Q. What attracted you to the role at Qstream?
I was very intrigued by the elegance of Qstream. Earlier in my career, I was responsible for the quality of knowledge for a global sales force. It’s very expensive to assemble field sales reps when you tally travel, housing, time and opportunity costs. Qstream is a clinically proven solution that’s embedded into the workflow of a sales rep’s day. It’s easy to use and respectful of their time. Many sales tools don’t respect the daily workflow of their reps. It’s very efficient and I saw the value in it immediately.
Q. You spent the early part of your career as an educator. How has that experience influenced your work in building and leading teams in the corporate world?
My view is that a large amount of energy in companies is expended on knowledge transfer. Regardless of the job function, employees and customers are engaged in understanding and explaining problems and solutions. As companies have grown and become increasingly global, the challenges have gotten more complex and multi-dimensional. Companies get a competitive edge by having more efficient processes for the comprehension and communication of information. Effective education is a core competency for successful companies.
Q. You clearly have a passion for customer success and the need to focus on customers as a growth driver. These are common buzzwords today, particularly for SaaS companies, but many struggle to put them into practice. What do companies typically get WRONG when thinking about how to organize and support a customer-centric culture?
If I reflect on when I was a field sales engineer and the mistakes that I made, I would say that I put too much focus on the technology I was selling. I was enthusiastic about all the functionality of my product. It took experience and coaching to realize that the most important objective is understanding the customer’s problems and applying technology that solves those problems. The sales rep that understands the most about a customer and can communicate clearly and directly wins. I learned to talk less and ask more questions. Companies that are organized to systematically understand how their customers work and how to meet their requirements will be more successful.
Q. Are there executives, particularly sales leaders, you feel are doing an exceptional job in their organization/market? Why and what can their peers, specifically, learn from them?
I’m friendly with a sales executive at a cloud computing company that sells multi-million dollar solutions. He often accompanies Account Executives on sales calls to CIOs. More often than not, he asks the sales teams not to present slides or give demos. The sales teams are uncomfortable with this, but he coaches them on how to open a conversation with a customer that’s focused on their vision of success and the challenges that need to be overcome. He’s very effective at his job, and he’s helping his reps be more effective at their jobs.
Q. Thinking back over your career, what would you rank as the biggest/most important innovation in sales and/or customer service?
The ability for customers to research and view product information on the web, in a time efficient manner, has allowed sales teams to focus more time on solution selling, particularly in important face-to-face meetings. It’s more time efficient for both the customer and the vendor.
Q. Have you had a professional mentor who was especially influential in your career? If yes, what lessons or advice have proven to be most impactful for you?
I have been lucky to work with some very talented people in my career. They all had the common characteristic of showing up day after day and working hard. They didn’t always have the answers, but they worked at it for long stretches of time and mobilized teams to solve problems. They had faith in people and demanded dedication to the task.
Q. If your management philosophy were a movie, what would the title be?
Let me give you 3 movies! “Hoosiers,” “Apollo 13,” and the recent movie, “Hidden Figures.” The characters in all three movies faced seemingly insurmountable challenges, however those challenges were solved by high-performance teams. The coach or manager was able to identify talent and create an environment for those talented individuals to work together to solve a complex problem. Never underestimate the ability of a high-performance team to solve a difficult problem.
Q. What’s the best sales or business book you’ve read recently?
There are 2 that I would recommend: “From Impossible to Inevitable: How Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue“ by Aaron Ross and Jadon Lemkin, and “Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy Seals, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work“ by Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal.