Key topics in today’s conversation include:
The SaaS(ramp) Podcast explores how tech leaders scale from product adoption to enterprise success. Learn more at www.saasrampmedia.com.
Pete Thornton 0:06
Welcome back to The SaaS(ramp) Podcast. I’m your host podcasts p here with awesome guest today, Eric Martin, we have the head of sales at Vanta. Welcome to the show, Eric.
Eric Martin 0:17
Hey, thanks for having me, Pete. Excited to be here.
Pete Thornton 0:19
Super glad you made it in wanting to kind of kick off understand about yourself understand about Vanta. And like all the ins betweens, we kind of have a number of things that we’d like to roll through. But we’re trying to unpack these challenges. So starting with that biggest challenge for you at Vanta in the last six months What do you think that might be?
Eric Martin 0:39
Oh, my God, you’ve been growing at such an exciting rate, the last three and half years that I’ve been here, I feel like there’s a growth challenge kind of every other week, or a new growth challenge, per se, every other week, I feel like over the last six months, one of the struggles that we’ve faced has been, how do we hire as quickly as we need to and make sure that those folks are kind of like properly enabled, for lack of a better word, such that they’re able to come in and kind of sell from a position of leadership. And I suppose like leadership, as in like Vanta, we find ourselves in this spot of being not just the creators of this category that we’re in, but also the leaders in a space that is now crowded with I think, as of last week, we have 30 kind of direct competitors, at least in the SMB space. So if I was to sum it up, how do you hire scale, and train at scale? Fortunately, we have smart people kind of thinking about kind of solving all those problems and who have solved those in the past, but you know, it’s what we’re facing.
Pete Thornton 1:42
Totally. So that’s super interesting, I hear that a lot in the hypergrowth space, because of just the hockey stick trajectory that you’re on. And then I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of competitors developing around you in your space with 30. So like, is it competitive differentiation that is just that number one thing you have to say, here’s where we are. This is where they are, here’s how to speak against these other 29.
Eric Martin 2:09
Yeah, it’s tough. You know, it’s like, before I joined Bantay, effectively, you know, they’re able to check every single box that someone looks for, when they’re joining a company, maybe short of there being any IP associated with what we’ve built. And so what that means is that like, it’s really easy for kind of, you know, a developer and to go out there and a designer and go spin up a slick looking user interface that kind of suggests that they do a lot of what we do, in a manner that they’re able to fool, an early stage startup founder on a 30-minute demo call. And so, yeah, it’s it’s less, you know, it’s, to a certain degree, it’s about being able to defend, or I should say, maybe fend off kind of these ankle biters. But I don’t know if you can have ever sold or supported folks in like, a security or compliance space, but no security compliance about is about as nuanced as it gets, you know, if you want to sound smart and rule clients, if someone asks you a question you respond with, it depends, you know, and so when we think about bringing on reps, there’s like the sales skill side, and then there’s the knowledge site, which is just kind of like ramping them up on kind of security compliance. We’ve got programs to support both, but it’s kind of how we got to where we find ourselves. Let’s put it that way.
Pete Thornton 3:29
Okay. So I don’t mean to even do the rabbit trail, but it’s just like, it’s my language is like, all these things. What you’re talking about my Okay, oh, well, I’ve already ruined like, my whole time trajectory on a podcast on the first one. But do you have people who like, hopefully, besides yourself, like, do you have people who are really well ingrained? Who actually who are unpacking that really well? Like? Or do you have people who are delivering on the value proposition on competitive differentiation, like people that you could hold up as a highlighted rep to if they could just emulate this person go from day one to closed one? That would be, you know, ideal, like, like, do you have somebody besides yourself that you can kind of lean on and say, this might be who to look at for some of these answers that are happening kind of in real-time as these competitors pop up?
Eric Martin 4:21
Yeah, certainly. Right. Like it’s, I mean, like, one thing that has done a tremendous job is creating these feedback loops for kind of sharing competitive Intel talk track sharing what works, what’s not really hitting, we just went out rolled out a command of the message across the entire sales. org. Great. So you know, reps are really well versed now and speaking to unique, holistic and comparative different differentiators. And we’ve got a full kind of like competitive intel team and kind of for your product marketers, kind of assigned to spending a certain amount of brain calories every week, making sure that we’re kind of on top of it there. And so yeah, you know, it’s interesting, you know, I firmly believe that sales reps come in all shapes and sizes and kind of The sales and I think you’ve actually done a good job of bringing to the table, a pretty wide range of sales reps who have found ways to kind of make it work over the years. All this to say you’re like, hey, is there someone else you can point to? There, there are any number of kind of other folks kind of like ICs, who can point to who are doing enough of the things right, that we can start to create, for lack of better word count playbooks around what they’re doing.
Pete Thornton 5:26
Yeah. Nice. Okay. That’s kind of what I was getting at. In this hypergrowth space, one thing we found like, we did not bring on— I’m kind of speak into Postman right now, where I work, API Management leader. So moved from it’s just under 700 employees now was 250 two years ago. And the revenue trajectory really, really fast. Like, whatever the thing is past a unicorn. I forget. It’s like a centaur. It’s Centaur status. And so our that didn’t do. I think that’s cool. It makes you wonder.
Eric Martin 5:56
250 to 700. Was that within a year, you said?
Pete Thornton 5:58
Oh, no two are less than two. So we had an all hands day, and it was like it’s 684 or something like that number of employees, it’s 20 countries, it’s so I’ve never been part of something that moved that fast. And I was the first enablement, functional leader. We’re a team of nine now, broken into onboarding, ongoing lead. But when I saw something like that your standard, your standard programs, they work that shelf life is so short because product releases at first are killing you. And now we’ve done a really good job of boxing or product releases and having more of V9, V10. But there were everything ready.
Eric Martin 6:36
How do you think about like— And this is maybe more selfishly curious for me, but hopefully interesting for others, like, even even if they’re a Postman. How do you think about kind of introducing new product features to the go-to-market org? Is it something that you do on a scheduled cadence? Is it kind of as product rolls these things out? Like, how do you do that thoughtfully?
Pete Thornton 7:01
We’re trying, okay, so there’s the thing that like you’d like to happen, like a series of templates, and a cadence, it does, it exists, it’s there. But then the reality of the red bull rush towards the end is like that, the common term or not, half my team sits in Bangalore, so they go to the office. And so I’m like, show me and they’ll pan the laptop around, and it’s just madness on the backside. So they’re trying to push the features at that towards the end. And then we’re doing that as well between the engineering side and the go-to-market side. And we actually don’t have a true go-to-market product marketing team. It’s such a PLG probably like growth motion that there’s still gaps in between engineering and go-to-market, the entire enterprise offering is a newer offering, say 18 months old, even though the company’s 10 years and, from all intents and purposes, very mature in certain ways. But what ends up happening is a series of live syncs leading up to led by my boss, Shawn drawl. And he does a fantastic job of like pulling in all the resources and kind of putting people in a row to deliver live, what that would be even we take all that training, compile it on the backside, we actually just grab it from the Golang calls, we just like we would customer calls, and then we’ll structure it into a learning management path for new hires coming in tomorrow. And for the on-demand kind of tip-of-the-spear training when people need to look back at it. But it is pretty much on the fly still, like we want to debrief after this, we’re gonna be like, Can the next one go live. And we do this every time and every time it gives us a little like one more week of wiggle room before the thing goes live. And all these customers have questions that we hope we can answer. I don’t know that any better in your process, by the way.
Eric Martin 8:53
At a high level, you know, we have like a product updates, Slack channel that’s very structured in terms of like kind of a who can post there and kind of what’s the format in which they kind of, you know, introduce these exciting new things that we’re rolling out, we also every week now have kind of dedicated kind of what’s called like product learning sesh, with our product marketing team, as well as, you know, folks from EPD, or sales engineers when needed to talk through things that are, you know, not just kind of newly released, but coming down the pipe.
Pete Thornton 9:23
That’s interesting. That’s really good. Do you have people specifically who translate a feature function into go-to-market value?
Eric Martin 9:33
Like sales talk tracks. That’s a great question. Technically. Yes, we do. And those folks live on our, within our enablement team. Okay. We start with God back in like 20. I think it was like mid-2020, maybe a little earlier. One of the initiatives we put in place was an external sales coaching program where and we still do this where we pair AES with kind of, effectively people who are Now friends are friends of friends of mine who are kind of like, strong ICS that other companies like AWS, figma, Databricks, whatever. And they spend an hour a week with these reps kind of listening to sales calls and then providing sales coaching, in addition to whatever they’re getting from their managers. And I share this with the context I’ve like we’ve ended up we end up hiring two of those sales coaches. One is a manager and the other one has an internal full-time sales coach. And so Oh, one of these internal sales coaches, one of her roles and responsibilities is kind of translating these new features into talk tracks and minds you even though it’s one of her responsibilities, it’s certainly a shared responsibility.
Pete Thornton 10:38
Okay, that is interesting. I’m on question one. I’m a terrible podcast host. But this is so interesting, though. Okay, so when you’re pairing them up, is that a structured program? Or is it just like you have enough colleagues at these other types of companies? We do this internally: “Postmanaut pals.” It’s a new hire program where you have somebody coming in day one and you pair him with an IC of the same, the same guild. You have an enablement leader, you have the manager, you’re surrounding them on all sides, you have an HR or person IT person, like you’re giving them a real tribe, but like this, this idea of an external coach, from another maybe larger corporate kind of establishment is new to me kind of interesting.
Eric Martin 11:20
Yeah, we said, we do have someone internally for like, as a project manager, that they make sure that people are paired up as hired. And the way that we do it is, you know, all these folks are effectively contractors, and they’re all folks who, for one reason or another, have decided not to pursue management roles within their current orgs. But they have an interest in paying it forward. So what we do is, you know, we pay them, you know, just a basic kind of hourly see, to cover the time that they spend working with the reps as well as anytime they spend beforehand, listening to Gong calls, etc, that they’re excited about. And what ends up happening is that like, these coaches end up supporting, you know, two or more reps, and they become personally invested in their success is really, really cool. And like a lot of these coaches are friends, or we like, create opportunities for them to network among themselves as well. And they almost get competitive, you know, as true sales folks might do around kind of like how successful their reps are, that they’re coaching, how successful their reps are, versus like, reps that like their friend might be coaching. So it’s a win-win for us for that way.
Pete Thornton 12:28
Very cool. And what’s the manager, like the frontline manager, to consultants-ish kind of thing? Like, what’s that relationship look like?
Eric Martin 12:37
Yeah, I’m not gonna lie that’s gotten a little bit fuzzy as we’ve scaled, especially over the last couple of months. But there was a moment in time, and I’m sure there are still a high percentage of MLMs, who are kind of like, making sure to just touch base with any of the coaches that are working with their reps, and at least a monthly cadence.
Pete Thornton 12:56
Okay, so they stay tight, they stay aligned while it’s moving so fast.
Eric Martin 13:02
It’s one of those things, you know, where it’s like, the profile of rap who we’re hiring, especially for the SMB team, these are folks who have, you know, just a few years of selling experience. And so there’s just like, you know, we’re hiring folks who, let’s just say they have a ton of upside, and they have a really strong desire to learn. So the way we see it is like, hey, if we’re thoughtful about who we asked to coach these reps, and we have them placed an emphasis on basic sales skills, as opposed to kind of how to specifically kind of better sell banter. You know, we’ll be fine. And so far, so good.
Pete Thornton 13:37
Yeah. Y’all have some interesting things happen in there some like kind of like mature sales, motion-type sounding things. Size of team. What kind of size of team are you talking about at this point? Like if you take all your sales contributors all pulled together?
Eric Martin 13:50
Yeah, so there are 42 sellers in the SMB team and then my newest project is actually helping to build out our mid-market strategic segment. And so there are three seem to be six sellers in this kind of like upmarket segment that I’m spearheading kleding network 45 sellers, and then you know, we’ve got dozen plus BDRs, half a dozen SES and our CSM today operate in the form of being a hybrid kind of CSM slash account manager or I’m making that clear, but you know, for all intensive purposes, let’s say we have 45 sellers.
Pete Thornton 14:27
Okay, that’s pretty solid. Any solution engineers? Or is that role not so much fulfilled event? Are you doing that through the sales team or CS team like?
Eric Martin 14:38
So, we do have like formal sales or solutions engineers, and they take different forms, right, like there any number of kind of resources we make available to the sellers. But yeah, I used to have to formal kind of like technical sales engineers today. They roll up to me, but this support kind of prospects across the SMB and mid-market segments as well as customers when needed.
Pete Thornton 14:59
That makes sense because the way you were speaking about like product training and enhancements and things like that made me think it might be a large ratio of sales to SC.
Eric Martin 15:07
Oh yeah, there’s certainly like no fixed ratio there. And like, you know, it’s one of those things where I expect we will invest more and kind of the SE function. It’s one of those things where I remember the CRO of Asana, at one point telling me, Hey, if you have the best product in the space, why not give everyone a trial? And so a trial wasn’t formally part of our playbook. Now we’re pushing it kind of as often as we can because we’re winning more than 70% of opportunities that go into trial. And it’s been fun. We’ve got competitors out there who, you know, their tactic has been to try to avoid trials at all cost, literally dropping their price by more than 50%. So that they don’t have to go up against event to trial. But smarter buyers see right through that.
Pete Thornton 15:53
This is another side trail. I’m still on question one. Is your competitive streak—because all sales leaders will have it to some degree—is it based on the market you’re in with these 30 other competitors? Or do you have an athletic background or somewhere where you’ve been able to compete coming up, coming through? Do you have a sport in your back pocket somewhere?
Eric Martin 16:16
Oh, me personally. Yeah. Oh, yeah. I grew up playing kind of all the sports. And then in high school, three sports, soccer, basketball, and track. Docker soccer kind of being the kind of dominant one there.
Pete Thornton 16:30
That’s right. That’s right. It was soccer with me, too. Okay. I will certainly not go there on this podcast. But that’s a huge passion of mine. I was 10 years of varsity soccer coach before.
Eric Martin 16:40
You were a varsity soccer coach for 10 years?
Pete Thornton 16:41
Yeah, yeah. Eight of the 10 the last two I was like, Guys, I’m probably out of here. So let me ponder my future while I finish out this education career and literally retire and then take my little resumes and start knocking doors.
Eric Martin 16:56
Hold on. We got to dive on that a little bit for people listening. So it’s flooded back. So varsity high school soccer coach for eight years.
Pete Thornton 17:03
Varsity high school soccer coach. That’s right. Now, this is in the southeast. So I was in Chattanooga, Tennessee at the time until just recently now mountain an Allen with a Charleston, South Carolina. And so I grew up playing in metro Atlanta, soccer is a big sport in metro Atlanta. And then when I moved up to not such a big sport, so I was the head coach almost immediately, suspiciously early, right, as it turned out that is that that was accurate. They’re like, there’s somebody here, he wants the job, like, I don’t know, should we give it to him? You know, like, it was one of those that that was a week for people just listening because it was one of those days, you know, you’re giving people like maybe half your team real players, and half the team, you’re telling them how to lace up their boots for the first time. And you know, forget the How to you pass it with the side of your foot just like us that toe, get it up failed Johnny, let’s get it outside away from the goal up field.
Eric Martin 17:53
How does your soccer coaching methodology kind of overlap or differ from your sales coaching methodology?
Pete Thornton 18:01
You know how amazingly similar some of these things are. And the dots all connect looking backward because it went in from education. And like there was like camp, you run these camps as like a college soccer player and stuff like that to in the summers. And then you come through and I was teaching any science, any high school science I was I got a broad field certified, so anything, you know, seven through 12, all those mostly high school sciences anatomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and then Coaching Soccer all night. And I was running a JV team and varsity team simultaneously. And like getting these boat buses scheduled. I did not get my CDL so I would not also have to drive the bus. Otherwise they’d have made me drive the bus. This is all for about $2,000 extra a year. Like you have to realize it is such is so ridiculous. You can refer somebody into your company now and make that money by passing a resume. You under Yeah, but how much? How much joy did that bring you? It was solid. It was so fun. That was something that that wasn’t he had to scratch. And I probably scratched it for too long. But it was something that needed to happen for me. I definitely wanted to be coached on and then these guys have like 30 years old now they’ll have like three kids and stuff like that they’re a coach, what’s up, I’m like, What’s up with you? Like, big grown-ups and then taking and trying to organize and orchestrate that number of people through some form of curriculum. It’s you know, while giving them encouragement along the way in some kind of common mission. I mean, that’s a sales team. If I’ve ever seen it so that’s pretty fun that you had to watch. Did you come up? Are you California? Did you come up playing I’m going to Okay, so that’s real ball at Florida. Texas, California. Real soccer. How far do you go with all that? Did you take it off to college?
Eric Martin 19:45
I went played club at UC Santa Barbara and Jennifer as a good UCSB. We got a good program when I was there. Our club team and our D one team both won national championships.
Pete Thornton 19:55
Oh, that’s unbelievable. Yeah, that’s some real soccer. I got to play college ball like But it was in AI, which is interesting because in AI means that you’re in the Yeah, the round. Okay. Okay. Yeah. So the number of foreigners who can come and play in that is pretty unlimited versus the one. So, you know, like even my roommates like Turkish roommate, Nigerian roommate, a bunch of folks from Venezuela, Republic of Georgia, that guy was wild, Denmark. These are just this interesting and like, it’s it’s not baseball, basketball, football first. In other countries. These guys were enormous. Like six foot three, my roommate was a sinner back from Swindon, England, my senior year, and he’s the one who taught me like this to a two-footed tackle. I never even seen any of it like you see it on TV all the time. Now, when I was growing up, you did not see it on TV flares.
Alright, question number two. Favorite leadership moment. After all these years in leadership, if you have something that sticks out?
Eric Martin 20:52
Oh, yeah, I mean, I think, yeah, this is easy. I’m going to call the I’m gonna put this into a category of favorite leadership moments. And these moments are when reps or managers or directors come to me proud of something they’ve been able to do personally that they never thought they’d be able to do. As a result of them joining Vanta and kind of like having the success that they’ve had. And so two examples, you know, one being a member with a rep coming to me and kind of really proudly saying that, like, thanks to Vanta you know, she was able to pay off her college debt, you know, years in advance of when she had planned it. Had another one, Kevin, we, you know, saying, you know, thanks to Manta, not only was where he and his partner able to kind of go buy a home, but he was able to buy one for his mom. And it’s just like, these are the things were like, you know, they may sound cliche, but we do our best here to hire good humans. And we don’t always know, kind of the backstory here. And so when folks feel comfortable enough coming forward, and Chena, sharing, sharing these as personal life wins, others know better, living a better deal.
Pete Thornton 22:07
That’s amazing. That’s really, really, really cool. Now that there is certainly no better feeling as far as that goes. Cool leadership moment on that one moment. Okay, on Vanta side for your particular position because it is a head of informed position. One thing you have to get right for your org to grow.
Eric Martin 22:26
One thing I have to get right, the orange grew up, man, once again, this is interesting because this is like these one things that we’ve had to get right over the years, I feel like there have been so many of them.
Pete Thornton 22:41
That is the challenge on this because you’ll have so much going through your heads, it’s like how can you even narrow down to like even choosing one?
Eric Martin 22:48
Yeah, as we think about that— I’ll focus on the current assignment, so building going upmarket, one thing we have to get, right, one thing we have to get right. This is going to be so cliche, but it’s all-around hiring. And, you know, we’re in this position now, where as we go upmarket, it’s an opportunity for us to kind of promote folks from within, but also hire externally. And I really want to make sure that, you know, especially for the folks that we hire externally, we’re like, we’re kind of kicking butt and taking names right now. But this is an opportunity for us to, as I said, like level up from a skill standpoint, you know, bring in, bring in a rockstar two, or three or four. And what we found, and this was even true back when we were building the SMB or a couple years ago was that, you know, really nailing there’s those first few hires and kind of like laying the foundation for not just the culture, but kind of like the winning culture. It’s so important. And I think to that end, it’s one of those things where making sure that and I’ve talked about feedback loops earlier, but as a leader, making sure that you also have to hit that feedback loops. To know kind of, if and when a hire is working or not. You know, I think it’s it’s really easy as a kind of like, when you’re new to leadership to want to give people the benefit of the doubt, which sometimes translates into the benefit of time. And you need to know kind of like really kind of like, you need to know how high or low the stakes are. Before you can make that judgment call on like, how much extra time how much extra leash, are you going to give someone? Yeah, versus helping them find a new role or a new company. And that was a tough lesson. For me, I think couple years ago as well.
Pete Thornton 24:41
Did you have benchmarks at that time? Like did you understand what it would look like because you’re talking about going upmarket this is going to be a little bit of a newer challenge. So in the SMB space, like had you established that a little bit at least yourself so you would have some kind of data?
Eric Martin 24:55
Yeah, yeah. And the way I’ll try to answer that is that Vanta has since day one, probably over indexed on creating interview loops, and designing rubric for what we’re testing for and what looks good, and what looks bad, you know, for these different roles. And so one thing I take a lot of pride in is that we have kind of continuously and to this day evolved are kind of interview loops for the go-to-market roles. As we learn more about kind of like, what are sales or kind of like, human attributes that we know, kind of will have a kind of positive or negative correlation on kind of rep success? And so to answer your question, as you make this first couple of hires, like, you know, you know, from the very beginning, you know, our win rates were so high, and kind of what we were doing was a repeatable that, like, you know, we did our best to kind of identify, yeah, certain, like, you know, identify certain skills and attributes in these first hires, but like, you know, anyone in that position, you’re kind of guessing at the start, what’s really important that you’re paying attention to the details and kind of like what’s working well, or what is not working with these first hires, as it relates to like, you know, your playbook remaining repeatable so that you can get smarter with future hires.
Pete Thornton 26:14
It is interesting when that because you’re trying to balance the act of not knowing maybe in a new space, what that looks like yet and trying to find out what’s working and why as you move forward, and then a postman, and then you have some people that you can kind of judge that against a postman, we had two excellent early hires. But when we added in the enterprise motion, they and they did really well through that, but there were some, there were some things that we just didn’t know about it. But we were rolling into it so fast, so quick, we accelerated it by a year, like when we went away for a holiday break. In December, we came back and see it was like, it was like a week, great. We came back like, hey, during that week, actually figured out that will accelerate this. So we’re gonna start this on January 4, and literally three, three new directors, sales SC CS started on January 4, and like, surprise, remember what we were going to prepare for a year? Gonna do it today, like starting today. And so, you know, from there, like some of the interviews that we’re conducting, I was running to trial with a gong at the time, which we ended up purchasing. And so we didn’t know how to like, turn it off for interviews, but we did, but like it wasn’t, and yet, it was literally in trial. So I was watching some of these amazing interviews. And they were like, Well, how would you pitch this? And, you know, it’s like an interview question. And I know that we don’t know the answer yet. And the way that they were delivering the answer, these two reps actually still work for postman still now, and I was gathering it off of there and embedding it into our onboarding programs in real-time, because it’s like, that’s a hell of an answer right there. You know, because they’re not knowing. So the hiring, we had two people that worked out really well for it, and then hiring Well, afterward was good, but it sounds like that’s a common challenge.
Okay, this will preview the next little piece, and I will have to drop some of my stuff. We’ve been having a good time. Tip for yourself from 10 years ago. If you could tell Eric of 10 years ago, something that would help you be where you are now today, either smoother, better, faster, further, whatever it happens to be, what might you tell yourself personally or professionally?
Eric Martin 28:14
10 years ago, I was just wrapping up a three-year stint in Saudi Arabia, where I was, I did a master’s degree and then was running a startup accelerator and incubator, etc. I was pretty nervous that my time abroad was going to put me meaningfully behind my peers who had stayed in the States from a professional standpoint. And so I probably would have said to myself back in 10 years ago, don’t worry about it. You know, like, these life chapters, like you’ll find a way to like, you know, how do I say, learn from and lean on these, this like life chapter in a way that like, the professional side is going to take care of itself? So that’s, that’s one little thing that comes to mind. Glass. It’s funny, man, I don’t mean to be like that. Let’s sit on that as my answer. But I will also say this much that my background is in engineering. And I kind of got in and tried to start to my own companies before getting into sales. So like, 10 years ago, like, you know, there was still a year before I was even, like, scratching the surface getting into sales. So I wasn’t even in sales. 10 years ago, I was still living in the world of entrepreneurship and startups. So funny how a lot can change over a decade.
Pete Thornton 29:45
Definitely. A decade a long, long, long time, like you can do so much. And in 10 years, what less than you think in a year from what I understand and kept kind of experienced and so much more than you think in 10 years. So I’m hearing two things. One is like is not as good wonders is your background in an engineering because almost every sales leader I have met in this hypergrowth, early stage, they have these engineering backgrounds of some sort, whether it’s software or other, a lot of them are ours is a solution engineer turned head of sales. Now he’s coming from GitHub, which, you know, makes sense. They’re both very technical products. And they have a more like technical, technical way of putting things together. But what I’ve noticed about almost all of them, not all but the ones, the engineering background to some degree, if it’s not software, if it’s from another location, they’re process driven. So and then maybe your entrepreneurial background to like you’re thinking of it from the standpoint of the business really helpful. Actually, if since you actually have some context for where it fits in. I’m not I get to experience as much of that until enablement. And since you’re so cross-functional and enablement, you figure out what everybody is caring about getting by what they’re all asking for, from you in a single day. And so that’s, that’s interesting. And your point was relaxed, like, Hey, don’t worry about it, like this is all going to, so somebody is competitive and driven, and like, you know, entrepreneurial as yourself is going to be like, yeah, just chill out.
Eric Martin 31:09
Yeah, I think that I had and continue to live my life being just a yes person, you know, and it’s like, I think there’s a combination of, you know, being unafraid of kind of saying yes to new things, and kind of making sure that you are kind of aware of kind of how those things feel. Such that you’re able to kind of make more informed, kind of, yes, no decisions going forward like, Nah, man, you’re gonna have a good life.
Pete Thornton 31:34
Okay, okay, cool. I like it.
Eric Martin 31:36
And that means and that’s happening, that’s coming off the heels of getting back from Birmingham, but that’s not where that is coming from. That just happens to be.
Pete Thornton 31:45
Alright, do a side trail on that one. I’ve read a lot about the experience, never experienced it myself. I read about it in terms of… Oh, who was it? There’s somebody who speaks about flow, there’s a, there’s a popular book. Me Hi, chicks sent me Hi. Like, it’s a very difficult to read, like, I think Eastern European name. But some of his stuff is utilizing more like the pop culture now. And so they reference Bernie man a lot. And they just talk about, like, people being in a flow state and how that carries into professional life. You hear Google talks about it and stuff like that. What do you what did you get out of that, like, as it pertains to things that you think helped you in your professional life?
Eric Martin 32:27
Oh, it’s interesting, you know, I’m not gonna sit here and like, but the experience on too much of a pedestal, you know, it’s, it brings me a lot of joy. And a lot of the joy that I get these days comes from introducing it to kind of close friends who I get to kind of CO run a camp. And so we get to create an environment, environment for others to come out and experience kind of what’s brought kind of so many magical moments to me. But I will say, no doubt, there’s like the kind of the, in my opinion, the best thing about Burning Man is the lack of cell service. So I get there, locked my phone in the glove compartment for Nine Nights because it doesn’t work anyways. And just kind of like this forced practice of being totally present with people. It’s, for me, that is like, that is kind of this kind of healing, in a way, experience that you don’t get in the real world where you’re just kind of continuously distracted by, you know, notifications and such. So that like practice of presence is really a big one for me.
Pete Thornton 33:25
Okay, that’s fantastic. I mean, it’s what you hear. And then the usage running a camp like almost this idea of like, you have a responsibility within this larger organization. But they talked a lot about that. They’re like, what they do is they come together and like, it’s completely organic, that these folks are there to do something as well. There’s a point to some of it, but they’ve come up with what the point is.
Eric Martin 33:50
That’s a different podcast.
Pete Thornton 33:52
It’s a different podcast. We have a soccer podcast out of this one hand that. Well, we learned a little bit about Manta, and your background, too. Will you tell us a little bit about your time at Vanta? And then just what is your platform? What are you providing in the marketplace?
Eric Martin 34:09
Yep. Cool. So yeah, so Vanta is the leading kind of vendor in this new connected compliance category. So we more kind of practically we automate sock to ISO, HIPAA GDPR CCPA, as best we can, through third party integrations and kind of workflows that we’ve built, ultimately giving companies the opportunity to kind of either get or maintain these compliance programs and a fraction of the time and hopefully cost that they’ve kind of historically or otherwise would have planned to have spent on these things. And so I joined the company, three and a half years ago, one of the first 10 employees first go to market higher and add it from day one was responsible for kind of leading and building the org and did that for the first three years, as in like lead all kinds of sales, sales, sales, development, sales, engineering, etcetera, grew the team from let’s call like myself to just over 50 people took the company from zero to kind of north of 40 million in ARR. And then, a few months ago, we brought in, who was what is now my first kind of new boss, since we’ve been here CRO Stevi case. And she’s been a blessing. She’s total Rockstar, I’ve learned a ton from her. And so she’s come in and she’s ever seen canal sales, customer experience, etc. But that is the long and the short. And that’s really exciting. You know, our motto is very much kind of come for compliance day for security. And, you know, for folks who are a customer, we have almost 5000 today. And we think there’s a big blue ocean of you know, most 100,000 others that we hopefully it will get the chance to work with. If you’ve seen a developer product, do you know what I mean by that come for compliance day for security moto? Now, if you’re curious, by all means, email@example.com. Let me know.
Pete Thornton 36:04
Awesome. Yeah, that’s okay. So interesting. Yeah, I remember seeing it on the website and be like, Yeah, of course, somebody does this, of course, a lot of people do this, apparently. It’s like, it’s like, that makes sense. Because everybody’s got to have that pulled off. And it’s one of the things like, you know, you immediately get asked for even a sales round, like, we’d love to move on to the next stage. Great. And there’s like, there’s NDA and sought to, you know, let’s go, Okay, let me get them. You know, we have a whole workflow for it kicked off this way NDA come from here, sock two comes from there. And it’s, it’s primary for anything else to happen. So what then? I mean, it’s intuitive to me why this would be the case? What what’s the context for hypergrowth? And main topic? Why in three years, when do you go from you to 50? Just in the sales realm, like, not every business runs on that kind of trajectory, so why for you guys?
Eric Martin 36:54
Yeah, it’s interesting, the way I’ve pitched it to candidates over the years is just kind of like we’re doing to the world of compliance, what Uber did to the world of taxi cabs, you know, it’s like, historically, you use the cab to get from A to B, along came Uber, the value of a taxi medallion went down the drain, kind of Uber took off, historically, companies would have to hire human auditors to come in and like DOT their I’s cross their T’s. This is hiring kind of certified public accountants to come in and kind of check that you’re using your AWS appropriately, right, like and, like already, like me saying that it just it sounds weird. So what ends up happening is along comes Vanta. And like, you know, for better or worse, like, you know, we can observe to, you know, commoditize, a lot of the work that these auditors are doing, they’re still kind of various central partners to us, because if company has to get a sock to, they kind of need to sign off from a CPA. So we work very closely with them. And, frankly, those that were closest with us have not seen their businesses shrink, but grow exponentially. And I think you mentioned a second ago, you know, it’s like, why have we grown as much as we have, like, for better or worse, like, in order to get deals done today, many companies, especially software companies, so you need to present a sock two, or you need to present an ISO certificate. And so when the alternative to working with software is kind of working directly or only with humans, and we’re catering to these, like cloud-based software startups, you know, it’s just a no-brainer, these folks are all in tech for, for them, it’s just like, why would I? I don’t have the luxury of that kind of time, or money. So yeah, it’s just been about bouncing, you know, it’s like, then it’s been really exciting kind of seeing it being here from being like the very first rep in this space to now there are hundreds of reps across these kind of 30 competitors and have the opportunity to sell to the first 500 or so, you know, sign our first five or so customers and kind of see folks kind of get brought on board and kind of carry on and push the envelope forward. And it’s funny, haven’t been here three and a half years, sometimes it feels like we’re kind of halfway or three quarters way through the book. And then, you know, you take a few steps back, and in many ways, it’s like, holy crap, like we’re still in chapter one. But that’s what’s exciting about kind of being part of this ride and, you know, inviting people to join us is that they all bring kind of new energy and, and a new muscle that, you know, we’re looking forward to learning from or leaning on to help us keep pushing the envelope.
Pete Thornton 39:14
That’s cool. Yeah, it totally, totally makes sense why that would be three. Do you guys sell too? Is it is it? Is it Sisa? Like, is it like, who wouldn’t be—?
Eric Martin 39:22
It depends on the segment and the SMB more often than not, we’re talking to like co-founders or CTOs in the mid-market and like have higher-up segments are kind of decision makers end up being heads of security.
Pete Thornton 39:35
Okay, heads of security. Yeah, I’m like patient on the Postman side as well. And I’m just like, I’m sure that’s like, gotta be important to like, come up with that all the time. And make sure you’re in compliance and all these various different spaces at all times. And it’s interesting that I mean, the Uber, the Uber, like, metaphor is used frequently because it’s so disruptive to something that was previous so it’s often the case with tech, but then when you reference the CPAs it kind of made me laugh because I have to explain a little bit about Postman and that a little bit about what I do to a lot of people. And there are just only so many degrees of separation you can have from SaaS or hypergrowth. Before I’m just like, I’m gonna take this to a really weird metaphor and like, just trust me that it translates. That’s it.
Eric Martin 40:15
I will say, one last thing I’ll say is, it’s so funny man being a part of this phase where there are like 30 different vendors. And when you look at it from like, a different lens, it’s like, all we’re all trying to do is we are like fighting aggressively, to try to help you to try to help that as like, we’re, like, aggressively trying to help you kind of unlock some kind of growth opportunity for your business. And so we remind our team of that, all the time, I was just like, hey, like, you know, we’re everything. We’re doing God’s work, automatic plants end of the day, like, you know, let’s read ourselves and kind of like how we’re actually helping people in these businesses. But yeah, let’s, let’s keep things in perspective.
Pete Thornton 40:53
I have, and this is not, you’re not going to want to deal with 30 competitors, but there’s a there’s like a real estate like mogul type who like Walt and do a deal, if he doesn’t have at least three competitors nominees, like there’s not a good deal anymore. Like they, there’s something I’m missing in my like due diligence. So like, like, this is not a good place for me to invest. And then one of the best reps I’d ever known, he, because it was a little bit of a nice to have product at that organization to be honest. And unless there was at least a competitor on the deal. Like he didn’t think it was going to close. He’s like, if we’re the only ones here, like, it’s not going to happen, like I’m out. And I thought that was interesting. I’m like, Are you because I would, you know, seems like such a like, isn’t that what you want? You’re just the only one and you have some kind of compelling that you’re checking all the boxes, and you don’t even have to pitch against something’s like, there’s not gonna be budget there for that. They don’t really need it. You know, and like, I thought it cynicism, but I don’t think so like, getting perspective. Honestly, I think it’s good perspective on both.
Then what about the future? You talked a little bit about moving upmarket, you have a vision for this thing. No more than 12 months is too ridiculous to think more than 12 months ahead, ever, I think in the space, but you know, six to 12 months, let’s say in the future—people, product, process—any kind of route you might want to take on that one.
Eric Martin 42:05
Yeah, without disclosing too much you’re excited, I think this like mid-market and above-market segment for us is, is a really kind of big, immediate opportunity. No one in his face. No one in our kind of like our generation of kind of competitors has established themselves as being kind of like the dominant player in that segment yet. So we want to go do that. So I think you’re gonna, you know, there’s, there’s a desire, our motto here is very much to kind of like secure the internet as like lofty as that might sound. And so I’m really excited to see and I’ve investments and big bets that we start making along those lines and starting to pull some of the value kind of started to separate some of the value of what we do. From just kind of helping people streamline audit things and kind of living more by that motto of coming for compliance, but staying for security.
Pete Thornton 42:56
I love it like you can’t get more than more of the Nike just do it is secure the internet like that. Like that’s a good that rolls off the tongue really well.
Eric Martin 43:10
Kudos to our CEO, Christina, for that one. And Frank for leading this charge, generally.
Pete Thornton 43:16
Speaking of some kudos, this is a hell of a journey you’re on even a lot of places. I mean, even the Saudi Arabia thing, we didn’t go any farther there but out of love and know about it. But again, for another one, we have this as a fourth podcast name, we’ve come up with two to three people to thank just offensive gratitude for the journey. And again, personal professional, thinking about the past 5, 6, 7 years.
Eric Martin 43:42
Oh, boy. I got to think. I mean, professionally, I have to thank Cristina, you know, like, for giving me this opportunity. And, you know, taking a leave on me, I came in without any kind of sales leadership experience. And, you know, I mean, from day one, we made sure that there was like really clear, strong kind of up and down communication around expectations. And, you know, this has been just kind of like a game-changing experience for yourself. First off, thanks to her. And also say, you know, this is kind of like a random one. But sales wasn’t even really on my radar until the second startup that I tried to get off the ground failed. And it was a few of my advisors to that company, who were the ones that advise that I get into sales. And I don’t know, like, I think like many people, especially people with engineering backgrounds, I’d historically kind of look down on sales professionals. And I remember the advice that I got, which is that hey, like, Eric, if you ever want to be a CEO, again, every CEO needs to be a good salesperson, we think you’d be good at it. It’s gonna be a humbling experience. And that it was, but it was also it’s also been just an incredibly rewarding experience and something that like I found that I do very, very well. Those are two kind of shoutouts.
Pete Thornton 45:03
That’s interesting. Okay, that’s cool. Yeah, that works out. Well, Christina is the CEO I take advantage of this is the person that gave me the opportunity. And then and then maybe some of your advisers who said go for sales as an as a teacher, I read three books after I was like, I’m not going to go back to the medical school route, I’m better at it, there’s going to be an eight-year renewal of credits to move back through and get even after two hard degree hard science degrees. And then I read a couple books on it. And I was like, I’d like I didn’t even make it through challenge per se. I didn’t even make it through. I was like, halfway, I was like, I get it. I get it. I get it. We’re gonna I’m gonna go I’m gonna get a resume. I’m gonna go door knock. and stuff. I like it. I love it. Snow Day from school in February, two years back. Okay, last one, this is the sign-off. This is The SaaS(ramp) Podcast, take that demeanor a lot of different ways. I kind of mean it in a specific way, just based on my role. But regardless, in the space that you’re in, and what you guys have done, at Vanta, what does SaaS(ramp) been to you?
Eric Martin 45:57
Oh, I think SaaS(ramp) probably goes back to kind of the original kind of challenge we’re talking about facing. And it’s, I interpret it as, you know, how do we, from a scaling standpoint? How do we like, you know, a big part of scaling and operation is making sure that the kind of people that you’re bringing in to kind of power everything behind the scenes, or from the front lines are ramped, per se. So when I hear SaaS(ramp) I’m thinking, you know, effectively, kind of like bringing that to the surface, or kind of acknowledging the importance of kind of getting folks ramped up, in order to kind of like, make sure that your SaaS machine keeps humming.
Pete Thornton 46:40
Yep. Yep. Yep. That’s not the answer. So anybody else listening? Like it’s not the answer? It’s kind of like my answer to the so like, if you want to cheat you listen all the way to the end of another podcast before you’re a guest. Then there you have the last question now, Eric, so so appreciative. This one went too long apologize for that, but it’s just because it’s like really like cool back and forth. Appreciate learning more about you and Vanta and totally understand the reason behind those hockey stick growth and looking forward to seeing the great mid-market success and having my internet be secured by you.
Eric Martin 47:13
I love it, Pete. Thanks again for having me, man. This is really fun. And once again, let me know if you want to talk. We’ve got four other podcasts lined up so let me know when you do.
Pete Thornton 47:21
That’s right. I need your premier league team after this so we can make sure we’re at a minimum still. No, yeah. Cheers.