Interview with Sales Hacker

A few weeks back, I had a good convo w/ Sean Daly from the SalesBlazer org at Sean asked if he could post to his followers and since he did such a good job organizing and doing the work for me, I thought I’d post here as well.

Follow Sean for some good old fashioned sales talk @SalesBlazer

Interview with Dave Greenberger, National Director, Sales and Merchant Partnerships at Foursquare.

What is it like working at a big start up versus a small one and how do your responsibilities differ?

Interesting question. Unfortunately, I might not be able to give the answer that you want to hear, because at Foursquare we really operate like we’re still a scrappy start up. Although there’s lots of people at Foursquare, I came on the sales team with only a handful of people there. I started my Local team from scratch. Ever since then I have treated my team like a small start up within the company, and we still treat it that way.

The big difference is that I have a large brand behind me now. When I say, “Hey, I’m calling from Foursquare,” people say, “Oh, interesting.” Instead of, “I’m calling from,” and they say, “What the hell is that?” You get a nicer reception from a known brand. The resources are nice; we have so many resources here and so many smart people to bounce ideas off of that you don’t get at a smaller company. It’s really nice to be able to have those things, but I always operate like I have zero money, zero backing, and try and scrap everything I can together. Because if you treat yourself like a big company when you’re starting out, you’re going to get slow, you’re going to get bloated and eventually that small scrappy guy is going to catch up to you.

It’s really important to stay away from the mentality of getting slow and acting corporate. So it’s especially important to constantly find the next new thing; stay ahead. At Google for instance, a sales rep can really rest on the fact that everyone knows/respects the name. I’ve known sales reps that used to work at big companies and they would kill it at — just saying, “Hey, I’m from Company X,” could sometimes get you a sign up, and their co was happy with relatively low signup #’s . Then you come in and you start to work for me, it’s like, “Holy, shit. This stuff’s hard.” You need to stay on your toes and you need to really, really keep working at it… I always press my guys to stay ahead of the curve, no matter how well received our brand benefit is, or how many resources we have.

What would you say is your biggest challenge, and what did you do to overcome that challenge, in any point in your career?

The hardest thing I’ve had to deal with thus far was moving from a sales rep to manager. It was a really, really tough thing to be working working with my peers one day and needing to tell them what to do the next. Coming out of that, the main thing that I learned was that managing anyone (I don’t care if they’re your best friend, rookie, or a forty year old sales veteran) is never to tell them what to do, your job is to whatever possible to help them reach their goals.

First thing’s first, figure out what your salesperson’s goals are. It shouldn’t be something that you dictate, the goals should be those that you come up with together and everyone thinks is attainable. That’s not just like, “Your goal is to hit forty sales in a month, or ten thousand dollars in revenue.” It’s, “Okay, those numbers are important, but also why do you want to hit those numbers? How much commission do you want to make and why do you want to make that money? Where do you want to go in your career?” Find out what those levers and incentives are, and then make sure you’re always communicating those back to the salesperson.

What advice do you have for people who work for a bad manager … how would you suggest they navigate that situation? 

Although tough, being on a different page than your manager is surely something you can get around. I was taught early the need to “manage your manager”. What I mean by that is, imagine that your manager is a sales prospect; you do all these things to understand what their needs are, understand their problems, figure out how you can solve their problems, and then work out how you can handle those objections to make sure the prospect eventually want to work with you. Well, do the same thing with your manager.

You need to be really clear and up front about what their objectives are; ask the right questions. What are your “prospects” (managers) goals. Just like how I mentioned the manager needs to understand the rep’s motivations, the rep needs to understand the manager’s. Of course, you are going to have bad managers that just don’t get it (i.e. don’t really know or communicate their objectives). Just try to have really clear communication about what the stated goals are and make sure you go above and beyond them. Manage the manager.

What is your suggestion for salespeople just starting out?

“The limit does not exist”. I was just reading a book about Takeru Kobayashi, the guy who broke the World Record for number of hot dogs eaten in a single sitting. The previous record was something like twenty-five and one eighth hot dogs in twelve minutes. Kobayashi, completely unknown in the sport, came in and ate fifty-nine hot dogs in that same amount of time.

There were two things that set him apart: 1) He attacked the problem in a completely different way 2) He refused to believe that the previous record was the real limit.

He tested everything that he did. He measured, monitored and tracked every new experiment. Eventually, by just focusing on the process, he came up with something that worked and blew the record away.

When I first started in sales, I had no idea what the limit was. We just focused on the process; I monitored, tracked and measured everything I could to reach the most people as possible and close the most deals. I would make two hundred or more calls a day if that’s what it took. It wasn’t until four or five years later that I realized that the numbers I was hitting were crazy. Later, I was tasked with training the salesforce at a large company that temporarily absorbed our startup. This company was known to be the standard for local sales when I had started my career. When I went in to train their salespeople I realized they weren’t making more than forty calls a day. Forty-five would be insane in that environment. If that were my first job, there would be no way I would  have hit the crazy two-hundred calls I was making in a day.

Everywhere I go I can outwork the majority of people at the company. To me, it’s not even working hard. The early work has raised the bar on my frame of reference past those “known” limits, it’s easy now. Bring on the hotdogs.