Our Fireside Fridays series is where we have the opportunity to sit down with top B2B revenue leaders for 7 questions and get a behind-the-scenes look at their recommended best practices, their background, and factors that have contributed to their success.  This is our interview with Karl Holmlund, SVP of Sales at BrightPlan.

Give us your background in sales

I started my career in sales at a company called Paycom and after a few years got promoted to management.  It was/is a great company that taught me a TON about sales and leadership, but I knew I didn’t want to be there long term.  I got connected to my current company because I knew the CEO through mutual friends, and as he explained the vision for the company, I clearly saw it was a perfect opportunity for me to jump into the startup world and help build and scale the GTM function.

What’s the best piece of sales or business advice you ever got, and from who?

Never run “from” something, always run “to” something.  It can be easy to want to get out of a tough situation, whether it’s a job, a boss, etc. but oftentimes we make unwise or rushed decisions when we feel we need to get out of something.  Instead, always be focused on what you are running towards and that you are excited about that direction.

What is the biggest challenge today facing a sales professional, and how would you recommend they overcome it?

I believe it’s the ability to connect relationally with prospects in a virtual environment.  The conversations about life, family, and the general day-to-day are cut out by the need to get from meeting to meeting and the ability to cut meetings at a moment’s notice.  On my team, we spend a lot of time talking about setting structured agendas for each meeting that we agree upon with the prospect beforehand so they know what to expect, and we also make every meeting agenda to be 10 minutes shorter than the meeting time.  This extra gap allows some space to connect and it doesn’t feel rushed.

What’s the best advice you’d give to someone just starting a career in sales or revenue overall within B2B tech?

Be patient, results take time.  Be consistent with what you do day-to-day and set good habits.  Last, network internally.  Make sure you connect with many people in a company across departments, above you, and below you.  Your personal brand will take you the farthest in your career and that is largely defined by how you treat and interact with others.  You’ll be remembered.

What’s the best advice you’d give to someone who is interested in getting into leadership one day?

Don’t wait to be a leader.  Take initiative on your team now.  Read books.  Roleplay with other reps.  Set up time to connect weekly with peers and share what you are learning.  Leaders see that and know that you are supposed to have a “leadership title”.

Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales or B2B tech?

Everything is becoming shorter and faster, so I see that more and more sales reps will need to improve at speaking very quickly and specifically to how their solution solves a specific problem for a company and that they can back it up with strong data. The relationship seems less important than it used to be.

Favorite hobbies at the moment?

I live in San Diego, so it’s mostly been surfing and anything outdoors lately!
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