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 welcome to it. We're in the middle of September now. Thank you so much for listening. We've got Dan Cook on the show this week, the sep of sales and success at lucid chart. Really impressive leader. He's got a finance background who is in VC and then he moved over to lucid chart where he's been over four years helping scale that business based in Salt Lake. It's a great interview and so I'm excited for you to listen to it. But first 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 integrate into your crm. It eliminates data entry, which is a huge pain in the ASS, so that's gone. And it provides you with greater visibility into your team's performance through advanced reporting. 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To see how thousands of customers, including cloud eara glass door, Pandora Zillo, all rely on outreach to drive higher revenue per sales rap. Last thing I want to encourage everybody. PODCASTS can be long. I don't always like listening to my own podcast and I'm somebody that loves the sound of my own voice. What I encourage you to do is listen at one and a half speed. One and a half speed takes a forty 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 or any other podcast, it is tediously laboriously slow. So I encourage you to use that one and a half speed function on your podcast listening device because it just 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 New York revenue collective. I'm also currently the chief Revenue Officer at a wonderful little company called behave ox, and today I'm excited to welcome Dan Cook to the podcast. 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 dive into the conversation with Dan. So Dan Cook is the SVP sales and customer success at Lucid Chart. It is a three hundred and fifty employees SASS business based in Salt Lake City, Utah, one of the sales capitals of the world. Dan grew up in New Hampshire before moving to Utah to attend Brigham Young University, where he studied economics and accounting. He spent first few years of his career working in technology investment banking in San Francisco, then moved to Boston where he source s ass investments for players venture partners, which is a Boston base vc. He then went to HBS, Harvard Business School, where he received his MBA, and then he joined lucid where he was tasked with building 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 an occasional game of golf, and spending time with his family. Dan. Welcome to the show. Hey Sam, thanks for having me. It's great to be here. We're excited to have you so walk us through. We like to start the show with your baseball car. The reason we do that is so that everybody out there can contextualize your experience, your insights, etc. So your name's Dan Cook. Give us your titles. Five, the senior 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, but many don't. What's the rough revenue range or like? Give us a feeling for the size of lucid chart in whatever information you're able to provide. So we typically don't disclose our revenue, but we're a fast growing SASS cut any recurring revenue business. We have about fourteen million users of our product. It is a free product that we give away, but then we do convert, and typical freemium style, you know, a healthy percentage of those into paying users and then our sales team up sells them into bigger enterprise deals. So double 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 you been at least? So with a company itself about seven and a half years old. I've been here for about four and a half of that. So it don't kind. You know, we're getting we feel like we're getting a little 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 the next. So from where I sent four and a half years is quite a long time. You're dinosaurs my longest state so far. So I do feel like I'm getting old. So let's figure out. You're in a very senior position at a pretty well known company. How did you get here? So tell us a little bit about your origin story. Obviously we now know that you're a fan of football teams that cheat, which is unfortunate. And when? But yeah, that's true. Well, you know, I guess. I guess when you cheat it's easy to win. But but so how'd you get 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 percent team 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 wanted to do when I grew up. My Dad told me that he'd pay for my college if I went to buy you and Utah or Harvard, and I think he knew I wouldn't get into Harvard Undergrad and so I was going to do by you. So I moved out to Utah and you know, it's interesting. I found that there's two types of people. There's people that have always known what they want to do and there's people that have never known what they wanted to do, and I felt like I always fell in the the ladder camp. And so my I feel like my career has been one of turning over kind of the Rock, so to speak, to understand what I like 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 led to kind of a first step in my career, which moved me to San Francisco 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 to do. But I work with the technology group, which basically helped tech companies raise capital, go public or engage in murders and acquisitions. And so while I 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 few things for me. First, I don't think you have to know exactly what you want to be when you're growing up, when you graduate college, which I think sometimes you feel like you have to do. And secondly, it helped me realize that, like you just mentioned, our careers in these in this day and age, you're going to take multiple steps, you're going to change 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 me the confidence that I didn't have to do this my whole life, that I could change and pivot in my career. When you think about I'm always one of the areas of interest to me is discovering what you like to do and what 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 a specific daily activity? was you know, what was it that sort of turned you off to it? It's a great question. You know, from my particular role, I was an analyst. I worked on a team and I worked 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 skills in those regards. Believe it or not, I felt like a nerd coming home and bragging about excel tricks to my wife, who just thought I was an idiot, but I just did. I realized that I did not like being in situations where I wasn't engaging with other people and where I wasn't actually interacting. So that was one. Secondly, you know, these investment banking firms are notorious for just kicking your butt. So you know, I've worked eight to ninety, two hundred hours a week and I just realized that wasn't sustainable, 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 get you 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, and so 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't the kind of career you want to build. Yeah, okay, make sense. And certainly that that enter personal interaction is something that I was in banking my first year out of school too, and didn't work out for me either. Well, I will tell you. I mean, the one thing that I taught, that I learned, and maybe it was actually poisoned learning, but was that you can push yourself pretty hard right, you know, when you're having to work long and late hours, turns out you actually learn a lot more. I mean, if you're going to work twice as as much as the average person, there's a good chance you're going to learn twice as much. And so, while the experience wasn't always fun, I do feel like 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. I felt like by investing heavily in my career early, based on time, it actually, I think, helped kind of catapult me you faster than maybe if I'd taken a more traditional job. That makes sense. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and we'll get into it, because I because you went to a VC. But you're also building a skill set that in your role, a lot of folks don't have, which is an analytical right and sort of financial enterprise valuation skill set that a lot of EPIs of sales do not possess. Yep, and so that probably puts you in an advantageous position when you're in the room at the CFO. I would have yeah, no, absolutely. I mean we could probably talk about that some more, but it's really interesting. You think about the money ball revolution in baseball and you think about how these analytics folks kind of...

...took over the sport. There's pros and cons, right. The teams that adopted that early, I think, brought a data driven approach that helped their teams really be successful. That the con is that sometimes maybe the analytic this approach doesn't quite jibe with your feet on 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 you kind 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, too far 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's right. So I was offered an opportunity to join a growth stage venture capital firm called Polaris Venture Partners and I, you know, have grown up in New Hampshire, about an hour from Boston, and thought it would be a great opportunity to return to the East Coast and, you know, route on the world series winning Red Sox and the Super Bowl waiting, and so really enjoyed Pilaris. You know, Polaris was interesting and this is actually kind of gives you an idea of evolution and how the same career progression journey think work out. You know, I joined thinking that I was going to sit at a table all day and entrepreneurs were going to come in and pitch their idea and I would kind of do this gladiator thumb up some down thing. What ends up happening is they said, Hey, look, we actually have plenty of companies coming to us. What we want you to do is to develop the thesis on a space or a sector that's interesting, and then we want you to go out and call all the really interesting companies that aren't coming to us and build a relationship with them in the CEO so that if and when they do decide to raise money, they pick you and they pick us, Pilaris. And so it was interesting, it turns out, and now that I'm, you know, running a sales program I would they basically hired me to be an SDR right, to really go and and source the landscape of interesting growth stage tech companies, qualify them based on their growth and their their business models, and then, where there was an interesting opportunity, to bring in a partner and then, you know, the two of us would go and try and win a deal. And so I spent, you know, about seventy percent of my time reaching out calling CEOS of tech companies and trying to understand, you know, their needs and especially around capital and where there was 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 swing at it. My question is it because I was just meeting up with a buddy who's also at a growth stage firm. When you're selling a commodity which is capital, what, besides them liking Dan Cook, makes them want to work with Polaris? Yeah, so it's very interesting and I think for those of you who sell a product where there's a lot of competitors, this should resonate. So when you sell a commodity product, there's a few things I think you have to keep in mind. First, price will always, always be 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 valued the company, if it wasn't in the Ballpark of competitor, you are usually shut down pretty quickly. And so price mattered. Unfortunately, in commodity world you always got to be sensitive to that. But but it's not a hundred percent of the decision making criteria and I think that's where these vc firm are able to angle and usually the way that we did it was we would build theeces based off of where we felt like we were really strong. So we felt like we were really strong in a couple verticals, healthcare tech and education technology, and so where we were able to tell a story that was like saying, Hey, sure, there's other firms here, maybe we're in the BALLPARK, 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 are you 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 it to the next level. And so I think you have to find that angle around how your business or how your product offering can actually really affect them and there 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 can help them. And so that was how we went at it. We tried to build stories around a few different verticals that we felt like we were really strong in and maybe we were at the top bidder, but we would always be around that, you know, the hoop, so to speak, and that 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 on the on the show and he said, you know, the closest corollary to to being a VC as being a field sales rep and you echo a similar vein when you say I they hired me to be an SDR. So I guess one question is, did you like doing that? And then the second question 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 CEOS every day and you'd have interesting conversations telling me about Your Business, tell me 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 know in this is important when you're picking a company earlier in your career, to join the team matters almost more than anything because the strategy might change, the product might change, that the industry might change, but if you believe in your 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 be a sales or up and now he's running our sales team because we're growing so 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 our COO. And it just felt like, time and time again, you know, in these growth stage companies you have battlefield promotions happening everywhere, people that may be necessarily weren't totally qualified to run teams and run businesses, but by virtue of the product and the business model and the scaling rate, these folks were 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 to get them to take my money, I want to be on the other end having, you know, Dan Cook to calling me trying to trying to trying to give give venture capital into the business I work with. So that's where the seed got planted. And then the other benefit I had, and I think 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 are the 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 could talk to and it could could say something nice about the product. These are the business that but they haven't yet scaled yet. These are the great businesses to join and it's because you'll join and you'll get exposed to massive opportunities to grow in your career. So, anyway, that leads me to lucid. You know, when I was at business school I knew I wanted to go join 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's highly 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 so many 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 but no. So I met Dave was really impressive. Dave. They just raise a little bit of series a capital, they had a product, they were break even and we're growing fast and it was just it was the right in that 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 to juice your career, finding those companies that are just a painting product, market fit and are trying to gear up for scale, like Gidea up, those are the companies to join because you're going to get exposed to so many opportunities to build. I think that's great advice. One you know, I'll tell you something 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 at a bank, then you go to h PS and now you're going to earn early 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 an interesting arbitrage, to use the financial term. So I'm obviously not based in San Francisco or Boston and New York. I'm in Salt Lake City and you know, it's interesting about Salt Lake and I think there's a few of these tier, to call it tier three, tech cities. You can arbitrage the salary relative to the cost of living. And you know, we lived in Boston, 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 money moving 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'd say yeah, well, trust me, yeah, I was. I was asking myself some serious questions there too. But but there's a few things to point out. One, there's the arbitrage of the geography which Salt Lake and 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 is a little different, but they're great places to live and build a career and you can get away with making a little less money. That's one. And then second, as I mentioned, these gross stage companies are exciting because of a few things. First of all, if you get in there and execute and perform, I found that within six to twelve months the role that they think they're bringing you in for could change dramatically, because the way these these companies work is they're going to hire you for a role that they have at the moment and then within six to twelve months your comparative advantage is going to shine, something that you do really well is going to appear and they're going to 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's Talk Com and so you know you have an opportunity, I think, especially if things start to go well and you pick the right company, to kind of make up for those salary losses perhaps later on. So you jump to lucid and I guess where you the first salesperson there. Yeah, so it's funny story. I actually was hired to be in operations, I think you know, to the point you made earlier. They saw this kind of analytics 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 so my first task was to build some dashboards for the CEO and they must have been 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 so so you know that lucid it was a freemium model. So the idea was you give away this product, lucid chart, for free and people, you know, a percentage of the folks that sign up will pull out their credit card and pay for premium features, and that was the business model at the time. They looked at me and said, Hey, we've never really thrown sales resources at this. To be completely...

...frank, like there was no way for someone to actually talk to anyone that lucid other than to send an email into the support team and the support team would not call you, it would be another email back. So there was literally no way to talk to anyone at loocid chart when I joined. And so, you know, they said, Hey, would you take a stab at this? The first thing I recommended was, hey, you know, I'm not a I'm not a rocket scientist here, but why don't we put a phone number on our pricing page and this engineer looked at me and said you mean you actually want to talk to the customer? And as I let's just give it a try. And so, anyway, it turns out, this is a funny story. The very first phone call comes in. I had this old iphone. We hooked it to the phone number and this phone call comes in. Everyone's looking at me. I'm thinking it's going to be, you know, some big corporate wanted to buy thousands of licenses of our product. I answer the phone. I said Hey, this is Dan, a loser chart, and this guy says, yeah, I'd like to cancel my account. Very first call with a cancelation. Everyone asked me how it went. I just told him it was 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 and users, which is, you know, led amazing things happening here. But yeah, so I was not brought into do sales, but my first really six to nine months at lucid was hey, play the role of a sales rep, figure out the workflow, the process, figure out how much we can actually produce if we do this and then, you know, there was a point that came where the said, hey, let's try and scale this a little bit, you know, let's grow the team and and so on and so forth. So, yeah, I was hired to do one thing, it changed to another, and but I played the role of Rep for you 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 live stream. If you have a hundred percent self service business, how much planning went into like, did you have a mandate? was there a product differentiation so that you were selling something different than the Self Service? was there a an attribution problem where actually you put the phone number on they were going to buy anyway, but now you know sort of Dandy Commission on it? How did you solve that problem? Yeah, so it's a great question. And you know, for those of you who are in these kind of fremium to enterprises, you know type models. Think box, think envision, think smartsheet, among others. Yeah, this was an issue early on. So what we found was, if you think of your Venn Diagram, certainly where the circle 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 customer or prospect who would have bought on their own, and we were willing early on 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 sales assisted and certainly your point about the product and product differentiation was important. What we found was the best strategy was to reach out to companies where we had seen a lot of adoption across disparate users and accounts and just to engage with the IT buyers at those organizations to understand how they felt about it. It was really a very open ended discovery of Hey, did you know you have hundreds 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 kind of corporate account? My question is with the corporates. So then my concern is 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 about saying well, I can give you a discount. And now it's ninety bucks because now I've taken ten bucks from the company. So maybe the pitches like security or corporate oversight or governance. How do you position it without sacrificing a revenue opportunity? Yeah, so I think a really important thing to understand in these fremium models is that there's really two levels of persona. There's the end user persona. These are individuals who have a need and generally speaking, the selfserve mechanism helps them find the product and engage and use the free version or pull 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're selling to that group is actually the, technically not necessarily the same product that these end users are adopted. In fact, we didn't have to oversell lucid chart to these it folks because it had already been sold. You know, the the users had spoken, and so we built a pitch and product features that resonated with these it personas around how to better manage applications in this day and age of bring your own APP to work and shadow it. We said Hey, let let us help you solve this problem and we did it with kind 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 up conversations 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. We don't give them a discount, we charge them for those incremental features and we found that to be an effective go to market strategy. That sounds really, really smart. So you start. You're doing that for six, nine months. Sounds like it was working and then the team started growing. One of the big questions we often get on the podcast is that leap from individual contributor to manager, and everybody has, you know, a subtly different perspective on it. Did you have any,...

...you know, anxiety or consternation about adding people that you were now responsible for? What did you do to make sure that you did a good job? What's your approach to management? Give us a little bit of that. Yeah, sure, so it's a great question. I was a little anxious about it, but I was probably more excited. To me, honestly, the bigger leap is when you go from being a manager of sales reps direct to actually managing managers. I think that's actually 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 were onto something and I had been in this role for six to nine months and I couldn't keep up with it, and so I was really pumped to get a few folks in here to help us. And so there's a few things I'll mentioned. Their first, you know, I'd read some interesting material, some of it from some great sales luminaries, some blogs. Jason Lemkin, Aaron Ross, you name all the guys that everyone you know here's from and listens 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 can have two folks that are pushing each other. We are. We hired four is our first round and our thought there was that at least one person is going to just totally figure it out and maybe push it even further than I thought I was able to. Maybe one person would be a dud and then the other two will kind of be away for us to just see how big we can scale this thing. We actually ended up with a great first class and all four of them are still here four years later, believe it or not. But yeah, a really good group. So the point I was making there is that we wanted to hire multiple folks. This would allow us have a little competition on the team and well, as well as to make sure that we had to could kind of a good ABCD test mechanism. To understand is that the people or the process if things weren't working. From my perspective, I felt like there were a few things that I had to do early on. One was the directly involved with the reps themselves and make sure that everything that I thought I had figured out was at least being implemented to some degree, so that if things weren't working, I could point to it not being the process per se. So you kind of isolate the variable I wanted. 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 all out, and so you bring these folks in and you give them you put them out there. I had gone through this rigorous analytical math, using all my eyebanking skills to set quotas for these guys, and turns out I had taken my production run rated or extrapolated over a year and I divided it in half because I was so confident that I was the best sales rep of all time 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 run rating twice what I was doing. So as in perspective I was off by like x in order of magnitude, and so we had to do a quick reset six months into the sales experiment of their quota in Camp, which was my 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 of place. We isolated on process and you better believe they found ways to improve it, which was fantastic, and you got to love that kind of in the wild mentality of how things change and these agile start ups, which I appreciate. I will say, though, my management emo early was to be very overweight on inquiry versus what you'd call advocacy, and the way I think about that is ask a lot of questions and always do that. Tell me more, versus advocating. Do this, do that, do this, do that, and my hypothesis there, and this is kind of a management principle for me, is that, first of all, people like to hear the sound of their own voices, and so anytime you can ask a question instead of 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 people to 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 me more is got to be one of the best questions ever invented, and you just say that until people stop talking, and I think I learned a lot that way and also was able to direct the team to make them feel like they had buy in an ownership of the program but but also guiding them towards the things I wanted them to do. That makes sense? Yeah, makes perfect 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 so challenging? Yeah, I think there's two things at least, and probably more. First is the mindset. So, you know, the beauty of being a manager of reps and why I kind of miss it is that where there were thoughts or ideas or things that wanted to be implemented or even ideas from the field. You know, there was just such a closer ability to exchange information. The communication lines were much more robust. Right, you were very direct, 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 to the customer and therefore make sure that when you're making changes, if there were changes, 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 removed from 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 I felt like were important to develop were with...

...that one degree removed away from the customer, and so I would always be missing just a little bit of what I'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 things I needed to communicate, I had one degree more removed to get to the customer or to get to the rep and we found the hard way, especially when you get into that mode where it's like okay, turn it on scale fast, that if you don't build really robust communication lines and processes, your team can in classic telephone game style. Your team will start hearing different messages and you won't be aligned and that can cause morale issues, it can cause problems on deals, it can cause a whole host of challenges. So we've done a few things, we think, to address those, but I think that's those are the two hardest things. You're removed from the customer and the REP and, as a result, communication channels can really break down if you don'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, or seems to. I mean, it's what either enables or prohibits scaling. So what 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. Like you know, I think about like in World War Two, you'd have this army 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 and your ammo and things from. And you know, the military has this amazing way of doing it and I need to study it more so I can become better at this, but I'll tell you what we decided to do. We did a few things. First of all, as you might imagine, the weekly Oneonone is fundamental and you have to find time to sit down with your direct reports and up the standing a line item on the on the one on one 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 your reps are doing, and so you want to make sure you've got that one on one scheduled and that's that's just one one. But the second thing that we did, and I think this was really helpful for us, we incorporated what we call a skip level cadence. And so the way you might think about this is if I'm managing a manager who has a team, then I would find once a month or once a order one that starts to get maybe 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 the BS of the telephone game and say hey, tell me how you're really doing and tell me how things are working on your team. It tightens or allows for that communication gap to really shrink by half, right, and so we would do a monthly and now we do a quarterly skip levels. We also have our managers do skip level reports. So, like the guys that report to me, I have them skip level to our CEO. So they'll send them a monthly report to the CEO, they'll do a quarterly one on one with 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 team and, for that matter, the customer, and we found that to be a really effective practice. That sounds great. Skip level meetings are super important. Maybe for you it feels like more of a challenge, but I think from where we sit, you know, your career seems really, really successful. You sort of you know, you've been a banker, you've been a VC, you went to Harvard and now you're helping scale some some large organization. When you reflect and thinking back to yourself, you know ten years ago, the lessons that you would want to convey to other people that want they want to be Dan Cook, or at least they want to get promoted, they want to be as Sepcro type person. Right. What do you think 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 think there's a lot of stuff I still got to figure out, but there's a few things I think that, when I look back on, whether it was by accident or whether it was on purpose, decisions that were made that I think of certainly helped me. You know, one of them that we've already kind of mentioned. It's this theory of compound interest. You know, anyone who thinks earlier in their career that they should be able to walk in the park and do the forty hour week thing, that's fine. If that's if that's something that's core to you, that's fine, but you need to know that there are other individuals who are working very hard and we're putting in a lot of time and if that time is used wisely, that just means that they're growing and they're getting exposed to things in a way that will ramp their career and will put them in a place to know more than you would if you just work the standard forty hour work week and don't worry. Don't get me wrong, I mean there's a time and a place for that and finding balance is a critically important but I do think earlier in your career, if you want to go big or if you want to have success, that's the time to invest, first of all, generally speaking, you might not have a family, yet, if you do have a family, they're younger and you're not going to be missing all the critical milestones by doing so. And so 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 other that kind of the ing to the Yang, which is how do you actually build a life that has balance? And this has been a something that I thought a lot about, because you don't want to kill yourself either, and I think one thing that's benefited me is making s sure that I have a semblance of balance in my life. And...

I'm not saying I'm perfect. In fact, if you talked to my wife, she'd tell me to shut up right now. But but there's just kind of my life too. There's this concept 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 four sides 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 your social friends and then you've got your spiritual health. These are the four kind of sides of the square, and he would say to me, Hey, whenever you're not feeling right, like check your square. Are you square or has your square morphed into some other shape, because maybe you're not investing in one side appropriately. That's actually been really helpful for me because at the end of the day, no matter how hard you put yourself earlier in your career or even later in your career, if you don't find balance and what you're doing, 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 internally and how you're managing your body and taking care of yourself is a reflection of how well you'll do in your career. And sure, maybe you'll have a short burst, but it won't be sustainable. And so I think that's a second kind of important philosophy to all of us. Where as we're trying to really go big and and be successful, we got to make sure that we're thinking of balance along the way. The third one, and I think this is a principle that was taught when I was at business school. There's a professor their named Clayton Christensen, who's got to be the most brilliant person I've ever met, and you know, he had this concept where he talked about how, you know, ninety nine percent of the battle is learning what questions you should be asking and learning how to ask the right question. And you know, he talked about how in school he would see these really bright people give a response or an answer and then he would go through this exercise of saying, how did they think to say that? What question do they ask that got them to that answer? And I think that that's a philosophy that all of us should incorporate. When you see someone around you, whether it's in sales, see someone who's closing deals, you see someone who's really successful in the role, you should stop and reflect and say what question did they ask in their brain that got them to ask those questions or to do that thing with their prospect or with their manager, or fill in the blank where you see some success happening, and I think that practice is really great because once 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 they do 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 right question. And then the fourth one I'll just mention and then I'll stop for a second. But I think there's this concept in our work life, like we all, and especially in sales, we all have just enough ego where we're always going to be kind of looking around and have our head on a swivel. 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 yourself with 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. But what 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 going to convince them that they can come here and they can both subsist guys or compliment my weaknesses, will also be additive to the firm. I as a result, and maybe that sounds like I'm a selfish guy, but I'm going to benefit because I'm the guy that brought him here and they're going to want to work with me and I'm going to learn from them and all of a sudden good things happen. So the fourth concept, though, is my point, is do not be defensive in your career. Always be looking to hire someone that's better than you and to bring them in and generally speaking, not always, but a lot of the time that will actually elevate you. And if 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, we move fast, you'll have learned something new, and so I think that's a really important concept. Just to go and work somewhere where you can surround yourself with people who are better than you, who are smarter than you, who are more experience. We've been more successful, and don't let your ego get in the way, and I think that sets you up for a lot of different success. I think the last point you made is I try to embody it, which is just basically having a growth mindset and essentially being long term greedy, which is the more I help people the more I try to work with amazing people. I just have to believe life is in zero sum and there'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're all scrambling for for the last bits of whatever it may be. So I totally agree with you in terms of hiring a smart people and just, you know, trying to do whatever's best and things will work out if you work your ass off. You mentioned a point of view to me on quotas that you sort of think is controversial, particularly if you're probably in a conversation with CFOs, 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 debate around here. My point of view is that quotas should be set in a way where everyone can attain them and where everyone does attain them. And here's the 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't the right fit. But, and you want to stretch people a little bit, but here let me explain. So what we found early on, and I kind of mentioned the exercise. I...

...didn't do the right math, but what was really interesting as a result is these reps come in here and they're thinking, oh my gosh, this is the most amazing place to work ever. I am slaying it right now. So what happens in sales, and we all know this, is there's this confidence concept. When you're able to kind of perform and hit your confidence is through the roof. You start to believe in yourself. Sometimes your rationally, you know, oftentimes the product is just really good or you're just the first person to the to the well and but confidence is so critical and what we do. So what happens is when you set quote is in a way where people that can achieve them, their confidence goes up. That's number one. When their confidence is up, the chemicals in their brain are firing and they're happier people. So they want to come to work and when they go home from work they're happier, which means when they talk to their significant other, their partner, their boyfriend, their girlfriend, they're saying how much they love their work, which breeds even more, you know, satisfaction with the job. You know, we all know that the biggest risk or one of the biggest challenges in sales is replacing people and 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 get factored into quota attainment. Why would they? Well, they should, because if you're having to lay off people or if people are leaving because they're not happy, than what happens is is you the point there. So what we've also found is there's this other positive externality, which is that as soon as somebody starts having confidence and is hitting is feels like they're making money and is happy in their role. Will Guess what they do? They go and tell everyone and all of a sudden are recruiting effort is enhanced significantly. So we've gone from me one to a hundred and ten folks on our sales and success teams, and we did that with zero recruiters in two years. And we literally did not have a recruiting team and you know, I give some of the attribution there to some of the folks on our team. Maybe some of you know you follow these guys on Linkedin. It's Peter Chan and Blake Harbor and gave them as are. These guys are just really well known and they've got a brand and I think that attracts talent. But I think really what it is if you look at our team, about sixty percent of our team members are referrals from existing Reps. and you know, if you are attracting a plus players, they're going to recruit a plus player. So so what does that mean? You know, how far do you go? Do you really want a hundred percent of your reps to hitting the number? How do you model that out? Well, I think there's certainly a little art to it. You have to have good dialog. But if you create that winning team and winning culture, I think it covers a multitude of other kind of process 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 OTE perspective. But just folks don't want to lead because the certainty of their ability to hit numbers overweights the risk of maybe changing jobs. And you mentioned Salt Lake as kind of this sales capital, so to speak. We're seeing more and more and more businesses set up sales offices here, and so it's becoming more and more competitive and we think that's one way that we can win and and kind of make sure that we're building a winning culture and team and so on. 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 like the pros out way the cons even if it may be raises your cost of sale a little bit. Yeah, I mean, I guess the counter argument would be if you're building a revenue model that's based on headcount and quote attainment, you're just going to need more people if, you know, if the quotas are lower. But that's all a spreadsheet challenge and that's not how real life works anyway. Yeah, we're coming to the end of our time together. So, Dan, this has been fantastic. I want to give you 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 a new product round account mapping. Tell us a little bit about that really quickly. Yeah, so this is a good story. We were invited to attend boxes sales kickoff of a year and a half ago because we had introduced of integration to our product. US to chart with box. Too much information doesn't really matter. But we had this sales rep, he's a strategic account executive a box, come up to me and he said I have to tell you I 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 thought I've never heard of a account executive using a diagramming and charting application, which is 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 a map of a company that he's trying to sell to that has every individual person that he's been engaging with. You know, at box they're usually working with between thirty and fifty individuals at any given account. Can close a deal and he had used lucid chart to map out all the different individual contacts he'd engaged with. He used different lines and, of course, notes to help his BEDR 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 into what was actually going on with that account and he found by using that with his VP of sales and account reviews and also in using it with his own deal team, it helped them all be on the same page. So we took this back to headquarters here and said Hey, look, there's an interesting use case in the sales realm and really in the customer success realm, to especially for strategic sales where you might be engaging with thirty, forty, fifty different contacts, or in motions where there's a bunch of different teams involved in serving 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. It allows you to drag contacts onto a canvas everything you do and lucid chart would sink back to sales force. You can share it with anyone on your team and as a result, if you think about collaboration and the need for collaboration between an a and a BDR or an a and your customer success team or implementation team and so on, it really drives kind of a oneness of making sure that everyone's working on the same things and understands what's going on with the account. So we've just launched it. It's something that's pretty exciting. Our team 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 to more 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 at Looci Chartcom. There we go, and just for the record, lucid chart is not an advertiser or sponsor on the saleshacer podcast. So we are just excited about the new product. The last couple questions. So I'm sure that there'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 want to be Dan Cook one day. We want to learn and we want to be influenced in similar ways. What are some of those influences? Yeah, so it's great question. I'll just, you know, put in a little hat tip for the sales hacker group. I mean we we find the content to be extremely relevant. We listen to as many of the podcast as we have time to listen to the stuff that you're doing, saying, the stuff that backs does. We're big fans. So you know, if you're already listening here, I guess that's you already know that. So that's one group for me. There's a few individuals who I think are really great. I mentioned 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 built a company called Dine dyed. He's now, I was acquired by Oracle. He's a guy who, if you follow him on Linkedin, has a lot of 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 books I read that really helped me. Big Fan of Mark Robarish cells acceleration formula. We're all reading never split the difference now. I think that's a book that's influential here. Extreme ownership. That book about the Navy Seals is another one that our teams really enjoyed. So there's a bunch of different stuff there. I could go on, but those are a few. That's awesome. By the way, this is time lapsed, so this will I will be speaking to people's ears in September, but this is being recorded in August and next week on the PODCAST is Chris Foss, author of never split the difference. Awesome. All right, din well, this has been amazing. I would assume it's a hundred and ten people. You guys are kicking but you're grown quickly. If people want to get in touch with you, if they want to be mentored by or have a question or maybe want to work at Lucid Chart, is that okay? You mentioned your email earlier, Dan at 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 any way I can, you know, kind of pay it forward your point like I'd love to. I had a lot of folks who are really helpful to me and still are, and so feel free to shooting out if you're we're hiring. So if you're interested in you would be willing to live in Salt Lake. Actually we are hired remotely too, so would love to talk about that. But yeah, absolutely. Or should be out on Linkedin Day and Cook on linked it. It's wonderful, Dan. Thanks so much and and this was a great conversation. Thank you so much. Thanks, sand thanks for having me. They folks, it is Sam's corner. Dan Cook really dynamic 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 doing a great job out in Salt Lake City, which is this burgeoning sales capital of the 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 I apologize. But one of the things that he talked about is is, you know, he's one of those people that came out of school and didn't know quite 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 to do. 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 climbing the wrong hill, and so google climbing the wrong hill Christison, it will come up and basically it is a it's a metaphor for just understanding how to manage a career and how to discover what you want to do and then make sure that you're moving in the right direction. One of the things that he points out, 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 is like an investment banking hill if you're not into it, the longer that that hill is going to trap you and it's going to become harder and harder for you to leave that world because the money is going to be better. So you sort of need to have a process for discovery that helps you quickly make decisions about what you like doing and uncovering the path to success. So that's one 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, and so he employed a couple different mechanisms. One of them was the weekly one on one, which is absolutely mandatory. He also employs quarterly skip meetings between the REP and the managers manager so that...

...they can all stay kind of in communication. 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 do this, 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, saying here's how things go, here's what's happening. It just provides a narrative, you know, it provides an ongoing story of the business that kind of reinforces the main themes that you might be trying to instill. Last thing I'll say is I'm a big believer in daily huddles. I believe in sort of the rhythm in the motion of the business and I believe that you get an every morning and everybody stands up. I prefer that you stand up, is opposed to sit. You stand up and you go around the end and you figure out what you want to talk about. Sometimes it's what you're working on that day, sometimes it's something else, but the point is every day you figure out that rhythm of like every day we're going to be accountable for what we're doing. And then we have different mechanisms like a skip level meeting or a weekly email that ties the day back to the week, which ties up to the quarter, which ties up to the year, because that's how things get done every day, every moment, and then slowly that builds to a multi year journey. This has been Sam's corner. Thank you so much. To check out the show notes, see upcoming guests and play more episodes from our incredible lineup of sales leaders, visit salesackercom and head to the podcast at you'll find 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, please share 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 listener feedback. And if you want to connect with me, find me on twitter at Sam f Jacobs. As always, a reminder that that tends to be political tweets, some of which you might not agree with, and I apologize in advance. Also tweets related to Washington DC, sports and then sometimes indie rock. So maybe twitter not so great if you want to talk to me about sales stuff. If you want to talk to me about sales stuff that's linkedincom 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 launched London. If your city needs a VP level and above networking organization to support the growth and advancement of sales and marketing leaders in that region, let me know. 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 better insights. That's all. I'll talk to you next time.

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