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How to Ensure You

How to Ensure You're Selling For A Great Company

Categories: Sales Productivity

I recently participated in a fireside chat for the MongoDB SKO with my great friends Cedric Pech, CRO at MongoDB and John McMahon, Board Member of MongoDB. It is always so much fun to share my thoughts on how elite sellers are maneuvering through this environment with old friends and experienced salespeople. 

During the conversation, one topic really resonated with me. Pech asked, “If one of your kids were to come to you for advice on how to choose a company to pursue, what would that be?”
 
I am so passionate about owning your path to success that I left the panel thinking, how do elite sellers ensure they’re working for great companies? McMahon talked about the importance of finding a company with great technology, if you’re in enterprise software sales. He also noted how important it is to ensure you're working for an organization that is in a large and fast-growing market and invests significantly in employee development. He talked about going to a company that would sharpen your skills, allowing you to be a “student of the game”. He brought up the importance of accountability and finding an organization that has a culture of people owning their roles and their success. McMahon’s comments reminded me of a time I heard Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban speak about mediocrity, saying, “Mediocre people don’t like high achievers and high achievers don’t like mediocre people. So which one of those people do you want to be?”
 
I strongly believe in McMahon’s advice. It provides a solid foundation for you to find a company where you can operate at an elite level. Use this blog as a roadmap for your success, not only when looking for your next opportunity, but to help you evaluate yourself and your current level of commitment to the role you are in right now. Here are some themes to consider as you decide how you want to move forward in your sales career.  

Characteristics of Top B2B Sales Companies

1. Look for Alignment
 
The company should operate without silos, or leadership should at least be actively working to diminish them. Does the company have a sales culture where sales is seen as the tip of the arrow and the entire company is aligned behind them? In elite companies, sales is a prime enabler of the growth strategy.  
 
2. Is the company outside/in or inside/out?
 
Do they operate from a customer-centered perspective or an internally-focused one? Do they put the customer first in all that they do? Do they create a world-class customer experience? Do all departments use a common language in discussing their value proposition? A good way to test for a customer-centered focus in a company is to assess The Four Essential Questions of Value. Great companies are cross-functionally aligned on the answers to these questions:  
  • What problems do you solve for your customers? (Customer first)
  • How specifically do you solve those problems? (Product fit)
  • How do you solve them differently or better than your competition? (Differentiation)
  • Where have you done it before? (Proof Points)
3. Does the company have a sales process that its leaders can explain to you simply?
We often say, can you fit their sales process on a single sheet of paper? Use these questions to assess the company's sales process for it's effectiveness (and it's ability to support your success).
  • Is the sales process mapped to a customer’s buying process? 
  • Is it clear who does what, when (by role and by stage) and does this process include the customer? 
  • Does this sales process lead to success and does everybody follow it? 
McMahon hired me at PTC, the company I worked at for nearly 7 years before starting Force Management. During one of my interviews before joining PTC, McMahon and I were sitting at a Denny’s in Detroit. I asked him to explain the PTC Sales Process to me. Without even batting an eye, he sketched it out on a napkin. It looked so simple that I had to ask, “So this is all I have to do in order to be successful?”
 
McMahon’s response was memorable. He asked me how much I was making in my job at Xerox and said that if I followed this process that I would make triple that amount. He followed up with, “One other thing, if you don’t follow this process you’re out.” I will never forget that meeting. Everybody is willing to be led, provided they believe that you (and your process) can get them to a place they cannot get to on their own.
 
4. Find a company that has a culture of Patriots versus Mercenaries
 
I use this analogy not as a political statement, but as a concept to relate to your own work environment. To whom and to what are you committed? Mercenaries are very talented people, but they are different than Patriots. Mercenaries are motivated by the rewards. Patriots are motivated by the cause. I have seen this distinction in my work life and have learned the hard way about the difference. If anything happens that challenges the reward system, the Mercenaries are the first to leave. On the other hand, for the Patriot, the cause becomes the reward. Mercenaries lay down their weapons and go home. Patriots melt down their own furniture to make more bullets. They are committed to the cause. The questions, “What do we believe?”, “Why do we believe it?” and “Where will this belief take us?” have always been more critical in building a great culture than, “What’s in it for me?”
 
More and more of what we consume today as customers aren’t products, they’re services. This reality means more and more sales jobs will continue to utilize a collaborative sales process that requires support from a company’s ecosystem. Nothing highlights the differences between Patriots and Mercenaries more than this environment. Will you be able to count on the people you go to work with every day?

What Are Your Next Steps?

As you pursue your career opportunities, be honest with yourself and the process. Dig in hard on the critical activities needed to find your next great opportunity. Over the years, I have learned a lot about the concept of time management. My first lesson is that time management is a fallacy. It’s not about time management. It’s about energy management. Time is finite. Energy is renewable. You have to be honest with yourself and ask, “Will this job give me energy or will it take my energy?”
 
I have made some mistakes in my life when contemplating this question. The question is not, “Can I do this job?”. The question should always be, “Will this job give me energy?”. Go find the job that gives you energy. Find one that creates a flow state. A state where your mind is challenged and fed by experiencing new levels of mastery. It’s in these environments where elite salespeople flourish both personally and professionally.
 
I often use the phrase, “What you do matters.” There are no truer words to me when it comes to the profession of sales. You have to believe what you do matters. If you don’t, you will falter. You can’t fake it for very long. Find a job that allows you to be authentic. Believe in what you sell. If you don’t, it will always catch up to you. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, said to graduates at Stanford in 2005, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
 
I always add to following words to this quote at the end, “And the only way you can love what you do is to believe that IT MATTERS!”

Hear more sales insights from John Kaplan, Force Management President and Managing Partner on The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast. Subscribe below.

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