You know, i think, the one that i was asked to do along time ago. That was an amazing exercises, sit down and write down thejob. You want in five years and be like thoughtful about it, and maybe it's nota job. Maybe you want to be the you know, president or co of a company andstart your own. You know so you want to... an entrepreneur and start your own,whatever company, but sit down and write it out, because there areexperiences you can gain and get paid for in your current job that you'remissing right now, because you haven't written down exactly what you want todo to go and find opportunities to do it. And that was an exercise i did along long time ago and it allowed me to really focus on like i'm going to do mysales job, but i'm going to raise my hand to get involved with x, y or z toget exposure to how we do marketing how we manage. You know, mps how we doproduct development, what the hex, you know, agile when people say that whatare you know and it really helped me be focused on the things that were goingon around me so that i could get experience to do the next job and istill haven't gotten the job that i wrote down then, but i'm a lot closerthan i would have been. If i was just daydreaming about it, it's a greatsuggestion, and i love that it's not about leaving your job, it's abouttheir experiences that you're missing out on right now, so go go, get thembecause they're available to you and you'll get paid to get them since yeahor job spaying him we're almost at the end of our time. Together. Last thingwe like to do is just pay it forward a little bit and figure out who arepeople that are important to you there they could be former bosses, they couldbe people, you don't know that are just you know, famous celebrities or famousfounders, or something like that or investors. But when you think aboutpeople that have really influenced you and inspired you who comes to mind, whodo you think we should know about? I think i've mentioned ralph a couple oftimes on this podcast he's been amazing. Brian hanley, the ceo of reveal mobile,does some amazing work, i'm an advisor for his company, but he's taught me aton there in the mar text. Space as well howard, cogan formey of word, humanother huge mentor of mine. I call him text him often to just to bounce ideas.Most of these guys are very level headed, something i am not so they canusually repackage things for me in a way that makes me think about them alittle bit differently. So all amazing resources, all folks that are verywilling to help any you know, sales person or aspiring entrepreneur. Youknow, i think, people that i look to outside of kind of my intemena network.I think ben horowitz is just his books, amazing. The way he talks about thingsis amazing. The way he has dealt with challenges and not had kind of a linearpath to success with a lot of bumps in the road and how we help dealt withthose bumps in the road is, i think, just an amazing, read and story, and ifyou can listen to him as much as you can really really sound advice comingfrom him, awesome zack. If folks want to reach out to you, maybe they want tobuy unstack, or maybe they want to just bounce some ideas off. You are you opento that? What's the best way to get in touch with you, if you are yeah connectfor he on lincoln zaca, rego r ego, i'm happy to connect shoot me a message.You know if you're looking for a sales mentor, you know i'm happy to p on acall or career guidance, happy top on a call and do what i can to pay itforward and help you out. So awesome awesome sack thanks so much for beingon the sale, sacer podcast, we'll talk to you on friday for fridayfundamentals, awesome saying thank you, everybody sam's corner. Another goodconversation really enjoyed talking as zacred on sex sounds like a reallyinteresting company, and i think the concept of you know a square space butspecifically designed for marketers and are specifically designed to capture,leaves i've used square space and great great company. They do good things, butit can be unwieldy. Maybe i'm just an idiot. So i'm really intrigued by whatthey're building it on stack. The other thing i liked is just the concept ofwhat you learn when you have hundreds of conversations, that's what zack'sbeen doing over the last year, so he had hundreds of conversations and theylearn that leading with hay. Build a website is a big ask and takes a shitload of work, and so they moved to hey. Let's get a landing page going and ofcourse that's probably the as he said the wedge. That's probably the rightway to engage and talk to a marketer,...

...because marketers are really thinkingabout lead capture, led generation, a lot, probably more than just likebuilding an entire website from from nothing, so landing pages feel like agood place to start. There are other companies that help people buildlanding pages. So the other thing that happens sometimes as you shift andevolve your positioning as you bump into new competitive sets. Butregardless is a really cool conversation and then the other thingis. You know that thing that he mentioned at the end about you know:hey figure out where you want to go figure out what experiences you haveand what experiences you want and then look around you where you're currentlyworking, because inevitably there are opportunities where you work right nowthat you're, not taking advantage of- and all you have to do- is ask for them.Go to your manager, go to your boss and say i'm interested in learning moreabout agile, i'm interested in learning. What is ruby on rails? I'm interestedin understanding more about unit economics. Can i have a thirty minutecoffee with the cfo and typically i mean who would say no to that,especially if you're doing well so get yourself. Some exposure doesn't have tto mean that it's your day job. It just means exposure to new experiences sothat over time you know more and more and you're better and better positionedto get that job that you ultimately want. So that's my take now. If you're,not a part of the sales actor community, yet you're missing out, go there go tosales hacker com, andy sales professional can join as a member toask questions, get answers and share experiences with, like minded be to besales, pros, jump in and start a discussion with more than seventeenthousand sales professionals at sales hacker com. Of course we want to thinkour sponsors they are. Three first is out righ to learn how outreach does outreach head over to outreach. Do io for slash on out wage to see what they'vegot going on also unlock your professional potential take advantageof over a hundred different job opportunities every week in access, afull suit of training and certification programs for every level in every rolego to join pavilion to learn how to become a pavilion member and finallyambition. Every sales litter feels the pressure to predictably close, moredeals, take control with ambition and and to end sales management softwarethat sinks with your crem and turns overwhelming data into goal. Trackingand instant recognition go to ambition com for de lash sales hacker. It's allit's a lot of stuff to say, and so, but i will also say give us five stars.Somehow we have a four point: five, it's i don't who's gonna go! Do thething where you rate podcast, which is not a thing that you do it very oftenand you're going to intentionally hit for probably somebody hit three or twosomebody didn't like me. That's understandable! Not everybody likes me!It's okay, i'm okay with it. If you want to get in touch with, you canlinkin for class. The word in force last name, f, jacobs. If you want toemail me, we've got a new that email address salmon join pinzio. Otherwise iwill talk to you next time. My friends, i.

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