Silicon Valley Insights: Elevating Your Startup Game
Welcome to the world of Silicon Valley startups, where opportunity meets innovation and we share practical insights and resources to guide you on your startup journey.
Mastering Tech Sales: Strategies for Landing Your Dream Job in Technology
Thriving in tech sales demands a fusion of technical savvy, strategic communication, and a deep understanding of customer needs. Whether you’re new to the sector or aiming to escalate your career, this article unpacks the intricacies of tech sales, outlines key skills, and provides actionable strategies to help you excel and navigate the competitive landscape of technology sales.
How the Relationship Between the VP of Sales and VP of Engineering Drives Startups to Success in Silicon Valley
I had the privilege of working with a number of outstanding VPs of Engineering, like @Sud - linkedin.com/in/sudverma/ at Inverse Network Technology and @Roger - linkedin.com/in/rogerhcastillo/ at Alterpoint. Their product leadership and partnering mentality with all groups within the company really made an impact on our startups. The following are my reflections on what I learned from working with them as a Vice President of Sales.
⚾️ Hitting It Out of the Park: The Search for an All-Star VP of Software Sales
In todays world of software sales, the right VP of Sales can be the driving force behind your company's success.
Navigating The Hiring Marketplace - Why Hiring Recently Laid-Off Employees Might Not Be the Best Option
If you are a VP of Sales, you might be excited to ramp up your team and bust out the company goal you are carrying. To buy time, you want to partner with a recruiting firm, but the CEO wants you to see what's available in the hiring marketplace due to all the tech layoffs over the past three months.
Growing Fast - Less Spend
In a startup, getting your first 50 customers creates the foundation of the company and creates the traction the company needs to build a business.
Stock Option Plans: The Biggest Pitfalls
Randy Bolten has held the CFO position at public and private companies in Silicon Valley. I recently caught up to him about Startup stock options and its pitfalls.
Deadly Sin #6 – Too Many Compensation Elements. (Simplify and Keep Your Sales People Happy.)
In our recurring series on the Deadly Sins of Incentive Compensation, so far we’ve focused on the sins of plan delivery – that is, the errors made when documenting, communicating, and administering comp plans. In this post, we return to the sins of plan design – errors resulting from flaws in the way we structure the plans in the first place. Here’s one of my “favorites”:
Staggered Quota Quarters - Take the survey
We are asking sales leaders to take a survey to get your perspective on a truly interesting suggestion about quota structure, a suggestion from the Sales VP at one of our clients.
Deal Close Probabilities: Swag vs Zero Latitude
One of any sales forecasting systems critical tasks is estimating just how much business the sales organization will actually close.
Staggered Quota Quarters: A CFO's View
This month we step away from the Deadly Sins of Incentive Compensation to discuss a truly interesting suggestion about quota structure, from the Sales VP at one of our clients. At his company, regional sales quarters are staggered, so if there are, say, three regions in the company, each region’s quarters end in a different month. Here’s what that company’s quota quarters might look like for fiscal 2016 (with a 12/31 fiscal year):
Accelerated Comp Plans Sometimes the Rich Should Get Richer
Accelerated compensation plans are those where the commission rate increases as the recipients performance against quota increases. They are a powerful motivational and sales management tool, especially for earlier-stage companies where a relatively small number of big deals can make a huge difference.
The Case Against Captain Ahab Bonuses Spotting The Great White Whale (i know)
In most cases, I am against binary incentive compensation schemes. By this I mean any plan where achieving a single, specific milestone has a large cash payment tied to it.
"What I Look For In a CEO" - Founder In a StartUp
Jeff Yoshimura has been a part of some big growth companies, such as, Salesforce, Zuora, and now Elastic. Currently, Jeff is VP of Worldwide Marketing for Elastic, the search company behind the world’s most popular set of open source products powering consumer apps like Grubhub, Uber, and Wikipedia and enterprise systems for Goldman Sachs, NASA, and Sprint.
“What I look for in a Startup” - A Silicon Valley VP of Sales Perspective
I run a recruiting firm called 121 Silicon Valley, and we are always asking ourselves “What does a VP of Sales look for in a Startup?” So I sat down with Steve Sovik, Chief Revenue Officer at PayEm, a global procurement and spend management software platform that automates finance processes from request to reconciliation. Before joining PayEm, Steve spent five years as SVP of Sales at Coupa Software, where he led sales growth from essentially nothing to over $100+ million.
Using Tropical Fish Charts to Manage Visibility
At the highest level, there are three main metrics in a sales forecasting system: (1) total pipeline, (2) expected sales in the period (usually calculated as the sum of all pipeline deals, weighted by close probability), and (3) business closed so far.
Forecasting Systems: Improvements Can Make Them Useless
A useful and effective sales forecasting system is one of the Holy Grails of sales management. The components of such a beast will be topics of this post from time to time.
Sales & Finance issues with former Controller with Oracle and CFO at Broadvision
Randy is the CEO of Lucidity, a consulting/coaching practice focused on enterprise finance tasks such as incentive compensation plans, reporting packages, and business models.
Projecting Commission Expense with Accelerated Plans the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Effect
As we discussed in a previous post, accelerated commission plans are a powerful motivational and management tool. But if you don’t plan for them properly, you can have some ugly surprises when its time to write the checks or to explain your results to your investors.
The New Rep Ramp-Up: Don’t Let It Bite You!
It takes new sales reps one to four quarters before they start to perform at full speed. Thats especially true in businesses that depend on elephant hunting, where the bulk of the company’s revenues come from a relatively small number of big deals.
Over-Assigning Quotas: A Power to Be Used for Good, Not for Evil
I'm wearing my heart on my sleeve:I am a big fan of the practice of over-assigning sales quotas as part of a company’s annual planning process.
What Does a Bad Hire Cost?
We all know that bad hires are expensive. In fact, that’s become a cliché, and clichés don’t motivate or impress.
How Does A Startup’s CEO Handle Customers? VP Sales Candidates Want to Know
In past articles on this website, we’ve interviewed Sales VPs at startups, and asked them what they look for in a CEO. We hope you’ve found that valuable, but this time we take a different tack. Rather than asking one single Sales VP a lot of different questions, let’s ask several sales VPs the same question.
A Very Deadly Sin: CHANGING THE PLAN SIGNIFICANTLY EVERY YEAR, OR EVEN MORE FREQUENTLY.
Well-designed incentive compensation plans – especially sales commission plans – are a powerful way to motivate great performance. But they’re also easy to screw up, and the results are plans that not only fail to motivate, but are incredibly expensive. With that in mind, with this post we start a recurring series of blogs on the 121 Silicon Valley: The Deadly Sins of Incentive Compensation. So let’s start with Deadly Sin #16 – Changing the plan significantly every year, or even more frequently.
Last-Minute Shopping and Impulse Buying
As suspicious as I am about spot bonuses (see “Deadly Sin #4 – Too Much in ‘All-or-Nothing’ Bonuses”), we’re in the year end holiday spirit, so even we CFOs are willing to make exceptions. Use one-time rewards to recognize behavior that you might not normally see in your sales reps – or your customers/prospects. Here are some examples:
The Deadly Sins of Incentive Comp – A Recap
If your company has a December 31 fiscal year, you’re probably in the throes of finalizing your 2017 incentive comp plans. So in the spirit of avoiding the most egregious compensation errors, let’s revisit the Deadly Sins we’ve discussed on this site over the past year or so (for links to the original blog posts, click on the numbers):
Consistent Performance: Not Always Optimal
We often hear senior management wishing their sales force would deliver “boring” results. They dream of a sales team that’s on auto-pilot, with monotonously consistent on-plan results quarter after quarter. Some companies even offer a “consistent performance” bonus for sales reps who meet all four of their quarterly quotas. But in our view, those companies are committing…
Projecting Commission Expense with Accelerated Plans
Accelerated commission plans are a powerful management and motivational tool. But if you don’t plan for them properly, you can have some ugly surprises when its time to write the checks or to explain your results to your investors.
Capping Incentive Comp - Deadly Sin # 5
As we near the midpoint of the sales year – at least for December 31 companies – it starts to become apparent who the really big producers are, and just how much they might be earning this year. It’s a good time to re-examine your sales commission plan if you’re one of those companies that’s commits….....Deadly Sin #5 – Capping incentive compensation..
A Well-Intentioned Deadly Sin – Recoverable Draws (Deadly Sin #12)
Welcome back to our series on the Deadly Sins of Incentive Compensation. As is often the case, many best – and worst – practices are obvious, but we sometimes need a reminder. In this post, let’s look at a Deadly Sin that is less obvious, at least if you go by the number of times it’s committed, and that’s…
Read Your Comp Plan. Before Resigning. LONG Before.
We depart temporarily from our tour through the Deadly Sins of Incentive Compensation to talk about a more difficult subject: what happens to a sales rep’s commissions if he/she leaves the company. We all hate to deal with this sort of thing, but let’s face it: sometimes a clearly drafted “last will and testament” can save everyone a lot of hassle and heartache.
Schemes That Reward “Pulsing the Plan” - Deadly Sin #11
Designing great comp plans is mostly a matter of common sense. But once in a while, real mathematics rears its objective, unsentimental head, and when you ignore the math in those situations, you do so at your peril. An example of this occurs in plans that may result in…
Quarter-End Bottlenecks Survey: Results are In!
Survey Results: In the last few weeks we’ve blogged about staggered quota quarters (click here and here to see those posts). We followed it up with a survey on the subject, where we learned that the real problem that staggered quota quarters are intended to address – that is, quarter-end bottlenecks in business execution – is clearly a significant issue. And it’s an issue that may not be getting the attention it deserves.
Staggered Quota Quarters: A VP Sales and CFO's View
In last week’s post, we looked at staggered quota quarters, a novel approach for smoothing out the rush to close business at quarter-ends and balancing the enterprise’s workload. As a former Sales VP myself, I would love to see those results. Making sure that those results actually happen is a management challenge, and the Sales VP plays a key role there.
Deadly Sin #18: Failure To Effectively Communicate The Sales Comp Plan
Right now, Senior Sales management and staff are getting ready for the most important sales meeting of the year: the sales kickoff. Held in the first quarter by most December 31 companies, a key element of every sales kickoff meeting is laying out and explaining the upcoming year’s sales commission plan. This topic brings me to…
Deadly Sin #17 – Needlessly Tipping Your Hand
Now is the time when companies, with December 31 fiscal years, start thinking about next year’s compensation plans. And sometimes, so does your sales team.....
Deadly Sin #4: Too much in “all-or-nothing” bonuses.
Our recurring series on the Deadly Sins of Incentive Compensation will sometimes focus on plan design choices that appear sensible at first glance, but on further consideration are expensive and ineffective. Here’s one of my “favorites”...
Treating Everyone Like Sales People
In my last post, I railed against the boneheadedness of putting caps on incentive compensation plans for sales people. In this post, I want to expand on that topic, and speculate about whether capped incentive comp plans ever make sense, for employees in any functional area. I’m thinking particularly about MBO plans designed for managers throughout the company, but this thought process can apply to all sorts of incentive plans.
Boneheaded Comp Plan Idea #2
We return to the rich, fruitful topic of “boneheaded compensation plan ideas.” A capped compensation plan is one that sets an upper limit on the total amount of compensation, even if the calculation formulas indicate a higher amount. Capped plans are one of those often well-intentioned and unfortunately common incentive compensation plan characteristics that can have disastrous consequences.
Boneheaded Comp Plan Idea #1
In my last post, I introduced the concept of boneheaded compensation plan ideas. These are plan design mistakes that at best reduce the value of these extremely expensive plans, and at worst motivate behavior that is the opposite of what you want.
Boneheaded Sales Compensation Plan Ideas
Incentive compensation plans, and sales commission plans in particular, are really, really expensive. In many enterprises, especially high-growth high tech companies, they are the single largest expense line item after salaries. Not only are they expensive, they are often complex, and difficult and time-consuming to administer unlike salaries, which are administered pretty much the same way across many companies, the things that make every business a little different make every businesss incentive comp plan a little different and require special handling. Even so, most well-run companies make extensive use of incentive comp plans.
A Comp Plans Last Mile: The PowerPoint Presentation
Happy New Year! Over the last few weeks, we've talked about the hard work needed to implement an effective incentive compensation plan. We reviewed the spreadsheets to make the numbers meaningful, and the documents that put the plan into plain English. All that remains is the most important task the presentation to the sales force. The presentation should be only 8-10 slides and should accomplish two thing: (1) EXPLAIN, and (2) SELL.
Comp Plans That Work "The Other Documents"
In my last post, we reviewed the document that is the cornerstone of every well-run plan the commission spreadsheet. In this post, well discuss the other two pieces of documentation that are critical to plans that truly motivate:
Comp Sales Comp Plans That Work The Spreadsheet
In my last post, I listed two critical tasks for delivering an effective sales compensation plan. The first of these is easy-to-understand, meaningful spreadsheets and other documentation. In this post well discuss the central document of any plan the spreadsheet. Heres an example spreadsheet; the important elements are circled in red and identified by number, with discussion of each major area following:
Delivering Sales Comp Plans That Actually Work
For companies with December 31 fiscal (and comp plan) years, its time to start thinking about next years incentive compensation plans. For September 30 companies that haven’t gotten to that task yet, its really time to get started!
Using a Value Calculator to Sell Your Products Part II
In our last post, we introduced the idea of a value calculator as a powerful sales tool. To refresh your memory: The XYZ Software Company sells an add-in solution for an enterprises ERP system, to address situations when a single order has to be fulfilled in multiple shipments.
Using a Value Calculator to Sell Your Products Part I
We all understand how critical your finance team can be in helping you negotiate and close your deals, but they can often be a huge help even earlier in the sales process itself, by helping you make the best possible presentation of your products value proposition.
Sales Compensation Under SaaS And All Those Other Weird Animals
In high-tech companies, and especially in the software industry, business models are becoming increasingly varied and exotic.