Joining me on this episode is Marcy Campbell, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales & Business Development at Qubole. Qubole simplifies provisioning, management, and scaling of big data analytics workloads. Among the many topics that Marcy and I discuss are Marcy’s unique sales background, the challenges of selling a disruptive product in a competitive environment, the qualifications needed for complex tech sales, and reasons why there aren’t more women in tech sales today.
What’s your most powerful sales attribute?
Strip-lining — a fishing analogy of pulling back the sale to gauge customer interest.
Who is your sales role model?
My grandfather, who ran sales for NAPA Auto Parts North America. I learned from him to be constantly honing my skills.
What’s one book that every salesperson should read?
Secrets of Question-Based Selling: How the Most Powerful Tool in Business Can Double Your Sales Results, by Thomas Freese.
What music is on your playlist right now?
Bonnie Raitt, Talking Heads.
ANDY PAUL: It’s time to accelerate. Hi, I’m your host, Andy Paul. Join me as I host conversations with the leading experts in sales, marketing, sales automation, sales process, leadership management, training, coaching, and any other resource that I believe will help you accelerate the growth of your sales, your business and most importantly, you. Hello and welcome to Accelerate. Joining me today is Marcy Campbell, the senior vice president of worldwide sales and business development at Qubole. Qubole simplifies the provisioning, management, and scaling of big data analytics workloads. Marcy, welcome to Accelerate.
MARCY CAMPBELL: Thanks, Andy. I’m excited to be here.
AP: So take a minute, introduce yourself, and tell us how you got your start in sales.
MC: Sure. So yeah, I’m Marcy Campbell and I’ve been in sales for over 25 years. I run sales and business development for Qubole, which is a startup that does big data as a service. We started about five years ago, and I joined the company two and a half years ago, when we had 19 customers and one sales rep. We now have a team of 30 salespeople which is growing to 63 next year, and we’ve got over 200 customers. Yeah,
AP: So you’re going to double the size of your sales team next year. How does that split up between AEs and SDRs?
MC: We have a three to one ratio. So, we have one SDRs for three outside field reps, and we have an enterprise sales model, We have SDRs, who actually set appointments, but they don’t sell over the phone at this point. We’re hoping that we can bifurcate that model. I also have some strategic sales folks that manage some of our largest accounts like Oracle and Expedia and companies like Pinterest,. They are responsible for managing those accounts and driving new revenues through them.
AP: And they report up through you.
MC: Yes, they do.
AP: Not customer success as we sometimes see.
MC: Our customer success is about deployment and support.
AP: So with this growth this next year, are you going to maintain that ratio or evolve?
MC: When I hire a new SDR we usually do two to one or one to one to get them started and then we move them to three to one. I think three to one is the right ratio for us as we’ve just had a new CMO join us and we’ve started to gin up a lot of the lead development. Prior to that, we were doing our own leads, which is really difficult. It was a lot of cold calling, a lot of knocking on doors, a lot of word of mouth, a lot of meetups and lunch and learns and the SDRs all helped with that. Right now, I think with the amount of leads and the amount of pull in the market that we have, I think we’re in a better place where we can be a little bit more picky about the things that we chase down.
AP: Yeah, it seems like as the marketing person came on stream it seems like that ratio could come down from 3:1 to 2:1 or even less sometimes.
AP: That’s very aggressive hiring, so how do you how do you handle that? There’s a lot of entrepreneurial people listening.
MC: When I first started here, I closed a couple of deals on my own just to figure out what the repeatable process was. We had sort of a bubble pipeline where we had a lot of things that were stuck in the middle. I ended up calling a bunch of our last deals and asking why they didn’t buy. I had a couple of VPs of data platform engineering who said to me, “I’m not your customer.” I was like, “Well, why not?” What happened out of that process was we developed a very solid qualification mechanism. We said, “Well, who do we not sell to? Who do we sell to instead of just cold calling?” We know who our customer is, and we know who can buy and when, and we know who our customer is not. We spent a lot of time doing qualification. What it did was it streamlined the pipeline. We’re not a managed service. We’re software as a service. We help people do self-service, big data analytics. We don’t have a normal pipeline. What we have is an hourglass. In the close is the middle of that hourglass, and then the expansion of that account. It’s also the responsibility of the reps because we pay them on bill balls.
AP: And there’s no handover from an outside field rep to an account manager, let’s say.
MC: We work in conjunction with customer success. We do have customer success account managers who work with us to help deploy that support and make sure our customers are satisfied, but the sales reps are responsible for that account from beginning to end.
AP: So philosophically, you keep it sort of unified. Increasingly, though, we’re seeing it sort of specialized and split into different groups. What’s your thought? I know what works for you, but in general, where do you think that that role best fits?
MC: You know, I think it depends based on the business model of the company and the products that you have. We’re a service and we have to earn our business every day. It’s super important, you know, we’re not going in and closing a big deal and having someone write us a check for millions of dollars. They pay us every month. And while we may do annual contracts where they have minimum commits, we have to earn that business. It’s super important then that we pay attention to our customer. We try have a team approach to our customers. One of the reasons why we’re starting to segment our customer bases is because we’re getting larger customers, which creates more load on the account managers themselves, but there’s new selling opportunities in a customer. You might have a large customer who has multiple divisions so the selling never ends. The selling piece is different than the customer support and customer service piece. In our business, this is how it sort of mapped out. That’s not the model that we used in Engine Yard and other companies, mostly just because once we closed out a customer there wasn’t a lot of selling to be done after the first initial sale. With the big data projects though, there’s always new workloads to find.
AP: So what are you looking for as you expand the team? What are some important criteria qualifications you are looking for in a new rep for your outside team.
MC: You know, I think the top thing is intelligence, right? This is a very nuanced enterprise sale. Most of us grew up selling to lines of business, and then moving over to the engineering group to do a proof of concept and work through any of the technical issues. You know, we eventually came back to the end user and got labeled security involved. Now, because we are a big data platform and it’s a technical sale, we start with a VP of engineering. I’ve had recruiters tell me that no one’s selling to a VP of engineering or a VP of platform engineering, but we’ve gotten pretty good at it because these are guys that are responsible for building out self-service platforms because data is a huge underused asset for the company. A lot of people are building new products based on the data that they can get from both structured and unstructured areas, so we start with a VP of engineering. We have a two part qualification process. So when I look for somebody on the outside, I look for somebody who has technical acumen, who can do a complex sale, and who has intelligence enough to work the nuances of a sale. We’re in a really competitive environment. Big data is something everybody’s looked at for the last couple of years, so I need people who are very motivated to win but also are intelligent and can handle the pressures of a competitive environment.
AP: So how do you test that? How do you verify that they possess the intelligence, the worldview to be in patience to deal with a nuanced complex sale?
MC: It’s super hard. I mean, none of us think that we’re not intelligent. Right? So can you understand and grok the technology because what we have is so disruptive in the market. No one has offered big data and data platforms as a service before. What we have is super technical and super complex, so having people understand the value proposition of what we offer and being able to articulate coming from another enterprise – maybe BI analytics, where you’ve had to manage across an organization – is important. I look for a history of success, obviously, but I also ask people to explain the products that they’re currently selling and tell me about some of the issues that they’ve had, and when they’ve been successful. Also I ask when they’ve not been successful and what they’ve learned from that. That tells you a lot because if people are thoughtful and self-aware, they’re going to be doing the due diligence on themselves and saying, “Why did I win? Why did I lose?”
AP: There are a lot of assessment tools that are out there and I’ve worked with clients and put together technical tests for salespeople just to see what level of knowledge they actually have. So you use assessment tools or other things like that?
MC: I haven’t, but I’m looking at them. We do have a lot of training. When someone comes in, we put a lot of work behind making them successful. I have people come in at different levels and one might have someone who understands big data but has never sold in the cloud. They may know someone who knows the cloud but doesn’t know big data. They may have someone who has great sales skills but doesn’t know either. All three of those types of folks will fit here. It’s just that the training associated with what we have to do, it’s either content or process or it’s going to be sales skills. I’m a big believer in developing people on the team. I haven’t really lost many people on the team since I started. But I don’t use an assessment tool as part of the interview process. I am looking at them. I just haven’t found one that I thought was great, but I’d take advice.
AP: Okay. So let me ask you a question: what percentage of your sales team are women?
MC: I wish I could say it was a very big percentage, but it’s not. It is. It’s probably 5%. It’s different in the different areas. In the SDR area, it’s 50%. In the enterprise outside it is very small.
AP: Well, that’s a pretty high percentage for SDR teams even.
MC: I think I got lucky in that I have a great sales manager or director of the the SDR team. We try to look for talent, but I’m also very open to working with smart, intelligent women who want to get into sales. I think enterprise sales is tricky. Most of us that are older grew up getting trained in sales. I went to IBM, and they put me through an 18 month course where I got trained on the technology and I did role playing for six months. I’ve had this sales process rolled into my head but people in Silicon Valley just don’t have that opportunity. They come in and they’re told, “Okay, here’s a script. Here’s a number of people to call. Go get people who can meet with us.” What happens is they don’t really understand the process of sales, right? There’s an art and a science associated with both. I think that I got lucky in that I got trained on both of those, and I try to train some of the SDRs. I look for intelligent women who want to go into sales and want to stay there. A lot of the women I work with move into management or business development. For me, we are actively looking for a BD person, because I’d like to stay in sales. As we grow this to hundreds of people and, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars, I want to stay in the sales capacity. It’s just more my nature.
AP: Well, what are the big challenges for attracting talented women into sales? There’s been research about all sorts of things that are sort of hidden barriers, even with the job descriptions used to advertise for jobs. They tend to use these heroic, male-oriented, testosterone-driven terms that are off putting for women. So what are you doing? What do you find works for you in terms of being able to recruit women?
MC: I think the things that women care about are a little bit different in terms of the flexibility that they can have to work. For example, the person that manages my SDR team has a seven-year-old and she’s like, “I’ve got to work from home on Fridays.” That’s no problem. Does that make her less aggressive than anybody else? No, it’s just that she has to have that flexibility as well as the opportunity to have a life. I have a very male team, right? Most of the salespeople that work for me are men. If I could find more women, I would hire them, but I haven’t been able to find a lot of women. I find more women are doing BD or channel or account development, right? The idea of like cold calling people and meeting new people and like hitting your number and as we used to say that is just not attractive to a lot of women. That’s it. I have a number of women who are young and talented that are on the SDR team that will probably move out into enterprise sales, because they’re driven, and we’ve built a much more social environment. I think that because I am the only woman executive on the team, but I run you what is probably the most aggressive team in the company, we get a lot of respect and more opportunities for women. I’m really, really focused on it. It doesn’t mean that I won’t hire the best person, I will, but at the same time, I think that unless you’ve been coached at the beginning of your sales career and you have mentors who will help you show you that it’s a viable, exciting career to have, it gets a little overwhelming.
AP: Yeah, I think that’s true. When you came into sales, there were few women in sales. Are the challenges any different, because it doesn’t seem like there’s really that many more women in sales than there were 20 years ago, especially in tech.
MC: Yeah, I think that’s true. I don’t think it’s changed much. I started out with a great company, since IBM treats its employees really well. I didn’t start out in a rough and tumble sales environment, which I think helped. It was an environment that was very nurturing where they did a lot of training. So those things helped me when I first got into a startup environment and worked from my house. I had little kids and I was trying to manage that and it actually worked for me because I could manage my schedule and my travel around when I needed to be home. It offered me the flexibility. That said, you know, I’ve worked with a number of really talented women who’ve stayed in sales and have moved through the ranks, and we’re a little bit of a club. When I was at Netscape, I think there were only two of us that were in outside sales at the time. On the East Coast, at my level, it was me and a bunch of guys who were supporting their families. I was in that boat as well. I don’t know that things have changed. I wish I could say they have. I think it’s time.
AP: Yeah, absolutely. To sort of follow up to that is that it seems like one way to bring more women into the profession is to have more professional certifications, degrees, and accreditation for sales professionals. There’s beginnings of some of that, we’re seeing some more degree programs relate to sales. From a professional standpoint, there’s a few organizations doing something but it’s not very widespread yet. Is this something that you think would make sense?
MC: Yeah, I think it makes a lot of sense. Sales is, you know, one of those things that you don’t get a degree in, and I think the challenge is that you are either responsible for learning on your own or you go to a company that actually trains you up and then you take your skills forward. If it became more of an accredited, respected profession where you actually were like a lawyer or doctor or salesperson, I think that would help a great deal. I think it would attract more people because it would be a profession. In people’s minds, if I’m selling technology or selling cars, there’s no difference. I love sales. I just love the idea of being able to create and build things out of nothing. Salespeople have the ability to do that, and that’s really magic. You know, it is as important as people who are developing product out of nothing and writing software code, right? You go into somebody you don’t know and you identify a need. Then you convince them that your products and the benefits of your products meet those needs and you create a relationship that didn’t exist and you create value for that customer. I think that’s something that if you could get an accreditation around that process, it would become more valuable in the market, or seen as something more valuable. I agree with you.
AP: Yeah, and even if those certifications were based on stages of career or specialties or so on-
MC: It would help to hire.
AP: Yeah, and as you’re looking to double the size of your team if you could, at least as a first order of qualification, say, “Do you have your certification?” Would that help?
MC: Yes, I think it would be a tremendous help, actually, because right now what you do is you interview and you try to get consensus around a person and at the same time you’re selling them. Then what you do is bring them in and you find out where you really are with that person, then you train them to fill in the gaps. You try to hold on to the good salespeople and develop them and keep them working with your company while allowing them to make money. I think if you had a certification process where I could say, “Okay, they are level one or level two or level three,” it would be easier for me to identify where they fit in the organization.
AP: I think it also sort of takes away some of the salespeople coming in and selling themselves, right? I mean, you’re a sophisticated consumer of sales talents, but for a lot of small business owners, entrepreneurs and so on, that’s not the case. They don’t have the experience hiring hundreds of salespeople, like you have had over the course of a career. So the verification process tends to be shortchanged, and they tend to be susceptible to being sold, as opposed to making that decision objectively.
MC: Yes, I agree with that, even though people say that salespeople are the easiest people to sell, right? One of the questions that I always ask people is, “Of all the companies that you admire, who do you admire the most?” What I’m asking is what you think about the industry we’re in, or the environment and how thoughtful you are in terms of what’s out there. Then I ask them “Why do you think that company’s admirable, and what about it do you value?” That tells me what their value sets are. My final question is “Well, if you had to build a product to compete against that company, what would you do?” What that does is it allows me to see sort of how thoughtful as a person they are and if they understand the environment that they’re in. If they say something that everybody says like, “Oh, I love Apple!” I’m like, “Okay, why?” It’s like, you know, are they going to tell me what they think I want to hear, or can they actually tell me something insightful? You know, no one expects the competition thing, right? I got those questions a long time ago from someone I worked with, and I use them in pretty much every interview that I have. It tells me a great deal about the person.
AP: Those are good, strong questions. One thing that attracts you to this profession is the ability to build things, to create things. I think the people that are really successful are people who just have that same drive as you’re using, by building and applying your creativity on a daily basis.
MC: Yeah. A sense of urgency is important too and you want to win. You don’t want to win at all costs. LI think you want to either be winning or learning. You look for those kinds of qualities, but it would be helpful if there was actually an accreditation for this that would give you at least the semblance to say, “Okay, I know where this person is on the spectrum.” And I do believe there’s a spectrum of sales skills that people have. I think people do different things. I’m very good at closing and qualifying, other people are really good at going through feature advantage benefits. Some people are really good at needs analysis. Some people are good at generating interest. You just don’t know. I put my team through a negotiation class, and the reason I do that is because nobody ever goes through a negotiation class, but everybody thinks they know how to negotiate. What we want is a process so that people understand where they are when they get into a negotiation.
AP: Do your account execs actually negotiate or is that handed over to contracts?
MC: No, no, they have to negotiate. That is part of their job. The only way I’m going to scale that is by pushing down those skill sets to the closest level to the customer. We use a program called Scott Works, which I learned at Engine Yard. It’s an immersive program with five days of videotaping that gets the execs to, you know, negotiate against each other. I’ve taken the class a couple of times, and I’ll take it again. There’s multiple levels of the class but like you talked about with the certification, this is one of these things that I look for when I ask people they come in. I’m like, “What classes have you taken? What sales classes have you taken? Have you taken them on your own? Where are you? How curious are you?” Because if you’re intellectually curious, you’ll make a good salesperson.
AP: Right. So if you had to give what you might consider your single most important piece of advice to an SDR today about their careers, what would it be?
MC: For an SDR, I think the most important thing is to learn how to listen. Your job is to go out and make a bunch of calls and call people that you don’t know and try to get them interested in what you sell. But you can’t do that unless you really understand what the customer need is. Really understanding and listening to what they’re telling you is super important for you to drive that opportunity forward.
AP: Okay. What if you had to answer that same question with regard to an account exec? What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give an account executive?
MC: I think it’s the same thing. People talk about active listening, but what I mean is, you know, if you can question someone about things that prove to give them opportunity to tell you about their business so they feel comfortable – I think that’s the most important skill you can have.
AP: I agree. Great answer. So now we come to the last thing on the show. I’ve got some standard questions I ask all my guests. The first one is a hypothetical scenario, where you’ve just been hired as VP of sales by a company whose sales have stalled out and stuck in the mud and the CEO is anxious to get things unstuck and back on track. What two steps would you take your first week on the job to have the biggest impact?
MC: The first thing I would do is talk to the current customer base, and find out why they bought and find out what the value that we provide. The second thing is something that I did do, which was I would find out why people didn’t buy. So I would call people that, you know, did not buy our product and try to get them to talk to me – not to sell them, but to understand why they didn’t buy because that’s as important as the success that you had in the past. So why are you losing? Hmm? That’ll give you information to sort of understand what the sales process is and build a repeatable process.
AP: All right. So I’ve got some rapid fire questions for you. Give me one word answers or elaborate if you wish. The first one is when you, Marcy, are out selling, what’s your most powerful sales attribute?
MC: Strip Lining. A strip line is like when you’re fishing and you throw out the line and you pull back and the fish jumps towards it. It’s saying to a customer, you know, if you want to know where you stand, “Obviously it doesn’t seem like I’ve convinced you that we’re the right solution.” Then you stop and you listen, and the customer will either say “Yes, and here’s why” or “No, you’re wrong” or “Maybe.”
AP: Yeah, I had a mentor that taught me how to do that. He was a little more scary about it, but that oftentimes involved telling the customer at a critical moment that they just weren’t serious, and we were only selling the serious. We’re only selling to serious people. Then you get up and leave the room.
MC: Oh, that’s so funny.
AP: The first time we did that, I was closing one of the biggest deals I’ve ever closed. It was a couple million dollar order. The customer was jerking us around a little bit, and he did that and got up and walked out. My jaw dropped, and my boss just left. But yeah, we signed the deal that day. Who’s your sales role model?
MC: My grandfather. He ran sales for Napa auto parts. Or North America, sorry.
AP: Was there a sales lesson you learned from?
MC: My grandfather had tapes when I was a little girl that he used to listen to in our living room. What I learned from him is that you’ve got to constantly be honing your skills.
AP: What’s one book you’d recommend every salesperson read?
MC Question Based Selling by Tom Freeze.
AP: Last question. Sometimes the toughest question of the day. What music’s on your playlist.
MC: I have to look at my playlist. That’s so funny. I’m stuck in the 80s. Talking Heads, Bonnie Raitt.
AP: All right. Well, great. Marcy, thanks for joining me. Tell people how they can connect with you or find out more about Qubole.
MC: Yeah, so yeah, if you’re interested, I can be reached at Marcy@Qubole.com or in LinkedIn under Marcy Campbell.
AP: Excellent. Well, again, thank you very much for being on the show. And remember, friends, make it a part of your daily routine every day to deliberately learn something new to help you accelerate your success. One easy way to do that is to take a minute and subscribe to this podcast Accelerate, because that way you won’t miss any of my conversations with top business experts like my guest Marcy Campbell, who shared her expertise about how to accelerate the growth of your business. So thanks for joining me. Until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling everyone. Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard and want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes, please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.com. For more information about today’s guests, visit my website at andypaul.com