Fireside Friday with Todd Caponi
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales:
Todd: I spent a good 9 years as what I consider to be a pretty average salesperson; a solid B+ performer. The realization hit me that my passion was for building, leadership and raising people up...to become dependent instead of independent in the world of sales. I purchased a sales training company, did that for a few years, which propelled me to where I am now, having built the infrastructure as SVP of Sales for 3 different small tech companies. I’m currently with PowerReviews, where we've taken the team from essentially a cold start to over 45 team members in just 3 years. I also spent 3 ½ years on the sales leadership team at ExactTarget during their rise to a successful IPO and eventually a $2.7B exit to Salesforce.com.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Todd: I've been lucky enough to have a few, including winning the American Business "Stevie" Award for Worldwide VP of Sales of the Year, but what I'm most proud of is building successful, loyal sales organizations. In the last 5 years, my average voluntary turnover rate for teams reporting through me is around 2.5%, where the industry average is closer to 16%. Culture wins!
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
Todd: There are so many incredible bits of wisdom out there, but in first place is “never stop learning.” The advice that’s going to get you to the next level is probably out there somewhere...so you can’t stop listening, reading, seeking it out. And, to win in today’s selling environment, you’ve got to bring the bigger brain to the client in every engagement.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
Todd: There are many, but at it's core, it's about finding the discipline to have balance in your efforts: how to truly prioritize your time around qualified deal management, while balancing time for prospecting, professional development (constant learning) and having a life. In other words, when you get a big one on the hook, how do you avoid "short term hero, long term zero" syndrome? Disciplined balance.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a sales mentor, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Todd: I’m so incredibly lucky to have been in the right place at the right time a few times in my career. My experience at ExactTarget through their meteoric rise left me with so many incredible friends, and a few who I feel like I can reach out to any time to bounce ideas off of, talk through challenges, and just gain clarity of thought. I feel like I’m in my prime right now, so I’ve done a lot more to be a mentor to others, too, which is so gratifying.
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
Todd: Fundamentally, I'm a nerd for anything that combines psychology with sales. At the heart of it all, I couldn't put down "The Challenger Sale", which is #1 for me….chock full of notes, bright yellow highlights and rabbit eared pages. But I also love the "Sales Acceleration Formula" by Mark Roberge and "What Great Salespeople Do" by Michael Bozworth and Ben Zoldan. I'm currently reading "Story Based Selling" by Jeffrey Bloomfield...another good brain science / sales page turner.
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related books, articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Todd: For me, I came to the realization that every podcast or newsletter kinda runs out of great ideas after a while. What works for me is following all the thought leaders I can on Twitter. I do love the Openview Labs articles, but I follow a bunch of people on Twitter, then just pick the articles based on the headlines to dig into. Lots of great nuggets, and I’m always discovering new ways of thinking about things that way.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
Todd: Make sure you love what you do, who you do it with, and who you do it for. That feeds everything. I've sold products that bored me, worked for individuals that didn't propel me forward, and worked with unnecessarily negative or selfish individuals. In all three environments, if you don't have passion, your career won't progress. Essentially, if you don't thirst for learning in your current environment, it's just a job. Find your passion, and the rest will fall into place.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
Todd: Yes, I absolutely do. As a matter of fact, I just wrote an article about it for Openview Labs. Essentially, I believe there’s another era coming in the world of sales...and that’s what I’d call “The Transparency Sale”. While some already do this, it will become a requirement for sellers to present themselves as less-than-perfect to help a buyer understand why they’re a 4.2 - 4.5, and not a perfect 5. In so doing, they will disarm the buyer with this information, and engage in a true conversation about the value of their solution. They will still challenge, they will still discover, they will still position features and benefits, but they’ll also present applicable shortcomings. In the near future, sellers will be the source of their own vulnerabilities, build trust, shorten sales cycles, and better control the process.
Sales Assembly: Any other great parting advice you'd care to share?
Todd: So many things you’re going to hear over and over again, like “be human”, “control the controllables”, “prospect every day”, etc. However, one piece of unique advice I received that I share with people is, “never make a decision to switch jobs on your worst day in your current job”. If you’re having a terrible day / week, there’s a tendency to say “screw it!” and commit to leaving. That may be the right thought, but wait two weeks to really make that decision. Countless number of times that advice has paid off for people I’ve mentored.