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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 May 21, 2022 It featured an interview with two finalists of the Jay Nussbaum Rising Sales Star Award Connor Dario of Akamai and Matt McVay of DLT.]
CONNOR’S TIP: “Be authentic and be someone who people want to be around. You’re going to have that supporting cast as I mentioned earlier and as Matt was talking about. Be someone who people want to go in and look forward to getting in and rolling up the sleeves every day. That’s the best advice I can give anybody either starting out or trying to make that next step on how to excel or put yourself on a pedestal a little bit more or elevate yourself as well as everybody around you.”
MATT’S TIP: ” Get people thinking. Once you get customers thinking, then they start to see why your product will work just. I tell my rep, practice. Yeah, the pandemic is here, we’re not out in public as much, but if you go to the bank, I practice going down a line saying hello to everyone. Practice eye contact. Practice icebreakers, intros. It’s all applicable because if I can master not using um, and stuttering, it’s going to on the phones and in front of people and just practice. You can practice wherever you go. You can sharpen your toolset and that’s what sales is all about.”
THE PODCAST BEGINS HERE
Fred Diamond: Gentlemen, it’s great to see you. Congratulations again on being finalists for the IES Jay Nussbaum Rising Sales Star Award. I also want to recognize the fact that we now have turned the finalists into our Premier Young Sales Leaders. Congratulations on having that designation as well. Let’s get started here. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? Tell us where you work, tell us your job, your title. Matt, why don’t we start with you?
Matt McVay: Thanks, Fred, for having us. My name is Matt McVay and I work at DLT solutions, and I’m a Team Lead on the SDR program that we have here. I’ve been at DLT now a little bit over five years now and looking forward to this. Thanks for having us, Fred, and go ahead, Connor.
Connor Dario: Thanks, Matt, and thanks, Fred, for having us as well. I’m Connor Dario, I work at Akamai Technologies. My title is Major Account Executive, so I focus on our healthcare and life sciences vertical in the enterprise space there. Been with Akamai about eight years now or so.
Fred Diamond: Very good. I also want to recognize Akamai. Akamai is an IES Premier Sales Employer. So congratulations on that. We’ve had some Akamai people over the years on the podcast. We’ve had Randy Wood who’s been on the podcast and some others as well. Let’s go back a little bit into your history. Tell us about where you went to school, and tell us about what you studied, and did you expect to move into sales? Connor, why don’t you go first?
Connor Dario: I started my undergrad career at University of Connecticut, so UConn, go Huskies, and my degree was in Finance. I didn’t really have any sales background. I’m a numbers guy, math guy through and through. Sales wasn’t necessarily my first chosen field here but as I did some more digging and some more self-searching on where I’d be most happy with my career and most happy in my life, that’s how I ended up in sales. Fortunately, this year I continued on my education and graduating from Boston College’s MBA program this year, so moving forward into furthering education there as well.
Fred Diamond: That’s great. Do you remember when that moment was when you made that decision? Did something happen? Did you follow a sales rep? Did you look at how much they were getting paid? Just kind of curious, what was the moment that shifted you from being a finance guy to a sales guy?
Connor Dario: For me, it was important to understand the business side and to understand the numbers behind everything, but I really just realized that I’m more of a people person as opposed to being stuck in Excel, being behind a computer. I’d rather be out there people facing and making those connections. I think that’s what really did it for me.
Fred Diamond: Very good. Matt, how about you? Tell us about your background, how you eventually got into the sales role.
Matt McVay: I went to George Mason, go Patriots. I was a freshman, I went to a Final Four. I was a double major in business and sports management and then I got my Master’s in Sports Management. I started as a hockey coach. I loved teaching, I loved coaching, it just didn’t pay the bills per se. When I was like around 20, 21, I did door-to-door Verizon sale selling cable and the TV packages, and I thought that was what sales was all about, going door-to-door in a suit in the summer. My first experience of sales wasn’t the best. I can get into how I transitioned to sales in a minute here if you want, Fred.
Fred Diamond: Talk about hockey for a second. Then Connor, I know your background. You were mostly a basketball guy in a hockey family, but I’m just curious, Matt, you tell us first. Being on a hockey rink, it’s war, right? War is going on between the boards. Tell us how hockey prepared you for a career in sales.
Matt McVay: I do a lot of hiring now, and athletes in general are great usually at sales because they’re just really competitive. They don’t let an objection or a no persuade me anyway, and it’s just a very competitive space. If you’re competitive, it’s a great environment every day and I’m pushing myself to outdo myself the last day. Sales is one of those things where if you’re an athlete, I think it just translates really well. That’s how I transitioned back to sales after some of my coaching was I just realized that wasn’t a long term fit for me.
Fred Diamond: I worked for a large software company called Compuware for a number of years. Compuware was famous. The guy who founded the company was a well-known hockey owner, Pete Karmanos. We were in Detroit, and we would see hockey players. He would hire hockey players just because of those mentality things that you talked about. Some actually did quite well and went all the way up into senior leadership and some struggled, different discipline. Connor, how about you? I’m just curious, your background in sports as well, how has that helped you become a sales professional?
Connor Dario: I have a multi-sport background between basketball, soccer, baseball for a little bit. You mentioned hockey, and then actually a few years ago, I ran the Boston Marathon for the Boston Bruins. So very much connected amongst the sports world here. It really just helps you drive the building blocks of sales. That competitiveness, the drive to win, the drive to be the best that you can possibly be. I think Matt hit on it well. Just the ability to drive yourself to be a little bit better than you were the day before is really big there.
Fred Diamond: I mentioned to you both were 2 of the 8 finalists for the IES Jay Nussbaum Rising Sales Star Award. We had about over two dozen nominations for that particular award. The companies that y’all were with was a big part in you getting to this level. Talk a little bit about how you got to your current company, and then talk about some of the things that you like from a sales perspective about those companies. Matt, why don’t you go first? DLT was an IES Premier Sales Employer at one point. How did you get to DLT, and then how do you feel being a sales professional at DLT?
Matt McVay: Funny story. My first mentor, Joe Bailey, who’s an sourced IT company called Bailey Systems. I was actually at a career fair for Mason’s just trying to get my resume out. I was actually walking out, it was another kind of a dud of a career fair and I was leaving disappointed. Then I hear a distinguished voice in the background. I don’t know if you guys watched the Food Channel, Robert Irvine?
He was actually there doing a business event, like a Comcast. He was going to cook dinner and then talk about business and how it relates to what he does. I turned around, I was already wearing a suit and I’m like, I’m here, why don’t I try to talk to Robert Irvine? I did and this is how I met my boss, Joe Bailey. I was in there and Robert Irvine actually just finished grilling someone for being late, and I went out to the bathroom and Joe Bailey was coming in. He didn’t know me yet.
He’s like, “Hey, is there any seats up? I’m kind of late.” I was like, actually, Joe, he just finished eviscerating somebody for being late, but I have a seat right next to me. He came to my table and I ended up giving him my resume and that’s how he was like, “Hey, you remind me of me when I was your age. I carried my resume everywhere.” That got me back into sales. I worked for him, you were to go to offices in companies that didn’t have a big technology company working for them, and we would outsource that IT for them.
I’d go door to door. I focused mostly on dentists offices. My dad was a dentist, so I knew the technology, I knew all that space. That’s how I started getting back into sales, and I realized I enjoyed sales and I enjoyed just the people aspect of it. Like we were talking about being athletes, just the competitive side of it. Then I heard about DLT. Actually, like cap game broadcasts, and that’s how I got back into DLT and doing what I am now.
Fred Diamond: Very good. Hey, Connor, how about you? How did you get to Akamai?
Connor Dario: Akamai, I was plain old applied off the street. I saw a listing and I actually started at Akamai as an intern. I didn’t have any connections into Akamai. I had offers but then fast forward, speaking on my numbers background, I had offers from Merrill Lynch to go into either iBanking or to work with Akamai here. I was really interested in what the company was doing. I thought the space was very interesting, and I said, let me give this a try.
I onboarded into Akamai as part of our corporate finance team, talking about revenue forecasting and bookings. Like I said, understanding the business perspective, but then migrated my way over to sales just through good old fashioned networking and trying to put my name out there and have people realize that there is some total knowledge that I have at Akamai and having my internal understanding of the business just really enables me to be a better customer advocate and work on behalf of Akamai in the best fashion there. Very much good old fashioned, applied off the street, hiring manager liked me, and then I just started making my brand around Akamai after that. So far I’ve been very successful in doing that.
Fred Diamond: We have a question here from Donna. Donna says, “Can they define what it means to be a sales professional?” Matt, you had just spoken about the fact that someone was eviscerated for not being at their seat on time. We talk a lot about the concept of being a sales professional. Define for us what it means to be a sales professional. Matt, you go first, then Connor.
Matt McVay: Sales is hard. If this was so easy, everybody would want to do the prospecting and the sales side of it. You got to be consistent. The second you can be consistent, and like we just talked about it, trying to outdo yourself the day before, consistency is the biggest thing we try to strive for. You can have great months, great quarters, but at the end of day, this is sales. It’s what have you done lately? There’s new numbers every year. You can’t look too much on you got one win. Let’s go get another win.
You can’t ever just be content with what you’re doing because there’s always someone out there that’s working just as hard as you and probably burning the midnight oil and while you’re watching TV, they’re enabling themselves in other ways. I’m at DLT, so we compete with people that work in the same roles at say Iron Bow or wherever that may be. We’re competing with people that are not just at our company, but other companies and you want to strive every day to be consistent. That way, we have the record years and then yearly growth.
Fred Diamond: Connor, how about you? What does it mean to be a sales professional?
Connor Dario: It starts with consistency, but I think it really helps when you’re able to understand your process and you being able to refine that. As Matt was saying, you’re trying to get better each and every day, but really understand and really hone in on your craft in a truly professional manner and be straight up and upfront with yourself. If things are working, you continue to do those things or try to improve on those. If other things aren’t working, you get rid of that. Don’t waste your time on the cycles there.
I think it’s being able to put a consistent foot forward, but understand how you’re able to elevate yourself into that next conversation. As Matt said, we all have quotas and I think if you’re doing it right, your quota should go up every year. Then that means you’re promoted every year. That means you’re moving up there. If you’re able to do that and become a more efficient professional, then I think that’s going to make whirlwinds. As well as, I call it honesty and transparency.
No one wants a bad sale, no one wants a sale that comes back to bite them in the butt there. So having consistent, honest, transparent conversations with your customers and your prospects I think is absolutely massive. As I like to say, the best ability is availability. So being there consistently for your customers whenever you need them. I can think of a story that happened last year, where one of my customers came under attack during my brother’s wedding weekend. I had to be there at that time because it was a crucial process for them. Fortunately, I was able to help them out in a timely manner, and I think they really showed a lot of kudos and that went a long way for them in that certain situation.
Fred Diamond: I like the way you talk about being there for your customer and all the great sales professionals. Again, at the award event we’re going to have on June 1st, we’re going to have Dave Rey from Salesforce with our Lifetime Achievement Award and Jennifer Chronis from VMware. The one thing that all of our past lifetime achievement and Women in Sales leadership award recipients have is a deep, long, committed relationship with their customers. Understanding what they go through so intimately so you can continue to bring value.
Matt, you made a really good point, sales is hard. Sales is the hardest role in the company. That’s why not everybody is making a million dollars in sales in the company. A lot of people get flushed out along the way. You guys must have come across some challenges, some obstacles along the way. Connor, why don’t you go first? Tell us about one of the biggest challenges you faced, and how you’ve overcome that, or maybe how you’re still dealing with it.
Connor Dario: For me on a personal level, not coming from a sales background. No family, no sort of connections in sales and really trying to break down that barrier on myself as a valuable person in a sales organization and being able to build that brand from scratch. As well as when talking with some of these customers who have potentially been having these types of conversations for 10, 15, 20, 30 years or so showing that I actually deserve to have a seat at the table and I actually have an idea of what we’re talking about here, and I’m able to elevate that conversation and make the right connection for thoughtful outcome for both sides. I think that is hands down the biggest challenge on earning that seat at the table with the customers where those decisions are being made.
Fred Diamond: Matt, I want to follow up on that thing that Connor just said. One of the challenges when someone’s entering their career is you’re dealing with people who may be your parents’ age. People who are 10, 20, maybe 30 years older than you who have very, very difficult responsibilities. For selling technology, the people who are in charge of technology acquisition, they’re in charge with cost containment or growth or expansion. These are pretty serious responsibilities.
What is your advice or what have you done, like Connor just said, to earn the seat at the table to show them that you’re with the value? Matt, you talked about burning the midnight oil or working on enablement as compared to sitting around watching Netflix all day. Matt, why don’t you take that question? Then Connor, you as well. Tell us some things that you’ve done in your career to earn that seat at the table to get the trust of the customers who you need to continue developing relationship with.
Matt McVay: Like Connor said, a lot of us don’t have the government background, let alone the sales background. We can teach that. The contracts, the quoting, and then how the government works, to procure things. That can be taught. The technical acumen, that comes as well. You got to know enough to be dangerous on the phone. The thing I’m trying to teach our team is, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what we’re selling, it could be gold, but if we can’t get past the first 10 seconds of any engagement, it’s irrelevant really what we’re selling.
I’m a big believer in emotional intelligence, knowing exactly who you’re talking to and differentiating yourself from other hundreds of calls they get a day. We teach doing three by threes on everyone before you call them. I like to connect on a personal level with people, and then the business comes really much smoother if you connect on a personal level. We talk about school, sports, weather. It’s not hard to relate on those three aspects, and then you go on people’s LinkedIn, you can find out what they’re talking about on LinkedIn, their posts, what they’re liking on, their mutual friends, what they’re posting about themselves.
You only get one chance to make good first impression on somebody, especially in this game. We’re doing often over the phone. It’s not in person especially with the pandemic, so you got that one chance. If you can relate on a personal level, the business talking come so much smoother and natural because that person is then willing. “This guy actually took his time. He’s done his homework on me, he knows who I am.” It’s not, “Hi, my name is, do I have your time for a meeting? I got to sell you this.” Then if they’re not the right person, I found that they’re more than willing to say, “Hey, call this person, call that person.” You get referrals. Everyone knows Little Red Book of Selling. Make a sale, you can earn a commission. Make a friend, you could earn a fortune. That’s how I try to view things with our team.
Fred Diamond: Connor, how about you? What are some of the things you’ve done to earn that seat that you just alluded to?
Connor Dario: First and foremost, it’s be vulnerable. Be who you are and being able to fall on your sword when things don’t go right. I think that as soon as you start being vulnerable, you open up that door of the people conversation, not the company to company or technology to technology buyers discussion there. In the end people are buying from people here. Being vulnerable, be transparent, so open, honest communication. People don’t like surprises. So being able to get in front of things when things could potentially be going bad and being able to be upfront with that. None of us are perfect. Being able to admit that and being open and honest with that is really powerful there.
As well as of course, the things that Matt said, doing your homework and being able to provide some value add into the conversation or expand on the conversation or actually get something out of the meeting or email or whatever outreach or connection you’re trying to make is super important. Don’t just touch base just to touch base and say, “How are you doing?” Really try to bring something to the table there.
Fred Diamond: Y’all have had very strong careers in the early part of your sales and business career. I want to ask two questions here. What is your advice for companies to be more effective at recruiting young professionals or young people into sales? Then secondly, what is your advice for companies on motivating, retaining, elevating the top tier talent?
We’re all familiar with The Great Resignation. It’s been a big shift. There has been some data that says a lot of people your age are more interested in the gig economy, working as freelancers, or whatever it might be as compared to having a full time job. But companies need talent to keep growing and serving their customers. First question, Connor, let’s start with you. What should companies be doing to attract rising sales stars to their company?
Connor Dario: It starts with showing a growth plan for your career and being able to show if you’re trying to move into a different area of the business, or if you’re trying to move into management, manager, director. Showing that growth plan and what that would potentially look like. You need to show me X, Y and Z before we can talk about moving into that next step. But if you show me that step, we’ll be able to definitely make that conversation a lot easier.
As well as, show the ability not just to move up but to move laterally. Show the ability to move and navigate to other areas of the business. Myself, personally, I’ve been in four different areas at Akamai, whether it was finance, whether it was customer success, and now sales. It was very easy or not necessarily easy to get into those different fields. But it was easy to say, “If you want to move into that, you have to be able to talk to this person and make a connection with this person.”
I think that’s first and foremost. Of course, we’re very familiar with the Great Resignation here and some of the comp plans are getting pretty ludicrous out there. There’s a lot of recruiters that are reaching out on a daily basis. Fortunately for us, we’re a hot commodity right now and our skill and our talent level is definitely well desired, so you got to be able to show the love for your employees. For example, if you’re bringing a new employee at a higher comp plan, if you know an existing employee that’s been sitting there loyal to you, it should be in your best interest to be able to elevate that person to that level as well. Loyalty, show growth plan and have them be able to develop their own plan internally at the company.
Fred Diamond: Matt, how about you? What are some of your advice for companies out there that need to recruit young sales professionals, and what are some of your advice on how to retain them?
Matt McVay: You got to tell people where they can go. If they do X, Y, and Z today, where can I go a year, two years, three years from now? Here at DLT, Tech Data just bought out TD Synnex, so we want to grow a lot. I started as an account manager. A lot of times when people start in sales, it’s 80% reactive, 20% proactive. I was the opposite. I was the one that wanted to be on the phones, find new business. But I got a great understanding of account management, how that process worked, and then we started to grow this team out about two years ago, and it’s, “Hey, Matt, we know you love the proactive side of the business, can you help us with the SDR program?”
I was like, “Absolutely.” We want to be a feeder program. So our SDRs, if they want then move into account management, then they’ll be well rounded. They’ll already be really good at prospecting, doing the proactive side of the business, and then they can move into being account managers or whatever side of the business they want to go on, we will help them get there. It’s doesn’t mean you remain stagnant and they know where they can go as long as you work hard and be consistent. You can take your career wherever you want in whatever avenue. That’s how we’re looking at it. We want to be a feeder program for our other positions here at Tech Data DLT.
Fred Diamond: Before we get to asking you for your final action step, again, I want to thank Connor Dario with Akamai and Matt McVay with DLT, part of TD and Synnex. You guys are advocates for the sales profession. There are so many great things that you’ve mentioned here. If someone came to you, let’s say someone at George Mason University, Matt, where you went or someone at UConn, Connor, called you and said, “Hey, I see you’re the account manager over at Akamai.” How would you encourage them? What would you say about sales? What would you say about the profession to excite them to pursue that? Connor, why don’t you go first? Then Matt.
Connor Dario: I would say there’s I think the old school way of thinking about sales and how it can sometimes have a negative connotation when you get good or bad reps there. Sales is a lot more than just running and gutting and shoot from the hip. Having an attention to detail in sales these days is absolutely a premium and your wallet is going to thank you for it. Being able to do that as well as from a sales perspective, you want to have that customer rapport, you want to have that knowledge with your customers there, but you’re going to have a lot of support folks around you that want to see you succeed because then they succeed.
Then that’s also a two-way street. So, be someone who people want to work with and who people want to be around. It’s going to be absolutely so much helpful for you as opposed to being that lone wolf, trying to sell and close deals here. Empower the teams around you, and then they’ll lift you up as well. On top of that, sales, you take pride in it. Take pride in what you do and take pride in that you are that front facing area of the company here. Sales is hard to do but the economy grows because salespeople exist, because salespeople are putting themselves out there and doing the day-to-day grind, if you will. Multifaceted answer there but it comes down to really taking pride in what you do.
Fred Diamond: Matt, how about you? How would you advocate for the sales profession if some people reached out to you and asked if they should pursue it?
Matt McVay: The thing I say about sales, it’s so great because we control our days. We set it up the way we want. We can hunt when we want and we control our book of business. When you first start out, it’s really hard. You’re going to run into walls. Everyone hits a wall. It’s like, is this really for me? Like, do I want to keep grinding? Keep grinding and that book of business grows and then you can rely on wins and successes, you can use a win and then ask that person to introduce you to other groups.
It just goes all downhill from there but to get the ball rolling downhill, you got to grow that book of business, but it’s great because we’ve set our days, we put it together how we want it. Like Connor was saying earlier, we’re constantly tweaking our pitch or script or our day and our plan of attacks. We find out what works for us, we take bits and pieces of what’s working for everyone else and you find a happy medium. In sales, we got to find more people that are people-people and have no problems communicating, especially very with the younger generations. It’s all, everyone wants to be on the phone.
The communication skills I think are lacking. I tell people that if you can master the proactive side, a lot of it for account management, we start out, we’re just waiting on orders and quoting. But if you can find time for that proactive side and really show that you want to sell and do the blocking and tackling daily, it’s so rewarding too. The government, it can take 12, 16 months to get a PO, but it all started from a phone call or you send an email and here we are 12, 16 months later and you got a six, seven-figure quote. It’s so rewarding when you get those.
It’s not like back in Boy Scouts going door to door selling popcorn and you get instant rewards, but a million, six-figure deal, there’s nothing that’s like it. We’re athletes, so it’s like scoring a goal or hitting a game winning Grand Slam or whatever. It’s so rewarding. That’s something that I tell people. That’s how I like to go about my days. You don’t really know what’s going to happen at the end of the day, but if you’re doing things consistently in the right way, you’re doing the blocking and tackling, we’ll get down to field at the end of the fiscal year and have good years year over year.
Fred Diamond: Once again, I want to thank Connor Dario with Akamai and Matt McVay with DLT TD Synnex. Gentlemen, thank you so much. Congratulations, you are two of the eight finalists for the Jay Nussbaum Rising Sales Star Award for 2022. Also, like I mentioned, you’re now IES Premiere Young Sales Leaders. You will be receiving that designation. Nice and concise here. Let’s wrap up as we usually do with our action steps. Matt, why don’t you go first? What is your advice for the listeners today to take their sales career to the next level?
Matt McVay: When you’re engaging folks, get people thinking. Once you get customers thinking, then they start to see why your product will work just. I tell my rep, practice. Yeah, the pandemic is here, we’re not out in public as much, but if you go to the bank, I practice going down a line saying hello to everyone. Practice eye contact. Practice icebreakers, intros. It’s all applicable because if I can master not using um, and stuttering, it’s going to on the phones and in front of people and just practice. You can practice wherever you go. You can sharpen your toolset and that’s what sales is all about.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great point. It’s constantly working and refining how you go about the profession of sales. Thank you so much. Connor Dario, why don’t you bring us home? Give us your action step for the people listening to today’s Sales Game Changers podcast.
Connor Dario: Yep, absolutely. I would say, be authentic and be someone who people want to be around. You’re going to have that supporting cast as I mentioned earlier and as Matt was talking about. Be someone who people want to go in and look forward to getting in and rolling up the sleeves every day. That’s the best advice I can give anybody either starting out or trying to make that next step on how to excel or put yourself on a pedestal a little bit more or elevate yourself as well as everybody around you.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo