Sales Leader Interviews: Pete Kazanjy

Sales Leader Interviews: Pete Kazanjy
Elise Hymes


Experience: Founder at TalentBin (Acquired by Monster), Founder at Modern Sales Salon, Author, Founding Sales.

AH: E&Y recently said "It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken." How long do you think it will for normal VP of Sales/ Head of HR to realize that using ultimatums like "You need to have a degree, or you cannot interview here" - are outdated and ineffective strategies when it comes to optimizing company success?

PK: Degrees are helpful signifiers of a bunch of work and determination required to be admitted to a school, and then the to attain that degree. But they're only one signifier. Nowadays in modern hiring processes, with assessment technology and such, instead of relying on a third party signifier like a degree, you can actually test for the acumen you're looking for, whether that's sales capacity, customer success capacity, and so forth. So it's not a question of abandoning the degree - or admission to an institution, even if a degree wasn't earned. It's instead about considering other, additional, leading indicators of success as well.

AH: Pete you've always come across as a data driven individual. One of the biggest questions and concerns for sales development reps I hear is always around what it take to move to the next level in their career. So how do you define who is ready for a promotion?

PK: If the question is how to go from individual contributor to management, it's related to your point about being data-driven. Being an individual contributor is about producing outputs from your individual behaviors. And that's great, and an important contributor to an organization. Management, on the other hand, is about leverage through orchestrating the successful contributions of many individuals. As such, if an individual wants to ready himself for that, start becoming adept at decomposing the behaviors that go into successful individual contributors,

AH: When hiring for new sales reps (SDR and AE) what are your top 3 traits you look to identify that are most important in that individual and why?

PK: High intellectual capacity (raw smarts), high grinder capacity (grit), high "figure shit out" capacity (creative problem solving). Those three things together create an unstoppable rep who is ready to learn from me, constantly learning from his environment, and has a motor to get things done.

AH: If you were just starting out your sales career what direction would you initially take. Go work for a large company like a Salesforce or Oracle? Or would you choose to work at a young startup? Both have pros and cons, but where do you think a new budding sales person would get most value for themselves and their new careers?

PK: I think the best approach is to work for a mid-stage startup that has its sales motion well developed, but hasn't gotten to the point of market saturation where organization growth has slowed substantially. Too early stage and it's unlikely the organization will have its act together well enough to train you and manage you well. Too late stage, and while the training apparatus will likely be much better, even if you do quite well, opportunity for advancement will be quite slow. So while a Salesforce and Oracle, now in 2017, will have a strong training apparatus, you'll be doing SDR work trying to squeeze blood out of a stone in some random territory in Kansas. Not to mention those organization's solutions are old and no longer cutting edge or innovative - and the most successful reps are ones that become adept at selling new technology that solves business pain with new solutions. Developing those muscles will position you well to jump from org to org as new innovative technologies come on the market to solve pains in new and exciting ways.

AH: With all the activity metrics you've collective, what are you seeing as the common behaviors that has an individual hit and exceed quota consistently?

PK: It's easy. Sales success is about a high level of high quality activity. The best reps are high activity, with high quality. They send lots of emails to well targeted contacts (with high quality focus on the right accounts and right titles), making strong arguments that are tailored to those targets' pains and they do the same on the phone and voicemail. All across this activity they have the trapping of high quality too: high response rates, high frequency of contact engagement, high breadth of account engagement, and so on. Every time I find a rep who's struggling, and dig into the stats, it's pretty easy to see that the root cause falls into one or both of those categories. Oops, he's not sending enough email. Oops, he's only engaging 50% the number of accounts the other reps are. Oops, he's targeting bad contacts, so the response rates are super low (since his outreach is irrelevant). High level of high quality activity.

AH: If you could give 1 piece of advice to any entry-level sales person what would it be?

B Become a "student of the game." Become an expert in your market and in your craft as a seller. Be hungry to learn your market and your craft and it'll show up in the way you do your job, and make you more successful at it.