The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

25. From SDR to VP of Sales at One of the Best Companies Outside the Valley with Dan Cook

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak to Dan Cook, SVP of Sales & Success at LucidChart, one of the fastest growing SaaS companies in the US, based in Salt Lake City.

Dan originally hails from the East Coast and came of age in finance, working at Polaris Venture Partners, a Boston-based VC after graduating from Harvard Business School.  He then moved out to Lucidchart to become an Operations executive before quickly transitioning to Sales.

Dan walks us through the mechanics and beliefs required to help the company build out a fully-functioning sales team and how, in his view, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

One, two, one, three, three. Fo I folks, it's the sales hacker podcast, so welcometo it. We're in the middle of September now. Thank you so muchfor listening. We've got Dan Cook on the show this week, the sepof sales and success at lucid chart. Really impressive leader. He's got afinance background who is in VC and then he moved over to lucid chart wherehe's been over four years helping scale that business based in Salt Lake. It'sa great interview and so I'm excited for you to listen to it. Butfirst let's talk about our sponsors. We've got to the first is air call. It's a phone system designed for the modern sales team. They seamlessly integrateinto your crm. It eliminates data entry, which is a huge pain in theASS, so that's gone. And it provides you with greater visibility intoyour team's performance through advanced reporting. When it's time to scale, meaning whenyou've added people, are hired somebody, you can add new lines and minutesand you can use in caall coaching to reduce ramp time for your new Reps. so here's the website. are called DOT IO forwards sales hacker once again. That is are called DOT Ioh, forwards sales sacker. Some of theircustomers include uber done and Bradstreet pipe drive thousands of others really impressive business,and so I encourage you to check them out. Or second sponsor is outreach, that is outreached, out ioh the lading sales engagement platform. So outreachtriples the productivity of sales teams and empowers them to drive predictable and measurable revenuegrowth by prioritizing the right activities and scale and customer engagements. With intelligent automation, outreach makes customer facing teams more effective and approves this stability into what reallydrives results. That website is outreach io for itsash sales hacker, that isoutreach Doo for its sales hacker. To see how thousands of customers, includingcloud eara glass door, Pandora Zillo, all rely on outreach to drive higherrevenue per sales rap. Last thing I want to encourage everybody. PODCASTS canbe long. I don't always like listening to my own podcast and I'm somebodythat loves the sound of my own voice. What I encourage you to do islisten at one and a half speed. One and a half speed takes aforty minute podcast and gets it done in twenty five to thirty minutes.It makes everything quicker and it can allow you to just get through more content. I find that now when I listen to myself on one time speed orany other podcast, it is tediously laboriously slow. So I encourage you touse that one and a half speed function on your podcast listening device because itjust makes life go quicker and we all are very busy. Without further ADO, on with the show. Hey everybody, welcome back to the sales hacker podcast. I am your host, Sam Jacobs, the founder of the NewYork revenue collective. I'm also currently the chief Revenue Officer at a wonderful littlecompany called behave ox, and today I'm excited to welcome Dan Cook to thepodcast. Now, a lot of folks know about Dan and his company,Lucid Chart, but let me give you his quick bio and then we'll diveinto the conversation with Dan. So Dan Cook is the SVP sales and customersuccess at Lucid Chart. It is a three hundred and fifty employees SASS businessbased in Salt Lake City, Utah, one of the sales capitals of theworld. Dan grew up in New Hampshire before moving to Utah to attend BrighamYoung University, where he studied economics and accounting. He spent first few yearsof his career working in technology investment banking in San Francisco, then moved toBoston where he source s ass investments for players venture partners, which is aBoston base vc. He then went to HBS, Harvard Business School, wherehe received his MBA, and then he joined lucid where he was tasked withbuilding out loosed sales and customer success programs. Dan and his wife, Jamie,of four kids. That keeps them extremely busy and in his spare time, Dan enjoys all things New England sports, which is upsetting an unfortunate and anoccasional game of golf, and spending time with his family. Dan.Welcome to the show. Hey Sam, thanks for having me. It's greatto be here. We're excited to have you so walk us through. Welike to start the show with your baseball car. The reason we do thatis so that everybody out there can contextualize your experience, your insights, etc. So your name's Dan Cook. Give us your titles. Five, thesenior vice president of sales and customer success here at Lucid. That's awesome.And so lucid chart. So a lot of folks know the company, butmany don't. What's the rough revenue range or like? Give us a feelingfor the size of lucid chart in whatever information you're able to provide. Sowe typically don't disclose our revenue, but we're a fast growing SASS cut anyrecurring revenue business. We have about fourteen million users of our product. Itis a free product that we give away, but then we do convert, andtypical freemium style, you know, a healthy percentage of those into payingusers and then our sales team up sells them into bigger enterprise deals. Sodouble digits and fast growing in the millions. Three hundred fifty or so people,and so you can get a sense for kind of some sizes scale there. Yeah, absolutely. And so and you've been in how long have youbeen at least? So with a company itself about seven and a half yearsold. I've been here for about four and a half of that. Soit don't kind. You know, we're getting we feel like we're getting alittle older, but there's always new things to do. Four and a half. You know, my career was seven and a half years in one spot, five in the next, two in...

...the next, seven months in thenext. So from where I sent four and a half years is quite along time. You're dinosaurs my longest state so far. So I do feellike I'm getting old. So let's figure out. You're in a very seniorposition at a pretty well known company. How did you get here? Sotell us a little bit about your origin story. Obviously we now know thatyou're a fan of football teams that cheat, which is unfortunate. And when?But yeah, that's true. Well, you know, I guess. Iguess when you cheat it's easy to win. But but so how'd youget from growing up in sort of like the New Hampshire area to running?I guess it's a hundred and ten sales people or a hundred and ten percentteam on sales success. Sales ups at at loose as a great question.So I know growing up in New Hampshire I didn't quite know what I wantedto do when I grew up. My Dad told me that he'd pay formy college if I went to buy you and Utah or Harvard, and Ithink he knew I wouldn't get into Harvard Undergrad and so I was going todo by you. So I moved out to Utah and you know, it'sinteresting. I found that there's two types of people. There's people that havealways known what they want to do and there's people that have never known whatthey wanted to do, and I felt like I always fell in the theladder camp. And so my I feel like my career has been one ofturning over kind of the Rock, so to speak, to understand what Ilike to do and the things that I actually maybe don't enjoy as much.And so at Buyu I got exposed to some really smart people that all said, hey, you should go and get into investment banking, and that ledto kind of a first step in my career, which moved me to SanFrancisco and the real benefit for me there. I hated my investment banking job.I learned that that was one of those things I did not want todo. But I work with the technology group, which basically helped tech companiesraise capital, go public or engage in murders and acquisitions. And so whileI didn't really like the day to day roll that I was exposed to,I love the space and I love learning about these great growth tech companies,and so that was to me, a pivotal experience because it did a fewthings for me. First, I don't think you have to know exactly whatyou want to be when you're growing up, when you graduate college, which Ithink sometimes you feel like you have to do. And secondly, ithelped me realize that, like you just mentioned, our careers in these inthis day and age, you're going to take multiple steps, you're going tochange careers a few times, and so I felt, like you know,a couple years of investment banking exposed me some great stuff but also gave methe confidence that I didn't have to do this my whole life, that Icould change and pivot in my career. When you think about I'm always oneof the areas of interest to me is discovering what you like to do andwhat you don't like to do it, and also how you define those things. So what was it about banking that you didn't like? was there aspecific daily activity? was you know, what was it that sort of turnedyou off to it? It's a great question. You know, from myparticular role, I was an analyst. I worked on a team and Iworked in a cubicle and about eighty percent of my time, maybe even more, was spent in spreadsheets and on powerpoint decks. You learned really great skillsin those regards. Believe it or not, I felt like a nerd coming homeand bragging about excel tricks to my wife, who just thought I wasan idiot, but I just did. I realized that I did not likebeing in situations where I wasn't engaging with other people and where I wasn't actuallyinteracting. So that was one. Secondly, you know, these investment banking firmsare notorious for just kicking your butt. So you know, I've worked eightto ninety, two hundred hours a week and I just realized that wasn'tsustainable, nor was it a lifestyle that I really appreciate it. And so, while the money is you know, they that's how they kind of getyou early on, is they try and kind of pay you more money.Ironically, if you do the hourly wage, it's actually not that good, andso those are at least two factors for me that kind of said,hey, look, maybe this isn't where you want to be and this isn'tthe kind of career you want to build. Yeah, okay, make sense.And certainly that that enter personal interaction is something that I was in bankingmy first year out of school too, and didn't work out for me either. Well, I will tell you. I mean, the one thing thatI taught, that I learned, and maybe it was actually poisoned learning,but was that you can push yourself pretty hard right, you know, whenyou're having to work long and late hours, turns out you actually learn a lotmore. I mean, if you're going to work twice as as muchas the average person, there's a good chance you're going to learn twice asmuch. And so, while the experience wasn't always fun, I do feellike it taught me this principle of kind of that principle of compound interest,the idea that if you invest money early, you get bigger returns later. Ifelt like by investing heavily in my career early, based on time,it actually, I think, helped kind of catapult me you faster than maybeif I'd taken a more traditional job. That makes sense. Yeah, thatmakes a lot of sense and we'll get into it, because I because youwent to a VC. But you're also building a skill set that in yourrole, a lot of folks don't have, which is an analytical right and sortof financial enterprise valuation skill set that a lot of EPIs of sales donot possess. Yep, and so that probably puts you in an advantageous positionwhen you're in the room at the CFO. I would have yeah, no,absolutely. I mean we could probably talk about that some more, butit's really interesting. You think about the money ball revolution in baseball and youthink about how these analytics folks kind of...

...took over the sport. There's prosand cons, right. The teams that adopted that early, I think,brought a data driven approach that helped their teams really be successful. That thecon is that sometimes maybe the analytic this approach doesn't quite jibe with your feeton the street sales reps who've kind of grown up and live and breed sales, and so that's been for me. The big evolution, which you know, maybe we can talk about in a little bit, is how do youkind of bridge from coming from this analytics background to working with, you know, sales folks and making sure you're not skewing one, you know, toofar one way or the other. Yeah, we will definitely talk about that.So getting back to our story, right, you're you're in San Francisco, it's a beautiful place, you're doing banking, it's not so fun,and so then you move back to Boston as that right? Yeah, that'sright. So I was offered an opportunity to join a growth stage venture capitalfirm called Polaris Venture Partners and I, you know, have grown up inNew Hampshire, about an hour from Boston, and thought it would be a greatopportunity to return to the East Coast and, you know, route onthe world series winning Red Sox and the Super Bowl waiting, and so reallyenjoyed Pilaris. You know, Polaris was interesting and this is actually kind ofgives you an idea of evolution and how the same career progression journey think workout. You know, I joined thinking that I was going to sit ata table all day and entrepreneurs were going to come in and pitch their ideaand I would kind of do this gladiator thumb up some down thing. Whatends up happening is they said, Hey, look, we actually have plenty ofcompanies coming to us. What we want you to do is to developthe thesis on a space or a sector that's interesting, and then we wantyou to go out and call all the really interesting companies that aren't coming tous and build a relationship with them in the CEO so that if and whenthey do decide to raise money, they pick you and they pick us,Pilaris. And so it was interesting, it turns out, and now thatI'm, you know, running a sales program I would they basically hired meto be an SDR right, to really go and and source the landscape ofinteresting growth stage tech companies, qualify them based on their growth and their theirbusiness models, and then, where there was an interesting opportunity, to bringin a partner and then, you know, the two of us would go andtry and win a deal. And so I spent, you know,about seventy percent of my time reaching out calling CEOS of tech companies and tryingto understand, you know, their needs and especially around capital and where therewas an opportunity to invest, making sure that we were lined up to be, you know, one of the folks that could take us take a swingat it. My question is it because I was just meeting up with abuddy who's also at a growth stage firm. When you're selling a commodity which iscapital, what, besides them liking Dan Cook, makes them want towork with Polaris? Yeah, so it's very interesting and I think for thoseof you who sell a product where there's a lot of competitors, this shouldresonate. So when you sell a commodity product, there's a few things Ithink you have to keep in mind. First, price will always, alwaysbe incredibly important, unfortunately overweight important. You know, in the VC world, as you might imagine, when you call an entrepreneur and you'd say hey, we want to invest in your company and you tell them how we valuedthe company, if it wasn't in the Ballpark of competitor, you are usuallyshut down pretty quickly. And so price mattered. Unfortunately, in commodity worldyou always got to be sensitive to that. But but it's not a hundred percentof the decision making criteria and I think that's where these vc firm areable to angle and usually the way that we did it was we would buildtheeces based off of where we felt like we were really strong. So wefelt like we were really strong in a couple verticals, healthcare tech and educationtechnology, and so where we were able to tell a story that was likesaying, Hey, sure, there's other firms here, maybe we're in theBALLPARK, maybe we're not the top, we're not going to win on price, but here's a story why you should choose us because our product and areyou know, which was not just the capital but the partnership, has expertise, that we really understand your business and that we can help you take itto the next level. And so I think you have to find that anglearound how your business or how your product offering can actually really affect them andthere has to be that qualitative story because at the end of the day,humans are emotional people and they have to like you and feel that you canhelp them. And so that was how we went at it. We triedto build stories around a few different verticals that we felt like we were reallystrong in and maybe we were at the top bidder, but we would alwaysbe around that, you know, the hoop, so to speak, andthat helped us win some deals. So you were there for three year.I mean, I think it's really I I just had to mastung goose onthe on the show and he said, you know, the closest corollary toto being a VC as being a field sales rep and you echo a similarvein when you say I they hired me to be an SDR. So Iguess one question is, did you like doing that? And then the secondquestion is how did you end up from from going from there to lucid chart? Yeah, so it's actually pretty funny. You know, you talked to CEOSevery day and you'd have interesting conversations telling me about Your Business, tellme where Your Business Model, tell me about your growth trajectory and you know, I'd always ask about the team, as you all know. You knowin this is important when you're picking a company earlier in your career, tojoin the team matters almost more than anything because the strategy might change, theproduct might change, that the industry might change, but if you believe inyour team and you like your team, it makes a big difference. Well, I would ask them about their team...

...and inevitably they these companies would say, well, look, we you know, I hired my brother's kid to bea sales or up and now he's running our sales team because we're growingso fast. And then I, you know, hired my my sister's nephew's, you know, boyfriend to be my operations guy, and now he's ourCOO. And it just felt like, time and time again, you know, in these growth stage companies you have battlefield promotions happening everywhere, people thatmay be necessarily weren't totally qualified to run teams and run businesses, but byvirtue of the product and the business model and the scaling rate, these folkswere exposed to really awesome opportunities, and so that really was attractive to me. I thought to myself, maybe instead of calling these guys and trying toget them to take my money, I want to be on the other endhaving, you know, Dan Cook to calling me trying to trying to tryingto give give venture capital into the business I work with. So that's wherethe seed got planted. And then the other benefit I had, and Ithink this is an interesting point, is that I was able to identify,or at least kind of build pattern recognition around, which stage of companies arethe best to join if you want to get exposed to those types of opportunities. What I found there was that these companies that are you know early on, they have product market fit, there's revenue, there's customers that you couldtalk to and it could could say something nice about the product. These arethe business that but they haven't yet scaled yet. These are the great businessesto join and it's because you'll join and you'll get exposed to massive opportunities togrow in your career. So, anyway, that leads me to lucid. Youknow, when I was at business school I knew I wanted to gojoin one of these growth stage companies. I've gotten introduced to our CEO here, Dave Grow, who's a brilliant guy. You should follow on Linkedin. He'shighly prolific on Linkedin. He he's what. He's a long writer,is long ter. But you know what? The guy gets amazing he gets somany views on those things it's unbelievable. It's all it's all linkedin specific format. It's like the one sentence, double space, one sends double space. So he's totally reverse engineered linkedin. He's happy that thing, but butno. So I met Dave was really impressive. Dave. They just raisea little bit of series a capital, they had a product, they werebreak even and we're growing fast and it was just it was the right inthat fit of company stage that's exciting to join. So that's a long story. But you know, for those of you who are thinking about how tojuice your career, finding those companies that are just a painting product, marketfit and are trying to gear up for scale, like Gidea up, thoseare the companies to join because you're going to get exposed to so many opportunitiesto build. I think that's great advice. One you know, I'll tell yousomething that that impacts people if they're coming out of banking. I mean, I'm imagining you. You were, you're at a VC, you're ata bank, then you go to h PS and now you're going to earnearly stage start up. I have to imagine the compensation wasn't comparable to,you know, the Goldman job that you're probably offered or something like that.Yeah, so it's a great point and I think this is where there's aninteresting arbitrage, to use the financial term. So I'm obviously not based in SanFrancisco or Boston and New York. I'm in Salt Lake City and youknow, it's interesting about Salt Lake and I think there's a few of thesetier, to call it tier three, tech cities. You can arbitrage thesalary relative to the cost of living. And you know, we lived inBoston, we lived in San Francisco and and sure my salary was higher,but the cost of living was a lot higher and so I made less moneymoving here out of business school, which my wife was looking at me say, isn't this is not supposed to happen, specially after hps. I mean you'dsay yeah, well, trust me, yeah, I was. I wasasking myself some serious questions there too. But but there's a few things topoint out. One, there's the arbitrage of the geography which Salt Lakeand you know, Austin and called Denver, Boulder. You guys know the cities. There's a few of them that are, I think are really interesting, where the cost of living is much more attractive. Maybe the pace isa little different, but they're great places to live and build a career andyou can get away with making a little less money. That's one. Andthen second, as I mentioned, these gross stage companies are exciting because ofa few things. First of all, if you get in there and executeand perform, I found that within six to twelve months the role that theythink they're bringing you in for could change dramatically, because the way these thesecompanies work is they're going to hire you for a role that they have atthe moment and then within six to twelve months your comparative advantage is going toshine, something that you do really well is going to appear and they're goingto say hey, you know what, let's repass you at something else.And of course then you say, okay, that's a different role, like let'sTalk Com and so you know you have an opportunity, I think,especially if things start to go well and you pick the right company, tokind of make up for those salary losses perhaps later on. So you jumpto lucid and I guess where you the first salesperson there. Yeah, soit's funny story. I actually was hired to be in operations, I thinkyou know, to the point you made earlier. They saw this kind ofanalytics VC background and they said we don't know what to do with you.But like come on board and let's figure something out. Yea. And somy first task was to build some dashboards for the CEO and they must havebeen really crappy because, you know, just like a week later he's like, you know, we're going to have you do something else. And soso you know that lucid it was a freemium model. So the idea wasyou give away this product, lucid chart, for free and people, you know, a percentage of the folks that sign up will pull out their creditcard and pay for premium features, and that was the business model at thetime. They looked at me and said, Hey, we've never really thrown salesresources at this. To be completely...

...frank, like there was no wayfor someone to actually talk to anyone that lucid other than to send an emailinto the support team and the support team would not call you, it wouldbe another email back. So there was literally no way to talk to anyoneat loocid chart when I joined. And so, you know, they said, Hey, would you take a stab at this? The first thing Irecommended was, hey, you know, I'm not a I'm not a rocketscientist here, but why don't we put a phone number on our pricing pageand this engineer looked at me and said you mean you actually want to talkto the customer? And as I let's just give it a try. Andso, anyway, it turns out, this is a funny story. Thevery first phone call comes in. I had this old iphone. We hookedit to the phone number and this phone call comes in. Everyone's looking atme. I'm thinking it's going to be, you know, some big corporate wantedto buy thousands of licenses of our product. I answer the phone.I said Hey, this is Dan, a loser chart, and this guysays, yeah, I'd like to cancel my account. Very first call witha cancelation. Everyone asked me how it went. I just told him itwas a wrong number. But we turns out over time, you know,we've been built out hooks to actually engage with and talk to our customers andusers, which is, you know, led amazing things happening here. Butyeah, so I was not brought into do sales, but my first reallysix to nine months at lucid was hey, play the role of a sales rep, figure out the workflow, the process, figure out how much wecan actually produce if we do this and then, you know, there wasa point that came where the said, hey, let's try and scale thisa little bit, you know, let's grow the team and and so onand so forth. So, yeah, I was hired to do one thing, it changed to another, and but I played the role of Rep foryou know called six and nine months, which was extremely beneficial for me.So here's a question, because I dealt with this when I was at livestream. If you have a hundred percent self service business, how much planningwent into like, did you have a mandate? was there a product differentiationso that you were selling something different than the Self Service? was there aan attribution problem where actually you put the phone number on they were going tobuy anyway, but now you know sort of Dandy Commission on it? Howdid you solve that problem? Yeah, so it's a great question. Andyou know, for those of you who are in these kind of fremium toenterprises, you know type models. Think box, think envision, think smartsheet, among others. Yeah, this was an issue early on. So whatwe found was, if you think of your Venn Diagram, certainly where thecircle of self serve and sales assisted, or so to speak, overlap there. There are going to be some instances where you would engage with the customeror prospect who would have bought on their own, and we were willing earlyon to kind of know that what it's going to happen and you know,we did our best to try and think of attribution there. Really, though, we were focused on that other circle in the vent of just pure salesassisted and certainly your point about the product and product differentiation was important. Whatwe found was the best strategy was to reach out to companies where we hadseen a lot of adoption across disparate users and accounts and just to engage withthe IT buyers at those organizations to understand how they felt about it. Itwas really a very open ended discovery of Hey, did you know you havehundreds and of users of our product? How do you feel about that?Is there any reason why we shouldn't roll all these users up into one kindof corporate account? My question is with the corporates. So then my concernis but it's only a concern, it's solvable. I'm always cognizant enough.We've got a hundred people in different groups and they're paying a hundred bucks total. And now I'm going to the corporate it buyer. I'm always nervous aboutsaying well, I can give you a discount. And now it's ninety bucksbecause now I've taken ten bucks from the company. So maybe the pitches likesecurity or corporate oversight or governance. How do you position it without sacrificing arevenue opportunity? Yeah, so I think a really important thing to understand inthese fremium models is that there's really two levels of persona. There's the enduser persona. These are individuals who have a need and generally speaking, theselfserve mechanism helps them find the product and engage and use the free version orpull out their credit card and pay for the premium version to do their job. The second level persona is this it persona, and so the product you'reselling to that group is actually the, technically not necessarily the same product thatthese end users are adopted. In fact, we didn't have to oversell lucid chartto these it folks because it had already been sold. You know,the the users had spoken, and so we built a pitch and product featuresthat resonated with these it personas around how to better manage applications in this dayand age of bring your own APP to work and shadow it. We saidHey, let let us help you solve this problem and we did it withkind of a variety of enterprise features, of which you've mentioned a few,security docum or attention, etc. And what this did was it opened upconversations with the software asset management and it arms of these businesses and in fact, and most instances, if not all, we actually charge them more. Wedon't give them a discount, we charge them for those incremental features andwe found that to be an effective go to market strategy. That sounds really, really smart. So you start. You're doing that for six, ninemonths. Sounds like it was working and then the team started growing. Oneof the big questions we often get on the podcast is that leap from individualcontributor to manager, and everybody has, you know, a subtly different perspectiveon it. Did you have any,...

...you know, anxiety or consternation aboutadding people that you were now responsible for? What did you do to make surethat you did a good job? What's your approach to management? Giveus a little bit of that. Yeah, sure, so it's a great question. I was a little anxious about it, but I was probably moreexcited. To me, honestly, the bigger leap is when you go frombeing a manager of sales reps direct to actually managing managers. I think that'sactually the bigger hurdle. We could spend some time talking about that perhaps,but the reason I wasn't overly anxious about it was because I knew we wereonto something and I had been in this role for six to nine months andI couldn't keep up with it, and so I was really pumped to geta few folks in here to help us. And so there's a few things I'llmentioned. Their first, you know, I'd read some interesting material, someof it from some great sales luminaries, some blogs. Jason Lemkin, AaronRoss, you name all the guys that everyone you know here's from andlistens to. But we knew we wanted to hire more than one person.So you always want to have that tag team at least effect where you canhave two folks that are pushing each other. We are. We hired four isour first round and our thought there was that at least one person isgoing to just totally figure it out and maybe push it even further than Ithought I was able to. Maybe one person would be a dud and thenthe other two will kind of be away for us to just see how bigwe can scale this thing. We actually ended up with a great first classand all four of them are still here four years later, believe it ornot. But yeah, a really good group. So the point I wasmaking there is that we wanted to hire multiple folks. This would allow ushave a little competition on the team and well, as well as to makesure that we had to could kind of a good ABCD test mechanism. Tounderstand is that the people or the process if things weren't working. From myperspective, I felt like there were a few things that I had to doearly on. One was the directly involved with the reps themselves and make surethat everything that I thought I had figured out was at least being implemented tosome degree, so that if things weren't working, I could point to itnot being the process per se. So you kind of isolate the variable Iwanted. I wanted the process to be pretty consistent across the four Reps.in that way, of things weren't working, I could kind of say, okay, maybe it's just not the right person. I will just mention this, and this is classic. Like I felt like I had figured it allout, and so you bring these folks in and you give them you putthem out there. I had gone through this rigorous analytical math, using allmy eyebanking skills to set quotas for these guys, and turns out I hadtaken my production run rated or extrapolated over a year and I divided it inhalf because I was so confident that I was the best sales rep of alltime that anybody we brought in would do half of what I could do.Well, turns out we bring these guys in and within six months their runrating twice what I was doing. So as in perspective I was off bylike x in order of magnitude, and so we had to do a quickreset six months into the sales experiment of their quota in Camp, which wasmy first, you know, tough conversation I had to have with the team, but you unless to say I felt like we put the right team ofplace. We isolated on process and you better believe they found ways to improveit, which was fantastic, and you got to love that kind of inthe wild mentality of how things change and these agile start ups, which Iappreciate. I will say, though, my management emo early was to bevery overweight on inquiry versus what you'd call advocacy, and the way I thinkabout that is ask a lot of questions and always do that. Tell memore, versus advocating. Do this, do that, do this, dothat, and my hypothesis there, and this is kind of a management principlefor me, is that, first of all, people like to hear thesound of their own voices, and so anytime you can ask a question insteadof telling somebody something, you're always going to be better off. And secondly, if you learn to ask the right questions, you can generally guide peopleto your same conclusion. And so my management philosophy early and certainly still today, has been asked a lot of questions. The follow up question, tell memore is got to be one of the best questions ever invented, andyou just say that until people stop talking, and I think I learned a lotthat way and also was able to direct the team to make them feellike they had buy in an ownership of the program but but also guiding themtowards the things I wanted them to do. That makes sense? Yeah, makesperfect sense. And Tell me more, Peter Laherman from maxie'll taught me.Tell me more, and it's it is a beautiful phrase. It is. So you mentioned that. You know, one of the big the bigger leap, is going from not just managing a bunch of reps but managing managers. What do you think the key different is are what's what makes that sochallenging? Yeah, I think there's two things at least, and probably more. First is the mindset. So, you know, the beauty of beinga manager of reps and why I kind of miss it is that where therewere thoughts or ideas or things that wanted to be implemented or even ideas fromthe field. You know, there was just such a closer ability to exchangeinformation. The communication lines were much more robust. Right, you were verydirect, you're sitting next to the team, you can turn and talk to them. It was just a much easier way to stay close to the tothe customer and therefore make sure that when you're making changes, if there werechanges, that you were doing what was in the best interests of the customer. As soon as you are now managing managers, you're another degree or removedfrom the customer, and at the end of the day that's who matters.And so what happens as a result is that some of the ideas that Ifelt like were important to develop were with...

...that one degree removed away from thecustomer, and so I would always be missing just a little bit of whatI'll call context for the customer because I was a degree removed. And then, secondly, if I did have a good idea, if there were thingsI needed to communicate, I had one degree more removed to get to thecustomer or to get to the rep and we found the hard way, especiallywhen you get into that mode where it's like okay, turn it on scalefast, that if you don't build really robust communication lines and processes, yourteam can in classic telephone game style. Your team will start hearing different messagesand you won't be aligned and that can cause morale issues, it can causeproblems on deals, it can cause a whole host of challenges. So we'vedone a few things, we think, to address those, but I thinkthat's those are the two hardest things. You're removed from the customer and theREP and, as a result, communication channels can really break down if youdon't build good process. Give us some tips because, I'm sure you know, communication is the number one thing that people kind of complain about, orseems to. I mean, it's what either enables or prohibits scaling. Sowhat are some of the specific strategies that use? Was it a meeting cadence? Was it a weekly newsletter? How did you think about it? Yeah, great question. You know, I often think of communication lines. Likeyou know, I think about like in World War Two, you'd have thisarmy that's on the front fighting, you know, the Germans or whatever,and you have these supply lines back to wherever you were getting your fuel andyour ammo and things from. And you know, the military has this amazingway of doing it and I need to study it more so I can becomebetter at this, but I'll tell you what we decided to do. Wedid a few things. First of all, as you might imagine, the weeklyOneonone is fundamental and you have to find time to sit down with yourdirect reports and up the standing a line item on the on the one onone agenda. If you're dealing with your rep is your how are you doing? And if you're meeting with the manager, you're saying, tell me how yourreps are doing, and so you want to make sure you've got thatone on one scheduled and that's that's just one one. But the second thingthat we did, and I think this was really helpful for us, weincorporated what we call a skip level cadence. And so the way you might thinkabout this is if I'm managing a manager who has a team, thenI would find once a month or once a order one that starts to getmaybe unwieldy, to actually have a one on one with the skip level individual. So I don't meet with the manager, I meet with the direct report.And what that allows you to do is to kind of filter through theBS of the telephone game and say hey, tell me how you're really doing andtell me how things are working on your team. It tightens or allowsfor that communication gap to really shrink by half, right, and so wewould do a monthly and now we do a quarterly skip levels. We alsohave our managers do skip level reports. So, like the guys that reportto me, I have them skip level to our CEO. So they'll sendthem a monthly report to the CEO, they'll do a quarterly one on onewith the CEO and basically what this does is again is it shrinks the distance, so to speak, between the managers, the executives, and the sales teamand, for that matter, the customer, and we found that tobe a really effective practice. That sounds great. Skip level meetings are superimportant. Maybe for you it feels like more of a challenge, but Ithink from where we sit, you know, your career seems really, really successful. You sort of you know, you've been a banker, you've beena VC, you went to Harvard and now you're helping scale some some largeorganization. When you reflect and thinking back to yourself, you know ten yearsago, the lessons that you would want to convey to other people that wantthey want to be Dan Cook, or at least they want to get promoted, they want to be as Sepcro type person. Right. What do youthink are the main differentiators that that you embody or that advantages for you?Yeah, well, I mean it's Nice you say. I mean I thinkthere's a lot of stuff I still got to figure out, but there's afew things I think that, when I look back on, whether it wasby accident or whether it was on purpose, decisions that were made that I thinkof certainly helped me. You know, one of them that we've already kindof mentioned. It's this theory of compound interest. You know, anyonewho thinks earlier in their career that they should be able to walk in thepark and do the forty hour week thing, that's fine. If that's if that'ssomething that's core to you, that's fine, but you need to knowthat there are other individuals who are working very hard and we're putting in alot of time and if that time is used wisely, that just means thatthey're growing and they're getting exposed to things in a way that will ramp theircareer and will put them in a place to know more than you would ifyou just work the standard forty hour work week and don't worry. Don't getme wrong, I mean there's a time and a place for that and findingbalance is a critically important but I do think earlier in your career, ifyou want to go big or if you want to have success, that's thetime to invest, first of all, generally speaking, you might not havea family, yet, if you do have a family, they're younger andyou're not going to be missing all the critical milestones by doing so. Andso I think early investment in your career is first and foremost really important.I think that's one I think that, though, does lead to this otherthat kind of the ing to the Yang, which is how do you actually builda life that has balance? And this has been a something that Ithought a lot about, because you don't want to kill yourself either, andI think one thing that's benefited me is making s sure that I have asemblance of balance in my life. And...

I'm not saying I'm perfect. Infact, if you talked to my wife, she'd tell me to shut up rightnow. But but there's just kind of my life too. There's thisconcept called you know that this this guy that was a mentor to me,taught me of the square. And you think of a square, the foursides are equal distance. Think of each of the sides of the square.You've got your physical health, you've got your mental health, you've got yoursocial friends and then you've got your spiritual health. These are the four kindof sides of the square, and he would say to me, Hey,whenever you're not feeling right, like check your square. Are you square orhas your square morphed into some other shape, because maybe you're not investing in oneside appropriately. That's actually been really helpful for me because at the endof the day, no matter how hard you put yourself earlier in your careeror even later in your career, if you don't find balance and what you'redoing, you won't be happy and if you're not happy in what you're doing, you won't be good at it. I'm convinced that how you feel internallyand how you're managing your body and taking care of yourself is a reflection ofhow well you'll do in your career. And sure, maybe you'll have ashort burst, but it won't be sustainable. And so I think that's a secondkind of important philosophy to all of us. Where as we're trying toreally go big and and be successful, we got to make sure that we'rethinking of balance along the way. The third one, and I think thisis a principle that was taught when I was at business school. There's aprofessor their named Clayton Christensen, who's got to be the most brilliant person I'veever met, and you know, he had this concept where he talked abouthow, you know, ninety nine percent of the battle is learning what questionsyou should be asking and learning how to ask the right question. And youknow, he talked about how in school he would see these really bright peoplegive a response or an answer and then he would go through this exercise ofsaying, how did they think to say that? What question do they askthat got them to that answer? And I think that that's a philosophy thatall of us should incorporate. When you see someone around you, whether it'sin sales, see someone who's closing deals, you see someone who's really successful inthe role, you should stop and reflect and say what question did theyask in their brain that got them to ask those questions or to do thatthing with their prospect or with their manager, or fill in the blank where yousee some success happening, and I think that practice is really great becauseonce you start to do that exercise, instead of just emulating and copying someone, if you actually ask yourself why are they doing that and what do theydo to get there, your brain learns faster and you become better right.So that's I think. A third concept is learning how to ask the rightquestion. And then the fourth one I'll just mention and then I'll stop fora second. But I think there's this concept in our work life, likewe all, and especially in sales, we all have just enough ego wherewe're always going to be kind of looking around and have our head on aswivel. But I think when you get into these growth stage companies in particular, there's something interesting about being willing to hire people and to be surround yourselfwith people who actually might be better than you at a lot of different things. And what I found here at Lucid. You know, you heard my background. It's not one of growing up in assass or sales career. Butwhat I found very early was it if I was willing to say hey,I'm going to go find people who are really, really good and I'm goingto convince them that they can come here and they can both subsist guys orcompliment my weaknesses, will also be additive to the firm. I as aresult, and maybe that sounds like I'm a selfish guy, but I'm goingto benefit because I'm the guy that brought him here and they're going to wantto work with me and I'm going to learn from them and all of asudden good things happen. So the fourth concept, though, is my point, is do not be defensive in your career. Always be looking to hiresomeone that's better than you and to bring them in and generally speaking, notalways, but a lot of the time that will actually elevate you. Andif it doesn't and if that person ends up being your boss, that's fine. That's a learning experience. Learn from them and then on the next run, you know, three or four years later, as we mentioned, wemove fast, you'll have learned something new, and so I think that's a reallyimportant concept. Just to go and work somewhere where you can surround yourselfwith people who are better than you, who are smarter than you, whoare more experience. We've been more successful, and don't let your ego get inthe way, and I think that sets you up for a lot ofdifferent success. I think the last point you made is I try to embodyit, which is just basically having a growth mindset and essentially being long termgreedy, which is the more I help people the more I try to workwith amazing people. I just have to believe life is in zero sum andthere's not a finite amount of money or credit or power that goes around,and so we can all be successful and not just that. There's a we'reall scrambling for for the last bits of whatever it may be. So Itotally agree with you in terms of hiring a smart people and just, youknow, trying to do whatever's best and things will work out if you workyour ass off. You mentioned a point of view to me on quotas thatyou sort of think is controversial, particularly if you're probably in a conversation withCFOs, who sort of are looking at the world from a different perspective.But what's your point of view on sort of how to incentivize a sales team? Yeah, so it's an interesting one and it's one that we certainly debatearound here. My point of view is that quotas should be set in away where everyone can attain them and where everyone does attain them. And here'sthe reason. I think you know, and if people don't attain them,certainly you know there's reason to move them on and say hey, this isn'tthe right fit. But, and you want to stretch people a little bit, but here let me explain. So what we found early on, andI kind of mentioned the exercise. I...

...didn't do the right math, butwhat was really interesting as a result is these reps come in here and they'rethinking, oh my gosh, this is the most amazing place to work ever. I am slaying it right now. So what happens in sales, andwe all know this, is there's this confidence concept. When you're able tokind of perform and hit your confidence is through the roof. You start tobelieve in yourself. Sometimes your rationally, you know, oftentimes the product isjust really good or you're just the first person to the to the well andbut confidence is so critical and what we do. So what happens is whenyou set quote is in a way where people that can achieve them, theirconfidence goes up. That's number one. When their confidence is up, thechemicals in their brain are firing and they're happier people. So they want tocome to work and when they go home from work they're happier, which meanswhen they talk to their significant other, their partner, their boyfriend, theirgirlfriend, they're saying how much they love their work, which breeds even more, you know, satisfaction with the job. You know, we all know thatthe biggest risk or one of the biggest challenges in sales is replacing peopleand ramping them that there's such a cost associated with think about the enablement resources, think about the recruiting resources. Those numbers and those dollars usually don't getfactored into quota attainment. Why would they? Well, they should, because ifyou're having to lay off people or if people are leaving because they're nothappy, than what happens is is you the point there. So what we'vealso found is there's this other positive externality, which is that as soon as somebodystarts having confidence and is hitting is feels like they're making money and ishappy in their role. Will Guess what they do? They go and telleveryone and all of a sudden are recruiting effort is enhanced significantly. So we'vegone from me one to a hundred and ten folks on our sales and successteams, and we did that with zero recruiters in two years. And weliterally did not have a recruiting team and you know, I give some ofthe attribution there to some of the folks on our team. Maybe some ofyou know you follow these guys on Linkedin. It's Peter Chan and Blake Harbor andgave them as are. These guys are just really well known and they'vegot a brand and I think that attracts talent. But I think really whatit is if you look at our team, about sixty percent of our team membersare referrals from existing Reps. and you know, if you are attractinga plus players, they're going to recruit a plus player. So so whatdoes that mean? You know, how far do you go? Do youreally want a hundred percent of your reps to hitting the number? How doyou model that out? Well, I think there's certainly a little art toit. You have to have good dialog. But if you create that winning teamand winning culture, I think it covers a multitude of other kind ofprocess sins so to speak, and it also, believe it or not,protects you against competitors who might even be willing to pay more from an OTEperspective. But just folks don't want to lead because the certainty of their abilityto hit numbers overweights the risk of maybe changing jobs. And you mentioned SaltLake as kind of this sales capital, so to speak. We're seeing moreand more and more businesses set up sales offices here, and so it's becomingmore and more competitive and we think that's one way that we can win andand kind of make sure that we're building a winning culture and team and soon. So I don't know if that resonates or if others think that's controversial. I'm sure there's some sales opsee of OO types who would, you know, want to go to task with me. But you know, we feel likethe pros out way the cons even if it may be raises your costof sale a little bit. Yeah, I mean, I guess the counterargument would be if you're building a revenue model that's based on headcount and quoteattainment, you're just going to need more people if, you know, ifthe quotas are lower. But that's all a spreadsheet challenge and that's not howreal life works anyway. Yeah, we're coming to the end of our timetogether. So, Dan, this has been fantastic. I want to giveyou an opportunity to tell us about some of the things that lucid charts working. It wouldn't be fair without it. So you guys are working on anew product round account mapping. Tell us a little bit about that really quickly. Yeah, so this is a good story. We were invited to attendboxes sales kickoff of a year and a half ago because we had introduced ofintegration to our product. US to chart with box. Too much information doesn'treally matter. But we had this sales rep, he's a strategic account executivea box, come up to me and he said I have to tell youI use lucid chart more than any other application and I said, well,what do you do? Is Is? I'm a strategic AE and I thoughtI've never heard of a account executive using a diagramming and charting application, whichis what lucid chart is, and I said we'll show me what you're doing. He pulls up this Lucid Chart Diagram on his smartphone and he's got amap of a company that he's trying to sell to that has every individual personthat he's been engaging with. You know, at box they're usually working with betweenthirty and fifty individuals at any given account. Can close a deal andhe had used lucid chart to map out all the different individual contacts he'd engagedwith. He used different lines and, of course, notes to help hisBEDR and his customer success colleagues understand who he'd engaged with and in what manner, and this account map basically became kind of his x Ray Vision Goggles intowhat was actually going on with that account and he found by using that withhis VP of sales and account reviews and also in using it with his owndeal team, it helped them all be on the same page. So wetook this back to headquarters here and said Hey, look, there's an interestinguse case in the sales realm and really in the customer success realm, toespecially for strategic sales where you might be engaging with thirty, forty, fiftydifferent contacts, or in motions where there's a bunch of different teams involved inserving the customer. And we've now launched...

...what we call lucid chart for sales, so you can see it online. It sinks to sales force. Itallows you to drag contacts onto a canvas everything you do and lucid chart wouldsink back to sales force. You can share it with anyone on your teamand as a result, if you think about collaboration and the need for collaborationbetween an a and a BDR or an a and your customer success team orimplementation team and so on, it really drives kind of a oneness of makingsure that everyone's working on the same things and understands what's going on with theaccount. So we've just launched it. It's something that's pretty exciting. Ourteam uses it all the time. We found that it really helps drive productivity. We end up going deeper into the accounts, we end up talking tomore people. It's a good forcing mechanism and so if there's any interest there, you all should check it out. Certainly, you have any questions,you can shoot me oute on linkedin or should be an email stay and atLooci Chartcom. There we go, and just for the record, lucid chartis not an advertiser or sponsor on the saleshacer podcast. So we are justexcited about the new product. The last couple questions. So I'm sure thatthere's people that have influenced you, who are some of your mentors. PODCASTS, you listen to books, you've read that have influenced you. You know, if we're out there and again to the point of like, we wantto be Dan Cook one day. We want to learn and we want tobe influenced in similar ways. What are some of those influences? Yeah,so it's great question. I'll just, you know, put in a littlehat tip for the sales hacker group. I mean we we find the contentto be extremely relevant. We listen to as many of the podcast as wehave time to listen to the stuff that you're doing, saying, the stuffthat backs does. We're big fans. So you know, if you're alreadylistening here, I guess that's you already know that. So that's one groupfor me. There's a few individuals who I think are really great. Imentioned Dave grow who's Lucid's chief operating officer. He He's fantastic mentor to me.There's a guy named Kyle York. He's from New Hampshire. He builta company called Dine dyed. He's now, I was acquired by Oracle. He'sa guy who, if you follow him on Linkedin, has a lotof interesting needs to say. I've always appreciated him from a book perspective.Certainly love the sales books, Aaron Ross. That was one of the first booksI read that really helped me. Big Fan of Mark Robarish cells accelerationformula. We're all reading never split the difference now. I think that's abook that's influential here. Extreme ownership. That book about the Navy Seals isanother one that our teams really enjoyed. So there's a bunch of different stuffthere. I could go on, but those are a few. That's awesome. By the way, this is time lapsed, so this will I willbe speaking to people's ears in September, but this is being recorded in Augustand next week on the PODCAST is Chris Foss, author of never split thedifference. Awesome. All right, din well, this has been amazing.I would assume it's a hundred and ten people. You guys are kicking butyou're grown quickly. If people want to get in touch with you, ifthey want to be mentored by or have a question or maybe want to workat Lucid Chart, is that okay? You mentioned your email earlier, Danat Lucid chartcom. Is that the right way to get in touch with you? Yeah, I'd be more than happy to help if there was ever anyway I can, you know, kind of pay it forward your point likeI'd love to. I had a lot of folks who are really helpful tome and still are, and so feel free to shooting out if you're we'rehiring. So if you're interested in you would be willing to live in SaltLake. Actually we are hired remotely too, so would love to talk about that. But yeah, absolutely. Or should be out on Linkedin Day andCook on linked it. It's wonderful, Dan. Thanks so much and andthis was a great conversation. Thank you so much. Thanks, sand thanksfor having me. They folks, it is Sam's corner. Dan Cook reallydynamic individual. He's got so much different experience. He worked at a bank, he worked at a VC and now he's helping scale lucid chart and doinga great job out in Salt Lake City, which is this burgeoning sales capital ofthe world in the United States. Couple things that jumped out of me, and for those that know me you'll this is a repetition, so Iapologize. But one of the things that he talked about is is, youknow, he's one of those people that came out of school and didn't knowquite what he wanted to do and he sort of talked about turning over rocks, basically a process of discovery through which he figured out what he wanted todo. There's this great blog post, which I would encourage you to read, by Christison, who's a partner and in treason, and it's called climbingthe wrong hill, and so google climbing the wrong hill Christison, it willcome up and basically it is a it's a metaphor for just understanding how tomanage a career and how to discover what you want to do and then makesure that you're moving in the right direction. One of the things that he pointsout, which Dan Arbitrage, the move to Salt Lake from Boston.As he said, you know, the longer that you're on the wrong hill, the longer that you're sort of going up the wrong hill, which islike an investment banking hill if you're not into it, the longer that thathill is going to trap you and it's going to become harder and harder foryou to leave that world because the money is going to be better. Soyou sort of need to have a process for discovery that helps you quickly makedecisions about what you like doing and uncovering the path to success. So that'sone blog post that I think is pretty interesting. And then, secondly,dam mentioned that one of the greatest challenges was becoming a manager of managers.You get that one layer removal from the customer and from the REP, andso he employed a couple different mechanisms. One of them was the weekly oneon one, which is absolutely mandatory. He also employs quarterly skip meetings betweenthe REP and the managers manager so that...

...they can all stay kind of incommunication. I would also recommend, if you're not, if you're a VP, to do this or if you're a rep, asking your manager to dothis, but some kind of weekly cadence around an overall summary of the business, either from the CEO or from the VP of sales or Cerro, sayinghere's how things go, here's what's happening. It just provides a narrative, youknow, it provides an ongoing story of the business that kind of reinforcesthe main themes that you might be trying to instill. Last thing I'll sayis I'm a big believer in daily huddles. I believe in sort of the rhythmin the motion of the business and I believe that you get an everymorning and everybody stands up. I prefer that you stand up, is opposedto sit. You stand up and you go around the end and you figureout what you want to talk about. Sometimes it's what you're working on thatday, sometimes it's something else, but the point is every day you figureout that rhythm of like every day we're going to be accountable for what we'redoing. And then we have different mechanisms like a skip level meeting or aweekly email that ties the day back to the week, which ties up tothe quarter, which ties up to the year, because that's how things getdone every day, every moment, and then slowly that builds to a multiyear journey. This has been Sam's corner. Thank you so much. To checkout the show notes, see upcoming guests and play more episodes from ourincredible lineup of sales leaders, visit salesackercom and head to the podcast at you'llfind us on itunes or Google play or spotify or anywhere that you enjoy podcasts. As far as I know, and if you enjoyed this episode, pleaseshare it with your peers on linkedin. If you liked listening to Dan Cook, please reach out to Dan because our guests love it when they get listenerfeedback. And if you want to connect with me, find me on twitterat Sam f Jacobs. As always, a reminder that that tends to bepolitical tweets, some of which you might not agree with, and I apologizein advance. Also tweets related to Washington DC, sports and then sometimes indierock. So maybe twitter not so great if you want to talk to meabout sales stuff. If you want to talk to me about sales stuff that'slinkedincom slash slash Sam f Jacobs. Finally, I'm the founder of the revenue collective. We've got a one a chapter in New York. We just launchedLondon. If your city needs a VP level and above networking organization to supportthe growth and advancement of sales and marketing leaders in that region, let meknow. And then I'm also the cre of a great company called behaviors.We're focused on machine learning and helping large institutions transform their team's behavior through betterinsights. That's all. I'll talk to you next time.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (355)