The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 1 year 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, everybody, it's Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the salesacker podcast. Today on the show we've got Zach Rego Zak, is a VPS sales and marketing and unstacked. He's a great sales leader. He talks about building SDR teams. He talks about something that you can do to change your career today and how to get 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 and its growth trajectory. So great conversation. Before we get there, we want to thank our sponsors. We got three. The first is outreach out which has been a longtime sponsor the podcast. They were the first sponsor and they've got a place now where you can learn how our out which does outreach, how they use their own tool. Learn how the team follows up with every lead in record time. Learn how a team runs account based plays, manages reps and so much more using the very own sales engagement platform. Everything's backed up by data from their customer base. When you're done, you'll be able to do it as well as they do. Had to outreach thatt io forward, slash on outrage, to see what they've got going on. We're else is sponsored by pavilion, the community formerly known as revenue collective. Pavilion is the key to getting more out of your career. Our private membership connects you with the network of thousands of like minded peers and resources where you can tap into leadership opportunities, training, mentorship and other services made just for you. With a pavilion membership, you'll build deep connection who appears. Access a full suite of training and certification programs for sales, marketing and customer success and, unluck, over a hundred different job opportunities every single week, share between members in a trusted and private setting. Go to join pavilioncom 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, but friends with their founder. But every sales leader feels the pressure to predictably close more deals. Take control with ambition and end to end sales management software platform that sings with your crm and existing text act to turn overwelming data into realtime goal tracking and instant recognition for your team. See Y brands like Fedex ATP Waste Management Outreaching the Phoenix Suns used ambition and check out exclusive offer for salesackers listeners at ambitioncom forward slash salesaccer. Now, without further ado, let's listen. My conversation was Zach regoy. Everybody, it's Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the SALESACER podcast. Today on the show we've got Zach Rego. Zach is the VP of sales and marketing for a really interesting company called unstack. Before that he was the gem of words dreams agency business. He's also the host of the zero to a million podcast. We're excited to have them on the show. Zach, welcome to the salesaccer podcast. Sam, thank you so much for having me. We're excited to have you. So first part of our conversation is typically learning just a little bit more about where you work, the company where you work. So what is UN stack? Yeah, on stack is a no code marketing platform really meant to empower marketers to build and scale digital businesses. So we work mostly with SASS founders and marketers and other digital products, so folks that are selling ebook or courses online. But really our core, our core customer is a Sass marketer or founder, and what do you do for them? It's, you know, it starts with a website just because that is their digital presence. That is kind of their digital real estate and footprint that drives the demand to their product. But it's scales from just a website into landing pages, testing, analytics, dashboard and contact insites, content and all the things that assass company really needs to thrive online. Is kind of all in one and on stack are our goal is to make those tools work seamlessly together, which historically they haven'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 square space. So it's easy to create a website, but you got attribution and leads and all the things that you need to actually grow your business with on stack. Now that, yeah, square space is kind of the small business, you know, local small business, where the digital SMB and start up tool that really allows you to market online. So...'s really good analogy. Awesome. How long has the company been around? The founders started on it close to two years ago. We really haven't been in market selling for a little over a year. We've kind of did a product hunt. Launched last summer. That was kind of our big coming out party and and it's really been paddled to the metal since then. So we're coming up on a full year of really sales and marketing pushing, pushing this thing. Cool, awesome. So you're running sales and marketing, but it's a small team, if I'm not mistaken. How big is the company? Very small. So we are fourteen employees, about to be fifteen. So so still very early stage, but it's been a lot of fun. And so you know, and I think it's probably a useful question since you're also the host of of the zero to a million podcast, but when you take a job and the company is so early stage and you're running, you're going to be, you're in charge of helping them build and grow revenue, where do you start? How do you get the the engine going? What are the first set of activities and then how does that change over the first six to twelve months? Yeah, so it's a good question. You started the interview process by making sure the CO founders are bought into your vision and and you're really well aligned on where the company is going. Who the target customer needs to be and I did probably eight months of due diligence and you know, grant, the cofounder, did eight months of due diligence on me as well before we decided to work together. Because it is going to be a long, difficult grind. So you want to make sure that you're really bought into the Vision on both sides. But I started by hitting the phones. You know, I've run a lot 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 or some of the marketing team now, but from the jump it was very hands on, mostly to get a feel for where these leads coming from, which ones are most interesting, what features are really resonating, what START DEMO SS be? How long should our demo be? How do we make it so we don't need to have a demo long term? So really trying to get my hands into all of that. And then the next step is how do you automated right? So I can't do that forever. So you start really looking at what tools can we use to either automate email workflows and sequences when should those come into the fold? And then what features and product on boarding can we change that kind of become the most sticky in the free trial experience that people just 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 refinding that marketing process, for finding that sales process. Now it's I know what makes people tick after running close to six, seven hundred demos. What is that real feature on boarding in product experience that we need to nail and we're working on that over the next few weeks. So what have you learned after, you know, to your point right, seven hundred conversations? You've talked to a lot of different people. What was confirmatory about the product and really the market and the pain that you suspected before you joined? And then what's what's one or two things that you know you had to were new, we're surprising to you in some way. Yeah, you know, it's hard to have a wedge to kind 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 and it's usually multiple stakeholders and it becomes something that's very big and it takes a long time to plan for. So one thing that I was really surprised by was our sales cycle is a lot longer than it should be, and that's a factor of just what we're selling and also how we were marketing it. So one thing that we're starting to think about and shift towards is, Hey, our wedge can be landing pages. If we can get people building landing pages with us and using US for a be testing and analytics, then it becomes really easy to start to build a website because their content, their fonts, their colors, they're branding, their media... already kind of in our platform. So building new page is becomes really efficient. So we're, you know, we're starting to find some interesting ways to just weasel our way into the right people in the organization and get them using US and then expand from there, which isn't how we initially went to market, but it's something we're pivoting to. There you go. That's exactly the kind of insight that is super 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? And this feels like to the point of you know, your conversations about like what's The onboarding experience? Was a product experience and we were talking offline that this is a marketing driven, kind of in some ways product led growth experience. But is that your background? You have experience doing going to market in this way, or you know, what were you doing before? One thing I've learned from every job that I've had is what I don't want to do next as well as you know what I what I do want. I want to kind of be a part of my next role. But I was in sales. My first kind of outside sales job was selling consulting services to it directors and CEIO's fortune. Five hundred companies, long painful sales cycle, getting hung up on a hundred twenty four out of a hundred twenty five dials and the one connect hopefully turned into an opportunity six months later. Like those were my days and I really quickly learned like I don't want to sell services and I don't want to sell to it departments. I guess just not who I drive with. So that was my first transition. Then I went to word stream, which was a SASS platform. So I knew I wanted to get into software as a service as opposed to selling services, and I loved it and we sold to marketers and entrepreneurs and I loved that like it was just something that I every demo was different, you know, I was always learning about people's businesses and how they were making money and I just thought it was every conversation was so interesting and it made it really exciting to go to work every day as a sales rep when sometimes sales can be a, you know, a bit of a grind. After, you know, eight years there, I moved into a general manager role leading a department which allowed me to get really involved with product and marketing and get kind of out of just sales. It was obviously a big focus still, but I love the marketing piece. I loved working with the marketing team. I learned a ton from the marketing team at Word Stream. They were outstanding and I knew in my next role I wanted to lead more than just sales. I wanted to kind of keep some of that general manager responsibility and I also learned that I wanted to go to a company that was the platform didn't rely on the platform. So wordstream relied on Google and facebook because that's where we ingested data to provide our customers value. I knew that my next the next company I work for, I did not want to work with a platform or a product that relied on a platform. But I knew that I still wanted to be in SASS and selling to founders and marketers, which is, you know, where I found on stack as kind of a good sweet spot there. How did you find the founders originally? You know, I, throughout my entire career, have always kept an eye on the WHO's raising money. You know what companies are getting a little bit of buzz here and there. I think venture Fiz or mass challenge or someone had wrote something about on stack, and I just connected with grant, the CEO, and send him a message being like I sent this out to a bunch of CEOS when they raise money. Like super interested in what you're building. You know, I've been in MARTEC for x amount of years, mostly doing sales and marketing. If you ever have any questions or want to run your demo by me, I'm happy to review it and some good be out a good email descend? Yeah, yeah, I've done. I actually got a you 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 BP of marketing regularly. So it's yeah, it's worked for me. It's got me a lot of really good conversations with people, even on Linkedin, and some people take me up on it. 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 to run...

...a successful demo but they're missing a few of the sales skills that we can really help them out with. So it resonates well with with founders when they're at that pivotal point of raising money and being overwhelmed. Yeah, and it's not. You're not you're offering, you're not asking for anything and you'ren't even asking for a call, which sometimes is the thing that you know, sometimes when people just ask for a call and you're not quite sure why, I kind of, you know, soft putting a little bit. You are at words room for a while. Did you start just as an individual contributor? I did. Yeah, so it was. It was a very early stage. At that point. I think we had twelve sales folks to sales managers, and we all, like you know, we doubled that team within me, starting mighty, my kind of hiring class, starting in the next one, starting. But yeah, we were all sales folks. There's two managers in a VP of sales at the time. So what was the journey like? I mean, GM is a fantastic role. You've got oversight and responsibility for so many different functions. When you think about your journey upwards at that company, what do you what did you learn and what do you tribute to your success to you know, I think mentors, the leaders at Word Stream. While I battled with them a lot and we, you know, we had our disagreements, I think we always we always found our way to the other side and I think the CEO, when I was a sales rep, Ralpholes, who's on the boarded on stack now and is, you know, still a mentor of mine, was always like very open to sitting down with me or any other sales reps and he did such a great job of like taking sales reps out of the sales seat and putting them into the CEO seat of like Hey, Zach, that's a bad sale because it churned, and here's when it churned and here's how much it costs me to pay you and marketing and everybody else, and here's how much the company lost because that deal turned in four months. And as a salesperson it's like that stinks, like thanks for paying me, but like I hate that I hurt the company, you know, like you get that feeling of like shoot, now I really understand why these clawbacks happen and this stuff. And he always was open to other conversations. Like I know rewrote the commission plan and brought him a pitch on like why I think we should rewrite it a different way. He actually took some of my ideas and put it into the new commission plan. So it was a really cool environment where they got sales folks into a bunch of different parts of the organization, product or marketing meetings or pricing meetings, and it was it made me really excited about learning more about the entire business and less about just being an individual contributor on the sales team. That's awesome. And did you build an str team at word stream. Yeah, so I started as an AE, became a team lead, managed and sold with like for people reporting to me as a team lead and then transitioned into a manager. Built that team up to I think, 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 this team that exclusively sold to agencies kind of high and dry. There was just there was six reps. they were very talented, they were all just kind of there. They didn't have a manager, they were lost and I saw an opportunity to make a move to become a director. I kind of had a director that was above me, that was just always my boss and I could never get out from under him and this was my chance to do so. So I went to the VP, I gave him a proposal and he accepted it, but it meant I got to report directly to the VP as opposed to reporting to the director, and it gave me a much larger team, you know, to full teams or close to three full teams, and after a while I started really taking a liking to the agency thing and redefining how we went to market with it from a marketing perspective and it started to really grow. So I grew the agency team to I think, at its peak, maybe twelve sales reps and added SDRs to that as well and started testing that model and it worked. So then we built an SDR team which ended up reporting to me as well down the line. And what did you learn from I think, you know, there's a hesitate to call it a debate, but maybe it's a debate. But there's some debates, there's some conversations out there.

I think you've Scott Lease's a big advocate for full cycle reps that don't have SDRs, that do their own prospecting and, you know, start to finish handle everything and then and there's just conversations about whether or not the role of the str is still relevant, still the right thing, and whether buyers really like being handed off from one person to an another to another over the course of a buying journey. So what's your perspective on just the roll of the SDR? Yeah, I agree with Scott. Like I I loved being a full sales cycle rep, like I thought it was. It was, it was nice, it was empowering. I think it increases the velocity of the sale the way we did. We built the SCR team at at word stream was a little bit different than most the strs. They're actually managed old, dormant accounts. So we at word stream we're getting, you know, thirtyzero first actions a month. So thirtyzero new emails were entered into our database every month. Three thousand of those, let's say, turned into sales qualified leads across just to use round numbers, I'll I'll say thirty Reps. it was more than that, but you know, that gives them a hundred leads each every month. Well, they can only manage so many in boundaries at that type of velocity. So that we've kind of found that there were segments that were getting left behind. After sixty days, you know, eighty percent of our deals closed if they were going to close, and after ninety days ninety eight percent of them closed. So we kind of said, hey, like sales reps get to hold their leads for ninety days and they're going to get ninety eight percent of their lead, their deals, out of it, and the other two percent, like there's something there, but they're just getting left behind and never worked. So we built an SDR team to route those dormant accounts to and just do a really high touch. What was it? Maybe seven calls, seven emails through all of those accounts, just non stop going on and asking 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 new lead 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 gotten your wish and you get to run you know, you get to run marketing. That that you didn't expect. Yeah, I don't tell anyone, but I know a lot less than I thought I did. I am very much like a strategy ideas guy. Execution is way more difficult than the folks that I used to come up with the ideas with and be like all right, cool, how long will this take? In the big out us a day, but it takes me 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 and go and do them without having to ask. But man is it is it challenging not having a team of a very talented people around you to come up with ideas and brainstorm with and then have them execute on. And I have that. You know, I've got an email marketer. She's outstanding at amazing content team, but there are a lot of things that I'm still doing hands on myself. That is not not my sweet spot. You asked me to create a display ad. I'm not great at creating display ads. It takes me hours and they end up looking horrible. So that's where an agency or contractor my canasy instead ask for budget. Any sort of like principles? You know you've been do you've been working now for a while. You've built teams. You're now, you know, building a company from pretty much the ground up. Any lessons or key principles around business or your career that you want to share with the audience, things that sort of guide how you make decisions or how you think about taking action? Yeah, you know I think the one that I was asked to do a long time ago that was an amazing exercise, is sit down and write down the job you want in five years and be like thoughtful about it. And maybe it's not a job. Maybe you want to be the, you know, President or CEO of a company and Start Your own you know, so you want to be an entrepreneur and start your own whatever company. But sit down and write... out, because there are experiences you can gain and get paid for in your current job that you're missing right now because you haven't written down exactly what you want to do to go and find opportunities to do it. And that was an exercise I did a long, long time ago and it allowed me to really focus on, like I'm going to do my sales job, but I'm going to raise my hand to get involved with X, Y or Z, to get exposure to how we do marketing, how we manage, you know, NPS, how we do product development. What the hecks you know agile? When people say that, what are you know? And it really helped me be focused on the things that were going on around me so that I could get experienced to do the next job and I still haven't gotten the job that I wrote down then, but I'm a lot closer than I would have been if I was just daydreaming about it. It's a great suggestion and I love that it's about leaving your job. It's about their experiences that you're missing out on right now. So go, go get them, because they're available to you and you'll get paid to get them, since, yeah, your job spaying you. We're almost at the end of our time together. Last thing we like to do is just pay it forward a little bit and figure out who are people that are important to you. They're they could be former bosses, they could be people you don't know that are just, you know, famous celebrities or famous founders or something like that, or investors. But when you think about people that have really influenced you and inspired you, who comes to mind? Who Do you think we should know about? I think I've mentioned Ralph a couple of times on this podcast. He's been amazing all Brian Hanley, the CEO of reveal mobile, does some amazing work. I'm an advisor for his company, but he's taught me a ton. They're in the MARTECH space as well. Howard Koganformacy of words. chroom another huge mentor of mine. I call him text him often to just bounce ideas. Most of these guys are very level headed, something I am not, so they can usually repackage things for me in a way that makes me think about them a little bit differently. So all amazing resources, all folks that are very willing to help any you know, salesperson or aspiring entrepreneur. You know, I think, people that I look to outside of kind of my a eat media network. I think Ben Horowitz is just his books amazing. The way he talks about things is amazing. The way he has dealt with challenges and not had kind of a linear paths to success, with a lot of bumps in the road, and how we helped dealt with those bumps in the road is, I think, just an amazing and read and story and if you can listen to him as much as you can, really really sound advice coming from him awesome. Zach, if folks want to reach out to you, maybe they want to buy on stack or maybe they want to just bounce some ideas off you. Are you open to that? What's the best way to get in touch with you? If you are. Yeah, connecting me on Linkedin. Zack is he achrigo urgeo. I'm happy to connect. Shoot me a message, you know, if you're looking for a salesmantor I'm you know, I'm happy to help on a call or career guidance. Happy to help on a call and do what I can to pay for and help you out. So awesome, awesome, Zack. Thanks so much for being on the salesacer podcast. Will Talk to you on Friday for Friday fundamentals. Awesome, Sam. Thank you, everybody. Sam's corner. Another good conversation. Really enjoyed talking is Zach Grigo on sac sounds like a really interesting company and I think the concept of, you know, a square space, but specifically designed for marketers and or specifically designed to capture leans. I've used squares space and great, great company. They do good things, but it can be unwieldy. Maybe I'm just an idiot. So I'm really intrigued by what they're building it on stack. The other thing I liked is just the concept of what you learn when you have hundreds of conversations. That's what Zack's been doing over the last year. So he had hundreds of conversations and they learn that leading with hey, build a website is a big ask and takes a shitload of work, and so they move to hey, let's get a landing page going, and of course that's probably the as they said, the wedge. That's probably the right way to engage and talk to a marketer, because marketers...

...are really thinking about lead capture, lead generation a lot, probably more than just like building an entire website from from nothing. So landing pages feel like a good place to start. There are other companies that help people build landing pages. So the other thing that happens sometimes as you shift and involve your positioning is you bump into new competitive sets, but regardless, as a really cool conversation. And then the other thing is, 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 have and what experiences you want, and then look around you where you're currently working, because inevitably there are opportunities where you work right now that 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 more about agile and interested in learning what is ruby on rails. I'm interested in understanding more about unit economics. Can I have a thirty minute coffee 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 to mean that it's your day job. It just means exposure to new experiences so that over time you know more and more and your better and better positioned to get that job that you ultimately want. So that's my take. Now, if you're not a part of the salesacer community yet, you're missing out. Go there. Go to salesacercom. Any sales professional can join as a member to ask questions, get answers and share experiences with likeminded be tob sales pros. Jump in and start a discussion with more than seventeen thousand sales professionals. That sales hackercom. Of course, we want to thank our sponsors. They are three. First as outreach. Learn how outreach does outreach. Head over to Outreacho forard slash on outreach to see what they've got going on. Also, unlock your professional potential. Take advantage of over a hundred different job opportunities every week in access a full suite of training and certification programs for every level and every role. Go to join pavilioncom to learn how to become a pavilion member. And finally, ambition. Every sales letter feels the pressure to predictably close more deals. Take control with ambition and and to End Sales Management Software that sinks with your crm and turns overwhelming data into goal tracking and instant recognition. Go to ambitioncom forward sales hacker. It's all. It'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 to the thing where you rate podcast which is not a thing that you do it very often, and you're going to intentionally hit for probably somebody hit three or two. Somebody 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 when you can, linkedincom forward lash the word and forward. Mf Jacobs, if you want to email me, I've got a new that email address Sam at join pavilioncom. Otherwise, I will talk to you next time. My Friends.

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