In 2020-2021, many SaaS startups faced a unique challenge. With teams spread across the globe, they had to find new working patterns to scale their businesses in a distributed environment. Wiz, one of the fastest-growing SaaS companies focused on security solutions, was one of them. The company helps enterprises internationally with contextual and actionable insights to secure their cloud infrastructure. 

Today, Wiz is one of the highest-valued private tech companies, at $10 billion, as announced in Feb 2023. CRO at Wiz, Colin Jones, shares how this traditional startup evolved, thrived and grew from 0 to $100 million in just two years. 

Recruit diverse leaders

The goal of hiring a revenue leader is to put gasoline on finding product market fit success. To realize that, look for a leader who sees the world differently and has different skill sets from yours. Hire a leader who will not only agree with you but someone you can disagree with in a respectful and productive way.

If you can find someone passionate about the business and the domain you are building in, has an impressive track record, and can significantly impact the business, that’s a sign of the stars aligning.

Where do you find the right person? Don’t be afraid to tap into your network and the VC community to facilitate some introductions. Meet with people you can learn from and share ideas, even if it doesn’t convert into a hire.

Employees are the brand

Every employee at your organization is the brand. How they conduct themselves, engage, market the brand, and set a tone, reflect on the brand.

In the security domain, like at Wiz, so much of the brand is built on trust. Each employee hired at Wiz is individually a personal brand. The team has great visionary, product, and execution capabilities and a solid go-to-market strategy. Accordingly, customers trust in the employe’s brand transfers to the business and the team, that they would deliver on their promises.

“All of the success attributed to my career or Wiz is not me. It’s because I surround myself with these incredibly talented, selfless, hardworking people who execute every single day, all day.”

Playbooks are prisons 

What are the first things you should focus on? How should you allocate your time? There are so many questions and, unfortunately, no easy answers. We often see leaders or executives join organizations and bring playbooks implemented elsewhere, assuming they will be effective in a new environment. It doesn’t work. Every business will have its own set of challenges.

Whatever your unique business situation and challenges are, you’ll have to create your own playbook by solving for the bottlenecks on day 1, day 60, or day 1000. Whether in customer acquisition, the revenue growth spectrum, or elsewhere, know that you’ll need to find the bottleneck and apply enough pressure and attention to alleviate it and move it elsewhere.

For Colin, the solution was to go on a listening tour and observe what was happening in the team. For a team of dozen people, mostly concentrated on product and engineering, they all had their hands full with customer calls. So the playbook for Colin during that time was tuned to one goal: hire and scale a sales team that could listen to those customers and put together a value proposition with a complimentary tone that customers were reacting to.

Prioritize demand discovery

Demand is a strong indicator of product market fit. There are two types of it: realized demand and unrealized demand. CROs should focus on capturing that unrealized demand which is not a sales-led effort. It’s an organizational effort of adjusting roadmaps, product direction and marketing approach alike.

Some of the initial demand can be misunderstood. The direction of a product and company changes dramatically as the product evolves in response to customer feedback. Use those interactions to clarify your messaging for capturing relevant demand moving onward. For example, Wiz is now transitioning from a hybrid of direct and channel model to a 100% channel model. Customers made that decision for them because that’s how their customers want to buy.

“As you seek demand, ask what you can learn from the first 10 customers to go to a 1000.”

Also, when you hire a senior sales leader, there should be the expectation that the leader has the ability to source, recruit and hire people with a low risk of failure and a high probability of success. Continue to focus on leveraging your personal networks and networks of top performers in the organization to build an incredible team of all stars that can help you tap into all the demand available.

Put the customer first, always.

Spending a ton of time customer-facing remains as much of a priority on day one as on day 1000. To break that down into actionable steps:

  • Earn credibility. Build a network of potential customers through consistent and reliable actions over time.
  • Define a set of core values. Customers should know the values you stand for and trust that you will never deviate from them. 
  • Understand your customer’s concerns. Know what your customers are going through, how their world is changing, and therefore as a byproduct, what your business needs to change. 
  • Focus on solving customer problems. Rather than setting out to achieve ambitious revenue targets, build a world-class product that solves people’s biggest problems in a particular industry. 
  • Build a currency of trust. Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to build trust. You need to build trust to have a chance at success. 

Be obsessed about growth

Every once in a while, sit your team down, throw existing processes out of the window, and ask them how the company could do things differently. “We continuously push ourselves and our teams to do that exercise because it’s healthy,” he adds. “It allows us to gut check what worked in the past while focusing on what will work in the future.” 

While many go-to-market leaders are focused on revenue milestones or targets, Colin believes that shareholder value should always be the top priority. Pull different levers at different times throughout your journey to maximize value for those who are invested in your growth. Then push the limit as far as you can every single day.

“Excellence is unachievable because you’re always in pursuit of it.”

The hardest part of scaling your startup to the first 100 million is putting your boots on and going to work every day. But remember that every day is a good day for a great day, and the only person who can control that is YOU. Treat people the right way, work as hard as possible, help people where you can, and work towards a life of significance over success. 

Key Takeaways

Recruit great leaders: Seek individuals with diverse perspectives and skill sets who can respectfully challenge the status quo. A great leader exhibits passion, domain expertise, and a proven track record.

Build a solid foundation: As you scale rapidly, focus on establishing a strong foundation that can withstand growth and stand the test of time. Your employees make this foundation with you and they are the brand.

Rethink your playbooks: Rather than relying on strategies from previous experiences, adapt and customize your approaches to suit your organization’s unique needs.

Stay attuned to demand: Demand is a crucial indicator of product-market fit. Continuously refine your product roadmap, features, product direction, and marketing strategy based on customer feedback to meet the evolving demand.

Invest in customer-facing efforts: Commit time to engage with customers, and empathize with their concerns and changing needs. Focus on building credibility, establishing core values, resolving customer issues, and cultivating trust in each interaction. 

Foster a growth mindset: Continuously strive for excellence and challenge existing processes. Shareholder value should be a top priority, so pull different levers at different times to maximize value. 

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