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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 8. 2022. It featured an interview with SVP Americas Sales at WalkMe Mark Richter. In 2021, we featured Billy Biggs, WalkMe VP of Public Sector Sales. Listen to his show here.]
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MARK’S TIP: “Be a student of sales. Learn about the process. Be curious. Learn about what makes the person sitting next to you, maybe just virtually these days, successful and try to apply those things. This is a profession and it’s a great profession and one that you can really help people with. Think about it from that perspective. If you have that going forward, I think you’ll have a long, successful career in sales.”
THE PODCAST BEGINS HERE
Fred Diamond: Mark Richter, it’s great to have you here. I’m excited to talk about how you’re leading your team right now.
Mark Richter: Thanks, Fred. I appreciate it and I’ve got a lot to live up to with Billy Biggs having done the show last year, so I appreciate you taking some time with me.
Fred Diamond: We’re excited. I’m broadcasting today from Virginia and you’re out in San Francisco. Tell us a little bit about WalkMe, and then we want to get right to the questions.
Mark Richter: WalkMe is a digital adoption platform, and I talk to people all the time, it’s pretty easy to explain. If you think about Google Maps or an application that can help you get from point A to point B, that’s what we do, but we do it for software. You want to understand in Salesforce how to enter opportunities or how to get through your CPQ system, we can guide you through that. We can take you from one system to another and back to that system again. Additionally, on the back end, what gets really interesting for senior level people within an organization is looking at the analytics behind how people are actually using all of these systems. Salesforce can tell you every license is deployed, but we can tell you actually how people are using those and what they’re doing in the system so you can maximize your investment in those platforms.
Fred Diamond: A lot of people who listen to the Sales Game Changers podcast like to know who the sales leader sells to. Who are some of your customers? You don’t need to name the names, but who do you sell to in the organization, and what type of organizations?
Mark Richter: Great question. We sell to, and this is, again, part of the beauty of our product. We sell to everyone within the organization. What do I mean by that? I mean Heads of Finance, Heads of Sales Operations, Heads of Sales, Heads of IT, Heads of HR, anyone that is deploying platforms, which is essentially everybody these days. We have very much of a land-and-expand model, we are not a category yet for Gartner, although Forrester just released some stuff on us and PEAK did some work on us as well on their Everest report. We can sell to all of those divisions. Anyone that buys, makes, or uses software is a customer for us, so we can really talk to all of those people. Who do we ideally like to talk to as we’re talking about getting across a complete platform or a complete enterprise? The CIO. That’s ultimately where we want to get to.
Fred Diamond: Let’s get right to it. How are things going in your sales organization right now? It’s an interesting time. We’re doing today’s interview in the beginning of March 2022. We’re hopefully coming towards the end of the pandemic, things are looking really good compared to where we were for the last two years. But as we’re doing today’s show, there’s a war going on in Eastern Europe and it’s taking up a lot of time and energy. I want to ask you a double prompt question. How are things going in your sales organization as we come out of the pandemic? And then conversely, how are people staying focused? How are you keeping your team focused?
Mark Richter: A lot there to unpack. With respect to the sales org, we’re at the beginning of our fiscal year so we’re on the calendar fiscal. Q1 here is the focus as far as the day to day and the sales org. You spend the first little bit of Q1 rolling out territories, quota plans and all of those things, comp plans to your teams. We’re through that part of the year, which is, to me, I find it the least enjoyable time of the year because we’re not out there selling and doing deals and doing what we love to do. We’re through all of that, everyone’s got their territories and is into their territories, so that’s the real push right now of where we’re focused, how do we close Q1 successfully and get to our goals.
How do we keep people focused in general with all that’s going on around us? I think part of what is great about our product is that we really solve a bigger problem than just a point solution. The fact that we can help people in their organizations get more out of the platforms that they’re buying is truly rewarding, and that’s what we all love to do. That keeps us focused and going. The question of impacts to the business of what’s happening at a macroeconomic and geopolitical standpoint, we are starting to see and hear from customers that business is changing.
One of our major customers is a food and beverage company and they’re talking about basically pulling out of Russia, and that’s going to be a hit to them from a revenue perspective. How that affects and trickles through the organizations, we don’t know yet. But we’re going to see that and we’re going to see more of it. When we look at our transport customers and those folks, the price of gas is obviously going to affect things. We’ll see a squeeze for people on expenses, but thankfully, we help people get more out of what it is that they’re buying, so we’re in a good spot.
Fred Diamond: I want to follow up with that. Let’s get a little bit deep on that, if you don’t mind. We’ve been doing Sales Game Changers virtual learning sessions every single day since the pandemic kicked in, and we’ve seen the evolution. It’s incredible, it’s been two years but we’ve seen things change and shift over the two years. One of the key lessons, Mark, that we learned is we always talk about you need to know your customer. Obviously, that’s table stakes for sales professionals, but even more so, you need to know about your customer’s customer, and even your customer’s customer’s customer. If your customer’s customer’s customer is being really impacted deeply by transport causes or they’re dealing in Russia right now, obviously, there are going to be major impacts.
My question for you is how do you as the sales leader bring your team together to understand some of these nuances that are really happening at your customer site? Just selling them the tools that you have to be more efficient and the adoption platform, et cetera, it’s all on context of where the customers are right now. We’ve become so attune to that over the last year. I’m just curious, as a leader, how are you bringing your team together to understand what your customer might be dealing with as they deal with the challenges that their customer and their customer’s customers are dealing with?
Mark Richter: I think it’s nothing new for me or for us as an organization from the standpoint that we’ve talked about this a lot. I’ve used this mantra throughout my career, to know your customer and know them deeply. That’s where you have success. It’s not a new thing to understand your customer’s customer or what their business is, and when I look at my truly successful sales folks within my organization, they have that understanding. They know what the customer’s business is, they know what the customer’s going through and what they’re facing, and they talk the talk. They can speak the language of the customer, and that’s so important, particularly as you’re moving up within an organization because the time you’re going to get with that C-suite level person is very brief. If you can show that you really understand their business and have taken the time to do it, you’re going to be that much more successful. For us, it’s a continuation of that. We use value selling just as a sales process within our organization, and that’s really focused around the business issues for our customers. That’s where we focus and try to understand what’s happening in our customer’s site. Not, “What can we sell them?” But, “What problem are we solving for that customer in their business?”
Fred Diamond: I want to follow up with something you just said. We have a lot of junior sales professionals who are listening to today’s show, and we always do. We got a lot of junior people who are listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast and I interview people like you because like you’ve said, you’ve been with some great companies, you’ve dealt with customers for a long time, you have that deep understanding, like you said, of what the customer’s going through. Give me some of your advice, Mark. Again, you’ve brought in, it sounds like a third party to help with some of the communications and sales training and methodology. What would be your guidance for the junior sales professionals to know about the customer? What are some things they should be doing to get to that level of this deep understanding that you’re referring to?
Mark Richter: I think it’s put yourself where you can – and back to what you said, Fred, about the customer’s customer – put yourself in that customer’s customer’s shoes, if you would. If you’re dealing with a bank, go try to open an account at that bank. Go figure out what the process is, figure out where the problems are within that process that you can go back to that institution and say, “Here’s what I did and here’s what I saw, and here’s why I think I can help you to make this process better.” Understanding that, and then understanding what’s happening organizationally.
Particularly for large accounts, public companies, there’s a lot of information out there that I find people don’t get after and read and understand about companies talking about what their biggest concerns are in the marketplace. They talk about what their goals and initiatives are. The letter to shareholders from CEO is a great place to understand at the top level what’s happening organizationally. Then, think about how you can tie into that with the product you’re selling or the service you’re offering to help solve that problem. That’s where you start to move the needle. Really understanding them and getting to know your customer in that respect can go a long, long way.
Fred Diamond: Mark, a lot has changed over the last two years and it’s really not right for people to say, “Well, selling is still selling.” It’s definitely not, for a whole bunch of different reasons. Now, as we hopefully come out of the pandemic, as people start going to events, the Institute for Excellence in Sales, we’re holding a big conference for Women in Sales in the middle of May, we started doing our live programs again. Things are going back to a lot of that, but also, a lot has changed over the last two years. What are some characteristics that you look for in a potential sales rep that will make them successful? Have things changed in what you look for in a successful rep? Again, you hire junior people and you also try to hire seasoned people who understand accounts and have sold the solutions before. What are some characteristics that you’re looking for right now?
Mark Richter: It’s a long answer. I’ll try to condense it, because we do have in our business all the way from commercial and focusing on the lower end of the market from an employee count standpoint, all the way up to the Fortune 10. When you look at it, it’s different in each of those areas, but there are a few things that I look for when hiring. One is, it depends where you are in your career, but a certain amount of longevity within an organization. Anytime someone has changed jobs every two years for 10 years, I scratch my head a little bit and I ask the question. Sometimes there’s a very good answer for it, but other times it strikes me as being super opportunistic. And I’m not unreasonable or un-understanding of what’s happening out in the marketplace, but I do like to see that someone has been in an organization for a while and has learned how to sell that product and really been successful.
The other thing that I look for particularly as we’re looking at sales folks and even into sales leaders is, have they done different roles within that sales organization? Because again, it speaks to me to say, you know the people and the people you work with know you and they want you to grow, and they want you to do different things and they’re giving you opportunities to do it. Those things to me are things that I look for. The obvious thing of success and past success are there, but I like to see someone who’s spent a little bit of time somewhere and done a few different things to show that the organization has looked at them and said, “Hey, this is someone we want to invest in and we want to see do some different things within the organization.”
Fred Diamond: Mark, we have a question here that comes in from Mill. Mill says, “Can you tell us some things that Mark is doing to stay fresh?” What are some things you’re doing? Even at the highest level of your sales career for a long time, you’re leading an organization, big people, a lot of people, very important as well. What are things that you particularly do to stay as fresh and as successful as you are?
Mark Richter: I think this fits into going back to what I was talking about earlier, about knowing your customer and doing those things. So, a couple of things. One is I still like to be in some deals, because that’s where you really see if the things you’re doing are working, you get a good pulse on the customer and what the customer’s issues and concerns are. That’s one thing that I like to do that I think keeps me sharp. The other side of this is the continued learning. What are you watching, listening to? Podcasts like this where you have people come on who are talking about the ideas that they’re doing, what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and getting ideas from that. I think that it’s important to plagiarize, if you will, the good things that you see people doing out there and bringing them into your organization.
The last thing that I love to do with our organization is the training on product and process. Making sure that I talk to people as they’re hiring into our organization in particular, take some time as you’re coming into the organization to learn the product. Really learn how it works. Not just, “I could do a demo,” but really understand how your product works, how you do things within that product because it gives you so much credibility with the customer. I like to have that myself, so keeping up on the product is also something that I pride myself on.
Fred Diamond: I agree with you a thousand percent on that. A lot of times we’ll hear the alternative which is, a great sales professional knows how to get resources, knows how to tap into people in the organization either operationally or technically, and I get that. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I’ve been in technology most of my career, sold for Apple Computer for a long time, Compaq and a bunch of software companies that support the Microsoft environment. A sales professional’s ability to really get deep into how the technology is going to help, things you could do with it – you don’t need to get into the programming, into the bits and bites and all of those things, but generally, those are things that are pretty powerful.
I want to talk about customers for a second. We talked about knowing your customers and some things that you do. What are customers expecting from you right now? We’re coming out of the pandemic, hopefully, there’s other world issues that are taking over that are causing a lot of disruption. What do you think customers are expecting of you right now?
Mark Richter: I think there’s been a lot of talk in the last 10 years or so, maybe even 15, about customers understanding more about your product now than they ever have before, before they even reach out to you, before they even have that conversation. One of the changes that I’ve seen and I think really good salespeople are doing these days is being truly collaborative and transparent with their customers in the sales process. Sharing with them what it is that they’re expecting as you go through this process and allowing the customer to share with you what they expect through this process. Sharing those documents and sharing that plan together, customers seem to be more open and focused on that because they want to understand what the steps are along the way.
I think that we’ve evolved to some extent in the selling process of being more open about what it is that we’re trying to do. I go back to some of the Sandler training that I’ve had in my past of that open conversation. “I’m here absolutely to sell you something, but I’m here to solve a problem for you, first and foremost. Let’s have that open dialogue along the way. If at any point I’m not solving that problem for you or you feel like we’re off the rails, raise your hand, let’s have a conversation, let’s see if we get it back on the rails. Or if we’ve decided that this isn’t the right solution for you.” Doing that early and understanding that with your customers, and customers want to do that because everybody’s very, very busy, is very important. I’ve seen it evolve in the last 10 years. During the pandemic it’s been different because we haven’t had the chance to be in person, so even more of that exchange is that much more important. You’re not sitting with people, you’re exchanging documents and doing it a little bit differently, but having that open conversation and being transparent about the process that your customer is going through to get that solution is what I’ve seen us do better and I’ve seen customers expect more of.
Fred Diamond: I’m curious. You talked a little bit before about WalkMe and your solution. Does it provide any specific value to the sales profession? Is there anything specific about it that organizations are looking at it to help the salespeople be more successful at your customer base?
Mark Richter: Yeah, 100%. Apart from home-built applications and things like that, the #1 platform that we ride on is Salesforce. People are buying us to use us within Salesforce and I’m sure many of the people listening now are customers of ours. As I talked about that example earlier of how do I do something within Salesforce, we’re launching a new process, the process for CPQ has changed, the process for how we’re taking our leads through the sales stages has changed, we have the ability to be able to share with a sales rep at the time that they need it. This is not a tour, “Click here, click there,” it’s, “Hey, it looks like you’re on Stage 3 right now, here’s some ideas of some things that you could be doing.” Or, “We’d like you to put a competitor in at this point if you have one. Here’s what I’m going to give you if you put that competitor in.” They start to see the value of doing that. We absolutely help salespeople, it’s one of our major focuses within our organization when we’re looking back to your question of where we land, sales is a great place for us to land.
Fred Diamond: I like the way you’ve talked about how you stay fresh, how you prepare. What do you see sales reps doing wrong? It’s been interesting over the last two years because even before the pandemic, there was a big move to people being remote and those kinds of things, but obviously, it kicked in into hyper-gear during the pandemic. I’m just curious, even right now, what do you constantly see reps doing wrong, Mark?
Mark Richter: I think it’s the old, “This is the product I have to sell and I’m going to figure out how you’re going to buy it,” as opposed to solving our business solution. I was talking to our sales organization, we just had our sales kick-off which we did virtually, which I hope is the last virtual sales kick-off I ever do [laughs] and I talked about our three biggest deals in the year. The theme that was in common was the account executive solved a business problem that the customer said they had and articulated back to us that they had before doing that deal. If you’re out there going through your slides and doing your pitch and, “Hey, customer, sit down here, I’m going to talk to you for 20 minutes and tell you what I have,” you’re missing the opportunity. Those discovery calls, if you use Gong or other things, go back in and make sure your customer is talking half the time. If they’re not, you’re probably missing the opportunity to understand what their problem is and figure out how and if your solution fits for them.
Fred Diamond: I have one more question here. We talked about how this plays with Salesforce. People all over the place, they talk about which software is helpful for sales teams, and we’ve had various sales tech tools on the Sales Game Changers podcast. We just had a solution called Pretaa on the show last week, we’ve had numerous people from Salesforce. Mark Richter, I probably get 40 calls a week from sales tech vendors who want to be on the show, but it seems that there are more and more “must haves” out there. If you’re a sales leader, or I guess even in sales enablement who is more and more responsible for this, how do you assess the effectiveness of sales software to make sure you’re getting the most value from these technologies?
Mark Richter: This is going to come across as a shameless plug for our product, but it’s not. What we do internally is we look at the fields within Salesforce using our application to understand how people are using them, who’s using them, and if people are getting stuck on them. That, to me, from a leadership standpoint of understanding how long it’s taking someone to perform a certain operation, can we make that better? Then having the data to be able to do that is really where I see the value. As far as the most valuable tool, I think it’s hard to argue that your CRM system, be it Salesforce or Dynamics or Sugar, whatever it is, whatever you built, I know some companies still have their own, that system has to work for you. As a sales leader, it’s important that you’re working within the organization, whoever owns that, whoever your admins are on it, that they know that it needs to work for you – and when I say for you, I mean for the sales organization.
Anytime someone comes and says, “Hey, we need this field mandatory or that field mandatory,” my automatic question back to them is, why? What does the rep get out of it for doing that? Not, what do I get from a leadership management report? That’s going to be important and I need to know those things, but for me, it’s what is the rep getting out of it? What’s the value to the rep where I can look them all in the face and say, going back to the competitor example, when you tell us who that competitor is, we’re going to give you a battle card? Or, we’re going to give you three bullet points that are really important that says why we need to know that you’re competing here. Then, additionally, we’re going to take that information back because it’s good information, and we’re going to figure out who our biggest competitors are, what features they have, what do we need to be building? How do we build a mote around our products so that that competitor never gets to where we are? I think for sales, it is that CRM platform that really drives the importance. The other things that fit in there I think are dependent on your business and how you’ve earned your business.
Fred Diamond: Mark, we have time for one more question before I as you for your final action step. Let’s take this question from Neal. “What are your expectations, Mark, for top sales professionals right now?” Let’s expand that. What are your expectations, Mark, for your junior sales professionals maybe the first two to three, four years in their career? Maybe WalkMe is their first job in sales, maybe it’s their second. Then, what are your expectations for your more senior and seasoned sales professionals? The men and women who’ve been doing this for 10, 15, 20 years?
Mark Richter: Some things are the same and some are different. I think the things that are the same are things we hit on earlier. Know the product, understand how it works, be able to talk to your customer and show your customer in a way that is comfortable for you how that can work. On the junior side of things they need to be doing, to me, it’s getting as many at-bats as you can. Get as many meetings as you can, get as much practice in as you can. Do the pitch, do your own little tweaks on it if you can, not massively because we’re trying to build something that looks uniform, but say some words a little differently each time, see what gets better and hone your skill.
At the more senior level, it’s about getting into your account and getting in in a deep way. We’re doing 7 and 8-figure deals in these big accounts, those are the types of people and types of conversations that are bigger than just, “Let me solve this one little pain point that you have.” We need to understand how your enterprise works, how we work within your enterprise and how we can help it to be better. A little bit different on the scale from very junior to very senior, it migrates as you go up the scale.
Fred Diamond: Mark, I haven’t asked this question in a while but I’m just curious. Is there a mantra that people know you for? If I were to ask some people who worked for you over the years, who’ve known you for a couple decades as a sales leader – I’m just curious and I rarely ask this question. But is there a go-to mantra that if I were to say, “Hey, I had Mark Richter on the show last week,” they would say, “Oh, did he talk about this?” or something like that?
Mark Richter: I think it’s going to be back to the customer and know your customer. I’ve always felt that way, and particularly in the SaaS marketspace where people can switch. And look, let’s not kid ourselves, switching is never easy, but you can do it easier than you could when I started selling software and it was on prem more than 25 years ago. But you have to know your customer, and I think people would say that the customer is centric for me in what it is that we do every day.
Fred Diamond: For some reason, I’m just intrigued to ask this question because of some of your answers. What’s your favorite part of the sales process? You’ve obviously been doing this for a long time, you just said a couple decades, and I know you’ve worked for some great companies. Now you’re leading an amazing team over at WalkMe and your company provides such value to its customers. You talked about getting deep with customers, so let’s be succinct and honest here. What is your favorite part of being a sales professional?
Mark Richter: When someone on my team wins, and I mean like a hard-fought battle and they were fighting a competitor or they just invested a lot of time into an account and figured out and solved that big business problem for that customer, and just the pride and the joy that they get out of closing that deal and being on stage at the end of the year, that to me is fantastic. The bigger thing, as I talked about before is being part of something. I think about the best companies I’ve worked for, I really feel like we are changing the landscape for the better for our customers. Allowing customers to get the most out of the platforms that they’re investing millions of dollars in, to me, is truly rewarding and an exciting thing for me to be a part of, which gets me excited every morning when I wake up here at WalkMe.
Fred Diamond: Mark, once again, thank you so much. Thank you to your team for getting us here. I just want to acknowledge you. When we first had Billy on the show, mentioned your name and then your marketing and PR people reached out and said, “We think Mark would be a great guest,” and I did some research on you, because we literally get 40 requests per week for people who want to be on the Sales Game Changers podcast. We had some people in common who have all said great things about you as a sales leader and the work that you’ve done over your career, so congratulations. I really enjoyed how today’s focus was on the customer because it sounds like such a trite thing and such a trivial thing, but when you lose sight of that, that’s when you lose sight of your potential sales success. Mark, you’ve given us so many great ideas. Give us one final action step, one thing sales professionals should do right now to take their sales career to the next level.
Mark Richter: Be a student of sales. Learn about the process. Be curious. Learn about what makes the person sitting next to you, maybe just virtually these days, successful and try to apply those things. I talked about the plagiarism thing earlier, but grab those things and use them and understand them. Be a student of sales. This is a profession and it’s a great profession. Fred, I appreciate what you’re doing to get the word out and allow us to have this platform to talk a little bit, but this is a great profession and one that you can really help people with. Think about it from that perspective. If you have that going forward, I think you’ll have a long, successful career in sales.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo