Anchor List: Navid Zolfaghari, VP Sales at Branch

The Anchor List recognizes extraordinary operators in the startup ecosystem. Learn more at anchorlist.com

In our highlight reel of the top business operators, Navid Zolfaghari deserves our first mention in the sales category for his leadership as VP of Sales at Branch, guiding the company to a 48,918% revenue growth rate in only three years (#1 SaaS Company on Deloitte’s 2020 Technology Fast 500). 

“Don’t get stuck in only battling today’s fires - work on preventing tomorrow’s smoke. You have to always be forward looking and push the pace of what is possible. Work backwards from the milestones you want to achieve. Plan and execute what you need to do today to set yourself up to be a step function better tomorrow.” - Navid Zolfaghari, VP of Sales at Branch

Originally from the East Coast, Navid moved to the Bay Area over a decade ago, founded a couple startups and worked at Google before joining the deep-linking and attribution platform Branch in January 2017. 

At Branch, Navid’s biggest successes include:

  • Building a top tier global go-to-market team that’s closed 600+ enterprise deals with the world’s largest brands

  • Connecting internal teams to make 1+1=3

  • Playing a role in the career progression of incredibly talented people

Navid’s Expert Advice

When asked about the drivers of his success, Navid is quick to highlight the importance of creating a culture of excellence. As he puts it, “One of the earliest goals that I verbalized to the team was that we were going to soon get our first seven-figure deal. It was about stretching the boundaries of what we thought was attainable and the cumulative actions and team efforts to get there. In order to get there we needed to execute across the board and do so with micro-urgency and macro-patience. I’m proud to say we had this happen in my second year as VP.”

Fostering Performance

In discussing creating and fostering an environment for high performing teams, Navid suggests: 

  1. Recruit and uplevel top notch talent. It starts with the people and the first few hires are critical. Great talent attracts great talent. In a team of high performers, each will push each other to achieve more which creates a flywheel of success. 

  2. Set ambitious, yet achievable goals. Consider what you are optimizing for and set goals that would incentivize the behavior you seek. Consistently keep the bar high and you will find the team will rise to the occasion. 

  3. Building and optimizing systems and processes.  Visibility breeds accountability. If it isn’t important to the leader it won’t be important to others. Identify the metrics that matter and measure your progress. Repeatability is key in enterprise. It’s crucial to continually optimize against what you’ve learned and build for scale. 

  4. Connecting supporting departments together. High performing teams need a strong supporting cast. Leadership's role is to connect the teams and break down the silos between each department. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

  5. Create culture by design, not default. Establish the purpose, communicate often, and live your values.Provide psychological safety. Make fast feedback the norm. Celebrate wins. Whatever you do, be deliberate about the type of culture you want within the organization.

Sales Strategies

In addition to the structural elements of creating a team, Navid has certainly succeeded on the tactical side of sales. In this area--one of creating long lasting relationships--Navid advises: 

  1. Be human. Emotions underlie every human decision. Find what’s important to the people you are working with, which is different from what’s important to their company. Talk about their problems and speak their language. 

  2. Multi-thread. Buying decisions are rarely made alone. The more complex enterprise deal, the more involvement you will have from adjacent departments. When you are solving cross-functional challenges for your customers, you should proactively work across multiple stakeholders, including internally. It’s not enough to capture the attention of the C-Suite. You need to build conviction from the bottoms up. 

  3. Quantify impact. At the executive level, it often boils down to generating revenue or cost savings. The deeper you can get at the root pain and solve for multiple use cases, the more impact you will have. Then, quantify the impact for them to help prioritize solving the issues. 

  4. Drive the process. Consistent execution requires approaching problems in a structured way. Find a compelling event to rally against and establish the joint deliverables to get there. Hold yourself and your customer accountable.  

  5. The sales cycle continues after signing. Getting a signed contract is just the beginning of the buyer journey. Successful SaaS businesses are built on recurring revenue and you have to continuously deliver on the value you sold to make yourself an irreplaceable part of their tech stack. 

Reflecting on his sales success, we’re particularly impressed by Navid’s behavior as a true connector. He’s connected customers with the solutions to solve their problems, connected previously-siloed internal departments, and connected talent with opportunity. A people-person and go-getter, Navid continually avoids complacency to accelerate his team toward success.