Co-Authored Article with Michael Chetner

Michael Chetner

14 NOVEMBER 2023

Over the last 15 years, Michael held leadership roles at various high growth companies and was part of both a successful acquisition and an IPO.

Most recently he led Zoom both in Australia & New Zealand (ANZ) and Asia Pacific (APAC) for 6 years, where he led the growth of ARR from $200k to triple digit millions (500x+) over this period. As the first hire in the region, he started Zoom’s first international office in Sydney in 2017 and was a member of the global executive team. He hired the initial teams across APAC before Zoom’s IPO in April 2019. After the IPO, he scaled operations across APAC to successfully deal with hyper growth driven by the pandemic and the transition from app to a cloud platform. With ANZ becoming a top 5 market for Zoom under Michael’s leadership, APAC also achieved massive growth. Zoom was the fastest SaaS company to reach $500M ARR, which was reached before the pandemic started.

Prior to Zoom, Michael launched and led operations in ANZ for Norwegian/English start up Acano, where he led sales, marketing and technical teams. Acano was subsequently acquired by Cisco. He also spent 10 years in sales, commercial, operational and finance roles across Europe and APAC with Polycom (now HP Poly), where he tripled ANZ revenue over 4 years and then led an Asia Pacific team that delivered 25% of global revenue.

Michael’s areas of focus include:

  • Leading high growth go to market strategy and execution
  • Market entry & expansion; developing local products/solutions, brand awareness and partnerships
  • Advising on digital transformation projects, including software/hardware platform and CX strategies
  • Scaling teams and operations

Michael is a board member and advisor at multiple startups, VC funds and NFPs, and Is CA qualified. We sat down with Michael to pick his brain on leading GTM teams at hyper growth scaleups and how to super charge sales in a Product Led Growth (PLG) company. He provided so many insights that we had to split it into two parts, starting with …

Transitioning from PLG to product-led sales

Zoom, Hubspot and Australian SaaS companies like Atlassian and Canva have pioneered product led growth. Most startups have followed the PLG playbook but find that PLG alone doesn’t achieve sufficient scale. Given Michael’s experience in both traditional enterprise sales and leading sales at Zoom, we asked him:

What did Zoom look like before it hired a sales teams? What did Zoom look at for signs of Product Market Fit (PMF) and before it invested and scaled its GTM teams?

Zoom was very much a pioneer of Product Led Growth (PLG) and well before the pandemic! The major assumption of successful PLG is an easy to use product that exceeds expectations. For Zoom, it also meant a free trial product that was fully featured and reduced friction in terms of testing, using and also buying - no people involved. From a collaboration industry perspective, it also addressed all the bad quality issues and perceptions of a video call. The interesting thing here is that video collaboration was perceived to be a saturated market - a natural inhibitor for any new product - SaaS or otherwise. So, the experience needs to both exceed expectations and be key to virality.

Then there was a reliance on strong adoption and signups in metrics (shown below) before large go to market investments or expansion. Much of the data harnessed (shown below) then allowed investments to be made in a precise manner where we could see usage and growth patterns across industry segments e.g., Australia showed very high usage in Education, a high value industry for Zoom - and as a region Australia and NZ was a very high user sign ups as a percentage of respective country TAM

These were the steps before significant GTM investment - and in my case, the process before I was able to hire or have marketing spend for in country growth - though I was also able to leverage HQ initiatives.

Side note: use of CSM's early for retention is critical (before sales people!) and make sure they’re not focused on targets etc. They are focused on adoption, utilisation, happiness of customer - one of the critical parts of PLG!

How did Zoom leverage its superior product to drive its growth through sales?

Zoom's trial product was deliberately fully featured so there was no friction - in testing the product, requiring upgrades, or speaking to Sales.

What was key is the fact the trial version cut off at 40 mins. From our data we knew meetings lasted over that time. So, this automatically provided users with both an incentive to upgrade (prompted at end of call) and also valuable usage data (number of participants, internal/external participants, duration etc) which we could use to follow up with a sales call. The other critical success factor was the fact the product "just worked”.

What caused Zoom to consider scaling its GTM teams in different markets? How did Zoom approach GTM for different segments given Zoom’s early strong PLG?

With a PLG strategy it is critical to understand the benefits of reaching users directly across all customer segments, and a larger TAM - but it brings nuance for the different segments in the go to market - as the demands of an SMB will be different to that of an enterprise. Instead, we focused on more of a hybrid product led sales strategy that combined the benefits of both product led and sales led growth. The key was an amazing product that "just worked" and that grew virally, with a sales team to provide support and close deals quickly.

With this approach, focus is key - and the need to be disciplined of which industries / segments NOT to focus on based on data. The temptation to service every segment is challenging. For example, we knew there was a strong groundswell of usage and advocacy in Higher Education in Australia/NZ which prompted the decision to start Zoom's presence in ANZ and building a team around this segment. Separately, we also knew that sales cycles in government would be too long as we built a sales team based on high velocity and short sales cycles with momentum - so we didn't focus here and invested in areas like financial services and technology, that were focused on innovation.

How did Zoom decide to hire local sales teams? How does ‘product qualified leads’ differ to ‘sales qualified leads’ and what does this mean for how the sales process is different at a PLG vs a sales-led company?

Investing in a local sales team was based on a number of reasons. First we reacted to significant lead volumes based on user interest after trial usage (e.g., users contacting our sales team after trial). We also closely tracked product usage data to then tailor outbound motions based on actual usage. In both ways, the product qualified the leads for us before our sales team spoke to leads. This led to both high paid / upsell conversion and low customer acquisition costs (CAC).

Lastly, much of Zoom's culture was about delivering happiness to customers, so personal follow up and responsiveness was a core component of the culture to increase adoption and advocacy to complement the product led sales strategy. Every touch point is critical for early leads as in many cases these are early adopters who want to be part of the growth story and become strong advocates. These advocates formed a key part of a product led sales and low CAC strategy over a traditional sales led strategy.

We hope that you found gold in this Part 1 – we at OIF did!

Look out for Part 2 of Michael’s ‘Scaling Zoom with Product Led Sales’, which will be published in the coming weeks!

🚨 OIF and AWS for startups Workshop with Michael Chetner 🚨

Off the back of this article we're thrilled to be hosting a workshop with Michael and the AWS for startups team for your chance to pick his brains on some of the most sought-after topics

Date: Thursday 22nd February

Time: 5pm - 7pm AEST

Location: AWS Offices - Level 8, 2 Market St, Sydney 2000