Incredibly, ZoomInfo has scaled to IPO with an entirely sales-driven motion. It was the first company to have an IPO after Covid hit and is currently doing more than $1B+ in ARR.
So how did they do it?
ZoomInfo’s CEO, Henry Schuck, joined us to share five mistakes made on this B2B database’s journey from zero to IPO. He breaks down how GTM efficiency drives their ability to scale with sales-driven motion and other insights you can apply to scale your SaaS business.
Mistake 1: Not being honest about your talent
Not being honest about your talent is the first mistake founders make. In the areas of your business where you have metrics to show you how well members of your team are performing, it’s easy to be vigilant about your talent. In other areas, though, measuring performance is not as straightforward. In these instances, you will want to set up informational interviews with strong department heads external to your company in the areas where you’re not an expert.
“You really want to see what great looks like for each role, so you can go and try to find it.”
Compare the talent that you meet through informational interviews with the talent you have on your team. Identify the gaps on your team and prioritize training your current talent or bringing in new talent. When you make a hire, don’t do so before you go back to the characteristics you identified as great during your informational interviews. When you find those characteristics in your hiring pool, act fast to hire and then be strategic in how you retain them.
Mistake 2: Thinking your CFO is a glorified accountant
A CFO’s job is not limited to doing the books and paying the taxes. A CFO’s job is to create early signals and warnings of where things are going well and where they aren’t in your business.
“Your CFO is a business partner who helps you understand the rhythms of your business.”
A great CFO has a strong relationship with your business and owns the modeling of the future of your business. They are regularly meeting with department heads, giving them dashboards and other information to facilitate their understanding of what’s happening in the business. A CFO will help you identify the areas of business where you should focus and double down and where you should take away your focus.
When hiring a CFO, you will want to stretch to get a great one. Look for someone with either a financial planning and analysis background or a private equity background as an analyst or VP. They will understand the operations side of the business and can team up with an accountant.
Mistake 3: Not appreciating go-to-market as a strategic advantage
When you think of strategic advantages of your business, your attention goes back to the product. Businesses have much more to do than just create and sell product. Your business suffers when you myopically focus only on the product instead of recognizing other engines that might be to your strategic advantage.
“As a founder or a CEO, your job is to make sure that there is an even distribution of focus. Not focusing on GTM is a big miss.”
ZoomInfo is one of the most efficient go-to-market companies in software, with nearly 40% operating margins. They didn’t realize this early on, but when they did, they had massive success in going multi-product via acquisitions. ZoomInfo acquired great products with a disintegrated GTM approach, applied their learnings there, and accelerated their growth.
A strong GTM team is a valuable weapon. An efficient GTM engine enables you to allow all of your sales team to take out to market quickly. This gives you more time and money to focus on other parts of your business.
Mistake 4: Not getting your product and engineering team on sales calls
Honest feedback comes on sales calls with prospective customers when you’re asking them for money for the product you have built. If the teams who are building, designing, and engineering that product miss out on hearing that feedback directly, it’s a lost opportunity and a disservice to your team and your customers.
To bring this into practice, have teams regularly listen and engage with the sales calls. Create a culture of documenting the learnings from these calls and correlating them to items on your product roadmap. A sales call can be a catalyst for taking an existing pain point to a new product feature.
When it’s not practical to have non-sales team members on live sales calls, it will be important for the sales team to intimately understand your product, the technical features, navigation, etc., and then pass the feedback along to other teams.
Mistake 5: Not realizing that your voice is important
As a leader of your company, you are getting feedback and advice from all directions—especially as a funded business when you have an obligation to listen to your board members. It’s easy to forget that your voice matters amidst this chaos.
Think of advice as feedback, not an order you have to follow. Your board members will give you both the best advice and the worst advice. But you are the one most familiar with the day-to-day operations of your company. You have to decide which advice is the best FOR YOU. It’s crucial to know your team to correctly communicate what is happening in your company.
“Your voice is extremely important and should not get buried under the feedback and advice you will inevitably get about your company.”
Stay tuned for 5 more mistakes, and in the meantime,