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 00:06
Welcome to today’s show of the SaaS ramp podcast. Looking forward to bringing you Todd Busler, co-founder and CEO of Champify. I think you’re gonna enjoy this one. Champify is a smaller organization. And they have a very interesting kind of like, economically relevant, I’ll just kind of say, value proposition that he talks about a little bit later in the show, basically solving the challenge of kind of like limited outbound connection rates, essentially, like as things have moved on, you’re gonna see these connection rates drop further and further down some that I experienced long ago as a BDR, SDR, SDR or whatever want to call them. And then, you know, you still experience today for various things, even getting podcast guests. So when it’s a little bit more referral based, it seems to go a little smoother. And that’s kind of like the place that they sit, which I thought was very interesting. It’s got a couple of good nuggets on leadership, background as diverse as SAP but also squared, another company called Heap, unusual ventures before he became Founder CEO at Champify. And so these kind of like different types of things I’ve noticed like a lot of CEOs, they have this very big experience like an SAP Oracle, then they’ll have a small experience they’ll be doing some SMB sales at a smaller startup get very well rounded kind of have to do it all. So cool conversation around that there are some good nuggets in there. Before we jump into it, let me give you a word from the sponsor, this rampant DOT cloud if you want to maximize your investment in Gong gong.io revenue intelligence platform, reach out to Pete at rampant DOT cloud, you might know him. Pete’s friend Pete reached out to me. I’ll get you in touch and we’ll see what we can do with you with the rampant DOT cloud. Alright, enjoy the show. Welcome back rapids to The SaaS Ramp Podcast on your host podcast. Pete, welcoming Todd Butler to the show today. Todd is co-founder and CEO at Champa. Fie. Welcome to the show, Todd.
Todd Busler 02:10
Hey, Pete, thanks for having me.
Pete Thornton 02:12
Great to have you on. Great to meet you as well. I think we know some similar folks. So I thought this would be a special treat for maybe particular members of the audience. Definitely. So we can jump right in. It’s an interesting topic for everybody. It always pans out a slightly different way. But your early stage founder got cool software rolling out there. interesting dynamics the last few months. So maybe what’s been the biggest challenge for you guys in the last six months or so?
Todd Busler 02:42
Yeah, we’re super early. Right. So we launched publicly eight months ago, you’ve been working on this for like about 1215 months. But we’re very early, I think the biggest challenge has been building the initial team. I’m a really firm believer in the first 10 1215 people that you hire, set this standard for talent, the culture, whether explicitly or implicitly, the cadence, the operating rigor, how you attract other talents. So I think we’ve been spending a lot of time trying to get the best kind of 10 to 15 people that we can through our personal networks. I think that’s challenge number one. I think challenge number two would be there’s a lot of just scrutiny and SaaS spend right now. I’ve been selling software for, like, 11 years now. I think partially the macro environment, I think partially is savvy leaders knowing that they can use the macro environment to secure some better deals. And I think it’s just us being a smaller company. But the amount of scrutiny for a 20 to 50k deal, multiple C level people involved for a 100 billion dollar valuation company or multiple 100 million dollar, if not more evaluation companies. That’s definitely a challenge as well.
Pete Thornton 03:57
Yeah, okay. I, you know, the first one is, if you don’t hear it as much, because some of the companies are slightly larger. But that’s every team I’ve ever been on. Because it’s always been hyper growth SaaS, never really more than when I started, they’re never more than 250 employees, there’s always stories about the first 1015 20. And it’s kind of a badge of honor. And they seem to know everybody, and they stick around a long time, like it takes a long time to get and build, but I’m sure that they’re, you know, you’re kind of finding a true foundation there. It seems like,
Todd Busler 04:27
definitely. And I think, you know, the early people you have, they bring a couple of people from their network, you know, those people bring a couple of people from their network. So like, they’re definitely multipliers, those early employees, and I think it’s important to spend a lot of time getting that
Pete Thornton 04:39
right. That’s nice. Okay. And then the scrutiny on the salesman, like just a double click. Do you have any tips and tricks there? Because that’s ubiquitous, like you’re hearing that across the board?
Todd Busler 04:52
Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of tips and chips out there. There’s a lot of people talking about this right now. You know, CFOs, the true economic buyer and every single deal I agree with With that, like, I’m just the level of scrutiny that people want to see to make sure we’ve looked at multiple vendors, there’s a very strong ROI case, we’ve exhausted that we can accomplish this with any other tool, like doing this, you know, selling software two, three years ago and kind of boom, round up. Just, I would say, 10% of the scrutiny that you’re getting now. So I mean, it sharpens your sword and makes sellers a lot better, like marketers do a lot better and makes the success that you have to deliver on the value you’re doing. Ultimately, I think it’s an okay thing. I think just, you know, if you’re a small company, you may be growing a little bit slower than you would have liked or just like deals might be taking a little longer. And I think that’s just the reality we’re in. Yeah,
Pete Thornton 05:45
okay. Yeah. Make sense? Here’s those things frequently. If you ever spend time on LinkedIn, you’re like, ah, you know, you get an earful of it. But it’s true. It’s true. And so that’s what people like the most about it.
Todd Busler 05:57
I think mature businesses are a little trickier for us. Look, we’re in our first year operating. So like forecasting, don’t get me wrong, it matters. But we’re not, you know, living and dying by a monthly call, right? I think some of the I saw Manny Medina, an outreach post se, like the ability to forecast right now. It’s harder than it’s ever been. He’s just like, it’s really hard to control when these deals are going to come in. And again, I think that’s just the reality of the time and reading.
Pete Thornton 06:24
Okay, good point. Good point. Yeah, it’s maybe never a better time to be a small nimble, you’re just like, hey, we’re already in this space. So like, just double down, I guess. I agree. You’ve got those. You’ve got all the irons in the fire, just because you know, co founder CEO, and then you know, it’s software building, trying to get in all the foundational pieces, like you’re telling us about. So it’s not going to happen for you. But if you could only focus on one thing, like that would be the exercise of this question. What’s the one thing you have to get right, for your org to grow for a couple of quarters, not forever, just maybe foreseeable future.
Todd Busler 07:04
I think we tied to revenue really well, like whether we’re helping STRS and A’s get into new opportunities through warmth or helping EES expand some of their book of business by having advocates move into their accounts, or even trying to get in front of churn earlier. Like, luckily, our product ties pretty closely to revenue. That being said, What’s the most important thing to get right now is the success and adoption part? We’re spending a lot of time making sure. Okay, how quickly can we get implemented? How quickly can the team get on board and get to their first aha moment or value moment? How can we constantly reduce those friction points? Because much like it is really hard to get in yield depth done right now, it’s going to be equally as hard in the renewal. Right. So I think it’s just getting really buttoned up on them agreeing on what the core value prop is them agreeing on the ROI they’re receiving. And then ultimately, the reason why I say that is I believe that your best marketing today, like I think their early customers that you can make happy are the people that are going to rave about you and end up being a big chunk of word of mouth kind of marketing. So I think that’s the most important thing to get right. And we’re constantly like, looking at every step in that process to see what we can do better.
Pete Thornton 08:21
Yeah, okay. Yes. Good point. So funny. At two organizations, I’m thinking of I remember when that first wave of renewables came around, and like, like the big wave, and it came in, like hits you from behind the hills that because like, all you’re worried about was getting those deals in the front door, and then all of a sudden, they’ve been there a year, or coming up. And you know, you’re in that 90 Day renewal cycle. And, and it’s nice to have some framework laid and maybe some operational cadence, some something to fall back on. Like, you know, what the goals were, you’ve been taking some metrics along the way. It’s an easier discussion. I wish I could say we were prepared for either of those. So Good on you actually setting that up?
Todd Busler 09:02
Yeah, I mean, I made the same mistakes I liked, so I was super early at a product analytics company called Heap stuff. Fifth employee was there for almost 300 employees, so we made the same mistake. I think early in your sash journey or SAS career. You go, oh, we signed a year contract. We don’t need to worry about that forever. And then as you do this a couple times, you realize that year comes up really fast. And those renewal conversations come up? Way faster and quicker than you thought. So I think now I’ve just seen it once or twice, just putting that level of importance upfront is going to help us a lot.
Pete Thornton 09:35
Yeah, good point. Yeah, those AES were like, Wait a minute. I’ll do the renewal now to like, yeah, you do that you do it with no
Todd Busler 09:41
sign and hide like that doesn’t exist.
Pete Thornton 09:44
Yeah, very true. So you mentioned he said, you’ve got a you’ve got a journey and this and you’re a co founder CEO, so like, and you’ve been in sales previously and stuff like that. So what does that journey look like for you in particular, most people don’t go to college for So it’s definitely a different weave. But what professional personal experiences did you have on the way up to the seat?
Todd Busler 10:07
Yeah, so I, everyone, where I went to school tried to get into finance. I didn’t really have interest in doing that. I had a couple friends that were getting into tech a few years older than me, and said, Hey, you should look at this. I actually started as a sales engineer out of school, which I didn’t even know what that was until I went to the interview at SAP. And I went through this big company training, went through how to do discovery and make presentations and got exposed to a whole bunch of things in a big company. I quickly realized I wanted to be the A, not the SE. So I had the chance to move up to San Francisco. And as part of the first hiring class at Square, like when they were just hiring their first group of AES, and that went from like 10 people to 60 in a year. And I started getting exposed to like, oh, wow, territories, sales ops, compensation, enablement, overlays at different products, onboarding, like there was a hiring process like I was starting to expose so much as you know, you added 50 people. And what I started to realize is like, wow, I want to be touching more of this and not just directly selling without being involved in the strategy and all those other pieces I mentioned. So after a year at Square, I did well, I really liked it. They were pretty SMB at the time. And I realized, like, Hey, I didn’t want to just be an SMB sales manager. I didn’t want to do that yet. And I didn’t think there was an opportunity as a rep to close bigger complex deals. So I started picking my head up a little bit and got connected to the two founders at Heap. And there were five people at the time. I had raised the CEO and had a couple $100,000 in revenue, and we’re saying, hey, we need our first rep. And they liked that I had sales and background before because the product was pretty technical, but they needed someone that could get in there and figure it out. I spent six years there from about zero to 40 million in ARR. I think I got a kind of SaaS MBA there. I made every mistake under the book under the sun, like learning from different CROs professional CEOs that I brought in at some opened up an office of my own kind of SDR VP of Sales the last two and a half years. So a really good experience there that, like I said, got exposed to everything kind of SAS related.
Pete Thornton 12:18
Yeah, so interesting. So this journey that you just walked through because started at SAP and got this very, fundamental -like almost like classic sales, education and then moved directly into small companies back to back was a sound like they’ve had success. I mean, everybody knows square. And then and then he grew really rapidly as well. I have heard that like, this is like the, you’re like the fifth CEO I’ve spoken to in like 57 episodes or something like that, who have come from like an SAP Oracle type background, and then gone super small afterwards. And something about that juxtaposition. They find themselves in like a founder, co founder, CEO role, the couple positions later is like, is there anything to that I’m just like noticing a trend here.
Todd Busler 13:04
Honestly, I never thought about that. I think in general, though, a lot of people underestimate some of those big company learning. I’m torn. I like small companies, I’m drawn to them. Now I like really small organizations, even after Heap, I spent a year in a venture for a firm that exclusively focused on seed rounds. Right. But that being said, the training you get at these bigger orgs and like the ability to take the time and learn. I think it’s extremely valuable. Now there’s a lot of parts that frustrated me about a bigger company, but it also gave me a lot of the foundation and training and polish to be able to do some things better. So I’m a big fan of those big company training programs.
Pete Thornton 13:43
Yeah, I feel like it’s like I feel like it’s like, you know, like everybody likes in rock and roll. They’re all just like, there’s people that are self taught and stuff but a lot of people aren’t a lot of people are like no, I played classical piano till I was 13. And then I picked up this electric guitar and then they start like jazz comes from that like all these things are improvisational because they have a really steady foundation that’s put into place there. That’s pretty interesting. And then your experience at I know which one you’re talking about unusual ventures. I believe you’re okay, so another sales leader but had a really good experience over there as well has been a guest on the show. Decoded Mackenzie at endgame.
Todd Busler 14:24
Yep. Okay, Dakota. Well,
Pete Thornton 14:27
Todd Busler 14:29
I overlap with Dakota. So I went to work with him and someone named Leon Rizal, Kleiner Perkins. And essentially the appeal for me was I really liked the early stage. So I wanted to go work with early stage founders. I wasn’t ready to jump back in after the six year run at Heap so they feel like a great way to go and work with four to six, eight different companies over the course of a year there and spend it as close as you can be with the founder without being the founder. Right? A lot of times the things I learned at Heap went from basically zero to, you know, 40 million or so like a lot of those learnings these people are trying to figure out, right? So I came up with a new perspective on, hey, here’s how to approach it, or, Hey, you’re an engineer, you’ve never even thought about going to market, here’s how you should start this problem. And it quickly adds a lot of value. And I have some really good relationships with some founders there. And learned a lot from them in the process as well. That’s neat. It’s neat to be able to play like four to six chess games at the same time. And then you go, like, go over, you see the breadth, right? You see, like I saw Heap really deep. And now after this, I’m like, Okay, this is what urgency feels like. This is what real pain looks like. This is what willingness to pay feels like. Right? It’s really hard to do that. If you’ve only seen it at one or two companies.
Pete Thornton 15:46
Yep. Yeah. Good point. Yeah. I really like that, too. That’s a little bit of an aside. But I am just something that is a trend for sure. Okay, then leading into Shopify. So like, like terrified of doing well growing up, obviously, you’ve made it out there building your base of employees and getting these referenceable customers, and what’s the, what’s the context for maybe some hyper growth or future hyper growth there?
Todd Busler 16:11
Yeah, so how we got to Chin fi was essentially at Heap, we were running the trouble of outbound just getting less and less efficient. Like we get higher STARS in the early days, and say, hey, send these cadences and make these cold calls with these scripts. And you get a certain number of meetings per month, that is getting harder and harder, less efficient and more expensive. So one day, we had a realization that, hey, we could tap into 40,000 people that are using the product, many of which are changing jobs, every single month, right? Usually about one to 2% of people change jobs every month. And a lot of them are going into some of our best accounts yet we were going and doing about the coldest, hardest way of prospecting possible. So when I went to unusual two co founders, we had like kept thinking about this and tinkering with it. Ultimately, when we started doing some customer development, we realized that I think our timing is really good. Like people are really starting to think about cost of acquisition, they’re really starting to think about making these big SDR teams that they’ve hired truly effective, and ROI positive. And ultimately, what we do is we help b2b revenue teams generate high quality pipelines by operationalizing the entire process of engaging with former customers, buyers and users. So we’re working now with north of 30 customers a little bit more than that, who are paying us to enable their teams to be more effective. And usually what that means is making STRS 10 to 15% more efficient, or increasing the pipeline that certain A’s are generating or velocity, etc.
Pete Thornton 17:43
Okay, okay. It’s interesting, this is a challenge and like, so I had my time in the bdrc. That’s how I made my career change from education, into technology sales and such, so glad it was like it. We had these pods and we were in the office and you had all these accoutrements that can kind of help you get through that gritty grindy job. This was a year ago, and it was already tough. And if I had to admit, I was very good video, I was like 14 months in a row, I had the status like top BDR for number of meetings book, if I had to go back and look at like the number of the percentage that actually closed from those especially, I think I would try, because like, because you don’t care at the time, you’re just this is your job to get this across and you do some discovery, is it an SQL? Is it not coming on? It is, you know, you have the argument and everything. But that’s a, that job now is even more arduous, because like, I don’t pick up that phone, like I don’t pick up that cell phone, like the emails, like I’ve moved to slack from email, like it’s just a difference, that subtle shifts of the game over the last like seven or eight years. I can sense that transition. So you’re saying that, like, basically, you’ve watched the people who are customers and roll into other organizations and then help them do more of a, like old school reference from one person? Yeah,
Todd Busler 18:59
we really just make sure you have all the knowledge. So Pete was a postman, he was the previous buyer of Gong. Now the gong rep should know that once you leave and move into a head of enablement role and insert a new company, that person that owns that new company should be aware that Pete is there. Right? That’s a whole other group of people that they can talk to that are already familiar and have had good experiences. And the tooling that exists today, we see that most companies are only getting five to 10% of the potential pie that’s out there. You spend a lot of time onboarding, making people aware of educating them, onboarding them, getting them successful, and that each company, we’re really what we’re trying to help people do is build customers for life. Right. And I think that it’s becoming more and more important, and we’re seeing way more go to market teams operationalize this with the proper toy.
Pete Thornton 19:51
Okay, well, it makes sense and it is a way to immediately cut through the noise and like your example of Gong is just right, like within Three months of getting to postman, but you know, I made it easy for him. I was just like, Hey guys, is it me again territory or not, you know, they’re like, I’m sorry. It’s not like I understand, pass me along, you know, stuff like that. So, but you know not everybody’s gonna do that. And like just actually exactly. Who did what and followed along? That’s interesting, like there is a way to break it down. Is it software? Is it service oriented? Like what are the nuts and bolts of how it rolls out? Yeah, it’s software,
Todd Busler 20:29
It’s pure software. It’s a Salesforce native application. That’s basically reading from key reports and audiences that you have, we monitor them, as people move around, we handle the finding where they went getting their email, getting their phone number, routing, that to the right people that should know about it, the someone’s departing an account, the CSM should know about it, they should have an associated play with that Gainsight, for instance, STR a that owns the account where peatlands the arrival they should know about that they should get routed that just like an inbound lead, or an MQL. And they should have the same types of processes and cadences and sequences, and get in touch with those people. And it should be measurable by the manager and the VP of Sales around how this play is working. Ultimately, we look at this as kind of a third or fourth pipeline channel, right? You have the inbound, you have the outbound, you have partners, and this is really a fourth category, which is advocacy. Right? And what we’re trying to do is put a whole program around that. So customers and sellers are spending less time doing the least efficient customer acquisition channels possible, which isn’t pure cold
Pete Thornton 21:35
outbound. Yep. Yep. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, I know it from an onboarding standpoint, as well, like you can bring in EDR SDR ADR in time over time, like, by the time they get them up to speed, if they’re not having some successes in that realm, or don’t know what the target is. It can be troublesome from a turnover standpoint. Okay. I like that. That’s it. That’s an interesting tool. And I can kind of see why that’s taken off. Changing gears, I guess a little bit more than if you sat in different seats. And you come from an individual contributor up through and and now being, you know, co founder and CEO like that, that question would be like, favorite leadership moment. But first, I would, I would kind of actually be more curious about what your what the transition looked like, like, how do you kind of handle that? Do you do it intentionally? Does it come naturally from some kind of maybe athletic background, or some kind of leadership thing you had in the past that you’re trying to emulate? You got a mentor? Like, what? How did you handle that transition over from one to the next?
Todd Busler 22:37
I think it was steady, right? Like I started as an IC, I very quickly was leading a team. I played football, my whole life had been captain, things like that. Like I think there’s always been some natural leadership capabilities. But for me, it was natural work in my career. Okay, now you’re going to start hiring the first SDR and managing that, hey, you’re going to be the first person to run the AAU team. I think for me, what I realized is sure there’s some natural leadership abilities, but I was just always super low, we go, Hey, I don’t know everything. Please help me. I don’t care if I’m right, I just want to learn fast and be the best. At Heap. What that meant is I had really good mentors, an old CRO box. Jim Hairball was someone that helped me a ton in the early days. Scott Davis, who was the CRO at Medallia has been a mentor for me at different parts of the run, and then worked under a couple different CROs. And I learned a ton from them and I think they always respected that. Hey, I was willing to outwork anyone, people respected me and organization, but I didn’t know everything like I was young doing this. And oftentimes, they could point me in the right direction. So I think the key to leadership is some natural components of it. But there’s also a lot that’s learned. And it comes from being empathetic, but holding people accountable, and just having a really low ego and just trying to learn and be the best you can and not caring if you’re right, or if it’s your idea.
Pete Thornton 23:55
That’s a good point. Yeah, that’s a really good point. I think it’s, I don’t know, it’s never easy, actually. I was like, I think it’s easier to do in like, hyper growth than it is like, corporate, you know, like when you get up there because you’re your one idea you had that one shot to actually get on and talk to somebody about it. But you know, you’re making big decisions, and a whole company can pivot based on your decisions. And you know, the smaller size companies that are hyper growth SaaS companies, so it’s probably never easy. So it’s good, good point. So just keep the ego low. Keep learning. And, and then, you know, some of the things I’m sure that worked on the football field still work, like leading by example, hustling, like being able to superduper work hard, I’m sure you know, the individual components of the jobs that you’re helping people do. They sure they appreciate that, like if you have a piece of advice you it’s probably applicable to them, things like that.
Todd Busler 24:46
Yeah, I mean, I’ve done it. So like the early employees now champ, but it’s like, Look, I know what you’re going through. There’s way more work to do. Everything feels kind of half baked. There’s not enough resources like that’s what you signed up for. I but I’ve gone through To on the other side of this is, you’re leading a big part of this organization, you being equipped to start your own company, whatever that may be.
Pete Thornton 25:08
Yeah. That’s cool. Yeah, it’s cool. It’s cool to be able to roll that out to them. And just like speaking from experience. Yeah, like that. Oh, well, then the other question and favorite leadership moment,
Todd Busler 25:19
favorite leadership moment, I learned a lot from the losses. Like I remember being in a board meeting with Matt Murphy, who led the series B at Heap and just like coming out of that meeting, but wow, I was not prepared for that. Like, I didn’t know my business at a level that I should have. And that taught me so much. I remember feeling so shitty after that. Not that he did anything malicious. It was just like, yeah, like, you need to know this. And I didn’t. And I remember feeling, okay, here’s how I’m going to be prepared. Here’s how I’m going to talk to mentors beforehand. Here I’m going to make sure that I’m understanding all the questions I need to know. And if I don’t know something, I have a good reason as to why. So for me, I learned a lot from the losses. I think that was kind of a personal loss that kind of kicked my ass in the right direction, and made sure that I’m one of the most prepared people now in every single meeting. I’m in.
Pete Thornton 26:14
Okay, okay. Yeah, did I hate those? I hate those. But I do agree with you. I learn from them. It’s just like, ah, it just crushes me to come out and have those things go that way. But yeah, you’re right. That’s when you get that is when you tend to get better. Okay, the final one is a bit nonsensical but this is SaaS ramp, a podcast. So maybe think more on the word ramp than anything else. It might help. You’re in SaaS, whatever. But what does SaaS ramp mean to you?
Todd Busler 26:43
Thinking about this as I show the calendar and byron? Remember, the CEO of Heap would talk a lot about in SAS, it’s all about nail it and then scale it right and there was a right now. Champa fives in the nail it right? We’re figuring we’re landing customers, we’re making them happy. we’re ramping new people, can we make them productive, etc. A lot of the times, you know, the bigger SAS companies you talked about are in scale mode. I think SaaS ramp fits a lot into that kind of what a scale mode book like a tower you actually ramping not individuals, but ramping these SaaS organizations, right? So building processes around hiring and onboarding and enablement and ramping. Operating cadence is how to spin out new initiatives, team structures, cough design, when I think about SaaS ramp, I think about kind of the scale at mode and everything that goes into it.
Pete Thornton 27:32
Okay, that’s cool. I like that. That’s unique. The term is nail it and scale it or nail it, then scale it. Yeah, nail it and scale it. Guys, if this shows up as the title of this podcast, you’ll know where it came from. So it just asked me to catch
Todd Busler 27:48
Ken Ken fine from the CEO of Heap taught me that
Pete Thornton 27:53
okay, can find CEO of Heap we owe you Annette mentioned it’ll happen. That’s tremendous. Okay, I got a lot out of this. That was really great. Todd, really cool to hear about your life, how you came into being into this role, like, then the pieces all fit together, like those stars align, looking back like that. I’m always interested in that. And then understanding about amplify and like, what they do, why it’s growing quickly, like why you have that team in place that seems like it’s going to build and scale rapidly, nail and scale it rapidly. And then, and then understanding the leadership pieces like makes total sense. Sometimes trashy things lead to, you know, the best leadership. Oh, I don’t know what you call it, maybe a springboard or something like that. Those are like, those are all good learnings for myself, and of course, the audience as well. So appreciate your time.
Todd Busler 28:41
Pete, thanks for having me on. Really good to meet you. Love what you’re doing and love the guests you’re having more
Pete Thornton 28:46
often than Thank you. Yeah, thanks for participating. Do it again in a year. We’ll see. We’ll see where Champify is at. Cheers.