EPISODE 565: Trends in Premier Sales Employment with Cvent’s Becky Middour and Michelle Walden

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast, sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales featured an interview with Michelle Walden and Becky MIddour of Cvent. Cvent is a 2022 IES Premier Sales Employer. Read more about the distinguished Premier Sales Employer designation here.]

Find Becky on LinkedIn. Find Michelle on LinkedIn.

BECKY’S TIP: “Stay curious. If you’re always asking questions, you always have an opportunity to learn something new about yourself or someone else or how to up your own personal game. Seeking to understand your counterpart is maybe the most important thing you need to be able to master in sales. The more curiosity, the better you are in making those connections. 

MICHELLE’S TIP: “When looking for your next opportunity, think about what’s important to you. You’re interviewing the company just as much as they’re interviewing you. What do you want out of that next step? Where do you want your career to go and then does that company align with that? Are you meeting with those fantastic leaders like we have here and having just those honest dialogues about what is important to you?”


Fred Diamond: Let’s get right to it. Premiere Sales Employer. I mentioned in the preamble that Cvent, this is the third year in a row. What does it mean to be a premier employer for salespeople? It’s a battle for talent no matter what the economy is like, it’s always a battle for the best salespeople. Becky, why don’t you go first? Again, what does it mean to be recognized as a premier employer for salespeople?

Rebecca Middour: Thanks, Fred, and thanks for having us on today. My understanding of the award here and it’s something that I’m really excited to be able to say that Cvent is taking home, given that I’ve been at the organization since 2014 I’ve seen how hard the leadership team has worked to maintain a healthy relationship with employees there.

I think what it comes down to is how seriously we actively listen and evolve to meet the growing needs of our workforce. We not surprisingly went through some pretty significant market challenges with the global pandemic. I think throughout that time, what we learned was we need to be agile and continue to seek out what is important to our workforce, evolve to their needs, just as any human needs are going to evolve and creating that feedback loop has been a really important part to keep the relationship healthy.

Fred Diamond: Michelle, how about you? What does this mean for the company that you’ve been working for to be recognized as a premier employer for salespeople?

Michelle Walden: Like Becky said, thanks again for having both of us today. When we think about being excellent in sales, it’s fantastic as a recruiter to be able to work for a company that one, as you’re bringing people in, you know that you’re setting them up for a fantastic journey. To be able to be recognized with some of the other top organizations when it comes to sales folks, it really just gives you that extra little energy that you need to support them through the process.

You know that they’re going to be selling a product or a service that they can easily stand by, they’re going to work for fantastic leaders like Becky and others that are going to support their development, but now we’re also recognized for everything that we do in the industry, specifically as an employer. It just makes my job a lot easier sometimes by being able to have all of that to show all the work that we’ve been able to do.

Fred Diamond: You’re on the talent acquisition side. Talk a little bit about what Cvent does specifically to make it an attractive destination for sales professionals. Michelle, why don’t you go first?

Michelle Walden: If you really look at the root of what we do, we’re built on a sales culture. It’s been ingrained in everything that we do and how we take care of our customers and what our culture looks like. We try to differentiate ourselves a lot in the marketplace. One of the things we do that starts right from your training. We have a sales academy training that starts out with our night program.

When you come in the door, it doesn’t matter what sales position you’re in. If you’re an SDR and it’s your first sales job, if you’re a veteran rep, we’re going to set you up from success from day one by putting you through four weeks of dedicated training. For some of those vets, that’s fantastic because it gets you up and running longer faster, right? If you look at the long run, you’re up and running a little bit faster. But we’re investing that time upfront because we want people to be successful and we know that that’s going to be that first stepping stone.

Then it goes into our leaders and I’m sure we’re going to hit on that a little bit more. We have fantastic leaders that have been with this organization for a very long time, and have really seen how it has grown and evolved. But more importantly, they’re going to invest in those people. I always use the term ‘choose your own adventure’ when I want talk about things at Cvent, because you have that ability to grow and then expand your role paths wherever you want to go.

I talk to people that say, “Hey, you know what? I want to continue growing but I don’t want to be a leader.” Cvent has a path that can help those individuals continue to grow as an individual contributor. If they want to go to leadership route, we got paths for that, or maybe they’ve been here for several years, and they learn new passion points. Cvent is going to be there with them throughout that entire journey, which has always been fantastic for me to witness as a recruiter to see how those people have evolved and changed over the years.

Fred Diamond: People want to know that there’s places they can go, especially if they want to stay somewhere for a while. Now, Becky, what do you think about that? What does your company do? What does Cvent do? You’re on the side where you’re actually managing sales professionals, you got people who work for you in your organization and peers of your. What does Cvent do to make it attractive for them compared to the hundreds of other options that they may have?

Rebecca Middour: I love what Michelle said about the investment is there from day one and it’s continuous. As we think about the opportunities within a team like mine, it’s really limitless in terms of where they go. I love the Choose Your Own Adventure framework there. Even in spite of its growth, we’ve remained relatively flat organization. What I mean by that is, regardless of how long you’ve been here, if you’re someone who has good ideas and you’re dedicated to hard work and driving the business forward, there is a platform for your voice to be heard. All of our executives have open door policies. The forum is there to be able to bounce ideas off of each other, and ultimately increase your influence across the organization. We found people, just through raising their hand have been able to drive tremendous innovation for the organization and propel their own careers as a result.

Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about right now. Again, we’re doing today’s interview in the Fall of 2022. The last two years have been a very interesting time to say the least, specifically for people in sales. How are things going for the sales organization right now? Becky, why don’t you answer that question? What are some things that you’re doing to have the people excel and have the company excel?

Rebecca Middour: Yeah, it’s an exciting time to be invested in event tech sales. You mentioned it, we went through what you would call a roller coaster ride in the beginning of the pandemic and how we had to respond to the needs of the market. I think what we all learned through that experience is that people want to be around each other and there’s increasing importance on having technology to make sure that your events are reliable and flexible, regardless of what happens. As a result, we’ve seen almost all of our customers return their in-person events back to pre-pandemic levels, if not higher, and they’re looking to Cvent to be able to guide them on how to do that in the right way while maintaining flexibility. A lot of our training and education within the sales team is around making sure we can continue to operate as thought leaders in the space and Event Tech Advisors, making sure our customers are in great hands.

We’ve also had a few really exciting industry events lately. Trade shows like GBTA, and IMAX, in addition to Cvent Connect, which is a thought leadership conference where we essentially bring together the entire meetings and events ecosystem twice a year in London, and then also domestically in Vegas. That’s a testament not only to the position that Cvent has in the marketplace but that alongside our partners, we’re really driving the innovation there.

Fred Diamond: One thing we really didn’t talk about too much about what Cvent does and Cvent is in the event management space. Actually, the Institute for Excellence in Sales, we are a customer of Cvent. If you’re out there and you’ve attended a conference or some type of big meeting, there’s this good chance that you registered via the Cvent application software. In 2020 there weren’t a whole lot of events going on and 2021, but now you’re absolutely right, people want to be with people. We’re realizing how much we miss that. Also, how much we miss things like being in the office as much as people are interested in hybrid versus working at their own pace where they want.

A lot of companies are really acknowledging now that being together is so critical for the company to help achieve their goals. Michelle, when you’re in the talent acquisition side, and you talk to hundreds if not thousands of candidates for all types of jobs, salespeople, when they’re inquiring to Cvent, or when you have somebody that you’re interested in bringing into the company, what are they looking for?

Michelle Walden: It’s really interesting because we’ve talked about how the pandemic has shifted the world and we’ve seen that a lot in recruiting. You look at specifically salespeople because that’s all I’ve ever worked with. It’s interesting because it used to always be like, all right, what’s my OT? What’s my territory? Things like that. Don’t get me wrong, those things are still very important to salespeople, but we’re starting to see a shift where they’re asking more about the culture. What kind of community is within the organization? How are other ways that I can get involved? That has been a huge shift because pre-pandemic, it wasn’t very often that you heard all those types of questions really like, “This is one of the most important things. I trust in myself as a salesperson, I will hit my quota, I know I can drive results, I’m very confident in that, but where I go to do that is now very important to me and what that’s going to look like.”

I think that was a shift coming out of the pandemic of when everyone went virtual, and a lot of salespeople have always been virtual because of travel and things like that. But how do they stay connected with their team? We talk a lot in our interview process about employee resource groups and how they can get involved with our different community groups, and how those are actually fostered throughout the organization.

I have so many more people asking questions around those things, which is fantastic, because it’s one of my favorite things to talk about. So I’m like, “All right, let’s talk about this for a while.” But you’re starting to see that shift where they want to feel connected. The one thing I tell every single candidate is, this is just as much you interviewing Cvent and Cvent interviewing you. This relationship has to work both ways. That’s why you see, if you’d look at our salespeople, we have a great tenure because of that. With our interview process, I want you to interview us. We’ve seen that a lot more coming out of the pandemic than what we saw previously.

Fred Diamond: Michelle, I’ll give you a chance to answer that question. I’ll play a salesperson who wants to consider coming to Cvent. Michelle, why should I come to work at Cvent? I am interested in what you just talked about. I’m interested in understanding the values of the company and how they align to mine. You mentioned ERGs, Employee Resource Groups. Tell me more about Cvent as a premier employer, and how you, Cvent, participate in those types of things that may be of value to me.

Michelle Walden: It is something that has always been very near and dear to my heart. We have multiple employee resource groups. We have one for working parents. We have one for mindful and mental health and awareness there. We have Chutzpah for our Jewish community, The Culture for people of color. We also have Fierce for our LGBTQ community. We have Empower for women in leadership. We have Cvets for veteran employees.

What I really love about those specifically is one, they’re all brought to us by employees. If you come to Cvent as an employee and there’s something that you are passionate about, we have a very detailed process and support system where they can help come those. All of these came from our employees. It was not something that was a top-down, like we have to do this and we’re just going to do it. It’s something that all of our employees were passionate about, that they got sponsorship on from one of our executives, so they have those levels of support.

The other thing that’s been really fantastic to see is, you don’t have to belong to one of those communities to participate. You can just, “I want to learn more about whatever it is.” We use Slack a lot of work as most companies do, especially in a virtual environment. I’ve seen so many great conversations and dialogue from people just wanting to learn, how can I be an ally? How can I learn more about this? I saw this headline on the news and I just want a safe space to talk about it. You’re not going to get that everywhere else.

For me personally, I love the fact that this is all coming from our employees. If you want to participate, you want to evolve, you want to lead something, we’re going to support that and have a way for you to do it. I’ll even share a little bit from my personal journey. I worked at a big box company prior to coming to Cvent. I was actually brought here by people that I hired there, and they were telling me how great the culture was. There was a couple of things that stood out to me . One was fast pace. I don’t like to be idle and I tell people like if you’re a very slow paced person, you got your checklist for the day and then you’re done, Cvent might not be the place for you. We work in a fast pace. I’ve never talked to a salesperson that said they wanted a slow pace job, so that works out really well.

Then the other thing is you hear the term entrepreneurial a lot. What that means is, we’re going to give you the ability to own your area of the business. We’re going to be open to ideas. If you want to try something a little bit differently, you’re going to get that, but you’re also not going to be on an island. You have all the tools, resources and support that you need, but we’re also here to give you that autonomy to grow and be that entrepreneur and drive whatever areas of business that you own yourself. That’s a beautiful thing to see how people can blossom in those environments.

Fred Diamond: Becky, I have a question for you. Michelle just did a great job speaking about a lot of those things that would be attractive to people. You manage a lot of the people that she was just speaking about, and you work with them. Does that message resonate with everybody? Is everybody who’s in sales, is that attractive to them or are there other things that may be attractive to other people?

Rebecca Middour: Totally. I think the ability to have a voice within the organization, something I hear consistently from my team has been a huge appeal. Time and time again, culture comes up as one of our top strengths when we’re interviewing employees about what we’re doing well, and how to continue to build on those areas. The reality is, we’re not perfect and I think as we think about the evolution of our culture to Michelle’s point, that’s going to continue to be driven by the employees.

It’s almost impossible to predict 10 years from now what the next Affinity Group is going to be. I think we’ve set ourselves up to be able to once we identify what that is, we’ll make a place for it at Cvent. The allyship component to all of our affinity groups as well, I think makes us better humans and better employees and co-workers to each other understanding that we only see one part of someone’s life. There’s so much more to an individual. I think the more that that gets recognized, and we see an individual beyond their work, there’s a greater sense of connection and belonging to Cvent as an organization.

Fred Diamond: As a premier sales employer, one of the most important things is leadership. A lot of employees who come to work at companies, a lot of times as we know this, Michelle, people will say that they leave because of their manager, right? They don’t leave because of the company shifts or the markets, it’s they just don’t work for a good person and they just don’t want to be there anymore. Becky, talk about the leaders at a premier sales employer like Cvent. What type of characteristics do they typically have?

Rebecca Middour: I boil it down to a couple of characteristics. I think the first is being a good listener. We’ve mentioned already that we’ve got a flat organization and we set ourselves up to both organically and systematically be able to collect and survey feedback from our employees that historically and then we’ll continue to drive new initiatives and changes to our benefits.

Again, focus there on really understanding what somebody cares about, how they want it rolled out and how it impacts their overall fulfillment in New York is big for us. The same token, we are challengers as well. We’re a data driven company, and so our leadership team teaches people to be analytical in their problem solving, to look around corners and control for gotchas as much as we can. We’re not afraid to challenge the existing ways of thinking if it means it’s going to drive the business forward or service our customers better.

The last characteristic I say is the ability to lead by example. Our leadership team is invested at every level within the org. It’s been in a pretty impressive rate. One, it’s nice to know that you’ve got somebody in your corner to help you dive deep and understand the scope of a problem and how to solve for it but it’s also important that we know we’ve got a leadership team that’s willing to roll up their sleeves and it wouldn’t ask anything of you that they’re not willing to do themselves.

Fred Diamond: Again, I mentioned that Cvent is an IES Premier Sales Employer for three years running now 2020, ’21 and ’22. What are some of the challenges you face to remain Premier? One thing I have to note here is again, you guys are in a really interesting marketplace. Events just dried up, as we all know, in 2022. I have to commend, one of the reasons why Cvent was recognized as a premier sales employer is, I know there was a lot of probably things that we don’t really know about but you guys maintained the salesforce.

You did the things that we could see. Leadership did a lot of things to try to keep things going. You reinvented some products. At the Institute for Excellence in Sales, we were one of your first customers of what was then called the Virtual Attendee Hub, as you’ve made the move not just from Live software but to events and streaming and all those types of things, but it’s not easy. We hear about companies with layoffs, we hear about companies that are struggling right now as we move into 2023. Becky, what do you think some of the biggest challenges will be to remain premier?

Rebecca Middour: There are a lot of challenges out there and the reality is, there are also a lot of great companies to work for. I think Cvent takes the approach of good to have healthy competition. We can learn from those around us that are successful, and collaborate in a way that everybody benefits from. I think if we put a focus on remaining a truly inclusive and equitable workplace that, again, will continue to listen to our folks to understand what are we potentially missing here or need more of more consistently?

Naturally, human interests evolve. Our employees get married, have significant life changes and the ability to be agile and support them as their lives change too, I think is something that we’re always going to pay close attention to. We also have to consider it from the standpoint of our goal is to continue to expand our global footprint, and so what demographic differences do we need to take into consideration or regionally as well?

Fred Diamond: Michelle, you have a question or a comment?

Michelle Walden: No, I was just going to add on, because I think that’s fantastic. You hit on it as you were introducing the question of talking about economic times, coming out of the pandemic. Cvent is unique in the situation of, we were able to pivot quickly in the pandemic and support our customers. Even in this situation that we are on now, I get this question a lot from candidates because they’re like, “I’m considering taking a job in the event space coming out of a pandemic.”

Here’s what I tell them coming from Michelle’s viewpoint is, two things are always going to be true. One, people want to connect with one another in person. That is never going to go away. We strive for that connection. You will never see an end to in-person events, people want that. I also think that we are in a phase now where you won’t see the end of hybrid events, or even virtual events. Cvent is uniquely positioned because we can support all three. Whether it’s going through economy downtimes or anything like that, we can support organizations any way that they need it and meet them on the level that they need that support.

Fred Diamond: Yeah, that’s a great point. We have people listening all around the globe. Cvent is based here in the DC area and it’s an amazing employer. I like to say it’s one of the only true Silicon Valley type of companies, actually lived in Silicon Valley for a long time. There’s definitely a vibe about Cvent. The story behind Cvent and Reggie Aggarwal story and so many successes along the way, and so many challenges that have been overcome. It’s truly a remarkable place.

I want to thank Becky Middour and Michelle Walden for being on today’s Sales Game Changers podcast. Again, I want to recognize Cvent for being an IES Premier Sales Employer. Congratulations to the both of you for playing such an important role at a company that is such a highly regarded company, so good for you.

Give us a final action step. Again, we like to end every show with something specific. You have given us a lot of great ideas on how people can be thinking about where they go to work and how employers can be thinking about how they present themselves to truly becoming a great place to work for salespeople. Give us one final action step, a recommendation for the people listening today on how they can take their sales career to the next level. Becky, why don’t you go first?

Rebecca Middour: My advice would be to stay curious. I think if you’re always asking questions, you always have an opportunity to learn something new about yourself or someone else or how to up your own personal game and seeking to understand your counterpart is maybe the most important thing you need to be able to master in sales. So the more curiosity, the better you are in making those connections.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great point and we actually hear that a lot. Again, we’re close to 600 shows. A lot of times when I interview top sales leaders, I’ll say, “Why are you so great? Why have you had such a great career?” Curiosity comes up all the time. We actually did a show about six, eight months ago with Dr. Alison Horstmeyer, who is the world renowned expert on curiosity. I encourage people and why it’s so critical in the sales process for salespeople to have that trait. Michelle, why don’t you bring us home? Give us your final action step.

Michelle Walden: As we’re looking into the next level of your career, the next layer of your career, what I always tell people is think about what’s important to you. Like I said, you’re interviewing the company just as much as they’re interviewing you. What do you want out of that next step? Where do you want your career to go and then does that company align with that? Are you meeting with those fantastic leaders like we have here and having just those honest dialogues about what is important to you? I think that’s really important right now.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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