September 15, 2017

Let’s Build The Global Tech Sales Mecca (Silicon Slopes) »

The search for “the next Silicon Valley” is misguided at best. Every tech hub has its superpower, and Silicon Valley’s is driving the global innovation agenda. Sure, innovation happens in other markets, including Utah, but no place can ignite innovation at the scale afforded by the Valley’s ecosystem of software and product engineers.

Instead of defining our relevance in relation to Silicon Valley, Utah should adopt a more personalized and descriptive technology brand based on what we can do better than anyone else in the world. That part isn’t hard — in Utah, tech companies were producing revenue long before revenue in tech was cool. We need to become the global Mecca for turning good ideas into cash machines.

Utah has the raw material to do this, but we need a concerted effort across the state’s tech community to shape it. Utah already has world-class enterprise sales talent and a reputation for exceptional inside sales. That’s a good start, but it’s not enough. We need a true sales ecosystem — including sales development, operations, and workforce management — on par with the product and engineering ecosystem in Silicon Valley. That doesn’t happen by accident.

A good place to start is installing creative approaches to cultivating sales talent at every level. We’re great at taking care of senior salespeople, but we’re not doing nearly enough to nurture junior and mid-level talent. We need to expand the top of the funnel, which means building clear career paths and ensuring that incentive structures encourage budding rock stars to stay in sales.

At Womply, we’ve taken a number of big steps in this direction. One of my favorites: in August, we implemented what I call “real PTO” for all sales reps. After six months’ tenure, any sales rep who takes a vacation of at least three days gets standard PTO and a credit of the exact number of sales they would usually make over the course of those days. We base the average off the previous three completed months.

To be clear, this isn’t quota relief. Quota relief just allows a vacationing rep to keep their job, but doesn’t address the primary concern of losing sales and commissions while they’re supposed to be recharging.

This is a total win-win. Our employees can truly recharge without losing money, status, or momentum. As a company, we’ll see our sales reps work extra hard in the 90 days prior in order to pad their averages. I developed this program at a previous company and saw absolutely no reduction in productivity in the month reps took their vacations. Basically, this is the kind of thing that could be — and should be — implemented at every sales organization in Utah.

While I’m proud of our sales policies at Womply, it’s not enough for a few companies to push the envelope. We need more ideas, and good forums for sharing them. Beyond that, we need action to bring these ideas to life. All of us should elevate our viewpoints and think about what we can do to create a tide that lifts all boats.

A true ecosystem requires collective creativity and multilateral opportunities. Today’s SDRs are tomorrow’s whale hunters — unless they move on to another career, or to another market, where the opportunities are better. Are we doing the right things to mold salespeople in the right ways and keep them engaged? Are we being creative enough in aligning their interests with the company’s? Sales leaders should be evaluated in large measure on these questions.

It’s obvious that in years past, Silicon Valley and Sand Hill Road have seen markets like Utah as low-cost options to outsource call centers and operational hubs. In the last decade or so, we’ve demonstrated that Utah is capable of so much more. The Beehive State is fertile ground to grow an IPO-candidate company from scratch or relocate a massive business operation, as evidenced by Adobe and the fact that we’re even in the discussion for Amazon’s HQ2. Basically, we’re hot right now.

We can respond to our hotness in one of two ways: either we can bask in it, assuming it will always be so, or we can use the opportunity to build something amazing. Utah’s been here before, back in the Novell days, but we had a massive gap before our return to glory. If we’re being honest, a lot of our current momentum is a byproduct of individual companies reaching high levels of success. We don’t have a true ecosystem yet. Let’s put in place the scaffolding right now that will enable staying power for generations to come, starting with our biggest strength: tech sales.

Mark A. Smith

I’m a husband, father, JCPenny-sponsored family photo model (seriously), and VP of Sales at Womply, a SaaS company serving more than 100,000 small businesses coast to coast.

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