The 33 CxOs Special Edition vodcast – #001 Brian Blond
FULL TRANSCRIPT: Scaling Sales Organisation with Maths
Vodcast Link :
Simon Kouttis: 00:01:84
“Hunters and Unicorns” is a podcast that tells the stories of the most successful executives within the high growth software space. 33 BladeLogic sales execs have gone on to become CXOs at the top 100 fastest growing software companies. Is this a remarkable coincidence? In this special edition series, we investigate the secrets behind the greatest success story in software sales. I’m Simon Kouttis and I’m joined by co-host, Ollie Kuehne.
And we are delighted to welcome Brian Blond. Brian welcome.
Brian Blond: 00:45:32
Hey, thanks for having me guys.
Simon Kouttis: 00:47:85
It’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the show Brian, thank you very much for joining us today. Now in the introduction, I’ve obviously referred to you being one of the CXOs, but the truth is that you’ve actually gone beyond that now, because you’re now betrothed to the VC world. So, you’re currently MD at Sutter Hill Ventures, can you just tell us a little bit about your role and some of the portfolio that you guys are responsible for?
Brian Blond: 01:15:11
Yeah, sure, I’m one of the investment partners at Sutter Hill. So, you know, we’re a pretty unique firm. We like to start companies, we also invest in companies, but we’re very focused on enterprise B2B. And some of the companies that we’ve invested in and started are NVIDIA, Snowflake, Pure Storage. So, typically we’re a small firm in that we’ve only got about 30 portfolio companies, but odds are, everybody’s heard about a company we’ve been in.
Simon Kouttis: 01:46:51
Well, Snowflake just received a very small, modest, top-up investment of just under 479 million back in February, so yeah, I think the portfolio’s doing pretty well at the moment, right?
Brian Blond: 02:01:97
Yeah, yeah, it’s great.
Simon Kouttis: 02:04:06
So, the CXOs that we’re obviously referring to as part of the intro, many of them have got very different backgrounds, they come with lots of different culture … when you look at them, when they, kind of, first entered BladeLogic, and when we are looking for those common traits, you talk a lot about DNA. What is it that you refer to when you talk about DNA?
Brian Blond: 02:33:19
You know, I think, you know, sales is … there are so many parallels with sports, to be honest, and you know, sports is very DNA based as well. And so, you know, I view it is as, you have to be super competitive, you have to super driven, and those are traits that you can’t fake. And so, you also have to be super smart. So, when you combine all three of those, you get the makeup of somebody that can be a good sales person.
Ollie Kuehne: 03:12:02
Okay, Brian, looking at the early part of your career, you graduated from university in 1996, and went straight into an internal sales role at Oracle, can you tell us a little bit about your early career and why you chose software sales or why software sales chose you?
Brian Blond: 03:33:45
I grew up in Kansas City, went to the University of Missouri, which is, if you’re not familiar, it’s the Harvard of the Mid-West, I’m not serious about that. Came out to the Bay Area, I think it was like ’97, ’98, right as everything was starting to take off from the dot-com side, and you know, started really at the bottom, got a job at Oracle, drove out, moved out for it, and was an SDR, that’s what I started my career doing. And I did the SDR role for probably about half a year almost and then moved into what they call the war group sales team which was closing deals, but you couldn’t close deals of more than 50K, then you had to pass it up. And then I moved into closing deals that were closer to 100K, all on the inside sales team. And you know, at that point, I was like, ‘Okay, I want a field job,’ Oracle was offering me a field job but I had to move to Texas or something like that, so that wasn’t going to happen. So, I joined start-ups and you know, basically I’d say 2000 to 2004, which was the period right before I joined BladeLogic, I was always really a top sales rep, at each company I was at. I really don’t know exactly what it was that made me good versus somebody else. Because I kind of keep in my own bubble and just do my job and be focused. The company I was at, right before BladeLogic, I was one of 12 reps, but I was doing 50% of the revenue of the company on my own. And so, John had heard about me doing that. And you know, once I joined BladeLogic, that’s actually when I started to realize what I was doing differently to everybody else. And so that comes down to, and I’m sure we’ll talk about MEDDIC a little bit, MEDDIC actually taught me a framework that, when I first heard it, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is kind of what I’ve been doing as a sales rep.’ I didn’t know it, I didn’t know there was a framework to it, but it starts with identifying pain and building champions and qualifying your time a lot by getting to an economic buyer and all of that stuff. It was all the stuff that I was doing to shine so much at these companies, but I didn’t have a clue that that’s what it was.
Ollie Kuehne: 06:14:16
Yeah, and it’s a fairly modest answer there, saying, “50% of the total revenue.” That’s in a 10 man team, that’s pretty outstanding. Is it your past success that John McMahon … one of the reasons that John McMahon hired you? What was the reason?
Brian Blond: 06:35:32
It’s a tough question, it’s one for him. I think, at the end of the day, John loves super aggressive sales people that are driven and you know, that have high intellectual horsepower. So, one of the things they did at BladeLogic was, we’d always have a test. So, there’d be a math test, to be able to join the company. But also, I’ll never forget the first time I interviewed with John, he does this thing where he stares you down, and you know, I immediately won and I was probably a little cocky at the time, I was like 28 when I joined BladeLogic. And we met at the airport Marriott in San Francisco, and he comes in and he sits down, and he just stares at you. And I’m like, ‘All right, well, I’m gonna stare right back at him.’ And you know, it felt like five minutes but I was probably really 90 seconds, but I was like, ‘I’m not gonna be the first one to talk.’ So, there’s the stare, and it comes out that John does this quite a bit and it’s a test to really see, are you gonna get nervous? Are you gonna get uncomfortable? Are you gonna start blabbering first? Or are you gonna wait for John to talk? And in about 90 seconds or whatever, John starts laughing and then the conversation goes pretty well.
Ollie Kuehne: 08:18:76
Interesting. So, you joined BladeLogic at 28, you got made into a manager at 30, so two years after that, is that correct?
Brian Blond: 08:29:65
No, right when I joined BladeLogic, I joined as a manager.
Ollie Kuehne: 08:33:66
Brian Blond: 08:33:66
I was the first manager on the West Coast, but still a small team, John had just started there probably three months before me. So, it was like a couple reps at the time.
Ollie Kuehne: 08:46:36
Yeah, which is the interesting transition, because obviously when we spoke before, you talk about being a very good, successful sales person, but not actually understanding why you were successful. Obviously, a playbook was introduced to you, sales methodology was introduced to you, and you had to make a change. It is common for very successful sales people to get stuck in their own way because they’re doing well. Did you fight the change or did you see John as such an influential individual that you just said, ‘Look, I’ve gotta embrace what I’m being told here?’
Brian Blond: 09:28:27
I loved it and I embraced it, and quite frankly, if I fought it, I wouldn’t have been there very long. And so, part of it was, in all honesty, had I not gone to BladeLogic and spent the four years there and learned what I learned, I would’ve been a shitty head of sales. I would’ve been a bad manager. Just because you’re a good sales person, it’s a totally different job leading a team and building a team, and scaling a team. And so, there’s plenty of great sales people, all over the place, that have failed once they go into management. And so, without BladeLogic and without John, I’m not doing what I’m doing today. And so, part of what MEDDIC did … I mentioned that I didn’t know what I was doing special that other reps weren’t doing – I wasn’t spending time with other reps. I knew what I was doing, and I knew what was making me successful, but how do I go teach somebody to do this? Which is the first thing you’ve got to do as a manager, you’re hiring a team, you’re motivating a team, and you’re developing a team. MEDDIC gives you the tools to actually teach somebody how to be successful as a sales person and it gives you, kind of, the swim lanes within to guide them when they’re in a deal. And so that’s part of what you learn initially at BladeLogic and what John is developing his teams to do is, to be able to actually … taking rock star reps but making them all great in terms of qualifying their time and finding pain and developing champions. And then he also would take, if you look at our management team, they were all very young in the BladeLogic case, and so he would take raw material and make them great. And so that’s part of it.
Ollie Kuehne: 11:30:28
Simon Kouttis: 11:31:77
So, those metrics that MEDDIC requires, they can be quite daunting to a lot of sales people, they can been seen as micromanagement, they can be seen as KPIs, what would you say about that sentiment?
Brian Blond: 11:51:91
Look, I think, at the end of the day, it’s micromanagement on a level and it’s daunting because reps want to have, I call it ‘Happy Ears.’ They want to think every deal that they’re working on is going to close, and the fact is, it’s not. The name of the game when scaling a sales organization is maximizing sales productivity. What are you going to get out of each rep? And MEDDIC makes sure that your reps are spending time on deals that are actually going to close, not on deals that aren’t going to close, and wasting that sales productivity time. And so reps don’t like it because I’m saying, ‘You’re not doing a POC at this deal until I’ve met the economic buyer and I’ve validated that they are on the same page, that they’ve got budget to spend on this, they agree with what we’re going to do in the POC, and they’ve agreed with the criteria for that POC. And if we’re successful, they’re going to buy.’ And so that’s a lot to ask of a rep, to go do all that stuff, but if they follow MEDDIC and they get into the POC, I know that it’s going to close.
Simon Kouttis: 13:06:97
So, how do you find the balance of creativity within that kind of environment? You know, is there space? Or is it: this is the proven method, this is how it is, and these are the results?
Brian Blond: 13:19:38
There’s space for creativity, but you’re not like, you guys have probably heard the saying like, ‘the art of the sale,’ and I think that’s BS. What you’re trying to do is create science. MEDDIC, it’s a piece of the process, but I scale teams with math. I want to know that the numbers are right, and we’ve got all the percentages right, we’ve got the right amount of reps, and we’re scaling as fast as we can, and if I allow for a lot of art going on all over the place, I can’t predict it. It’s not that scalable, repeatable model that you need to actually scale an organization. With that being said, there are reps that you can apply the best MEDDIC to and the best process to, and they still beat everybody else. That’s where the art comes in – you’re not turning reps into robots, but you’re using math to actually scale a sales organization, and you can only do that with the right sales process.
Simon Kouttis: 14:27:00
So, BladeLogic was obviously acquired by BMC, it was a relatively small acquisition.
Brian Blond: 14:35:00
Yeah, yeah, 800 million.
Simon Kouttis: 14:37:38
800 million, for the scale of BMC, it’s relatively modest.
Brian Blond: 14:41:73
Simon Kouttis: 14:42:56
But you guys pretty much took over. It’s a pretty great story. Tell us a little bit about that time.
Brian Blond: 14:51:79
Yeah, it was pretty unreal. One, BMC, quite frankly, had a really bad sales organization at the time. And you know, it wasn’t a great sales … at the rep level, there weren’t a lot of great sales reps there either. And BladeLogic was like a wrecking ball, we just came in, we were all super aggressive, and initially, BMC made BladeLogic folks overlays. So, like, you know, so we’re basically answering to the BMC sales team. And you know, I think they realized, I’d say within a couple of months, this is going to blow up, people are fighting all over the place, BladeLogic are telling BMC reps to pound sand, ‘We’re gonna do it my way or I’m not helping you.’ And so, they knew they had to make a decision pretty quickly, and I think part of what they saw in BladeLogic was John and the sales organization, and so, it was just evident: this thing’s going to blow up if we don’t actually let the BladeLogic guys take over. It was pretty funny.
Ollie Kuehne: 16:03:3:
Yeah, I bet.
Simon Kouttis: 16:04:92
So, what do you think was the source of the difference between BMC guys and the BladeLogic guys? You talked about you guys being wrecking balls, but was it that you just hired winners? Was it that they were just trained better? Were you just managed differently? Or was it, kind of, a combination of different things?
Brian Blond: 16:24:82
It’s kind of a combination, we were a highly disciplined sales organization that knew what it took to build something special. We were all super aggressive, and you know, we could run circles around the BMC team. In that day, no one was going to BMC, that was a good sales rep. It was typical big company reps that like to go golf all the time with the CIO, and you know, do a couple deals but they’re probably not working very hard, and you know, there was no comparison at that point.
Simon Kouttis: 17:06:08
So, PTC, obviously embraced MEDDIC 30 years ago, and they mastered it, obviously, John McMahon’s legacy at PTC, a lot of the BladeLogic guys came from PTC, and there was obviously a very, very strong presence there. But, at the moment, we see a lot of organizations, B2B, sales driven organizations that use MEDDIC, but they don’t necessarily see the same results, what do you put that down to?
Brian Blond: 17:42:95
MEDDIC’s pretty simple, you can go read a book or memorize some letters and I see it all the time with sales leaders that are like, “Oh, yeah, we run MEDDIC here,” it’s the popular thing to say. And they don’t understand MEDDIC. Quite frankly, I give it the analogy of football and Parcells’ legacy with all those great coaches. And you know, it’s not that the rest of the NFL doesn’t know how to coach football, but when you worked under Parcells, you get guys like Belichick. And so that’s the same with John and BladeLogic, at the end of the day, I could memorize MEDDIC, that doesn’t make me great. It’s working under John for four years, it just becomes inherent and part of your DNA and you actually understand how to scale a sales organization, and what’s important. And you can’t take a shortcut to that quite frankly. Part of why I started my career as an SDR, I’ve done every single job all the way along the top, I never took a shortcut. And so, I just don’t believe there are shortcuts out there, and when I would look for heads of sales, or I when I look for sales people, I’m looking for, where did they graduate from? And I’m not talking about, did they go to Mizzou? I’m talking about, who did they work for and where did they learn their craft? And if I don’t have respect for that person, I’m not hiring them.
Simon Kouttis: 19:26:32
Yeah, it’s actually quite interesting because if we reflect on a lot of the CXOs that we’re referring to as part of this series, pretty much every single one of them recruits in a very similar way. You guys scale businesses faster than anyone and you don’t look for experience or experience is a lot further down the list in terms of what you’re looking for in who you’re looking to hire. Most people look for experience because they think it’s going to help them ramp up or it’s going to de-risk the hire, but actually, you guys are looking for character, you’re looking for coachability, you’re looking for the intelligence, you’re looking for drive, you’re looking for winners, that DNA that you’re talking about.
Brian Blond: 20:09:21
Yeah, one of the things that I always hate, that you hear quite a bit is, “I really want somebody with a Rolodex that can walk us into a bunch of deals.” I’ve got zero interest in somebody’s Rolodex. I can teach them everything, that’s what sales enablement is about. You have a really tight sales enablement program that can take a world class athlete and teach them the product and teach them the value prop, and teach them your core differentiators, and how to go run MEDDIC, and give them the deck and the messaging and do all of that, it doesn’t matter what their Rolodex is. That’s a short-term decision if you’re looking for somebody with a Rolodex.
Ollie Kuehne: 20:46:45
So why do you think … obviously as a business, we speak to hiring managers all the time, identifying this exact question and asking that, and being told that that is the question: I need somebody with a Rolodex. The question is, why are so many people, in your opinion, getting it wrong, if that is what they’re hiring? And why are they still hiring in that way?
Brian Blond: 21:08:53
Because they’re lazy. It’s easy to say, “Hey I don’t need marketing, I don’t need to do sales enablement, if I can go get a really senior sales person that has sold a bunch to a handful of companies and he can walk us in there, I think that’s great, I don’t really need to do much.” It doesn’t work and it doesn’t scale. It’s a short-term win but, what are you going to do after they get you those accounts? And what if those accounts don’t buy? You need somebody that’s an all-round athlete.
Ollie Kuehne: 21:41:33
And the scary thing is that so many, I mean, a really high percentage of people and hiring managers are still hiring with that mentality. It’s crazy.
Brian Blond: 20:50:44
Yeah, it’s stupid.
Ollie Kuehne: 21:51:99
And we’re talking about some of the biggest names, not mentioning any.
Brian Blond: 21:55:91
Yeah, I think once you have a company that’s really big, that’s a little bit different of a profile than what you’re looking for also when, you know, the company’s less than 100 million in ARR. And when a company’s 10 million, you’re defining all of that stuff and you need somebody that’s going to go run through a brick wall to get into as many accounts as possible and run the plays you’re telling, and you’re going to have to enable them, and I don’t want somebody that, you know, is old, fat and lazy and wants to golf with the CIO, that’s not going to help me as a start-up.
Ollie Kuehne: 22:31:57
Yeah, it makes complete sense.
Simon Kouttis: 22:33:06
I just want to go back to John McMahon for a moment, how would you describe his legacy?
Brian Blond: 22:40:98
I think quite frankly, his legacy is the people that he’s trained that have gone on to do so great. When you look at 33 sales leaders that came out of BladeLogic and BMC, that are all running all of the biggest enterprise companies and had that success, statistically it’s impossible. And so that’s really John’s legacy and I think that’s one of things John’s most proud of, is that he’s had this much of an impact on all the people that he hired and he hired most of us when we were late 20s, early 30s, like raw material. And I think that’s John’s legacy. John also, he’s on the board of Snowflake, he had a lot to do with AppDynamics in the early days he’s on the board at (audio breaks up). John’s created all of these people but he’s also, the second part of his career has been guiding these companies at the board level and, you know, making them monsters as well.
Ollie Kuehne: 23:47:17
Before the legacy, and before he had that legacy, how was he able to impact so many people? What was it about him that–
Brian Blond: 23:56:45
One, he’s an inspiring guy, he’s super tough, he was super tough on all of us. To make it through four years at BladeLogic was not easy, because you miss a quarter and you’re gone. But you ask any of us, even some of the people that were fired by him, they’d still run through a brick wall for the guy. So, there’s some intangible leadership that needs to be there. But it’s also his process, and so I knew if I ever missed a quarter, I was shot. And quite frankly, I thrived in that environment. I’d much rather know the expectations and know I’m performing and set up a plan to be able exceed the expectations, than be in an environment where you never know if you’re going to get shot, you never know how you’re doing. So, like, if I’ve got a goal line, I know what I need to do to beat it.
Ollie Kuehne: 24:56:83
Simon Kouttis: 24:58:36
And I suppose in terms of you guys then going on and replicating that, you recognize that if you’re going to run a strict … a very tight ship in this form, you obviously need the right type of mindset to be able to have the resilience to be successful and that competitive nature and as long as you’ve got the intelligence, that’s what it really takes. And so, it’s no surprise that you guys that have lasted through those four, five, six years under John’s leadership, that you have gone on with the trajectory that you have.
Brian Blond: 25:33:70
Yeah, no, I’d agree. I think there was a lot about BladeLogic, not just, kind of, the sales process we ran, that set folks up for the right mindset, mentality, leadership skills to actually be able to excel.
Ollie Kuehne: 25:49:20
Yeah, sorry, I was just about to jump in there and say, obviously, looking after BladeLogic and moving on from there, after four years of Bladelogic, obviously then went on to Virtrue.
Brian Blond: 26:01:04
Ollie Kuehne: 26:07:23
Vitrue sorry, they hired you at the age of 34 as a CRO, right?
Brian Blond: 26:13:04
Yeah, yeah, no, I stayed at BMC for probably about a year after the acquisition and then went to Vitrue as my first CRO role.
Ollie Kuehne: 26:25:29
Brian Blond: 26:26:86
So yeah, and Vitrue was a great run, you’re always learning a lot when you’re a first time CRO and making lots of mistakes, I’m sure I did. But you know, a lot of it was just having the comfort knowing the BladeLogic playbook and what worked. Pretty quickly after I got there, it just started taking off and we were pretty lucky at the time. Within a year, we had offers from both Salesforce and Oracle and Oracle bought us and, unfortunately, I ended up back at Oracle and I couldn’t hate big companies more, because it’s the anti of everything I just told you about what I liked to do and I how I like to scale. And you end up with process and politics and bad sales organizations. And you know, it’s stifling. So, I got out of there pretty quick.
Simon Kouttis: 27:24:14
You talk about luck, right? But you’ve got Inktomi, acquired by Yahoo, 170 Systems, acquired by Kofax. BladeLogic, acquired by BMC, Vitrue acquired by Oracle, so that’s four acquisitions in a row, followed by Tealium, no acquisition but probably likely to IPO any time. And then ThoughtSpot which made it unicorn in two years. That’s a lot of luck.
Ollie Kuehne: 27:57:30
No one’s that lucky Brian.
Brian Blond: 27:59:67
All right, whatever. No, there is some luck, but I think part of it is, this process works, you’ve got to pick the right company, you’ve got to pick the right space, you’ve got to pick hard technology and you’ve got to build the right sales organization, and if you do all of those things, you’re going to be successful.
Simon Kouttis: 28:19:62
But at 34, is that a risk? That’s very young to take a–
Brian Blond: 28:26:13
No, I’d say definitely it was a risk. And it’s interesting, most of the BladeLogic folks were the same age as me and most of them, after leaving BladeLogic/BMC, took on CRO roles out of the gate. So I think I was one of the first ones to do it, but I think it became less and less risky for all these companies and more that, they just, you know, it became, ‘let’s go get a BladeLogic guy to run sales.’
Ollie Kuehne: 29:02:10
Yeah, yeah. Which is, as I said, an interesting point now. So, obviously, your recent chapter in joining a VC … how did you keep reinventing yourself? How did you keep climbing?
Brian Blond: 29:16:84
Look I mean, ThoughtSpot was incredibly fun. When I joined there, they’d already been through two heads of sales that didn’t work out. It was really struggling as a company, and you know, with very little sales over the first couple years of the product being out. And I completely gutted the thing, rebuilt it, and within a year it was a unicorn. And so, I did that, that’s the third time I’ve done it and so it was great, I could do it in my sleep, I could go do it again. But, when I stared talking to the folks at Sutter and specifically, Mike Speiser and Chad Peets who I’d worked with ever since BladeLogic, I just got super excited about doing something that was totally different and learning a new craft and continuing to take my game to the next level. So, you know, it was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Ollie Kuehne: 30:23:94
So, what did you bring to, in that case, then, what did you bring to Sutter Hill Ventures? Why did they bring you into the business?
Brian Blond: 30:31:54
So, Sutter didn’t have a partner that knows go-to-market. Inherently they know it and quite frankly, they brought in John early on a lot of their companies to help. But none of our current partners were ex CROs and it’s interesting in venture, you don’t see a lot of folks with a background like mine, that are VCs. And you know, I actually think that’s a big mistake. When you’re in board meetings and you’re working with all these early stage companies and you’re trying to get them to go, you spent 90% of the board meeting on sales, and trying to figure out what’s working and what’s not working and how you scale the thing. And so, to have a board where no one really knows go-to-market, is complete idiocy. And I have had lots of boards where no one knew go-to-market. So, I think it was something that Sutter actually realized and was really a thought leader in terms of ‘let’s get an investment partner that knows sales.’
Ollie Kuehne: 31:37:70
Brian Blond: 31:38:53
We also all worked together really well, and Sutter obviously understands the importance of sales and nailing go-to-market. But you know, whether I invest in a company personally, through Sutter, or we start a company, or it’s one of my partner’s investments, I still help them. I still want to go help them nail sales.
Ollie Kuehne: 32:01:36
So, what is it that you’re looking for within a company to invest in then?
Brian Blond: 32:05:54
So, we look for hard engineering, so one of the things is, we don’t want demand risk, and that’s where you get into consumer. I could go build an application and then put it out in the wild and no one downloads it, no one uses it, I’m done, there’s nothing you can do to fix that. If no one wants to use it, shut it up, and so, you know, you want technology where there’s no demand risk. If you think about Snowflake, if I can build a company that can do things 100 times faster than Teradata, and I can build it in the cloud, everybody on the planet is going to want it. It’s really a question of, can I actually build it? So, there’s no demand risk, it’s very hard engineering, but if you can build it, you can build 1000 person sales organization. That’s the type of stuff we like to look for, where you can have a really, really big organization, and then we also have Chad Peets, who did the recruiting for BladeLogic, AppDynamics, MongoDB, Snowflake, and put him into our companies. So, Chad does all the recruiting for Sutter Hill and he’s a partner and he only works on Sutter Hill companies, but that’s part of the secret sauce. If we can build something that’s very hard engineering and then staff it with a BladeLogic type sales organization, magic happens.
Ollie Kuehne: 33:36:96
Yeah, he’s a legend in the industry, or in our industry, he’s done some amazing things. So, at what stage do you enter into the process? What part do you play … the early start conversations?
Brian Blond: 33:56:28
We like to go early, so, you know, sometimes we start companies, sometimes we will invest in A or B rounds, that’s typically where it is. Once it gets too late, we can’t actually bring the team to make the impact that we can when it’s early. When it’s early and we’ve got a blank canvas with great engineering, we can build a monster.
Ollie Kuehne: 34:25:89
Simon Kouttis: 34:29:37
So, how do you assess the sales capability in the organizations that you invest in? Is that something that your hands on as part of your role?
Brian Blond: 34:39:67
I help, it’s not my core focus, but it’s something that I can bring to our portfolio, that I love doing and I help and you know, kind of between Chad and I, we do that quite a bit. We also have a huge BladeLogic legacy and most of our heads of sales come from that. So, Chris Degnan at Snowflake worked for Andy Byron at Aveksa, where he went right after BladeLogic. Andy Byron’s president of Lacework, one of our cloud companies. We just launched another company with another BladeLogic person. So, we’re surrounding our portfolio with BladeLogic folks and BladeLogic process and BladeLogic recruiting and you know, it’s working great for us.
Simon Kouttis: 35:29:73
You talk about Chad Peets quite a lot. It’s quite strange to have a recruiter working … to be partner in a VC, he’s also managing director, I understand, right?
Brian Blond: 35:43:27
Simon Kouttis: 35:44:66
So, what place does a recruiter have in a VC? You kind of touched on it already, but it would good to understand.
Brian Blond: 35:50:23
I mean look, it’s a secret sauce, if we can build sales organizations that Chad can build, and you know, Chad’s pretty special obviously with the companies he’s done. It’s a competitive advantage. And so, Chad’s unlike other recruiters, every VC has their recruiter, it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, you need a CMO? We’ll do it,’ or, ‘You need a CRO? We’ll do it.’ Chad does everything end to end and I’ve always felt that’s the best way to do it. If it’s not a Sutter Hill company and somebody’s looking to bring on sales people, I would say, hire one recruiter and make them your partner in building this company. And so where I see it fail all the time is, they’re not strategic about the recruiters they bring on and they’ve got, they’ll be like, “Yeah, we’ve got like five recruiters working this spot.” That does not work. And what it does is, it torches the territory, everybody’s like, ‘Yeah, I’ve gotten a call from three other guys.’ So, it doesn’t work. I think recruiters can be very strategic, especially sales recruiters, can be very strategic to a company, but you need to find a partner and give them the reigns and make them truly part of the business to scale the business. When Chad did Snowflake, he’s the only recruiter that’s placed anybody from CRO to 1000 sales reps. And so that’s where it works and that’s where the magic happens, when you’re keeping the recruiters at an arm’s length and you’re just using them to kind of like, give you candidates off of LinkedIn, it’s a waste of everybody’s time.
Ollie Kuehne: 37:33:21
So how does the non-compete affect there then? Because, obviously, if you’re talking about a pool, if you’re all investing, then rebuilding certain teams, are you moving the individuals within the different companies?
Brian Blond: 37:46:51
No, we’re really, not. Yeah, we don’t do that. We treat every portfolio company special and the last thing we do is … You can’t really take one rep and move them from one company to the next. That being said, reps leave companies all the time and so, you do end up recycling some reps, but it’s not poaching from one company to give them to the next one.
Ollie Kuehne: 38:18:88
Well there are different life cycles, aren’t they? You know, as you do, you like early stage start-ups.
Brian Blond: 38:19:44
They totally are.
Ollie Kuehne: 38:20:27
And so those individuals, they like the first one to three years of a business, there’s individuals that like a more established business, etc. But also, you are looking, with a lot of your portfolio for that next wave of individuals, that next wave of intelligent, coachable, enthusiastic, competitive, intelligent sales people that are coming through that next wave. So those new waves are always coming through as the company evolves over time, right?
Brian Blond: 38:54:00
Well absolutely, now for instance, Snowflake is hiring a lot of major account managers, like senior guys that, you know, can take down massive deals at their accounts. So that’s a different skillset than you know, hiring the 28 year old, green, sales rep, that you’re going to teach them everything, and mould them. If you’re going to take down a 100 million dollar deal, that’s probably not the rep you want on it. And so, you know, it evolves over time.
Simon Kouttis: 39:26:01
So, do you think that many companies miss their quotas because of their recruitment strategy? Do you think that’s a common confusion?
Brian Blond: 39:44:46
A ton of the time. So, what you do is, you create a productivity model and that tells you how many reps you need to hire to be able to hit your number. And it’s part of using science and math to be able to scale a business. And so, as soon as you don’t hire a rep or you hire the wrong rep, you’re in big trouble of missing your number, because all of a sudden you’re going to get zero productivity out of that rep that you were planning on say, getting a million dollars this year out of. Even worse, if you don’t hire them, you’re going to have to cheat the ramp time to actually get that rep productive, but worse, you hire the wrong one and you don’t develop them, and you’re not paying attention to all the KPIs and you realize six months in, this rep’s not going to make it. So, you shoot that rep, you start another search, it takes you three months to find somebody, now you’re nine months into the year, you have a brand new rep starting in that territory, and it actually crushes that territory for two years, because you’ve got to ramp them then at that point. So, making a bad hire is just as bad as not actually hitting your hiring goals. But if you don’t hit your hiring goals, you’re screwed from day one.
Simon Kouttis: 40:45:24
Yeah, so you talk a lot about sales being a science, you talk a lot about the mathematics and predictable results. Again, if we were to reflect on the success that you and this group are all having, do you share that view? Do you think that many of your group share that kind of mindset around how they scale those organizations?
Brian Blond: 41:10:40
Yeah, no, I think everybody does and you know, I think even outside of BladeLogic, if you’re not using science and math to guide you in scaling these businesses, figuring out how many reps can you add and how quickly can you add them, if you’re not watching all the KPIs, you have no idea. So, you either over hire or you under hire. And so, I’m looking at things like the number of first meetings that they’re having on a weekly basis, and then, what’s their conversion percentage from first meeting to second meeting? And then, what’s their conversion percentage from second meeting to POC? And what’s their POC conversion percentage? And if you’re watching every single one of those on a weekly basis, you can figure out, like, ‘OK, I can continue to add reps and my first meetings aren’t dropping.’ And if a rep is able to get the first meetings and say their second meeting conversion is lower than what I’m liking to see, usually that’s a coaching thing, their message is off, they’re not asking for next steps, there’s a lot of issues that can happen between a first and second meeting that isn’t an effort thing. The first meeting is the effort. If I want everybody to get five new meetings every week, and this person’s getting three or two or one, pretty quickly I’m going to either figure out, there’s something they’re doing wrong, or it really is effort and if it’s effort, I’m going to fire them. But quickly – I’m not going to wait until I see how they do the next quarter or the quarter after that, or if they’re hitting their number because, I can already tell you right out of the gate, if they’re not getting the first meetings, they’re not going to hit their number.
Simon Kouttis: 42:50:70
I just want to bring a bit of perspective because, when we set out to investigate the story of the BladeLogic guys and the remarkable success that you guys are having, it’s very easy to draw the conclusion that perhaps you’re just buddies looking out for each other – that could be a way of interpreting it. But actually, when you start to investigate this deeper and deeper, it’s not just BladeLogic, you have a look at the success previously at PTC, AppDynamic after that … it’s not just about the fact that you are just buddies, you are just a crop of individuals that just have a remarkable thirst.
Brian Blond: 43:38:00
Yeah, I agree, if anything, we’re not buddies, we’re all extremely competitive. So, that makes us not really be buddies. I think there’s a sign of respect but, like, I want to beat them at everything they do all the time. So, it’s not like we’re all just tight buddies looking out for each other, it’s almost the opposite.
Simon Kouttis: 44:04:94
So, is there any downtime for you Brian? Is it full, 100%, 24/7?
Brian Blond: 44:15:20
It’s pretty tough, I think all of us are such driven individuals that there’s not a lot of vacations and downtime. I’m pretty much bringing it as hard as I can all the time and then you know, I’ve got two kids and I try and do my family time, and I also have to work out at least once a day or I lose my mind. And so, it’s kind of a combination of that and that’s typically makes up most of my days.
Ollie Kuehne: 44:51:31
Interesting, you do quite a lot of swimming, right?
Brian Blond: 44:54:46
I used to, that was my sport, really in high school. I unfortunately was pretty blessed with it because I actually hated it as well. But, you know, after doing two times a day, spending almost six hours in the pool every day, I can’t even smell chlorine anymore, because I have flashbacks, yeah.
Ollie Kuehne: 45:20:79
Right, so why was it, because that was an important part for you, right?
Brian Blond: 45:25:61
It was. For me, it’s about discipline and I think any sport can provide discipline. But I really like individual sports as much as I do team sports, you can be a phenomenal basketball player, but it can be natural and fun for you. And it’s interesting, I don’t know if you guys have been watching the new Michael Jordan documentary of how intense he is. What did they call it on ESPN, I can’t remember, oh, “The Last Dance.”
Like, it’s unbelievable to watch that and it comes to kind of how I feel about sports and you know, I think Michael Jordan’s mentality and how brutal and competitive and holding everybody accountable and pushing everybody as hard as he can, that equates a lot to what all of us do in our sales organizations. And so, it’s very similar, sports versus sales. And if you’ve got that type of mentality, I really don’t care what you do if you’ve got that type of mentality, you’re going to be successful.
Simon Kouttis: 46:46:41
So, we’ve obviously heard the story Brian, did you always see this as your destiny? Did you always know that you would reach this level?
Brian Blond: 46:59:04
No, not at all. You’re not thinking that far ahead quite frankly. I live pretty much in the moment and I’m pretty intense about whatever it is I’m doing and so, I’m just focused. And then you focus and you do something special, and new opportunities pop up.
Ollie Kuehne: 47:23:19
And look, we’re asking this question of everybody and I think it’s for the benefit of our listeners that are all looking to break that glass ceiling: what advice could you give them if there’s three key topics or three key points of advice, what would they be?
Brian Blond: 47:41:33
I’d say you have to be very driven, you have to work very hard, and you have to go work for somebody that can teach you and you can learn a lot from. I see that mistake all the time, where reps go work some place and they’re like, “Well I’m actually better than the head of sales, but I think I can make some money here.” There’s no shortcuts and so, you know, the four years at BladeLogic, I think all of us would say we enjoyed it, but it was brutal. It was brutal on all of us, it was brutal on our families, but, without it, none of us would be where we are today. And so, don’t take a shortcut, don’t say, “Oh, I can make 50 grand more, but I gotta work for this guy that I don’t respect.” Go learn from somebody that’s unbelievable at what they do, and it’ll pay off in spades.
Ollie Kuehne: 48:37:79
So, go and work for a Sutter Hill Venture company, right?
Brian Blond: 48:40:95
You got it.
Ollie Kuehne: 48:41:78
Go learn it. Fantastic.
Simon Kouttis: 48:44:73
So, if I was to conclude on where we are with this Brian, I think what’s really interesting is that you haven’t come from a place of privilege. It was never your destiny to reach the levels that you have and I’m hoping that, people that are listening to this, are obviously encouraged by that. The remarkable success that you as a group seem to have is not because of something that was given to you, it was the fact that you were put through your paces, you were really tested, and you were put outside of the comfort zone and you had the strength, you had the competitive nature to be able to continue to push and grow and push yourself beyond your comfort zone and you weren’t scared of the challenge, and that’s just enabled you to continue to reinvent yourself. And I think that this is a common trait that we’re seeing, in yourself, definitely, and every single person that we are speaking to. Whilst they are really thankful for the teachings of someone like John McMahon who showed them the way, it is still down to you as individuals to really embrace that and reinvent that, calibrate that, make that your own, own it, and continue to see the success that you’re seeing. So, I’d really like to thank you for joining us on the podcast today.
So, for our listeners, thank you very much for tuning in, if you’ve liked what you’ve heard, please comment, share and like. Feel free to get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. Lots more guests lined up, so look out for all the live updates on our LinkedIn page and on the somuchsoap.com website /blog.
That’s all for today’s show. We’d really like to thank Brian for joining us, thank you very much, Ollie. And remember unicorns are made and not found.
Ollie Kuehne: 50:40:34
Thank you so much Brian.
Brian Blond: 50:40:34