We had the pleasure of sitting down with Zorian Rotenberg, Chief Revenue Officer of sales growth platform powerhouse, Infotelligent.
Zorian is a former Investment banker & growth equity VC turned SaaS sales leader, leading global sales teams from $20M to $100M in revenue. Zorian will be sharing his experiences from:
- What Wall Street taught him about scaling SaaS businesses
- Using data to drive better analysis across sales & operations
- Insights on why there is such a high churn rate in the startup VP sales role
The episode is available across all podcast mediums.
Hello and welcome to a short sales podcast. My name is Will Chivers. I'm driving my cars for sale calm. And we're here to interview some of the world's most influential sales leaders, revenue officers and executives on episode 10. We disrupt sales podcast, who do we own the show today? And what are we gonna be talking about? So today we're sitting down with Zarya. He's the chief Revenue Officer of a company called info telogen. Zoran is a former investment banker and growth equity VC turns SAS sales leader leading global sales teams from 20 to 100 billion in revenue. Zahra was sharing his experience from what Wall Street taught him about scaling SAS businesses, the kind of analysis your sales and production model needs to go through to effectively manage up and down and some insight as to why he thinks there's such a high churn rate in the startup VP of Sales role. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as we did. Let's get into it. Zoran, so great to have you on the way to shop sales podcast. For our viewers, it would be great if you could kick off a little bit about yourself and what got you into the lovely world of sales. Great, guys. Thanks for having me. started my career, actually on Wall Street in investment banking. I was an analyst on a lot of mergers and acquisitions and financings in total over 100 billion dollars worth of deal transaction value. I am then did a several years before Business School in, in private equity, venture capital investing in growth companies. And then I went to get my MBA for two years. And that's where I met a bunch of technology CEOs that I recommended that I go around sales or get into sales, perfect my sales skill set, and then lead sales. And that's the best path to being a successful CEO in technology. And, you know, either sell something or build something, everything else is kind of supporting role. And until you sell something, nothing happens. Any given product is just a science project until you have customers. So that's how I got into sales. Brilliant. So you came from that world of investment banking, right on Wall Street, and you moved into SAS? So do you think that there was many elements of that part of your career that you've taken into your SAS world? And what kind of impact do you think that's had? It's a great question. Um, so yes, I think starting my career in investment banking gave me an incredible and very immersive experience into into three key things that I think I find extremely valuable in my in my role as a sales leader, as a CRM, which is actually more than a sales leader, but number one of the very baseline is analytical skills, you live and breathe Excel. And you have to model out complex financial transactions, mergers, acquisitions, pro forma models. And that was an incredible experience, you do that for 80 to 100 hours a week, on average, with pitch books and presentations for for prospective clients. And that, you know, analytical skills. Right. The The other thing is in investment banking. Besides that, like I just said, you learn about companies, right? You learn about successful companies, ultimately, the point of acquiring other companies or being acquired, but what drives value, how successful executives drive revenue, and grow their business. And you understand underpinnings of it, like margins, value drivers, you know, sales effectiveness, how to be a leader, like a CEO, very valuable second thing that I learned there, and I met a lot of CEOs and cry all the time, you would say like SVP of sales. The third thing I learned there that was helpful is relationship management. And I think I've never seen the quality of relationship management skill set is anywhere matching what I've learned in investment banking, and also then in private equity, venture capital, as an associate on the investment side. The final point I want to make is that there's a lot of similarity between between what you learn on Wall Street and what you do as a CIO, in the sense that I compare being a CIO, which is really good. As a sales leader, first and foremost, but who's responsible for for all revenue generation processes, and driving like all revenue, whether it's, you know, with new business bookings, which is the first, you know, tip of the spear, to customer retention and upsell and cross sell, which is either account management or customer success, or however, you typically named that roll to demand generation, which is a revenue driving lever, to even, you know, pricing and sales ops and whatever else falls into other buckets of supporting the sales team, you you own all revenue, the full revenue cycle. But it's really comparable to a hedge fund portfolio manager, who runs a team of analysts in all the supporting functions to ensure that you deliver a return on investment of all the resources and you do a lot of resource allocation to ensure that you're generating returns consistent returns, it means rigorous analysis of how we get from here to there, how do we generate that? Building exceptional teams, execution, iterative analysis of where you are and what you should be doing to plug the gaps and fix the problems. Long story short. What you learn on Wall Street is a lot of sort of logical decision making analytical skill set and processes can be easily learned from to to make you a better sales leader or zero. Or in mean, there's so many things that I'd like to unpack that I think I probably I have to start with the analytical side, right? And what what does that actually look like for you now, in terms of that experience, when it comes to your role as a CRA? What kind of analytics are you living and breathing? What's the Excel spreadsheet that you're you're living on right now? It's a great question, I actually have one right up on my screen that I'm working on, because q3 just wrapped up. So I have to update all the actual data and do for example, actual versus, versus budgeted, if you will, or plan analysis to variance analysis. We got to understand, you know, sort of the gaps of what, what, what we did, versus what we thought we would do in our case are, you know, I'm very fortunate to say that we did extremely well and far far far beyond what we planned in terms of revenue and growth. But, you know, applying analysis of understanding that updating our sales operations and production model, which has a lot of tabs and inputs and probably 100 sheets if you were to print it out, from understanding where your sources of meetings are, whether it's outbound or inbound, what converts better how the prospecting outbound versus inbound performed team's conversions from meetings to opportunities, win rate on opportunities by source, even by rep understanding our average deal size, you know, our average revenue per account trending of that shifts in win rates, also win loss analysis, I mean, if you ask me analytical question of what what kind of analysis I have, I mean, I can tell you this, I bring you know, I break up my analysis into three different buckets, sales activities, sales pipeline and then results in sales activities. You pick it as Dr. leaderboard as Dr. effectiveness you know, demos to ops conversions you know, sales pipeline and opportunity inflow pipeline history and shifts you know, pipeline mix analysis by by title by role by company, account sizes, opportunities by lead source conversions, pipeline flow and shifts and why you know, why did the pipeline increase was due to more opportunities by units or was it because we got three major mega enterprise deals you got to really understand those things and dig deep in order to plan the next quarter and set the objectives you know, sales results is you know, bread and butter its average deal sizes, and shifting those by by, by product by vertical etc win loss analysis overall for the team by Rep. Lost loss analysis. Why did we lose by competition by reason? sales cycles, You know, understand the sales cycle shifts. So as you can see, I'm throwing a lot at you. But the long stories here, and sort of making it more concise, there's just a lot that you need to understand and analyze. Because your responsibility as a sales leader, or CIO, is to figure out how to make the right decisions to drive results, as planned with your CEO and the board. And if you don't understand the data, if you cannot understand that, you cannot really do that. I will say one other thing is that a lot of my peers always wonder like, should they turn over this kind of analytical work purely to the sales ops team, you know, as you go to bigger companies, like, you know, multi billion dollar companies, that's exactly what happens. But I think when you're, you know, driving a business from 20 million, let's say 200 million, which is my domain expertise, kind of that five x and a couple of years 200, the CRM slash, you know, SVP of sales, should really be able to do a lot of it themselves. Because you are responsible for your wholesale steam, you're responsible for the number to your board, you're responsible for people's jobs, livelihoods, right. So if you just take that and just turn it over to a sales ops person, they don't have the accountability and responsibility that you have, you should be the first one to really, let's say, download all that information into your mind and be able to thoughtfully Think it through kind of ruminate on it, put it in a spreadsheet, so you can understand all the inputs and outputs. And then you can pass it on to the sales ops team to pressure test build out of it. But the real granular data, if you don't have full control, in your mind of how you can understand that to drive results that you're expected to drive. You're letting not only your board down, but also your your sales team for whom you're accountable. Yeah, see, I mean, you're talking about a purely data driven business. Right. And I think that the question that I think I'd really like to go into in a bit more detail now is, how does that actually fit in your business? You've got all this data around the performance of your teams? How does that look in terms of the communication down, and the communication up when it comes to the board, to the CEO, and then right down to how your actual teams in the sales teams look at that data? Yeah, so very simple. For the board and the CEO, you typically produce reports, right, and let's, let's, let's be clear, there's a difference between data, and report and an analysis and insights. They're all kind of slightly different interrelated concepts. But for the board, you're kind of reporting, you know, you're reporting typically retrospective information, you know, going backwards, which is kind of the third bucket of the analysis metrics I mentioned. And for your sales team, your reporting on a weekly basis, both, you know, their sales activities, as well as their sales pipeline, which is a leading indicator. So there's really many different ways that you apply both data and reports and analysis, and also glean insights out of those to drive your business. You know, as a CIO, you're basically like a CEO of a company, except you don't own the product team and engineering and all that. But you are, you got to apply scientific approaches scientific method with not to understand how to drive your business forward. Otherwise, you're kind of in the dark. And it could be any of the things that I mentioned from from reporting the past to understanding leading indicators and using them to judge and decide what to do next. Yeah, and I guess it must be hard, finding such a strong formula for a company and then joining a new one, and potentially having to try that formula again. So have you found a big learning experience trying to bring those concepts into new organizations? And I guess, what was the learnings around that? Um, I think you're asking about whether you can go to a new company, and then sort of apply the same approaches and playbook or just starting from scratch. Yeah, yeah, essentially. And what was that experience? Like? Because I think the reason why I ask is that we see a lot of companies have a great playbook, and they bring managers in to replicate. But sometimes it's really successful, and sometimes it really struggles. So I'd love to get your view on how you approach that and if you Finally challenges. Yeah, I think I think the concept of bringing in someone with an existing playbook is very flawed and is very erroneous. And I would not do that. Any company that thinks they can just bring in an executive with an existing playbook is mistaken. When you're hiring, when you bring in a kind of a head coach, the sorrow for the sales team and the whole revenue, you're bringing in someone for the reason of their decision making ability. Right, that's what you do, you're, you're hiring someone for their ability to make decisions. And those decisions result in making the team perform effectively, or better than they would perform without the the CIO or the head coach, if you will. It's It's nonsense to bring an existing playbook. Now with that said, there are definitely some fundamentally constant pillars, you know, sales, a sales, you know, the, the way that outbound email, tactics work at one company will still work the same way to another company, or at least for the most part, depending on the industry, of course, but but it's primarily very transferable. There are many things that are that you can easily bring with you. But there are also many differences, you know, you got to focus on what industry you're coming in, you got to really understand the concept of sell the way the customer wants to buy your device, you know, you're you're working with different competition. So, you know, and you have a different team, and managing people is very individual, and majority of business decisions, or if you boil it down, or people decisions, big business problems, or when you boil it down, or people problems. You know, so it's this and that, but but long story short is, some of what you've done before definitely applies. But it's foolish to think you can just bring out an existing playbook. So MC, you mentioned a couple of really important concepts and topics there. And I just want to focus on the analytics theme, just just for a second more, but, you know, you mentioned the data that you're presenting up, right. And that's kind of retrospective data. But then there's, there's another big part of it, which is kind of being being coached to an extent whereby, you know, you're, you're, you're filtering the data down to make changes that impact the here and now. Now. So, so how do you do that? As a CIO? How are you impacting right? We're going into so you know, for you guys, for example, you're going into q4, you've had great results, but you know, what we want to we want to push the needle and sort of increase targets. Now, how do you sort of flow that down, flow that through the business, and back that up the data, your data helps you or the insights that you glean out of your information, copy, you determine, you know, when you look forward, help you determine how to get, you know, from from now, to the end of the quarter, or the end of the year, whatever you're trying to accomplish, correctly, to hit the number, kind of put yourself in the team in a position to win and succeed. And there are a number of analysis you do to accomplish the the objective of understanding, you know, several things, what is your headcount plan is that's capacity planning, understanding, you know, I don't want to sort of suck up a lot of time, but you know, obviously planning how many people you need in different roles in the specific seats, from prospecting teams like SDRs, to account executives to field reps, they all have different objectives or KPIs. They all have different you know, quotas, and then you have to obviously understand how that all rolls up. So you do that plus other things that are kind of bottoms up analysis, and then you do top down analysis and those things help you think through and create a plan for the team for the strategy. You know, you mentioned conversions earlier, you know, conversions could be are we getting a drop off between SDRs prospecting and getting a meeting on the schedule? Or are we getting significant drop offs from a meeting to an opportunity? Could we not have been running very ineffective meetings by the ease and do these need to be coached up on how they Do discovery or qualification or presentation of the demo. So there are, again, very many different things that the data can illuminate. And you will find the gaps that you have to fill in improve with that data, whether it's how many people you need, or whether you need to coach up those people or I don't know, you need a new product, who knows or increase your pricing, all of that will be illuminated. And you can then see how you're going to hit the number you need to hit at the end of the period. Okay, so there's two questions I'd really like to ask before, before we wrap this up. And the first thing is now, not a question that anyone not questions that anyone can answer in one sentence. But I think the reason why we're so fascinated around your data driven decisions is that I think, especially in the in the startup world, we see that the sales leader tenure be very low. And a lot of a lot of churn happens in a lot of different businesses. And I think there's so many different reasons as to why that could be. Do you have a thought and perspective on why there is such churn in terms of that kind of role in early stage business? That's actually a really great question. And I would probably say that, to go deep into it would probably take us a few hours of, of beverages and discussions. But there are many reasons I think it starts, you know, I would say this. Number Number one, I think it's misalignment of expectations. Right. I think that's one of the, you know, biggest problems in general sort of communication among people. Sometimes when expectations are not met, it creates friction, and problems. And I think that that applies directly to this question is that, you know, the company brings in a sales leader thinking, for example, they can just sell anything, you know, ice to Eskimos. And that's just the wrong approach. I think, in order for a company to be really successful, they have to understand that the sales leader is not a magician. Right? In order for a company to be really successful, there are several like, I would boil it down to three key underpinnings. One is having a great product. And two is just great. People, team chemistry, teamwork, right. which starts with great people. That's the second thing. And three is your great sales and marketing. But if you're just bringing in great sales and marketing are a great sales leader, you're you're completely misaligned from the get go. And, again, they're not a magician, they will do their best to put the team in the best position to succeed. But if your product is not good enough, if you have other issues, like for example, you know, there's misalignment on the management team, etc. The sales leaders is just expected to do things that they're not, they're not really well positioned to, to enable. There are many other things. I think that's one of them. And other one is that people have misperceptions of sales, like for example, bring, bring a playbook from a successful successful company and you know, that, you know, you're gonna, you're gonna succeed and hit it very big goals. The other sort of next point is as a segue, like, yeah, the setting of the goals incorrectly. This comes back to sort of being analytical, like, a lot of boards and CEOs will pull a number out of a hat out of thin air and say, you know, we need to hit 100 100 million dollars. You know, we're, we're $30 million this year, called $50 million this year, we got to be at 100 million dollars this year. Well, the first question is, how did you come up with 100 million dollars, we may be able to hit it. Or if you want to hit it, we need this gigantic budget, perhaps, because we need to hire this many people. We need to do all these other activities, perhaps generating lead flow. But a lot of times I see that, you know, you come to the board and they're like, hey, anybody can hit a big number with a lot of budget, but you're special. So you can do it differently. But it's a that's a that's just a silly statement. It just is basically created in a very significant misalignment. That's going to come back and bite you in the cost of constantly switching out. You know, sales leaders is Big on the company. So, anyway, long story short, misaligned expectations, you know, in, you know, really incorrectly setting sales goals for the sales leader that just is not realistic and having expectations of sales that are solid sales do already know that it's been really interesting. And I just want to round off with with one final question if I can. And yeah, we were living in really uncertain times in all companies, you know, regardless of sector of actor make drastic changes. So, for you, as a CIO, you know, what, what changes have you had to make? And what advice would you give to other CIOs in this new post COVID? world? Yeah, I mean, look, I mean, I think it's, it's very unfortunate, we're not an unusual pandemic health crisis globally. But it's not, you know, the economies that were impacted, were not impacted by, by any business drivers that affected the economy, it was purely a health. It's a health crisis. People, you know, did not go out, didn't go to restaurants didn't spend money, etc. So, the impact is, is, as one economist sort of referred to as artificial from an economics perspective, not to misunderstand that it's a very real impact is just not coming from the business perspective. So for all the CEOs out there, I think that clearly, all the governments and medical companies and pharmaceutical companies are working towards a vaccine and solution COVID is being targeted. Hopefully, people's health will be in much better condition sooner than later. And I think there's no question, the world will begin the process of reverting back to what we used to consider normal, there will certainly be social effects. But the bottom line is, you can still sell over the phone. You know, even we've been growing info intelligent very rapidly. During COVID. I think if you're selling a product that people need, and it's a good product, it adds value to customers. If you are making the right decisions as a sales executive, as a company, if you're adding value to the to the customers, I think there's not that significant of a difference in the way you would execute your business. There are some changes, but just keep an eye on what matters. And, and you should you should be okay. Oh, brilliant. And that's, that's, that's fascinating insight. And so I guess just to just to just to wrap up, if our listeners were to reach out, and they've got any questions, how can they reach out to you? How can they find you? Yeah, definitely. And if you don't mind me, I mentioned our company because I think if you're selling or rather, this is a podcast of sales leaders, we are actually selling our solution to sales leaders. So if you don't mind just really quickly. I Ron sales is a Sierra infotel agent. And we are very similar to a competitor we respect a company called zoom info, discover org zoom info, we provide high quality and accurate contact and account information with also with buyer intent signals that tell you which buyers are interested in what you're selling. It's uh, you know, we we let your sales reps fuel your sales pipeline. So check us out. And that, you know, hopefully that was not a terrible shameless plug, but but listeners remind me to charge you next time via the contact, you can find me on LinkedIn, I'm always happy to to help and connect with like minded individuals. And you can easily find me because I'm the only azorean Rotenberg you'll see there. And with that swana thank you guys for having me on. I really appreciate it. You're great guys. You are you're asking great questions. And hopefully that was helpful to your to your audience. Appreciate. Thank you for your time.