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’re publishing the second part of our chat with Peter 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.
BTM: What traits do you look for in a sales person?
Pete: I think it’s often stage dependent. But I look for people who can learn, understand someone’s business pain, and can map the solution to that pain in a persuasive way. Early stage technology sales is not relationship-based, so you need high quality grey matter. Just being congenial and persuasive is not enough. And if your solution is lower contract value, and thus your deal cycles are shorter and tempo is higher, you need highly detail oriented folks who aren’t going to crap up the CRM and lose track of their pipe. More in this piece I wrote on First Round Review on Sales Hiring.
Early stage technology sales is not relationship-based, so you need high quality grey matter.
BTM: Best technique for helping new sales people ramp in your organization?
Pete: I wrote a piece on this topic in First Round Review here: You’re Losing Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars Because of Poor Sales Onboarding
If I had to choose one thing, it’s actual live fire “sparring.” I think managers avoid this because it’s a lot of work (doing four hour-long practice demos with a rep is a grind), but you have to do it. Can you imagine a professional football player not doing dozens of practice runs of a given play? It would be insane. Yet that happens in sales onboarding all the time.
BTM: Thoughts on performance management minimums? How do you set the minimum expectations for your org?
Pete: Depends on stage. Early on I think you have to keep things flexible. If you as a founder have been selling yourself, you should have a sense of what is doable. If you hire multiple reps concurrently, they will compete and “reveal” what that natural rate could be. If you’re starting from zero, can you look at similar solutions and their quotas? I prefer to frame lower, so reps can have success, pay for out-performance (so reps can “reveal” the true bar) and then raise the bar later. More on this in the sales compensation part of this chapter.
BTM: How do you get buy-in from the people you manage?
Pete: I think it’s something you continuously earn. I do think that demonstrating mastery of your subject is good, and that taking opportunities frequently to demonstrate that is good. But that doesn’t mean you have to be the smartest person in the room. Also being authentically invested in the success of your staff, and backing that up with actions (even if that means negative feedback or correction) helps. Bill Walsh’s “The Score Takes Care of Itself” is one of my favorite books on this topic.
BTM: Most effective coaching techniques for giving feedback to a sales rep or sales manager?
Pete: Direct feedback that aligns to the goal.
Example: “Here’s our goal. Agree? Here’s this precursor goal to get to that goal. Agree? Here’s what I’m seeing that diverges from this, and the data that supports this. Agree? I believe this needs to improve to achieve our goal. Agree? This is my recommendation to improve this. Agree? This is the way we will know this improvement has occurred. Agree? This is the time frame on which we will measure that improvement. Agree? Ok! Let’s do it!”
BTM: What role do you see lead-gen playing in your organization?
Pete: Lead generation in the form of SDR appointment setting is a great force multiplier. Having a $50k a year person fully load the calendar of a $150k a year person is great example of leverage and relative advantage. It also is a fantastic way to build your sales bench. Just be wary not to keep SDRs that could be closing business as an SDR too long. If you have reps who could be closing business, you’re eating a terrible opportunity cost by not moving them into that role. This is why having a hiring machine is key. A conveyer belt of SDRs that set appointments now (making AEs more revenue intensive) and then start making it rain themselves later is a beautiful thing.
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.