It's not just about listening to calls and coaching the team through through that. It's about managing your pipeline, managing your renewals pipeline, getting alerts and using data that we extract from those conversations to really know what is happening throughout the customer journey.
Hey, welcome to the hyperengage podcast. It's a weekly interview style podcast series, we will pick the brains of some of the best customer success leaders across the globe, and try to unearth customer engagement beyond onboarding, expansion and churn. So let's get right in. Hey, greetings, everybody. This is having a podcast and we have Iran from gone today. I mean, if you're leaving for Latin as if you don't know what gold does for sales team, it's the number one sales SAAS platform on the planet to be very honest. And we have Iran Chief Customer Officer of Gong joined us today. Thank you very much Iran for taking the time out.
Thank you for having me. Happy to be here.
Great, great. So let's jump right straight into your journey at Gong how you started as an early stage, and how you transition now what kind of decisions you made, like just projecting on you as an as a customer facing individual back when you started?
Yeah, I started. I joined Gong six and a half years ago, so very, very early, and helped build our go to market teams and a lot of our operations, but really focused over time, more and more on the post sales side of the business, Customer Success support services and other functions that that we built over time.
Okay, cool. Cool. So what was your, you know, ambition and, you know, thought process when you joined, gone six and a half years ago, I'm sure it was not as big as it is now. So what was your thought process? In terms of continuing long term as big as you did as of today? What were you thinking at that time?
Yeah, I mean, when I joined, it was very early, we're probably maybe less than 10 people. So really just getting started. And I was really excited about the vision for the company. And we have the same vision today. And just realising it takes time. And there's a lot more that we are that we are doing and that we will be doing. And I was really excited about the impact that we can have on a lot of companies and on a whole industry and creating a new category as we have.
Absolutely, absolutely take a moment. And thank you for being a part of this journey at Gong and transforming experience for like some really very big sales team. To be very honest, I started my career back in 2010, as you know, working as a mortgage broker in a contact centre, based out of Salt Lake, Texas. And, you know, it was like old school marketing and sales. You know, we used to do a lot of manual work and all. And now I look at that same company, they're using Gong. So let's jump right into your main segment like customer post sales, customer success. So what kind of, you know, operations? Do you have like on a ballpark? How big is your team? And you know, what, how you segment your customers, what kind of data you like, what kind of metrics that matter to your customers, like starting from small to going into the, you know, large scale enterprise? Like you have customers like Zillow and LinkedIn.
Yeah. So my team includes customer success support professional services. We have a training and education team. We have a community team and we have sales operations team. And basically, we were responsible for the entire customer journey. We divide our business into several tiers, from smaller customers to mid market enterprise customers and strategic account, which is mostly based on the size of the company and the size of our deployment within that company. So at the high level, the strategy behind the customer journey and what we're trying to achieve for those accounts is very similar. The way to get there is very different obviously. A team of 10 sales people requires a very different type of approach, in their own resources in their own needs are very different than 10,000 companies, you know, 10,000 sales teams that have, you know, different divisions, different products, different initiative. So, across those fears, we have a gradually changing customer journey that we that we deploy.
Just talking about customer success operations at this moment to this day. What do you think like how digital is your customer success team, because you are already helping this using you know, your own software. So just tell me that to that, are you leveraging your own product for your own sales team. So for us,
it's not just us, many of our customers use gong for the entire customer journey. So every single one of our teams uses Gong day in and day out. For us, this is really not just for us, again, for many of our customers, this is really where you can have a reality check and a reality view of what is happening with with your customers. And it's not just about listening to calls and coaching the team through through that it's about managing your pipeline, managing your renewals pipeline, getting alerts and using data that we extract from those conversations to really know what is happening throughout the customer journey. We in addition to that we invested in data from the very early days, data from a variety of sources, whether it's from gong or from our product, or other sources to really have very deep understanding of what our customers are using and how they're using the product so we can assess their engagement, the depths of their utilisation, and where are some areas of opportunity where we can drive more value to them. We're using that data in a very extensive way. And more and more, we're deploying software and processes to allow our customers to be a lot more self sufficient. So whether it's through, you know, product features that allow them to deploy and customise and configure everything in theirs, in their Gong deployment, whether it's through training and education, and now certification of their team. So they're very well educated, not just how to use the product, but what types of strategies they should use in order to get value from the product. And through tools that allow them to achieve complex workflows, or track their goals or communicate with our team. So throughout the customer journey, there's more and more self service, we think that scalability of our processes is actually adding to the value that we're driving to our customers. I think I've heard some companies think that if you scale things necessarily means that the quality gets lower, I actually think that it actually supports quality, because customers want to be self sufficient.
Exactly, exactly. And especially for like, as you grow as a business as a SaaS business, you try to achieve that, you know, first the product market fit, and then you know, the product lead growth model, like your customers are automatically onboard a adopted and then, you know, going goes into Retention and Expansion and NPS and all that terms. So, you know, thinking on that, like, I'm just trying to figure out how best we can as as an early stage, I would definitely appreciate if you if you more tailor this conversation towards, you know, as an early stage, because they will they will make more sense to, you know, these small businesses that are, you know, growing on that level. So, on that level, what do you think like, what is what should be the best approach in order to have the best Adoption Model?
Yeah, I think first of all, you have to understand how do customers get value from your product, and then, you know, make sure that you focus on those metrics, it could be very different from one company to another. If your product engages with a very small set of users that use it day in and day out, it might be a very different model and very different data that you will be after versus maybe a product like Gong, where everyone in your go to market team is using the product, but you have different people in different roles and they use it in a different way. Right. For example, a salesperson in Gong uses Gong in different way the sales manager, then a VP of sales or a customer success manager, right? So you really have to understand what does value mean to your customers in Measure the indications that they are getting value from it. I definitely recommend investing a lot in data from the very early days. But the data is the way for you to scale what you're doing. Because as you grow, and hopefully you scaled your team and you scale your number of customers, you would not be able to have the same level of depth of conversations with, with every one of your customers. The other thing that would invest a lot in is building the right culture in the company and in in your customer facing teams to really focus on the value. And it's really hard to do sometimes in an early stage company where you would like to close, all in every company that comes your way. I actually think that that focus early on is really important, because there are companies that are not a good fit for you. And it's not a good fit for them, you would spend a lot of time trying to make them successful. And you know, you have limited resources, and you would like to engage with them at a time that you can deliver that value.
Wonderful, thank you very much for getting it a detailed answer to this and you brought three critical element is knowing your customer, since day one, like you got to make sure what customers are actually potentially going to adopt to the platform and their the feedback that you're going to provide is actually going to help your product as well. This customer success operations that you have, of course, there's a data that is more towards, you know, automation, and you know, that data is creating signals and you know, filling the segmentation of the customers and everything into your sales. What kind of data do you guys have incorporated at this moment. So what kind of technology you're using in touch points that need somebody to take action, like data that drives action?
Yeah. So we have different types of data and the drive actions in different stages of of the journey. So obviously, we have a lot of data around usage. So we track the data, we look at usage across different use cases. One of the metric that we follow closely is the consistent usage in the platform. So how many people use it in a very regular way, meaning a few times a week, every week for a while. And we use that data as part of health score. But also if we see significant changes, then it triggers action from the CSM. To dive deeper, contact the customer and see what's going on. There's a lot of data that we're using around not just the engagement with the platform, but the utilisation of licences that customers bought. So if a leader left the company, or a team was added, or a team was disabled, in Gong, then it triggers action from the CSM to have a conversation and go deeper and see if the customer would like to expand or maybe there's some changes with leadership or whatever that may be. And we're also using a lot of data from Gong. You know, especially in large accounts, you have conversations with a lot of stakeholders from our side and from the customer side. So if a conversation includes topics that are strategic to the customer, or they're talking about use cases that we have other products that they may want to use, or we make sure that we have QPR set up on time and the right people attend those QBRs. All of those triggers are set throughout the customer lifecycle. So you know, we can make sure that we drive the right process with a customer.
That's great, great. So of course, you must be using Salesforce as a complete source of truth or as a CRM, CRM for sales team. And customer facing.
We are using Salesforce as a CRM we're using Gainsight for as a CES platform. But really, for us, the system of truth is gone because it really is the only place that allows us to not just know that something happened, but what was the real context and what was the real topics that were discussed? So emails and calls the fact that you know that they were sent is valuable to some extent but without knowing what was discussed you It doesn't really add a tonne of value, you can
already even build a meaningful conversation, like you're gonna reach out to a customer, if you don't have the right information ahead of time. That's great. So, and there's one more element to this, like, in cases, when you need money, you need to reach out to your customer, you're seeing that it's not, is not is more likely to not we can, it's gonna give you the churn and all. And it's not about the, to the platform in the past, we didn't use, you've shared all the training material, you've shared all that you could, and you need some external signals or external data sources, like, let me tell you how, after doing like, we are absolutely open around like, it's all genuine, and there is no marketing goals or no monetization goal into this episode. And so they share that they are sending cakes, they are bringing data from CrunchBase, LinkedIn, for their CS teams, in cases in scenarios when they need to reach out the customer champion or, you know, the point of contact is not there, or the role has been changed, they immediately get notified and reach out to the right person. This is just one case, in cases that, you know, customers just ghosting for no reason. And the renewal is just across the corner, they try to build some kind of extended signals or extended data plans to reach out and have some sort of communication. So in that case, in those scenarios, do you have anything incorporated any technology or anything?
Yeah, I mean, we have, you know, from the marketing side of the business, we have a lot of data sources to help us get more information about our customers, about their business and about contacts within those customers. In many cases, the data we have from Gong is really driving a lot of that because, you know, we can see if someone, you know, if someone leaves the company, then in many cases, they're automatically disabled from Gong. So we have those triggers. You know, from the platform as well, in many cases, we have very strong relationship with those customers as well. And especially the larger accounts, we talk to them very frequently. So it does help when we have some of those external data sources trigger some event, we can really quickly translate that to a meaningful conversation with a customer.
Wonderful, love that. Love that. So now also think, deep down into, you know, customer success team, customer facing team that works at Gong, like what kind of culture you guys have, what kind of training initiatives you've taken in the past six years, you've been one of the fewer starting team members like when you you're as small as 10 people. So now you've seen all of the people coming and going, what was the key challenge? And what did you do to overcome that challenge? And where you guys at it's culture as a culture going stands at this point?
Yeah. I think this is one of the areas where we did a really good job as a company. From very early stages, we were very deliberate around, how do we build the right DNA for the company. And very early on, I think we were maybe 50 or 60 people in the company we codified you know, our core, we call it operating principles. Because we knew that as we grow, it's going to be harder and harder for us as part of the original team or the executive team to have enough touchpoints and enough, you know, FaceTime with every single one of our employees and help them throughout their day. And those operating principles were hugely impactful. And I think they're probably as strong or probably stronger today than they were in the past because they became so well ingrained in our culture and in how we hire people and how people kind of learn from their environment, how we think about making decisions. So I think that's one and you know, our number one principle is creating raving fans. And it's not, you know, just something that the customer team is focused on. It's something that, you know, is very deep across the entire team. It's super well ingrained into our culture. So it's much easier to make decisions as a team if everyone is aligned on some of those principles. The other thing that we did from very early stages and we invest a lot in it to this day is enablement. So whether it's the onboarding experience for our team, the ongoing education for our team it's A big investment. It's one that pays dividends in a very big way. We're growing quickly, the market is changing quickly, we're launching new capabilities and new products, you have to keep investing in your team to make sure that they'll be successful.
Exactly. And at the same time, of course, you need some initial people like to be the leaders like to be some, some advocates to those principles. And, you know, they transform into new hirings, new inductions. And you know, and people look up to them, like, I've worked in the corporate, I've worked in the startup, I have my own startup now. So this is what I've realised like, it's just not the new people that you know, they just, you'll have a automated process, you have training academies or training centres that you need to just stick around for the first two weeks, they also look up to the senior people. So just like you mentioned, that it's easier, even easier to do it in the beginning, when you have a smaller team to have some seeds of leadership that actually transformed into in the people coming up. Wonderful. Love that. And, also, this more, one more element to this is, you know, how you, as leadership, like you, some of the leaders that you have across you act differently across different teams, like customer facing team, these needs a different mindset. Engineering team needs a different mindset. So how you guys are working on the mindset, what kind of investment in terms of training, your guys are putting together, towards having crafting the best customer facing team.
I think in some ways, our operating principles actually align all teams to have the same mindset where where it matters, it doesn't mean that, you know, teams aren't the same, obviously a sales team, a customer success team, a finance team and engineering team. There are differences, there are differences of teams, depending on where they're located, as well, from a cultural perspective. And we have, you know, a large team in the US, we have a large team in Israel, we have a team in Ireland, it doesn't mean that everyone needs to be the same. But I think those operating principles are shared across the entire company, they could manifest themselves in different ways. So creating raving fans for an engineer might manifest itself in a slightly different way than a salesperson or a support person. But it creates, like that level of alignment. So in many ways, there's it those like core areas, there is no, there's no difference. It just it's been applied differently by the different teams. We definitely on the on the on the success side, we've invested in additional kind of themes or areas of focus that are unique to us. But really, all of them are derivatives of those operating principles. So I wouldn't say that teams have very different, you know, DNase, or very different kind of core principles that they operate by.
Exactly, because at the end of the day, it's all people, your customers or people, your employees or people, you know, your partners or people it's all about, you know, how you craft or how you draw out an ideology and fundamental fundamentals for people on the ground level, and, you know, working with them on their level, deeper level, closely as like your leader you have, you know, VPs and you know, managers and then that's great. So how big is your team, like just the customer facing team, including sales support and success?
My team is around 170 people or so. So it's a pretty big team. And we've grown a lot.
Adil Saleh 24:04
Great, great. That's a big enough number, understand the people, right? How's your job? Like? Are you loving it? Like you got like, daily or sorry, weekly, or monthly meetings with your VPS? Or how like, you must be having, you know, some 360 view of all the activities and goals and you know, metrics and all.
Yeah, I mean, I'm obviously loving what I'm doing. The team is incredible. The company is exciting. Our customers are amazing to work with. So it's it's been an incredible ride. And they obviously we have, you know, leadership meetings every week. And, you know, a lot of other cadences that help us run the business, whether it's like monthly business reviews and quarterly business reviews and, you know, different initiatives that we focus on that that we review on a regular basis.
Nice, that's interesting. Okay, so And also before I let You go, what is your plan of next year? Like? What is the growth plan for 2022? Because I see, I've seen you guys grow in the last four or five years. And that is incredible. That is something that nobody's achieved in this space. So what is the next action plan? What is the next Northstar you guys are looking at?
I mean, for us, we we keep focus on the customers, we're growing very quickly, we have a lot of exciting new initiatives and new areas where we're launching new capabilities that will allow us to bring even more value to our customers. That's really the only thing we're focusing on.
Okay, so your customer led growth models that you're so focused on. This is something Steve Jobs been telling back in 90s. So the best product are made by the teams that live closer to the customers. So absolutely. So I think this is pretty much all for, for today. I really, really appreciate that you took the time out from your precious schedule, and it was all entirely my pleasure to have you around. And I've learned a lot. And just a quick note I have a friend in Israel is living in New York is a founder of a SaaS business Shlomi. So, you know, I've noticed that people from origin back from Israel, they're so humble and sharp, humble and sharp. That's a very critical combination, humble and sharp. So I love the conversation. We have and, you know, let's, you know, share it with our audience. Just so you know, we have more than 120 million people here in Pakistan, which is a Muslim country, and that more than 100 20 million people under the age of 32. So they are moving towards tech big time. That is why we want to share this education to help them out. And also some early stage startups from series ABC, to you know, to get some key nuggets and experiences and concrete knowledge from one of the leaders like yourself. Thank you there. It was pleasure. Good carries off. Have a wonderful rest of your day. Thanks again. Thank you so very much for staying with us on the episode, please share your feedback at adilette heparinase.io
. We definitely need it. We will see you next time another guest on the stage with some concrete tips on how to operate better as a Customer Success leader and how you can empower engagements with some building some meaningful relationships. We qualify people for the episode just to make sure we bring the value to the listeners do reaches out if you want to refer any CS leader. Until next time, goodbye and have a good rest of your day.