Fireside Friday with Vrahram Kadkhodaian
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
Vrahram: I started my career in sales at Wells Fargo. Most of my career has been spent in enterprise software for companies like Pivotal and Salesforce as an Account Executive or Sales Leader within the CRM space, building high-performing teams locally and internationally.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Vrahram: Having an impact on the career of hundreds of sales professionals by transforming the way customers operationalize their businesses.
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
Vrahram: To listen more than to talk. Most people do not listen with the intent of understanding. They are listening so they can respond - that is very dangerous in sales, especially if you want to be good at it.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
Vrahram: Don't be afraid to fail and to fail often. Too many sales professionals try to have the perfect pitch, the perfect due diligence, the perfect objection handling in place before they pick up the phone. That's not natural and doesn't help them develop skills. In my opinion, the best way to learn, especially in sales, is by repetition, not perfection.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a mentor when it comes to sales, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Vrahram: I've had two who really stick out: 1) My Father: He was an immigrant to this country and could barely speak English, but his relentless pursuit for survival and success gave me an education one couldn't buy. He taught me about GRIT and how it's an equalizer to almost any shortfall in life. Many of those lessons have translated into my own life, career and especially sales.
2) Bruce Cameron: Bruce gave me my first shot in tech sales. He was the President of CDC Software (Pivotal CRM) and a very well-respected industry veteran. He taught me about investing in and getting really good at the science behind sales and becoming a student of it, especially, if it was something I wanted to make a living doing. This process never ends, and I still remember listening to him tell me to keep learning and practicing (failing).
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
Vrahram: There are so many, but I'd have to say The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino is my favorite. I'm currently reading The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle.
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business-related books, articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Vrahram: Love "How I Built This" and "Crain's" is probably my favorite publication.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
Vrahram: Get really good at the fundamentals - there are a lot of sales "hacks" out there that can prove to be valuable, but if you don't get good at the basics, you're in for a tough ride. Also, make sure you are careful about from whom you're taking advice - it's so important to have the right people coaching you especially when you're early in your sales career.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
Vrahram: I think information and intelligence are only going to help sales professionals in the future. Consumers have so much information, and they're getting smarter about what they want. Artificial Intelligence and Predictability are going to drive a lot of what our industry sees in the years to come.
Sales Assembly: With sales enablement, in general, being such a focus for growing B2B technology companies, what do sales leaders need to know when evaluating an enablement application?
Vrahram: First, honing in on what the sales professionals find valuable to do their jobs is where I would start - whether that is training, or technology or process. Doubling down in the general sense of “enablement” is so important, especially for growth companies. It all starts and ends with the efficiency and the success of the “reps,” so make sure you have a really good sense of where the gaps are and how to best support their day-to-day. Secondly, it’s really important to bring the sales professional into the evaluation of such programs or tools. I find it maddening and counterproductive to evaluate options and solutions in a vacuum and independent of the people who are actually going to use these tools – they ultimately determine its success. Lastly, make sure there is a bigger vision in place that is tied directly to the customer. All of these decisions need to be made with, “what’s in it for my customer?” because that’s why you’re investing and thinking about it in the first place. How are you going to make the overall customer experience a better one by investing in sales enablement initiatives?