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Building a Unicorn and Establishing the Customer Success Category: Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight (Part 2)

Posted on Friday, Jul 30th 2021

Sramana Mitra: In terms of strategic elements, what were some of the things that you did as you were growing that infused momentum into your journey?

Nick Mehta: Momentum is an important point. One thing that we did was this annual conference. We would invite people in the customer success field that included CEOs. With in-person events, you look around and see other people doing this thing too, and it makes you more confident that you should do it. It is natural human behavior.

If you see other people doing something, you are a little more confident that you should do it too. If you were the only one, you would wonder, “Is this the right thing? Should I really do it?” Creating an event about customer success and not about Gainsight has had a huge impact on our momentum. We did a lot of things at the event to build on that.

For example, every year there is a chart of how many people are at the event and how much it has grown. Pre-COVID, we would say, “Stand up if you were at the first event in 2013.” We would do that all the way to the present day. It got the audience feeling that they were part of a movement. People use this term movement all the time. Gainsight is not building a company, we are building a movement. When you say the word momentum, the first thing that comes into mind is building that movement. 

Sramana Mitra: What was the first sign that your movement was finding some traction?

Nick Mehta: Great question. There were a lot of signs over the years. At the first conference that we did, we didn’t know if anyone would show up. We expected 50 people, but 300 showed up. That is a good example, right? Our book was taking off. Our business book became a best seller. Our first big customer was Box, the Saas company. I remember that we worked for a year on that sale. We went to their office about 50 to 100 times.

I remember when we got the deal, we went to the local alcohol store and bought cheap champagne. A couple of years later, we got our first big six-figure deal without me being involved at all. As an entrepreneur that is another stage where you close a deal without your help. The company is growing up. There were different milestones and phases. 

Sramana Mitra: Besides this conference, is there anything else that you did? Of course, you are doing enterprise deals, so you have the regular enterprise repeatable sales force, inside sales, outside sales, direct sales, and inbound marketing. All of those are fairly standard at this point given where we are in the journey of the SaaS industry. We know how to do those things. Is there anything else that stands out that you did that was different? 

Nick Mehta: The biggest things have been around this category creation. If you were to ask what was different about Gainsight, most of the things that we do are the same as everyone else. The difference is in two special areas. One is around category and community – creating a community of people that believe in something new.

In that area, we did so many creative things from creating a job board for customer success people, creating an internship program for customer success managers, creating an official training program for CSS, creating ways for people to be matched to jobs, and helpig thousands of executives to find jobs. 

Sramana Mitra: You essentially created a professional category of executive, middle managers, and practitioners. That is so cool. Was this really like a job board?

Nick Mehta: We did all of it. We still have a job board, but that is a small part of it. I’ve personally done a thousand calls with customer success individuals who are figuring out their next roles or CEOs who are trying to hire their next customer success executive. Think about what a recruiter does. Every week, I do about five of those to this day. I have a Google sheet of, “Here are the people that are looking, and here are the companies that are looking.” 

Sramana Mitra: That is awesome. That is really cool. 

Nick Mehta: We are basically investing in the profession. I’ve also done hundreds of dinners and stuff like that for customer success people. I just did one last Monday. Unprompted, everyone around the table just said, “Hey, I just want to thank Gainsight because my career wouldn’t be here without you.” People attribute the career of customer success to Gainsight.

Sramana Mitra: Very cool. That is interesting. 

This segment is part 2 in the series : Building a Unicorn and Establishing the Customer Success Category: Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight
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