Q&A with Bessemer on Joining the Team as CRO executive-in-residence

March 2, 2018
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How I Build Sales Teams That Perform at the Top of Their Game

I’ve been building high-performing, world-class sales teams for more than 20 years, and I’m thrilled to continue doing what I love as the CRO executive-in-residence at Bessemer Venture Partners.

Sharing my playbook with Bessemer portfolio companies -- some of the most inspiring and innovative entrepreneurs in the technology business -- is an opportunity to build on what I’ve already accomplished at companies like Anaplan, Eloqua and IBM.

When I build a team, my guiding philosophy comes from the playbook of Theo Epstein, an executive with the Chicago Cubs who is credited with helping the team win its first World Series in 108 years. One of his methods involves “scouting the person more than the player.”

When adding new players to the team, Epstein focuses at least as much on a prospect’s character and personality as he does their physical abilities and statistics. In identifying future high performers, learning what makes people tick is at least as important as learning what they have done.

I use the same technique to assemble a sales team. I recently spoke with David Wehrs, Head of BVP Funded, about my philosophies and methodologies and how I plan to pass my knowledge and experience on to the firm’s portfolio.

As I kick off my work here at Bessemer, I wanted to share this with you. In the coming months, I’ll be releasing more content to help you create a high-performance sales organization.

Q: Why do you scout the person more than the player?

A: Selling software is a team sport. Hiring team members with like personality attributes and goals creates chemistry and makes a better team. I hire for coach ability, curiosity, intelligence, collaboration and tenacity. For example, applying one’s high intellect and curiosity in the discovery sales stage can differentiate the best professionals against the many other vendors that are looking to earn that trusted advisor position.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your first few months as the CRO-in-residence?

A: I’m going to be sitting down with portfolio companies to make sure all their revenue functions—sales, marketing, alliances and customer success—are aligned with the go-to-market strategy. Creating a go-to-market blueprint is essential to ensuring that a company’s precious resources are organized efficiently and effectively to capitalize on the target market opportunity. That’s the type of initial work we’ll be focusing on.

Q: Can you give us a preview of your first 90 days?

A: I’m going to be working with a lot of different companies that are looking to disrupt incumbent technologies and antiquated processes, and that’s exciting. The first phase will involve advising companies on how to best align their revenue focused people, processes and systems with a go-to-market strategy. In the second phase, I’ll be collecting data through research and surveys on key metrics that matter to the company’s revenue functions. These metrics include bookings, lead conversion and customer retention rate. I will be producing a benchmark report, so companies can assess how they rank compared to their peers and assess the health of their revenue processes. This will shine a light on performance improvement opportunities and provide the foundation for prioritizing key initiatives/investments.

Q: How will you know that your work has had a positive impact?

A:  My goal is to help Bessemer companies accelerate their ability to efficiently grow and scale because of the work I do with them. This includes achievement of key revenue performance metrics and the build out of their go-to-market functions and processes.

Q: What part of the job are you most looking forward to?

A: I’m looking forward to working closely with entrepreneurs and investors, who are both extremely intelligent and building disruptive technology companies. Any impact I can have improving their go-to-market success will be extremely rewarding. Working with many different types of companies at different stages of growth is very exciting to me, and the intellectual stimulation is going to be off-the-charts!