Someone recently asked me how I got my “Big Break.” I had to pause and reflect back as, like most of you, I’ve had a few lucky breaks. I got one of the luckiest breaks of my career when I least expected it, during the dotcom crash of 2001. I had recently moved out from the East Coast to Silicon Valley to get into the software industry, because I could see that it was changing the world. I was only here for a couple of years before the dotcom bubble burst. Through a combination of networking, asking for feedback and simply being passionate about what I was doing, I got the opportunity build a company which we were able to scale and later sell to software giant SAP. Here’s how it happened.
The best piece of advice I ever got: focus on the things you can affect. This is advice I’ve drawn on again and again in my career. It’s been a challenge to master, and it’s still a work in progress.
The first time I heard this advice was early in my career. I was working in sales at Accrue Software, and I had highly successful colleague who never seemed the least bit stressed, not even at the end of the quarter. I asked him what his secret was.
In the life of every successful company, there comes a pivotal moment early on where the fledgling company has to scale. You’ve built a product, and on boarded some early customers. Things are humming along and you’re poised for growth.
This is actually a precarious time. Will your company be able to handle the increased workload that comes with growth without breaking and while maintaining profitability? Probably not without making some very difficult decisions. The first and most painful may be kissing some part of your product line–and the revenue it generates–goodbye.
I’d recommend to anyone–no matter where they are in their career–that they find a diverse group of mentors and assemble a personal advisory board for themselves. This is especially important when you’re just starting out. You need people that are invested in your career and your success that aren’t your parents. But be prepared to work hard and give something back. Mentoring is a two way street.
When I was in college I found two mentors for myself. I really wasn’t looking for mentors; I was looking to meet people that could help me get a job. Instead, I discovered the value of mentoring, and I’ve had many more mentors throughout my career.
#MyMetric for Success: Engagement
As a sales leader, my professional life is filled with quotas, metrics and dashboards. But if I had to pick just one thing I’m optimizing for, it would be engagement. Why? Because I’ve learned that engagement is the leading indicator for success with whatever else you’re optimizing to achieve.
Early in my career, I was always optimizing for percentage of quota attained, which is a typical sales metric and usually tied to your compensation. Although I wasn’t insightful enough at the time to recognize it, my level of engagement with a prospect was usually a good indicator of the likelihood of making a sale. If a prospect was asking questions, working through their process, showing increased understanding and asking more questions, those were all signs of engagement. It took me a while to see the value of that.