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Bill Binch, the Senior Vice President of Global SMB Sales at Marketo, has worked in Sales for the past 22 years. He has held leadership positions in many companies such as Oracle, PeopleSoft and Avolent. We spoke with him about the differences between working with classic large tech organizations as compared to smaller businesses, as well as foraging a successful career path in sales and keeping sales reps motivated.
Q: What were the biggest takeaways from working with larger companies? How about smaller businesses?
A: The first thing you learn inside of a large company is how to be independent. Because the companies are so large you have so many people running in different directions so you learn to get a lot done by yourself while having those resources there if you need them. In a large company you focus on your role because you have other roles depending on you. In a smaller company, however, you play left field, right field and center field— you are essentially on your own. Having said that, in a smaller company you have access to your executive staff who can provide invaluable support to a sales rep. I believe it’s a very important skill for a sales rep to be able to engage their executives in a sales cycle, it can be the key to moving a deal along.
Q: What are some major differences between working in sales at a larger company vs. smaller?
A: In a smaller company you are constantly learning and evolving practices whereas in a bigger company the processes for how you sell have been defined over several years. In a bigger company you also have name and brand recognition on your side whereas at a smaller company you are trying to create that name and a market. In a small company you are much more dependent on solving a very specific need rather than coming in with a suite of products that solve many problems. This means you will have to be more crafty about identifying the pain points of your prospect as well as thoroughly educating them on your solution.
Q: What would be your most important piece of advice to sales reps just starting out in their career?
A: The first thing I do to guide beginning sales reps is help them to find a cadence/pattern/grove and build up some discipline. I remember my first boss out of school did something on my first day that I still talk about to this day. She wrote out on the whiteboard what she thought my day should look like and as a young professional just out of school I just said “yes ma’am” and just started following her outline. This cadence started me out on a good path as I became more skilled and confident in my role. Having a repeatable process, discipline and an understanding of expectations set for you is important.
The next piece of advice may sound cheesy but it’s true. There are no traffic jams in the extra mile. What that means is when you are early in your career that’s your chance to grow your reputation as a professional. So do you want to be the person that works from the opening bell to the closing bell or do you want to be there after hours; talking to other people, learning from them and developing yourself? There’s a lot to be said about people who stand out that way.
Lastly, I try to help beginning sales reps find a way to differentiate themselves and get noticed by powerful influencers within the company. I’ve seen smart, savvy people from my company find out what our CEO likes and they’ll stop by his office and talk to him about his interests. This creates an environment where if and when they arrive at his office for help with a deal that isn’t the first time he is speaking to them. Get to know your executives because they are your resources. Don’t be fearful of asking for help because that’s why they are there.
Q: How do you keep sales reps motived and focused on their goals?
A: When I look at any sales team I set my expectations at seeing at least 50% of the people over their quota at any given period. That way, there can’t be any speculation over whether someone isn’t meeting their numbers because of the product space or the company, instead they are forced to ask— is it me? As long as you have the quota set properly and the right number of reps then this expectation breeds a culture that people want to be a part of because it’s a winning culture.
The second way is transparency in compensation plans. Having compensation plans where people who overachieve – and the key word is ‘over’ – make a delightful amount of money will keep your reps motivated because that’s why people come to these jobs. Make it clear that you are here to help these people make a great living.
The third is using incentives to create a very positive culture. As an organization you can create a model where reps feel rewarded along with their team. Group incentives are successful where a group hits their number and they all share money or a trip. There is a real art in focusing on this and creating an environment of collaboration and celebration.
Q: What is your advice to those managing and leading sales teams?
A: Focus on performance. My expectation for people in the sales environment is to hit 100%. Then you have to calibrate at what percentage you are celebrating, what point you’re giving positive feedback and where there is room for improvement. That being said it’s important that you are growing your bench rank because we all have one great sales rep or one great manager but to me the best leaders in the world have 3 or 4 of the best people working under them. That’s how you put yourself in the position to grow. People who say, “I’m too good at my job and no one else can do it,” are paralyzing themselves. Good managers have several people underneath them who could take over without missing a beat, and that to me is a very advanced view of an organization and its future.
Q: Any other words of wisdom?
A: This is kind of hard to listen to but my advice to beginning sales reps is to be patient. Now, being patient is not the same as being risk-adverse. It means you are going to hit obstacles and brick walls when building your career and if at the first sign of trouble you bail, it’s tough to build a track record of success. As a hirer I see a lot of resumes where in the past five years I see five different jobs and it’s hard for me to want to invest in that person. There’s nothing on that resume to make me believe they won’t leave my business in a year. It’s all about patience, as long as you are in a place where you are learning, and part of learning means having an outlet to be heard if you have opinions or ideas that go against what’s being said and done. Don’t be fearful of a place that’s going to challenge you and at the same time don’t be afraid to challenge them back.
About Bill Binch
Bill leads Marketo’s sales organization and is a key architect of the company’s rapid sales growth. Prior to joining Marketo, Bill held leadership positions at Avolent, BEA Systems, PeopleSoft, and Oracle, where he built and managed sales organizations ranging from mid-market business customers to strategic accounts. In 2011, Bill received a Stevie® Award in the “Worldwide VP of Sales of the Year” category at the fifth annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. Bill holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Arizona State University.
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