Startups

Episode 18: Kyle Rutter, Senior Sales Director, Clari

Kyle talks about how to maintain a consistent symbiotic relationship, what different startup sales & acquisitions look like and the importance of mentors.


This week on The CoSell Show we are excited to have Kyle Rutter the Senior Sales Director at Clari.

 

Topics Covered:

    1. How to maintain a consistent symbiotic relationship in a partnership

    2. What different startup sales and acquisitions look like

    3. Why being a mentor is as important as having one

 

More Questions for Kyle?

Brought to you by our host: Taylor Baker for CoSell.io

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Taylor Baker:
Hello listeners, and welcome back to the CoSell Show. I'm your host, Taylor Baker, and today we are going to discuss how to maintain a consistent symbiotic relationship in a partnership, what different startup sales and acquisitions look like, and why being a mentor is as important as having one. Our guest today is Kyle Rutter, the Senior Sales Director at Clari. Welcome, Kyle.

Kyle Rutter:
Thanks for having me.

Taylor Baker:
To get things started, can you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and your current role at Clari?

Kyle Rutter:
Of course, yeah. I'll try to keep it a little bit brief. I'm here in Austin, Texas. I've been here for about 10 years. Texas native, so born and raised in El Paso. Went to TCU for college and I've been, like I said, in Austin for just about 10 years, working in the startup world, in between DFW and Austin.

I've spent a short amount of time out in Palo Alto going through the YCombinator incubator with one of the startups, one of the early startups that I was part of. Yeah, I've been here working for startups, big and small, over the past eight, nine, almost 10 years.

Taylor Baker:
Just so you can extrapolate a little bit on what you do at Clari, can you also just tell our listeners what Clari does?

Kyle Rutter:
Yeah, absolutely. So what Clari is really trying to do, so obviously we are a software platform, and we are focused on what we call Connected Revenue Operations. What that really means is, a little bit of history on top of that. I use Clari for two years prior to joining the team. At my last company, a smaller team called Bloomfire, here in Austin, we brought Clari onboard using it as a rep, using it as a sales team.

Kyle Rutter:
Really brought it in to enhance our forecasting process. And, of course, also just trying to impact overall revenue for the company. But after seeing how successful we were as a small team and some of the different things that Clari really did for us, one example would be going from Google sheet forecasting, there was an entire judgment call to landing within 1% of our 90 and 45-day calls. I saw a lot of power in it.

So jumping over to clearly taking on the toll of market is one of the first remote reps for the company. And as I joined, we really went from this kind of sales execution platform to again what I was explaining before called Connected Revenue Operations. And what that means is pulling in more than just the sales teams. It's pulling in some of the pre-sale stuff on the marketing side and on the top of funnel demand generation side all the way through the sale to the post-sale side of things as well.

So thinking about customer success forecasting trends against renewals. So essentially, any go to market team is now operating from the same platform, same live data, but also kind of working together for that goal of generating revenue.

Taylor Baker:
Thank you so much for telling us about that. One of our favorite questions to ask all of our guests here at the CoSell Show is what is something fun about you that our listeners cannot find on your LinkedIn profile?

Kyle Rutter:
Something fun about me. When I was a kid I was really into magic. I thought was going to be a magician when I grew up. So that's always a really embarrassing, fun fact about me.

Taylor Baker:
Do you still enjoy magic? Do you do practice it or do you maybe just go see shows?

Kyle Rutter:
No, no, none of the above. I just like to throw myself under the bus with that whole magic thing.

Taylor Baker:
So we will, and we can talk about magic all day long, but I do want to kind of move on over to partnerships while I have you here. So just sort of a general overview. What does the typical process look like for initiating a partnership?

Kyle Rutter:
Sure. Yeah, that's a great question. You know, for me when I started my career partnerships and what that means to me has evolved quite a bit. I mean it's different at every role that I've had as well. But end of the day whether you were specifically trying to form an actual partnership, more like along the lines of business development or if you're really selling something, it's still a partnership in my eyes. And I think in anybody who has, you know, been in a sales or business development role for long enough will tell you the same thing.

And I think what's at the core of forming a partnership is that true connection where it's not a gain for one side or the other, it's a true give and get. It's something that you've really taken a pretty long time to kind of go down that path with whoever it is that you're forming that partnership with to understand the value that you're going to give them and the value that they are going to add for you as well.

I guess the easiest way to sum that up is a partnership is something that is mutually beneficial and is going to help each party just as much as the other.

Taylor Baker:
Yeah, I mean partnerships definitely need to be a symbiotic relationship on paper. Partnerships provide a lot of value and I think people get a little glamorized by that, so it's really nice to have that sort of this system of checks and balances. What are you getting versus what you're giving and does it really balance out?

Kyle Rutter:
Yeah. I think that one of the most important things in that regard is if you're really going and you're chasing down a partnership with somebody, whether it's again selling to them or trying to form a true partnership, you have to really think about, okay, I'm going and asking these people for either their business or asking them for their connection as a partner, what am I going to give them?

What am I going to offer them? You really got to go with a lot of value, maybe even more value that you're going to add to them and their life and their business in order to get that partnership back. And it's something that doesn't stop right then. It's something that needs to be nurtured. It's something that needs to be kind of an evolving and living and breathing thing, if you will.

Taylor Baker:
Absolutely. So once you've gone down that proverbial partnership yellow brick road, how do you typically measure whether or not a partnership is actually providing value for both parties?

Kyle Rutter:
Definitely. So again, I mean there's a kind of a line in the sand there and depending on if it's something that you're selling or if it's true, just partnership. But either way, I think the measurement is maintained that partnership, right? It's having that relationship, making sure that the communication is open, understanding any pains that might exist in that partnership. Making sure that you're addressing those pains, whether it be internally with your own team, something that you might be able to do on your own or just something that you can help your partner kind of understand or help them work their way through.

I think the true success in a partnership means that kind of like we were talking about before, both sides are getting value out of it. Both sides feel like whatever they're giving is worth what they're getting, because they're getting something that's helping them out.

So I think it's a big relationship thing, right? It's something that you have to really maintain and just kind of keep your finger on the pulse and make sure that you're treating every partner in the way that you've understood that they need to be treated. Some people need more care, more nurture, some people are fine not having a weekly or a monthly check in, but just understanding what that person or what that company needs from you. Making sure that you over-deliver.

I mean I think a big thing that a lot of people miss along the way of either trying to form or trying to maintain a partnership is there are points in time when you don't need to ask for something. You can just add value, whether it's sending over a note, whether it's sending an article that you saw but you think they would find interesting.

Just anything where you're not asking for anything, you're just literally providing them with something and letting them know that you thought about them.

Taylor Baker:
Oh, I love that.

Kyle Rutter:
Yeah. I mean just the thought, it goes a long way. The more specific and the more consistent you can make those I think they'll go even further because that's when you get into that area of wow this, this person is such a good partner. I want to start introducing them to my partners to form other partnerships, whether it's selling, whether it's a true partnership and that's where the network effect really starts to come into play.

Taylor Baker:
So in addition to positive communication, reinforcement and that sort of symbiotic relationship, what drivers or best practices have you seen that have made the largest impact on the success of a partnership?

Kyle Rutter:
That's a really good one. So I think it just totally depends on if you think about a contract, right? You've got somebody I'm contractually obliged to use your software or use your services or whatever it might be that you sold them. The things that aren't in that contract I think are the kind of the center of the partnership, which again, I've said it a couple of times, but it's all about that relationship.

If you don't have those things clearly defined before the partnership even begins, meaning if you don't know what is really going to make that person, that company, that partner is successful. If you don't know what they is going to make them successful is a better way to put it, then it's going to be really hard to deliver on that, right? Because if you're selling somebody software so that their revenue increases and their productivity increases and their data quality gets better, similar to like what we're doing here at Clari you have to understand and it could be to each specific individual that you deal with as well.

Because sometimes you've got people on all sorts of different teams that you're dealing with. So longer story short, it's all about understanding what makes each person tick. What is going to make each person successful that you're dealing with and that kind of ties back to like their personal goals, even if it is a professional setting. What is going to make that person that's accessible specifically so that you understand different ways to deliver value across the board with all those different folks that you might be working with.

Taylor Baker:
Absolutely. So you started touching on this a little bit. You've been working with startups for a really long time and I want to kind of not take advantage of that experience, but ask you a couple of questions about that.

Taylor Baker:
So on your LinkedIn profile, you say that you have seen three companies through from inception to acquisition. That's, I mean, that's amazing. I think it's like every startup's dream to grow up and get sold and for profit. So what are some of the biggest takeaways you have seen from these successes?

Kyle Rutter:
Definitely. Yeah. And just kind of clarify some of those different bullet points from LinkedIn. I mean every single one of those, I was not sitting down with the company still as they went through the acquisitions, but I pretty much kind of seen it all as far as mergers, acquisitions, different, different things they should have. I haven't been through an IPO yet even though I've been in a couple of companies where we've tried.

The biggest thing that I've taken from it is understanding at a company level what the real goal is and working towards that goal and sticking with that goal. So I think part of that is also not communicating too early with things like your employees when your partners, whenever it might be until you're really ready to go onto that kind of next step of the journey.

The first shot of I was at was a pretty small shop. It was called a mid-market Groupon. And what ended up happening is they partnered with Clear Channel because we could use the Clear Channel radio stations to promote all the different, kind of daily deals that we were pushing out into these mid-markets and we can also use their affiliates to kind of help us sell into their partners and different people that are already selling the radio advertisements too and stuff like that.

So by the time clear channel ended up acquiring that company, not a lot really had changed. It was just kind of like business as usual. Everybody keep doing what you're doing. We're not going to inject any capital into this, we're not going to change things, grow the team, et cetera.

So that like my first experience like, "Oh, wow, all that happened. It was a change of guards." Right? But then if you go into my next startup originally called Crowdtilt ended up becoming Tilt. Fast forward four, five, six years down the road of us getting it started. It was an acqui-hire by Airbnb and that was a much different experience obviously, mainly for the founders, the co-founders and the employees who were still with the company at that point because that's a totally different thing when a company buying you and kind of keeping things as they are and letting you keep working on the things that you're working on.

You're basically just kind of shut down the shop. So lessons learned, there are understanding what the goals of the board, the people who are investing the money, whether it'd be VC money, PE money, anybody that has a financial obligation to the company knowing what they really want to do with the future, both near and far.

Kyle Rutter:
So then expectations are set pretty clear because I think a lot of times what will happen is, you know, people, especially if you're not in those board meetings, even if you're pretty high up on the ladder as far as the company goes, you might not have the exposure to what the real goals are. What the things that the board cares about as far as like metrics and what are, what are really being measured.

Because end of the day, all of a sudden you look up and boom, the company is almost, you know, I wouldn't say gone, but everybody's life changes basically. So, and then Spredfast. Really interesting story there because I started, I was really early on there, I think like number 21 and it grew into the several hundreds over the next, I guess almost four years.

And I was there and I saw us acquire a company, a company called Mass Relevance in town. Technically it was a merger at that point and then we acquired another company called [Chatelet 00:13:49] out of the Midwest, which was another kind of social media management type of software company. And what had recently just happened with Spredfast within the last six to nine months is they actually got purchased by Vista Equity. They kind of smashed Spredfast and Lithium together, another company out of the Bay to become what's called Chorus today.

So of those three different experiences, if I didn't talk so much, so long about them and babbled about them they would sound kind of similar if you just at a high level, okay this is what happened, this is what happened, this is what happened. But couldn't be any more different as far as each of the different transactions and things that happened and kind of the overall outcome at the end of the day.

Taylor Baker:
Sure, which gives you a really colorful resume of having witnessed the different things that can happen with startups.

Kyle Rutter:
Yeah, absolutely. It's interesting, I mean you hear a lot of stories also. I mean you end up working with folks who go through their own versions of those stories that I just told them. It doesn't seem, it doesn't feel like anything has ever the same because you've got different investors, you've got a different board, you've got different types of equity involved. So I think that the biggest lesson learned is you really don't know what's going to happen. So prepare yourself for anything. But end of the day, I mean if you keep working, keep your head down.

Even if something doesn't work out for you at that particular startup, it's going to be just as valuable that you've gone through that experience and worked for that company so that you can move on to that next chapter because people really see those experiences as a huge benefit as far as taking you on and bringing you into their company.

Taylor Baker:
Oh definitely. So from your vast array of experience working in startups, what mistakes have you seen early stage startups make?

Kyle Rutter:

There's, again, a kind of a fine line between a startup and taking a lot of risk and inexperience I would say. It's something that happens quite a bit because if you think about it, where's it going to be easier to find a mass team of kind of first job, right out of college folks. You've got to go in and just basically scoop them past they're graduating college or as they're maybe needing their first job out of college.

And that's because you don't want to pay him as much as you want to pay someone who's a little bit more tenured or you also want the coachability, you want to be able to come in and really teach this new team, this new school folks exactly how you want things done, why you want them done a certain way, et cetera.

But I think another thing that comes with that is these teams and these people that you're pulling as like their first or second job, they don't have the experience. They don't have the discipline, they don't have in some cases understanding of what's necessary. My own experience is like, I kind of wasn't over my head a little bit a couple of times. I'm sitting there and kind of being the first sales guy at my first startup, the first in-house sales guy. I had been out of college nine months I had no business trying to kind of run and start a sales team but into end of the day if it works out, it's a really cool story.

I just think I'm, it can be pretty challenging. Similar to my first kind of... Ended up VP of business development for Crowdtilt and you know that that was just kind of our co-founders given me a cool title for my role because the VP as a business development that I work with and can come across these days are super tenured. Not understanding when you put your title out there like that, what it's going to mean to other people is something that I definitely kind of learned the hard way because I see, okay, this guy, a VP of business development of this company is going to come to the table.

He knows exactly what he's talking about, he's ready to go. But in all reality, I'm still kind of learning at that point in time. So I think that that was a big thing learned just personally and what I did to really start kind of taking care of myself in that regard was finding mentors. Just really understanding who you can latch on to to get advice, who you can ask for help, whether it's shadowing, whether it's just bouncing stuff off of them.

Finding as many mentors as possible I think is so key. And then when the tables kind of get turned and you're there to help somebody else out, you learn just as much because you're repeating stuff that you probably haven't thought about in a long time. You're kind of reteaching yourself because if you don't believe it, you better not be preaching it. So it's really interesting to get on the other side of that if you don't want to be somebody's mentor, then you're probably in the wrong industry if you're in the startup world.

Taylor Baker:
Kyle, do you have anything exciting coming up either with Clari or in your personal life that you want to share?

Kyle Rutter:
Yeah, I mean I think with Clari, I mean we're growing so much, so I'm really excited to see what the fut... I mean, so over the last, a little over a year that I've been at Clari, we've doubled in size. So coming up on our sales kickoff, which will be in February, really excited to see the new goals, the new metrics.

I mean sometimes it gets overwhelming of course, but we fulfilled everything we were trying to do over this last year, which when I first heard those, those goals, I wouldn't say doubtful, but it's just, that's a lot. So we did it. So I'm super pumped to see kind of what the next year holds. And as far as just personally I'm excited that it was cold.

Taylor Baker:
Yeah.

Kyle Rutter:
It's hot again today.

Taylor Baker:
That's Texas. She's a fickle mistress with her weather.

Kyle Rutter:

Yeah. You get all four seasons in the same week. But yeah, excited to do some skiing and have some fun this winter from outside of Texas and in Colorado, and things like that.

Taylor Baker:
Wonderful. Well Kyle, thank you. How can our listeners reach you? Because I'm sure they're going to want to ask you some more questions.

Kyle Rutter:
Yeah, totally. Easiest way would be at LinkedIn. Just Kyle Rutter on LinkedIn. Of course, Twitter as well at @dkrutts, dkrutts. Those are probably the two best ways to get a hold of me. I do most of my communication via LinkedIn though, and then if anyone does want to email me, it's just krutter@clari.com.

Taylor Baker:
Perfect. And don't worry, listeners, I will link to all of that information in the show notes. Kyle, thank you so very much for being guest on the show today. You had some wonderful insights.

Kyle Rutter:
Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Taylor Baker:
And to all of our listeners out there, thank you for listening and be sure to tune in next week for even more exciting co-selling content. Now go get your partnership on.

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