Our goal at Building the Sales Machine (BTM) is to enable sales leaders in the tech community to help and learn from each other. We’re all in this boat together, trying to help revolutionary companies disrupt the norm. To make people’s lives easier, better, more fulfilling. We’ll aim to bring some of these great teams, leaders, and strategies to life through our articles, meet-ups, speaking events and interviews.
For today’s Q & A, we sat down with Pete Kazanjy, a serial founder, and seasoned early stage Saas executive. Most recently, Pete founded TalentBin, a category-defining talent search engine and recruiting CRM, which exited to Monster Worldwide in early 2014. Pete’s energy was limitless, and he answered every single question we had, so we’ll have to break it up into two posts!
Here’s the interview:
BTM: What’s something you’ve learned from a sales person in the last 3 months?
Pete: To cite something super tactical, even through ‘predictive analytics’ is super hot for lead scoring right now, from a fundraising and buzz standpoint, most of the sales operations practitioners I’ve talked to about it have had pretty mediocre things to say about the solutions they’ve looked at or implemented. Not to pooh pooh something that will likely be an important part of the toolkit eventually, but great to get that back check for when approaching these solutions, or even prioritizing which project to do next. So that was good.
A bonus thing was about the value of heavily-human customized email outreach at the beginning of a drip marketing flow. Some data I saw indicated that heavy manual personalization of just that first email can triple the number of response over the course of a multi-email, multi-week drip campaign. Super nifty.
BTM: Whats the best piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor?
Pete: “Best” is tough, so I’ll say this is one of many great pieces of advice I’ve gotten. In our first board meeting after Lightbank lead TalentBin‘s Series A, we were discussing sales scaling, and the notion of adding a sales leader to our small team to help enable that. Paul Lee countered and pointed out that I had been doing a solid job to date, so why change things? That is, the risk of taking the eye off the ball to hire someone, and the potential that person might not work out, could really hamper our growth. So even if I was maybe a B, B+ sales leader at the time, better to have that, than a risk of hiring a D-. It’s stage-contextual, because later fully professionalizing the sales leadership function of course becomes more and more necessary. But it was perfect advice for us at the time, and lead me to spending the next three years going from middling to excellent.
BTM: Most interesting thing you’ve learned about your sales team from looking at the numbers?
I think the most interesting thing we’ve learned is that numbers work! ; )
For instance, Monster bought TalentBin to bring a passive candidate recruiting solution into its product portfolio. But as with all new things, there was initially apprehension on the part of the existing org about a new “unproven” solution. Of course, we had three years of historical win rate, deal size, and deal age data, so were able to throw that objection right out the window.
BTM: Best tip for sales teams that are scaling?
Early sales hiring is paramount. The first reps you pull in will pull others in. So if you start with middling quality, you’ll get more of that. As an entrepreneur, your early stage company will largely be valued on a multiple of its sales performance. As such, hiring quality reps that you onboard and get successful quickly and with a high retention rate is the best way to raise the value of your company. So get good at it. First Round Review published abridged chapters from my book on Sales Hiring and Sales Onboarding. Have a look.
BTM: Most important thing to learn for new sales managers?
Direct feedback. Getting comfortable with delivering feedback that is grounded in helping the rep improve, but is correcting the behavior that needs improvement. New managers shy away from this, and instead often boil inside about something that is wrong, but are afraid to tell the rep what’s wrong and how to fix it. Either this results in boiling over and delivering the feedback in an angry fashion, which is better than nothing, but hurts the receptiveness. Or just smiles and pretends everything is good, until the rep is fired. Which also sucks. Better to have a tight feedback loop.
I wrote up an example meeting cadence for early stage startups here, that has a section on sales teams and what meetings should exist to help facilitate that feedback system. Check it out: here.
BTM: What do you think of cold calling? Should sales teams still be using it?
Pete: I think it has it’s place, especially dependent on stage, how much qualification information one can get from external data sources ahead of time, and what kind of contact information you can get. If you can get great qualification data from sources like Datanyze, and know who the right POC is from LinkedIn, your cold call isn’t all that cold. But if you can get an email address, then you can maybe you can warm them up with some lightweight drip emailing. I think the best approach is all of the above, mixing different touch points in a cadence against good POCs from solid accounts. That’s how you drive SDR efficiency. Inbound marketing is awesome, but when you’re super early stage, people often don’t know about you, let alone know they have the problem you solve. So direct outreach, email and phone, is your friend there.
Pete Kazanjy is a serial founder, and seasoned early stage Saas executive. Most recently, Pete founded TalentBin, a category-defining talent search engine and recruiting CRM, which exited to Monster Worldwide in early 2014.
At TalentBin, Pete went from product and product marketing founder generalist, to first sales rep, first sales manager, first VP of Sales, all the way to leading new product sales for 600+ sales reps at Monster worldwide. He’s currently writing a book on sales for founders, Founding Sales, documenting all the mistakes he made along the way, and solutions to them, so future founders can accelerate their go to market acumen.
Prior to TalentBin, Pete worked in product marketing and product at VMware, having graduated from Stanford in 2002.
You can find him on Linkedin here and on Twitter here.