20 Sales Why Founders Should Not Be The One To Create The Sales Playbook, How To Structure Each Interview in the Hiring Process For Sales Reps, How To Use an Interview Panel Effectively and more with Zhenya Loginov, CRO @ Miro



In this episode of "20 Sales" with Harry Stebings, Jenya Loginov, CRO at Miro, shares his journey from a technical background to leading sales teams at major tech companies. Having helped scale Segment's go-to-market team and contributing to its acquisition by Twilio, Jenya emphasizes the importance of winning the enterprise market and the strategic timing of transitioning from SMB to enterprise sales. He discusses the balance and conflict between self-serve and high-touch revenue streams, advocating for empowering regional teams for agility in international expansion. Jenya also highlights the significance of direct communication in hiring and managing sales teams, the value of radical candor when addressing performance issues, and the need for more cross-departmental movement within companies to foster understanding and empathy. He praises companies like Atlassian and Coda for their innovative go-to-market strategies and underscores the role of morale and camaraderie in sales success, especially when teams are remote.

Summary Notes

Introduction to "20 Sales" Podcast Episode with Jenya Lopatin

  • "20 Sales" is a monthly episode featuring sales leaders sharing insights on scaling sales teams.
  • Harry Stebbings is the host of the podcast.
  • Jenya Lopatin is the guest, CRO at Miro, a visual collaboration platform.
  • Jenya has experience at Segment and Dropbox, with expertise in expanding into enterprise markets.
  • Acknowledgements to Peter at Segment and Danny Herzberg at Sequoia for contributions to the episode.
  • The episode also includes mentions of Walnut IO, Sales Loft, and Dooley as tools for improving sales processes.

This is 20 sales with me, Harry Stebbings. Now 20 sales is our monthly episode where we sit down with the leading sales leaders on the planet to unpack their tips, tactics and strategies to scaling sales teams. Today I'm so thrilled to be joined by a master of their craft, Jenya Loganov CRO at Miro, the leading visual collaboration platform that helps bring teams together and meaningfully improves the way people work.

This quote introduces the podcast and the guest, setting the stage for the discussion on sales strategies and scaling teams.

Jenya Lopatin's Background and Experience

  • Jenya's background in computer programming and competitions during high school and college.
  • Transition from engineering to business, with experience in consulting and finance.
  • Entrepreneurial journey starting an e-commerce company, then moving to larger tech companies like eBay, Dropbox, and Segment.

Yeah, I think my upbringing and education probably prepared me for the world of tech. So in high school and college, I did a bunch of computer programming competitions, all russian competitions and so on...

Jenya explains how his early interests and education paved the way for his career in tech and business.

Key Learnings from Dropbox and Segment


  • Importance of winning the enterprise market if it's part of your target.
  • Dropbox missed the opportunity to become the enterprise solution, leading Jenya to focus on enterprise markets in future roles.

I think the biggest one for me from Dropbox was that you have to win the enterprise market.

This quote highlights Jenya's takeaway from Dropbox: the critical need to capture the enterprise market if it's within your scope.


  • Transitioning to sales leadership at Segment and valuing the complexity of sales roles.
  • Recognizes sales as a deep field requiring mastery and respect for sales professionals.

Over three years at segment, I came to realize how fantastic and how deep the world of sales is...

Jenya reflects on his learning curve in sales at Segment and the newfound appreciation for the intricacies of the sales profession.

The Definition and Levels of a Sales Playbook

  • Three levels of a sales playbook: customer level, team level, and market level.
  • Customer level focuses on problem-solving within a single meeting or deal cycle.
  • Team level involves organizing the team for effectiveness over six to twelve months.
  • Market level plans for long-term market dominance over five years or more.

I feel like I think about sales playbook on three different levels, the customer level, team level, and market level.

Jenya outlines the multi-tiered approach to constructing a sales playbook, each with distinct time frames and objectives.

Role of Founders in Developing a Sales Playbook

  • Consensus that founders should not create the first sales playbook alone.
  • Founders should be involved but allow sales professionals to lead the process.
  • Emphasizes empowerment and enablement in the creation of the playbook.

I listened to some of your interviews with sales leaders before on the question of whether the founder should create their own first sales playbook.

Jenya agrees with the view that founders should not single-handedly create the sales playbook, underscoring the importance of involving sales experts in the process.

Founder's Role in Creating Sales Playbook

  • The effectiveness of a sales playbook developed by a founder compared to one created by a hired sales professional.
  • The importance of ownership and empowerment in executing the playbook.

"e founder developed, it's going to be less effective and less efficient than if founder brings in the person and lets them create something that they would feel ownership over and would feel empowered to go and execute."

The quote suggests that a sales playbook created by a hired professional who has ownership and feels empowered will likely be more effective and efficient than one developed solely by the founder.

Hiring a Head of Sales vs. Sales Reps

  • The sequence of hiring in a sales team, debating whether to hire a head of sales or sales representatives first.
  • The role of a head of sales in creating a sales playbook and managing the sales team.
  • The founder's responsibility in establishing initial product-market fit before hiring sales personnel.

"Okay, so I am clearly naive or dumb here bluntly, because I disagree and I think the founders should create the sales playbook."

Speaker B expresses a differing opinion, suggesting that founders should be the ones to create the sales playbook.

"I think I agree that the head of sales is the best role to hire for instead of just reps."

Speaker C agrees that hiring a head of sales is preferable to hiring sales representatives initially.

"Like the founder is a lot more likely to figure out the initial product market fit."

Speaker C emphasizes that finding the initial product-market fit is a task better suited for the founder than salespeople.

Product-Led Growth (PLG) and Sales Strategies

  • The balance between product-led growth (PLG) and enterprise sales strategies.
  • Timing the transition from PLG to enterprise sales.
  • The potential for resource and alignment conflicts within sales and PLG teams.

"PLG itself as a motion is a way to scale your sales motion very efficiently."

Speaker B refers to product-led growth as an efficient way to scale sales, mentioning a company that succeeded without sales reps due to PLG.

"I'm a big fan of OJ from Asana, right. But I would argue actually that companies like Asana Dropbox were a little too late into getting the enterprise motion on top of PLG."

Speaker C critiques certain companies for being late to add enterprise sales motions on top of their PLG strategy.

"So let's say that one bad way to organize this is to have two people. One is responsible for self serve revenue, another one is responsible for high touch revenue, and they're only responsible for their own portion of revenue."

Speaker C describes a problematic organizational structure where team members are responsible for separate revenue streams, leading to potential conflicts.

Hiring for Leadership and Sales Roles

  • The criteria and process for hiring leaders, such as a head of sales.
  • The balance between experience and potential for growth in candidates.
  • The importance of understanding the role before starting the hiring process.

"Yeah, hiring is definitely my favorite part of the job."

Speaker C expresses enthusiasm for the hiring process, particularly for leadership roles.

"I think first and foremost, I'm looking for people who have not done the job before."

Speaker C values candidates who are passionate about learning and growing into their roles, rather than those with direct experience.

"If you are hiring your first head of sales, and if you have no idea how to hire head of sales and what they should be doing, go and talk to ten heads of sales."

Speaker C advises founders to research and understand the roles they are hiring for by speaking with experienced professionals in that field.

Structuring the Hiring Process

  • The structure and stages of an effective hiring process.
  • The importance of clear must-have criteria for candidates.
  • The approach to screening candidates based on resume analysis.

"Yeah, I think that a good hiring process is frankly similar at most places."

Speaker C outlines the general structure of a hiring process, which includes interviews and candidate evaluations.

"I ruthlessly decline candidates who don't meet at least one of those criterias on the resume stage."

Speaker C describes a strict approach to screening candidates based on must-have criteria.

"So, for example, let's say that I'm looking for head of Europe for $50 million ARR company."

Speaker C provides a hypothetical example of specific criteria used to evaluate candidates for a head of sales position.

Hiring Criteria and Process

  • Harry Stebbings emphasizes the importance of meeting all must-have criteria for a candidate to be considered suitable for a role.
  • Jenya Lopatin agrees and specifies looking for ambition and self-starters who are tangible and data-oriented.
  • Jenya spends 4-5 hours with candidates in structured interviews before they meet the interview panel, aiming for 70% certainty of their success and 90% certainty they will accept an offer.

"Well, maybe they're great, but my view is I know why I need those must haves and if one of them is not met, then the candidate is not right. And I'm going to cycle through until I find people who just qualified everywhere."

The quote highlights the importance of having non-negotiable criteria for candidates and the willingness to continue searching until finding someone who meets all the requirements.

"And I'm striving to be maybe 70% sure that they will actually succeed going through the interview panel. And I also want to be about 90% sure that the candidate will accept the offer if we are to extend an offer to them."

This quote explains the desired confidence levels in a candidate's success and their likelihood to accept a job offer, which are targeted before they are presented to the interview panel.

Interview Panel Strategy

  • Jenya describes the selective use of interview panels, aiming to have only three to five candidates meet the panel to save time and increase efficiency.
  • The interview panel is composed of individuals who understand the role well and may include internal team members or external advisors.
  • Jenya aims to make the interview panel challenging to ensure that only the best candidates are selected.

"I only want them to talk to maybe three to five people and then say, okay, all three of them are good, and this one is better than the two others."

The quote indicates a streamlined approach to the interview process, where a small number of well-vetted candidates are presented to the panel to make the final decision easier and more effective.

"So the panel, I think, is tailor made. And basically, I try to make the panel as hard for the candidate as possible, because if they pass that I want them, they're much more likely to succeed when they join the company."

This quote highlights the tailored and rigorous nature of the interview panel, which is designed to be challenging to ensure the candidate's success within the company.

Hiring Panel Composition and Dynamics

  • Jenya discusses the importance of having a hiring panel that challenges candidates and provides strong signals about their suitability.
  • The panelists' track record of making correct hiring decisions is taken into account when forming the panel.
  • The goal is to have panelists who can provide reasoned arguments for or against a candidate's fit for the role.

"I'm looking for people who will, well, disagree with me, first of all, and second, who will be hard to pass, but reasonably hard to pass, not for arbitrary reasons, but they have a good reasoning why this particular candidate may not necessarily be a fit."

The quote emphasizes the value of having panelists who are willing to challenge the hiring manager's opinions and make it difficult for candidates to pass the interview for valid and reasoned concerns.

PLG vs. Enterprise Sales Leaders

  • Jenya believes the fundamentals for sales leaders are the same, regardless of whether they are in a Product-Led Growth (PLG) or enterprise sales environment.
  • Sales leaders should value end-user experience and have the ability to appreciate and learn from other teams, such as product or customer experience.
  • Open-mindedness to new sales motions is key for a sales leader in a PLG company.

"I think that a great salesperson is a great salesperson. They just need to be open minded about changing their motion, their sales motion, to benefit from the PLG."

The quote conveys the idea that the core qualities of a great salesperson are universal, but they must be adaptable to the specific sales strategies, such as those used in PLG companies.

Interview Techniques and Case Studies

  • Jenya has moved away from using case studies in interviews, especially for leadership positions.
  • The focus is now on discussing candidates' real-life experiences and understanding their problem-solving processes and decision-making through in-depth questioning.

"I really want to talk to them about their own experiences. So all I do is all about give me a situation when you did this and that, and then I dive into it and ask like ten follow up questions to understand how they solved the problem."

This quote explains the shift towards discussing candidates' actual experiences rather than hypothetical case studies to gauge their problem-solving abilities and decision-making rationale.

Hiring Mistakes and Lessons Learned

  • Jenya reflects on past hiring mistakes, such as ignoring criteria or not thoroughly vetting a candidate's fit for the company's international presence.
  • Over-reliance on the interview panel's opinion and the candidate's resume without deep-diving into their problem-solving approach can lead to hiring errors.

"The biggest ones were when I think that I knew that I am not doing the right step, but I did the step anyway."

The quote reveals that some of the most significant hiring mistakes occur when the hiring manager is aware of potential issues but proceeds regardless, often leading to regrettable outcomes.

Onboarding Process for New Hires

  • Jenya emphasizes the importance of a thorough onboarding process, allowing new hires to understand the product and build relationships within the company.
  • New leaders are encouraged to focus on learning and networking in their first month and to deliver a small, value-adding project early on to build credibility.

"I try to create a situation where they don't need to deliver anything in the first one months. I'm hiring them not for the next six months or twelve months. I'm hiring them for the next five years plus with the company."

The quote underscores the long-term perspective taken when onboarding new hires, focusing on foundational understanding and relationships rather than immediate deliverables.

CEO's Role in Onboarding

  • The CEO should facilitate introductions and provide guidance to new hires, rather than leaving them to navigate the company on their own.
  • The mutual goal of both the CEO and the new hire is to ensure the new hire's success within the company.

"It's your mutual job to make them successful. It's their job and it's your job. And if you have any ability to help them do it, go introduce them to your board members, to your people who are their peers."

This quote highlights the shared responsibility between the CEO and the new hire to work towards the latter's success, suggesting that the CEO should actively support the new hire's integration into the company.

Signs of a Poor Hiring Decision

  • Early signs of a poor hiring decision include a lack of tangible results within the first few months and rejection from the existing team.
  • Proactively seeking feedback from the team about the new hire can help identify issues early on.

"If you don't see any results delivered in the first three months, if you see the person sitting and figuring out quote unquote strategy and drawing charts and not meeting customers and not delivering any value for the early sales team in the first three months, that's a big red flag for me."

The quote indicates that inactivity or a lack of engagement with customers and team members is a concerning sign that a new hire may not be performing as expected.

Communication in Leadership Roles

  • In leadership, direct communication is emphasized over personal feelings or procedural adherence.
  • Radical candor is the preferred method, being both caring and brutally honest.
  • Clarity in communication is key, including the consequences of not addressing issues.
  • Leaders should express support for team members' success within the company.

"So radical, candid to the extreme. So you care about the person, but you need to deliver that message very clearly."

This quote highlights the importance of direct and honest communication in leadership, balancing concern for individuals with the necessity of clear messages.

Deal Reviews and Team Learning

  • Deal reviews are conducted to educate the sales team on successes and failures.
  • The audience for deal reviews should extend beyond the individual who made the deal, benefiting the entire team.
  • Effective deal reviews act as a clinic, sharing best practices and areas for improvement.

"I think the purpose of the deal reviews is primarily for your sales team to learn what to do well and what not to do well."

This quote emphasizes that the primary goal of deal reviews is team learning and improvement, not just individual feedback.

Deal Review Process

  • Deal reviews at Segment were conducted weekly.
  • Each deal review lasts approximately 60 minutes.
  • The senior salesperson should dictate the process and format, while the salesperson running the deal provides content.
  • Reviews may cover deals at any stage, not just closed ones.

"60 minutes I think is good for one deal if it's in depth."

This quote suggests that a one-hour timeframe is sufficient for an in-depth review of a single deal.

Common Mistakes in Deal Reviews

  • Salespeople may become defensive and only show what they want if they feel judged.
  • Deal reviews should be framed as supportive and aimed at helping close deals and improve sales motions.
  • Questions and suggestions should focus on assisting salespeople and facilitating team learning.

"I think the best way to run dealer reviews is when salespeople know that it's intended to help."

This quote implies that the intention behind deal reviews should be to assist and support salespeople, not to critique them personally.

Balancing Structure and Agility

  • Maintaining agility and local autonomy within teams is crucial, even in large organizations.
  • Processes should be light and originate from teams working directly with customers.
  • Leaders should ensure teams buy into processes, adapting them to achieve buy-in if necessary.

"The process needs to be as light as possible, but should come from those teams that are actually in front of the customer."

This quote stresses that processes should be minimal and driven by the needs of customer-facing teams.

  • Discovery has remained a constant sales tactic over the past five years.
  • Traditional deal-closing environments, like golf clubs, have diminished.
  • The Dunbar number (approximately 150 people) marks a significant scaling challenge for organizations.
  • International expansion requires company-wide effort and should be undertaken early.

"Discovery. So, understanding the customer problem and how."

This quote points to the enduring importance of understanding customer needs in sales.

Hiring and Team Dynamics

  • Doubt in hiring usually indicates a candidate should not be hired.
  • Founders often fail by not investing time to understand sales.
  • Sales and revenue leaders must plan for their own learning and growth.
  • Cross-departmental movement into and out of sales teams is beneficial.

"When you are hiring, yes. When I'm in doubt, I try not to hire."

This quote suggests adopting a cautious approach to hiring when there is uncertainty about a candidate.

Challenges and Strategies in Sales

  • Remote work has particularly impacted morale and camaraderie in sales teams.
  • Innovative go-to-market strategies, like those of Atlassian and Coda, are impressive.
  • There is a push for more interaction and empathy between sales and other departments.
  • The speaker values in-person interaction and looks forward to returning to the office.

"I think biggest one is morale and camaraderie."

This quote identifies morale and team spirit as the most significant losses when sales teams move to remote work.

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