The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast
The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast

Episode 75 · 9 months ago

An Interview with John McMahon Part 1


Author and Sales Leader Veteran John McMahon joins John Kaplan to discuss themes in his new book, “The Qualified Sales Leader”. McMahon has been the Chief Revenue Officer at five public, enterprise software companies – PTC, Geo-Tel, Ariba, BladeLogic and BMC. Now he sits on the board at several public software companies including Snowflake and MongoDB.

More Information:

- BUY THE BOOK: The Qualified Sales Leader


- How to Ensure You’re Selling for a Great Company


- The Secrets to Aligning Your Company on Customer Value and Differentiation


- The Right Methodology to Ensure Your Technology Sells


Check out this and other episodes of The Audible-Ready Podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website. 

Who are are ideal customers. We are. We are product aligns, perfect boots in them, and not only the product, but it's a sales force ready to call on those types of companies to and do they have the highest propensity to buy our product and buy it now? And when you do that type of homework, that's when you can optimize sales productivity, optimize average deal size and then start to really scale your sales force. You're listening to the audible ready podcast, the show that helps you and your team's sell more faster. will feature sales leader sharing their best insights on how to create a sales engine that helps you fuel repeatable revenue growth, presented by the team a force management, a leader in BTB sales effectiveness. Let's get started. Hello and welcome to the audible ready sales podcast. I'm Rachel Clap Miller. Today we are featuring our interview with John McMahon. Many of you listening out there know him or you've worsd with him. He's been the chief revenue officer at five Public Enterprise Software Companies, PTC, geotell, a, Reba, blade, logic and BMC. He was a pre IPO member of for those companies, and now he sits on the board at several public software companies, including snowflake and mango DB, and he has a new book out called the qualified sales leader. It's available wherever you buy books. Our Own John Kaplan work for McMahon at PTC and mcmahan is use force in several of his companies. These two go way back when it comes to sales performance. It's a great conversation enjoy. Here we go, John McMahon. Welcome and thank you for being a part of the audible ready podcasts. Were so excited to have you today. We've actually talked about doing this for a long time, so I'm ecstatic that you are able to fit it into your busy sketchle. Welcome brother. Thank you big the boo boo band, Johnny Cap. Yes, sir, here I okay, we're right now. We have the gloves are on, so this is going to be a this is going to be a smell. I level. Smelon salts are in the corner and that's right. Hey, brother, congratulations on your outstanding work of the qualified sales leader. I think the book is kind of smashing records for these types of books on Amazon. And I've had the chance to read it. I actually was sweating through parts of it. was wondering if you're going to utilize names that you were talking about some of these challenges that needed to be overcome. But just congratulations, brother. I'd like to ask you a couple of questions, like why did you decide to write the book? Well, a lot of times of being meetings, you know as a consultant and advisor aboard, being a board meeting, or go to a be invited to go to a qbr or, you know, any type of you know, sales situation or or advising situation, ...

...and I might say something that I think is kind of ordinary and then after the meeting some people would say to me, hey, you know, what you said in that meeting was really impressive and I say, well, what was that? And they remind me and then they say, you know, what book could I read that in? And I thought to myself, there is no book you could read that in, and then they say, well, why don't, why don't you write a book someday? So it's always been in the back of my mind and then I realized, like you know, I'm not going to go in anymore operating roles and I see a lot of organizations that are start up organizations that could do a lot better if they had some sort of plan to what they're doing. And I thought if I could put this in writing and make it kind of easy to read, not a like Boring Textbook where you read one chapter and your head hurts, but if I can make it easy, conversational with a nice narrative to it, then you know, maybe I could give something back to the community that's given me so much and was so well done. Brother, you know, the thing that struck me the when I first started reading it was the way that you did it, the narrative that you use the story. So it's kind of man I don't want to give away too much of it, but it kind of manifests itself into kind of this advisor that's working with this company and it's observing kind of like a qbr process. But I got to tell you, I've never read a business book like this that really takes the time to create an there of so the story that gets created in chapter one, it's actually finishing at the end of the chapter. Mostly these things are kind of they feel like boiler play templates cookie cutter. I took these three chapters out of some blog that I did over here and then I kind of pasted them all together. So that must have been a significant effort for you. But what kind of feedback are you getting on that narrative? Yeah, first like, I'm not really a great writer. So initially I sat down lock myself in a in a room for four days and just wrote down a whole bunch of notes and stuff. But a whole bunch of words doesn't make a book. You could, I probably could have wrote the book in a month if I wanted to build a boring textbook that had, at the end of it, you know, these five things you had to remember and yeah, but there's no real story to it. So what I read one time is that if you want to write a nonfiction business book, the reason people wanted is because they want to be transformed. So that really stuck with me. So the whole narrative of the book, as I start with a company that's not doing so well and a number of characters and then throughout the book I try to take them from where they are today to a real positive future state and I'd helped to transform these people and I think that's what really resonates with people. I think you did a great job with it. I mean there were just, I think, characters that I could identify with as being a seller in my life before, being a sales leader in my life, being an executive in a company, being a customer. I just think you did such...

...a great job of capturing all of those perspectives and I know that that was not easy. So if again we're talking about the qualified sales leader, we've have John McMahon with us and unbelievable, probably the most impactful enterprise sales leader in the history of enterprise software sales. And so if you haven't had a chance to go and get that book, it's on Amazon. Do yourself a favor, do your career favor, go out today and make sure that you get that. So let's dig into a few times. Just we got a couple a little bit. What about the forecast sessions Doreing the QBR? I had some people tell me they were reading it that they felt their hands starting to sweat. You know, if it was worse that there was more sweating in my hands. Yeah, we can all resonate to how much people really hate that. So that's where I started, with a forecast for you session in the Qbr to show really in most companies it is pretty dysfunctional and how you can really transform that into a more positive meeting. You know, I mean at the end of the day, when you really think about that moment of truth of an organization leader, a rap being able to call the ball, where are you going to finish? How are you going to accurately predict Your Business? I mean, I've given advice for years telling people that if you are not reliable on the way that you predict your business, you will never, never move up a stales or organization, you'll never lead a sales organization. So the fact that you kind of open up the book and put us right in that moment of truth was there was some perspiration happening for me as well. Well. What you said is you know a lot of it. Your ability to call the ball, as you said it, you know, especially from a from a manager perspective, really tells me how intimate you are, how intimate you are with your salespeople, their strengths, their weaknesses, the different skills they have, their knowledge level, and it also says for the accounts that you haven't been on with those reps, how good are you at qualifying those deals through them and how intimate you are with those people? So how intimate are you with the accounts? How intimate are you with the people? Really is a forecasting is a telling sign of how intimate you are in those situations. kind of like it's kind of like a symptom of it, isn't it? Yeah, for sure. So let's stay on that topic for just a second. On Rep skill level, or let's talk about intimacy. Is that relates to sales leadership and making sure they have the right people on the right accounts. In one of the gems that I picked out in the book, it talked about, you know, the majority of reps are not making their quota just around the world, and I think in your book you point out sixty two percent of reps fail because they're assigned to the wrong accounts. Deep dive in that a little bit. What is your thinking around that? What's going on? Well, the two things that are going on. One is people are being recruited into the wrong wrong companies. They...

...may not have the right skill set or knowledge, and then the second thing is this people, once they're inside a company are being assigned to the wrong accounts and they don't have the skill set, or may not have the skill set to call in those accounts. And a lot of people might think, and I've heard this before, well, you know, sales is sales. You know, if a guy could sell, he could sell it, she could sell, she could sell. And I say, well, I'm not so sure that that's true. Is Football. Football is hockey, hockey, you know, it's any sport, any sport the same sport. So you know, my analogy is Tom Brady on the God it's almost hard to say that he's on the Tampa Bay bucketeers. And Tom Brady, you'll go down as maybe one of the greatest quarterbacks that ever lives and no one will really doubt his knowledge of the game right. But his football really football. Can you take Tom Brady and assign him to the wide receiver position? He'll fell on the first play. Could you recruit him onto a different team and put them in the linebacker position? No, he'll fell on the first play. So I don't think people take enough time to analyze who are the right candidates for a company of our stage and our size, with our accounts. The personas we're going to call on in the use cases that we have and are we also, once we've recruited these people, have we trained them and developed them so that they can be assigned to the right accounts and match the skill set required to be successful in those accounts? Right? Calling on a small company where it's just one line organization is one thing. Calling on a company where they have divisions that have spread throughout a couple states and then, as also a corporate people in trying to corral all those people into a common decision criteria, common decision process, one cost justification. Wow, that's a completely different skill set and a lot of times reps get thrown into these situations where they even think themselves that they can handle these accounts and they really can't and they found down your let's stay on this topic of intimacy, and when I work for you, I'm not even sure I'm this is nothing against recruiting organizations or recruiting resources. That was never your point when you told us that we were responsible for recruiting. I understand it now so much more than I understood it then, because it's this intimacy of there's knowledge, there's skills, and there's character, and I'm kind of summarizing what you're saying. This is what it's turned into for me. The company has certain responsibilities of okay, we can give you knowledge, if we're expecting you to have knowledge before you come to the role, or if calling on these types of accounts create some need...

...for specific knowledge as well as skills. Is just as important to an individual's character and I think for years all the books are written about, you know, find people a great character and like hey, we're just you know, yes, that is true, and we have to make sure that we're finding the people of great character. But what your point in this book for me was selling is more complex than that. Today it is there is collaboration. Very rarely are we one person selling one thing to another. Individual people are buying as a service, which means they probably have some type of an engagement in the beginning, some type of commitment, some type of customer success or renewal. So now you have all these other skills and collaborations that are needed. But your point that jumped out at me in the book is if you don't get intimate with the what and the how of what you're going to ask these people to do when you're recruiting them, and then you're not intimate with that when you're making a territory assignments and account assignments or what have you. That's probably why that number is so high. On sixty two percent of the reps out there are failing right. It's no abot. Think about it like what you said, is the what and the how. The what is the playbook. So yes, you know, the hockey team, the football team, they all have a playbook and every player needs to be knowledgeable about that playbook. They can't actually think when the play is called. They have to know. So there's no thinking, you have to know. And then there's the how. How do I execute each and every step of that play flawlessly? And that's when they're out on the practice field every day doing drills, drill, do it again, do it again, do it again till we make it flawless. So there's, you know what you said, different aspects of knowledge and as different aspects of execution or how. This play is supposed to be pulled off flawlessly, and it's no different in sales. I don't know why people think it's different in sales. Yeah, I think it's people that you might think of as art what I might call artists. I've had a couple people work like that for me and it those people are people that can do certain things without thinking of exactly how they're doing it right. It might be analogous to Wayne Gretzky and hockey. I mean he was just the phenomenal player and if you probably ask them, well, break down how you actually did that, he probably didn't think about it, whereas other people may have to think about three different things just to do one thing that he did right. So yeah, it's different people. But to your point, it goes back to how intimate are you with the your players and do you know what they know and do you know how they can execute the play, where their strengths are, where their weaknesses are, where they need coaching, where they have fears, where they have insecurities? You have to know those things as a leader and I think that you did such a great job. I...

...mean like words matter and the way you titled The book the Qualified Sales Leader. So words matter for me when I read your book and it became crystal clear as I went through the book. You are definitely talking about qualification. All aspects of everything that we do. You are also talking about being a leader, and it doesn't mean that you, when you grab this book, when you're listening to this, don't shut down and say, well, I'm not a sales leader, so I shouldn't buy this. You know I shouldn't buy this book. You know, the best feedback you ever gave me, John, when we were talking about going to the next level when I was working for you, you said, Hey, Kaplin, if you want the next job, act like you already have it. And because you did such a great job of having a playbook out there, it was like the answers to the test. So if I wanted to get the next job, so people listen out there, if you want to get the next job and lead people, I would get this book. If I'm a sales rep today, number one, you're going to learn instantly and immediately how to do your job better, but you're also going to get a great lens on how to coach and develop your people. And I just want to commend you, John, for the qualified sales leader. I think you did a great shot. was there anything else for us to know? How you pick that title, if you think about and why why that word too? I think that's where you originally going is qualification. If you think about what you do, whether you're a rep or a manager. If I'm a manager, I have to qualify who I recruit. I have to qualify, like we said, of where do I put them? Have to qualify the accounts, I have to qualify the forecast, I have to qualify what my boss wants. I have to qualify customers when they call me. I have that's all I'm constantly doing is qualifying. And what makes a great qualifier? I've put some of those components in the book too. Is, first and foremost, with your and your you and your team. You have to have a common vocabulary. So I can't tell you how many times I go into a organization I hear them go over the forecast and they're throwing out words champion, economic bimber by all that type of stuff, and then I stand up and I say, since I'm new to this crowd, could I ask you a question? You know, John Kaplan, what do you mean by the word champion? And then you give me a definition. Hey, sally, could you tell me what you mean? She gives me a different expot definition. Then I turned to Joe. Joe, what do you think? And Joe gives me a different one, and I realized there's no common vocabulary in this in this company. They're all talking past each other right and then after that, you know you have to be a great listener, and too many people just want to talk instead of truly listening. And then so many people are what I call in a constant state of partial attention, especially these days, so social media, texts, email, calls, videos, people walking in your office, Total distraction, nonstop, and very few people stop whatever they're doing, can concentrate on...

...who's speaking to them or concentrate on the subject at hand because they're in a constant state of partial attention. In order to do those things, you have to be here, you have to be in the moment, you have to be in the now. If you're not here and in the moment, you can't be a great listener. And if you're not here and in the moment, you can't be a great listener, and then you can't use your intuition. And that's where I also see a lot of salespeople that I've been in meetings with. They maybe here, they might maybe or listening but they're not. Maybe they're not completely here because they're thinking about what they're going to say and then, because of that they have no intuition, they can't into it, they can't like feel the room, they can't feel the direction the conversations going, and then they say something and you think, man, that is so off topic of where we are right now. Why? Because you're not really here, you're not really listening, you're not really intuiting. You see what I mean? Yeah, Dude, I think that's so powerful. Of the so many gold nuggets and what you just said, I think about Nick Saban, Alabama's Alabama University football coach. is got up these kind of like the bill belicheck for our global listeners. It's the Manchester United, it's the formula top Formula One teams, whatever, the top cricket teams or whatever. They just win championships all the time. He has a saying that says you have to play from wherever your feet are. His point is about being president, not the last play, not the next play, and I think tying into our knowledge, skills and character piece. The part that you own in that as the seller or sales leader is that you have to consume the knowledge and the skills. Like how does Gretzky just do something normally or naturally? Well, it wasn't natural for him when he first started. There was some knowledge that he needed to Choire, there was some skills and some repetition, and then the character is just committing yourself to being excellent at it, being a student of the game. And I really love what you've outlined in your book is, Hey, these are the basics, like this is how to be a student of the game. In the tie in is that's where you get intuition from. When you own the knowledge, in the skills, you have your more confidence and you can be more intuitive, you can listen more, you're not second guessing yourself. You know, okay, what am I going to say next? What should I say next? So I think that's a great tie in. Yeah, well, you move those through those different states of unconsciously incompetent to yes, no, consciously incompetent, to consciously competent, unconsciously confident. You know. So, yes, somebody like a Gretzky was unconsciously competent. Right. So sometimes those types of coaches, though, have a hard time going down to somebody that's unconsciously incompetent and telling them exactly what they have to do because they were, they were artists, right. So, yes, sometimes some of the best leaders make came from the reps...

...that maybe struggled the most and they knew all the different steps you had to do and they struggled through those steps. So when they become a leader, they're able to take somebody that's unconsciously incompetent or consciously incompetent and walk them through those different steps because they had, they had to go through the struggling. As you always say, the learning is in the struggle. Yeah, I think, buddy, that's your next book. Is like I'm thinking about yeah, yeah, well, maybe it's. Maybe it's a podcasters. I'll let you off the hook. Maybe it's a podcast series, but we could do a whole pot last very painful yeah, okay. Yeah, but the point that I really love that you're highlighting is you could be a great rap out there listening today and really really listen to what the advice that John's giving you is. When you are unconsciously competent, that's actually almost as dangerous as being unconsciously incompetent and or consciously incompetent. You're almost better off being consciously incompetent because you know what your gaps are. One of my big struggles when I took over as the sales leader is and I remember going to my brother, who was older than me and had a similar role to that I did and leadership, and I remember he said Hey, John, he said to me, are you a little frustrated? The people aren't like you? And I like, exactly exactly, and he was just trying to prove a point. To me. Was, well, that can't be your that can't be with where you land to take on your leadership role. That's that's just a statement. People are not going to be where you are. You wouldn't have gotten the job. Do you know why you're good at what you do right and do you have the ability to teach it? So again, qualified sales leader, I thought did a great job. When we really if the people are out there that are unconsciously competent or have been told that before, you go and read your book and you're like, yeah, I do that, I done that, and now it's powerful. Son. I can connect to that and say, okay, that's why I'm pretty good at what I do there and maybe I have some gaps over there. So that's I love the book for that. Yeah, I asked a lot of reps when they used to tell me or ask me, Hey, you know, I want to become a sales leader. Are they really do you have any kids? And they say yeah, I got to. Why? Why do you ask? And I said, well, why do you want five more? Basically talking about and I said well, when you were single, your world wasn't about you, is all it was. I mean was all about you. It was about you know, when you got a what you ate, when you went to bed, what activities you did, what you did on the weekend. It was all about you, you know. And then once you had kids, what happened? It wasn't about you anymore. It was about the kids. You know, when they get up, when they go to bed, what they ate, what they do, any activities on the weekends. Your whole world was around now became was in their world right. And then the other...

...thing you quickly discovers these kids that grew up in the same household with the same parents are completely different. They got different strengths, different weaknesses, and now you realize, Hey, I got a coach these kids. If I want them to be successful, I got to coach them based upon their different strengths, weaknesses, instant insecurities, fears, desires, goals, needs, wants. And if you're not willing to do that and be selfless about it, if you won't be selfless, then you won't be a great leader. So if you do want to transition from sales rep to sales leader, you got to take your ego off, unscrew it before you leave the house, put it on the dresser, leave it at home and understand that this job is not about you anymore. It's about them, and when you make those people successful, by definition your successful. That's such a good point. I think I remember somebody telling to me when I took over my first leadership, my first management role, my boss, that to me, congratulations, you have just lost your right to think about yourself first. Yes, and I did heard that before that. I sat with it first, second I didn't really understand what it meant, but then as I got into the role, I'm like, okay, I get this. And so as we're going through this book, as you're reading this book, one of the suggestions that I have for you for our listeners. No matter what your role is, I want you to have two lenses as you read this book. The first Lens is, if I'm a sales leader, I want you to have a lens that says this is the what and how of the playbook and up success. So it's not whether or not you do these things if you are sales leader. First you have to understand the knowledge and skills, but then you also have to understand how can I coach and develop these and I think John and your book in the qualified sales leader you do such a good job of that. So that's from the qualified sales leader perspective. Now, if you're the seller, I want you to keep those same two glasses on. I want you to put your glasses on. It's okay, this is the playbook, this is what I'm supposed to execute against. But when you put your leaders glasses on and say, okay, this is why they're asking me to do this, this is their perspective, and also what we already talked about is okay, those are the glasses I'm going to wear when I take the next job. I found that people that do that in their careers, that wear two glasses my current job and the job that I want to have. They always outperformed the current role that they have. Would you agree with that? Yeah, hundred percent awesome. Now the last thing I want to talk about before we move off this topic. You started the topic on a common vocabulary in John. When I got recruited to PTC, I was amazed when and I moved up in the organization and when I started to travel around the world with the company, the definition of a champion or the definition of most likely...

...or the definition of whatever was in the playbook, the measurable definition was the exact same in Tokyo, Japan as it was in Detroit, Michigan. Right and I as people are reading through the book and listening to this, and if you're a company, would you spend John just a moment? You let's not gloss over this common language and gloss over alignment and marketing and sales and customer success. The reason why we all have to use the same language and you can spot it a mile away when you walk into these companies and their sidelos going on. Talk a little bit about that. Well, I think it's just first of all, it's just basic communication. If you have a different definitions of the same words and I do. Then you have a different picture in your mind than I do when we're talking about the same story. So we we think we're communicating and we are exchanging a verbal we haven't a verbal exchange, but the information that's being exchange is completely different in your mind and it is in my mind. So then you walk away with one picture of what you think you need to do as the rep and I walk away with a different picture in my mind of what you think what I think you should do as the Rep. Right. And then you come back to me and you say, yeah, I did exactly what you say me. So what did you do? And then you did you tell me and I think, well, that's not what I told you to do, but you weren't really not taking my instructions. You had a different picture in your mind than I did because you're using a different definition of the same words. So it's just to me, it's just basic communications. And take it up one level, John. Let's take it up one level now. Now you're you're on some of the greatest company boards on the planet. I don't want to leave any out, but you know mango and snowflake and lace work and I can go on and on about the impact that you've had. Now I want you to put those glasses on because there's, I left out, an audience. As I was reading this, I thought every single CEO and or even a board member that's trying to understand what's going on and translating from corporate kind of vision, sort of speak from company vision down to sales execution, this alignment piece. When I hear you talk about that, when I read about that kind of in the book, there's an audience there too, to make sure, because sales is I mean marketing has marching orders, sales has marching orders, customer success has marching orders, renewals, SDRs inside sellers. It's like all these food groups. If you get a lip, you remember that. When we were kids, they said, you know, do the little thing you do with a cup or whatever. You'd listen and somebody would say something to you. We are old. Don't even try, dude, don't even get me started. So then you whispered to I forget what you call it, but you whisper what you heard from somebody and you whisper that to somebody else and then that gets it, because there's no common language, nobody checks... and says okay, by the time it gets around the group it has morphed into something completely different. So do you believe like I do? I hope you believe this. A leader of a company, a CEO of a company, to read this book around the topics that we're talking about, for alignment and for common vocabulary is just as critical. Yeah, Oh, absolutely. And I get a bunch of Nice emails from CEOS of startup companies, and even some of them that are already public, and saying wow, you know, you really did a great job and thanks. Thanks for that. Some of these guys I don't even know, but it was one of the ones. That hits home the most when I go into these, especially start up companies, is they don't have any type of ideal customer profile. So what happens is most of these companies are started by a technologist, and a technologists believes that everyone's going to buy their baby, and maybe some day everybody will buy their baby. But in the early stages of a company, whether it was PTC and we sold to medical device manufactures and consumer electronics first, or if it was snowflake and we only sold to tech and add tech. You know, you had to figure out early on what are the strengths of my product. You know what use cases do they do they support? Where those pains are? Who's the persona or what companies are those in and what industries are those in? And then build messaging, like your company does a great job of building messaging along those lines. To focus on the ICP. And what I see that people happening is they start the company, the company's only doing a couple million dollars and they have people calling on the biggest financial banks in the world all the way down to small mom and pop shops, but they haven't figured out who the their real ideal customer profile is, and then burning money and it takes them three or four rounds of money to figure out. Man, maybe we are to figure out who we really should sell this product to. And I use the analogy of Jesse James, who is the famous bank robber in the s. He robbed like forty one banks him and his just the James Gang, they called them, and he was asked why do you Rob Banks? And he sits because that's where the money is. Absolutely and that's no different for start up or for any company to figure out who are our ideal customers? We are we are product aligns perfect goods to them, and not only the product, but is a sales force ready to call on those types of companies too? And do they have the highest propensity to buy our product and buy it now? And when you do that type of homework, that's when you can optimize sales productivity, optimize average deal size and then start to really scale your sales force. I love that, John, and that works so nicely to our belief and what we call the four essential questions. When you go down that path, that's now you have that ideal customer. But what shapes you're thinking is okay, so what problems do we solve for those customers? How specifically do we solve them? How... we solve them differently or better? And depending upon the stage of the product, either where we going to show that we've done it before, or who we going to stand up that is going to say that creates proof points, case studies and testimonial so what is the quantifiable business value that the customers gives? And if it's not a major quantifiable business value, you probably hunting in the wrong tree, the wrong tree. That's it. That's part one of our interview with John McMahon. Part Two post tomorrow. Be sure to check it out and thank you for listening. At force management, we're focused on transforming sales organizations into elite teams. Are Proven methodologies deliver programs that build company alignment and fuel repeatable revenue growth. Give your teams the ability to execute the growth strategy at the point of sale. Our strength is our experience. The proof is in our results. Let's get started. Visit US at force MANAGEMENTCOM. You've been listening to the audible ready podcast. To not miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Until next time,.

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