How revenue leaders scale by saying no
Devin Reed: Welcome to the show. You are now part of Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast, powered by Gong. We're your hosts, Devin Reed-
Sheena Badani: And I'm Sheena Badani. Revenue intelligence is a new way of operating, based on customer reality instead of opinions. It's an unfiltered view of your customer reality. In other words, making data- driven decisions based on facts instead of opinions or guesswork.
Devin Reed: And it's made up of three success pillars: people success, deal success and strategy success, the things all revenue teams need and care about. Every week we interview senior revenue professionals, and they share their stories and insights on how they leverage revenue intelligence to drive success and win their market.
Sheena Badani: You'll hear how modern go- to- market teams win as a team, close revenue with critical deal insight, and execute their strategic initiatives, plus all the challenges that come along with it.
Devin Reed: Sheena, this episode is 100% about scale. And if listeners aren't scaling themselves, their company, their team, I'll be honest, it's not a great episode for you. But if you are doing any of those things, it's probably the perfect episode. What do you think?
Sheena Badani: I would agree. And I would actually make you question... If you think you're not scaling, or scaling is not relevant to you, I would ask you to reassess yourself, your team, your business, your personal life. Something somewhere is growing, and you need to take a step back and reevaluate what's going on.
Devin Reed: Objection. I'm not scaling. Sheena? Yes, you are.
Sheena Badani: Yes, you are.
Devin Reed: You actually are scaling. You're just not thinking hard enough. I like that. I like that approach. Lot of highlights from today. We hung out with Dini Mehta, who is the CRO at Lattice. Now, for those who don't know, they sell to HR professionals. And the reason I bring that up early is because she said something shocking to me, which was, well, up until about 30 of their first sales reps no one they hired had actually sold to HR professionals before. Which I muted, but audibly said," Wow." Because that is shocking.
Sheena Badani: It is. It was reminding me, one of our values at Gong is to challenge conventional wisdom. I think like the typical thing is like," Oh, let's bring in the person who's done the thing before and just do it all over again." But her approach is very different.
Devin Reed: Which is really funny, because as she's saying that, when we were in the early stages of hiring Gong reps I was the guy who had sold to sales professionals before. So I'm totally agreeing with her, and also just being an oxymoron I think, if I'm using that word correctly. But I really liked it. I took a lot of notes on this one, and I'm going to share a couple highlights real quick. So first was she's talking about prioritization, right? Everything can't be important. Everything can't be urgent. She breaks down sequencing, so how you can make decisions for the now while also building your plans for 18, 24 months out to make it a little bit easier on yourself. I like that a lot. The other thing that caught me off guard... She said a few things, and I mean in a good way." Think of yourself as a product." And I was like,"What?" And she said," What do you need to grow and what do you need to shed?" I had to do some thinking around that, but I like it. I think that's what I'm going to do on my next walk, kind of think through, what does that mean exactly?
Sheena Badani: I wrote down the same thing. It's so worth thinking about.
Devin Reed: I think the most shocking thing was her comparing scaling a business to bacteria growth. I'm just going to leave it there. If you're like," What?" Just wait. It's like two minutes in, okay? So-
Sheena Badani: We wouldn't do it justice if we tried to repeat it.
Devin Reed: Well, we wouldn't. I mean, no. I failed chemistry in high school. I'm the last person to do biology and such things. And I know those are different. All right, let's go hang out with Dini.
Sheena Badani: Dini, welcome to Reveal. We're so thrilled to have you here today.
Dini Mehta: Thank you, Sheena. Super excited to be here.
Sheena Badani: And we're going to talk about a topic that I think will be interesting to anybody who's worked at a high- growth company, worked in a fast- growing division. The type of information that we're going to be talking about today is really all about scaling. Scaling different parts of you, your teams, your processes, your whole revenue engine. So a lot of good, meaty stuff to cover today. But, before we get there, you're CRO at Lattice, so congrats on your accomplishments there and the company that you've built. And you particularly specialize in sustainably building go- to- market engines. What does that mean?
Dini Mehta: It means different things at different stages of a business's growth. But early on, I think it's a pillar that has always stuck with me, and maybe because I started in account management and saw the sort of post- sale world first before moving into the pre- sale, go- to- market side of the house. And in my mind sustainability is like, it's your investment in the future. Of your team, of your company, of your culture, and what you do today to really solidify that future. And so, what are some examples of sustainability? Selling good deals for the business. I think that's probably the most obvious one, is when you're a startup, especially early on it's very tempting to take on a large deal that may not be the best fit, or a really stretch fit, because the revenue is there, the upside is there, you get a logo. It's a shiny thing that you want to take on. And I'm a big believer of saying no to say yes, because I've made those mistakes and have realized that sort of the flip side of doing that is now your product roadmap is scrambled. Your CX team is spending so many calories on that one customer, versus delighting all your customers. And so as much as the short- term sort of temptation to say yes, the longer- term debt that you take on by doing that is an example of where you would want to lean in on sustainability. That's typically how I think about it. In hypergrowth you want to win fast, you want to move quickly, but don't do that at the expense of tomorrow. Do it sort of strategically, and being thoughtful around these moves.
Sheena Badani: Yeah. And I could see that it's really exacerbated in that hypergrowth mode, where there are a lot of pressures. You have really aggressive targets, a lot of different moving pieces, maybe lack of ownership in certain areas. So how does that role of sustainability change in a maybe more stable- state organization versus one that's in hypergrowth?
Dini Mehta: It changes in where early on in some ways it's easier, because if you have that lens as the leader you can make those calls. If you've got a team of 20, you can put your arms around it and make the right trade- offs and the right decisions. Over time it's about, how do we build the processes? How do we build a culture? How do we train the teams and the future leaders to make those calls on your behalf? And so I think starting out it's more about, can I just as a leader make those decisions and lead by example? But over time truly it has to become the sort of fabric of your org and your department, because otherwise it's a thing that you talk about, but it doesn't really reflect how folks are making decisions on the front lines. Like today I don't make a lot of decisions, but I'm grateful to work with such an amazing team of leaders that have been here for three years, four years, have seen the journey and now can make those trade- offs because they've been part on the receiving side of things. And so I'd say it's more about... And that's partly what go- to- market scaling is about. You start with a people- driven approach and over time you get to a more sort of machine culture- driven approach over time. And so I'd say that's sort of how I think about the different phases, and how sustainability plays a part.
Devin Reed: Dini, hypergrowth is something that it feels like a lot of companies strive for, right? No one's unhappy they're in hypergrowth, right? It's usually a good thing. But what are some of the challenges that come with that pace of growth?
Dini Mehta: When you get to hypergrowth you have a ton of champagne problems, and that's the goal. It's like, how do you get to champagne problems? Because the other types of problems aren't as fun. I started in a research lab, and so I have this bias where I connect that research world to go- to- market growth worlds. So if you think about a research world, and I worked in a proteomics lab, there's four phases of bacterial growth. Y'all are going to get a fast lesson on bacterial growth. First phase is the lag phase where you're doing a ton of inputs, you're making a lot of changes, but you don't see any growth on the outputs. And I think that's a lot of times early on in startups, where you're making all these changes, you're experimenting, you're putting tooling in place and you don't really see the output immediately. And this is the phase of, you've got to stress the process. The next phase of bacterial growth is the log phase, which is where it's like you're growing exponentially. This is the hypergrowth phase. The phase after that is a stationary phase, which is where the growth stays stagnant, and then finally there is a decline. And so in startups, when I first started I was like," Wow, there's a lot of parallels here," maybe because that was my experience. And the goal is to always go from a lag stage to a log phase. Like," All right, we're in hypergrowth, and how do we stay in hypergrowth? How do we stay away from stationary for as long as possible, and definitely away from the decline phase?" And so, one of the ways to do that is you're consistently picking new areas and new bets of things that you're seeding as your bets from yesterday are starting to mature and scale. And so as a revenue leader that's the piece of hypergrowth that you have to be really strategic about, is like," All right, this is the thing that's going to scale. And we're not going to make a lot of changes here because it's working, and we just have to scale this out. But at the same time we've got to think about 18 months, 20 months out, what's going to keep us in this hypergrowth phase is these new bets." And so I'd say that those are the ways to try to keep your org and company in the hypergrowth phase.
Devin Reed: Champagne problems and a Petri dish is my two takeaways.
Dini Mehta: That's right.
Devin Reed: No, that makes a lot of sense. I was taking some notes, but it does make sense. Especially, like you said, we have to figure out the bets now that are going to keep us in hypergrowth because it's not a fire that burns forever, so to speak.
Sheena Badani: I'd love to go a little deep in maybe one of the champagne problems you've personally experienced. Tell us a little bit about something that you've gone through while you were at Lattice, that your team has gone through, and how you were able to resolve that.
Dini Mehta: There's consistently so many challenges that we're facing, but the two things that are consistently top of mind in this phase is psyche management and prioritizing the right things to work on. As a leader you're consistently thinking about," 24 months out we need to be at X number of revenue, X number of offices. We've got to scale the team by Y percentage." And so when you think about that, it's easy to start wanting to do everything, and start to feel like you're behind because you're thinking 18 months ahead. And so that psyche management piece, of just lowering the stakes. We got to keep it fun. We've got to protect the team. We've got to focus on delivering today, and be strategic around the three things that we want to seed that's going to help us 18 months out. So I'd say the two things that I talk about a lot with my team is," What are the things we can say no to that'll allow us to say yes to these three things?" Three other things that we're... The opportunity- cost optimization. It's so easy in startups in hypergrowth to use that as an excuse to say," Let's do everything." And then by doing everything, you're doing nothing really well. And then, on the flip side, how do you go slow to go fast? It's another thing that I preach to new hires, to folks in new roles, because you come on board and you want to do it all today, versus if you just take the time in the first few weeks to observe, listen before moving into action. And so I'd say those are two challenges that we're consistently trying to stay honest around, because it's easy to fall into the sort of," Hey, we can do all of it." It's so tempting, and so I try to embody the... I have a sticky actually here, which is like," Say no to say yes," and like," Go slow to go fast." And so I'd say those are two things that I'm consistently trying to find new ways of holding myself and the teams accountable to.
Devin Reed: Okay. I'm going to write that on the sticky on my screen, Sheena. You want me to send you one?
Sheena Badani: Yeah, I need one permanently up here plastered on my wall. I think that's a really interesting one because, especially for folks who are high achievers and who've always wanted to strive for greatness, it's a common thing where you want to just take on more and more and show that you're capable of doing X, Y, and Z, but that doesn't work in the long run. So I think it's a really interesting topic, that we could have a whole nother podcast on.
Devin Reed: We could. And I'm going to roll the dice and try to go one level deeper, Dini, because I'm very interested in this. Now, because I'm going to go a little selfish. When I do planning that thing always happens, right? You're looking at this huge list of things and you say," Yes. If we had infinite resources, time and budget, we would do them all." The way that I've kind of looked at it is like," Well, let's call one of these things that building this thing now will actually make the thing underneath it easier if we give it some time to breathe," right? So do this for six months, and the thing you think has to be done now will be easier and faster by kind of compounding. That's a very kind of elementary way to break that down, but I'm curious if you do something similar. Or how do you think about stacking those initiatives and timing them out?
Dini Mehta: So much of that is about sequencing, which is what you touched on, Devin. It's less about,"Do we not want to do this at all?" But it's about," How do we sequence this where the change management for the broader company, broader org doesn't feel like change management, it just feels like a natural progression?" And so a lot of things that I think about from a planning and initiative standpoint is," All right, we've got all these new ideas for growth cohorts and new opportunities for us to expand into. How do we think about it in terms of six- month increments?" And very similar to you, what's going to make this easier for the end customer? Which, in my case, are my teammates internally. How do I make sure that I'm optimizing for their experience, and truly building the boat before we sort of put folks on it? Because a lot of times you're like," All right." Another example is in planning, because that's top of mind right now. It's like you want to put all of your recruiting budget, all of your hiring bandwidth into hiring for capacity roles. But in reality, what you probably need at a certain stage is like," How do we start adding more strategy, more operations, more enablement?" The machine that's going to support the capacity roles. And I think getting that alignment. Another way to drive alignment at the company level... And this gets harder as you're scaling. It's easier when you're a 50- person company, harder when you're 500, much harder when you're 1, 000- plus, is making sure you're starting with company priorities, and the technical side of the house and the go- to- market side of the house are talking about the same priorities. Because a lot of times startups will think that," Oh, go- to- market can do this on their own." Like moving up- market, or going international. But another area to sort of punt and wait till there's enough resources and there's alignment across the whole company that," Yes, this is a big enough initiative that we're going to get behind," versus," Hey, can we just do it now because we're feeling the urgency?" And then don't really have the resources and the bandwidth to truly support it like a strategic initiative.
Devin Reed: Okay. So the next three questions, we're going to break down scale in three different ways. So I'm going to preface here. We're going to have leaders scaling themselves, how leaders can scale their teams, and how leaders can scale the revenue engines. So it's a three- parter, but I'm going to start with the first one, which is how can revenue leaders scale themselves slash their time, their output?
Dini Mehta: Yeah. A question that I've spent a lot of time, made a lot of mistakes on, and have a lot of scar tissue from making those mistakes. But I think it goes back to, you're always executing on today, but constantly thinking of the things that you need to shed in the next six months. And also thinking about yourself as a product, like," What are the things that I can shed in this next phase? What are the things I can keep? And what are the things I want to add?" And I think having a group of folks that can also keep you honest with feedback of, like," Hey, here's the things..." Through mentorship, through folk, whether that's within the company, whether that's outside of the company. I think that's key. And in general, I'm like," Your job is to fire yourself from 80% of what you do today." And you can do that through hiring a team, but if you're constantly swamped as a leader then you haven't figured out how to scale yourself. That's sort of my own barometer of, all right, if I'm constantly feeling behind and swamped in every part of the business, I need to hire my team. Because your team's sort of a representation of your ability to scale, so if you've got a great team you're going to be able to continue scaling, and different phases require a different org and a different team that will support you. And then, second, it's process. So I think it's team and process that are the tactical levers of how you scale yourself, but I think philosophically it's like, you can't be swamped. You've got to find time, and the way to do that is by just firing yourself from 80% of the jobs you do. By delegating, giving it to your teams, where you're like," All right, now I've got time to think." Because a lot of times you just end up getting sucked into doing, and so the firing 80%, that just gives your brain think time. And hopefully that'll get you to the next, sort of,"All right, this is the next sprint that we've got to run," and," What do we need to train for to get to that next finish line?"
Sheena Badani: And I suspect part of that shedding is just required as the company grows and evolves. Today you may need to be involved in the details of certain things, certain initiatives, but one year from now it's not relevant for you to be part of that because the company has changed, the market is different, or you have the people there. So I think it seems like it would be a necessary evolution regardless of what position you're in, whether you're a leader or you're an individual contributor.
Dini Mehta: Absolutely. I think it's like, what's gotten you here is not going to get you to the next stage, and it's a spectrum of how much change you want to drive. And some of this change is going to happen whether you choose to do it or not, but if you're thoughtful and get ahead of it, it just makes it easier because now you're not feeling like you're drowning and then finding a solution. Ideally you're ahead of the problems coming to you, where you're like," Oh, I need to now do this, because clearly I don't need to be in these details. I'm a bottleneck." And that's the part that experience can help with, because now you all of a sudden connect the dots easier the next time you do it because you're like," Oh, I already made that mistake last time." And so I think it applies to all roles, it's not limited to just leaders for sure.
Devin Reed: Dini makes a convincing argument for upskilling your people to fuel growth, and there's data to back her up. The Association for Talent Development found that 83% of organizations have a skills gap, and nearly 75% of organizations say that that skills gap affects their service delivery, customers, or ability to grow. It's time to get serious about talent development in order to stay afloat, let alone to scale. Consider this your sign to start investing in developing your people. Not only will this shorten your to- do list, it will allow your organization to sustainably grow. As Dini shared, your goal should be to offload 80% of what you do today. As you listen, think about how you could execute on this idea, and we'll revisit it at the end of the episode. For now, let's get back to the conversation as Dini explains how leaders can set their teams up to scale.
Sheena Badani: So, speaking of teams, why don't we move on to that second stage of how do leaders set up their teams to scale? Are there certain processes or onboarding practices that you've put in place that really help that scalability of teams?
Dini Mehta: Starts with the quality of the team, and so you've got to be hiring all the time. Even when you're not hiring, you should be hiring. And I think that's a big part of the quality of your team, is the quality of the output your org's going to put out is the quality of you as a leader. And over time that should take on a higher percentage of your time versus the operational details, because you've hired for that. And so I think for hiring, I firmly believe a lot of times startups in early phases like to hire on resumes or gut feels or experience, and I'm a big believer of hiring for skillset and a values fit. How do you make sure early on? Like have hiring competencies when you're hiring your first 10 AEs, because that makes the next 50 much easier. And a lot of times early on it can feel like overkill, but again, this is an area where you go slow to go fast and it's going to help you a ton over time. It limits bias, it makes the process more objective, and you're going to find people that you may overlook if you're just looking at a resume and leaning on gut feels. So I'd say hiring is a big part of the sort of, how do you scale your team? Put the infrastructure in place through process, through competencies early on. And then onboarding is, again, I'm going to keep repeating this, go slow to go fast. It's very tempting in startup land where you're like," Oh, man, we've got these folks. Let's get them on the phones, or let's get them selling as soon as possible," because that's sort of taking away from the bottom line, and I just don't agree with that. I think you've got to think of onboarding as an experience instead of a process, and if you're a new hire at a new company you want to start with the company history, you want to start with values. You want to inspire people the first week, before you jump into product and positioning and market. And then process has to be, as they're learning to sell you sort of introduce process at the right time, versus trying to do all of it on the front end. Which we have done in the past, but the problem is you do that and then once you actually need to run the process you're like,"I don't know. How do I do that? How do I close this deal? Who do I go to for Salesforce?" And so, work in progress. We're still experimenting on, what are the things that we do live? What are the things that managers do? But again, I think the broader point on onboarding is, how can we go slow in the first few weeks and let the folks sort of really learn? Because you're setting the tone for them, in terms of what they're going to bring to the role.
Sheena Badani: On the hiring piece, it's kind of interesting. So I think there's maybe one philosophy for a company that's in hypergrowth, which is," Let's bring on somebody who's already done this before, because we can get there faster." Versus what you're talking about, which is hire somebody based on skillset. Which also logically makes sense, but maybe you need a longer time horizon for them to learn some of the ways in which they need to... Just some time to mess up, and to that trial and error. So how do you think about those two different approaches? And there may be others, but I'm just limiting it to those two right now.
Dini Mehta: That is the trade- off that you have to think about as a leader, and the upside of hiring for skillset is, yeah, there's a little bit of a slower ramp, but it forces you to put good onboarding in place earlier on versus purely relying on their prior experiences. And I think there's a lot of sort of long- term upside where now they're thinking from a first principles lens and you innovate versus," Hey, I've done this. I've been there. I'm going to bring that same playbook and repeat it." I think there's a lot of value. And for Lattice, our first 15 folks on the sales team, nobody had sold to HR. And then, I think up to 30 that was the case, and then eventually we hired folks that had sold to HR and that was a good addition. And so I think thinking of team composition, but a lot of times I find recruiting partners getting so focused on the persona and the product, and have they sold SaaS? Because you can find a lot of talented sellers that may not have sold to HR personas or SaaS, but are really skilled at what they do. We just need to teach them, and if they're passionate about the mission and they're smart, they'll figure it out. That's just my core belief. So building the process that can actually enable that, while it can feel like a short- term sort of investment, which it is, longer term it can really pay dividends.
Devin Reed: I audibly said," Wow," when you said that," I think up until the first 30 that no one had sold to HR professionals." I imagine some of our listeners probably did, too. Because I think, to Sheena's point, the thought's usually," Okay, well, at least of our first five, three had to have done this before so they show us the ropes and what's the best practices, so to speak. And then we'll throw a couple non- HR folks in there to spice it up a little bit, and surely they'll all figure it out." So, that's very interesting. Okay, the last part of our scale question is probably the most open- ended. We could leave the recording going for an hour and have at least a series here. You've been doing a great job, Dini, so far, taking really big questions and making them very bite- size and actionable. So, you're two for two. It's up to you. Will you complete the trifecta? Only you can decide. The final question is, how can leaders scale their revenue engines?
Dini Mehta: What I think of the revenue engine, early on it's the managers you hire and the builders that are on your team that are making the hypergrowth engine possible. Over time it's the combination of strategy, revenue ops, and enablement, because that's where a lot of the strategy and decisioning sit. And the execution over time, you're starting to separate the two, where early on everybody's doing everything. Everybody's helping out, everybody's building, everybody's enabling their teams, whether you're a leader, whether you're in sales ops. Everybody's doing... It's a generalist model. But over time, thinking in terms of specialization of roles and separating out," All right, our strategy and decisioning for mature parts of the business are going to live with ops, and the execution's going to live with management," and enablement. Over time your sales leadership bench is going to have multiple layers, so thinking through the roles and responsibilities of, what are directors going to be responsible for? What are managers going to be responsible for? How do you make sure that each of the employees on the different teams are getting similar experiences? And so thinking in that lens internally, of how do we build a machine where if I'm a rep and I'm reporting to one manager today and next month to another manager I don't have to completely change my style, how I think about the world? So standardization, with some layer of specialization. And a similar lens applies to the external world, of if I'm a customer of Lattice how do I make sure that when I talk to a sales development rep and then I talk to an AE and then I talk to a CSM, the story that we tell and the thread that we're using across those touchpoints of the customer journey remains sort of standardized? And so I think the machine internally, depending on what part you're optimizing for... Especially for mature parts, I'd say it's like focusing on specializing. Early on, standardizing. Over time, specializing as the business matures.
Devin Reed: I was just going to ask Sheena, because I'm not the final judge here. You get a thumbs up from me, but if I've got the soundboard, if I had one that said," Goal," I would've hit that, Dini, and I would've bypassed Sheena altogether.
Sheena Badani: I'll hit the gong. I'll do that.
Dini Mehta: Oh, yay.
Devin Reed: She'll hit the gong. Yeah, that's fair. Let's get a gong on the soundboard for the next episode. We'll put people on the hot seat and we'll hit the gong to celebrate.
Sheena Badani: Well, Dini, we love this final question because we get to ask it to all of our guests. So, how would you describe sales in one word?
Dini Mehta: Winning.
Devin Reed: I like it.
Sheena Badani: Makes sense. And why?
Dini Mehta: It's just, sales is about winning, and winning is sort of why we get out of bed and do this. And winning can mean helping customers do a better job with their business, it means helping our teams find meaning in their work. And so, yeah, when I think of sales I think of winning. That's what gets me out of bed.
Devin Reed: I think there's a famous quote, and I might be mixing it up a little bit so any listeners or anyone here that knows better feel free to email reveal @ gong. io to fact correct me, but," Winning solves everything." And another one was," Winning's the best culture." I remember interviewing a VP of sales and it was something like," How do you inaudible your culture?" Or something. He's like," Winning. Winning is the best culture there is. Everything comes secondary." And I was like,"Well, it's hard to build around losing. So I can't argue that." Dini, this was fantastic. Dini, thank you so much for your time and expertise. We really appreciate you.
Dini Mehta: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Devin Reed: Every week we bring you a micro- action, something to think about or an action you can put into play today. Dini left us with a lot of great ideas to implement, but if you only do one thing after our conversation, let it be this. Say," No." Dini said it best," You have to say no so you can say yes." Say no to the distractions, so you can say yes to productivity. Say no to micromanaging, so you can say yes to autonomy. And say no to doing it all, and yes to enabling your team. Whittling down your responsibilities allows you to focus on what's most important and gives your team the opportunity to grow. Today, pick just one thing that you can say no to. Then watch what happens as you narrow your focus, and in turn set up your team to scale. Did you like today's episode? Subscribe now so next week's episode will be waiting for you on Monday.
Sheena Badani: And if you really like the podcast, please leave a review. Five- star reviews go a long way to help get the word out there.
Devin Reed: And if you're not ready to give a five, check out another episode and see if we've won you over by then.
Dini Mehta, CRO at Lattice, specializes in sustainably building go-to-market engines and shares her secrets to set your organization up for success.
She breaks hyper-scaling into three key areas: leaders scaling themselves, how leaders can scale their teams, and how leaders can scale revenue engines.