There’s no shortage of sales advice for rookies. We can all talk about how to make a cold call or write the perfect prospecting email until we’re blue in the face. But we can do better than that. Sales Engine seeks to help salespeople sell more efficiently and effectively at all levels so we decided to launch a blog series that provides an insightful resource for salespeople early on in their career. The “My Start In Sales” series “tells it like it is” (namely, that we’ve all been there and done that — and that’s a good thing!). We will feature one veteran salesperson in a standard Q & A format every few weeks. We’re excited about sharing these successess and failures with you.
Current location: About 39,000 feet on a flight from LAX to Paris. Going to meet with clients and speak at some conferences. I change the clothes in my suitcase at my home in Southern California, but otherwise travel a huge amount.
Current gig: CEO of Partners In EXCELLENCE-a consulting company and Chairman/CEO of KCD Enterprises, a holding company for a couple of start-ups we invest in and actively manage.
One word that best describes how you work: Passionately. I have the privilege of waking up every morning and getting to pursue my hobby. Imagine being able to do your hobby 7/24. I can think of nothing more fun than engaging super smart people in solving very difficult problems.
Current mobile device: iPhone 6
Favorite to-do list manager: Paper and pencil (actually pen). Don’t have to ever worry about wi-fi or battery power
Tell us a little bit about what you do now & whether or not you currently work as part of a sales function at your company.
In the consulting side of the company, each of us is responsible both for business development and delivery. It’s a tough balance, it’s so easy to get consumed in working with a client, delivering a project. But at some point, a project ends. If you haven’t been prospecting and selling at the same time, you don’t have a new project or revenue. So we are always very careful in balancing our time on business development and delivery. One of the most critical metrics for each of us is number of new prospecting conversations we have each week. If that falls below our goal, we know we will have a revenue hole in 12-15 months. On the investment side of the business, my primary participation is as a board member. We use these investments as “sabbaticals” for our partners. A partner will run the company as CEO or EVP of Sales/Marketing, helping it grow. At the end of 1-2 years the partner has the option of replacing himself in the company or going on full time. It’s a great opportunity for us to learn and practice what we preach.
How did you get your start in sales? What was your first sales role and how did you get the job?
As a Cub Scout selling tickets to the Jamboree. First paying sales job was selling mainframe computers for IBM to money center banks in NYC. Because an interviewing manager at IBM told me I couldn’t sell. I told him he was wrong, that I could sell, and that I would arrange meetings with every hiring manager in IBM until I eventually got a job. Actually, the second interviewing manager I met offered me a job. (I later learned the story the first manager was just toying with me to see my response.)
Did you picture yourself working as a salesperson before you started?
Actually, being a sales person, particularly for IBM, was the last thing I ever pictured myself doing. I was a physicist and engineer. Out of college, I got involved in a startup, I was responsible for all product engineering and development. The company failed—for a variety of reasons, but I learned there was a lot more to business success than really cool products. So I went to graduate school got a MBA, had some mentors who had been sales people and discovered my real calling.
What do you wish you had known before you started selling?
Success in selling really has very little to do with the product you sell.
Do you have a story to share about a mistake you’ve made as a salesperson? What did you learn from this situation?
I’ve made so many mistakes and have too many stories. I suppose one that still stays with me is “Being right, doesn’t mean you win.” I had led a team of IBMers and customers to do an analysis of the IT operations of my major customer. We came in with huge recommendations about completely changing the IT Operations of the organization. When I met with the CIO to present the analysis and recommendations, I was thrown out of his office. I later learned that I hadn’t earned the right, trust, credibility to engage the CIO in that conversation. While we were absolutely right in our recommendations, (which were later bought), the way in which I had done it and the lack of engagement of the CIO was completely wrong. I had not built the support I needed, I did not understand his situation and what he needed to do to convince management, and totally lacked empathy. I had done about everything wrong that I could, despite having the right answer. It took me months to recover and eventually win the order.
Have you ever encountered the “sleazy salesperson stereotype”? How do you respond to this?
Too frequently. I hang up the phone, or walk away-my time is too valuable to let them waste it.What is one tool or resource without which you would not be able to do your job?
What is one tool or resource without which you would not be able to do your job?
I’ll pick 2—my ears and eyes. Without listening and observing, it’s absolutely impossible to understand what the customer is trying to achieve/or should be trying to achieve. Without listening/observing, it’s impossible to tell the customer how you can help them succeed.
What are you currently reading?
See this post, the current books I’m reading are at the bottom of the post: http://
Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve received too much really great advice. Because someone recently asked me the same thing, I’ll give the same answer, “It’s harder to sell internally than it is to sell to the customer.” Much of my career was built from doing very large complex deals. Sometimes, it’s pretty easy to get the customer hot and lathered about the vision and idea, but selling the people within my own company, getting the resources and support needed to be successful was sometimes more difficult that getting the customer agreement.
Dave Brock: I have the privilege of working with many of the smartest people in the best companies in the world. We work on solving very difficult business growth, strategy, implementation and execution problems. We help them maximize their ability to contribute to their customer’s growth, while simultaneously growing their own business and profitability.