EPISODE 486: Getting to Your Customer’s Why with MuleSoft’s Public Sector Leader Jude Boyle

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on March 15. 2022. It featured an interview with SVP, N. America Public Sector, Higher Education & Non-Profit at MuleSoft.]

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JUDE’S TIP: “The 60% solution was something I pulled from my marine brothers. Perfect information is impossible, whether it’s the fog of war or the dynamic points of views on a problem. How do you get to enough information that you can action a plan? Whether it’s go right, left, dig or charge, frequently it’s much more about execution than it is about the plan or strategy. Too oftentimes people can get trapped in wanting to get that perfect insight when in reality, they will learn more, and our customers will, with a minimum viable product. The experience of trying to implement this approach will give you better insight than all the analysis that you could do. I’m a big fan of that.”


Fred Diamond: We’ve got Jude Boyle today. He is from MuleSoft and he runs public sector and not for profits. How is it being at a live event with human beings?

Jude Boyle: It’s wonderful, Fred. You’re reminded of the challenges of travel. The storm knocked out internet last night, so you get in from the plane and you’re trying to catch up on everything, and then you get there and Wi-Fi’s off, but being able to speak with people in person to understand some of the challenges that they have, I feel like we’ve achieved a lot in a couple in-person meetings. It would have taken us months of planning, just the coffee, before, afterwards, makes such a difference in building trust and alignment.

Fred Diamond: We’re going to be talking about a lot of interesting things today. We’re going to go across the board. One thing I want to note here is the Institute for Excellence in Sales, every year we have a big award event, we’re going back to live this year and we recognize some amazing leaders with our Lifetime Achievement. This year we’re recognizing Dave Rey who’s the public sector leader globally with Salesforce. The event’s going to be on June first, and the second person that we gave our Lifetime Achievement award to was the great Jay Nussbaum. Every year now we give out an award, it’s the Jay Nussbaum Rising Sales Star award. I’m going to give out our third at the event on June first. What are some of the key lessons that you got from Dave and from Jay that have guided you that you’d like to share?

Jude Boyle: I love your events, I love how you’ve elevated the dialogue around sales and best practices. I’m excited to join those. Dave has actually been involved promoting me from inside sales to field sales at Oracle. He’s just as calm as anyone can be under fire, he’s just so level-headed. Great prioritization. In the midst of the storm, he can figure out the two or three things that really need to be done

Jay, he obviously built Oracle public sector where I spent eight and a half years, I followed him in leadership team over to Agilex for about four and a half years. He was one of the most authentic people that you’d meet in your career. You could sit with him and feel rapport and trust immediately. He was a New Yorker, he played ball at Maryland, he was exactly who he was and he was one of the most charming businessmen I’ve ever been around. Immensely valuable to brainstorm an idea, he would throw out 9 or 10 things and a few of them would just be too crazy to even consider, but a couple of them you’d come away and say, “Man, we’ve got to do this. This is completely going to change the game.” I think that’s what I’d admired about Jay, his openness to really bringing all his perspective to an opportunity.

Fred Diamond: Jay ran the public sector organizations at Xerox and at Oracle, and of course, he founded Agilex which was eventually sold to Accenture. I’m reminded, we’ve had so many Oracle people who’ve gone on to do great things in their career in Oracle and Xerox and IBM, they’re great places to start your sales career. On one of our past shows, we had the great Ron Police on. I used to ask the question, “Tell me about a mentor,” and Ron mentioned Jay. He told this story about how Jay used to say, “Be bold.” Every once in a while, when I see myself being a wimp or something like that, I reflect back to how Jay had suggested.

I want to ask a broader question about mentors. You’re running public sector not for profits at MuleSoft. We’ve got a lot of younger sales professionals who listen to the show and they want to learn from guys like you, similar to how you learn from Jay and the great Dave Rey. Talk about the importance of mentors, and not just a mentor, but about being with super talented people. Paul Smith was at Oracle, he was a past Lifetime Achievement award recipient and Tamara Greenspan who actually was our Women in Sales winner is still there, she’s been there for 30 years. Talk about how to really optimize a mentor, and then talk about your network and surrounding yourself with great people.

Jude Boyle: I’d say early in your career, the people you surround yourself with will really impact your learning curve. Sitting around that office, you would see so many different approaches to sales and leadership. Tamara’s amazing, she met one of my sisters in a beach town, my sister was working at a boutique, talked to her for like two hours about changing from clothing sales to IT sales and Tamara just has that type of authenticity. Maybe it’s the Philly girl in her, but you just immediately know that she’s in your corner, she has your best interest at heart.

I think if I look back at some of the things I’ve done in my career, choosing great mentors was an important part of my job. I don’t know if it was always intentional, Fred, I don’t know if I always thought, “Working for Kevin Davis, this is what I’ll learn,” or working for Frank Dimina, or working alongside Dan Davis, or working in Dave Rey’s org, or rejoining him at Salesforce with Rob Stein and Dan Davis. It’s just a cast of really talented people and you’ll see different approaches to solving a challenge. What I have found is now I’m learning as much from the people we bring into the org. For us to seize a great growth opportunity, we need the shared best experiences of the whole team.

The mentorship aspect of finding someone who’s genuinely interested and has something of value to share with you, you realize as a leader the most important thing you do is surround yourself with great people. Now, how do I enable them to achieve their potential within our org? I think that’s been the interesting discovery for me, that as you’re sitting in that mentor role, it is as valuable and as important. Not only do you want to pass on some of the things that you’d learned, and maybe hopefully save some people from some scar tissue, but surrounding yourself with great people and seeing them achieve their next goal is immensely satisfying. It keeps your business vital.

Fred Diamond: I’m always interviewing VPs of Sales, General Managers, and you just didn’t wake up one day and say, “I’m done working as a waiter, I want to be a VP of Sales.” It’s a 10, 15, 20-year journey and you have to prove yourself time and time again. We have a question here that comes in from Lenny, “What’s the best way to approach the leaders in my organization to ask them to mentor me?” Lenny, thanks for the question. If you were to give advice to a young person, what would you tell them to do to approach someone like you or the Dave Reys of the world, or the Paul Smiths of the world?

Jude Boyle: Great question, Lenny. You realize quickly as a leader that the most important thing you do is find great people and put them in a position to achieve their goals. I think one, asking for that and stepping forward is the big first step. I’d say I’ll give anyone one conversation, anyone. Where I find people are intellectually curious, are self-aware, have some sense of what the progression is… I was an individual contributor for ten and a half years before starting on leadership. There were so many things I had to learn before I can hopefully add value to my teams.

I’d say something to think about is, what is that next incremental growth opportunity or challenge? Something I think about as I’m looking at people, high potential is a term that you’ll frequently hear from here. HR partners, but give them a stretch assignment, something that I think will help the rest of the org but requires someone leaning in. I think when I was starting my career, I always viewed that dynamic changes were driven from on high. But what I’ve come to realize is it’s encouraging folks to lean in and creating the right incentives and recognition to encourage the people closest to the problem with the best idea of how it may be solved, to feel ownership of its outcome and lean in.

Identify that problem to bring that to the conversation as well as what that next step up and what you’re asking for is, and get that return trip ticket. You’ll have a great conversation. Think of the next steps to bring you back to, “Would love to come back in two to three months and review the progress I’ve had.” Ideally, in line with a passion project or some problem that the leader is facing. That’s going to make you immensely valuable and show an amount of discretion that I think is really impressive.

Fred Diamond: One thing we talk a lot about on the Sales Game Changers podcast is thinking really hard about what your customer is going through and what your customer is challenged with. Young sales professionals out there listening, I like Jude’s advice here. I always tell this to people in the younger or junior part of their career when they’re struggling with something, I always say, “Think about what your boss is going through because your boss has demands and his boss has demands as well.” Think about how you can make them more effective and solve their problems. Which goes to something I want to talk about.

I mentioned Paul Smith, he used to run Red Hat public sector and he recently retired, but I had a lunch with him four years ago and I said, “Paul, how are you successful?” and he says, “I always think about my customer’s why.” Of course, we’re all familiar with Simon Sinek and the most popular TED Talk of all time. I’m going to ask you a two-part question here. One, what is your why? Secondly, why is it so important to have a why if you’re going to be successful in sales?

Jude Boyle: Great question. I love Paul Smith, I’ve not gotten the chance to meet him but I’ve worked with a lot of people who worked in orgs that he’s built or around them. His son PJ I got to work with at Splunk. You can tell the value of person by the impact they’ve had, and really seems like a great leader. I’d say the why will continue to evolve, but it’s an important thing to refresh yourself on. The nature of our business sometimes is not the most tangibly rewarding. I used to enjoy mowing lawns, that was my first entrepreneurial venture, and you could see the yard was a mess and the weeds were all over.

For us, when you’ve read through 150 emails a day and you’ve taken 4, 5 calls, you got some things like, “I think that’s progress. Now we’ve just found the next no in our sales cycle.” Sometimes you need to renew yourself and refresh yourself on why you’re in this, why this matters. I think we take these shortcuts over time like, “I need to do this because of my peers, and I’ll be successful,” but for me, the start of my career was post September 11th. One of my brothers was at in the Naval Academy when September 11th happened and he was immediately escorting around a 27-year-old widow who’s planning the funeral for her husband who was killed in the Pentagon. That galvanized our family, we recognized just how blessed we are. Being in a big Irish Catholic family, we think with one brain.

For me, working with public sector customers, I wanted to assure that I was getting them the information they needed to make hard decisions in short time frame when the costs or implications of that decision were really high. Someone’s kicking down the door, how do we assure that they have the data they need to bring they and their teams home safely? I think that was my initial why as three of my brothers were being deployed in the war on terror. How do I get that information to people? I think it’s got to be ground on what you’re selling. You need to obviously recognize not only is this the best, but it’s differentiated and needed in your market.

Then that why evolves. As a leader, your why increasingly becomes your customers and their mission, whether they’re getting through to needy children, supplying education, there are some phenomenal missions that our public sector customers support. But also, our team thinking about their success, thinking about how they’re growing. People are the big driver of impact for our customers. How do I assure that they’re excited about their challenge? It doesn’t mean every day it’s going to be a picnic, but how do I help them achieve their why?

And frequently, it’s important to understand and discover what’s that thing that’s motivating them, because you do need to draw on that as you get through a little bit of adversity. You’d mentioned two years post-COVID, we’ve certainly seen that. I think all of us have had a chance to dwell on that. When you really get a chance to think about it, it helps you find that line for your customers’ success through some challenges.

Fred Diamond: It’s a really interesting time right now. One thing we talked a lot about over the last two years on the Sales Game Changers podcast is like I said, understanding what your customer’s going through, because you have to understand what their customer and what their customer’s going through. We’ve got a question here from Dina, “Jude likes to talk about the 60% solution. Ask him about that.” What is the 60% solution and how does that play into your leadership focus and ability?

Jude Boyle: Thanks. The 60% solution was something I pulled from my marine brothers. Perfect information is impossible, whether it’s the fog of war or the dynamic points of views on a problem. How do you get to enough information that you can action a plan? Whether it’s go right, left, dig or charge, frequently it’s much more about execution than it is about the plan. There’ve been a lot of great books written to the aspect of practices versus execution or even culture eating strategy. Those are all true.

As I think about something we talked about with Jay Nussbaum, the man had an incredible biased action. If he had a good idea, and you’ve captured it in your, “Be bold,” I’d say too oftentimes people can get trapped in wanting to get that perfect insight when in reality, they will learn more, and our customers will, with a minimum viable product. The experience of trying to implement this approach will give you better insight than all the analysis that you could do. I’m a big fan of that. I took it from the marines, but I think there are a lot of corollaries in our profession as well, Fred.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great answer and you talked about this a little bit in some of your previous answers. Obviously, you have some siblings who have been in the military but again, your career’s been in public sector. Jude Boyle, because I’m based in the Washington DC area, we’ve interviewed a lot of people who lead public sector teams and you’ve mentioned some before. But we have people all over the globe who listen to the show. We have people down under, we have people in Europe and we have some in Brazil, et cetera. Talk for a second or two about public sector market. Why have you devoted your career to serving, at the various companies you have, the public sector market? And the other related question, do you recommend that this be a market that people pursue if they’re looking to grow their sales career?

Jude Boyle: Great corollary, make sure I don’t lose that thread. The public sector is the Fortune 1, so the IT budget of the public sector government’s bigger than the next 10 spends combined. If you aligned Apple and AWS and Google and Microsoft, all these large consumers of IT goods and services within the public sector, you have every conceivable other space. I’m down at HIMs, this is all about Healthcare Information Management, veteran’s affairs and CMS and collaborating with the state HHS agencies, it’s just been so pivotal. You also have transportation, infrastructure, you have financial, so there’s a wide range of challenges you have. But I think what I most enjoy about it, Fred, is the community.

We’d mentioned Frank Dimina, someone who I’ve worked for at Splunk, he now leads Splunk Americas. Something that I think he always recollected or pointed out is the public sector community is really the differentiator. You’re going to work with these folks again, you’re going to align to support these customers. Let’s take the long view of what is success for everyone. I think that’s very refreshing. You avoid making short-term decisions because there always is a thought of, “How will this affect my customers, my constituency, my partners, the ecosystem?”

It can also be a challenge, though. It gets insular and introducing new technologies to public sector faces some very natural impediments. Enterprise security in the way of NIST, Silicon Valley and public sector do not have similar alignments. But I think that can also make your career very valuable. If you can help them adopt new technologies, for me at MuleSoft, API integration, great technology, it can be very fulfilling because of their missions that you get to support. But also, rewarding in terms of the career growth and financial independence too. If you’re open to supporting that mission, it has some challenges but I’ve got to tell you it’s been very rewarding for me, Fred.

Fred Diamond: I like what you just said, which is, what is success for everyone? There are so many people in the equation. At the end of the day, we’re trying to solve some really big problems and of course, the government is faced, now even more so, with obvious things but of course, defense right now with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. You mentioned you’re in a health and human services show, and we’re coming out of the pandemic. How does that impact? Also, infrastructure. There are so many ways that what you are selling is going to be truly making an impact.

We’ve got a couple questions coming in here. Evidently, people know that you have 12 children in your family. I’m curious, we have some people that have big families, have reached the highest level of sales, and Gina Stracuzzi who runs the Women in Sales show, she’s one of six. What number are you in the 12 and what’s the difference between #1 and #12 age-wise? I’m just curious, how has that impacted you as a sales leader?

Jude Boyle: I’m convinced I’m #1, Fred, ask mom. But I think being one of twelve kids taught you to appreciate the different points of view early on. You also had to scrap a little bit. There was a nature of trying to differentiate yourself and trying to carve out your niche. I think there was an immense reservoir of support. You can take risks, you can go for things because you know no matter what happens here, there’s this whole ecosystem that loves me and thinks I’m going to be pretty good either way. I’d say that’s certainly something that has informed my leadership, growing up in a big family. I’m actually third in order, so having younger brothers and sisters that you’re trying to pass on lessons or keep out of trouble.

I coached college football for six years, I think you have an intimate connection to the people around you. You’re genuinely invested in what is progress for them? It will be different given where they are as a younger sibling or a college freshman. But how do they get incrementally better? How do you support them through that journey? Those are the things I continue to draw on, Fred. I’m so grateful for being raised in that family.

Fred Diamond: I want to talk a little bit about leadership culture. Obviously, being one of twelve, you’re in your own organization there. Talk a little bit about leadership culture. One thing we talked about before the show is how you believe that MuleSoft has a great leadership culture. It’s interesting, one of the things we didn’t talk about is The Great Resignation, and the fact that everybody’s rethinking their careers. What do they want to do now because of what we’ve all experienced over the last two years?

One thing that we’ve heard time and time again is that people want to feel appreciated. Obviously, if you’re in sales, you have the opportunity to do well financially. You know you’re making a difference if you’re successful, you’re working with the most successful people in your company, but also, like you said, it’s a very challenging career. There’s ups, there’s downs, every day there’s maybe 10 downs and one up and you live for that one up and you learn from the ten downs. Talk about finding great people. How do you think about putting them in position to achieve their goals so that they’ll want to be with you the same way you talked about Jay and Dave and how they’ve impacted you?

Jude Boyle: Culture is an amazing differentiator. It’s something I think about more and more as I look at where I want to go. What had brought me to Mule was they have a phenomenal leadership culture. “Here the practices for you as a leader, think about people, pipeline and playbook. Within each of these dynamics, here’s how we coach. Here’s what we look for in recruiting and hiring, here’s how we onboard, here’s what alignment looks like.” Before they did a sales kick-off, they’d bring us in town for two days to preview the content with us. “We want to make sure you’re familiar and you can answer questions that your team has as they ramp.” When you went to the club trips, the recognition awards, the CEO, Greg Schott, would personally go around and like, “Your flight got delayed, you’re going to get home 30 minutes later, you’re transitioning through Houston instead of Dallas,” but it was just built into the DNA of the org.

I think it’s such a respectful thing, and ideally what we’ve seen is that trickles down. That recognition that people are the primary way to drive impact, and how do you set up great people for success? On my side, there are a few things I look for. I know that’s not quite the question, but as we’re contemplating The Great Resignation, that’s something to consider. I’m always looking for people with high IQ, people with a track record of impact, because if you figured out how to do that before, likelihood is you can figure out how to do that here. Then great humans, people who will fit in an org, will understand the motivations and the team around them, can align them to drive impact.

Something that I do disqualify frequently is people who are job hoppers, and I know there are many reasons too. If someone has a short tenure here or there, that’s not going to condemn you. But I’d say it is important to survive a punch or two, to come out with some challenges to your agency or your business, and then how did you rally and realign? Because I think that’s going to be ubiquitous across everything we do. People who have that type of grit will be set up for success.

Fred Diamond: Jude, it was great having you on the show. I’m glad we finally got you here, the concept that we talked about of why and thinking about your people, it’s a really interesting time for leaders right now because there are so many challenges that their people face. I remember I interviewed Tim Solms at D&B, it was last June, I think. He leads public sector and I said, “What’s the most important thing on your mind?” He said, “Understanding people’s exhaustion, fatigue.” It hasn’t been an easy two years, but the public sector market doesn’t stop. We’re all lucky that it hasn’t stopped and that the needs have continued to grow and will continue to evolve.

I want to acknowledge you again for your success and for the great answers you brought here. It’s always good to think about Dave Rey who we’re going to be honoring on June first and Jay Nussbaum has impacted so many people’s lives. Jude, give us one final action step. You’ve given us so many great ideas, give us one specific action step for people listening today to take their sales career to the next level.

Jude Boyle: Take the time to renew yourself. Remind yourself of that why. I think that will continue to guide you well. Fred, I loved being on.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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