Sahil Mansuri: Hi and welcome to another episode of The Future of Sales. I’m your host, Sahil Mansuri, co-founder and CEO of Bravado. And with me today is a good buddy, a fellow Warriors fan who’s sweating out the series, you know, Eric Martin. As of recently promoted, Eric Martin, Senior Account Executive at DataFox. Congratulations and welcome to The Future of Sales.
Eric Martin: Hey, thanks for having me. I look forward to this and I’m happy to have a chat.
Sahil: Yeah. There you go. So I guess, you know, our story has kind of a unique beginning in the sense that it’s one of the few examples of people meeting using social media that isn’t like someone just like emailing the shit out of someone or whatever. But we did, we actually met through social media, if I remember correctly. And I got to hear your background in sales and, you know, maybe you can share that story because I think it’s a fun one.
Eric: Yeah. It was definitely via Twitter that -- first, that’s for me. Was it during SaaStr?
Sahil: It was during SaaStr.
Eric: SaaStr, yeah. And I had -- that I had a friend who is using this and I was like, “Dude, I had that idea at one point.” I was like, “I want to sign up for that.” I can’t remember who it was who was using Bravado or had told me about it, but thank you to whoever that was. But, yeah, anyway, so like -- what was your question? Was it like how -- tell me like kind of how I got into sales?
Sahil: Yeah. How you got into sales -- well, your story of how you actually ended up in sales is fairly unique given where you started out because you didn’t start out on the sales side.
Eric: True. So let’s see, I’ll give the real bullet point and a narrative over the past eight years here. So, undergrad, east of Santa Barbara in mechanical engineering, then I went to Saudi Arabia for grad school for three years for a master’s program in environmental engineering, that was at a school called KAUST, that’s short for King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, it’s been an awful. I was there for three years; first year and a half doing a master’s degree, second year and a half helping to setup the schools entrepreneurship center, their seed find, their accelerator, which is actually still going very strong today which I’m quite proud of.
From there, I moved back to the states, co-founded and founded two other startups of my own, one was in underwater hardware, one was in, let’s call the fantasy sports space. I learned a lot through a lot of experiences and neither of them handout. Eventually, you know, I guess, along the way, a number of my advisors and investors told me like, “Hey, dude, like every good CEO needs to begin as sales person, you’re such a people person, you ought to go and get some of that. And so, I get a short stay as a product manager immediately after a second company before deciding to jump off the ledge and just kind of go for it, and so I did.
And so about three years ago I took my first sales job as a BDR at a company called Swiftype which has since been acquired by Elastic. And I’ve been at DataFox now for almost two years. The one thing I’ll say before I’ll let you ask another question is that I actually met the DataFox guys by first guest playing on their company soccer team. And so, for anyone listening out there, the best way to vet a new company by far is going to battle with them eight weeks in a row on the soccer pitch. It was great. I think at the time, our CEO, the entire sales team, two other co-founders were playing. So, I’ve been here for two years and so far so good.
Sahil: That’s awesome. So what was that journey like for you? I mean obviously, you spend so much energy and effort studying on the engineering side and, you know, obviously as an engineer, as a product manager and to go from that side of the house to the sales side, you know, talk me through what that felt like, I mean what was your perception of sales as you were going into it. Did you think that this was something that you would ever end up doing in your career, you know, I’m super interested to hear that.
Eric: Yeah, good question. So, I never ever saw myself doing sales. I was born and raised in a household where my dad is still a dean in engineering at a university here in California and it was just kind of engrained from day one that I was like, “Oh, like you’re going to be an engineer.” I can’t say that I necessarily looked down on sales people, I just knew from a distance that all of my friends in college were doing sales, studying things like art history or, you know, just something that like I didn’t necessarily -- I couldn’t draw a clear line from that to the profession they had now. I respected those people, these are friends of mine, but I had very little empathy in terms of like what it meant to do what they did.
And so, yeah, I suppose like, you know, going into it -- it’s actually one of my regrets now is that when I made that transition that I didn’t have more conversations with friends who were in sales beforehand to get a better sense for not only what the rules entail but what the rules are, right. I had very little idea of the difference between an SDR and then, a BDR and an AE and I have not ever heard of sales operations. It’s funny, I know run this sales operation meet-up group in the Bay Area. I didn’t even know that was a profession until I joined DataFox. And yeah, I guess, like the short story is that, you know, it was -- ultimately, it was taken a big piece of humble pie in making the switch from engineering, co-founder, product and into sales.
Sahil: So has your experience as either a PM or as engineer helped you be a better sales person? I mean one of the things that struck me is, you know, I got the opportunity to -- at SaaStr hear you pitch DataFox. And, you know, I worked in a similar space at SalesPredict, so I know my way around some of the same technology and tools. And I was struck by -- I mean, obviously, it’s clear that you’re very good at your job and like you know what you’re doing. But more than that, I was struck by how clear and how articulate, and how technically savvy your pitch was, you know, compared to what I hear from a lot of other sales presentations would seem a lot more cookie cutter and script in. Do you think your experience as a PM, as an engineer helped you be a better sales person? Would you think that in the future there will be more of that like crossover between the two or where is your head on around that?
Eric: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think my experience on the technical side of the house has helped me to better -- to more quickly understand like the products that I have had seen sold. So, like whether it was site search and/or, you know, or prospecting sweep here at DataFox, you know, whether we’re selling platform or API Access, I’m probably the only person on our sales team who has actually like built multiple APIs or like overseen the building of those. And so, to a certain extent I think it’s helped me just be able to communicate more articulately, if that’s the right word, more clearly what is that we do because I’m thinking that product role, right, you’re effectively like translating what one team wants to a team that’s meant to build like bring that mission to life.
And so, maybe -- I haven’t really thought of that, so maybe playing that middleman role of a PM did in fact helped. I just generally think that, yeah, having the technical background while I’m not, you know, doing any kind of thermodynamics in this role, it’s rare that like I am selling to a business that I don’t have at least some baseline understanding of what it is that they’re doing and how they’re doing.
Sahil: Yeah. And I think we talk a lot about earning the right to do discovery and being able to say things like, “I was doing some research on your business and you’re able to do that on a very different level I think than what the average sales person is,” when you’re like actually looking, you know, potentially at that company’s code base. And you’re like being able to understand like what they actually build or what they actually do and then, being able to tie that into the frontend. It’s kind of a different question for you. Now, that you’ve been in the role for three years but you’ve seen the different part of it, what do you think is the hardest part of sales?
Eric: Mentally, the hardest part of sales is for sure at least in my limited timeframe is for sure the outbounds, let’s call it SDR, BDR, ADR, whatever you want to call it, doing that prospect, man, like, I remember vividly when I first got into that role at Swiftype, like the biggest learning curve for me was for sure appreciating the fact that, oh, in order to advance in this career, you need to hit your quota. For me, that was like such a weird concept. I was like, well, I’m used to the world of like, “All right, well, there are delays, and so we’re going to like push back the product launch by two weeks,” and that’s fine, right.
And I was like, “No, no, no, you have to do this.” And so it took me a couple of months to really appreciate that, a couple of months and actually just some bad dream. My close friends were like, “Dude, why aren’t hitting quota?” I’m like, “Oh, like that’s something we have to do?” So, I just -- I truly, like, I have so much respect for the SDRs that were out there just pounding their thumbs and hustling and, yeah. And so I’m grateful for having been in that role for almost a year and a half. And yeah, to answer your question, I feel like so far I would say that’s for sure the hardest part.
Sahil: Interesting. What of that job makes it so difficult? And I think, you know, there’s a very easy part of the recognition that I have never gotten a cold call and been happy about it, right. Like, there’s no -- I can’t tell you of an instance where somebody cold call me, I picked up the phone and typically, because they use some sort of an area code masking things, so it’s like, you know, it looks and feels as if it’s something, we’ll go and pick up the phone, you know, and I get cold call all the time, all the time. And I picked up the phone and it’s a cold call and I’m like, “Oh, thank goodness,” you know, again, that’s never the reaction, right?
Eric: Wait, wait, but can I share that that’s happened to me one time?
Sahil: Okay. Tell me more.
Eric: And I got to give a shout out to -- if she ever listens to this, Michelle from SaaStr.
Eric: So at the time -- at the time -- I’m very happy DataFox customer, but at the time I was BDRs, hearing some change ago, and I hate even prospecting to Michelle and the whole org there. And thanks to these modern sales because you can see when people are opening and clicking emails. And clearly, everything that I would send next to you is opening a lot and clicking a lot. And so, I acknowledge that in my follow up emails. And it was funny every time I acknowledged it, it was getting more open, et cetera. And so then, finally, one day, I call her and like, “Hey, this is Eric from DataFox.” I swear to God she goes, “Oh my god, I’m waiting for your call.” And I’m like, “You’re totally messing with me.” She’s like, ”No, I’ve been sharing all your emails with my SDRs, blah, blah, blah.” I’m like, “Wow, okay, it’s too weird to be real like in any case.” He and I still joke about that. So just in place, that’s only happened once, I don’t ever expect that to happen again. To your point, yes, more often than not you’re going to be looking forward to a cold call.
Sahil: Yeah. Okay. Well, first of all, that’s an amazing story. There’s something really interesting about that, right, which is that you almost built a relationship through one-way communication, which doesn’t happen all that often, right, it usually takes two to tango. But I’m curious, if you remember what do you think of the emails was it that was catching her attention, because it seems like you were personally crafting each one and it seems like you were almost kind of building a little bit of rapport through not building rapport in like a weird way, right?
Eric: Yeah, I mean, it was probably just like the basics, right, we do a lot of training over here on kind of, like those called personas training. So, we have a pretty good like grasp on what it is that everyone who we might sell to does on here like -- or might do on a weekly, monthly, quarterly basis. And we know that what we offer -- like they’re going to be paying, spending some time on at some point throughout the year. And so, it was probably just a combination of addressing like projects that I suspected she and the team maybe are working on at the moment. We may have had intel that they were using a competitive tool and I think, generally, and of their tactic that works -- has to work for literally every single sales rep is probably referencing one of their competitors. So, I can’t remember exactly what it I was, but I guarantee it was some combination of those three things.
Sahil: Well, so, and I think that, you know, as we think more about building a relationship with buyers and building reputation kind of a sales person, you know, one of first things you said to me when we met was you’re like, “I have this idea.” And it’s funny you’re the second person who said that to me, we had another guest on awhile back, a guy named Dailius who’s a VP of sales in a company called GetAccept. Now, he used to work at TrustRadius, so he had been exposed to the world of like reviews and the B2B sense and whatnot, and maybe you can share your part of that strategy because I found that really interesting.
Eric: My part of like kind of, what?
Sahil: What the idea was or what you are noodling on or whatnot.
Eric: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. So I was brand new at the sales at the time and actually, I was -- no, not really, I actually just brand new to the AE role and I was thinking to myself I was like, “I wish there were some way where I could --” I almost want to create a digital portfolio of all the businesses who I had spoken to. And whether or not it was public, it didn’t really matter to me at the time, I was just like through all these experiences that I’m getting with at Swiftype and now, DataFox, and then, next place, give me feeds if you establish relationships and sold to any number of -- not just people but also logos. And so, if we have is almost -- sounds kind of tacky, but it’s almost more of like a trophy case, or like, hey, like something to look and can be proud of.
Sahil: It’s so interesting that you say that because that’s actually what we designed our client wall to resemble is a trophy case, you know, it’s like a place where you can go and hold up the achievements that you’ve had as a sales person. I’m curious about your thoughts on whether that sort of content would be helpful to a buyer when they’re looking to make a decision about working with the sales person because I understand from like a personal motivation, you know, there’s a great delight in being able to hold up one’s achievements. But do you think there is a practical kind of use case for something like this as well or not as much?
Eric: Yeah, I think that’s for sure, it’s one of those things, right, where like I -- so I use -- Bravado is just built in to my emails, again, sure. And every so often I will change the logos like I believe at least on my plan, I’m allowed four logos, not that I would initially want more, but I’m allowed four logos and I’ll adjust those logos every so often. I try to be thoughtful about the logos that I use just, you know, in the hopes that they do catch the eye of whoever I’m sending the email to. I also known for just sending like historically like very, you know, shorter emails, like short and to the point.
So, hopefully increase the odds of them getting to the end and seeing that signature. The Bravado used case reminds me, I see it like a lot of analogies with G2 crowd, right, except people are like they’re actually going to G2 crowd to do their homework on like researching different vendors, you know, I see -- yeah, like I said some similarities with like them clicking into Bravado. And then, once they’re there like then taking the time to actually do some research on me, the seller. Yeah, it’s interesting. And let me ask you think, like, you know, with Bravado is -- are you guys trying to design a platform that encourages people to like -- that encourages shoppers to go to or is that -- I’m just curious.
Sahil: Yeah. I think that the first used case that we want to sold for is the fact that any time you have a meeting with somebody, you typically do a little research on them, right, that’s kind of the de facto thing that we all do is we do a little bit of research. And the vast majority of the time if I was to type in Eric Martin DataFox or Sahil Mansuri and Bravado, odds are really, really good and the first thing that’s going to come up is your LinkedIn profile, right. And I think that LinkedIn has a really powerful used case if you’re looking at it from the perspective of recruiting, right, because it’s got where you went to school, your past career, you know, experience, your number of years that you’ve worked and the companies you’ve been at, et cetera.
Where I’ve always been curious on the LinkedIn side though is if I’m a buyer and if I’m coming to research a sales person that I’m going to meet with, which by the way and I spent three years in product and, you know, away from the sales -- every sales person I ever had a meeting with I did research on because you just always do a little bit of research. And I have talked to, you know, hundreds of buyers about it and they agree, you always do a little bit of research because it’s just weird to show up to a meeting and you have no idea who the other -- who the person is on the other end of the line. It’s just a little uncomfortable, right, at least for your own --
Eric: Even as the buyer, like you go on a research.
Sahil: Of course, because I’m going to spend 30 minutes, an hour with this person, you know, I want to at least know who they are. Like, in fact, the very least because we as human beings are so curious and we’re social by nature too. And so, if there’s a, you know, if we’re going to meet somebody regardless of what sort of position they’re in or what value they may or may not create, just for the sake of not showing up like a jackass and not having any idea who this person is or what they do, you just want to do a little bit of research to get familiar with them, you know.
And so the thing that we all thought was what a great opportunity for the sales person to get a hold of sales in, right. Like, we can help you, you know, build a little bit of trust with that buyer or help you get like a little bit of extra kind of credibility walking into that conversation, like, “Oh, well, Eric’s closed all these cool accounts,” or “Oh, well, Eric has a customer quote from somebody that I actually know and maybe I’ll just ping that person after.” And it just gets the juices flowing in a good direction, right, and that’s all the purpose of product is, it’s just like, you know, sales is hard and there’s a number of factors that -- thousands of factors that are well outside of my control or your control as to whether a deal happens or it doesn’t happen.
But one of the things that is in our control is do we establish credibility and trust for the buyer. That’s something that typically we sales people have much more control over them, like do they have the budget or they do have the business, right. We can’t control those variables. Well, you can control variable, it does the person across from the, “I think I have their best interest in mind, do they believe me when I say something, do they trust me, do they care about my advice.” And one of the things that I think builds credibility the fastest is social proof, right.
I mean, you know, there’s a reason why people buy tickets to go to the performer of the day maybe don’t even know very well, but they hear that, oh, this performer must be really awesome because I heard that they do really well and so, like you kind of follow in. We all have a little bit of that in us and so if we can just help trigger that emotion, then maybe it will lead to something good.
Eric: All right, so you probably are already building this in your roadmap, but if not, I’m taking credit for this at one point as a witness. So, more often than not as an inside sales team, our ADRs are sourcing the meetings, having a cold call and then, like passing the baton. And that first touch point where I am being introduced is actually in that calendar invitation. And so typically, what’s happening is that like -- when someone passes the baton, I’m not going to send them a message until we actually connect for the call.
Sahil: I see.
Eric: So that first touch point is like, “Hey, what’s up, like, I’m Eric --” or, you know, whatever, interesting opportunity for Bravado just like when you’re creating a calendar invite, you can have the Zoom or you go to meeting link for like my ADRs have like my Bravado link. So then, what happens is -- because what happens as more often than not, when they make that introduction in the description of the calendar invite, they say, “Hey, like, as promised I’ve included my colleague Eric on this deal is, you know, does X, Y, and Z.” There’s almost an opportunity to say like, “Want to learn more about, then click here.”
Sahil: I love it. I love that. So we are actually seeing that used case, so you call it kind of the handoff used case, right. We actually just had a bunch of customer success people join Bravado for a number of companies. And so what they’re doing is they’re building up their profiles as well. And so, when the salesperson is done closing the deal, you always introduce them to their account manager and then, that account manager as a buyer, you’re always like, “I really like, Eric, I hope I don’t get stuck with some schmuck now,” right.
And as a buyer, there’s always that fear that the person who is going to service me is going to be not as awesome as the sales person I just bought from. And so that person needs to know like rebuild trust with the buyer and so they’re basically using it as a handoff. We’ve had the sales teams that just included in their email cadence, so like when the SDR sends, you know, connects the AE and they’ll like include a link to it, but I haven’t thought about putting it into perpetual calendar invite, that’s really interesting, actually, that’s a cool idea.
Eric: I don’t know, just putting on the product cart there for a second.
Sahil: I love it. I love it.
Eric: I love the idea of CS, by the way, because, yeah, I have to make two of those baton passes today and it sounds like, yeah, that would be nice.
Sahil: Yeah. I mean, you know, because as soon as you make the baton pass, that person now has kind of got the spotlight on them in order to make sure that they’re living up to the expectation. And so, we feel like that’s one of the used cases that is, you know, fairly -- and it wasn’t our used case, we didn’t design the product to do this. Of course, as always your users know your product better than you do. You know, it was just -- one of our sellers, a guy named Pretty who actually thought of and introduced, and basically, one day a bunch of customer success people from Uberflip showed up on our platform. And now, it’s kind of a thing. Now, we have a bunch of CS teams that are on it
Eric: Yeah, I’m going to get ours on this after this call.
Sahil: There you go. Perfect. And so the last thing I want to, I want to, you know, wrap up our call because this, I mean, dude, I can talk to you forever. I love chatting with you. Yeah, this is always fun. You know, one of the things that I’d love to get your read on, I mean, you -- and we’ve had this conversation in bits and pieces is that profession of sales is just evolving tremendously, you know. Once upon a time buyers had very little information, sales people had all the information, so you have to talk to a salesperson in order to get the information. And that information could have been what does the product actually do, what does it integrate with, how much does it cost, you know, what -- and all of these things.
Now, that the information is becoming more and more transparent, you know, like you can basically Google anything in your hands and roughly they answer to most of these questions. So, then, the role of the salesperson is evolved, right, because now I’m not needed to give you that information, you already have them before you even come and talk to me. So, if you look at yourself as sales, for me, congrats on the promotion again. Now, you’re digging in to the role, what are you doing to set yourself up for success over the course of the next 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, as our profession continues to evolve, what are the things that matter most to a seller today?
Eric: Yeah, good question. I’m going to answer this in two parts. For me, personally, I’ve always been a big fan of improve acting and so that’s my form of professional development. So, I continue to do that. The other thing that I just swear by is like to move it, like really helped notice, it’s not just being curious, it’s having like a genuine curiosity. You know, it’s going in and sometimes it’s not necessarily the questions you ask but like how you ask them. And so for me, it’s just kind of like one of our values here at DataFox is constant learning. I look at every opportunity, with every conversation that I have as an opportunity to learn more about their business selfishly, you know. And we’ll get into the lead today not just how their sales work is setup, but like what their product does, who do they care to, how the company is doing, et cetera.
And that’s one of the reasons I actually really love working at DataFox is because we get to sell to these like ambitious and/or, you know, fast growing sales and marketing teams. So, in terms of actual training that I’m doing or things that I’m considering, you know, I think it’s the improv, I don’t know, I’m an avid reader, I’m also just a yes person I think being involved in this sales ops meetups have been tremendously helpful in just -- not just expanding the network but just having a better pulse in like directions that things are going. I will say to your point of kind of like people, buyers coming in the door now with a lot more knowledge, I also 100% agree with that that it gets an opportunity for inside sales teams.
You know, here at DataFox, for example, our current set up is such that we’re able to leverage, you know, marketing automation tools with our own transparent account scoring, which is based on not only company’s demographics and maybe our sales force data but also the dynamic data. So, things happening in those accounts to surface these best fit accounts to our sales team. We’ve had some customer combined the two with our API to actually automate outbound cadences to specific contacts as to specific accounts based on the combination of their like marketing and accounts scoring via DataFox and so, really interesting. The next kind of chapter that we’re looking at here internally or exploring is then combining not just the marketing and all these stuff, the DataFox account scoring but also the G2 crowd intent data. And so, I am bullishly super excited if we end up, you know, figuring that out, have them about just from both an inbound and outbound efficiency standpoint.
Sahil: It makes so much sense, you know, I think that G2 crowd is incredibly powerful platform. You know, I worked at Glassdoor with Clyde Bentley and Olivia and many of the folks who actually are at G2 crowd now and we’ve all been friends for a number of years. And I think, you know, one of the things that we saw is that the power of crowd source reviews is really big and there’s a lot of value there. And I’m a huge fan of what they’re doing for sure, so.
Eric: At the end of the day, like, you said, man, like, you know, even sometimes when I’m buying a plane ticket like there’s some specific question that I wish I could talk to human to ask. And so, while I agree that there are maybe like diminishing role for the people part, I think that it’s, you know, having educated, respectful, considerate human beings on the other end will forever be an asset to a company.
Sahil: Totally, I mean, a thousand percent. Now, you talked about plane tickets, right, like, you’re totally right, you know. If I’m just booking a flight from San Francisco to New York and it’s like a standard thing I just book it, right. But if I’m booking some -- a vacation to a country I don’t know very well or if I need to do like little a multi-stop thing or whatever, I know I can figure it out of the website. But it’s just so much more reassuring to talk to someone and be like, “Am I doing this right?” Like, you know, there’s just uncertainty it’s because I don’t book complex airfare every day, you know, it’s not my job.
And so, when you’re talking to a prospect at DataFox, I mean, their job isn’t to spend all day doing account scoring, right, they don’t do that all day, nobody can be as special as in everything all the time. And so, having someone who’s got deep verticalized knowledge in this specific area that you’re focused on is always going to be a value as long as that person actually has deep value, right, and has deep knowledge. And if you don’t have that and all you’re doing is reading a script and I think you’re in trouble. I love the improv part, by the way, that’s got to be our next Future of Sales show is you in character. That sounds like a blast.
Eric: It’s funny when you take this improv classes, I’m going to shout out to that improve here in SF. The first class is kind of like an AA meeting, not that I’ve been to one, but based on what you see in the movies where everyone goes around the class and they say their name and everyone repeats their name, like “Hey, Eric,” and then, you say why you’re in the class. And I remember in the last one that I did everyone is giving their reasons and it gets to me and then, like, “Why are you taking this class?” Like, “Well, to me, this is just -- I’m in sales, this is my professional development style, so here I am.”
Sahil: That’s amazing. And by the way, I cannot stress enough how much something like improv can be so valuable for somebody in sales. I personally did drama for a number of years as well and really enjoyed it. So, you know, those characteristics of being able to kind of summon the right self at the right moment is really valuable. And I think thinking of it as a personal development is a really smart way of looking at it, so -- plus it’s a pretty fun way to spend a meeting as well.
Eric: Yeah, super fun, yeah.
Sahil: Cool. All right, Eric, thank you so much for your time. I have one last question, if anyone has got any follow up questions or wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to get a hold of you?
Eric: Yeah. Just email, I’m pretty diligent about responding at email, so Eric, E-R-I-C, @datafox.com.
Sahil: Awesome. Eric, thank you so much for the time, man. It’s such a pleasure to jam out, so many kind of topics that we got into and we’ll do this again soon. Thanks for your time.
Eric: Awesome. Thanks, brother. Talk to you soon.