I attended an AA-ISP* event tonight and heard something that struck me, “culture is a reward.” What a profound statement.
I’ll back up and explain what transpired tonight. I am in B2B sales and I have found that I must constantly sharpen my mind.
Sales is, to some degree, a game, but one requiring confidence. There is a lot of rejection and stress. Add to that the fact that most folks view sales as a negative field and it makes for a combustible result. I attended an event tonight that focuses on improving sales and the profession.
With all the negativity that surrounds the role, I have found the absolute opposite when actually at work.
Yes there is rejection, but there is also a lot of positive outcomes. I meet with clients that are trying to solve massively complex problems and I get to somehow help. My clients are usually more knowledgeable than I am, so I also learn something new.
That said, let’s get back to the statement I made earlier regarding culture as a reward.
Have you ever started a job thinking it was one way when it the reality turned out much different?
You felt like you got the rug pulled out from under you? I have and I hated it. The culture was negative and nothing was as it seemed. From the outside it was fine; from inside terrible.
On occasion, though, we luck out.
We stumble across an opportunity that delivers as promised, whether Google or some local shop that has a great team.
Doesn’t it feel like it’s a reward to just go to work? That is it!
A good culture is its own reward. I could not add to it because it is so true.
Now I just need to surround myself with it and never let go.
* American Association of Inside Sales Professionals
Image credit: GotCredit
Some of you may know that I work in software sales. I enjoy the work along with the highs and lows that come with it. Something else that comes with the territory is money.
I have found money brings out the truth in people. When you have enough money where the opinion of others is not important, the true colors shine. Sometimes the result is great, other times not so much.
I had an opportunity this week to spend some time with some successful sales people who are climbing the mountain of corporate success and doing well. I was able to observe the behavior of a few different folks and see their true colors.
In one case there was a guy who has risen up the ranks and I was actually looking to him as an example of what to do. I was utterly disappointed. His main drive was money, sure that’s fine, but there was nothing more. In fact, I am unclear of what he cared about other than that. His only other hobby appeared to be drinking. I don’t mean that to sound negative; he is a connoisseur of fine wines and spirits.
I met another guy who grew on me. I met him three days ago and my first interaction was him asking me for a favor. During that moment though he was honest with why he needed it; I was in a position to help and it got him out of a jam.
As we spoke through the next few days I realized this guy had substance. He was rising up, but not there yet. He was humble, truthful and eager to learn. In addition, he handled the first guy I mentioned with grace. In this case the first guy was this person’s boss.
Throughout this journey I asked myself, “when is enough enough?” The first guy just wanted more and more money. The second writes screenplays, enjoys hiking and tries to give back.
In both cases you can never have enough. There is not enough money, but also not enough hikes, to find fulfillment.
Perhaps there is never enough.
Perhaps all that matters is what you are filling up that hole with.
I had the opportunity to spend some time in Raleigh, NC this week in the Research Triangle. If you haven’t had an opportunity to spend some time here, I highly recommend it. Not only is the area full of beauty, it’s a melting pot of diversity that exemplifies the best of America. The hub of elite universities and top ranked tech companies make this a desirable place to raise a family, but also pursue a career with meaning.
I was here to spend some time with BMC software and was able to sit in and watch first hand on how they train their inside sales teams. I was thinking about how I wanted to approach this topic and this forum allowed for me to point out some real world examples of how a cultural revolution can be started.
A little background on BMC. They are one of the largest private software companies in the world and create products for enterprise IT systems to do everything from track assets, create help desk tickets, manage capacity and sit on top of complex environments to manage jobs.
In a real world example Starbucks is a customer and if BMC’s software failed at any time then Starbucks would be unable to accept any form of plastic.
I say all of this to say they are in big spaces doing the behind the scenes work that is required for us to live this modern life. They were acquired by Bain Capital a few years ago and have been in a massive growth trajectory lately.
One major change that Bain made was the expansion of inside sales teams, BDR’s and inside sales reps.
When you think of sales you think of someone wining and dining with customers and comping their dinners; these guys don’t live that life. They manage the sales cycles through phone, email and LinkedIn.
It is a special skill that is required and it can be taught. These teams add great value to the organization by sourcing leads, closing business and creating value for the customers and field representatives.
An entry level role is as a BDR, Business Development Representative. My experience at other companies has been that these are young college grads that are hungry.
You have some of that at BMC, but they also have folks that have years of experience in other industries who are starting out in software.
You also have some that just enjoy that role and have done it for years. BMC takes these folks from all different backgrounds and shapes them to its vision and culture.
How do they do this?
One way they do it is by constant feedback and coaching opportunities. Now, this can be done the wrong way, but they seem to balance it well here where people seek out opportunities to learn and improve.
They also spend time highlighting team members who are doing something unique that works for them. They take folks that are young in their career and allow them to teach others. This does wonders for morale and also inspires others.
The last thing that I saw that helps is that they like to have fun as a team. They have happy hours, Vegas trips, president’s clubs. Constant incentives to allow people to reach their full potential.
I was impressed with the way they won as a team and built on mutual successes. They were not afraid to share best practices and they helped each other out as much as possible.
Now, maybe we can’t all go to Vegas but some of the things they are doing are very scaleable, not rocket science, and can be repeated at any org.
Occasionally I share stuff I receive from clients and sometimes from readers, as I’m doing today. I ask if I can share it and usually the response is ‘yes’, with the caveat that I change enough to ensure that nobody will recognize the writer.
I think “Caz’s” situation and its outcome are very applicable right now. I hear from a lot of you, all asking how to know when to “pull the plug.”
As always, I’m available by phone or email if you want/need to hash things out; contact info in the right-hand frame.
It’s been awhile and a lot has happened, with both family — the adoption went through and I’m a new dad! — and I’ve got a new job.
As you know, I’ve been getting more and more concerned about my future at “Locus Systems.”
You also know I’m extremely culture sensitive and the culture has been changing quite a bit, moving more and more towards a fear-based approach.
In addition, we launched a new product about 2 years ago and landed a total of maybe 20 customers.
While the product itself worked and there is a real need, the market just didn’t respond.
This in turn led to our CEO, who owns the company, to push the sales teams harder. In the end he said the failure was on the individual sales teams, not the product.
I have a strong business background and know that for no discernible reason good products sometimes just don’t find the market demand expected.
This whole ordeal has led to a lot of resentment on the part of the sales teams and management.
Some of our best team members started leaving; I’m talking about people who sell $4MM plus a year, so great salespeople.
Each time someone left the CEO would make it a point to remind everyone that that person lacked the vision and we were better off without them.
Give me a break!
On a personal level commissions started being delayed. We always waited 2 months or so for our commission, but it was creeping into a 3-4 month time frame, sometimes longer.
All this led me to a realization that I was probably on a sinking ship. I don’t mind struggling, and you know I’m a fighter, but when the CEO and management are essentially belittling employees and putting all failures on them it’s time to go.
So I started looking.
I found a great opportunity with “Jasper, Inc.,” another young software company that’s growing organically and has what seems like a terrific culture — all the good stuff you’ve written about (why I started reading you in the first place).
I found the opportunity locally, but the company doesn’t care where I live. That means we aren’t restricted to one town. I always wanted to be able to choose where I live and not have my job dictate that to me.
Although I just started, I’m really enjoying it. The opportunity came as a bit by surprise, but quite frankly, the conditions, benefits and pay are all superior to what I had.
I’d like to stay in touch. This role will give me more financial freedom then I have had in the past and that may come in handy down the road ;-)
FANTASTIC! An absolutely fantastic, no-frills conference that went to the core of what any startup CEO needs to know about starting and scaling sales, how to align with marketing and what types of people to hire and how.
AA-ISP stands for the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals and is an international association dedicated exclusively to advancing the profession of Inside Sales. The association engages in research studies, organizational benchmarking and leadership round tables to better understand and analyze the trends, challenges, and key components of the growth and development of the Inside Sales industry.
When I arrived I was exhausted after pulling an all-nighter and having had only 1.5 hours of sleep. I was sitting in the parking lot before to going into the conference (of course I was an hour late for the start) and kept nodding off as I was collecting my thoughts prior to going into registration. Eventually I did go in, registered and went to my first session, which I mostly dozed through.
However, by my second session called “The Uberization of Sales”, I was perky and awake, and the subject matter held my total attention. It continued this way until I left the conference at about 8:30 pm, elated that I’d had lucked out in this manner.
In fact, I had been dubious about whether I should attend at all, as I had slept so little and my impression was that it would be of only limited interest or relevance to Quarrio and me personally. I was embarrassingly wrong.
This conference is among the best I’ve attended as a startup CEO and addressed a number of issues I’ve struggled with throughout my career in startups.
After creating a product, the most challenging aspect of making the company successful is not continuous rounds of funding, but rather building the sales organization, getting the product out to customers and driving revenue.
The AA-ISP conference was wholly devoted to this. In fact, it’s the first conference I’ve attended with this focus.
In my experience, sales is the most under-emphasized area of knowledge for the startup CEO.
For some strange reason, we are just supposed to understand the process, how to build the team, how to hire reps and managers and how to manage them.
We are supposed to be able to know how to hire people whose profession it is to sell, while being immune to their ability to make us like them and make us oblivious to their weaknesses.
They are professional sales people — this is what they do every day, and most of us just have no defenses or ability to properly identify a good sales person from a bad one.
I know this has certainly been one of my areas of failure in the past.
This conference should be attended by every B2B startup CEO – other than creating the product, this is the best way to learn and network with people who are in the business of selling, building sales teams and getting new products into the market.
This is the place to learn how they think and how to hire and collaborate with them. I’d say that this is a must attend conference for anyone who hasn’t built several B2B companies.
I highly recommend joining the AA-ISP to gain knowledge and save yourself a ton of pain.
While agreeing about problematic sales cultures, he had a different take on culture in general.
His viewpoint, from someone who has been there/done that, may not be socially acceptable and could probably get him in trouble if posted on social media, but I can share it here — anonymously
Whether you’re a nigger or a bitch, this is the shit you have to deal with. I prefer environments where it’s obvious what the culture is, like this, than politically correct cultures where bigotry is the norm but you never onto why you won’t get the bonus, promotion or accolade with superior performance. Screw political correctness!
I believe it’s important to know where you stand, because then you can make informed choices. Give me this culture anytime – when I enter, I will know what the rules are. If I stay, it’s to accomplish a particular personal goal. When I leave (if not immediately), I will know why I stayed, left, and what I gained. I’m richer, they are poorer.
There is no such thing as “politically correct”. The term itself is an oxymoron that implies consensus building, popular sentiment or sinister machinations. Politics is about popularity — we never let others know where we stand or what we stand for in order to win a popularity contest. It is giving in to the tyranny of the mob, not daring to have unpopular opinions or stances, because one will not be popular.
Being a black man, I prefer a racist that’s honest about who he is and what he is. I prefer working for such a person because I know what to expect. I presume it would be the same for you as a woman regarding sexists. These days no one is a racist, we just have “unconscious biases” that prevent us from taking unpopular positions and that ensure that the powerful can continue to exclude the less powerful.
Politically correct environments rob me of information, choice, and the ability to navigate astutely to attain my objectives.
Over the years, certain posts I’ve written I seem to require reposting, because the subject keeps coming up; not investing management time in your self-starters is one of them.
Self-starter Does Not Mean Self-managed
When your company is new just how flat can the organization be? How well do “self-starters” manage themselves? These are crucial questions for startups and small businesses since how they are addressed can make or damage your company.
One of the first important outside hires made when a company is ready to grow is in sales. Today, founders are often technical with a biz type who handles sales and marketing. Unfortunately, technical people often have a tendency to think that non-tech jobs are no big deal, especially in sales and marketing.
They believe that hiring salespeople is no big deal—that as long as they have a good track record in their previous sales position and understand the product they can manage themselves.
If this sounds off base to you, you’re right, it’s not that simple. To use a real-life example, I had a client who thought that way.
Previous to hiring me this CEO hired a salesman, we’ll call him ‘Jack’, with a fantastic sales record selling to the same market.
The CEO personally taught Jack the product line and explained what the company was working to accomplish and then pretty much gave him free reign.
In the year Jack was with them he sold only two accounts, spent a good deal of his time on marketing and managed one large client.
In that year Jack’s commissions totaled only $15K.
When he left he went to work in a field completely unrelated to anything he’d sold before and in a market about which he knew nothing. In his first year at the new company he earned over 125K in commissions.
What was the difference? Management.
Based on his track record both the CEO and Jack assumed that he could manage himself. However, Jack didn’t have, and didn’t create for himself, the structure, accountability, etc., necessary to be successful.
When Jack left he admitted that although he had no knowledge or training in marketing, he spent substantially more time than he should have on it — but he had no choice.
After the CEO and I had fully analyzed what happened he concluded that the failure was 80-20, with the 80% his responsibility.
Hind sight is 20/20, and my client believes that if he had taken the time to do what was needed instead of expecting Jack to completely manage himself, that he would still be with the company and doing a spectacular job.
So remember when you hire that “self-starter” does not mean self-managed. Even the best will need direction, structure, and accountability in order to perform brilliantly.
Beyond that, tomorrow I’ll be sharing information Friday on the biggest sales error made by many startups and small companies.
Join me tomorrow to learn about the other major sales error made by many startups and small companies.
As the CEO of a startup, I’m really nothing more than the Chief Hustler.
I hustle to attract team members, capital, advisors, etc. I also hustle to ensure that we’re moving along quickly enough to be ahead of the market, though resource constraints and ambiguous choices always want to slow us down.
The ability to attract resources (team, capital, etc.) is probably the most important job that I have – most people who write about the startup CEOs job mention the visionary, cultural or managerial aspects of the job. For me it’s the constant hustling.
My hustle starts as soon as I wake up in the morning – pick up my iPhone and start reading and replying to emails at around 04:30. Then I move on to reading articles from news sources, keeping an ever vigilant eye out for potential competitors (especially ones with abundant funding or interesting technologies). There is an element of a negative flutter in the stomach whenever I come up on one of these – how will they affect the market, will they try to poach my carefully developed team, what is their technology basis, how do I find out more about them…
As a hustler, I’m basically a sales person.
I’m selling investors, potential team members and anyone who wants to listen or who can potentially affect the development of what we’re building in a positive manner. And as a hustler, there has to be a little of the “confidence man” in me – providing security where none can be had. Making people believe that the impossible is possible, not because I’m trying to cheat someone out of hard earned cash or time, but because I truly believe it myself, and with their help it will come closer to being reality. Hustling to create something out of nothing.
This hustler is very grateful for the people he’s getting the pleasure to work with to create something that is slated to be industry changing. I just got a sneak peak of the UI/UX and I’m really happy with the initial cut. Of course, it will have to be completely redone after our beta trials, but it’s so revolutionary that I’m now getting positive flutters in my belly – the kind of excitement that makes me want to shout from the roof-tops, “We’re coming!”
But I have to temper my excitement – we still have a long way to go. Months of hard work with the team, more delays and disappointments, and more insecurity about whether we’ll succeed or not. Every day, however, is a joy because of the people I have around me; my woman, my friends, my family, my team. To say “my” doesn’t clearly denote how I feel – not ownership, but privilege in being able to be part of their lives and have them in mine.
This is the essence of entrepreneurship at its best – good people, good goals, good development and good prospects. It’s a pity that it isn’t always like this. It does, however, make me appreciate the good times when they are here.
Sales people present their product as the solution to customers’ “problems/pain”.
As a candidate you should do both.
The smartest candidates recognize this and position themselves as high-value solutions that will make the manager look good to the higher-ups.
Steve Blank’s video explains how to identify and evaluate the value proposition of your product or service, but with very little tweaking you can apply it to yourself.
Candidates who focus primarily on what the company will do for them a la compensation, stock, benefits, promotions, etc., will miss many of the best opportunities, because managers see that attitude as a form of narcissism.
In other words, managers have problems and hire the best solution, i.e., candidate, to solve them.
Or to paraphrase JFK, think not what the manager/company can do for you, but what you can do for the manager/company.