Crawling Upmarket: How Dini Mehta grew sales to $100M at Lattice

June 20, 2023

Listen Now

Never miss an episode. Subscribe now.
Thanks for subscribing! We'll email you when we publish an episode.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Episode Summary

Dini Mehta’s entire career has been a series of growth stories. At Quantcast, she went from Account Executive to Sales Manager. At Drawbridge, she went from the first sales hire to the VP of Sales. Then at Lattice, she went from VP of Sales to CRO. She's currently enjoying an "operating time out."

Dini is passionate about building high-performing and diverse teams, leading with authenticity, and sustainably scaling GTM engines from the ground up.

Dini Mehta was incredibly successful as the CRO of Lattice. She took the company from $3M to over $100M in ARR when she left. 

Dini and Alex also happen to go way back. They worked together for 3 years at Lattice, where Dini ran sales and Alex ran marketing. So we thought she’d be the perfect guest for our new show.

In this episode, Alex and Dini chat about the early days at Lattice—including:

  • Lattice's early go-to-market strategy
  • How they moved upmarket
  • How they collaborated across sales and marketing
  • How to lead a sales team; and
  • How to grow from AE, to sales leader, to CRO.

Enjoy the episode!

Links and References

Follow Dini Mehta on LinkedIn

Follow Alex Kracov on LinkedIn and Twitter


The early days leading Sales at Lattice

Alex Kracov: So let's start with what Lattice was like when you joined. Can you paint a picture for us? How big was the sales team, and what was the starting ARR?

Dini Mehta: Gosh. Taking them back to June 2018 when I joined, the sales team was seven people. I want to say four AEs, maybe five AEs, a couple BDRs. I think overall go-to-market across marketing sales success — we were what? Like 15, 20 people. It's definitely the smallest company I joined, like 3 million in ARR. I joined in summer which are typically slow sales months, which remind yourself that summer is going to be slow. Because when I joined, it was like the first three months, the goal was to grow revenue. We were seeing a little bit of stalling in our new business growth. I'm sure you remember those days.

Alex Kracov: Yep.

Dini Mehta: But it was fine. I mean I came from a background of doing enterprise sales, mostly selling to Fortune 500 marketing orgs. And so it was a new environment, which I was excited about. When I was interviewing and talking to Lattice, it looked much bigger from the outside thanks to the billboards and all the work we did.

Alex Kracov: And the marketing, you know, yeah.

Dini Mehta: Coming in I was like, ooh, this is early. Because I hadn't managed a sales rep in a couple of years prior to that. So I was like, okay, go back to your — flex brain. Start to go back to it. But it was such a fun time. Because we were all in it together. We were all trying to build this business, grow the company. You could see the impact of your work within weeks. So it was a fun time. Gosh. So many stories.

Alex Kracov: And so it wasn't really — it sounds like Jack might have oversold a big beaver a little bit, which is a good job as a CEO. And so was it more like you had to be more of a player coach than you sort of expected? Were you actually running deals and getting into the weeds with Seth and the rest of the reps?

Dini Mehta: No, I think Seth and the team were so good at closing deals. So I was mostly learning about HR tech, learning about high-velocity sales, learning about inbound business. I think it was the first time I'd been at a company where there was actual inbound demand. And so coming in, I was like, what? There's just people coming to us wanting a demo. Just what? This is weird. Yeah, it was different. I actually closed two deals on my own just to get some street credit with the team. And so a little bit of player-coachy there. But my goal was to mostly learn about the market and the dynamics with our competitors and how we were selling deals, and what are the growth paths that we could potentially take on. The first Monday, I remember, I was like, woof, this is different. Very different than coming from a Series E later stage, $120-million business to like, yep, here we are.

Alex Kracov: Those were fun times, I think.

Dini Mehta: Totally.

Alex Kracov: Did you start in the battery office?

Dini Mehta: That's right. We had two battery offices, remember?

Alex Kracov: Oh, yeah, we had two battery offices.

Dini Mehta: Yeah, I was going to say the 22 battery office with the infamous one bathroom.

Alex Kracov: Yes, that's the one bathroom and the bathroom key. Oh, my God. We don't need to. TMI for this podcast. So you approach, like learning was your main goal. But I felt like once you got settled and you got a sense of the HR market and the team, you sort of accepted how early Lattice was. What were your initial priorities? Do you remember what your initial goals were?

Dini Mehta: Yeah, I mean I think, obviously, goal number 1, 2, 3 as a revenue leader is to grow revenue. How do we change the trajectory of the new business growth? Obviously, you and I were close in that how do we sort of build this out together? I quickly realized that there was so much opportunity. My mind was blown that there were some reps doing eight calls a day. I was like, there is just so many leads. We're clearly in this lead-abundant environment, which means we've got to add a lot of capacity, make some real structural changes to the organization. It's always hard when you're like the five reps that are getting all the leads and you're like, okay, we're going to double the team in the next three months.

And so my first priority was we got to add capacity. Because clearly, the market is there. We're seeing the demand. There's ton of opportunity just within the existing segment, which was — I think our ASP was what. Let's say like 3,000 or 4000 then which was closing $800 deals. I was like, why are we closing $800 deals?

The first priority was how do we increase capacity. Two, is there an opportunity for us to crawl up market? And three, is there an opportunity for us to build the outbound muscle? Because clearly, we'd gotten to that stage mostly. I mean, that's a 99% through inbound and the work the marketing team had done in creating that brand and the demand for us. Those are the three things I quickly realized on how can I take some of the things — because I came from an outbound enterprise environment — take some of those learnings and apply it to this. But I wanted to make sure that I did it in the right sort of HR tech in the Lattice way versus just pattern match from all over the world. Because I've done that mistake. I've seen others make that mistake.

Segmenting the Sales team

Alex Kracov: I think that sounds right. I think one of the big moves you made was segmenting the sales team. Can you talk a little bit? I don't know how that helped both develop reps but also helped us move up market a little?

Dini Mehta: Because when I joined, we were basically round robin inbound leads. Everybody was selling all deals. We wanted to double from 5 to 10 reps as quickly as we could. We knew that if we went to that, we have to be thoughtful about how we grew demand in line with that capacity growth but also hiring the right rep profile to match that growth. That way, we weren't sort of just hiring generalists. Because we had a great team of generalists that were able to stretch and do $2,000 deals and $10,000. That was the stretch back then. And so you're like, how do we now segment?

We knew that we were building the org not for 10 reps. But how do we get to 70 reps over the next few years? A lot of building the stack around scalable stack across sales, marketing ops, and then segmentation of saying, okay, we don't want to — a lot of times when people think about up market, they think about almost sort of saying we're not going to focus on the business that got us here and only go up, like pivot. We didn't want to do that. Because we had a great business, and what we wanted to do is slowly put bets in place that would allow us to continue to be in hyper growth.

Because as a revenue operator, the way I think about my job is, how do we just stay in the chaos of hypergrowth? It's like we earn the right to get there once, but the harder part is how do we put the many bets where we stay there year after year. The segmentation was such a key part of that. Building the stack was a key part of that. That will allow us to really scale the engine and the operation. Because that's moving away from just the, "I'm the player coach and managing this team" to like, "Hey, we're building this revenue engine for $100-million business, not a $10 million business."

Moving upmarket

Alex Kracov: Let's get into the move up market a little bit. Because the segmentation was the first step, and then I thought the way you did it was really elegant. We hired Val to do exploratory stuff for a year. Then product was trying to catch up, and then it sort of evolved from there. Can you talk about the evolution of us trying to experiment up market? Because it was not just like we started and it was working right away. There was a lot of work that went into that.

Dini Mehta: Yeah, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears of a lot of people. I think the reason we even decided up market because we started closing these deals. I think it was Slack which was the deal that we've closed. I was shocked. I was like, Slack wants to buy us. We haven't made any product investments, go-to-market investments. And here we are getting pulled up market. Because they evaluated all the other solutions and picked us, which is like, okay, this is a sign there's clearly something here. And we've got to start seeding this.

So we hired Val, who's super experienced. She came on board. Luckily, we got lucky that she was like, "Yeah, I'll come do this and help build that out." The goal was to just do customer discovery and learn from our existing — like a handful of large customers we had and some that we hadn't made the right decisions on how we set them up, and some that were really good fit. And so how can we learn from both and use that to design how we crawl up market?

I remember constantly correcting people. Like, we're not moving up market. We are crawling up market. Because it typically takes years to move, go to outbound, move up market. In startups, everything moves fast. You want the results next month or the next quarter. Unfortunately, these moves, especially if you're not going to abandon your existing base, take so much longer. So I remember constantly reiterating to the company, to the board that we are crawling up market, which is going to take us a while. Even getting the team okay with that — because it's hard being a salesperson knowing that you're not going to get all the resources for this experimental segment that you're out doing discovery for — we were lucky we had great people that were excited about that challenge of testing it out and then putting the machinery around it.

Alex Kracov: How did you think about relationship between sales and the other functional teams in this move up market? Because it's like the product wasn't ready. So the sales team is doing all this discovery and talking to customers, and then they got to go back to the product team. Then you're coming back to me on the marketing side being like, "How do we get more enterprise leads?" How did you think about managing all those different stakeholders? I don't know. What was challenging about it? What worked well?

Dini Mehta: I think that was maybe the most important piece, which is, how do we make sure that everyone recognizes that this is a company initiative and not just a sales initiative or a go-to-market initiative? I think a lot of companies sort of get that wrong, where they're like, "Well, yeah, our product works. We've got five customers that are in this segment. Let's just put six-person sales team, and it'll magically work." But the reality is: sales is the last piece. There's so much stuff that happens before that, and if you build a great backend machine that helps sales do their job well. And so I recognized — I'd made these mistakes in the past — I was just focused on my team versus thinking broadly across the company. I really wanted to make sure that in this case we were all clear-eyed, which was one of our Lattice values, around really focusing on doing it as a company.

I remember going to Eric, our co-founder, who ran product. I was like, you got to build these key enterprise features. He's like, "No, we're just not going to do it. Look at the revenue split. Why would I spend any time on the segment when we've got all these customers?" It was a fair push back given the resource constraint and the bandwidth constraint. I had different versions of that with everyone across the different department heads. But I think, ultimately, folks got that long term if we want to become $100-million-plus business, we can't just do it by focusing on that. Jack was obviously super supportive of it, which helped. But yeah, a lot of sort of negotiating and seeing sort of, "Yeah, fine. We'll give up on that. But give us a couple resources to help us move, move crawl up market.

Alex Kracov: Yeah, I felt like Eric and the product team learned by being put in the fire what it meant to go up market. I remember. I won't say the customer. But I remember one customer tried to run a review with 10,000 people. Then I clicked the button to send the performance review of it. It just didn't work because our backend system wasn't meant to send 10,000 emails at once. I remember Eric and the team staying up all night to fix that and get it out the door. That was a good, I think, moment for him. He was like, oh, yeah, we do need to do a lot here to support these big enterprise customers. So yeah.

Dini Mehta: It's so true. I remember we would just bring — we learned that we just got to bring or reckon more prospect calls. Because it's like, hey, here's this large deal where everything matches except for this one little thing, which is considered table stakes. Of course, he's like, "Yeah, we can build that." It's so true. That was the trick that eventually we learned.

Dealing with a competitive market

Alex Kracov: Honestly, get the CTO on the call and then tell them how much money they could make if they just build the thing. Tell them that they can't do it. Then they'll go build it in like an hour overnight just to prove everybody else wrong. The HR market is incredibly competitive. We had Reflektive, and Culture Amp, and 15Five and all the HRIS systems that we were competing with. Lattice was kind of this new kid on the block. We started in the SMB. We were slowly working our way up. I'm curious. How did you think about competitive sales? How did you think about selling against all these competitors, and how did that sort of play out over time?

Dini Mehta: Gosh. I think in some ways because I didn't know much about the space, it helped me. Ignorance is bliss. So I came in. I was used to working in a super noisy market. I saw this over the decade that I was selling to marketers the evolution of all the noise. It sort of went through a ton of competitors. Lot of noise, and then it consolidated down to the big three. And so that helped the context around, hey, the noise is a good thing. When there's a lot of competition, that means there's a lot of money and there's a lot of opportunity for us to grab market share.

It's tempting in those environments, especially if you have competitors that are sort of throwing dart and seeding lies in market to prospects to play the game with them. So to get down their level, I'm a big believer of not giving competitors airtime in our show which is like, hey, it's that competitor. If a prospect asks about a competitor, we don't get down and say, "They suck at this. They suck at that. Here's the five things you're never going to get from them." Instead, we just focus on the things we do really well and really sell with integrity, really care for the customer. Because, ultimately, my core driving principle as a revenue leader is: the number one thing we sell is the fact that we care.

There's always going to be a competitor with a better brand, or with more money, or a better feature set. But sales and go-to-market overall can be a differentiator. I think we really embrace that at Lattice, where we were like we're going to do things the right way. We're going to focus on the customer. We're going to really care about the customer and just build from there. And so I think just making sure that the team really embraced and internalized that sort of ethos of ultimately focus on the customer, focus on our product — but half the confidence even though we were the new company on the block, where a lot of folks would be like, Oh, Lattice? No, you don't want to work with them. It's awesome to watch that. Over the years, we took a lead position through our execution and just focused on the customer and the market, ultimately. But yeah, I remember it was, early on, I was shocked at the dirty games that some of the competitors would play. We were able to rise above that.

Multi-product sales

Alex Kracov: One of the smartest moves we made at Lattice was combining performance management and employee engagement in one platform. We were the first company to ever do that. We became this multi-product company early in our lifecycle. Can you talk about that moment, and how did it help transform the company and impact the sales team?

Dini Mehta: Yeah, I remember that was three months after I joined. We were making this big — It was the first time we're doing a second product, and we were getting feedback that, like, are we distracting from our focus? Because we had a great business selling performance management. It's like, do we really want to move into this? In hindsight, it was a really smart strategic move. It literally became part of our core strategy of releasing product velocity and releasing a new product every year or a couple years.

Getting the team across go-to-market to learn the product, which was a new sort of use cases. I remember our CEO, J Zack, and I, we just sat in a conference room. We played trainer, where everybody had to come in and do a mock pitch and get certified. We just sat there for two days, hour after hour. And we would fail people. We'd be like, "No, you got to go back and study because this wasn't good enough." Because we wanted to make sure that before launching this big product — it was a big moment in the company — that we weren't on demo calls, not knowing sort of basic features and basic questions. But in hindsight, it was fun but also such a waste of time. For two days, we were just locked up in this hot conference room.

But then, I think it became our playbook for every time we release a new product. It's like this is how we certify the team. Here's the things we need to do across marketing, sales, success. We learned. We got better every time. I'm sure there are still things we could have done better in those moments. But yeah, a big moment for us where we became that sort of multi-product company. I remember thinking about, should we have a different team, product-specific teams, like have a team that's focused on engagement. Have a team focus on performance. But the complexity in the upside, I didn't think it was worth it. It allowed us to really increase our contract sizes. It allowed reps to feel empowered, to close bigger deals, to make more money. And so I think it's sort of aligned all the incentives to keep it with the sales team, at least early on.

Alex Kracov: I think it also made our competitors squirm, too. Because it was crazy. We launched that, and then it was amazing to watch. Each of our competitors slowly build the same features and functionalities. Then all of our home pages and websites started to merge on the same messaging and stuff. It was the first time I was like, oh, wow, this is like what leading a category shift actually feels like. I still look back. I think that was the smartest move. Because we give Jack, the CEO, credit for making that ultimate call. Because I think it was a bold bet at the time where everyone was like, "You have this thing that's working. You're really going to go multi-product that fast?" Looking back, that's what launched Lattice into this next-level company. Now there's a whole suite of product that they sell. It's pretty crazy.

Dini Mehta: 100%. I remember as soon as we launched a new product, we'd see an increase in our win rates for nine months. Then it would normalize because the competitors would then catch up with our marketing and product messaging, or be sparkly catch up. And so we knew. We learned that the first time. Then we were like, okay, we've got to be really prepared and make the most of this 12-month, 24-month heads up that we get in this race. Definitely, a very smart move.

Building a sales culture

Alex Kracov: Good job, Jack. So your superpower, I always thought, was building incredible sales cultures. Your team loves you and the vibes are always amazing. I'd love to know what's your secret. How do you think about building strong sales cultures?

Dini Mehta: This is a question that I tend to get the most, which is, outside looking in, it looks like you have a great culture of teams. So I tried to think about it because I don't think there is a secret here. It's like great teams. I've always felt that great teams that are built on the foundation of trust and accountability. When I first started in sales, I remember being in a sales management meeting. Our manager was telling us something. Everyone was like, "Yep, we'll do that." We all left the meeting and they're like, "We're not going to do that." The reps were killing each other. I was like, why don't we just tell the manager that we're not going to do it? Why do we say yes in that room, and then walked out?" That's not cool to be part of this team where the manager is clearly putting all this thought into it, and we're going to say yes and then we go do something completely different.

I knew that when I became a manager, I really wanted a culture where people would feel comfortable enough to voice opposing opinions and push back and give feedback. And so I think they're built on — I guess accountability is key. Because you're in sales, you got to deliver revenue. But you also need trust where I can sort of give very direct feedback to someone. They can give feedback to me. I think that happens through fostering psychological safety where people feel comfortable being themselves, questioning the strategy, sharing the feedback, and then also being okay if their feedback isn't taken, even if it doesn't get implemented. They have a voice. They don't have a vote.

And so how do you do that is, I think mostly what I know how to do it is just prioritizing values and culture in everything — from who you hire, who you promote, your sales strategy, your performance management practices, your career tracks. We had values and culture in everything. In our monthly calls, in our weekly calls, we started with that. So everybody knew I cared about it deeply. Where if there was a lack of integrity in how we sold or if somebody was stealing someone's lead, that would go — even when we were 100-person team, it would go up to me. I'd be like, why is this happening? We're all on the same team. We've got to embrace a culture of abundance. Because most sales team, unfortunately, are built on fear and scarcity, which is let's pit one person against another, one team against another, one region against another.

I remember when I started in sales, I was like I was crushing it. I had my friends and teammates that weren't. And my manager was like, you can't help them because they're on a different team. I was like, this is silly. We're all on the same team, and we're going against our competitors. The goal is to grow the pie and not sort of just re-divide the pie amongst ourselves. Because I think this applies to sales and marketing too. We have such a strong relationship. We have a lot of respect for all the work marketing did for sales. I think marketing really cheered sales on, knowing that, hey, ultimately, you're going to go out and close the deal. So we're going to do everything to help you. So sales recognize that they couldn't do it on their own, and we needed marketing. So I think it sort of all goes back to the same thing of respect, the values are key, embracing a culture of abundance.

Alex Kracov: You also did such a good job injecting just energy and creating a fun environment. You also are like a meme maker I feel like within the sales team. There are so many little catchphrases you came up with that are just like — they're all funny and get people excited. I wish we could show on your presentations because there are so many hashtags and things. It's all funny. It got people excited and created this sort of vibe on the team. Like, one team one dream, right? That was the marketing and sales thing. I'm going to butcher this. But 'sick' was always your catchphrase. It became such a thing. Then Luke, in the design team, was just making Dini-memes and things. And so I don't know. It's like you just did such a good job creating such a unique culture. It was really fun to watch.

Dini Mehta: I think it's just fun to do it. It is like yeah, we're going to do this hard thing of building this company. Startups are hard. You don't have a lot of resources in bandwidth. Why not have some fun with it? But oh, gosh. The memes. Friday bye day. We had automated it in Slack. That would give me nightmares because it would show up so many times. Gosh. Fun times.

Alex Kracov: I forgot that one, too. My god.

Hiring salespeople

Alex Kracov: So you've hired hundreds of salespeople, maybe thousands, in your career. What makes a great sales rep? What did you look for usually in the hiring process?

Dini Mehta: I think hiring is such a key. It's like that's where it all starts. Hiring the right team for the right, sort of matching the company in the market to the team. I think the things that I've consistently seen broadly work, they're sort of nuances within the business. The persona, the HR persona, is very different than the marketing persona or the sales persona. And so I think there's nuance to what is the best sales rep for this specific persona. So that is sort of outside of that. I think it's curiosity, integrity, and grit. Those are the three qualities that uniformly matter a lot more, I think, than some of the other things that people get fixated on, like pattern-matching resumes.

Our first, I think, 15, folks in sales — 15, 20 folks, I want to say — had no HR tech experience. It's people from all different backgrounds. I think that helped us because we didn't limit ourselves to like, "This is what I've done before, so this is what we're going to do." We were all sort of learning together. We were like, "Let's just try and see where this takes us." It helped us be creative and innovate. I think going back to the sales reps, it's curiosity, integrity, and grit.

Personal development from sales rep, to VP, to CRO

Alex Kracov: I'd love to switch gears and talk a little bit about the personal development of a salesperson over time. Because I think there's a huge difference between closing a deal as an AE and then managing a sales team as a sales manager versus being a director of sales, versus being a VP, and then eventually a CRO. I'd love to think about these different stages. What do you see is sort of the major differences? I think maybe it's more obvious between AE and manager, but then maybe it gets a little blurry as you move up in sales leadership. So how do you think about it changing over time?

Dini Mehta: Totally. I think the AE and the manager one is probably one of the bigger jumps. I almost think about it as parallel tracks. I think a lot of companies set it up where like, "Oh, you're an AE. You crushed your quota. Next step is become a manager." I think that's just wrong. Consistency in getting to quota, and following process and being a good team player does. But getting to 200% doesn't really tell me anything. And so I've always had manager and sort of the senior AE in different tracks. So I think it is different.

We had a team lead program, if you remember, where folks could test it. We had folks like Set who was an early sales rep,. He was a team lead. He was like, I love it. Because it was meant to give reps exposure into management tasks and see if they actually like it. And so he did it for a quarter. He's like, "I love it. This is what I want to do." We promoted him into a manager. We had Haley Wolf, who was also an AE, and said, I want to be a manager. She became a team lead. She did it for a couple quarters. She's like, "I don't know. I like selling. I want to keep selling because I have my autonomy." And so it was a great sort of way for people to test the waters in what management meant.

The biggest difference in each of those levels is like your level of control continues to reduce, but your level of accountability continues to increase. It's a really weird thing to manage your own psyche against. Like when I was a rep, I had full control of my book of business, how I'm going to get to my number, what do I do. I can control every piece of it. I became a manager. Then after, I've sort of focused on my team and hoped that they get to their number so I get to mine. The higher up you go, just you've got more and more accountability. Ultimately, I'm on the hook if we don't make our revenue number in front of the board. But I can't really make deals happen. The reality is: the team is doing all the work. I'm just here facilitating and making sure that they have the right resources and the right sort of setup to be successful. So I think that is the hardest part for people to jump from every level. At the C-level, it's like you're a company leader.

Alex Kracov: Let's say I'm a VP of sales right now and I want to be a CRO, what advice would you give to me? How do I prove that I am CRO worthy? Is it thinking through like other functions like customer success and marketing and trying to understand those? Is it just getting better at sales? What advice do you give to a VP of sales who wants to be a CRO?

Dini Mehta: I think that is the part where it starts to get blurry. But my advice would be focusing on the company as a general company leader versus as a sales leader. You're always going to be the sales leader. That's in your DNA. If you've grown up in sales, you'll always sort of think about how do you grow revenue, how do you focus on getting to highest attainment? But how do you really understand all the different pieces that have to go right for sales to do well? And so yeah, it's becoming a general company leader where you could theoretically go run any department because you've got the sort of — you understand the different mechanics of how departments work. You're strategic. And so I think that is the key piece.

I think as the team grew, I spent less and less time with sales as a CRO and more and more time with other departments. My first team was the exec team, and making sure that the customer journey is uniform. You are, as a revenue leader of the company, you're the single point of accountability for all things growth and revenue. Regardless of your purview, regardless of what you formally own, ultimately, you're accountable. If that is too much — as a VP of sales, you're responsible for your team's number, your region's number, and making sure that that is executed well. But as a revenue operator, you're thinking two years ahead and saying, how do I make sure that we're setting ourselves up to continue growing, not just this year's plan but also next year? What are the bets I'm seeing? So I think your focus as a VP of sales, I'm probably thinking one or two quarters ahead. As a CRO, you have to think one or two years ahead. That is the biggest difference, I'd say.

Managing up as CRO

Alex Kracov: Let's talk about that exec team and managing up. Because so much of your job is working with the CEO and the board and the CFO and building a plan. Then you have to communicate your progress along the way. Then you have to show the forecast and all that. Can you just give us a window into what that experience was like?

Dini Mehta: Oh, gosh. It's so fun. That became a bigger and bigger part of my job over time. I think that there's a lot of art and science to it. It's one of those things where you have to have all these different pieces come together. We're very grateful to have a great finance team that was helping us sort of put the pieces together. On the flip side, we had ops and us sort of coming in and saying, "Here's the top-down plan, the bottom-up plan and what feels realistic."

I still remember my first board meeting where it was just like four or five of us. My past company's board meetings were a big deal. We were kind of Sequoia-backed, and so we were very buttoned up. I was like I remember my first Lattice board meeting. It was awesome. We were just eating croissants and talking about the business. Then, of course, over time it evolved. I think going through a pandemic and moving all the sorts of things that have happened the last three years, our planning cycles almost became from going from annual cycles. So it felt like we were doing it quarterly because things were changing so rapidly. But so much of planning is seeing both sides negotiating and saying, "Hey, what feels realistic. I get that the spreadsheet says this. Here's the reality on the ground on what it takes to execute that spreadsheet to getting the team to buy in and do this in a reasonable timeframe without hurting culture."

Because the other piece is you can grow too fast. And short term, it may work. Long term, you've over hired capacity. You don't have enough leads. It can cause all kinds of problems. And so my job again was to bridge that gap between the board expectations, finance view point of view and, of course, our point of view from the broader market. It's like, "Hey, here's what we can actually get done" and then communicating that to every person so people internalize and understand why we're doing this, and why it matters.

Alex Kracov: I feel like every board member always wants to increase the numbers and move faster and hire more sales reps. You look at the spreadsheet and you're like, "Wait, you have five sales reps? Why don't you go to 10, and you'll get your number faster?" I'm curious how you emotionally process that as a sales leader. Because that's stressful, right? Lattice was pretty successful the whole time we were there. But it was always more and more and more. How do you emotionally handle that? Is it just like take a deep breath and then deal with it? What's your take?

Dini Mehta: A lot of wine.

Alex Kracov: A lot of wine? Good, yeah.

Dini Mehta: No, I mean it's like, I think that sometimes it can feel like if we don't do well, there's clearly a lot of heat you take. It's the highest accountability role. Ultimately, you're on the hook. To deliver revenue, there's no excuses. The buck stops at you. But on the flip side, when you do well, it's like well, are we too wiser or tamed at 100%? It should be 80%. Early on, we really wanted to keep our attainment high for cultural reasons to build that foundation of winning, which is hard. Because the traditional way of thinking is do 80% attainment and make sure that you have more people capacity even if 20% of the marketing quota. And so how do I cope? Mostly wine.

Collaboration between Sales and Marketing

Alex Kracov: I think we were a pretty good team together, me and you, running marketing and sales. I feel like we didn't fight really like most marketing and sales teams do. Looking back, why do you think that was? What made it work?

Dini Mehta: I think we had such a good — we were all on the same team. I think people said that all the time. Like, one team one dream. I remember reps would join. Because it goes back to no finger pointing. We are all in this together, and we're going to focus on how do we grow this pie, versus the traditional sort of MQL versus SQL. I even remember, early on, we didn't talk about attribution for the first few years which traditionally, everybody's like, "Oh, focus on your attribution and really get it right." We were like, we're just going to grow the business. Because we know even for outbound, we knew that we couldn't get to outbound unless marketing was out there marketing to these folks quarters ahead, years ahead to create that sort of air cover. And so I think that sort of philosophy.

Kudos to Jack for giving us that autonomy to just focus on building the business versus getting over focused on resourcing and attribution, and where does the budget go? I think that really helped us in building it together. Yeah, I think that was the most fun part. Because we didn't do it the traditional SaaS way. We just did it our way. People came on and they're like, "Wait, is this outbound?" Well, typically, in traditional sense, this is not outbound is defined. We were growing the business. Ultimately, that was the testament. We're 3x thing and 2x thing. I think that was a lot to do with the folks you hired, the folks we had on the sales team, and I think you and I being completely aligned in our focus on growing business. I love that you and the marketing team had so much accountability to revenue, which wasn't typical. But I love that. When revenue was down, I knew you were stressed as I was stressed. You weren't like, "Oh, I'm going to go focus on something else." You're like, "No, we got to grow revenue. I'm stressed. What do we do?" I think that really helped because we had each other's backs.

Alex Kracov: Yeah, I think we have. My mentality the whole time was just how could Lattice be successful. I didn't really care about whether it was marketing or sales and how we sort of get there. Companies, it's funny. Actually, companies spent so much time just counting the beans. They spend so much process trying to figure out who grows what. I think we were early to understanding that the B2B buyer journey is not just linear. It's not just outbound or inbound. It's probably both. The outbound person saw a marketing thing, and then the outbound person came inbound later. It's like you just end up fighting about literally nothing. It's funny how a company has tripped themselves up.

The gender gap in sales/tech leadership

Alex Kracov: Switching gears to building your career in sales, especially as a woman, there's a huge gender and diversity gap in tech. As a woman in tech yourself who's risen to a CRO and C suite, I'm curious what advice you give to other women in sales more broadly who wants the same thing of you. What advice would you give?

Dini Mehta: Yeah, I think it's hard to get advice because I think it's so personal. I remember when I first moved into management, that's when I realized that there is this huge gap. Because when I was a rep, there was enough women on the floor. It didn't feel like the gap existed. I moved into management, and I was like I'm one or two women on so many calls. The higher you go, 90% of the time, it was like you're the only woman on every call. Overtime, you're like, I don't even notice it anymore.

The representation gap is real. But I think, for me, having a strong why around why I'm doing this has always sort of kept me going. Because when I was a rep and I became successful, I was like, I'm never doing any other job. This is amazing. I make a lot of money. I can get my job done in five hours a day. Why would I do anything else? Then at some point, I was like I love coaching other people. And so management became much more enticing to me. And so I did that. I was like, this is awesome. I've got my team. I've got my culture. Why would I do anything else?

Then over time, I was like, if I really want to change how sales orgs are built from the ground up, I've got to have a bigger seat at the table. I can be this manager and be happy in what I'm doing, but I really want to help change the game of how sales orgs are built. And so that became my why. For almost a decade, it was helpful in moments of where I was like, do I really want to do this like. So I think having a strong why, like why you're doing something, really served me.

I didn't know. Every 18 months, I was like, am I enjoying this? Yes. No. What am I enjoying? How do I do more of that? I wasn't someone who knew early I wanted to be CRO or even management. I think that surprises people, because everyone's like I knew I wanted to be CRO. I wasn't that person, where building a sales org where a younger me would have felt like I was having more fun, and I felt comfortable being myself. I hope more women continue to embrace what makes them special, and their why, and run their own race.

Selling in a slow market

Alex Kracov: So you're a free agent right now. You're not actually leading a sales org. But things are really weird in the economy and in SaaS today. It's very different than when it was like building Lattice. There's a slowdown across the board. And if you were leading a sales team, I'm curious how you would approach it? How do you think this all changes sales? And how do you keep sales teams motivated in today's environment?

Dini Mehta: I talked to a lot of founders and sales leaders that are sort of battling on the frontlines with their teams in this environment. I remember when I first started in management, which was right after the 2008 bubble, it was hard because there's a lot of sort of risk aversion in market by buyers. There's more scrutiny on deals. As a salesperson, you're used to getting rejected 80% of the time.

Now it's like even the 20% of the time you have to — the bar is much, much higher. How do you keep a sales team motivated through it? I think the one piece of advice that I've made this mistake, where when things are tough, as a sales leader, you want to make all the changes all the time. You're like, "Let's do these three things, and then let's change our sales process. Let's change our messaging. Then let's change the work structure." Because you think that that's the way to drive progress, whereas it's just action. In my opinion, it's just action for the sake of it.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your team is be patient, be confident, and just reiterate why they've joined this company, why this company is great, why they're a great salesperson, selling this thing and getting them to believe. I think we need more sales leaders being chief inspiration officers versus just focusing on the business and the metrics. Because the team really need that. You're taking on all these. It's easy to feel defeated, especially remotely or sitting in your home office getting losses.

A lot of advice that I give sales leaders out there today is make less changes. Ignore the noise. Because there's so much out there where you're like, "I should do product-led growth. I should do something else. I should have a BDR team." It's like, no, just trust the process. Focus on your business. Create the plan, and just be the inspirational leader that brings energy to your team because they really, really need it in this environment.

Never miss an episode.
Subscribe now.

Thanks for subscribing! We'll email you when we publish an episode.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.