Auren Hoffman 0:01
Welcome to World of DaaS, a show for data enthusiasts. I'm your host, Auren Hoffman CEO of SafeGraph. For more conversations, videos, and transcripts, visit safegraph.com/podcasts.
Hello, fellow data nerds. My guest today is Gabe Rogol. Gabe is the CEO of Demandbase, a marketing automation system. Gabe, welcome to World of DaaS.
Gabe Rogol 0:27
It's great to be here, Auren. Thanks for having me.
Auren Hoffman 0:28
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Now Demandbase helps B2B companies find and market to customers better. One of the hard things about most B2B companies is understanding like who's in market currently for one's product? Like, how should companies better understand who's in market and think through that kind of funnel System?
Gabe Rogol 0:53
Yeah, well, I mean the customer journey has been disrupted dramatically by digital. And there's a lot of depth to that. But essentially kind of the old lead based model, which is kind of the traditional marketing hands a lead to sales. That's been blown up, you know. Our marketing kind of goes out and does stuff and tries to get these hand raises, and then sales closes in on the on the golf course type thing. So now, you know, marketing has to go throughout the whole process and sales has to come in earlier based on digital signals. Because that's where the buying activities happens. There's no lead. And that's where these signals are becoming more and more valuable. And when I think it was one of our SDR leaders basically coined the phrase, intent is the new lead. Right? So there's a lot of different intent signals that indicate an account versus just one person or multiple people or account are in market potentially to buy a product. That's become really important. In terms of thinking about the funnel, the old model, I think, is in a lot of ways represented by the SiriusDecisions Waterfall that probably everybody remembers, which they've since adjusted. But the classical waterfall is kind of like the MQL and marketing qualified—Their inquiry, that marketing qualified lead, sales accepted lead, and then it becomes pipeline, closes. That's all based on a lead. Now, most companies, modern companies kind of have an account funnel next to their SiriusDecisions kind of person funnel, which is marketing qualified account. And it works through in similar ways, and it's important to think about it in that way.
Auren Hoffman 2:45
If we delve back on the intent stuff, like what are some of the core intent signals they think companies can be using? Then how are they going to bring—Obviously if someone goes to your website and does a whole bunch of things, that's easy. But there's a there's like Twitter searches. There's like I searched for this and I went to certain content on forbes.com. There's lots of different intent signals that could be out there. How does one like think about all these different intent signals?
Gabe Rogol 3:13
Yeah. I mean, I've been talking about this for a while. It's like intent as a word has kind of become confused. Because it's almost a bunch of different categories in one. Sometimes I think about it as like intent is almost like an ingredient, and then you have you have models that's like the chef of the ingredients. So if you think about it in that way, you can kind of put it in three buckets. There's models that are there to define what your TAM is—what your total addressable market is—which is more or less stable. Then there's models and intent that defines who's in market, and then there's models and intent is defines who of your customer base will spend more, right. So in the total addressable market, it's often about static signals like what industry are they in? How large is the customer? If you're selling technology, what's their tech stack? And building models around that. If to find in market, and really I guess what squarely the term intent tends to mean is it tends to mean content consumption. It could be content consumption across all different types of published forms of content, whether it's like social, as you mentioned, or the ad bid stream. Or Bombora does publisher networks or on your own website. Which is, as you know, like the way that Demandbase actually started was being able to do deanonymize your own website traffic.
Auren Hoffman 4:55
How do you think like these signals will shape out? Because yeah, you mentioned Bombora. There's obviously stuff on your own website. There's people that crawl Twitter. G2 has like cell searches of people who search for your category, right? So there's all these different places that you can potentially get. Do you think like a good marketer is going to have to go to like each individual intent stream and figure that out and then bring it in and then have some sort of model? Or do you think there'll be like an aggregator that aggregates all the intent streams, and then the marketer can just consume it and not have to worry about going to each one individually?
Gabe Rogol 5:31
It depends on the type of business you are. I think if we talk about—We tend to talk about like mid-market versus enterprise or global enterprise. If you're a fast growing mid-market company but still limited budget, you're probably gonna pick a couple signals that you're going to validate through tests with your SDR and marketing team that seems to be good signals. You're going to rely on that signal and your technology with your go to market. Global enterprise is going to be more of like the latter of what you said, like the aggregator. They're going to become aggregators in a lot of ways. Like what you see in these giant enterprises is massive data science teams with data lakes, pulling together really sophisticated models and bringing in. They have the advantage, I guess, of massive budgets to bring in multiple signals. I think the way models develop on mid-market versus enterprise are going to be very different because enterprises just have more signal that they can work with, and they're never going to give all that signal to an external aggregator. Whereas I think mid-market maybe will because they have less signal. So it's kind of—That's how I think about a difference between kind of mid-market and enterprise.
Auren Hoffman 6:50
Yeah. As you mentioned about how Demandbase started the initial product was like you would see people that go to your website. You do some maybe some reverse IP lookup. You would say, “Okay, this is coming from General Electric or something.” Then we can figure out how to advertise and engage against these “anonymous users”. How do you see this evolving over time?
Gabe Rogol 7:13
The way I think about it is like there's going to be—I guess the aspiration is like self-driving go to market, right? Where either, like I said, at the enterprise level these data science teams or a vendor like Demandbase for those that that that need an kind of an external party to help them. Will pull together signals that are based on your own business. I think one of the things to understand about intent is it's the same for everybody. Meaning like say HP is one of your target accounts, and we've seen Bombora shows that they're surging because they consumed a piece of content related to your category. Everybody in your category will get that same signal, right? So data models that predict who can buy your product have to be much more sophisticated than that. And if you think about all the complexity in every business, they have to take in so much that we have to be able to deliver models that are customized to individual businesses. For some businesses, the website signal on certain pages are going to be the most the strongest feature. In these data models, they’re called a feature. The heaviest weighted feature will be consumption on your own site. It'll just so happened that for other companies, the heaviest weighted feature may be a tech stack. We see that because we're getting into these models. I think the future is models that take in massive data sets about your go to market tell you who's going to become a customer and ultimately, what action you should take and then ultimately automate that action. That's going to be the self-driving go to market that is gonna come in the future. And then Terminator robots are gonna come in.
Auren Hoffman 9:06
Like, if you think of like a B2B company, there's like on one side like this core demand generation motion, and on the other side, there's like a customer education. At SafeGraph where I work, we find that most of the companies we talk to are not ready to buy today. Maybe they come back like 6 to 12 months later and buy. So how should a typical B2B company think about that buyer journey?
Gabe Rogol 9:32
Yeah. I think it's probably the simplest mental model that comes up a lot is the pyramid of one to many, one to few, and one to one. Or else I kind of align that with TAM in market best customers. Right? And so, you want to know what the one to many or the TAM is, you want to have a model that you—You want to be as focused as possible because you said you want to educate your customers. Do you have a good model to know who your customers could be? It's not everybody, right? Even though the ones that aren't in market. So that's where it's usually comes down to what industries, what size companies, what's their tech stack so you understand their Tam. Then the next level up is—And there you're gonna have to make a decision as like a global enterprise, again, has the ability to just be branding them. Probably companies like ours that are growing companies, you have to weigh your budget.
Auren Hoffman 10:32
We can’t blanket like the San Francisco Airport with our logo or something like that.
Gabe Rogol 10:37
Yeah, you're not going to be on one on one with that. So. But there is there is some level of like ongoing nurture you can do pretty effectively at the TAM level, and it's about the agreements across sales and marketing. So maybe you have Marketo in an outreach campaign from across sales and marketing that's going across your TAM. Then the next level of investment is the one to few or in market, and that's based on okay your intent provider, your website. You're moving through that account based funnel. Demandbase’s product actually enables you to customize the account based funnel. So it's when a certain account reaches this level of engagement based on your own customized model, then you move to this different level of kind of action that's demanded. So the sales team has to do more, marketing has to do more. Then you have the “one to one” or what I like to think about as like your strategic accounts. They're either ones that are in market but you know are going to be like huge spenders and you want to you want to invite them to events. You want to take them to the Warriors game, right. Or they’re current customers that have sets of products that you know or are exhibiting behavior and gain sight or whatever like that shows that they can become much bigger customers. And that has the highest level of marketing and sales investment. So I think that mental model of, again, the one to many, one to few, one to one, or you could think of it as TAM and market strategic accounts is a good way to think about your marketing investment. Then having tools like Demandbase that can automate how much activity cross sales and marketing across the three.
Auren Hoffman 12:26
At least for us, like we've made a strategic change. I'd be interested in hearing what some of your other companies have done. Where like a lot of our content in the past was gated. So we would require some sort of lead capture, an email or something like that to see the content. Recently, we've ungated most of our content. So that means we're less likely to get an email, but they're more likely to see the content. We decided to make that trade off. Like have you seen people go through—Have they made different decisions along the way? Or how do they start to think about some of these things?
Gabe Rogol 12:59
In general, that been the trend because how often do you want to fill out a form? You know? It's just a behavioral change that's happened. So I mean, I would say most of the companies that we've worked with have done the same, and I would highly recommend.
Auren Hoffman 13:17
So we were late to the game. Yeah.
Gabe Rogol 13:18
Yeah. Well, there is a bit of a nuance where when you're getting into an advertising strategy, there's a case to be made about like the content that gets lower and lower in the funnel. So like maybe the first level of content that when they're visiting your site for the first time, there's no gating. But when they return or are retargeted, it's that second visit that's the gate. So there's a lot of good experimentation. So I don't think anybody's saying like never gate. It's just on the first visit with that initial content level. You get more gain, letting them see the content than gating it.
Auren Hoffman 13:57
Right, especially like, who knows, they may not be actively looking at that particular time. So just because they filled out a lead doesn't mean they're ready to talk to a salesperson. In fact they may specifically not want to talk to a salesperson.
Gabe Rogol 14:08
Yeah, well, yeah. I mean, there is this kind of relationship. I mean, generally what you'll find is for recapture, there tends to be a higher conversion rate for smaller businesses. Or in large businesses, people that probably aren't decision makers, you know. So another way to put that is the likelihood--
Auren Hoffman 14:34
You’re getting the worst leads.
Gabe Rogol 14:37
The decision maker filling out a forum is probably pretty low.
Auren Hoffman 14:40
Demandbase has done a lot of acquisitions recently. You’ve acquired InsideView, Engagio, and actually a few other companies in the last few years. Walk me through the thought process of like why you decided to like focus on some of these acquisitions and how you ended up buying these companies.
Gabe Rogol 14:58
Yeah. I mean each were different and interesting journey. So the Engagio one I think was a real was a big one for us, and I think the big one for the ABM category, the account based marketing category within. Which was kind of the genesis of it. That was about two years ago. My background was I've been at Demandbase for nine years. I was leading sales for kind of the first seven. And so I stepped into the CEO role at the end of 2019. ABM was an interesting place because I think those have been around the industry. I’ve been hearing it for a while. There was a really high level of awareness of the category. There was a lot of confusion about it, though, as a category.
Auren Hoffman 15:42
The idea of ABM also is just a weird thing. It's like, basically, SEO is kind of simple. We're gonna do one marketing strategy. It's simple. And here's the way it works. ABM is like, we're gonna focus on a small number of accounts and we're gonna do like 1,000 marketing strategies to those small accounts. So it can get very confusing very quickly, right?
Gabe Rogol 16:00
Yeah, exactly. It's like there's a complexity. It's also if you just think of the term account based marketing. It's not like marketing automation, which is like intuitively oh it's Marketo. It's Eloqua. It was more like a field marketer or an SDR can do something, and that's account based marketing.
Auren Hoffman 16:16
In fact, that's sometimes what a good AE does is like going into account based marketing.
Gabe Rogol 16:20
Oh I do that already. So we were like people wanted technology, but they were confused. What was happening is adoption was stalling because when there's confusion like that, you have one champion maybe at your account that that gets it the way Demandbase does it. Somebody else thinks it's a different way. So basically, the goal was, at that point, like how do we define this category so it's like marketing automation in a way? Or any other CRM, where it's like you know the vendors, you know the key technologies. So we started to think about it. There's a data level where you have to have a 360 view of an account. You can kind of think of that as an embedded CDP where it's first and third party data. There's a decision layer where you have to segment based by account, kind of measure that account funnel I talked about. Then there's a delivery/orchestration level where you're doing things through channels that are optimized for accounts to move your metrics. So okay, we're like that could be the core platform for account based marketing. What do we do well and what do we not do well? Demandbase had been known for that core deanonymization of the website and advertising. So we wanted to be better at bringing in first party data and working with sales. So essentially, it was like what are our holes? Let's go build them. And at that point I knew John Miller, who was the founder of Marketo, and you know him well, and the founder of Engagio and we met. Essentially, it was like wow. We've got the same vision, and you've done the exact inverse. So it's like one of those moments where you're like, I'm going to decide in one conversation that we're going to come together. I don't know if you remember the 80s cartoon Voltron. You don't remember Voltron? Well, you could do the YouTube. It was like lions coming together into a giant robot. It was like Japanese. And so that was kind of what we’re doing. So we’re like let’s form Voltron. Like a theme song. So we that was the genesis of that. And by and large, you know, it really has panned out and like the category.
Auren Hoffman 18:34
How did you do the acquisition? Because these acquisitions of private to private companies are very difficult. Obviously, you could pay in cash. That could be by selling equity or by getting debt. You could do stock related things. Like how do you do it in a way that like aligns everybody?
Gabe Rogol 18:55
Yeah, I mean, like you said. Like private to private, generally, is considered pretty tough because the value is in a defined currency like it is on the public markets, right. In general, you're not sitting on a ton of cash, typically, to do a whole cash transaction. So you really have to have the common vision and believe in the future currency of the stock essentially, and have trust. I've been very thankful that all the CEOs that we acquired are key members of the team so I have trust. Generally, they've been equity transactions. Some of them have had some cash component as well. But I would say as a rule from my perspective if you're going to do the private to private, there's got to be a joint belief in the future equity.
Auren Hoffman 19:43
Both sides have to believe that—From your side you're giving up dilution and then the other side, they're giving up control. They both have to agree that the equity in the combined company has to be a lot more valuable than the relative equity in the combined company rather than they had before. Correct.
Gabe Rogol 20:00
You have to have that. You have to see it and really trust your CEO that's going to be on this journey with you that you have the same vision.
Auren Hoffman 20:11
Engagio was interesting. InsideView is slightly different where you're almost getting into a new space. Is that the way you think about it? It's kind of like an adjacent space to where you already are. So how did you think about that type of acquisition?
Gabe Rogol 20:29
Yeah, that was a different thought process of like kind of what you're getting at is right. It was more of an adjacency. It's really about an expansion of Demandbase. So we're moving beyond ABM to go to market. And I think you're starting to hear the modern go to market as come up more. I think you'll see the analysts like Gartner and Forrester, in the next couple of years, start to converge a lot of the things that are separate categories now. We're really trying to solve the big problem of the modern customer journey. So there's a lot of different ways to look at it. Like simple bridge from ABM is like when you say like why does ABM break down? A lot of times it's because of their customers own data. So when we surveyed and asked like what's is the biggest problem? It was like, the data is not clean. So we're like, “Okay, you’ve got to solve that problem to make the go to market.” InsideView was a leader in contact and firmographic data. Then activating sales on these digital signals. So you also have sales intelligence, which is kind of essentially sales prospecting. So to build from the ABM strategy and make it more successful, we made the decision to go into these adjacencies. We also see broader things happening like data converging with application. You're seeing ZoomInfo doing that, and D&B doing. So we kind of see the future market of being these combined data application companies.
Auren Hoffman 22:03
To me, that's an interesting thing. So if you think of like ZoomInfo really just a year ago. It was clearly a data company and really just sold data. Then they made a bunch of acquisitions in the last few years to maybe get them closer to Demandbase. Then Demandbase was clearly an application company. Now you've made a big acquisition to move you closer to ZoomInfo. So there's this convergence that's happening that maybe someone like me wouldn't have expected. I would have thought people would have been more focused on like being best of class in maybe something narrow. It looks like people are making a decision to do the fuller stack. I mean, maybe because clients are demanding it, or why do you this movement has been happening?
Gabe Rogol 22:45
It's got to start with the client, right, or the customer and the disruption in the customer journey that I started out with. I think that that disruption is causing a change in tech stack. I mean because basically what most companies are living with is that core marketing automation is demand gen, which outside of HubSpot most of them are kind of stagnating. HubSpot is mostly down market. So you're talking about there are companies that have marketing automation at the core demand gen where it's like you need that lead and leads aren't happening. Then you're spamming them with email. I'm overstating it, but you get the point. They've got a number of data vendors. You know this space more than me, but like I have licensed a lot of data. And one of the things that I found in data vendors is it’s frustrating, you know, because there's a lot of them. There's some nickel and diming. There's not a lot of accuracy. So I think there's an opportunity for like big, trusted data vendors to emerge and be friendly. So there's that.
Auren Hoffman 23:54
Also ideally the data is true, right? In some ways, the most important thing for data is that actually is true.
Gabe Rogol 23:59
Yeah, yeah. To make it as accurate as we possibly can.
Auren Hoffman 24:03
Whatever the one represents. Say if they represented—Like someone from General Electric read this content, like at least that is true. Maybe that's not predictive of anything, but at least we know that someone from General Electric did read this content at this time.
Gabe Rogol 24:16
Yeah. So we can make it like controlled as part of our future experiment, you know, as opposed to something that's misrepresenting itself.
Auren Hoffman 24:23
Gabe Rogol 24:23
Another and another big part of the go to market which Demandbase has been strong on is advertising. Most B2B companies rely on B2C ad tech. And there's a big difference between B2B and B2C ad tech, which is very interesting. Because if you think of B2C ad tech, it's really about targeting an individual. There's either brand use cases or like essentially retargeting. The sales cycles for B2C are completely different from B2B. So like, uh how much do I want to reveal? I'll look at boots or something whatever, and the boots follow you around the internet, right? It’s going to transact within 36 to 48 hours. It's #100 to $250 or less product. B2B it's these $100,000 products with 50 decision makers. So we also saw there was an opportunity to change ad tech. So we just feel—I mean to answer your question about why is it converging versus a piece of it. Because we're at this unique moment where the whole B2B customer journey has been blown up and like we're racing to provide a modern go to market stack. I think the date is intimately wound up in it.
Auren Hoffman 25:39
Like a company strategy perspective, you could make both different cases, right. You can make one case. We're going to pick our competitors. We're going to try to pick as few competitors as possible really win the category and be the clear winner in that category, but obviously only provide a very narrow slice of the solution. So that's the downside. The other side is, “Hey, we're gonna we're gonna really fit the whole solution or a much, much bigger piece of the solution. We’re going to have a much bigger competitive set, because now we've got instead of four competitors, three competitors, we've got 50 or something in this bigger competitive set.” where it'd be hard to be like the best in every single functionality. There's pluses and minuses on both, but it does seem like people are moving much more to the latter than the former right now. Like, that's where the market seems to be moving to. Whereas like a lot of these SaaS companies are like a niche API or a niche set that does like this one random thing for like your dev stack or something.
Gabe Rogol 26:40
Exactly. I think it depends on kind of where your core product, what is its relationship into the tech stack, right. So if you think of ZoomInfo, they've got this massive data set and prospecting tool, which is really strategic for their customers. And because it is, that's the hub, and they can build spokes around it. I think Demandbase is in a similar position in that like ABM has found itself kind of converging with marketing automation. So there's this kind of hub aspect to the core, kind of marketing automation platform that's evolved, and you want to get the spokes around it. So you’ve got to look at every business differently. I think for our business, we have an opportunity to be this hub and spoke like which has long term growth. Other businesses, not to be pejorative, but like you know what you're good at and you’ve got to focus on it. I think there's merit to both, but I think also you’ve got to understand the competitive landscape. I mean we see companies starting to move in our direction, so we got to move in that direction too. So there's a lot to think about, but it is a really interesting time in this space.
Auren Hoffman 27:58
Well a couple of questions for you about just like running companies in general. So I heard you run really good board meetings. Like what's the secret to running an effective board meeting?
Gabe Rogol 28:09
The number one secret is to have it run on time.
Auren Hoffman 28:15
Okay. That doesn't seem like the hardest thing. I mean maybe it is.
Gabe Rogol 28:19
I mean there's others.
Auren Hoffman 28:21
Sure. Like if you give like a 30 minute slot to sales like they don't take more than 30 minutes?
Gabe Rogol 28:25
Well in general that you monitor it. Like I'll have a clock because what happens is—and I'll give some credit to Stacey Bishop at Scale for nudging me in this direction when I was moving into the CEO role. But like basically as your board gets bigger—Like we have board members, we have board observers, we have our management team. So our board meeting is probably 20 to 25 people in like kind of the general session. So there's a lot that can a lot of questions that can be asked. So you can very quickly get lost in one topic. So I do think just managing it on time. But you know going a little deeper than that, I think it's important that everybody has a shared context on where the business is going. So that means continually focusing both on long term strategy and also your short term challenges and being open to that. I think what maybe sometimes happens is you get real focused on the given quarter or the given year, and so there's not broader context. So there's some misalignment in the way people think about things. I also think that maybe sometimes there's some reluctance to show your words to the board, but they end up getting surprised. So I definitely try to be transparent and open. So I think having those--
Auren Hoffman 29:50
So if there's bad news, are you sending it out to them like well in advance of the board meeting? Where like obviously people don't hit their numbers every month or something. Or obviously you have key employees that departure. Those types of things. Are you letting them know like well ahead of time?
Gabe Rogol 30:06
Yeah, yeah. I mean I really try to have like a no surprises rule. I mean, the world's a surprising place. So it's hard to avoid surprises. Then one thing that I do is I try to have each board meeting have like a theme.
Auren Hoffman 30:23
You do like four a year. Kind of typical.
Gabe Rogol 30:26
Four year, once a quarter. The other thing is like I'll come out of a board meeting, and try to visualize like what's the next one? Because there's always really good feedback, and there's always things like you didn't do well maybe or questions they ask. And you're like, oh I should have done that. So I'll usually like at least give something with the management team is like, “Okay, here's what we're going to do in the next one.” So you just try to make it better. So those are some of the things.
Auren Hoffman 30:55
How do you think about executive compensation, including like your own compensation as a CEO. Like, how do you think how do you align that in the right way for the company, etc.?
Gabe Rogol 31:05
Yeah. I mean, well we have a Comp Committee probably like most boards, just to make sure that it's all… So we're not defining our own comp. I mean, generally, at a broad level, as you move up in the organization, obviously you're more tied into equity. The variable component of our executive pay, we do all on company metrics. And generally, they're kind of renewal rate, operating, profit or loss.
Auren Hoffman 31:37
Let's say you have five different executives. They may have a different total variable one. One might have variable x, one may have a variable 1.4x or something like that, but the percentage of the variable is all the same for each of them?
Gabe Rogol 31:50
The measures of how they're paid out are all the same.
Auren Hoffman 31:53
Got it. So they might get 120% of the variable or 80% of the variable, but they all get that same percentage based on how well the company did.
Gabe Rogol 32:01
Yeah, yeah, exactly. The weighting of the measures are the same. I mean, I think like generally if we're going to be punitive on variable, like try to be most punitive with the executives. With equity, you’ve got to have a policy for ongoing. Like people that have been there a long time ongoing, like kind of refresh. What's your policy for like refresh grants for employee executives that have been there a long time?
Auren Hoffman 32:26
Essentially go forward comp. You can't just look at like how much equity they have. Demandbase has been around for a long time. I mean, obviously, you've been there for nine years. So people may have had multiple grants during that time.
Gabe Rogol 32:36
Yeah, exactly. So those are those are the some of the things we think about.
Auren Hoffman 32:41
I guess, maybe a self-serving question, I know. But like a bunch of my former colleagues from LiveRamp are now at Demandbase, right? Bryan Morris is your CFO. Allison Metcalfe is your CRO. I know you've recently brought on like many other LiveRampers like Chris Tata, who's like an amazing BD guy. Like was there something about that culture you thought fit with the Demandbase culture? And have you done this playbook with other types of companies that you really liked, or how does this…? Or is it just kind of happened organically without like a plan?
Gabe Rogol 33:10
LiveRamp, obviously, it's a great company that you founded. I think there was two aspects of it. One is, you know, Allison and I had actually worked together early days at Demandbase, like eight years ago. I just have huge respect for her. I think there's a cultural similarity. You knew LiveRamp. Like she came in and she was early there. So I think naturally, like some of the type of people were similar. Then there is like just technology kind of analogies like that LiveRamp is so focused on identity. Like the website [inaudible] is about business identity. Demandbase is obviously more squarely in business. LiveRamp has been more B2C. It's gotten into business. I think that identity piece and understanding identity. Then LiveRamp was just a really complex business in my mind for kind of essentially a marketing and sales business, data. More complex like trying to understand, you know, the onboarding and all the plumbing stuff that you did. There is some analogies to like that category definition we have to did. So I just think there's like familiarity. You know, there was something similar like early days of Demandbase. I had a publishing background and like advertising for like big publishers. What I found was that became really hard because the business model got crushed over time in publishing. And because you lost a subscription base and advertising moved more to like programmatic digital, all that stuff, search all that. So what you found was there was really a lot of good kind of salespeople because the way they had to sell was like really thin differentiation of audiences. So it kind of tapped into—Like some of some of our core people that we still have at Demandbase kind of came from that background and certain companies. So you know you want to be respectful of the company and make sure that if you're getting employees, like you're doing it in the right way. But sometimes there's just these natural bridges between companies.
Auren Hoffman 35:19
Makes sense. Okay, a couple of personal questions. So I think you’ve been at Demandbase for nine years. And the first seven, as you mentioned, were kind of like in sales. You kind of became the sales leader, and then you eventually became the CEO. Not too many people kind of like work their way up to the top job at a startup. This maybe happens at like a really big company, but not a startup. Like, what do you think other people can learn from your journey?
Gabe Rogol 35:41
Being passionate about your business, and wanting to solve your customers challenges. So I always found this business that Chris Golic founded really interesting. I kind of felt in some of the early employees that we had. Greg, our first CMO, was a great CMO who just kind of helped to define the category. I really believed in their vision. Then there was all these business issues that we had. I guess every business has. As you take on revenue responsibility, you can kind of follow the chain. Okay, like this customer is having this issue. Why is that? And I think it's like kind of that… Essentially comes down to are you going to keep following that breadcrumb trail, whether you're responsible for it or not, and try to solve the problem? You don't want to solve other people's problems for them or feel like you're getting in their business when you shouldn't be, but if you do it the right way over time I think that that's essentially how you progress. It’s like you're solving business problems. The other thing is like I really like to be around people, and try to be a person that runs towards the biggest challenges. I think that sometimes happens where man, this is a scary challenge in our business. Or this really isn't going right. And sometimes the tendency is like, okay, I'm getting my resume out there.
Auren Hoffman 37:12
Yeah, yeah. Or that’s not my problem or sometimes that’s someone else’s problem.
Gabe Rogol 37:15
Yeah. It’s like how are we going to solve this? What you don't realize is like, somebody will solve it. And that person that solves it, they're going to take on new skills, and they're going to get a good—Hopefully they'll be rewarded for it. So I think running towards like some of the biggest, most gnarly challenges was really exciting.
Auren Hoffman 37:34
You studied Comparative Literature and Russian in college.
Gabe Rogol 37:38
Auren Hoffman 37:38
I would say that is not the most common major for tech CEOs or similar backgrounds. Like how did those studies prepare you to lead kind of a thriving company?
Gabe Rogol 37:49
I have a little bit of a theory about that. Not like Russia in particular, but humanities in general. My kids are getting to college age. So I think about it. But I think there's a lot of value in studying humanities in general. Because it just gets you to think in interesting ways about certain themes, understanding people, just appreciation for maybe like almost like a business is a work of art in a way. It’s creative. So I think there's value in studying that. I mean I think if you know you want to be in finance or you want to be an engineer, it's really important you get those domain specific skills. So you want to be studying those things. But I often do think—and there's many ways to skin the cat—but I think if you're going to go into general business ownership or marketing or sales. Like you're not going to get humanities later, probably, but you will get you will get the business side of things.
Auren Hoffman 38:53
Somebody me like. I was an engineer and basically mostly did like math and data stuff in college. People like me, we’re missing those the deep truths or something.
Gabe Rogol 39:06
I don't know. I feel like you have a pretty good—Your way of synthesizing things. But I mean, like I said, there's a lot of ways to skin the cat. But I think if you want to study humanities, it really has behooved me you know, because I think I've been able to think of things pretty broadly. I still have an interest in it.
Auren Hoffman 39:26
Now, I heard a rumor that you wear a blue shirt every day to work. Is that true?
Gabe Rogol 39:32
Yeah, I mean, I have gone to this like uniform state. So I always wear—I have three different versions of light blue. I don't know how long. It's been many years. Really, it started with one of our one of our employees saying just like this particular shirt seems to fit you pretty well. And then it became like—You know how it is like an early company. We were probably 100/200 people. And things take on a life of their own a little bit. And like, you know, one of the things I find is like the CEO or an executive that I really like is like can you make fun of yourself? Or you can become like a running joke. And so like, I just kind of became a running joke. Like the SDR team at one event all wore blue shirts. But then what I found was—maybe you appreciate as an engineer— I'm like I look at my closet, and there's no decision. So it's like it's become so efficient.
Auren Hoffman 40:37
Anyone who's ever seen me on any video, I wear this shirt every day, which is kind of a blue collared shirt. And it this is one less decision I have to make every day.
Gabe Rogol 40:46
It’s just so beautiful. I'm like, okay, I don't have to make any decision. So anyway, that's the background. I don't know how long it'll last, but it's been years.
Auren Hoffman 40:53
The last question we ask all of our guests. What is the conventional wisdom or advice that you think is generally bad advice?
Gabe Rogol 41:01
Yeah. I'm going to give something pretty practical I think, I hope, for like executives or sales leaders, which is it's related to sales hiring. And I think one piece of potential wisdom that comes, especially as you're growing, is hire more salespeople. And I think there's this ongoing strain. Especially you'll find that like maybe there's an executive at a big company that carved up really small territories, and they come in as the sales leader. They're like, “I'm going to hire salespeople.” It sounds really good in a board meeting. But the reality is very rarely does that solve your scale issue in and of itself. Because usually if you peel back sales productivity, that's where the biggest gains are. Because you'll have a few people, especially early on, that are performing really well that make it look like your whole sales team is performing well. You want to be looking at a heat map of people that are—How many people are achieving quota? What's your sales cycle? Those are bigger drivers, in my mind often, then hiring more salespeople. Now, that being said, we're hiring a lot of salespeople.
Auren Hoffman 42:09
One of the things we look at is just like how many qualified opportunities do you have per salesperson? Or basically, how many deals are they working? If they're working too many deals then maybe we do need some more, but a lot of a lot of times the problem is we're not working enough deals. So like adding more might not be the problem, might not solve the problem. Like we need to get more in their pipe before we go hire. Like how do you think about when to hire more and when to really scale up?
Gabe Rogol 42:37
There's a certain level of like pragmatism to it. But like there's tops down, which is okay, we have to grow a certain amount. You have to look at quota size. There is a certain level of okay, we probably need to grow. But then the nuance of how big the quota actually is to get there is, you know, there's three or four key factors. Are you hitting your pipeline numbers? Do you have a waterfall that shows you what pipeline you need to hit your plan? Are you in the zone of consistency of reps hitting quota? You hear different things and there's different level of being draconian on it, but like are 50% of your reps hitting quota? Or 60%? So you want to get a good number. What are your sales cycles? And then what are your win rates? You know, so you want to be like mid-20s in your win rates? You want to know that you’ve done--
Auren Hoffman 43:36
From opportunity to closed one?
Gabe Rogol 43:39
Yeah. I mean, there's different formulas how you create win rates, but like that's general. You think of win rates, you're hitting your pipeline, quota, capacity, like the those are all on track. And then those should—N ow the flip side of it is if you're really hitting all those, it's like higher, higher, higher.
Auren Hoffman 43:59
Then it’s an easy decision. This has been be really great. Where can people find you on the interwebs?
Gabe Rogol 44:04
Well, I guess mainly on LinkedIn. That's definitely where I tend to do most of my stuff. But if anybody wants to reach out, you know, hit me up on email or LinkedIn.
Auren Hoffman 44:17
Perfect. Awesome. Gabe, really this has been really fun. Thank you for joining us at World of DaaS.
Gabe Rogol 44:21
Yeah, it's really great to talk to you, Auren. Talk to you later.
Auren Hoffman 44:24
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, consider rating this podcast and leaving a review. For more World of DaaS, and DaaS is D-A-A-S you can subscribe on Spotify or Apple podcasts or anywhere you get your podcasts and also check out YouTube for videos. You can find me at Twitter @auren. That’s A-U-R-E-N, Auren, and we'd love to hear from you.
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