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The Revenue Operations Blog

Revenue Interview: Stephen Antuna at Reggora

December 14, 2021
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The Interview

Kluster's Take

Tom spoke with Stephen Antuna, Chief Revenue Officer at Reggora. He explains his thoughtful approach to growth.

Stephen stresses that technology companies used to focus on growth. There is now more appreciation for the customer experience. This equates to revenue over time.

He is interested in the journey the customer takes with you. There is an expectation that you’re not only bringing deals across the line. You should consider the solution presales and how that will land with the customer. Stephen believes growth at any cost is not a healthy recipe. Reps should think about long-term value and partnerships with customers.

Stephen constantly brings forward new information. If you are really an innovator in the space, you are trying to solve things for the first time. The aspiration is to find a better way to solve the problem.

Transcription

There's an expectation that you're not just bringing deals across the goal line, but that you're considering the solution presales, how that will land and impact the customer.

I think there was, um, there was a big focus, particularly in technology companies to focus on the top line, growth, acceleration, market expansion, all those things, which makes a ton of sense. Um, but I think as we've gotten further along, there's certainly more of an appreciation for customer experience retention and, you know, generally speaking, uh, The revenue over time.

Right? So I think that the role itself, in some cases has evolved from, you know, your VP or SVP of sales, to someone that's looking at sort of that, that onboarding and that journey that the customer takes with you. Um, and, and that's how we currently structure at regard today is that there's an expectation that you're not just bringing deals across the board.

But that you're considering the solution, um, presales, how that will land and impact the customer. Um, what that, you know, first onboarding implementation experience should look like and then how you add value right. In more of a steady state. So to me like that, that is a healthy recipe for looking at technology companies and, and knowing that they're not just focused on growth at any cost and market expense.

Uh, but that they're being more calculated in, in thinking about long-term value and partnerships for customers. So, um, to me, like that's, that's an important part of this whole ecosystem and, and you know, why the role so interesting for me? Absolutely. Um, It's an interesting one when we reflect somehow like the role of a salesperson changes with that in mind.

I mean, what, what impacts does this have on salespeople of today and how would that make them compare to salespeople of 20, 30 years ago? Yeah, I mean, there's so much difference between now and 20, 30 years ago, but I would say even in, I'm just looking at the last few years, maybe last five to seven years.

Um, the expectation is that there's probably going to be more stakeholder management, both internally and externally. When you think about the role of the salesperson versus it being more of a one-to-one conversation, um, you know, you do your demo and your qualification and bring them through the sales process that, that I'd say is a little bit more atypical now.

Um, you know, obviously depending upon the complexity of the solution you're selling, um, there's typically going to be multiple stakeholders on both sides. Yeah, I think that's, that's one of the core values that you really see with SAS and enterprise sales folks is their ability to sort of manage and align interests from both constituencies and understand that, um, you know, there's going to be conversations that you need to escalate, whether it's to senior leadership, the product folks, uh, sometimes more of a technical and engineering requirement, you know, to really bridge the gaps in that conversation.

So having folks that not only understand and are driven by the commercial vendor itself, but can really, um, align interest between the organizations and ensure that the right conversations were taking place. Yeah, that's awesome. Steven, the next phase I want to come into is funding, but actually I wanted to tie that up, um, because I think this is really crucial.

What's your kind of philosophy to sales in a big picture. Also, how does that affect how you run sales floors and the tactics you use? Yeah. Well, I mean, I'll give you the perspective of what's now an early stage company, you know, so we just raise our series B um, you know, in January of 21, but I think, you know, the identity of, of constant learning, you know, is always going to be very prevalent in sales.

You're in such a dynamic market. And if you really a true innovator in this space, That means you're probably looking to solve things, um, either for the first time or in a lot of cases, um, do it different than it's been done before, which means you're constantly bringing new information to the table with the hopes of finding a better way to solve whatever that problem is.

Um, you know, so I think that that also comes with experimentation and with experimentation, you're going to find that, you know, you have some. So, you know, that's not just in terms of the sales process itself that extends to your commercial model. It extends to how you negotiate. It extends to, um, you know, what sort of leverage and Goodwill do you give salespeople in the sales process?

Right. Like giving them describing. To discount or to move various commercial terms. So to me, um, you know, having that identity of, of a sales motion that is open to change that to quickly evolve, um, that's, that's hopefully the sales culture and strategy that you would employ to an early stage company, because my guess is you're going to have, you know, product market.

But it's all those surrounding criteria and circumstance that you've got to constantly evaluate and evolve to ensure that as your market starts to mature, that you're moving along with that. So again, it comes down to Tom transparency, um, you know, being able to adapt and experiment or. Um, yeah, it's a good point though, as well though, as we go through funding rounds, obviously like the nature of the business itself changes.

If you look at early stage funding, you're scrappy, you're building, you're implementing processes very different. When you get up to series B series C how'd you reflect on that, Steve, and what kind of core qualities do you need at each stage of the funding round? And if there's a CRO out there about to go through, um, you know, a series B funding, themselves moments.

What do they need to be thinking about building in their personal professional lives to deal with that? That's quite a question. Well, let me, let me just attack it from, you know, maybe the, um, just from a philosophical perspective, when companies are in that kind of seed series a, I think there's a, an expectation that there's product market fit, right.

That there's a need and an acceptance of the product that they're selling. I think the nuance, um, you know, that I've seen that regard early on. And I don't know if that it's perfectly sequenced with series. This has kind of happened, um, you know, over the last, maybe six to 12 months is that, you know, you, um, you start to see different buying patterns.

Right. And what I mean by that, You know that first group of customers, um, you know, they have more of that aspirational value where, you know, they're, they're being sold on sort of this future state of your product and the proof points, uh, and the referendum on where you are as a business may not be as important to them.

Right. Because they have sort of this perspective that, of course there's a better way to do it. And we're constantly looking for partners. Um, that can, that can innovate on the things that we're doing today right now. So that's sort of your traditional early adopter market. And then, you know, as you start to gain a little bit of traction, right, you're going to start to see that as you, you know, that commonly and maybe overly used term in the market when you're crossing the chasm, the whole concept of that is you're, you're crossing the chasm into the early majority.

Right. And, um, that's where you start to see a little bit more friction in terms of what's actually required. Um, to sell the product and what your buyers really want to see out of you. And I think it's a great thing. I think it, it helps you become more durable as a business when they want to see things that, you know, kind of represent return on investment.

They want to see more customer testimonials and proof points in the market that there is an exception, you know, or, or a level of accepted. Um, with your product, that it adds value and that you're a good party. So, um, those are the, some of the things that, that I've seen in my career, you know, when you get to this sort of stage and, and you've kind of gone past product market fit, and there's this, this ultimately this readiness for your product, but it does get harder.

Right. And I think that that obviously makes you a better business as you, um, as you go through. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Okay. So you have a sales team, um, at the moment you're in not you personally, but we're hypothetically speaking, you're in with the early adopters and you want to, you want to cross that chasm.

How do you prepare them for, as you said, more friction in their sales process, people are going to make perhaps high demands are going to have a higher expectation. How do you actually train and prepare yourself? Simple? Yeah, I don't think it's just the sales team to, to be, to be honest, I think it's more of an organizational, you know, sort of share them in evolution that takes place, you know, a prime example, um, you know, would be building things into the product, um, that allow, you know, whether it's, um, reporting, right.

You know, how well are we doing? What are some of the basic, um, information that I can draw down in terms of how we're leveraging your product? It could be a proof point with an existing customer, right? So things like getting, um, white papers built and, and, you know, referenceable data points that show companies are being more efficient or making more money or they're saving costs, whatever the, um, you know, the indication of value is.

Um, but actually having customers speak on your behalf. I think, you know, from, from a sales execution standpoint, it does require you to elevate, uh, Your talk track and your positioning, because just taking our word for it, that it's a much better mouse trap. Isn't going to be sufficient. So I think it's a recognition of patterns when, when it comes to looking at a prospective customer and what the potential use cases.

And trying to sort of align that to a customer that's already on board. Right. And drawing some parallels to a situation that you've seen in the past a problem that another customer was trying to solve and drawing that connection from your existing customer base to a perspective, right. They'll gain a lot more trust than you.

If you're, if you're just, you know, kind of speaking about sort of general value of the. Versus actually taking that next step and giving them a specific client example. But again, you have to have those, you have to think about, um, you know, have we gone back to this customer that we sold, you know, in our first six to 12 months as a company and started to validate some of those things, um, that we talked about in the pre-sales process.

So it is incumbent upon the sales person to have the recognition. That, um, you know, what originally was able to get a customer over the goal line probably wouldn't be sufficient, you know, once you hit that sort of early majority. Yeah. And that's a big moment. Um, when, uh, when a company goes after its first big client or its new client or a client in a new territory or a client that they know are going to help convince other, um, prospects.

To perhaps buy from them. What's your strategy and tactics in doing that? Steven getting the first big client over the line to hopefully cause a flood. Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, in an industry like ours, um, you know, where there's a, a pretty finite number of accounts, um, word travels pretty fast. So, you know, for us, it's, um, it's about ensuring that customer experience is really, really at the forefront of everything that we're doing.

Um, you know, whereas other industries, if you have, you know, millions of potential accounts in your total addressable market, I think it's a little bit different. Um, so for us, because it's a very tightly held industry, you know, being able to ensure that, um, there's an inspection right along the way, and that, you know, we're creating.

Um, measurable milestones in terms of, you know, where the customer is on the, on the life cycle and the overall journey with us, because to me that will have a more profound impact early days than any marketing or anything else that we put out as a company. Um, just the, the testimony of existing customers and mem speaking on our behalf is, is such a powerful lever for sure.

Brings in the conversation about the whole customer journey being really important here and the new role of the CRO in aligning with that from marketing through to customer success. Um, yeah. Okay. So on the point of data, because you, you mentioned data earlier, it's a good one. So let's imagine that the board, and this is good around funding rounds, but the board has set a clear strategy and it has related objectives.

Um, How do you visualize that you're on track? Um, what the story is behind the strengths and the weaknesses and the opportunities and the threats? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think whether it's the board or any other constituency, um, you know, senior leadership team, I think the element of consistency with how you talk about the business, um, and the data points or the measureables that you use is a, it's going to be really important, right?

That there's consistency from. Um, you know, but for, uh, for us right now, there's probably a handful of primary KPIs that we're focused on, right. Being a series B company. And if you think about, you know, we're pretty early, right. So we're still, um, you know, just, just starting the process in terms of going after this market.

So I think it's for us, it's a lot of. Um, identifying both our speed and the precision in which we're going to market. So some of the primary KPIs, as you would imagine, are just looking at the total pipeline, right. Seems like such a basic one, but, you know, just sort of looking at that and timestamping that, um, how many dollars in total are in your pipeline, right?

So that's, that's clearly an element of progress if, uh, if you're seeing that grow pretty consistently over time, I think the other. You know, pretty basic one that we're going to talk about is just the number of deals in that pipeline. Um, and then, you know, once you start to, you know, kind of almost look at it like a funnel, you start to investigate well, that's, that's sort of just the, uh, the qualitative aspect.

What are some of the, uh, sorry, the quantitative aspect. What's what are some of the qualitative measures that tell you, um, a little bit more about that story and you get into things like win rate, um, and, and, you know, win rate, obviously. It's something that depends on the type of market you're in, whether you're a high velocity sale or more enterprise grade, those numbers, you know, can mean something different.

Um, you know, relative to the benchmarks for, um, for a high velocity versus an enterprise. Uh, but you know, looking at win rate, both in terms of. The dollar value, right? Like how many dollars go into your pipeline? How many come out and then looking at it more on a deal by deal basis. Right. So how many deals are you winning as a percentage of the overall deals in your pipeline?

Um, the other thing that we started to drill down to is, is sort of looking at things in more of like a unit economic sense. Um, so when you think about things like ACV average contract value, And I think that, you know, realistically, you should have, um, two lenses on that in terms of ACV, both that, of what has happened historically.

Right? So deals you've actually closed. And whether you look at that by region or by product or by market segment, Having sort of that historical and then sort of assigning, um, you know, sort of the future state, which is more your pipeline, right? Because that tells you, I think a pretty good story in terms of maybe where your business's headed, you know, for us, you know, moving upstream and upmarket, um, we'd larger lenders.

Um, we would want to see evidence of that in terms of the ACB of deals we've closed and comparing that relatively to deals that are in the pipeline. Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, so really here, what we're talking about is those leading indicators and those metrics, they helped define our strategy almost don't they, as we enter a market, as you enter, um, as he went to trying to get more clients, but at some point strategy, it kind of becomes tactics on the ground.

Right. Um, so you have to go and execute on these things. And as a CRO, it's really interesting to hear how you handle that key handover from strategy to tactics. Well, I think one of the things that, um, you know, because we're a very flat organization, it's not like there's a ton of management right now. So just thinking about.

General inspection of, of all of our marketing interaction. When you market interaction, it's any sort of emails, phone calls, demos, um, you know, product overviews, things that we're doing with prospective customers and capturing all of that and trying to make sense of that. So we've had to introduce technology to help us, um, sort of scale.

You know, just the, uh, the amount that we're trying to consume to understand what our prospective customers want. Um, so we're leveraging gong to do that today, to really help us, you know, look at calls and, and sort of break down game tape and figure out, you know, what are sort of the critical elements are the pinch points that we're coming up against.

Um, so that helps us actually, Sort of consume that information at scale. I think it's what happens next, you know, and, and for an early stage company like ours, um, you know, I think there's a large emphasis on not just where the product is today, but companies like us take funding because we have bigger aspirations, um, to do things that maybe that haven't been considered in a particular workflow or an industry before.

So for us, um, taking inventory of what the customer is doing to. How we respond, how we bring that conversation to life, how we challenge, you know, certain elements of that is super critical, but it's also really important to collaborate cross-functionally with some of the things that maybe are more future state considerations for that prospect, right?

Because that's, that's one of the advantages you have, um, as a new player or an innovator in the space is that they are, there's probably an expectation that yes are. At some point get to, um, feature or product parody in terms of maybe some of the, the legacy players out there are certain incumbents. Uh, but I think you get a little bit more of a leg up in certain conversations because they think if you are the innovator and, and maybe someone that's just taken venture capital.

That things that have always been on their mind as far as ways to improve this workflow or ways to improve this, this particular part of their business, um, that you may be a ticket to unlocking that. Right? So that's where, you know, being able to take real time information and share it with. Share it with our product organization, bringing in, you know, our co-founders who are very involved right now in the sales process, both from a technical and, and, you know, sort of a product standpoint, um, and being able to, um, to quickly do that and in a way that allows us to give back to the customer with the right information in a timely.

Mm. Hmm. Yeah, that's awesome. Um, so really a big part of that, uh, w and actually our discussion in general is visibility along the funnel, right? From marketing to customer success, ensuring that siloed leads can see what's coming up to them from, from down from upstream. Um, talk to me about like your basic principles in mailing.

That it's something that a lot of people are trying to do, but what's your fundamental yeah. Um, on which piece though, on increasing visibility, along the revenue, um, funnel so that people, for example, from sales can see what's coming from marketing to customer success and there's full visibility of that pipeline.

Yeah. So, I mean, there's a couple of things that, you know, that we're focused on doing, you know, obviously we have a CRM where, you know, you have, I would say the, you know, some of the more basic information about, you know, what stage it's at and what the expectations are from a revenue standpoint. Um, but we do try to be inclusive in the way that we sort of look at opportunities.

Um, and so one of the things that we'll do is beyond having sort of your standard weekly forecast call, we do have something where we refer to it as a top ops. And the goal of top ops is to bring very specific. Scenarios or circumstances or deal requirements to the table with a cross-functional team. Um, that's targeted in a way that we're not going through the exhaustive pipeline, but we're isolating it to key dependencies in key deals, um, that allow us to quickly make decisions or investments that would require us to go sort of beyond where our product is today.

That's not always the case now sometimes, um, you're trying to put a square peg in a round hole and we determined that maybe it's not the right fit or the right partnership. Um, but I think, you know, being, um, agile and cross-functional is really going to allow you to bring in the right people and again, make those business decisions that in, um, in a high pay and a high pay paced market, um, allows you to do that with, um, considering.

Yeah, that's awesome. Okay. Closing question for you. Uh, if you're in a room for the F the best CRS ever, what would you ask him? So good question. Um, You know, I think because we're constantly looking for different levers to pull, um, inherently, there's going to be a lot of levers that we pull don't end up being the right one.

Um, and that's a good thing, right? Because as, as you go forward, you obviously have to have inventory for not only what works, uh, but why certain things did not work. Right. And, uh, You know, I think that's that creativity and problem solving, you know, that's sort of the core element of whether you're a sales person, whether you're a sales leader, a CRO, um, it's still an equation, right?

That at the end of the day, that you're, you're trying to problem solve. And there's, there's multiple ways in which you can potentially approach that problem. And, um, you know, I think the best CRMs out there are constantly looking for different ways to drive interest in value. Um, You know, in their market, you know, so I think, again, it does come down to like, what I spoke about earlier is there's, there's a lot of experimentation and, um, you know, I saw a blog the other day that, um, you know, someone was talking about abandoning, um, commissions, right?

Not that we're abandoning. Um, quotas, but the whole concept that the, um, you know, the, the framework for compensating salespeople was misaligned. And so again, I'm not going to weigh on a where I, where I sorta see that, um, playing out, but I think it's okay to push on some of those, you know, sort of standard beliefs, um, because we're, you know, I mean, take the pandemic, for example, if you would've told me at the start of it, that we were able to draw.

You know, mid to high six figure deals, seven figure deals, um, completely remotely, uh, selling into financial services. I probably would have told you it would have been really tough, you know? And, um, you know, but I think that that's one of those things that the market's evolved, right. And there's, there's different levels of, uh, accepting the way that we sell virtually and remotely, that those weren't truths that we held.

Six to nine months ago. So I think that's, that would be my feedback is that there's always something that you can learn right. From another CRO that's approached something differently and maybe didn't take the path of least resistance. Um, but you know, hopefully that helps. And I've also seen that debate about around commissions.