First of Many Stories

I believe telling stories is a very good way to communicate. It is my preferred way to captivate an audience and make a point. I love to tell stories. If you know me, you know this. I'm often asked by young salespeople to tell a story from my career. I thought I would share some of them in this blog. Some stories have a point to them and some stories are just great stories to tell. Now, I have never written a blog. Like most things I have never done before, I just jump in and get after it. Here goes.....

the difficult path is always more rewarding

When I was running the Telecommunications Vertical at Siebel Systems, I had the most incredible ride on top of a rocket. It was one of those special times when demand for what you sell seems limitless. Fueled by the dot-com boom, the de-regulation of local telco service and the runaway growth of mobile, well-funded local carriers were appearing everywhere. Internet service providers and alternate distribution mediums such as DirecTV were hammering the traditional cable companies. My team was at the top of the leaderboard and we were at the top of our game. Amazing. So much fun!

I had three sales VPs working for me: West/Central/East. These were the best sales management roles in the company. My West VP had just finished a ridiculous year delivering 3X quota and won VP of the Year. To my dismay, this VP decided to take a leave of absence. My best VP and her remarkable ability to make huge deals happen were leaving me. I had to recruit her successor.

You can imagine the talent that competed for this role. There was no better opportunity. Experienced, talented and successful reps. No management issues. A tailor-made vertical app with Accenture and PWC fighting over who would bring your solution to the customer. A high profile management job with high visibility right smack in the heart of the software capital of the world. Big compensation and stock that was liquid and lucrative. After an intense process, I offered the job to a young, aggressive and very talented guy. He was a natural fit. Knew the space. Knew the market. Type A Gunnery Sargent type. Ball busting, no whining, no excuses guy. So good in fact, that he was pursuing a competing role in a different sales unit within the company, I made the offer and my peer VP made him an offer as well. I knew he would take my offer and join me. I had the better opportunity. It was a bigger job. More visible. More prestigious. Reporting to me - the top VP in the company. It was everything a young rising star could want in a job. It was also more money. It was his. 

He had landed the best sales management job in silicon valley. Almost.

As we were concluding our final meeting before he signed his offer, I asked him if he had any issues or concerns. He did. One. "I am worried that I will not be able to follow this VP and her success. I do not believe there is sustainable growth. I believe it will be hard. I do not believe I can make the number. It is too big. Too hard.

"I do not believe." He was telling me he did not believe I could drive the growth. He did not believe in me. And he was afraid.

I canceled my offer on the spot. Right then and there. I took the paper he was about to sign and tore it into pieces in front of him. I told him he was not a person I would ever hire, because I hire people who thrive on challenge and adversity. I hire people who want a hard job. Because the more difficult and demanding the job, the greater the reward. Then I got up and left. I started my search over.

I soon met another talented candidate. He was a young and aggressive sales manager at a very small company. He was crushing it but wanted to step up to the major leagues. He was a selling machine. He was fearless. He wanted the challenge of following the best VP. He thrived on it. He loved the adrenaline rush when everything is on the line. He was even better than the VP he was replacing. When I hired him I told him that if he trusted me and believed in my ability to lead the organization that he would become a superstar. I told him that I bet someday I would work for him. He accepted my offer and my mentorship.

I was right. He became my top VP. In his first year he set new records. And every year he did more. When I was promoted to President of America's Sales, I promoted him to succeed me. I promoted him again to an even larger role. He was my top guy. He has as gone on to even greater accomplishments and is now the CEO of a successful start-up

What happened to the other guy? Nothing great. The easier path he chose has led him to be VP of Sales at a tiny company.

Why did I tell this story? Simple. I told this story because there is no better example of what can happen when you believe and trust an executive who is committed to your success. This story is also about the reward of taking on the harder job. The risky job. The harder job, the one that requires talent and determination always pays more, no doubt. But it also offers a much greater reward. The reward of experience, development and insight that prepares you for the next, bigger role. There is nothing remarkable about easy. Diamonds, after all, are created under extreme pressure. Without the pressure, a diamond remains a lump of ordinary coal.

I told you a true story of two men. One was offered the opportunity of a lifetime. He did not believe in me or in himself, so the opportunity vanished as did his path to something remarkable. The other man believed. He trusted. His reward has been remarkable. One of the things I love most about my career is the number of people like this talented young man that I have been blessed to manage and mentor. They are people I would be honored to work for. It is a privilege to have a role in shaping the future of our industry by helping to develop a large number of talented leaders who will, in turn, do the same. I am very proud of this legacy. I thank those who invested in and mentored me. Great leaders like Tom Siebel, Craig Ramsey, Mark Armenante, George Roberts, Paul Hoffman, Leland Putterman, and Bill Conroy.

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