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PODCAST 16: From Idea to Scale — The Inside Story of Building Gong.io

Sam Jacobs

July 17th, 2018

How to scale a tech startup

On episode 16 of the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Amit Bendov, CEO and Co-Founder at Gong.io about how to scale a tech startup in 2018.

He walks us through the inside story of how he developed the idea for Gong — the market testing and market feedback he used to design and refine the product. Tune in to listen to insights from Gong about the ideal types of outreach and how to structure sales conversations.

If you missed episode 15, check it out here: The Art and Science of Pipeline Generation

What You’ll Learn

  • How to build a company from nothing but an idea
  • Using market testing and market feedback as you develop product-market fit
  • Moving from a small team of CEO-led selling to a large team build-out
  • The key insights that Gong research has deployed
  • Using unit economics to scale out marketing investments
  • The most important part of the sales process
  • How listening can be more powerful than selling

Subscribe to the Sales Hacker Podcast

Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show introduction [0:09]
  2. About Amit Bendov [01:30]
  3. Gong’s background [01:57]
  4. When to hire a VP of Sales [11:25]
  5. Marketing strategy [13:05]
  6. Investing in content [15:25]
  7. Ideal qualities in a sales executive [18:21]
  8. Questions from the audience [21:34]
  9. Sam’s Corner [26:43]

Sales Hacker Podcast—Sponsored by Outreach

Sam Jacobs: Hi folks, welcome to the Sales Hacker podcast!

I’m interviewing Amit Bendov, the founder and CEO of Gong.io.

We love Gong for a bunch of different reasons. Most notably, they were a sponsor for a series of Sales Hacker podcasts. Also, Amit comes from a sales background. So, when he talks about building a sales intelligence platform or building a platform to help all of us become more productive, it really resonates.

Thanks so much to this month’s sponsor, Outreach, the leading sales engagement platform.  They triple the productivity of sales teams and empower them to drive predictable and measurable revenue growth by prioritizing the right activities with intelligent automation.

About Amit Bendov: Baseball Card Stats

Sam Jacobs: Amit Bendov, founder and CEO of Gong. One of the fastest growing sales enablement platforms that I know of in the universe. I don’t think there’s a sales enablement platforms on other planets. Amit, welcome.

Amit Bendov: Thanks for inviting me.

Gong’s background

Sam Jacobs: For those that don’t know Gong, tell us your story — tell us who you are, and how you came to be.

Amit Bendov: Sure. Gong is the fourth company that I’m leading. I’ve been in technology companies my entire career, both as a VP and a CEO of a company. My two previous companies were growing rapidly. The metrics looked really good.

I was seeing what was happening inside the sausage factory. How many deals were not winning, how many sales people were not succeeding, and we never really knew why.

All we had were metrics like number of calls, number of leads, and conversion rates.

These often looked good except that sales were not. It was hard to say if we just made a bid higher or just didn’t have a solid sales management coaching program or the leads weren’t good. Are we getting the right leads and the right decision-maker? The only way to do it was listening to calls.

When to Hire a VP of Sales

Sam Jacobs: When should you hire your first VP of Sales? How do you think about building and scaling your sales organization as a business minded CEO?

Amit Bendov: It depends. I was the first VP of Sales person that was hired. But I also hired ours later on. If you just finished at Stanford and have a fantastic idea, but you know nothing about sales, start by hiring an experienced seasoned C-level executive early on.

Marketing Should Be Baked into Your Overall Strategy

Sam Jacobs: I feel like your marketing is better than anybody else’s. Is that just a function of investment or a part of your strategy?

Amit Bendov: We do invest but it’s not a function of the investment. Some of the best things we’re doing do not cost a lot of money. The audience that we sell to are usually pretty vocal on social media. If you’re good, people will talk about it and that’s we get a lot of the user marketing. Both within organizations and outside.

We drilled down on the strategic message we wanted to amplify. How we can support it with content that people would actually be willing to pay for? That’s what we do.

Investing in Content

Sam Jacobs: What are some interesting insights that emerged from your investment in content?

Amit Bendov: There’s a ton. Objection handling — that one is very easy to understand. And it’s a common problem especially with younger sales people. Or people who are just hired. They talk a lot. Sometimes 85% of the conversation.

It’s just more relaxed and not as pressured. The patience factor — just wait before you respond. Responding to an objection with a question resolves things.

Ideal Qualities in a Sales Executive

Sam Jacobs:  What are the qualities of a sales executive that you think will help he or she scale?

Amit Bendov: First, if you want to hit it big you’ve got to think long term.

Second, is the importance of long-term planning. People don’t realize how fast things change and you’ve got to shift gears. Like a car, if you don’t shift early enough then you notice it’s changed. Then it’s too late by the time you recognize it.

The third thing that I like to see is also this — have a little bit of an economical understanding.  Our motto is growth at all costs within reason. Kind of like contradiction in terms. Do you have a business model and not just the numbers? It’s very helpful.

Questions From the Audience

Audience: What are the key levers that a sales executive can still pull to make sure that you get what you’re looking for?

Amit Bendov: I think that the fundamentals haven’t changed. It’s like finding a problem and solving it. That’s what it boils down to. That’s the most important thing. Really, it’s easier said than done but if there is a problem and people can buy and you have a great solution for that. That’s what it is.

There are a lot of sales training programs going on today. There are more books, there is more technology to help people do it. The fundamentals I think are still the same. Think of yourself as a doctor. People come to you and ask questions. You try to diagnose the problem, see that it’s something that you understand that you can solve and then work from there.

Sam’s Corner

Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody. This is Sam’s corner. It was a really fun day out on the Hudson River with Amit Bendov and the Sales Hacker Boat Retreat featuring a bunch of folks from the New York Sales landscape.

One of the things that Amit said which we’ve talked about on the podcast before — it’s just always worth repeating and thinking about.

Young reps often don’t appreciate the value of silence. The research that Gong has done teach us that when you are talking, they have power and when the prospect is talking, you have the power.

If you’re new to the sales game, practice not talking so much and practice being comfortable with short answers. Ask open ended questions and press the mute button on your phone so that you don’t force yourself to uncomfortably talk into the silence.

Don’t Miss Episode 17

To check out the show notes, see upcoming guests, and play more episodes from our incredible lineup of sales leaders, visit www.saleshacker.com/podcast-subscribe

You can also find the Sales Hacking podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. If you enjoyed this episode please give us a share on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Finally, a special thanks again to this month’s sponsor, Outreach. If you want to get in touch with me, find my social handles in my bio below.

I’ll see you next time!


Also published on Medium.

About the author

Sam Jacobs

Sam Jacobs is the Founder of Aqueduct Revenue Advisors and the New York Revenue Collective and regarded as one of the top start-up CROs in the tech community. He has has over 15 years of experience scaling companies from post-revenue to ~$300M, has helped raise over $400M in institutional capital, and has helped companies of all sizes achieve an average annualized revenue growth rate of 48% over the last 15 years.

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