Success in sales fundamentally requires a wider lens — and the belief in finding a way even if that requires taking the road less travelled.
One of my favorite authors all time of all time, Robert Heinlein, once wrote:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Several years back — I was lucky enough to have been elected Student Body President of a student body including more than 25,000 of my peers. From my term in office to my transition to the San Francisco / Silicon Valley startup community — I’ve stayed in touch with my school through my work with our KU Tech Trek program — designed to bridge the gap between midwestern Kansas University and the startup opportunities of the Bay Area. Several years into this — I’ve had the opportunity to connect with and mentor dozens of college students seeking full time positions or internships in the Bay Area.
The most common type of question from graduates the last 3 years has been along the lines of: “I don’t have direct experience in sales but I’ve been a 4.0 student and lead dozens of student groups. The only entry level positions I see available are so basic. Do you know anywhere that will allow me to continue to be creative? Where I can continue to be a leader?”
The startup community — and mostly the sales teams within the startup community — for years have fallen into Aaron Ross’s trap. Treating the talent produced by universities in 2017 like cogs in a machine is a sure fire way to create hostile environments, unsustainable results and churn your top performers.
For those who don’t know Aaron Ross’s “Predictable Revenue”, it is the methodology that helped add $100 million in recurring revenue to Salesforce.com, almost doubling their enterprise growth… with zero cold calls. “Cold Calling 2.0” as it was branded is the idea that email automation techniques and role specialization (SDR — BDR — AE — SR AE, etc) was the best way to manage and grow a sales team while hitting MoM targets.
What Ross couldn’t predict was the pace of rapid automation in entry level roles. Entry level roles in 2017 (largely SDRs) are being replaced by machine learning, automation, and technology tools that Account Executives can deploy to replace the function of an SDR. From Outreach.io, to Data Miner, Import.io — (literally there are more than a dozen in my Batman Utility belt that I use on a daily basis)
So you’re about to graduate in 2017. How do you avoid Aaron Ross’s trap?
Join a full-stack sales org like Wonolo.
At Wonolo we build a deep sales culture of full pipeline ownership, from prospecting to closing to account management and beyond. Our entry level BDRs, Account Executives, Senior Account Executives and even our CEO Yong Kim… we all prospect. We all take our own qualifying calls. We all close our own deals. We all maintain relationships with accounts even after the deal is won.
Being a relationship owner with an account is very very different than having one good email and passing off, or one good phone call and passing off, or one good pitch and passing off.
Where is the fun in that?
At the end of the day — if you’re graduating in 2017 — consider a sales org that allows for “full stack” development. Prove yourself early and avoid being segmented into a role where you prospect for 2 years, qualify for an AE for 2 years, and fingers crossed close your own deals.
Deep down if that Robert Heinlein quote resonated with you at all — then you owe it to yourself to avoid the Aaron Ross trap and find a sales team that allows you to flourish as a well-rounded full stack pipeline owner from day 1.