The all-in-one tool to create, approve, track & eSign documents | Keith Rabkin – PandaDoc
Keith: You know when you get a document in your email, like a contract or a sales proposal, and you don’t know what you’re looking at, or you don’t know how to compare it. We solve that problem for businesses. We help them create beautiful proposals and contracts that stand out from their competition, which allows them to save a ton of time and close more deals, get more agreements signed, and so that’s what we’re doing. We’re solving customer pain around time spent in manual documentation processes when they send those documents to third parties. And as a result, they save a ton of time, win more deals, and are very happy to have less frustration with their PDF uploads.
Our bread and butter are proposals and agreements. Proposals are your classic sales proposal that goes out the door, whether a quote or a general proposal, to get a business agreement in place. And contracts are typical contracts that you might send for procurement or any agreement between another party. And all of these have e-signatures built in. We help streamline the document’s creation all the way to the signature and consumption of the agreement.
What are our most loved features of PandaDoc?
Keith: One of our top features is the ability to set up templates inside the proposals, which saves you a ton of time. The odds are that you’re not creating a bespoke agreement every single time you send one out. And so we allow the creation of these templates, saving you a ton of time. It gets better because we allow you to integrate them with your CRM or other systems so you can pipe information, which reduces the number of errors you have and helps you get out the door even faster. We integrate with multiple CRMs, but we also do quite a bit of integration with Zapier to make sure that you can access any custom integration you’d like.
I think the other killer feature we have is analytics. We allow you to see who’s looking at the document, how many times they’ve viewed it, how long they’ve spent on each page, and so you can know that someone has opened your agreement or spent a lot of time looking through it. And that’s really helpful on the sales side of things because you can sort of understand how likely your deals are to close. Those are two really key areas. I would also say less of a feature but more of a company priority is service. We take a lot of pride in giving our customers great service, and you know, when dealing with documents, there can be many headaches.
How does PandaDoc differentiate in this competitive market?
Keith: I mentioned it a little bit, but I think service is one of the things where we really differentiate. We take a ton of pride in that our customers are really happy with our service. And that’s everything from getting you onboarded so that you can get up to speed, use the tool fast, and get a return on your investment. To ensure that if you ever have a problem, we’ve got someone there to help you and hold your hand. Beyond that, we offer consultations that really help you understand what is unique about your business.
Our team, which has worked with over 50,000 customers, has a ton of experience dissecting ways that we can improve how you do things and get value out of this tool so that you’re spending less time on documents, spending less time pulling out your hair of frustration from having to make PDFs and signatures work. And the team is really good at that. That’s one big differentiator. The analytics I mentioned is a big differentiator, and I think the branding is significant.
How the customer journey works at PandaDoc
Keith: Customer journey is often overlooked by companies. They have a product, they want to sell that product, and a lot of times, they’ll just put that product in front of you at every opportunity. This year at Panda Doc, we’ve spent a ton of time understanding how customers discover us, how they learn about our product, how they try it, how they purchase it, how they adopt it, and then hopefully renew and expand it with us. We broke down the customer journey into various stages.
We broke it down very much based on the customer’s intent. Whether they came to us for proposals, they came for contracts, they came for e-signature. They’re looking to get away from a competitor who’s not giving them as many services. And we tried to understand how those customers think about what they’re trying to accomplish, the jobs to be done, and how we can get them to that value as quickly as possible through PandaDoc.
What has been your biggest takeaway from this research?
Keith: I think the biggest takeaway is the customers come to PandaDoc with intention. They come with something they’re trying to do, which is very different based on the size of the customer, the use case, and the industry they come with, and we really want to make them get to value as quickly as possible. What we’re trying to do is make sure we’re not shipping the PandaDoc org chart. We don’t want you to think – I have to go speak with a CSM for this problem or an account executive for this problem.
We want to make sure that it’s absolutely seamless and that you have this great experience from the moment you hit our website to the moment you go into a trial experience. Your experience in the trial is carried forth to your conversations with PandaDoc employees and that we put the customer at the center of everything we do. And so that’s become a really big focus for the entire company and our exec team in particular, making sure we’re relentlessly focused on understanding those.
What’s your best piece of advice for a company that’s looking to implement this strategy?
Keith: My best advice is to continue putting the customer first. Think about the customer first. I really believe this, and I believe that our leadership team thinks this too, that if you center on the customer, you’re going to get better outcomes, and those outcomes will drive long-term value creation. But to get really practical on how we did it, we broke the customer journey into three phases. We started with the systems that support our customer journey in making sure those systems are architected in a way that we can get the best outcome.
It’s everything from the website loading quickly that information about the customer. The path into the journey carries forward into their discussions with PandaDoc employees. You have to ensure that the systems provide this base layer of information. That’s the first piece. The second piece is integrated campaigns, where we thought about how to discover PandaDoc. Usually, they do it through a search or coming in through an ad, maybe a word-of-mouth referral. We want to make sure that that campaign stitches. If you come in on a proposal keyword, you should see proposal content throughout your journey. You’re not there for contracts, you’re there for proposals. When you start the trial experience, you should be seeing proposal content. When you talk to a sales rep, you should talk about proposals, not contracts.
Those integrated campaigns are becoming more and more how we run the company in terms of analyzing performance and thinking about the. And then the last piece is customer friction. Where do we see friction in the journey? When you’re on the website, do you understand things? Does the pathway that you go into the trial make sense? Does the pathway that you go into a demo make sense? How do we continually remove friction from the process? And we don’t just carry that through from the ads and the web, we carry that into the product. Are we getting customers into value quickly, whether it’s the adoption in a trial or the adoption on the paid customer side? We’ve divided things into those three parts, and we’re constantly running sprints on each of those to improve each.
The story of PandaDoc
Keith: Our founders, Mikita and Sergey, founded PandaDoc several years ago, and they really did it with the intention of solving the pain that I talked about. The pain that people feel when there’s a process and wasted time on documents. They have done an amazing job of crafting this product really helps people get to value faster and spend less time on the parts of the business that don’t matter, and so I love that because I care about efficiency in everything my team does and what I do. I love that they started it with that in mind and that we’ve continued to evolve PandaDoc to solve newer problems.
Why did you join the company?
Keith: I’ve only been here for five months. That mission that I just talked about, the why behind why the company was created, was so important to me in finding a place to be. And then the other parts that were really important to me were finding just a great culture and a great group of people who are pursuing that mission and putting the customers first. Those were all things that I was looking forward to, and so finding that special. A mix of customer centricity, the power of document augmentation, and solving workflow problems with great people.
How big is the overall team right now?
Keith: We’re over 800 employees and just got past 50,000 paying customers. It’s a huge milestone for us, and it shows that customers find value in what we provide. And the 800 employees, we call them pandas. Our employees are all focused on driving that value and helping these 50,000 customers spend time doing what they really care about, which is helping their customers. I don’t think anybody really cares about uploading documents or spending time on document workflow. People spend their time-solving customer problems and running their businesses.
What do you actually do as the CRO in your day-to-day?
Keith: I run the sales team, the customer success team, the marketing team, and the partnerships team. It’s just an incredible group of pandas who are all here to help make sure our customers get to success. And we do that in different ways. We help customers find our solution through marketing or through partnerships. Pandas help them get to value through the sales team and sign that initial contract, and then the customer success team helps them continue to find value. My job is to help optimize that process, remove roadblocks, and help chart the strategic narrative, a big portion of which is this customer journey focus and putting the customer first. I love it. I’m incredibly blessed to have an amazing team that does all the hard work.
What do you think was your biggest challenge in these since joining?
Keith: When I started, we focused a little bit more on what was right for PandaDoc and not our customers. They started it before I got here, but over the last three quarters, there’s been this real focus on putting the customer first in everything we do. And that means revamping how we sell, how we market, how we drive our customer success teams, and get people to value. It’s changed how we measure success, but I think it’s leading to better customer outcomes.
Should the CMO report to CRO?
Keith: I think it makes a ton of sense because you can really align the objectives between the marketing and the revenue functions. I’ve worked at companies where sometimes marketing is really focused on just driving a number of leads rather than making sure those leads progress through the pipeline and go all the way to close. And it really allows us at PandaDoc to make sure that we’re not arguing back and forth but concentrating on shared outcomes. I am a big fan of that, and I think it works well.
You recently hit 50,000 customers. What has been your most successful growth tactic?
Keith: SEO has worked really well for us. We have an amazing demand generation team that’s doing a fantastic job with our ads. Partnerships are an incubation initiative for us, so it’s a little bit newer but showing an increased transaction. Like a lot of SaaS companies, we do a good job of expanding. That’s fewer new paying customers, but it’s more seats per customer. As customers come in and see the value of PandaDoc, they’re like – wow, I’m saving so much time, I need to have a different department use this. And companies get better and better results from doing that. I’m just really proud of all the teams that have leaned in here to acquire the customers, get them to value, and expand their presence with us over time.
What is your vision for the future with PandaDoc?
Keith: We just crossed 50,000, I think our next milestone is to get to a hundred thousand. We know that there are companies out there that don’t give their customers proposals, quotes, contracts, and agreements, the level of support that those customers need. We think we have a fantastic that grows across sales, marketing, customer success, partnerships, HR, and finance. We’re looking to add new customers to help us get value. My goal is to continue to drive that acquisition of new customers and then expand this customer’s presence with us. I would say making sure we have fun at PandaDoc while we do it. One of our core values is fun, so I want to ensure the team still enjoys what they do and serves customers in the best way possible.
What is your story, Keith?
Keith: I started out of college, went into the market at a financial services firm, and learned a tremendous amount. It was for a company called Charles Schwab. It’s a broker, and they were always sort of at the leading edge of technology, adoption, and financial services and very customer-centric. And I think those things carried forward with me as I went through my career. But five years there, I thought I needed to understand business from a higher-level perspective, which caused me to go after an MBA.
After my MBA, I was lucky to end up at Google, where I spent 10 years. I joined in 2007, which was a pretty formative time for Google. They had achieved escape velocity but hadn’t gotten too big. I think the company was around 16,000 people when I joined, so it was still small enough that we knew a lot of people. I had significant exposure to a lot of interesting projects because I worked on the strategy team.
What was so interesting about that was that the core philosophy of thinking big, user-centricity and challenging assumptions using technology to solve problems really stuck with me and shaped who I am as a business person and a leader. The 10 years I spent made me the person I am today in many ways. I’m really thankful for that opportunity. But after that, I went on to other things, and it’s just been an amazing adventure. As you go through your career, you establish the principles you care about, and you can probably tell what mine are: customer first, caring about my teams, and driving impact. Those are the things that I think are important to get as you go through your career, and I feel really fortunate to have gotten to where I am.
What’s your best piece of advice for somebody that’s just starting their career?
Keith: My best advice is about understanding customers focusing on having grit, and putting their customers first. You let your customers be your guide on what you need to do, and having grit is how you serve them. It’s that you shouldn’t let obstacles stand in the way. You have to really chase down and do what’s right—the people who do that are the ones that are the most successful.
Why you should focus on putting your customers first
Keith: I’m a pretty new CRO, so I’m not sure that I’m ready to advise on what others are doing wrong, but I do think executives or accompanies put the business before the customer, I’m a huge believer in win-win situations, and I think if you put the customer first, you’re going to drive advantage for both the customers and the business instead of just the business. You heard me saying a lot today, but it’s what we focus on at PandaDoc.
Why does a business exist? A business exists because you want to make money, but it has a purpose. At the center of that purpose has to be your customers. I really do believe that, and that’s why I put that purpose first. And I believe if we do that purpose right, it will generate returns for the business. Your employees are happier when pursuing a goal; a career is more than a paycheck. Having that purpose plus a rewarding set of jobs to do in the company really leads to happy employees.
What’s your favorite software apart from PandaDoc?
Keith: I think Slack is probably my answer, it’s probably a very popular choice. I’ll see if I can come up with a less popular one as a second one. But Slack, we do everything in it, it’s just so great at being able to communicate in real-time and show some emotion with the emojis. Put in some gifts for a little bit of fun, but you can accomplish so much because it’s collaborative. I absolutely love that. If I had to pick, maybe a second little-known piece of software would be Bear. I use Bear for note-taking, and I really like how it works. I’ve had trouble making note-taking software stick at any company, and this is the first one that I’ve liked because of the search, the ability to have it synced across devices, and I just love how it works with the tags.
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