The Revenue Engine

Solving Seller's Problems with Chris Rothstein, CEO and Co-Founder of Groove

April 30, 2021

The Revenue Engine

Each week, Revenue Operations expert Rosalyn Santa Elena shines the spotlight on founders, CEOs, and Revenue Leaders from hyper-growth companies and dives deep into the strategies they implement to drive growth and share their learnings. Rosalyn brings you inspirational stories from revenue generators, innovators and disruptors, as well as Revenue Leaders in sales, marketing, and operations.

Grab your earphones and get ready to be inspired as Rosalyn delves into the fascinating story of Chris Rothstein, CEO, and Co-Founder of Groove.

Chris grew up in farmland Minnesota, then spent five years as one of the first people at Google Cloud in sales management. Working at Google with an amazing bunch of people and a significant technology budget but not finding sellers were hitting their maximum potential and getting what they needed, Chris identified something he was passionate about and started Groove.

With the desire to make the job more enjoyable, Chris explored using technology to find a better way of solving seller's problems and operate at peak performance and be in the zone. Now the leading full-cycle sales engagement platform for enterprises using Salesforce, Chris and the co-founders of Groove built a solution that helps companies drive revenue and provide more value for customers using the concept of flow.

Tune in as Chris shares his perspective on the evolution of sales engagement, his experience starting a business, and the importance of focusing on problems that matter to you, things you value, and your passion.

Where you can find us:

Chris Rothstein

Rosalyn Santa Elena

Thanks as usual to Sales IQ Global for powering The Revenue Engine!

Chris Rothstein

Rosalyn Santa Elena: Welcome to the revenue engine podcast. I'm your host, Rosalyn Santa Elena. And I am thrilled to bring you the most inspirational stories from revenue, generators, innovators, and disruptors revenue leaders in sales, in marketing. And of course in operations. Together, we will unpack everything that optimizes and powers that the revenue engine are. You ready? Let's get to it.

Have you heard that saying get into the groove? Well, that's kind of how the name groove came about for Chris Rothstein. If you're a seller, you probably want to be in the groove and running your revenue process effortlessly and seamlessly with a great rhythm and no wasted steps or missed beat.

Chris is the CEO and co-founder of groove, a full cycle sales engagement platform for enterprises. So what is sales engagement? How has it evolved and where is it going? And our discussion, Chris shares his perspective on this and much more, including some great advice about starting a business. If you're starting something, focus on problems that matter to you and things that you value and you're passionate about.

So take a listen to this sales manager, turned CEO and co-founder, and as always listen to the end where Chris share something that others would be surprised to know about him. And you'll all be searching the internet to find out more. Trust me excited to be here today with Chris Rothstein and the co-founder and CEO of groove. Groove is the leading sales engagement platform for enterprises using Salesforce.

Groove is built not only for early funnel prospecting, but for full cycle sellers by helping to automate. Non sales activities so that pre and post sales reps can spend more time building relationships in generating revenue. Welcome, Chris. Thank you so much for joining. Thank you very much for having me today.

Great. Let's start by talking a little bit about your journey prior to groove. You spent a little bit of time doing some various intern work related to system security and planning. And you also spent five years at Google in sales manager. So, can you share a little about your career journey? You know, maybe prior to groove, you know, maybe what your experience was like at Google and maybe how that experience helped shape your vision for group, if at all?

Chris Rothstein: Yeah, for sure. So I'll start a little earlier, which is, uh, you know, I grew up in Minnesota and literally farmland, my town had a 300 feet ball. Most people were in kind of farming. My dad actually owned a tractor dealership and so it was a very, very different. So I got, I got to detect a little later, um, but I had always loved building companies and helping companies and just, you know, selling and then in every part of how do you make a business successful and valuable that it provides services that are helpful for people.

So it started doing that really, really early. Um, and then after school, um, I'm going to Google, as you mentioned. And that was when I, uh, came out to California for the first time and I saw Google home and I said, okay, I'm going to go there. I got lucky and got in. And then I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in, in Google cloud or what is now called Google cloud, um, and built up a bunch of sales teams there.

And that that's really what shaped, um, you know, the vision for our group is that experience. Of seeing a sales team like Google, what they're doing, where the areas are, you know, where maybe someone could innovate and create technologies to help a team like that. And that really kind of started shaping what ended up becoming great.

Rosalyn Santa Elena: So when you, and your co-founders decided to start groove, like was there like an aha moment, you know, what was, what was sort of your initial goal or vision for the company?

Chris Rothstein: Yeah, there wasn't necessarily an aha moment. It was more than his ongoing feeling that. There must be a better way. And really it came down to, I had this amazing team, just really, really good people.

We at Google, um, you know, we had large enough budgets to buy technology so we could buy what we needed. Um, but at the same time, When I looked at what my team was doing, it really didn't feel like they were kind of hitting, you know, their maximum potential. And I, I felt, I just kept feeling there must be a better way.

And then we started building technologies internally to help our teams. And that's. You could start to see some progress. And I had thought, okay, this, someone needs to really focus on this. There's so many interesting problems. Um, how can we tackle those and provide real value to do two things. One is make a sales team more effective overall, which is great for companies because every company it needs to, you know, drive revenue so that they can invest in R and D and provide more value for consumers and customers.

Um, and the second is make the job. Um, enjoyable. Cause I saw so many things that were, um, kind of training people that could be eliminated. So that's why the group name, you know, when I, when it comes to the division that you mentioned, we really, our original vision was how do we remove all these blockers?

So a sales rep and an organization can operate at, at peak performance and we love the concept of flow. My co-founder, I. Um, the psychology concept where you're, you're in the zone and you know, it, time is flying by because you're enjoying it and you're, you're, you're operating in a level that's very effective.

Um, and we just went with an informal version of that. You're in the groove. Um, and that's, that's kind of been the process. Uh, and, and the focus of the company since the beginning, how can we remove all of these items even more so than necessarily enhancing? How can we remove all these blockers? So people can have more enjoyable day and revenue organizations can be more effective.

Rosalyn Santa Elena: Got it. So, I mean, there's a number of, you know, great solutions that market themselves as a sales engagement. Right. In fact, the category I think, continues to develop and mature, especially as the needs of sellers have changed. What have you seen? You know, it's been like six, almost seven years. Like what have you seen in the market in terms of trends and how have you seen it sort of evolve and maybe where do you see it going?

Chris Rothstein: Yeah. Yeah, it's changed a lot. And we, we took a different path and maybe the completely normal Silicon valley path we bootstrapped for awhile and we really focused on how do we make sure that this is valuable enough for customers. And we sold very early to customers that the things that. I saw that I think are interesting over time.

One is, I do think there's this move from point solutions to platforms and that's fairly common. I think it goes in waves, but at the way, beginning, there was a solution for email tracking, a solution for logging a solution for sales campaigns, similar to what you saw in marketing automation or other categories.

Many many point solutions. And then after a while they start to bundle together and then, you know, that becomes the dominant trend for some time. And then if you look at some older markets, sometimes then there, you know, point solutions again, years later, and the cycle repeats itself, I feel like the current trend is more point solutions moving to platforms and, um, you would know better than me, but.

Some element of buyer fatigue, I think on the rev ops side where there's just so many products and it's, it's so many integration points and that can cause problems as an organization becomes very large and complex. So I do think that's one thing that's interesting. I think the other part that I'm excited about more than anything is customer expectations.

Kind of accelerating. I would say, um, you know, at the beginning was going from zero to one of solving a problem in a lot of ways, but now we're really moving into how do you truly solve the problem for every customer's unique workflow, which it just keeps getting deeper and then they see some success and then they want to go deeper.

And an example of that is like, you know, now so many companies are AB testing messaging and, and kind of every time they're pushing in one, one level further. Um, and I, I think you'll, you'll continue to see trends like that. The space is getting very deep, which is, um, it's really nice. Cause I think it's providing more and more value for customers.

Rosalyn Santa Elena: Absolutely. And I loved how you touched on sort of the ops perspective, because definitely one of the things that I'm always looking for is to consolidate right tech stack and looking at solutions that are going to meet, you know, multiple use cases and solve multiple problems or, or challenges versus like you said, having one, one piece of tech.

Use case and for each issue, because that means another piece of tech that not only we have to pay for from a budget perspective, but we have to resource and be able to administer and drive adoption and training and ongoing. Administration. So definitely completely there with you. Um, one of the things that you know, you and I were talking about even before the recording is, you know, many of the engagement offerings are really focused on top of funnel, right?

Prospecting activity, primarily for SDRs and maybe for some AEs who, um, do a lot of their own pipeline generation. And I believe groove really focuses more on the full sales cycle. So can you share a little bit about your. Here and maybe how has that product differentiation, um, really helped in accelerating, you know, your revenue growth and expanding your customer base.

Chris Rothstein: Yeah. Yeah. This is an area we've been different from the beginning. And just to give, you know, some, some kind of background data on that today, as a, as a sales engagement platform, 20% of our users are SDRs. That's very abnormal for kind of compared to our competitors. We do have, you know, STR is using it.

We typically deploy to an entire organization, the entire revenue lifecycle from SDR. and so, or, or we, we, we deploy in a bunch of traditional organizations where they're full cycle reps. Um, but our goal from the beginning was how do we help an organization really close business and expand these relationships?

Like the kind of ultimately the. Blood of, of generating, you know, revenue, how do we help in that part of the cycle? And that was really the focus. Where is it? The sales engagement platform area really started to become known as an SDR tool in a lot of ways and in my goal and what I hope we can contribute to the spaces to pushing it, to make sure that it is.

Focused on other parts of the life cycle, because I do think that that's very important. I think the future of sales engagement needs to come more from the revenue. It needs to come more from, you know, traditional organizations, full cycle reps and so on because the, the facts of the matter. The majority of revenue today in our space comes from tech companies.

And we've been focused on bringing in big banks and other organizations that are more traditional, but the workflows are more complex and slightly different. They're not as formulaic as maybe an STR workflow in some ways. So that's what we've really focused on from the beginning. Still our vision is how can we make sure that this type of technology can be useful for everyone that should and could be in the market?

And that's what we're trying to push on. Expanding the market. We have awesome competitors. I know, um, you know, some have been on this podcast. Th th they're doing, they're doing a great job pushing things forward. And I think it's in everyone's best interest that we try to bring this technology to everyone.

Rosalyn Santa Elena: Got it. I love that. I think it's really interesting that 20, only 20% of your users are SDRs. So that really talks to sort of the platform and you kind of your vision. Um, what are the things that, you know, I guess we can never avoid talking about is COVID right. So I think we've, you know, we've all been impacted at, by COVID, you know, we're in 20, 21 now.

Um, you know, but the global pandemic has really, you know, had an impact on everyone, right. From a business perspective, but even, you know, as well as from a personal perspective, um, you know, with sellers, right. Prospects and customers, everyone really working from anywhere, you know, how have you seen this impact the way you do business, if at all, and are there any lessons learned or maybe things that you learned from last year that you're going to be doing differently this year?

Chris Rothstein: There's a lot here. This is a really fascinating topic. I find it not only as, you know, Selma built sales technology, but just a. Helping lead a company. I think there's going to be some really nice changes that lead to a better overall spot for work, which is awesome. And that's what I'm really focused on internally.

How can we create a work environment that's even better than what it was before due to more flexible, 30 and so on. Uh, but when it comes to specifically how sales change, it's funny, we just did a survey around this too about, uh, I think about 900 or so. Sales leaders across all different industries and pretty much the vast majority of it goes almost 90% said they're not doing in-person meetings.

They think until maybe Q4, probably 20, 22. So, you know, this is here to stay for quite a while. Yet this has really changed the way a lot of them have worked and, and they they've shifted. You know, to really being remote, uh, focused and, you know, leading with kind of digital sales to start. Um, I think that'll end up in a really nice spot.

Overall. A lot of even very traditional companies have changed and I think a lot of them have found, okay, we definitely miss some of the old way. Um, you know, and there's some of that being missed, but there's also, you know, certain things that. Because they, they they're like, oh, wow. That, that actually saved me a lot of time.

And we got to the same result. Um, and, and that's where I do think, uh, there is going to be kind of this middle, you know, there's going to be certain things that are learned and, and. We'll continue to persist and other things that won't, um, the, the part that I'm most fascinated with, um, is just how do we replicate what an inside sales team used to do when it's more remote, where, you know, how do, how do teammates learn from each other quickly?

Because a lot of times. Loud Salesforce, you, you learn through osmosis and kind of being around people and seeing what's working and, and through lots of conversation and that that's harder to replicate. And that's what we're trying to do internally. And as far as, you know, lessons learned and, and looking forward, I think that's a lot of the areas.

How do we do more there to, to make sure that we're ramping in best practices or, uh, you know, being distributed among the team members as fast as possible, even if we are more and more district.

Rosalyn Santa Elena: Yep. Definitely. I think that's probably the thing that most of us miss is being able to sort of turn around and tap someone on the shoulder or ask a question, or even just feel the energy, right.

When somebody closes the deal or even just books, a meeting, right. With somebody that they've been trying to get after for a while. So I definitely think that energy, um, is something that we all miss, but I also do think, you know, to your point, that when we do sort of, even as things open up and things start to change the way we do it.

Yeah. You know, it's going to be very different, right? I think there's going to be a lot less of those, you know, golf, golf, outings, you know, a lot less travel, a lot less of those dinners because we have found that, you know, reps can be productive, right. We can still close deals and drive revenue even in this sort of remote world.

Um, too great. Um, so one of the things I wanted to talk about also, as, you know, I mean, I know you have like over 50,000 sales reps, right. Using groove. And I'm sure that number is probably even bigger, as hard as we're talking, but these are some of the largest and fastest growing companies. Right. You've got Google and capital one and Uber Workfront and you know, my favorite Cintas.

So. You know, as part of your customer portfolio and, you know, in fact, groove has topped the list, right? For highest rated sales engagement, software product, based upon user satisfaction, right on G2. And I think G2 is just such a great recognition because it's re represents the view of the customer. Kind of thinking about that, you know, what is your philosophy around, you know, driving customer success and customer value and how do you see sort of how that has fit into your sort of your revenue acceleration?

Chris Rothstein: Yeah. I, I guess to start off, I fully agree. I I'm a massive fan of G2 because it's such a nice way for, you know, for us as a company to say, you know what. Focus on just making our customers happy and you know, that can work out even if we spend less on certain parts of marketing or whatever. Um, so that, that's why I do think, you know, we've always been a fan of G2, but the, the, the, the reason kind of, we we've gotten to where we are in a bunch of ways.

Core to what we are as a company, we have three core values. The one I care most about, we call it Caremark that's that's literally, and it comes back to this feeling of, you know, many companies say they're customer centric, but that's just not the case. When, when you get in a difficult decision and they have to lose money on something or whatever it may be.

Um, and that's the part where I think we've strived as a company we've truly gone above and beyond. And we, I push everyone. To do that at all times. I've been on so many calls with customers where I'm helping them with a, you know, a deep Salesforce workflow or something that's uneven, you know, unrelated to group.

But I just know I can see their situation. I'm like, you can solve this without our technology or another one. You just got to do this. And I see this divided and so on. And I think that, you know, that's just the way we should operate as a company, we should be true partners. Right. I see this as this vendor, transactional relationship.

And I think long-term, that's the way to build a company. So that's what we focused on in every part, you know, even the small things like we from day one, we've never had, you know, traditional email support from day one. I was like, we need to be. Very fast. So we started with only chat support and it was, um, five minute median response time.

Um, and this was when we were still a small team because when, you know, you know, as a rev ops leader, when things are not working, you need a solution. You need to figure out how to get to the bottom of something. And I do think this has contributed to our growth. It leads to kind of, you know, multiple purchases when people switch companies

Rosalyn Santa Elena: Yeh those are your biggest champions, right?

You're a former customers, especially for operations. And even if our sales leaders, when they leave a company, they go to a new one. The first thing they want is the, you know, the tech that has worked for them in the past and sort of that partnership, as you said, you know, less of as a vendor, but really having that great customer experience.

And you know, you're not only you tell your friends and tell everybody in your name, But you also want that same experience anywhere you go. That's amazing. So, you know, as I think about the revenue engine, right in this podcast, I always hope that others will be able to really learn how to accelerate revenue growth and power, the revenue engine.

Right. Take away some tips and hopefully be able to go and, um, you know, the change of perspective or actually take some tactical advice and be able to go implement. Um, so if I look at, you know, from your perspective, like what are some of the key. That you think have really contributed to the high growth that group has experienced?

Chris Rothstein: Yeah. I think a lot of it comes down. I have one philosophy on, uh, you know, all the great returns come from compounding, you know, uh, and, and you just need to focus on things long enough. And, and I think this is a, just a common thought that we have or philosophy in our company where, you know, just as an example, I think for you to truly provide value to customers, you have to go deep enough to understand those problems.

And yes, you, you can definitely get to a solution quickly that is obvious and probably helps a little bit, but you realize every company is so complex and people don't act rationally and systems break all the time. And. Things that are not, uh, that need to be factored in if you truly want to deliver value in the real world and not this hypothetical perfect world.

And I think that's a key thing to remember, and whether it be your, your, your go to market plan and Hey, they're not, you know, this message isn't resonating, we'll go talk to them and go deeper because you know, it doesn't, it makes sense logically, but that doesn't mean anything really, you know, and I think it's having this.

In kind of mindset or, you know, looking to the outside first. And, um, I think that that's important in everything you do and then go deep enough and just keep asking questions to, to figure out if you truly understand the problem. Because most of the time I find it, it's really hard to get to that level.

Cause you, you just got to be very persistent. Got it.

Rosalyn Santa Elena: Got it. That makes a lot of sense. What about, are there things that maybe you wish you knew earlier or maybe things that you might do differently if you could go back and do it all over again?

Chris Rothstein: Yeah, there was a lot, but in whatever you're building something, I think, uh, you know, you're constantly, you're learning at a rate.

That's insane if I, if I had to pick one specific thing that I think what I would do differently, uh, for sure would be, I would have built out my executive team earlier. Um, and, and really. Focused on the team absolutely first. And, and at the end of the day, you realize your impact is determined by your team.

And focusing on this at, uh, at the, at the absolutely beginning point would have been great. I, since we bootstrapped and we were very lean at the beginning, we did this a little later, I would say. We built this really awesome team, but we didn't really build out our executive team until later I would have done that.

And just made sure that also even your culture, just making sure those first 10 people are just, you know, absolutely the culture you want to build because the people built the culture ultimately.

Rosalyn Santa Elena: Great. That's great advice. Definitely. I think there's always that balance, right? When you're first starting out around cost and sort of what you need for your team and probably as a co-founder you're like, oh, I can, I can take care of this myself and I can cover that.

Save some dollars, but yeah, those first couple of hires is really, really critical. Yeah. What about, is there, you know, aside from that, is there one piece of advice that you would give maybe to another CEO or founder? Like what is that one thing. You know, that has made all the difference. And maybe it is part of, part of that is building out that executive team early.

But is there something else that you say, Hey, this is the one thing that I, you know, I really did, right. That has really made a big difference.

Chris Rothstein: Yeah, I think, um, so if you have the right team, they're going to help solve all the right problems. The second part of that is. Are you for surely focused on the absolute, most important area of opportunity.

And I think a common mistake that I see and I have the tendency, and I think everyone does is you build this list because you have infinite number of problems or opportunity areas. And almost always you focus on area four or five and six or whatever, because you have clear line of sight to solution for those.

And you're like, ah, knock them out. It's easier and more comfortable there. Um, and you don't really ever knock out. And that's because it's the hardest by far. And I think what we've done as a company, and I think what has been very helpful is just saying, okay, what is the, if we, if we have to stack rank all the most important areas of opportunity or problems, what's absolutely number one.

And then not even aligned is to look at number two or three very much. All in on, on that one. And I think, um, that has been really impactful because then you get your, you know, your a great executive team and everything to focus on it. And people come with grips solutions, but you really have to unlock these key bottlenecks.

Otherwise, I think you, you just are stuck in this kind of incremental. It's really hard to change.

Rosalyn Santa Elena: Really good feedback. I think whenever we're trying to prioritize, we're always looking at things that are sort of low hanging fruit, right. Things that are like you said, easy to get done. But if we don't focus on the big things too and make time for that, you'll never get to.

Chris Rothstein: Yeah, very cool. Cause it seemed really easy to use up all your time long enough. Low-hanging fruit.

Rosalyn Santa Elena: Absolutely. So well, thank you so much for joining me. Uh, Chris, as we wrap up and before I let you go, I always love to know two things. So two things about you is one. What is the one thing about Chris that others would be surprised to learn?

And to what is the one thing that you want everyone to know about?

Chris Rothstein: You surprised I'll try to make this useful for people. I won't go into a lot of details. This one's a little out there, but my co-founder and I, um, before group created a product, cause we we'd just love to build stuff. And we created basically an infomercial like product, just to understand how hard it would be.

A physical product and understand supply chains and so on. And it just went crazy viral and it was on the today's show on the front page of Reddit and all of this stuff. And, um, the reason I bring that up is because even though. That product went very, very, uh, insane. Um, we, we never really still focused on it because we just weren't passionate about it.

And you know, for me, I think you do have to, especially if you're starting something, focus on problems that you think are meaningful and bring value to people's lives. At least that's what I found for myself. So even though. There, there was some level of, you know, commercial success and so on. It just, it didn't matter.

And I think that's something just for people, especially people thinking about, you know, what they're working on, or if they want to start a company. I think that was a good lesson. Um, on the, you know, one thing everyone should know. You know, I I'm a fairly simple person, so I don't think there's anything anyone really needs to know about me.

But I do think, um, there, there's maybe a lesson in that, which is, you know, every, it doesn't matter if any CEO, founder, um, executive, we're all just normal people, you know, learning, uh, making progress, the normal struggles of life. And, um, I think there's. Tends to be this. So, you know, this kind of feeling like imposter syndrome, everyone has it and so on.

And like ever everyone, I'm sure there are some rare exceptions, maybe, you know, someone that feels like they're not even human, but, um, pretty much everyone else, you know, is just normal people trying to get better. So just work towards whatever goals, make sense for you. And. If you focus on it long enough, I think you'll be surprised at the progress you can.

Rosalyn Santa Elena: I love that. And now I think everybody listening to this is probably going to Google your name and try to find out what product that was on that infomercial. I know I'm going to, that's going to be the first thing I do when we wrap up, because now you've got me curious, thank you so much again for joining me, Chris, you know, it's really been a pleasure to obviously catch up with you.

It's been a while since you and I have chatted and I'm so incredibly grateful for your time and just for sharing your story and your perspective.

Chris Rothstein: Awesome. Thank you for having me and enjoyed the conversation.

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