Interview: Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll) – Growth – Saad Shahzad

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Saad started his professional career in investment banking.  He joined a venture capital fund to empower entrepreneurs and ideas that are changing the world.  He became passionate about building things, so joined dinCloud and fell in love with sales.  He’s now empowering growth at Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll), where he spends a portion of his time scaling SDR teams.

Saad’s thoughts below:

Whats the best piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor?

Most people view their career in yearly increments. They ask themselves questions like, “Where do I want to be next year?” Instead, look at your career with a long-term lens.  Where do you want to be in 20 years? Then, work backwards.

Example of working back from 20 years out:

Start by setting a goal for yourself like becoming a Chief Revenue Officer. Think about the skill set you need to develop to get there (cross-functional collaboration, having tough conversations, managing up, becoming data-driven, marketing acumen, etc.). Break down the time period into smaller portions and lay out a plan to develop the skill set over several years. Map out each stage over that time period — team lead, manager of managers, Director, VP, SVP, etc.). Each stage will require a different skill set. You have to focus both on personal and professional development through these stages. Will you get there by being at the same company? Do you want to stay in SaaS sales?

Best tip for sales teams that are scaling?

1) Build out an MVP for playbooks and roll it out
2) Experiment and iterate on the playbook constantly (don’t be afraid to make mistakes)
3) Promote people quickly — people are everythinggusto_lockup_horizontal_RBG_black.55fae6422cea6
4) Managers should foster a player/coach mentality — staying close to the client and the sale is the only way to put your finger on the pulse of the business.  You’ll get a sense for which qualifying questions are actually relevant. You’ll hear common objections and be able to help build great objection handling. You’ll hear the most exciting part of the demo (is it a feature? is it certain functionality? what’s the value prop that resonates most with the audience?)
5) Create a culture of accountability — empowering people is all about having clear ownership and targeting key results (marketing = MQLs, sales = conversion rates, time to close, etc., sales enablement = number of assets)

What traits do you look for in a sales person?

1) Prior success
2) Work ethic
3) Coachability
4) Intelligence

Whats the most effective short term and long term motivation techniques you’ve seen someone use?

Zenpayroll is now Gusto! (see logo above)

1) Autonomy — empower your team by offering them the flexibility to achieve desired outcomes in their own way (manage outcomes and not activities)
2) Mastery — understand the career goals for your team and help them develop the skills to get there (team lead, BD, sales ops, etc.)
3) Purpose — everyone on your team should understand the impact of the work they do on the sales team and the organization

How important is your sales technology stack to your sales organization?

It’s critical to our success. A high-growth sales team will be a combination of people + technology. Neither extreme is good, but the right mix can help you operate at a world-class level. The last decade was about marketing automation and the next decade will be about sales enablement. Here is how we think about the technology stack at Gusto:

– CRM (
– Predictive analytics/lead scoring (Infer and Pardot)
– Virtual conferencing (
– Sales enablement (Cirrus Insights and
– Sales productivity (PersistIQ)
– Business intelligence (Tableau)
– Internal communication and collaboration (Slack)

The buyer’s journey has changed — 75% of buyers have already made a decision by the time they interact with sales. Prospects engage with companies through new channels (online research, listening to employees, social media, etc.). We have to change the traditional approach to sales.

The last decade was about marketing automation and the next decade will be about sales enablement.

What interactions / meetings should managers be having with their reps and why?

Managers should be approachable and have an open line of daily communication with their reps. We have reps do virtual daily stand-ups on Slack. We also have formal bi-weekly 1-1s with reps. These meetings are the most important meetings on a manager’s calendar because it’s an opportunity to listen and learn from your team. Here are some best practices on 1-1s:

1) Always keep the meeting
2) Employee sets the agenda
3) Prepare and prioritize
4) Close your laptop and put your phone away
5) More than a status update
6) Ask, don’t tell
7) Go big picture on a regular basis
8) Ask for feedback
9) Make a note of their reaction and mood
10) Go for a change of scenery


1dbd7e0Saad empowers Growth at Gusto. He was the first sales hire at the company. Prior to Gusto, Saad was VP of Sales at dinCloud, a provider of hosted cloud services. Under his leadership, the company went from $0 to $5 Million in revenue in less than 2 years.

Saad was an investor at Norwest Venture Partners, a Venture Capital fund with $5 Billion under management. He started his career at Goldman Sachs where he worked on a variety of M&A and financing transactions, advising companies through strategic transformations.

Saad graduated with honors from University of Southern California with a B.Sc. in Business Administration and Management. He’s passionate about building world-class sales teams, executing on big-picture planning and developing scientific sales methods.  Follow him on Linkedin here, and on Twitter here.