Podcast

Empathy & Curiosity Over GPA – Ken Grohe

Ken Grohe, President of LeverageGTM has an impressive history as a leader executing productivity, security and storage in SaaS industries. Some of his success stories include:

  • Rapidly grew SignNow (now part of airSlate) from $200k ARR to well over $59M ARR more than doubling annually with negligible churn to win 2018 Gartner and 2016-7 Top Enterprise Software
  • Pivoted CUDA from $300M of appliances to $400M of SaaS via the award-winning Essentials for Office365 (Microsoft Partner of the Year)
  • Drove Virident (Sequoia funded) from <$3M of bookings to successful $685M exit in less than 18 months

On today’s episode Ken gives some great insight for those interviewing or just starting out in their first sales career. “You should probably bob and weave and move companies every 2-3 years. If you’re not getting promoted it’s time to go.” Ken got his start in sales at a young age selling greeting cards door-to-door out of the back of a magazine. He’s since leveled up as consultant for start-ups in Silicon Valley.

Tune in to today’s episode to learn from a leader in sales whose hustle and tenacity has helped him rise to the top!

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Transcript:

Wed, 6/2 12:58PM • 43:32 

SUMMARY KEYWORDS 
sales, crm, people, company, called, emc, rep, salesperson, day, customer, person, marketing, week, question, mentor, hire, promoted, ken, bought, sales team 

SPEAKERS 
Ken Grohe, Christopher Smith 

Intro 
Welcome to the Sales Lead Dog Podcast hosted by CRM technology and sales process expert Christopher Smith, talking with sales leaders that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Listen to find out how the best of the best achieve success with their team and CRM technology. And remember, unless you are the lead dog, the view never changes. 

Christopher Smith   
Welcome to Sales Lead Dog. Today, we have joining us Ken Grohe. Ken, welcome to Sales Lead Dog.  

Ken Grohe   
Thanks Chris, looking forward to this. It should be a lot of fun.  

Christopher Smith   
I hope so. Ken, tell me about your current role and company. 

Ken Grohe   
Great, yeah. Ken Grohe, I work for LeverageGoToMarket. It’s a consulting company to a bunch of startups in Silicon Valley. I did move to Silicon Valley and you can see for the backdrop, this is past the tee of the course we get to belong to, which is the 16th hole, which is incredible. Actually parred it yesterday. We, but LeverageGoToMarket or LeverageGTM helps all these young companies that maybe can’t afford a CRO just yet, might want to have a fractional CRO for a period of time, needs more customers, needs more installs, needs more NPS feedback, maybe you’re just ahead of product market fit or just after product market fit, and I help them with our services, and we’ll help them with my organizations and firms services. I’ve been blessed to be involved in six startups and five of the six were successful. One because of COVID was shut down. But, you know, no one’s perfect, but it’s a lot of fun. We help with go to market, marketing, demand gen, more at bats for the company, and then how to organize your sales force to optimize that for long term value divided by the customer acquisition costs. 

Christopher Smith   
That’s awesome, and you just summarized why I wanted you on Sales Lead Dog. With your background, it’s, this is gonna be great. Ken, thinking back over your career, you’ve had a tremendous career, what are the three things that have really contributed to your success? 

Ken Grohe   
I think like a lot of folks, I plan my entire week on a Sunday night, sorry, I actually use pen and paper, I know that’s old school, but I do plan it for the entire night. I’m, I’m willing to move for the opportunity that may not be super fertile right now. I don’t have to work for a company that has 400,000 employees and matching benefits on the 401k. So that’s kind of cool, and then the last thing is, I know a lot of people on your show might say this, I really do believe if you have the skills to listen to your customer during the very beginning to discovery phase and understand their client, so we all know about finding the pain and going through the discovery, if you can do maybe 25% of the prodding and asking questions and finding what the pain is, it usually gets there. So a little bit of empathy skills, a little bit, you know, preparation skills to know to put yourself in their shoes, that’d be great and I guess perseverance. I was golfing yesterday and someone said, you know, “You seem to have pretty thick skin.” I go, “What if you’re in a world where 90% of the time you ask a question, the answer is no? You get used to it.” So I hope that helps. Those are the three things off the top of my head. 

Christopher Smith   
How’d you get your start in sales? 

Ken Grohe   
I’m one of the rare persons that was meant for this. I’m a tech salesperson or a tech executive now, and I did greeting cards door-to-door out of the back of a magazine. I was born in ’67, they actually had something called magazines, and you’d get, and I sent away for because I wanted some type of either chemistry set or microscope or walkie talkie or whatever was really cool back in the day. And I sold greeting cards door-to-door, and then I had a paper route and things like that. But um, ironically my first real pure sales job, I was doing trade show exposition work in Boston, a place called the Heinz auditorium, which is still great, but they used to have something called trade shows. And I look kind of clean cut, always have been. Most of my friends were clean cut, we all went to Boston College, and I was a member of the Union working for Boston Whaler, and they needed someone to go around the floor and actually sell the trade show booth, composition, installing, etc. And during that period of time some of the booths were made out of wood, Chris, so not everyone was handy with a hammer and not everyone can cut the carpet, so literally I would walk very slowly through the process, find someone who looked like a 24-year-old version of me, at the time I was 18 18, 19, and say, “Hey, you get paid on commission, right?” “Yes.” “Well, shouldn’t you be at that phone back, back then?” Um, you know this before they had cell phones, or they had bag phones back then. “And shouldn’t you be more productive? Or go take a break, go workout, or if you’re so inclined, go to the bar, enjoy yourself, we’ll put this together for you, just sign right here.” I never showed the price, and as soon as they signed, along came my brother and all my roommates and friends and college buddies would come and we’d assembled the booths for them, and it was a good win-win, it would cost roughly $1,000 for them to do it, but there was the $1,000 they would spend, you know, getting another deal or getting a lead. But that’s how I started in sales, and if you could do it eyeball to eyeball instantaneously, all this other stuff a little bit easier, but thanks for asking, Chris. 

Christopher Smith   
Thinking back to those early days in sales, what do you wish you had been taught back then that would have made a big difference? 

Ken Grohe   
With COVID, my answer might not be as relevant, but I wish I was told you should probably bob and weave and move companies every two to three to four years. If you’re not getting promoted, it’s time to go. I had stayed as an individual sales rep for a long period of time doing really well, good W2s. Most of it commission, probably 80% of my pay was commissioned-based. Had a couple tough bosses at the very beginning, and I swore to myself, I wouldn’t go to management unless I wanted to make the world a better place, so we never had to go through that micromanagement. One of my things is I can’t stand micromanagement. Output management makes sense, trust the people, give them the tools they need to do the job, and make it happen. But check the reports, do a quick you know update around 20 minutes, mostly just talking about the health and the well-being of someone’s pipeline, and how they’re doing, and what their approaches are and best practices. But I really don’t like micromanagement, and I really didn’t want to participate in a given period of time. 

Christopher Smith   
Do you have any funny or crazy sales stories from, from that time? 

Ken Grohe   
Yeah, when I was 22 years old, a company called EMC at one point was the biggest employer in Massachusetts. They made storage, go figure. A company that makes storage right before the internet comes out does really well. In fact, it was the number two stock of the 90s. Dell was number one, EMC was number two. Ironically, Dell bought EMC. I still have a younger brother Kevin who’s still there, and I was there for 25 years. So to show how autonomous this company was, in order to get a outside sales position, so inside sales positions were less than six figures. Outside suspicions were over six figures. And by the way, most people listening today are probably struggling between one of those two categories or trying to reinvent in the latter category. To get that job, you had to win Top Gun. Well “Top Gun,” sorry from the I think was the ’86 movie by Tom Cruise, so I’m not a huge fan of Tom Cruise, but I did love the movie. And what I remember about the movie was, if you win Top Gun, you got to be the instructor, whatever. So the lie that I was living was if you got rated Top Gun, highest in the test, best attendance, best role play, didn’t really matter, if you were the most ready to go outside sales, you could pick where you got to move to. Well in reality Chris, that wasn’t the truth. It was where the biggest need was, but it was a good story and we went with it. So I’ll never forget this was a Friday night, I was at a bar called the Pond House on South Street in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, which is the start of the Boston Marathon. I’m there playing, there was a district manager, these folks were legends, there was a district manager in town and he was trying to find out who the best fit for an op for an opening in Pittsburgh was. I went there, wasn’t a scheduled meeting, I blitzkrieged the guy, I went to him and I said, “Hey, your name is John. Yes, I’m Kenny, I’m gonna win Top Gun.” Well, it hasn’t been decided yet. He goes, “But I tell you what, if you can beat me in darts, you can have the opening.” So, my dad had showed me how to play darts, I know how to play darts pretty well. I literally threw a bull’s eye, one throw. And I said, “Send me to Pittsburgh.” He goes, “Great. You got the job, head west.” So I left there, went to a mobile gas station, bought a map, and headed west to Pittsburgh. I did go home that night, said goodbye to my, my parents, said goodbye to my, my brothers, but that’s how I started in outside sales for EMC. No relocation program, just a couple tanks of gas, I think it was a Honda Accord, and I headed west with the map. And I think the empowerment they gave to people because you know when I go out there, we had to hire an admin, we had to sign them operating lease for the operation, operation in the building. We had to lease a fax machine, we had to do all those other things, we had to buy leads, but the, the enablement they gave, the empowerment they gave to someone at 22 years old was just so incredible and that’s where I think you can see a lot of those people who had those first starts in sales in their early 20s. While we’re all CXX’s, we’re all CROs, CEOs, these other capabilities now, because if you can do that and 22, why can’t you do this at 24, or 54? Excuse me. 

Christopher Smith   
Oh yeah, yeah, that’s a crazy story. What advice do you have for someone who wants to achieve your level of career success? 

 Ken Grohe   
Don’t be intimidated at the company that’s approaching you, or you’re approaching them, you have, it’s not a household name. If the name of that company is some crazy company just because so many people have squatted the names that it’s very tough to find a company name these days, worry about the TAM, the total available market or addressable market. Worry about do people need the service and are there going to be a lot of need towards it? For example, Zoom was a very crazy market and that it was a saturated market. We had a way to do screen sharing, there was WebEx, there was live meeting, there was GoTo Meeting there was a bunch of them, Zoom lives in a very saturated, but an easy-to-use situation with Zoom. And I was, I think I was second customer at Barracuda, Stanford was number one, Barracuda was number two. But if you can have, don’t worry about the company name, worry about the total available market. And what’s unique value proposition behind it. If you can handle that, you can navigate anything. That’s the advice I’d give to them. And don’t be surprised, like I said before, every three to four years, if you’re not making the money you need to, and you’re doing your end of the bargain, you might want to look for greener pastures when it makes sense. If you have a good boss and a good market and a good comp plan, be quiet and just do your work and keep you knitting, but if one of those three elements is not working well, my advice is go find someone who is. It’s a fertile market, especially coming out of liquid right now, Chris. 

Christopher Smith   
Right. What if I want to make the jump to sales leadership, what should be driving that decision? 

Ken Grohe   
Well you got to perfect what you’re doing. So a lot of people always ask me, “I’m an SDR, I want to be an outside rep.” “Great. Are you the highest rated SDR in your business?” “No.” “Go do that, then you’ll become, your dreams will be reality.” “Well I’m a sales rep, I want to be a sales manager.” “Are you the highest-rated and highest-performing sales rep in your business?” “No.” “Well you do that.” It’s like, who’s going to promote a seven on a scale of one to ten, they’re gonna promote the ten. Now it doesn’t mean the ten is the one that’s always billing the most, but usually, they’re in the top 20% every single quarter. The most consistent, they have the best ideas, but you’re not going to get promoted as a four. If you’re at 40% of your number or 50% of your number, and you’re whining about being promoted, they might ask you to leave. So what I would say is stay your knitting. If you’re an SDR and you want to be an outside sales rep, be the best SDR. If you’re an outside salesperson, and you want to become an outside sales manager, be the best outside salesperson. It’s not for everybody. There was a period of time I was making much more money being an outside sales rep than I was as sales manager, and then at one point, basically knee-jerk reaction that my managers weren’t that good. And he focused too much on micromanagement, I only changed. But until that happened, that’s the advice I have. Perfect what you’re doing. No one’s gonna promote a four or five or six, you promote eight, nines, and tens. 

Christopher Smith   
Yep. What about your transition into sales leadership? Was it easy for you or was it a difficult period? 

Ken Grohe   
Yeah I liked recruiting. If there’s a tip that I had out there for all new managers, realize about 25% of your life is going to be recruiting. So spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, sometimes you’re posting just so people can know who you are. I have more followers I guess because of that now, well over 20,000, which is nice. But my point being is understand 25% of your time is recruiting. Do as many means as you can, and if you can get away with not be a micromanager and just depend on them to use the CRM, look at the reports for the CRM and check in with everybody one-on-one at least once a week, and usually run some type of best practice or training once a week where the whole team gets together, and if they feel comfortable sharing some good ideas and some bad ones, you know, then you’ve got a good team. 

Christopher Smith   
What’s your strategy for building a successful, the best sales team? 

Ken Grohe   
During any of the processes, I ask the same three questions. I won’t revealing here, but they’re all around curiosity. I’m trying to find out the person has empathy skills and a natural curiosity to be the best they can. I’ve never really hired someone who graduated from Harvard. I’d never really hired someone who graduated from Kellogg, for example. I have worked with him and his fellow executives, but it doesn’t really matter the type of school you went to or even your overall GPA. If you have a natural curiosity and you have great empathy skills, now, that being said, if you’re high IQ and you come from a great school, great, but you know if you squeeze you know six years of schooling into four years or vice versa and maybe went to a school that because of financial situation or academic in high school you just couldn’t get into the one you really wanted to get to, that’s okay. I just, a sure hunger to get better and a pure curiosity will show up the interview process. And probably I will or others will ask you to meet with one of their top sales reps that might be a future person for management and actually ask them what do you think of this person. So expect to go through three, four, or five interviews through the process. Cause it’s, you know, in COVID, you have to make the right decision, because the cost of making a bad decision, you’re losing six months of time, which is money. Good question, Chris. 

Christopher Smith   
Yeah. What role does empathy play as a sales leader for you? 

Ken Grohe   
Well, everything. I mean if you think about it, all a salesperson is doing is writing the business case or helping the person write the business case on why doing something is better than doing nothing. That’s all they’re doing. Whether using quantitative or qualitative, you’re basically just finding a champion, your advocate, and trying to find out the financials and where doing something that would usually involve some type of short term investment or reoccurring in case of SAS is better than doing the alternative, which is nothing. So status quo is always your enemy. Um, so you have to take care of that. Empathy is almost imagining that you’re at that employee, and almost if you could write the justification on white paper or blank paper or an empty word document or Google Doc, and then have them put their logo on it, and if they could actually use that internally in a company is one that you really think it portrayed as their own, then you got, you’ve got great empathy skills. And some of the mentors that I had in my life, Jeff Goldberg reeks of me, VP of Marketing and EMC in the old days, he would literally say, could you just go in a room and just pretend you’re your champion. What is your champion writing, what is your champion doing to corral the six or seven hearts or minds to get the budget allocated or budgets allocated to select your solution, how do you write or justify that solution for them? And I think that that’s all curiosity what it would take to be in those shoes, and the empathy skills to put through it. So I think that curiosity, empathy skills, and the listening skills are pretty good, and ones that drive the best success criteria for sales executives. 

Christopher Smith   
What about mentorship as a sales leader? That comes up a lot when I talk to sales leaders. What, what about mentorship in your life and, and what you’re doing moving forward around mentorship? 

Ken Grohe   
Well I’ve been blessed to have a bunch. They’re all servant leaders, some people in the case of Mike records, the second CEO of EMC, had incredible EQ. The CEO at Barracuda BJ Jenkins, incredible EQ. So I learned from them, meaning sometimes it’s not the right thing to act the fastest, but act the most correct and do what’s right across all constituencies. Excuse me. Sorry for missing that word. But if you did that across all of them, but if you could have that as part of it, that’d be great as far as the mentors, and it’s not a lot of time. There’s another gentleman who’s a VC, Peter Bell is kind of a mentor for me as well because he knows more behind the Iron Curtain, where the magic curtain of VCs, which I’m not an expert on, but he is. As far as a mentor, some people have called me, I’ve been blessed to have a lot of nice people write nice things about and recommendations on LinkedIn, and I think I’ve given out like 28 and I’ve received like 28. And some people call me a mentor, and I guess I didn’t know I was a mentor for them, but I guess where the attribution came from is I would have a half hour with everybody. And t wasn’t just forecast, it was just checking on their mental, where they are during COVID, or where they are on their campaigns and where to help out there, so. I guess that’s the best issue as far as direct line mentorship and some of the folks have done very good by me and have moved around and have worked for me at two or three different places, which is great. So I don’t mind doing it, I had a breakfast meeting earlier this week with Diana, who ran revenue operations for us, and she was looking for a bunch of different jobs and I guess she called it a mentor meeting, for me it was just a small meal and just kind of listening to what her pursuits were and where to post we’re doing on LinkedIn, and where opportunities were. So I hope that helps. 

Christopher Smith   
Oh yeah, yeah. If you were the CEO of a company, and you’re looking to hire the person to lead your sales team, tell us about the qualities of the person you want to hire? 

Ken Grohe   
I have a slight bias towards hiring from within. That’s the reason why in my SDR programs, I typically do it organically. I try to, some people outsource SDRs and that’s great, and during certain times it makes sense, but I typically try to hire SDRs that eventually become inside sales reps or eventually would be managing the SDRs or eventually outside salespeople or channel people or partner people or alliances people. So I do believe for promoting from within, it sends, I think it sends a nice message. But the ability to roll up your sleeves and do the job yourself, and preferably someone who does have the natural empathy skills and curiosity skills, and one that doesn’t have to do all the talking in the room, doesn’t have to be the one who always slays the dragon. One of my best sales managers I’ve had in my life was Mitch Breen, I’ve worked for him a couple different times, and we’d go on calls together and he was so talkative in the car ride there, asking me question after question after question you get me prepared. But during the actual meeting, some people call it performance, we are going back and forth with a customer, he is amazingly quiet, so really his preparation was preparing me to do what I needed to do correctly in the meetings, and then the debriefing afterwards. So he was doing a lot of talking before, a lot of talking afterwards. But at some point, he realized letting the the actual sales rep shine was more important and enabled them to be a future leader as part of it. And he you know, if something went wrong, off the rails, or the question was just egregiously wrong, he’d step in, but I was amazed how quiet and I thought about it, and that’s really really executive-like to let your people shine when it makes sense to do it, because no one wants to bring around the boss that they do all the work. You really don’t feel like you’re getting ahead. 

Christopher Smith   
Oh yeah. And you’re also giving them room to learn to make the small mistakes that they can learn from and grow. That’s great. What role does or how do you leverage, you know, failure and not necessarily failure, but losing as a learning opportunity as a CRO? 

Ken Grohe   
Well I’ve been blessed to be a CRO a couple different times, all of it successful, which is great. Um, I actually was a CRO before they had the title. I used to call it, “in charge of sales operations.” I like running the demand side of marketing, and the PR, AR, and IR part of marketing, so not all marketing, but the part that actually creates the at bats. But as far as where it kind of helps me is if I can have that kind of creation to kind of do that and run that organization, it certainly will help a little bit better. Can you double click a little bit more on that question too though? 

Christopher Smith   
Well yeah so, you know, losing deals is just a natural part of sales. You’re not going to win every deal. Do you have a particular strategy of how you turn those, those lost opportunities into learning opportunities? 

Ken Grohe   
Well, we like to do debriefing and we used to do mixtapes at my last place. Mixtapes was just basically the highlights and the lowlights from a given week so, particularly if it was more myopically about what you did wrong in the campaign. I believe if you have a trustful organization, we actually share your wins and losses. I had said if you’re not losing deals, you’re not in enough deals, your activity’s low. So if you’re in, sorry the old rule of thumb was, you’d win a 30 your deals, or 30 deals would push for whatever reason, someone has no justification right, usually it’s around money, and a third of the deals you’d lose. If that’s the same ratio, unless you’re in a market where you’re 90% of the market like browser market for Google for example, unless you’re in a market that’s captive, that’s about a good ratio. So if you’re in an environment and your people are openly willingly in a non-staged fashion to actually bring up losses, that would make sense. Now me personally, I took, I went for a few CRO positions a few years ago and I didn’t get them. And I kept on looking as a post mortem, I asked the recruiter or other people, “Why didn’t I get them?” Well, there wasn’t exactly one specific reason, usually it was skill set and fit. But I looked at some of their resumes, and the people that were beating me either got an MBA at Harvard or an MBA at Kellogg or an MBA at Wharton. So I wasn’t going to beat them, so I did take the occasion to go back and get some executive finding at Stanford, because I wanted my game to be up to speed as well. It was a little comical to be going to that in the 50s whenever else was in their 20s and 30s, but I think people are treated pretty respectful as far as that. So to answer your question in, in the actual professional network, when you get the executive area, you might have to go back in some refining, whether it be a Stanford executive education, a lead program, ironically we were part of the lead dogs, which I know you like that name. Because you said before, “lead dog’s great because the, the view’s a lot better being the lead versus falling behind anybody else,” so I love it. That was the name of our work group within our Stanford team. But no, losing, if someone says they never lose, never lost a deal, they’re foolish, or their activity’s low, or there’s some blind spots they’re not aware of.  

Christopher Smith   
Right, right. You touched on this a little bit, but the role of a CRM is very different from that of a VP of Sales, because your focus has to be so much broader. How did you transition into that first CRO role you had? 

Ken Grohe   
Well I think it was out of just pure need. We spun out CudaSign, which was a great new signature product to a freestanding company called SignNow, and thank you again to Barracuda for letting me do that. When I did that, we didn’t have enough money for a VP of Sales and a VP of Marketing, so I did both roles. And I think for pure product marketing, I wasn’t the best. As far as pure roadmap, there was people that were better. We had a CTO to do that for us, and he was exact in that position, but for creating leads, doing the SEO, doing organic, doing the inbound, doing the branding, doing the website development, doing the XML, and so it’s in the right position, I was relatively okay on that. And like everyone in life, you probably heard this and most people talk to you, like 68% of the research people do before they talk to a sales rep is already done on the web. So your web presence is so much more important than it was 20 years ago,  so literally that product SignNow we actually turned into an online property holding, so you don’t even need physical carbon-based sales reps. You might need a demo person from time to time, but it’s mostly bought online. But to answer specifically, I want to look through the lens of a UI of a customer experience from beginning to end, from like the time you fill out a webform, to first contact, to all the process, whether it be chatbot or any way you go through it. If you get through that experience and then you really appreciate Legion, and you really appreciate when someone fills out a lead form, you want to have the right person on that contact, right in the right experience. So I think it’s better. In my last folks, last place, I took the hashtag on our Slack thing is #makethenumber. At the end of day, a CRO’s job is to make the number, to put the right resource in marketing and demand gen and brand recognition, and then sales and CRO is a little bit different, you have to work hand-in-hand with the CFO to make sure the cost basis of the sales is going correctly. I referred to this before, but the long term value divided by the CAC or customer acquisition costs are really important, especially at the beginning. So everyone wants to hire 25 sales reps tomorrow, and pay them a lot of money. Sometimes it’s better to crawl, walk, run, and maybe hire a few people that can do their own demos, and then invest the right way to do that in a SAS marketplace. Then I’ve heard more and more, and a couple of people in the Board of Directors asked me about this, “Ken, it seems like you’re hiring more hybrid reps these days, people that are way more technical than they used to be, or people that are similar to a sales rep and an SE, or someone who’s both outside and inside.” And you know look at our example today, we’re doing this as if we were inside salespeople. You know, the outside salespeople used to carry a bag and do 12 physical meetings per week, and in this new post-COVID world, you’re still gonna do 12 meetings a week, but I bet you over half of them are over Zoom or something like so. So thanks for the question, that was very thoughtful.  

Christopher Smith   
Yeah. So shifting a little bit to success habits, tell us about your success habits, those things you do every day that help you. 

Ken Grohe   
Well, I think I talked about Sunday night, I plan my whole week, I plan the individual day the night before. Like this session, I try to get quiet-time, do the really important calls, I try to dress for the role. I tried to on the Zoom, if I meet with MetLife, guess what logo’s behind me? If I meet with Stanford guess what logos behind me? A little bit of research behind me. I don’t ever think I’m gonna lose a deal from not being prepared. So I did a post, I do something called Lunchtime Fridays, which is just sales tips out every Friday. It’s, it’s 60 seconds or less, and I usually pick some cool backdrop, a company’s logo that I’m doing business with or, worst case, the beach or the golf course, people tend to like that. But I basically try to show different examples of where that difference may, really could help and really can help us win the deal versus lose the deal.  

Christopher Smith   
Right. Moving past revenue, and I don’t want to minimize revenue as a measure for success for a sales team, but are there other measures of success that you have for yourself and your sales team beyond just revenue? 

Ken Grohe   
Absolutely. Net new logos per year, net new pipeline grown within a quarter, NPS (Net Promoter Score) is huge, amount of customer use cases, customer successes, the ability to create a user group, which we create, you know, everyone talks about the funnel, I talked about the flywheel. The flywheel is like if you get a customer that’s so passionate that they literally will talk your ear off and tell you like, “I’ll put the downpayment down,” like, you know, I just bought a truck, I won’t say the brand name, but I just bought a truck. I’m so passionate about the brand, if anybody ever says that’s the wrong brand, you should buy this or this, and I’ll talk to them, now convince me to do it and one of my friends that I golf with, Jonah Dem, literally bought that same brand truck because I went through it. So however you can create raving fans, so incenting the sales rep to create public case stories, case studies, or testimonials and repetitive business. And then I’ve been blessed to run organizations that get so big, you have a separate organization typically inside base to do expansions or renewals, and that’s a good learning ground for everybody else. Also, I do think on customer success, there’s a certain person who’s really good in that environment, they have to do not 60% listening but probably 80% listening, and sometimes they catch a lot of shrapnel for things that went wrong in the company that weren’t their fault, but they don’t get too defensive. So holistically, you’d mentioned before and touched it before, the CRO owns the number all the way to the board, and if you don’t make it, the job is eliminated or that that person in the role is eliminated, but it’s running sales, customer success, customer operations, marketing repeatability, so you won that, that, that go zone for the use case over and over again. 

Christopher Smith   
Love, best answer I’ve got to that question. That was fantastic.  

Ken Grohe   
Good, thanks.  

Christopher Smith   
Um, let’s shift to one of my favorite topics CRM when it comes to CRM Do you love it, or do you hate it. 

Ken Grohe   
I don’t hate it, I’m disappointed with it. Now remember, I live in California, Silicon Valley. Maybe once a month, we go up to San Francisco, not as much as I thought we would, because the city’s kind of going through some transition period right now. But if you look at it, a major skyline of a major city has changed because of some incredible things Marc Benioff did. If you get a chance to read the book, there’s a lot of great books. I read Frank Slootman’s earlier this week about, “Tape Sucks,” ironically, and Marc Benioff’s book about what he was swimming with the dolphins and he created kind of the cloud market and the SAS market, which is incredible. But I’m disappointed with it for this reason. If every rep who listens to me or works for me puts everything they’re supposed to into the CRM, once you think that when board time came around, you just have to do an extract and history reports and there you go, my disappointment is, believe it or not, you actually have to huddle for around three days with your sales ops team, your revenue team, take all these reports that are pretty good, but not what you exactly want, and then change it and buy these other tools from insight and those other companies to create the slides that you really want to show the board, because they’re going to ask about how long does it stay in this category, it’s a seven stage sales process, how long is in this category? Is there a particular category you’re losing more than others? There’s there’s some gaps in the CRM, so you can’t just export what you live and breathe in right to the board deck, so I’m here to tell you every 90 days, physical days, your CRO loses two to three days on just reformatting the data, not manipulating, but reformatting the data so it looks great to the board, or I’m sorry, in the right light to the board. And that’s my disappointment with CRM. I think almost everybody without saying the brand, but you know, is going to use some type of CRM. I personally switched from a back end operation in marketing around from Marketo to HubSpot and we’re very happy with it, because it allowed just to get more nimble and quicker and be able to make changes quicker. I was hoping that CRM would get more nimble and be able to get an export into board slides a little bit easier. 

Christopher Smith   
Yeah, you know, you touched on a topic that I think is really important when you’re talking about CRM, is that I agree with you that the technology is not overall, it’s not as nimble as it should be in this day and age. There’s still a lot of you’re fit into a box and you have to live within that box, and if you need to expand the box or, or maybe shift it, change the shape a little bit, it’s hard to do. 

Ken Grohe   
So if you’re, let’s say you have a senior salesperson, and that person lives in New York City, and says, “Hey, I got some information, I got some feedback.” Well, if it was a marketing thing, that person could say something to me, I’m not kidding, even in my level, I can change something in HubSpot that day and it’s implemented the next day. “Oh, I want to drop them into this.” If I want to do in the CRM, I have to route the request, sometimes record a Zoom, send it to the person who’s in charge of coding for the CRM, so you have dormant resources sitting there for, let’s say over six figures, depending on where the person lives, and that person then has to do some coding, it’s maybe implemented in three weeks, then you have to train everybody to show this is a change everybody, because the box size is different. It doesn’t seem as fast, but it’s inevitable. 

Christopher Smith   
Right, right. Yep. What are your keys to success for when it comes to CRM? What makes CRM work the best in your opinion?  

Ken Grohe   
Well, I’ll copy one of my mentors, BJ Jenkins. He said, “If you cough, write the word cough in your CRM.” Absolute adherence to putting it in, and everyone’s accountable for it, just like you’re in charge of cashing your own commission statement, you’re in charge of commission, cashing your own commission check, you should be in charge your own life. I mean your CRM is your life, so represent it correctly, and it should make sense. Have a sense of pride in it. That’s the advice I give to everybody. It’s inevitable. I mean I can’t get mad at God that he makes us breathe to live, you know, don’t get mad at the CEO asking to put things in CRM, because you want to get promoted, but firmly in the company you’re at, to get promoted you need to leave some cookies behind so that the other person can replace your job, probably less money and probably less skill set at that time. You know, that would make sense, so it’s, you’re only building a legacy by doing it the right way. 

Christopher Smith   
Yep. What’s the conversation you have with a sales rep that is just like “You know what, it’s not helping me, I don’t want to use it, it slows me down,” you’ve heard all the excuses, what’s the conversation you have with that individual? 

Ken Grohe   
Well my initial answer is facetious, then it’s reality. My facetious answer is usually, “Do you have a CRM goal, I’ll do it for you.” Now, in reality, that’s probably not going to happen, but I have said that line before in the past. “Hey, what do you, what’s your goals? Do you want to be doing this job for your whole life?” Usually the answer’s no. “What do you go really want to be?” “Well I want to be the sales manager.” “Great, so you want my job. So to get my job, you’ve got to get me promoted, I get you promoted, you can leave an audit trail from everybody, because that’s what the board has to do. They have a financial responsibility and a legal culpability to put yourself in the best fiduciary responsibility to do that. So let’s work in this together. I know it’s not great. Do I ever want you to not go and have,” sorry this is post-COVID talk, “not go and have that one more beer or one more water or one more cup of coffee with the customer so you log things in Salesforce? Absolutely not. But do I want you at 11 o’clock at night, or seven the next morning, after you exercise, or whatever, or you get up and mediate, or meditate, excuse me mediate, meditate on how your day is gonna go? Do I want you to log it then? Yes, but you don’t have to put in real time, but don’t let it last more than three or four days and put it in there.” So my dialogue is yeah, if you’re to represent your number, I’ll do it for you, but someone has to do it. Good example, Tucci, the first CEO of EMC said, “If you’re too busy to answer a customer’s call, forward the call to me, I’ll take care of it.” My point being is if you’re the CEO of the company, you’ve got time for customers? You should have time for customers, because in theory, the better you represent what the facets are, because you can think about it, if, if, if you’re listening to customer and let’s say the product roadmap, roadmap has a gap, and we need a feature that to catch up to reorder advanced things that might be the next million dollar deal, you log it correctly in the CRM and the PM, the product manager, does the job correctly, they actually call in information from us here. I’m not wasting your time, because, trust me, everyone gets sales reps need time to spend with customers, so they’re not going to stop anything other than maybe a QBR type fashion, quarterly business review, but if you can do it correctly, you can show your best sales reps who hate CRM and sorry I was, I was born in a generation where it didn’t exist, so I used Sales Logic and a bunch of things in Act, and a bunch of the databases before that, and I actually was the first user at EMC for Salesforce, because I ran the cloud, basically what was the cloud group from before. But if you can convince the people that it’s a benefit for them, it’s better for the company and their upward mobility, it would make sense. Because trust me wherever they go, if you go to a bigger company, it’s going to be more, even more litigious and more tedious than it is where you’re at. 

Christopher Smith   
Oh, yeah, I agree. And it’s also, you hit on this, that there are people downstream that depend upon that information, that that PM or whoever, Customer Success, whatever you have to call it, that has to deliver based upon that information you’re putting in. So I love that. Yeah. We’re coming up on our end time here on Sales Lead Dog. I really appreciate you coming on. If people want to reach out and connect with you, what’s the best way for them? 

Ken Grohe   
Yeah LinkedIn is great, or my website is LeverageGTM.com, stands for “Go To Market.” I’d love to help you out, if you’re a startup, that’s usually my sweet spot. But I actually got two or three requests in the last 48 hours saying, “Ken, you know, our deals are closing too late in the quarter, you have any advice on that?” I have a lot of advice on that, or “Ken, we need a little bit more help on getting it so we put in the best light with Gardner.” I have some advice on that. So, please, whatever you think it makes sense to be out there, it’s not just me sitting around trying to tell you how to build sales teams, that’s the easy stuff. It’s just how to maximize your cost per dollar across organizations, and to make the biggest impact, because there’s some incredible engineering solutions out there, but like a lot of people said, nothing happens till someone sells something. So I want to help you make the number. But thanks Chris for help me get some exposure out there, appreciate it. 

Christopher Smith   
Oh, you bet. And definitely visit his website, even if you’re just gonna go to read the testimonials about Ken, it’s worth it.  

Ken Grohe   
Oh, thank you. Yeah, they’re nice.  

Christopher Smith   
You have some tremendous testimonials on there that, and a cool website. But, yeah, Ken, thank you so much for coming on Sales Lead Dog, it’s been great. 

Ken Grohe   
Well, Chris, thanks for doing what you’re doing, hopefully everyone watches you every single week as often as possible, can’t wait to see the final results in this Thank you. 

Outro 
As we end this discussion on Sales Lead Dog, be sure to subscribe to catch all our episodes on social media. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Watch the videos on YouTube, and you can also find our episodes on our website at Empellorcrm.com/salesleaddog. Sales Lead Dog is supported by Empellor CRM, delivering objectively better CRM for business guaranteed. 

Quotes

  • “If you’re in a world where 90% of the time you ask a question, the answer is no, you get used to it.” (7:52-7:57)
  • “You should probably bob-and-weave and move companies every 2-3 years. If you’re not getting promoted, it’s time to go.” (10:11-10:18)
  • “It doesn’t really matter the type of school you went to or even your overall GPA. If you have a natural curiosity, and you have great empathy skills, great.” (18:16-18:23)
  • “If someone says they never lose, never lost a deal, they’re foolish or their activities are low, or there’s some blind spots they are not aware of.” (27:31-27:38)

Links

Ken Grohe:LinkedIn
LeverageGTM: LinkedIn
LeverageGTM: Website

Empellor CRM: LinkedIn
Empellor CRM: Website