Thiago Sa Freire, CRO at Chorus.ai, shares lessons learned throughout his career and thoughts on customer centricity.

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Episode Outline

[12:30] Lessons Thiago learned from door-to-door sales

[15:10] How Thiago developed his growth mindset

[18:30] The most influential people in Thiago’s career and what he learned from them

[23:50] What Thiago is most excited about at Chorus

[26:15] Thiago’s biggest challenge this year and where his focus is now

[30:35] Thiago’s prediction for the future of sales

[32:20] What Thiago does to blow off steam


Thiago’s Inspirations

Scott Olrich

Dave Simon

Paul Hamilton

Steve Hallowell

Dan Springers


Connect with Thiago

LinkedIn

Chorus.ai

Twitter

Alright, let's do it. Uh, so today I am super excited. We've got Tiago on the call. Um, now I'm not going to try to say Tiago his last name because he told me not to because everyone butchers it.


Um, but Diego is the chief revenue officer at chorus. AI. Um, which all of us listening know of, I'm excited to dig into that. He just joined recently, but most of the time conversation is actually going to be focused on your time at huddle, where you grew them to tremendous scale. And I'll let you speak more to that.


But Tiago, welcome to the call. Thanks. Great to be here. Thanks for having me. Of course. So, you know, I was looking into your background and I love that you have, uh, your Cutco salesmen, uh, you know, time of life on your LinkedIn. I'm curious, like that must have been an incredibly formative time for you as a young person, like going door to door as a, at least that's what I'm assuming it was like, what, what was that?


And is there anything that you learned. In doing that, that you take with you today that shaped who you are as a leader. Yeah. So Cutco, a lot of us started there. That's what I gotta tell you. A lot of people that you'll meet. In the revenue world started at Costco selling those incredible knives. Um, so that actually wasn't something that was as difficult.


And as many as the other jobs that I had, uh, in the future, because a lot of that was based on references. So you would go somewhere, you get someone to write out three people they thought was, would also be interested in purchasing knives and they would go and connect you and call people even with you there.


Nope. It wasn't that bad actually. Um, what was it? It's incredibly difficult. Was I sold knives to somebody that. Uh, owned a, uh, life and health insurance business. And he ended up hiring me right after I sold them knives. And yet he paid for me to get my license. And that's when I did the door to door where you're walking into all those business parks, where it says no soliciting.


And some people, you know, in that blazing heat, I was living in st. Louis at the time, um, you know, 17, 18 year old, um, when, when I was doing that. So he will give you a nice glass of water, you know, with some ice and other say some nice, not so nice things, uh, once you, uh, get through the door. So that was actually something that I really learned that there's nothing as hard as, as doing door to door type of sales.


It makes everything that we do in the SAS world seem easy. Um, in my opinion, and now I'm realizing, I did not know that Cutco was the pioneer of social selling. Well, they started, so you asked if some of them I took away from that was like, Hey, whenever you're finalizing a partnership with the new customer, ask them always, if there's anyone else they know that are interested as well, because.


90% of the time. They do know some folks. And usually at that point, you're at the ultimate high, you just finalize the partnership and it's, it could be a great moment for you to get some great leads from them. So, you know, then you went to cut your teeth at responses and an Oracle. And then, you know, there's, there's Oracle of course has its own or a, of, you know, folks who go there and get trained there and come up through the ranks and then go on to do things like Salesforce and other, other big things.


Um, and so you went to huddle after that. Um, tell me about, you know, your experience at Oracle and how that informed, how you viewed the business at huddle when you stepped into it, and then what your approach was like there. Yeah. So I'll take a little bit of a step back because I came to Oracle through responses that you, that you mentioned.


And I was really blessed that I met the, at the time he was the CMO at response, a guy by the name of Scott Aldrich. That's now the COO at DocuSign and he met me. I was on a plane going down to play a UCLA. Um, I was a soccer player at, at, at Stanford at the time. And by the time we landed, he offered me an internship.


Uh, and you know, I was still finishing school. I was like, yeah, sure. Right. Of course, like I'm, I'm sitting here thinking about what I'm going to do for a living. And I got, I get somebody that offers this to me and I really had the opportunity to build a career at responses where I learned from some incredible folks.


Like Scott or rich, like Dave Simon, um, and Andrew Rosenfeld, Paul Hamilton Sanjay can, I can keep going and going and going. These are some incredible folks, uh, from Silicon Valley that taught me so much that, uh, that I use every day. Um, and many of them are at incredible companies now. And a lot of those learnings happen there.


And then we. Had a, we went public and then we were ultimately acquired by Oracle where I spent two years. Uh, but a lot, what I came in into huddle had to do with what I learned at responses, and it really started off with leadership and what it is that you're looking to do, um, right when you come in and to me, Taking what I learned from sports and also the incredible leaders that I met at responses.


It really honed in on a growth, having a consistent growth mindset. And the second is how can I go and help build a foundation for people to be the best version of themselves. And I've really honed in everything that I do on that. Cause to me is it's all about customer outcomes. So focusing on customer outcomes, and then again, the people aspect.


Can we build a foundation that people can have the same opportunity that I luckily had at responses to learn and then become the best version of myself. Uh, and that usually leads to growth. Uh, and that, that's what I've really taken as my foundation. And I don't think it's going to change much in the future.


So I'd love to dig in cause you, you named some fantastic people and I'd imagine you've probably could map back one or two stories to each of those people. Like, you know, we all have these aha moments where someone comes in and takes a chance on us or teaches us a thing. And maybe at first it sounds conceptual or it doesn't click, but then something happens, whether it's in our brain or an experience that we have, we're like, Oh, now I get what they wanted me to know or understand.


Could you walk us through a few of those for each of those people who are significant? Yeah. I've gotten the okay. To mention their names on this beforehand. So. I'm sorry, if any of them listened to you guys should ping them, um, after this. But, um, so Scott always I'll start with him because he was the person that I sat next to on that, on that plane.


And. After I joined responses, I found that he has to be the world's most incredible because supposedly he does those things all the time. So he meets people at coffee shops, you know, and planes on walks when he's biking, whatever that is. And, you know, he fights top, top people and recruiting it's them.


And to me, what I got of that is like, You never know when opportunity is going to be right in front of your face. Right. So just have an open mind, even when you're going down to grab it quick coffee, say hi to the person next to you. Maybe you'll strike up a conversation. Um, the most influential person for me during my time at response in particular was Dave Simon.


Um, and he was leading our, uh, mid market, uh, sector there and he just had an executive presence about himself and just the way to walk into the room and, and command things, not in a, uh, overarching way, but just more like just instant respect then how he spoke and how he decided when he decided to open his mouth within a meeting.


And being very, uh, directed about the feedback that he wanted to provide. Isn't that I look to do on a daily basis as an executive. Now that I'll, that I'll never forget. I could keep going, but maybe I should like stop a little bit. Cause there are many more stories that I could tell in case you wanted to jump in.


Anything else? No, this is great. Yeah. I mean, I think that these things are the more specific we are, you know, these are, these are lessons that you had the great fortune of learning firsthand, but you know, folks listening may not yet have had those same lessons. So if you want to share a couple more, then we can go forward on a.


You know, huddle and beyond. Yeah. I'll go. Another person too, that really helped in terms of how we messaged, um, at responses was a guy by the name of, uh, Paul Hamilton. And, um, he, he aligned very closely with somebody else called Steve Halliwell. Who's, uh, currently at now at, at HighSpot. Um, and they really just transformed like our entire go to market thinking, especially Steve Halliwell himself, where.


We adopted challenger in a very unique way. Um, at the time we really focused on customer outcomes and what was driven, uh, for our customers. So everything that we pitched and honed in on was very ROI focused and tied to these strategic accelerators. That'd be between, you know, Paul Hamilton and, uh, Steve Halliwell was so well put together.


Yeah. And going through that training and experiencing it. Directly as a rep. And then luckily as a leader there as well, it just brought forth these learnings that I'm going to use for the rest of my life. Um, and the approach they took. And I just named a few people, there were many other folks involved in this, but that was a great example of something that I really learned from then.


The other two was the CEO at responses, a guy by the name of Dan Springer is now the CEO of DocuSign. Uh, even when we were getting close to 2000 employees, like he still took the time to speak to people, um, and, and be very open for feedback and would still fly around, uh, you know, to correlate places to all our, our offices to go and actually have like small get togethers with like 20, 25 people, uh, to, for sort of a town hall.


Or we can ask any questions that, that we wanted. And. His ability to speak to folks where you actually felt like he was speaking just directly to you and that's it, uh, learning those types of skills and how they did it was it's going to be invaluable, um, for the rest of my career. So now let's play that forward.


Your at we're going to skip a company too. We're going to go to chorus. Um, yeah, just joined chorus. You're you're probably still absorbing getting the lay of the land and understanding, you know, where, where the business actually, you were an advisor beforehand, right? So you were already familiar with the business before joining, correct.


So I was a customer. Um, yeah, I was a customer. Then I joined the customer advisory board. Um, so I wasn't, uh, an actual event or, but I joined the customer advisory board. So I guess it does make me an advisor, right? Like I'm the one that decided to purchase the platform and, and, and, and, and join that, uh, course from a partnership perspective.


And yet we were heavily involved in the future roadmap, discussions, and chorus was doing a great job of actually getting customer feedback, um, from us. So, yeah, I, the, the joke that exists, uh, internally is at first, you know, as a, as a revenue leader, I've bet my budget. And then now. I'm I'm moving forward in betting my career.


Right. So it's just a little bit of a jump, um, is a joke that we have internally right now. Seems like a pretty good bet. Um, what, I mean, what has you most excited right now about know your plans or your strategy or the things that you're thinking about? Obviously, like we said earlier, it's a really hot space and you have a very, you know, differentiated product in a market that's moving really quickly.


So how are you thinking about things today? Yeah, so first I just start it. It just feels very good to be able to help leaders similar to yourself. Right? So it's things where you understand the pain and just what it takes for us to show up every single day to succeed. And also our leaders under us and our, and our reps.


So it's all things that I have personally felt, um, in the past. And then this is the first time where I've joined a company where I've been a customer and I've made a decision to partner with that company. So the level of conviction that I've come in with at chorus, it's just at a whole different level that I've, that I've ever imagined to be very transparent and not saying I didn't love my time at the previous companies that I've, that I've.


Um, had a blessing to have joined in the past, but it's just, it's a different feeling. So when I'm speaking to customers, I can actually speak to what it was like to implement conversation intelligence and what are some of the things that I uncovered that I maybe wasn't expecting, uh, at first, um, so that those are some really exciting parts first and foremost is I'm speaking to people that I can really align with in, in, in there.


And the things that they're trying to solve for. The second is we often make decisions that we feel like we're taking data, uh, based, uh, calls, but we really aren't. There's still some subjectivity to it. And what core has helped me do, um, is to take a much more objective approach and how is assessing, uh, my team in the past.


And I want to give that ability to others as well, uh, in the future. Um, so those are just a few points that I had focused on and I'm happy to dig in deeper too. Yeah, let's see. Now I want to like flip that coin over and say, you know, every business has its challenges and especially, you know, they can be timing based.


They can be, you know, Product and market fit based. What, what is perhaps the biggest challenge that you see stepping into this role? Whether it's something that you're excited to tackle or even scared to tackle? Like what, what is that thing that you're focused on this year, moving forward that you see as an obstacle that needs to be climbed?


Yeah, so, um, I think first is just the main area that I'm trying to get through very, very quickly is. I don't believe in making crazy decisions very quickly on like, what's going to be the go to market approach that we're going to sign off on for the future. Sure. As we continue to scale this, I want to make sure that I give myself some time to sit and actually feel things right.


Like feel what's going on. Feel it's what's happening. What's working really well. What's not working very well and actually take the time to feel that. And I've set this already in my mind that I'm giving myself two months. So through the end of, uh, of September here, right? So I started in late July to just sit and feel things and.


Really focused on our customers. So I'm joining an insurmountable amount of customer calls and conversations, and that is at every level, right. From initial conversation to implementations, but I'm there in the thick and thin during those, uh, different, different parts of the customer life cycle and seeing like, what is that experience that customers are going through?


So to me, like the toughest part is there are some things that I'm seeing. I just kinda wanna jump in there and okay. Let's go in. Reorganize how we've set up the team so we can provide a better for, for set customer outcomes, which are very, very important to me. I believe in setting up. Uh, your entire process based on customer outcomes, what are the outcomes that customers are looking for throughout the relationship with you?


Not just when they first find out about chorus and then they decide to buy it, but through the entire experience, as they're a customer, and they're learning how to adopt our platform, as they are, uh, thinking about renewal or expansion, what are the outcomes that they're trying to achieve along those lines?


And I feel like I wouldn't be able to do that if I didn't give myself these two months. To really just feel things through. So that's first and foremost, what I'm, what I'm focused on, but also, yeah, I'm human and there's, there's some concern there. Like, am I waiting too long? Like if I'm seeing, should I just go and jump on there, but, uh, I've made you some of these incredible mentors that I've had in the past and, and others that I've spoken to that have come into similar situations.


They're like, no, take your time. I really feel things first before you make any. Crazy, uh, decisions on, uh, you know, things that, that are going to affect a lot of people. So it seems sensible. So it sounds like the big thing that you're routing around as your first move, once you're comfortable is mapping the customer journey in a way that is supporting their goals.


Yeah. That is the first you nailed it. That's the first thing that I'm doing and it. Just kicked off. So you're, you know it and it's uh, yeah. Um, I just did a webinar actually recently with sales hacker on the topic. And that's what we're going through right now is we've defined a team that's involved in it.


We are mapping out the customer journey without any stages or thought process from that, just the customer journey. It's going to come in many different. Wow, crazy ways. Right. And we're just gonna literally take stick, you know, virtual sticky notes, uh, on, uh, on, on go. I forgot the exact, there's a Google drawing.


I can't remember exactly what it was. Um, so we literally are just kicking off that project now. And, you know, after getting that, that journey, we're going to really align it to the, uh, customer outcomes that are involved in that journey followed by how we can help people guide to those outcomes. And then lastly build our new and improved, uh, overall sales process, which to me is sales process.


Doesn't end at signature date. It's a continuous circle that never, never ends. Are there any new trends you're seeing in the market or kind of things that you think are going to become more or, um, Of a norm and give people more of an edge in the future that you have your eye on that you're thinking through.


Yeah, absolutely. And, uh, this is something that I really learned, uh, from the, the huddle days is just what does customer centricity really mean? Like if you're customer centric and it means that you make your decisions based on your customers and the outcomes that they're trying to achieve. And that, that isn't something that I got to experience there.


And it's something I'm going to bring forth with me for the rest of my career. And it touches on like, what are the expectations from the customers? Like what is the buying process that they are seeking and how do you more closely align to that and make sure that you can remove friction points, uh, along the line.


Uh, and the circle, I'm sorry that the customer is going to go through. I don't want to stay lying. Cause I speak very heavily against the linear sales cross, sell X, that one out. Right? Like you got, you got to edit that one out for me though, that one slipped, but that is something that I'm very, I'm very excited about is like, I think that's going to be the future buyers are going to be more and more in control.


Our jobs are going to be to remove friction as much as possible across the, the buying cycle. And that's how companies are going to be able to differentiate more and more besides their product, et cetera. But I think that experience is going to matter more and more fantastic. So as we wind this, I mean, you have had an amazing career thus far, and it's obviously only continuing to build momentum and gain steam.


Um, what are some things that you do to blow that steam, to clear your mind and, uh, you know, not be immersed in work all the time. Yeah. So, uh, the number one thing I do is I exercise every single day. So I have a very strict, uh, just exercise program that I, that I go through. Um, it's not very exciting.


There's like, no, it's just me, myself, a few weights and then maybe, you know, running outside or, or, or, or things like that. But then the one other area is, is soccer. So which unfortunately we don't have right now due to COVID, but, uh, I try to play twice a week and that's what really helps me get all my energy out, uh, and gives me the ability to stay centered.


And it's how I relieve my stress. And then the last piece is I have even within my calendar, very distinct times that I spend with my family every day. So I have a 10 month old. Daughters. So I like to make sure that from five 30 to seven, I am focused on her playing with her and then a bath time, uh, and finally, uh, putting her down at 7:00 PM.


So I'd say that is also like something that blows up it's calming to be with your family and especially, uh, you know, your kids. So, um, yeah. That's great. I w when you said, when you were talking about exercise, you're like, I have a really strict exercise routine with just myself, for whatever reason, the image that popped into my mind with Jazzercise, like you in a room, you know, Jane Fonda, uh, working it out, but then he said, wait, so we, we cleared that visualization.


Yeah. I have multiple circus that I've just made up in my head that I do. Um, and yeah. I don't know if they make a lot of sense, but, um, you know, it works for me. Well, I hope you're able to get back to a real soccer outside with other people soon. Yeah. And depending on how international you are, that's football.


Right. So, you know, the podcast is, so yeah, I got to say it. You got to see it right for soccer. Exactly. There you go. Good. Call out. Good call out. Yeah. Well, thanks for taking the time. Y'all this was really enjoyable. Um, and I know the audience is gonna take a lot from it, so. Thank you. I appreciate your time.