CRO Spotlight

Humanizing Your Revenue Strategy, With Steve Travaglini

May 17, 2022

CRO Spotlight

A B2B podcast for current and aspiring CROs, CEOs and other leaders. In each episode revenue experts Warren Zenna and Lupe Feld are joined by a guest as they set out to explore every last area of a business that you can leverage to generate revenue and drive meaningful change. Warren and Lupe speak your language - join their revenue crew.

The positive impact of valued employees extends far beyond lower turnover.

In this episode of the CRO Spotlight, Warren and Lupe are joined by Steve Travaglini, CRO at LinkSquares. In this episode they dive the task of operationalising revenue, the beauty of the career journey, and why keeping your people in the forefront of your mind with every strategy decision is a major key to success.


Connect with Steve, Warren and Lupe on LinkedIn.  

Help your sales team succeed by helping them become the best professional salespeople they can be. Find out more about the Create Pipeline course from Sales IQ here.

Warren Zenna
Co-Host @ CRO Spotlight Podcast + CEO @ CRO Collective
Lupe Feld
Co-Host, CRO Spotlight Podcast
Steve Travaglini
Chief Revenue Officer @ LinkSquare

[00:00:00] Warren Zenna: Hi and welcome to the CRO Spotlight podcast. I'm Warren Zenna from the CRO collective and I'm here with my co-host Lupe Feld. Hey Lupe.

[00:00:15] Lupe Feld: Hey Warren. This is Lupe Feld, and I'm glad to be here with you.

[00:00:19] Warren Zenna: So this podcast is really for aspiring CROs and CEOs and current CROs whom are interested in learning from not only us, but the great guests that we're going to have.

[00:00:28] Lupe Feld: We're here to tell you that there is other areas of the business that can drive revenue and we're going to look and inspect and come up with some great ideas for us to bring in as much revenue as we can, and drive some meaningful change for the business.

[00:00:41] Warren Zenna: So tune in, we have some exciting opportunities coming up for a really amazing conversations and any B2B leaders I think you're really going to enjoy it. So thanks for tuning in and we look forward to seeing you.

Okay, and welcome to the CRO Spotlight podcast. Hi Lupe.

[00:01:04] Lupe Feld: Hi Warren. Great to see you.

[00:01:06] Warren Zenna: You too. How are you doing?

[00:01:07] Lupe Feld: I'm doing great. I'm really excited. It's it's, it's getting to be really fun to speak to all of these CRO experts. So I can't wait to learn and, and uncover some great tips in. Experience from our guests today.

[00:01:20] Warren Zenna: Got me too. So without further ado, I want to introduce our guests today. Steve Travaglini. Steve is the Chief Revenue Officer at LinkSquares, which is a contract management, SAAS startup in Boston. Steve joined the company at 10 employees in 2018 since. Has driven the go-to market strategy to grow the company to 250 employees and over 160 million in funding.

And he lives north of Boston with his wife Julia, daughter Gemma, dog Obie, and is expecting his first son in two weeks. So welcome, Steve. It's really great to have you thanks so much for being on the show.

[00:01:50] Steve Travaglini: Thank you, Warren I'm excited to be here. This is great.

[00:01:53] Warren Zenna: Yeah. Good. So, you know, I was telling Lupe, the reason why I wanted to be on was, you know, just a little basis, Steve and I spoke.

You know, as you know, I'm just reaching out to a lot of CROs and Steve was nice enough to get back to me. And in the conversation, Steve, I was struck by the depth of your operational expertise. You really got into the weeds with a lot of the ways that you go to market and all the different aspects of the functional components and, you know, Lupe.

And I, and she knows we've been talking a lot to leaders whom, and the focus is a lot on leadership, which is clearly critically important not to say that. Part of your, your, your wheelhouse as well, but we don't really get in the weeds a lot Lupe, you know, with operationalizing the role, it's a complicated role.

And I thought this would be a great episode to get into that.

[00:02:38] Lupe Feld: Absolutely. You know, the, the leadership component and the strategic component, you know those two are table stakes. It's how you execute what you have developed or strategized that. You know, the, make it or break it type of situation. So I'm really excited to hear what you have to say.

[00:02:57] Warren Zenna: Yes. So Steve, you don't mind. I'd love to just give you some background on your career, because I think for a lot of our listeners, they're really also fascinated to know how does somebody become a Chief Revenue Officer, what's their journey to becoming in the role.

And then you know, a little bit of an aspect of how you approach the role and like how you ended up from wherever you started into the position that you currently have.

[00:03:18] Steve Travaglini: Yeah, absolutely happy to talk through it. So, so I agree. I totally agree with Lupe. I think it is table stakes, right?

Leadership and the operational components, the strategy the fall for the execution. Ultimately I think the job of a CRO in many ways is similar to the job of an account executive or a BDR. Right. Your job is to drive predictable outcomes for a business at an individual level but at a team level.

So a bit about my background, I started off in staffing, started off as a recruiter and I was calling, you know, night shift machinists for temporary jobs you know, making $20 an hour or something like that. And it was incredibly difficult. Those were my BDR days, for sure. Yeah.

I still think that staffing and human resources is probably one of the harder sells I've ever done. It's the only product where you could find a buyer that wants to buy what you have, AKA human being for a job. And that product is. That's challenging. But I then transitioned into the account side of the staffing world, finding the hiring managers and the businesses that needed to fill the roles more of your classic account executive type of position.

I was fortunate enough to take on an entrepreneurial seat for a business that I was working for doing regional expansion and get to put a business plan together. Go after a brand new territory, build it up to a point where I could hire folks on my team do the whole brick and mortar thing.

It was, it was really fulfilling. And then I was looking for what was next. And that's where I started to look at different industries. There's some soul searching whether or not I wanted to work in ad sales for like the new England Patriots or something like that, something in line with a personal hobby or interest, or if I wanted to do more of the things that I really love to do.

The business world, which was, you know more of entrepreneurial ventures. So I got into tech obviously fast-growing industry and the rest has been history from there.

[00:05:06] Warren Zenna: Tell me about the actual Chief Revenue Officer role and how that came up. What was the pathway from wherever you were at to get this opportunity to become a CRO, which is, you know, it's a relatively, it's a relatively new position, right.

I mean, CRO has been around for maybe 10 years. What was that like? How did that happen and how did you approach it?

[00:05:26] Steve Travaglini: Yeah, so. I went from account executive to CRO in eight years. So I don't know the world where, you know, CROs weren't necessarily present. I'm still green. But the story that I have is, is one that I was looking for.

I was looking for folks that have moved up quickly in their careers, got ahead fast you know, folks that were able to take on challenges long before. Ready. And as I was picking the leadership that I wanted to work with that was kind of a criteria. I wanted to work with somebody who had seen the growth that I was looking to see in the type of timeframe that I was looking to see it in.

And I think that's really important when you're selecting. Any type of a position in your career, how's it going to fit into the overall design of where you want to go and are the people that you're going to be spending time with on a day-to-day basis, able to teach you the things that you're hoping to learn?

Right. So when I was making that change from staffing to tech I was looking for that leadership and that opportunity ultimately that's what I found. And I was able to you know, do the account executive role, do it well, then learn the team lead and the sales management roles and then get into a director position, eventually VP of sales A few different companies along the way to where, you know, I landed in a VP of sales role that became a CRO a role, and it became that through, you know, my ability to deliver and Drive those predictable outcomes I had mentioned earlier.

So it wasn't necessarily something I was searching for. I wasn't looking for that as a title. But I was looking to continue to grow with the companies that I was serving.

[00:06:55] Lupe Feld: That sounds really interesting. And I think, you know, what I'm hearing underneath, what you just said is. The growth was kind of your objective and to reach that you took a lot of risks.

I mean, obviously changing industries is always fun. I think, you know, Warren, we've done that quite a few times and, but it's also important and I think you hit on something that's really key is as you move to find people that have done what you want to do, And kind of, you know, ha you know link up with that type of a leader that can deliver some growth from some learning.

So that's really interesting.

[00:07:34] Steve Travaglini: Yeah, absolutely. I wish I could say in hindsight that it was all part of a master plan but there's a ton of luck involved, right? I think that that's an important thing to call out. It's hard to pick. The exact right business. It's hard to pick the exact right leader.

But if you keep in mind what your ultimate vision is and you're loose on the path that will get you there and you stay you know, in some way in your mind, flexible in the approach. I think that. That's kind of a winning formula that, you know, even if you have a couple bad beats or if you're not where you want to be right now today if you have that vision still in your mind, like there's always an opportunity that you're going to find.

[00:08:10] Warren Zenna: I agree. It's really organic. I mean, I certainly could probably weave together a tale that makes it look like I had this plan and everything was all looking how it all fit together, but that's just not true. And I agree. It's kind of knowing the kind of things you want to do listening to your. Good people that's so key.

I mean, I, clearly, I think anyone that was at all at our point in our careers could look back and say, people were probably the key to most of our successes, right? The people that we met, the people we work with, the people who mentored us or hired us, or supported us with the teams that we work with. So to that end, you I'd like to hear a little bit more, Steve, your perspective on, what do you think the difference is between a VP of sales and a CRO?

[00:08:50] Steve Travaglini: It's a great question. I think it's a balance. Of business objectives it's, it's, it's broader than, than the VP of sales role. And I think I, for very good reason I think as a CRO, you need to understand The implications of all decisions, right? So doing something that's great for the new business teams might have a downside for you know, the customer success post-sale teams and.

I think the fact that you're actually tied at a compensation level to the success of the full business, the health of the revenue, the health of the customer base and their outcomes allows you to be someone that can offer a more of an, an unbiased in balanced perspective. In really difficult situations where if you were just wearing the new business hat or if you were just wearing the customer success hat, for example you might have a stronger opinion tied to those specific metrics that you're responsible for.

So I think it's broader responsibility, broader strategy but it's a broader balance for a business.

[00:09:55] Warren Zenna: It's interesting. You said something. I didn't think about that idea of being unbiased because you know, when you run one of these silos, Naturally, you're going to be biased against their success because that's your baby.

So to speak, right? That's the world you live in and you're going to protect your team and your turf. And maybe even your outcomes were in the role of a CRO. You have to remove that bias. Even if you come out of sales, you sort of have to put your sales like loyalty aside. And put into account the ways that sales impacts other things.

How do you do that? Like, what are some more functional ways that you organize a revenue operation to accommodate those types of aligned alignments?

[00:10:31] Steve Travaglini: Yes. So, so personally I try to remember why I'm here. I'm here to serve. Of the business, they brought me in at 10 employees to help drive as much enterprise value as it could possibly create in any given time horizon, along the path, there have been several right leading up to the series, a, the series B the series C that we just completed and whatever comes next.

And we have, you know, big goals in order to do that, you need to drive certain metrics. Right. Growth is one of them. Net retention is another and I like to look at it through that lens. You know, we're playing a game together where everyone's trying to do the right things to win. But we have to make sure that winning meets the definition of our investors and of the market, not just of any given department.

Right. So. There are certain areas where we're we've done incredibly well in the past. And, and at times you have to pull back a little bit to make sure that the other metric can catch up and balance things out because you want to have a really healthy revenue picture that you can show the world.

And that really is the report card of a CRO show me. What is your GPA across all of these different key areas of the business. And if you're failing in, in any one given area you know, over a period of time to me that shows Unbalanced or that you're not able to you know, lock arms with the other department heads across the business and drive strategy.

That's going to be necessary in order to get those metrics to where you want them to be.

[00:11:55] Warren Zenna: So I love that GPA idea. I never thought about that. Yeah, you're looking at how'd you do in math? How'd you do in English? How did you in science, you know, and the idea is to try and get an a in every subject, you know, as opposed to, you know, I'm a math whiz, you know, and that's an interesting perspective too.

I like it. So, you know, I was thinking more cause when you and I spoke, you had walked me through a bit, you know, moving a company from 10 employees to two 50, that's a, that's a big, that's a big deal that, that you're going through four stages of complexity. If I may be so bold as to say. You know, you're going through a lot of areas where the business goes through, you know, even like, you know, I, I don't want to sound like kind of weird, but it's like prepubescent then post.

And then, you know, you know, young adults, you know, and, and it's, it's, there's a lot of differences in the way those organizations operate. How do you navigate that? And if you don't mind, I'd love to hear more specifics about the ways that you built the organization from your perspective to make it work that way.

What are the kinds of ways that you helped. Operationalized growth and complexity to ensure that that, that report card was always being a hit.

[00:12:57] Steve Travaglini: It's a great question. It's complex. It starts, it starts you know, as a CRO, making sure that you're picking the right that you have found her fit.

That's something that's a very popular amongst the VC community. When evaluating a company, they look for founder market fit, right? Is this the right founder to lead this new business in this industry? And I think it's not there's an, a high and a value placed on picking the right founders as a revenue.

There should be. Right. So that's step one. In the early days our CEO for shawl and co-founder Chris Combs did a wonderful job, assembling a team that fit well for them, that fit well together. Right. And I've tried to, to re-enact or follow their, their lead by doing the same thing with my teams, for the stage of the company that.

As we were a series a company, it was a broad group of people that figured out what it meant to be successful at that stage. And a big part of my responsibility as my peers who are running different departments, their responsibility was to find the right people that would help us understand how to go execute on our opportunity at the series.

A's. And then as we evolve the business, a lot of those same people then grow with you to the next stage. Right. And they continue to, to understand what needs to happen next and they can grow and develop to be the leaders in some cases that you need for that stage. And in other cases, you need to find individuals who have seen that before, who have done that before.

And I think that there's been a really nice balance at our business where we've been able to. Help folks grow they've helped us grow and they're still the right people for, for these challenges because they continue to push the envelope, continue to push themselves, continue to keep thinking differently at each stage, but we've for every person that we've promoted internally, we've also been able to hire some phenomenal people from the outside to help us understand the challenges that we might.

Be seen yet because we haven't necessarily seen them before. So I think the mindset that I take to the table is the mindset that our team took to the table to put a great team in place and understand that you're going to need a whole lot of people that know what's right. More than you need to know.

What's right. In order to be successful.

[00:15:15] Lupe Feld: That's great. That's, you know, as I, as I think. The stages of the company and the growth of a company. You're absolutely right. There are so many variables that change over time. The priorities change over time. You know, when you're series a, you're thinking about growth.

And when you get to that next level, you're thinking about, you know, growth and meaningful retention. And there's other components that come into play and the same people that got. The growth may not be the same folks that get you to that next stage or the following stage, or can't even predict what the following challenges are going to be.

So I think that's great insight to find the right team, to support the stage of the company. I think that's

[00:16:01] Steve Travaglini: Right. But one thing that I'll add is that there are a lot of people that write about how it's the, you know, the team that got you here, won't get you there. And I was to be very particular.

There are. Who can go there with you. It doesn't mean that you're not going to need more to help them, and you get to that next level. But the team that you had oftentimes are the ones that have so much valuable you know, tribal knowledge and insights and learnings that the partnership. With some of the outsiders that come in is really the magic, right?

Because you can't bring somebody in that might not have that perspective and get them up to speed as quickly as you can. If you partner them with somebody, who's just seen all of it. Right. So I think, I think it's always so important to acknowledge the people that helped you get here and really give them the opportunity.

To succeed at the next level, which means that you need to acquire at times skillsets from the outside to help the people that you care most about succeed and continue to succeed with the business.

[00:16:57] Lupe Feld: So how do you grow and develop the original team? How do you keep kind of this skill sharp? And, and I mean, obviously I think it might start with kind of their personality and their, you kind of DNA makeup that they, they want to grow and learn, but how do you support that growth?

I mean, obviously bringing in people I think helps, but how do you make sure that, you know, you don't leave anybody behind?

[00:17:23] Steve Travaglini: I think it's to be as inclusive as you absolutely can be in the planning process so that everybody understands the data and the inputs that are leading to. Projected outputs that you were selling the board and the investors on, right.

When people feel like they're, you know, totally on the same page as to why the different goals matter, whether it's retention of employees, ramp time of employees things, things of that nature. Everybody is a much more excited. To go after the problems that we need to solve at the stage that we're at versus continuing to just do more and more of what we've done before.

Right. When you can show somebody in a model and explain to them that the model is the data-driven explanation of our strategy. Why. Decreasing ramp time from six to five months has an incredible impact who would become incredibly self-motivated to then go find the answers that that need to be, need to be uncovered to drive those results.

So I think it's, it's really all about trust and bringing people into the picture, trusting that when you explain to them why things need to happen they'll be able to. Do what they do and what they've done, which has come up with answers to problems sometimes different problems. But, but I think that when I learned most in my career, it's when people, aren't giving me a map saying, this is exactly what you have to do to get to where you want to be, but more or less you know, give me a problem and let me figure out how to.

And I think that that's been the approach that we've taken has given people ownership and that's given them an accelerated learning curve and that that's why people sign up for these fast growth venture backed businesses that need to double and triple and things like that year over year.

They, they want those opportunities. And I think that you need. Trust them enough to give it to them.

[00:19:09] Warren Zenna: And it's great. So it's about very much a people first approach you're taking. And I agree. I mean, obviously without the right people in place, it doesn't really matter. All the strategy in the world is not going to get done.

And I think that's where the leadership part comes in. But I'm curious too, as to the kind of structures and systems you set up, so. If as you integrate marketing and you integrate sales, you integrate customer success into one cohesive organization. Like you said before, what are some of the ways that you've figured out how to do that?

What was your approach to making sure these functions work together seamlessly? Is it technological? Is it operational? Is it processes it all of the above? I'd love to hear more of your thinking on how you look. Managing all those different functions together and making sure that there is that unbiased aligned version of, you know, functions within the revenue operations.

[00:19:54] Steve Travaglini: Yeah. So, so, so for, for me my world is CRO is the flavor where I'm an ownership. Of sales and customer success. And I partner with our CMO and I think that that's phenomenal works incredibly well. They're incredibly complex functions. Our relationship as CMO to CRO is also one of trust, right?

It's one of respect. It's, it's one where we know that the other person is working incredibly hard and we try our best to drive alignment amongst our organizations. But, but most importantly you know, the CMO CFO, CTO, all of these different people they're on my team, right? As a cross-functional leadership team of executives, we are one team, right.

And we try and drive the same type of philosophy and beliefs to all of our leaders. You are one team with the other leaders at your level, across the business. Together we push that. We pushed that down through our works and we try and incentivize folks working in directly in solving problems directly with their peers and the different functions across the business.

And we're setting goals and we're setting top line objectives, but we're trusting our people to work cross-functionally to solve those problems. And then when things get bubbled up where we need to, to address disagreements or, or differences of opinion on how to execute. I think that we have that trust as a team to be like, okay, this is what we're hearing.

So let's make some decisions and then help drive it back down. But when it comes to sales and customer success, for me, it's about driving again, alignment of leadership. Have phenomenal customer success, leadership, phenomenal sales, leadership, and revenue, operations, leadership. All of them are just one team.

It's not individual silos with individual metrics and individual goals, and we try and drive alignment there and every humanly way possible from the meeting cadence to, you know, quarterly projects that are non revenue related over to comp plans to make sure that. People are empowered to make the right decisions that are going to help the business without having to think about you know, how it's going to impact cash for them per se.

So, so, so there's a lot of things that we do there to, to successfully to have folks bring the right solutions up as a team, without us having to get involved

[00:22:08] Lupe Feld: So does that necessarily. Play into like how you reward and compensate people. So is it more of a scorecard as how you did in these kind of three areas or four areas?

I'd like you to kind of dig into that? Because I think that, I think you might be hitting on something that's often missed, you know, in order to collaborate, you have to be able to be measured and in a way that makes sense.

[00:22:37] Steve Travaglini: Yeah. So, so, so I'll give you one example I'm responsible ultimately for net retention, I'm also responsible for ARR net new revenue growth new, new logo growth, new customer growth is probably a better way of putting it when you have sales leadership that is in charge of.

New business growth as their exclusive way of being compensated. And you have customer success in our world. They handle all upsell expansion cross sell, all that good stuff. Our new business teams do not grow accounts after the. We find this drives a much higher focus on quality and in both areas, high performance in both areas.

But when you do that, th the typical downside is that you'll have new business teams that will try and cannibalize upsell, and you'll have a customer success. Kind of grinding against that as they're trying to hit their upsell and net retention goals. So what, what we've done is within the first year of a new business deal it doesn't matter where the upsell lands on the post-sale side, we'll still compensate new business sales folks equally on the front end.

Okay, so, so what this does it actually incentivizes our sales team to get the right deal done for the customer, which is oftentimes the lower barrier. And they're just as excited to kick it over to customer success, to help them hit their goals and grow the account. Over time works out for customer success, works out for sales.

Definitely You know, an example where, where at a comp plan level, where, you know actually putting our money where our mouth is, and this allows them to bring stuff forward. You know, it's not common if you don't have something like that in place that a sales manager will raise their hand and say, Hey, I have an account where I think we're going to be able to get a lot of, well, we should just get it done at this so that we can grow and help the customer success team hit their quarterly goal if possible.

Right. They're coming up with those solutions versus leadership higher up above being like, Hey, you know, that'd be good to put into our net retention bucket for this quarter. They're coming up with those ideas themselves.

[00:24:37] Lupe Feld: You know, I, I love, I love that because I think that tends to be a huge gap that I've seen in.

And I've spent a lot of time in tech and it's, you know, the, you know, the acquisition team, you know, takes the approach of love them and leave them. And you know, the retention team sometimes doesn't even get a proper transition, you know, into the customer relationship and they're expected to achieve certain goals without really having had the benefit of that trust and relationship being built was the dual compensation.

A tough sell internally, or how did, how did you get that done? Because I think every team out there would love to be in a compensation plan of that nature, where everybody wins and it's truly, you know, kind of the representation of the customer journey and, and making sure you're focusing on. The right things at the right times.

[00:25:36] Steve Travaglini: Yeah. So, so a great question. So close relationship with our CFO, right. And what we're trying to do is, is, you know, get straight. So at a number one level going back to the report card you know, net retention is one of the most important metrics for any SAAS B2B company to optimize for.

It's one of the most significant and driving valuations and it's one that we do well today, but one that we can certainly improve on as many companies at our stage, naturally start to ratchet up net retention as they become a bit more. So you can't just have the, you know, open-ended pay everybody, everything across both organizations.

You have to partner with finance, you have to go through the modeling exercises and what we found as we went through it, the appropriate blend of benefit and you know, risk was to set some caps. So for any new business deal, that was, you know, under $50,000 and starting, you know, ARR for example that deal would have up to the equal amount of upsell in the first year for any deal that was over a hundred K they would have a max of an additional, a hundred K and upsell credit towards the new business team.

Right. So, so, so looking at historicals and how things had grown in the past, if we figured we'd get a certain percentage in uptick and we applied. General parameters to limit potential exposure. We saw, you know, a world where we could have a great impact on net retention while also paying people well, without, you know, all of a sudden having a, you know, an, a go to a C plus in a different area of the report card, right.

We don't want to have, you know, CAC payback get all out of whack at the expense of net retention, for example. So it was finding that balance with our CFO. Kind of made it all make sense. And you have to do that work, right. That's, that's a part of, I think a CRO is responsibility is to, just to dig in with the CFO and make it make sense on paper so that you can make it simple and make it make sense for your teams.

[00:27:36] Lupe Feld: No, absolutely. I think that's exciting and that's great. You know, it's also very timely. And very industry conscious, you know, as you think about, you know, the great resignation and the great reshuffle and everything that we're experiencing now, you know, when your people are challenged and well-paid. And they work in a collaborative environment.

I mean, you've ticked a lot of the boxes that are important for

[00:28:00] Warren Zenna: No doubt. There's so much conversation right now, Steve, I'm having with customers about changing compensation plans and incentives. I, these old models are just broken and. I don't hear enough people iterating like you are talking right now.

It's trying to figure this stuff out creatively. They sort of put together old models. They throw them into the system and then they measure people against it and they let a lot of other things fall to the wayside. And then they later on. I have to go backward and fix things because those incentive plans created issues and problems and breakdowns that they just weren't really willing to do the work to figure this stuff out.

So it's really great to hear. It's almost like while you're telling the story, if I may, it's almost like you putting together a little white paper on, you know, how to rethink compensation plans, because what you're saying. Is valuable to a lot of people whom I think frankly are just going kind of you know, historical, you know, like, no, one's going to argue with the old compensation model.

And, you know, I've seen a lot of people get put into the, into the. And I was guilty of this. I'll be, I'll be honest with you even early on, I would go to a friend and say, give me a comp plan that you want to put together for your team and show me how you put it together. I might modify it a little bit, but I sorta would do something that looked like what I think, you know, an investor team would be uncomfortable with, right.

As opposed to what's best for the business. And, you know, I learned along the way, but I think it's a, it's a really valuable insight you're giving here. And it's and it's, it's very timely.

[00:29:35] Steve Travaglini: Yeah, totally. I hear a lot about the great resignation and I've read up on the great resignation and detail and who it's impacting and what populations are most effected industries, things like that.

There's so much to be learned about it. And like any, you know, great crisis for many businesses. They're going to be folks that look at it as a big opportunity. And folks that will look at it as a big emergency. I think, you know, it's a blend of both especially when your ability to hit your revenue targets and, and, you know, the outcomes that you're responsible for are tied to people first and foremost, every single plan that we've ever built at Lincoln square squares comes down to people actually executing on it.

Right. Hitting your hiring plan is so incredibly important. And a lot of people today are talking about their inability to find people, to hire people and all of that. And I can empathize cause it's, it's not easy out there.

[00:30:21] Warren Zenna: What's your, what's your job. You solved it.

[00:30:23] Steve Travaglini: Yeah. I think you could start with your internal.

I think, I think, you know, just like a net retention equation and why it's so important at a revenue level, you've got to look at your net retention at a human being level inside of your business. Right. You know, who's happy, who's not, who's motivated. Who's, who's, who's hitting their goals. Who, who isn't.

And one of the benefits that I have of being you know, a relative. New and less tenured CRO in the game. Having been an account executive you know, all the way to CRO in a short period of time is that it's very much a reality for me, what my teams are facing and their day-to-day jobs.

Not just how difficult it is to sell, not not just that, but how difficult it is to like buy a home for the first time. And things of that nature. What it's like to have a, have a comp plan that just doesn't make sense, or it doesn't reward you for really going above and beyond, or where competing internal priorities.

Hard for you to make the right decisions for the business. We're trying to have your equity hat on. So I try and keep all of these things in mind. I think that most of my decisions I put through a framework of would this have motivated me when I was an eight E how about when I was a manager?

How about when I was a director? How about when I was a VP? Would this have made it easy for me to partner with customer success or would we have been butting heads? Right. How would I have felt about. So there's all different types of things that we're doing that are pretty innovative. And I think the thing that you need to look at as a CRO, I mean, it's your responsibility to take what should be ideal state and figure out how to make it be operationally realistic for the business.

So, so for me, I want to have. Every single quarter being incredibly motivated to come in, hit their goals, work super hard, do this job that is so challenging because they know that at the end of the day, like they might be able to go from $0 in their savings account to having a $75,000 commission payout.

And that's what we. Right. So, so how can you do that? Like how can you possibly pay somebody that much? Well, you know, that's the ideal stage, then you work it backwards. What we've done is we've set up a tiered commission structure. So when your first 25% of quota, you get paid a certain amount, smaller percentage on your next 25 to get a higher percentage when your next 25% of achievement got even higher percentage.

And then by the time you get to a hundred percent of quota, you're at full OTE pat for the quarter. Then, what we do is pay people 26% on every single dollar that they hit above quota. So for folks that are underperforming you know, they're incredibly motivated by the people that are overachieving and we make the numbers work by paying the people that are over achieving with the people that are underachieving.

And we create this a cycle of motivation and inspiration because everybody that we hired. Right. And, and, and the management team is incredibly motivated to get everybody there. So anyways again, right, like you've created this best in class comp plan, but how well you had to get creative and you had to do the work and had a partner with finance and you had to come up with some out of the box ideas and say, well, what if we did it this way?

Right. And, and, and I think that that's a responsibility that everybody has just to kind of push things forward. That way.

[00:33:33] Lupe Feld: It sounds. Easier than it probably was, or you're making it sound easier than it probably was because in my experience, you know, CFOs play with one color, they don't use the full box of crayons and, and, and that's sometimes is it's a challenge so that, you know, speaks highly to your sales ability.

At a very senior level that is compelling enough because you're talking about the good of the business and the value proposition of the comp plan of the benefits. So kudos to you. And I agree with Warren, you could definitely, you know, do good for the world by writing a white paper as to the process and breaking that into steps.

This is a problem. And it's a systemic problem that every business at every stage faces, it's the, you know, the, I think it's difficult for a lot of businesses even to establish businesses, to really make peace with the fact that some of your top performers are going to make more than some of the senior executives.

And I think when you're okay with that as a senior executive. Then your business will be successful when you resent that as a senior executive and you put obstacles and in place to prevent that, then you're going to see your sales team shuffle and move and go different places. And quite frankly, leave money at the table because you know what, it's not worth sticking around another month to get that quarter payout.

And so I think, I think you're onto something here and I, and I'm really excited that.

[00:35:13] Steve Travaglini: I want my team to be able to leave whenever they want. Right. So having an annualized accelerator to try and keep people who are unhappy in the seat until December is a horrible business strategy in Greece, it's a horrible strategy.

So we just do it every single quarter. Right. And it resets every single quarter. So you have to keep showing up every single quarter and working hard every single quarter. And we'll keep giving you the opportunity every single quarter to go and have these amazing outcomes. Right?

[00:35:39] Warren Zenna: Yeah. It's funny. I had this one client say to me, he was a senior executive and he said, I have this one theater level sales person.

Who's making more money than me. He's making too much money. And I said, the question is, is he earning that money? And he was like, yeah, he is. I was like, so what's the problem. The problem sounds like a Jew. Yeah. I mean, it's not like, you know, finding dollars lying around it, he's earning it. So this is really great.

I believe this is a very timely topic. I want to kind of focus in on one other thing before we sign off. And that is, you mentioned you have a CMO. Yeah. And I'm really fascinated to hear the relationship between marketing and sales and your organization, because, you know, this is another complex issue that's happening now, you know, the whole, how does marketing contribute to sales?

How has that measure, you know, the death of the MQL and all that other stuff that I'm hearing and, you know, moving more towards a demand gen based marketing approach, as opposed to a lead gen based marketing approach. And I'm curious how you balance. That metric between the outcomes that each one of those organizations produces and what systems you set in place for measurement and metrics for success?

[00:36:50] Steve Travaglini: Yeah, it's a great question. So I think it kind of actually relates back to the executive who has a problem with someone making more money than them. Okay. I think, I think that there's a. There's a population of people that need all the power they need, they need all the control. And then there's a population of people that realize it's probably actually better when you don't have it all.

And you have a more partnership and you have someone with, with a full tank of gas, their own operational resources that they can deploy on a day-to-day basis. And what I have. In our CMO is a partner in, in more ways than one. And together we're able, we're able to cover more ground than either would.

And she would be, you know, fully capable of of doing you know, what I'm doing. And I'd like to think I would have some capability of, of helping to, to, to lead that organization. But like, I don't have that interest to. It's not my interest. I don't see it as a necessity for us to be successful. I don't think that you need to own everything in order to drive a unified strategy.

I think, I think you'll actually get a better diversity of ideas and differing of opinions. And you know, sometimes I debate with myself in my own mind about what's the right decision, but I would rather debate with her because she was a salesperson at one point. She was at HubSpot in the early days and sales.

She grew through their product marketing teams. She has an MBA from Sloan and MIT. She's brilliant. We're incredibly complimentary. Right. So, so what do we do we think about the same things we think about the report card. We think about the growth rates that we're trying to influence. Think about net retention.

She thinks about the big picture. She's just thinking about new business and MQL that's that's that's small ball, right? We're thinking about how do we build an amazing brand? How do we actually make our customers who are already with us happy? Help them understand what's going on with the product and how do we take like an industry leading stance on different things.

How do we differentiate ourselves? And of course she has the metrics to a T of course she has all of all of that going on and she's doing a phenomenal job with an emphasis on. On product marketing and creating content that our actual buyers want to consume related to our product, but also not to build you know, strengthen the mind of our, of our customer base.

She has an incredible video team, like very, very forward-leaning like we have Superbowl commercial grade videos at LinkSquares that just. The entire image of the company and everybody's eyes. So, so I think for us, it's more about thinking about building a world-class brand and not making it so much about.

ROI ROI, everything all the time. Although we do have the metrics to address those conversational, you know pieces for anyone that's interested. But that's just not where our focus is.

[00:39:45] Lupe Feld: It sounds like without saying it you're CMO partners. Checks their ego at the door. And you do that as well.

Cause I think that sometimes is difficult when you're in a particular lane and you're an expert in your field to be open to the fact that you know, that person could step into your role. You could step into their role and function in the role. And so I think that's, that's another key, little secret ingredient. And in your, in your success here?

[00:40:23] Steve Travaglini: Yeah. I had a mentor. I had a mentor tell me that you can have ego or money. You can have pride or success, but you can't have both. And, and, and one of my only mantras with my team with my direct reports is that I have no interest in being right. I only care about doing what works.

Right. And I think that I offensively believed that. In order to continue to grow with the company and all of these different stages that are very, very different. You have to have a a total clean slate on how you're going to solve problems. And it's other people that are typically going to have the ideas. Right. And, and then you have to make them a reality and all that type of stuff. So yeah, yeah, yeah.

There's one of the things that I wanted to talk about you know, before we get off the grid resignation piece, I know we're coming up on time and it's parental leave. Okay. I want every CRO to hear this and every aspiring CRO to hear this Y at these tech companies that have incredibly generous parental leave, by the way, sometimes just maternity leave, I think should be parental leave for, for everybody.

But why is it that when an engineer who's making $150,000 a year or $200,000 a year goes on parental leave for however long of a period of time that they make their full salary. But when a count executive or somebody inside of a revenue organization takes parental leave, they get 50% of their OTE.

How does that make any sense?

[00:41:46] Warren Zenna: I get it.

[00:41:47] Steve Travaglini: It's a problem.

[00:41:48] Warren Zenna: Why do you, I'm just curious. I mean, I think I know the answer and that I'm sure the companies probably valued their engineers so much. They'll give them whatever they want to keep them around, but I understand exactly your question. It points to an imbalance and the way you create a perception around the way you value everybody in the company.

[00:42:04] Steve Travaglini: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. So, so for me when I ask people that question sometimes someone said, well, because they're not closing deals when they're on leave. And my response to them is, are the engineer's shipping code. And, and, and this isn't about. This isn't about Salesforce versus engineering.

It's about your point, exactly warrants, but treating people with, you know, equally with respect inside of a business sales folks, revenue folks, customer success, folks, they shouldn't be treated as second class citizens to the folks that are contributing. You know, IP of the business, these are the folks that are bringing your customers and taking care of them.

I mean, in my eyes, those things are equally as important. So one thing that we did at LinkSquares was figure out how to pay people. Again, you have to go back to the models and make it work with finance, but you had to have a clean slate and everyone should be kind of thinking about this, in my opinion, how are you going to make sure that your people are made whole while they're out during the incredibly important time of their lives?

And then how are you going to make it? So they want to come back. Right. So it links squares we'll we'll do is we'll take your 12 month trailing quota attainment and we'll pay you up to 100% of OTE. So if you're a rockstar, that's making 150% OTE, you're at least going to be getting a hundred when you're on leave.

And when you come back, we have 14 weeks for however long you're taking on your lead. If you take the full 14 weeks, we're going to drop your quota to comp plan by 50%. So if you're at 50% of quota, as you rebuild your pipeline, we're going to pay you as if you're at a hundred. Upon your return.

Right? So that's one other thing that I'm proud of that we've done. That's a little bit outside the box as it relates to compensation. I think, I think it's really important and more people need to look into it.

[00:43:46] Warren Zenna: Okay. I agree. I think it, it, it's not just, and I understand the focus for you was on the parental leave, but it's a bigger picture about how do your policy.

Create perceptions of value across your organization. So that you're really thinking more about the way that you set forth new either comp plans or whatever policies and thinking about the implications of how they're perceived and that they're being met across every function, every person, because I agree I've been in so many companies where I see really strange decisions being made that seem to favor certain groups or certain functions differently, and it sends the worst message.

So that's, that's really great. You guys really seem to be very thoughtful. Organization. It's really, really cool to hear.

[00:44:28] Lupe Feld: I think often organizations forget that compensation plans are designed to pay humans. And when a human takes a leave, for whatever reason, they should be treated like another segment of the business.

And I've worked for organizations that do exactly what you do. The one missing component was the, the benefit when you return, because when you're in sales, you're leaving, whatever period of time you left, you, haven't been cold calling, filling your funnel and doing all of that work. So. Like hitting the ground running is going to be tough after taking time off.

And if you feel like you can't get there, that's going to have a spillover effect in motivation and in your engagement and other things. So and I've been for, you know, with organizations that didn't even consider that, you know, you took time, that's your problem. And quite frankly, those are the folks that are probably right now.

You know, during the great resignation, the big quit, the big reshuffle, whatever you want to call it are hurting the most because people have options and choices and looking at companies and understanding how you're going to get paid. I think that's another thing that. A lot of companies are not transparent on the compensation.

It's almost like you're asked to make this incredible decision about where to go. And then once you join, we'll show you how you're going to get paid. That's like the one, like, you know, you must be a member before you can see it. I think that's a huge mistake.

[00:46:05] Steve Travaglini: Put it all on LinkedIn. I want everyone to see it. There is no negotiation on salaries per title. Everybody gets paid the exact same amount at every single title. In the revenue org for the title of that, there at people that have larger titles, oftentimes always have larger goals and they scale. So, so anyways, I could go on and on and on, but I totally agree with you.

I think what people are looking for is transparency. They're there. They're looking to be treated with respect. And I wish I came up with a whole leave thing on my own. I actually learned from a failure. I was trying to recruit a local county executive, who I just think is phenomenally talented, wanted her on my team really bad.

And she told me about how she was thinking about getting into sales enablement, because. Of how backwards leave plans look, and she's trying to, you know, plan to build a family and to think that someone that talented would leave sales because we're not doing a good enough job to put these types of plans together.

It was like a whole heartbreaker. It's a fan of the craft. So that, that was inspiration. You know, this isn't something that I just came up with it was, what would you think the best plan would look like? Right. And well, okay, great. That's a good place to start. But anyways, I know we're getting long here.

[00:47:12] Warren Zenna: This is great, I want to ask you three questions before you leave. Yeah. So the three questions are, if you're speaking to a aspiring CRO. If you're speaking to a existing CRO and you're speaking to a CEO, who's going to hire a CRO. What are the top things you'd say to each one of those people, as they think about either pursuing the role, succeeding in the role or hiring for the role, it can be like succinct. What are the top most important things you'd want to say to those three people within that value chain?

[00:47:45] Steve Travaglini: The aspiring CROs I would say to align yourself. With a leader, who's done the things that you want to do. And if you can go earlier stage that you can get more face time with them and that will help accelerate your path.

I think that when I talked to account executives, there are two pockets in your career as it relates to the CRO journey and they can start at any time at any age. That's when you're learning how to do the job and then when it's your job to do it right. So know exactly where you're at. And if you're learning how to do the job, prioritize the proximity to the teaching would be my advice to the current CROs.

You know, think outside the box create the ideal state that you wanted when you were an account executive or you were a BDR coming up. Don't forget about that person. That person's why we succeed. And then to the CEOs hire for fifth hire for the person that can do your sale, right. If you're in a mid-market B2B SAAS sale, and you're going to do an inside sales model hire for that.

Don't hire the Salesforce or Oracle person you know, if you're doing that type of sale, hire that person absolutely go after them. But hire, hire appropriate to your style of sale. It's going to help you a lot. And then I would say absolutely hire for the personality that you think you'll be able to work with on a day-to-day basis.

And I think that that's a big thing that a lot of CEOs get wrong look at your revenue leader as truly a partner in the business. And if you don't think that the person you're hiring, you're gonna be able to look at it as a peer and as a partner, it's not gonna really work out.

So keep, keep searching until you find that person that you think is every bit as good of a partner, not, not necessarily a subordinate. And then, you know, that's the type of person that's going to go to Wharf. Because they're going to feel that trust and respect.

[00:49:30] Warren Zenna: Thank you. Those are great answers. So Steve, this is so great. There's so much little gems in here and we're looking forward to, you know, slicing this thing up and putting it into production, getting it out there. FLupe any follow up comment you want to make before we sign off and

[00:49:46] Lupe Feld: I enjoyed the conversation and learned a lot through the process and kudos to you. You're doing everything right. Like the manual to success. So

[00:49:54] Warren Zenna: Yeah, the CRO Manual, Steve, thank you. This was really awesome. We appreciate your time and hearing from your expertise. And I know the audience is going to get a lot of value what you had to say. So thank you again.

[00:50:05] Steve Travaglini: Thank you both. I really appreciate it.

This episode was digitally transcribed.

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