EPISODE 188: Veeam Enterprise Sales Chief Mike Durso Explains How Strategic Hustle Sets Him and His Sales Teams Apart


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EPISODE 188: Veeam Enterprise Sales Chief Mike Durso Explains How Strategic Hustle Sets Him and His Sales Teams Apart

MIKE’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: Take accountability for your actions and before you look at someone else in your organization, look at what you could have done differently to change the situation.”

Mike Durso is the Vice President for US Enterprise at Veeam Software.

He was actually referred to us by a previous guest, Christian Woodward.

Prior to coming to Veeam, held sales leadership positions at VMware and Dell.

We also interviewed Mike Miller from Veeam for this podcast.

Find Mike on LinkedIn!

Fred Diamond: Tell us a little more about you that we need to know.

Mike Durso: In terms of my background, I was born and raised in Philadelphia so I am a product of the City of Brotherly Love. I went to school about 12 blocks away at Drexel, I’m married, I’ve been married for 14 years to my high school sweetheart, believe it or not. We have three wonderful kids, 12, 10 and 2 and a half.

Fred Diamond: You went to Drexel, did you do that co-op program that they have there that’s so good?

Mike Durso: I did, I am a big fan of the co-op program. It was a five year program where you go to school for the entire 5 years, the middle 3 years you actually work for 6 months of the 12 months of the year. The program does a great job preparing you to write resume, to do an intelligent interview and to land a position in the real world ideally in the field that you’re studying so that you get some perspective on what you may do for the next 30 or 40 years. It was a great experience.

Fred Diamond: It’s great to have you on the podcast. Tell us a little more about what you sell today and tell us what excites you about that.

Mike Durso: Veeam is a 13-year old privately owned software company that provides a single platform cloud, virtual and physical backup replication and cloud data management. We’ve got over 350 thousand customers worldwide and I lead the team that is responsible for the Fortune 1000 for all intents and purposes in the United States. It’s a relatively new segment that we’ve created, about three years ago when I started Veeam was very focused and very successful in the SMB and commercial market. The interest was to build an enterprise market and really move upstream which is a unique experience for a software company.

I was brought in to build that from the ground up and it’s been an incredible 3 years, an incredible company culture and we’re having a lot of success. In terms of what excites me, I had the benefit of being at Dell at the tail end of the client server shift and then moving to VMware and really creating a market around virtualization was what VMware did. I rode that wave for 9 years and saw that massive transformation in the industry. I think now we’ve shifted to this multi cloud world and Veeam is dead smack in the middle of that, so it’s an exciting time. It’s transformational, Veeam is very disruptive in a market that’s being disrupted so it’s just exciting to get out of bed every morning.

It’s exciting to go be a part of an industry and a company that embraces change and embraces disruption.

Fred Diamond: A lot of people we’ve interviewed on the Sales Game Changers podcast from companies like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft are obviously all about the cloud and all about security so we’ll talk about that as we go along there. I’ve got a quick question, a lot of people who listen to the Sales Game Changers podcast like to know specifically who you sell to. You mentioned Fortune 1000 but what type of titles do you sell to? Is it CTO, Director of Storage? Tell us about some of those people.

Mike Durso: We classify it as TDM’s technical decision makers and EDM’s executive decision makers and that really does hit that CTO, VP of Infrastructure, VP of Storage. Our product shows very well technically so we do a lot of work at the technical level. We’re selling backup which is not always the sexiest piece of the data center but it’s an incredibly important one and an incredibly strategic one. We hit the gamut of IT infrastructure, we’re starting to branch out now with some of the newer products around backup for Office 365 into the compliance organizations and into the legal groups. We hit your traditional infrastructure stack with a little bit in the compliance and legal.

Fred Diamond: How did you first get into sales as a career? Take us back to the beginning.

Mike Durso: I was a student at Drexel like I said earlier, and the co-op program landed me a role in a company called Lexmark which was at that time a spin-off of IBM, it was a printer company. It’s a funny story, I went in for the first co-op interview and I sat down with a gentleman who’s still a mentor of mine today. He didn’t ask me a question about anything related to business, to any skill set, he was interested in the fact that I had played football in the Philadelphia Catholic League because he had played football in the Philadelphia Catholic League.

There was an immediate connection there, something as silly as football. You being from Philadelphia, the Catholic League Football program is a fraternity, so to speak and he said, “You got the job because you played for La Salle and you played football.” At that point we had a lot of commonality and he took me under his wing and really helped groom me early on in my sales career. I was watching him and the rest of the people in the office and recognizing, “This is something that I really want to do.” It has that competitive nature, it’s a lot like playing athletics. I was playing lacrosse at Drexel at the time so there was just an immediate attraction to the competitive nature of sales.

Fred Diamond: We’ve actually interviewed some lacrosse players on the Sales Game Changers podcast. Christine Barger was on the Maryland Division, won Championship Team in 1994 and Mike Lewis from Iron Mountain also played in the University of Massachusetts. Just curiously, did you know you were going to go into sales when you were in Drexel? Was that what you were planning on doing or were you thinking about a technical career? I’m just curious.

Mike Durso: It’s a funny question, I’ll give you a real honest answer. My initial major at Drexel was MIS so it was about Management Information Systems and I took my first coding class and I had one of the really bright guys on my team do my homework for me for the first two weeks and I realized, “Maybe this technical side of things isn’t exactly for me.” At that point I shifted over to marketing and had a sales/marketing class and just had some exposure to some people in the business through that co-op program and recognized, “This is really what I want to do.”

Fred Diamond: When you went to Lexmark what were some of the key lessons you learned from some of your first few sales jobs?

Mike Durso: A lot of the basics. They were an IBM spin-off so they had a lot of that fundamental training and a lot of the blocking and tackling of sales, things like being prepared, the importance of networking. I would say what I learned most from Mike was the idea to get up and compete every day. At that point Mike would go in the office every Sunday night and he would plan out his week. He would – I don’t want to say make – strongly encourage that I met him in the office on Sunday nights to help him plan for his week. Just seeing that level of work ethic, seeing that competitive nature that he had and how he prepared was very important to me and very attractive to me.

What I also saw from Mike was he happened to be #1 sales rep in the company at that point. The success he had, the money he was making, the benefits of his hard work was very evident and he talked a lot about that, and that was very attractive to me at that age to say, “It’s important that you can work really hard, but if you work really hard and you put that in, there’s a significant reward on the back end of it.”

Fred Diamond: As you’re playing lacrosse, what are some of the lessons you could shift from being on the field that you shifted into sales leadership?

Mike Durso: I always say I was a football player playing lacrosse. I didn’t really ever become a lacrosse player probably until early in college a little bit. It took me some time, at that point the game had evolved to the point where people were playing it at 5 and 6 years old where it is now, where it’s exploded across the country. I was a football player playing lacrosse, so when you got to college or you got to those higher level of high school programs you were uncomfortable. You were uncomfortable because you may be able to run and you were as strong and as fast as the other players but you weren’t naturally as gifted with a stick or your stick skills weren’t at the caliber they needed to be.

There were some uncomfortable times in playing in some different teams and even getting into college where you couldn’t necessarily rely on your athleticism anymore. That theory of learning to be comfortable in a very uncomfortable situation, I learned that a lot later in life doing some other things outside of other sports. It’s an important factor of adjusting and how to be comfortable in a very uncomfortable situation and then exploring that and going to working your butt off to make sure you’re not uncomfortable the next time.

Fred Diamond: That’s a fascinating answer, did you feel that you had to prove something to Mike when you were starting out? Again, he took a chance on you, you guys both played in the Catholic Leagues in Philly and that automatically gave you the job so good for you, but did you feel you had to prove and did you work extra hard to make sure you proved him right?

Mike Durso: Absolutely. There was a point of that where you did whatever you were asked to do and it didn’t matter what it was, you did it. I describe it very similar to a freshman on a lacrosse team or on a football team, you might have to carry the water and you might have to carry the senior’s helmet and you might have to go through the – I won’t use the word hazing because I think it’s a little taboo these days – but you might have to do some things that are uncomfortable. Same thing when I went there, I had that background.

A quick story: there was a time when we were delivering a multi-function device, a copier/scanner/printer/fax, a big one altogether up to an organization, an office at Lucent in Northern New Jersey and Mike rented a rider truck to deliver this thing up there. We didn’t have the proper ties, he didn’t know how to tie it down so he stuck me in the back of the rider truck and I had to secure this thing for about 50 minutes up to Turnpike to make sure that it wasn’t sliding around in the back of the truck. That was something that you never thought you would do but he asked me to do it, I think he did it as a joke and to haze me a little bit, but I did it and it’s things like that that show your commitment. That’s a very silly example, but I think when you’re young in your career you have to stand out and that was a way that I said, “I’ll do whatever you need me to do.”

Fred Diamond: You’ve got to come in sometimes on the weekend like you mentioned, he suggested you come in on Sunday night, you probably had some other things you would rather have done on Sunday but you came in. We’ve heard some great stories on the Sales Game Changers podcast where young sales professionals did have that kind of guy and if you put your trust in them, they were going to help you get to where they are. You’ve got to do some things that you don’t necessarily want to do, but you do them.

Mike Durso: What’s interesting about that is I didn’t provide any value on those Sunday night meetings. I wasn’t doing anything that was helping Mike plan for his week, what I was doing was learning from him and understanding how he was approaching his week so he was helping me and also testing me to see if I’d make the commitment, if I’d show up at 6 o’clock on a Sunday night.

Fred Diamond: If you’re playing high school football in Catholic League in Philadelphia, you’re out there digging it and you’re pretty gritty and you’re hustling out there, that’s definitely a sign that you’re going to do the things that they’re asking you to do. Again, we’re talking to Mike Durso, he’s the VP for US Enterprise at Veeam Software. Mike, what are you an expert in? Tell us a little more about your specific area of brilliance.

Mike Durso: I could probably list 10 things that I’m not an expert in, much easier. I’d love to tell you I’m an expert in high school football which I still might be, but I don’t think you want to hear about that. I would say based on the last 10 years of my career, I’ve taken a real interest and had some success around building teams, establishing a culture and then expanding that into hyper-growth. The opportunity I had at VMware to be a part of the original healthcare team and really expand that across the country and then the opportunity I’ve had the last 3 years at Veeam to initiate this enterprise business, it’s been a lot of fun.

I’d like to think based on results and people that have followed me that I’ve done a good job with it, I don’t know that I’d ever go as far as to say I’m brilliant or an expert at it but it’s something that I really enjoy doing and we’ve had some success in two separate areas now.

Fred Diamond: What are some of the big achievements that you’ve had over the last 3 years to make Veeam established in the enterprise base? Because you’re right, it’s completely different in a lot of ways selling to small businesses versus Fortune 1000 – longer sale cycle, there’s more people involved. Tell us some of the things that you’ve had to accomplish to help Veeam get successful in that marketplace.

Mike Durso: First and foremost which I think is the most difficult thing – and I won’t say me, I’ll say we because there’s a handful of people that really helped me build this – we had to hire 55-60 people in probably an 8 month time frame. The beauty of that is working for a private company, I won’t say they wrote me a blank check but they said, “Go build this and build it fast” where in other companies it’s a ramp strategy where you hire 5 and see how it goes and then hire another 10. They let me do this pretty aggressively pretty quickly but there’s a massive challenge that comes with that.

At that point we didn’t really know what the enterprise at Veeam was, we didn’t know what the hiring profile was. We had an idea, but I don’t think we nailed it in the first round. That was a big challenge for us, just to hire that many people and get this off the ground that fast and not be a boat anchor for the rest of the business which had had 25-26 straight double digit growth quarters. Ramping those people and getting people to believe that this was the right place for the next step in their career despite not having a real good enterprise presence.

Fred Diamond: Are you having fun? Have the last 3 years been fun?

Mike Durso: Absolutely, it’s been a ton of fun. Any time you get an opportunity to build something from the ground up. Anytime you have an opportunity to work for great people and for a great set of leadership that has a vision and that has had a tremendous amount of success, they made it very easy to build the organization in terms of funding which again, is a huge challenge for other companies. They’ve made it so easy, the support they’ve given me and the support that the leadership at Veeam has provided in terms of “go get it done.” The hard part is obviously going out there and disrupting 15 year legacy relationships.

Fred Diamond: Tell us about another impactful sales mentor and how they impacted your career.

Mike Durso: I think mentorship is an incredibly important part of every salesperson’s career, every sales leader’s career. I met countless mentors over the years, there’s two or three of them that really stand out. My first management job, my first step into leadership was at VMware and I worked for a gentleman that was fierce, he was incredibly direct and he demanded a certain level of preparation. I tell this story all the time, the forecast calls that he would do were intense and there were tears – not from me, but there were tears from other people – there was a lot of uncomfortableness.

He really wanted to push you to see how committed you were to your business and how well you knew it. That forced a level of preparation for me that was so positive to have early on in my management career, because I would spend hours the night before preparing, I’d be up at 6 am that day making sure I had everything. Whether I did that or not, he still had a few things on that call that he would stump me with but you learn how to react to that, you learn how to think on your feet and you learn how to in certain instances just say, “I don’t know, I’m not sure and I’m going to go get that information.”

I think today a lot of people try to talk around in circles and do the jedi mind trick with folks. With people like that in leadership, my advice would be if you don’t know, say you don’t know. It’s okay not to have every answer but if you try to make something up with him, he sniffed it out and there was blood in the water. He was a tremendous mentor of mine because he demanded such a high standard of preparation, learn that early in your career. There’s other folks, the former COO at VMware is somebody that I consider a mentor and I’ve probably had maybe 5 or 6 live conversations with him in the last 3 or 4 years. He probably didn’t even know he was a mentor of mine, but I was watching him, I was watching how he prepared for his kick-off presentations, I was listening to him, I was watching his manners and how he interacted on analyst calls or on earnings reports calls.

Watching him in front of the sales folks, watching him with customers, I was really studying his behaviors and he may not have even known it but to me, he’s still a huge mentor of mine. I reflect on the things he did and I leverage a lot of what his approaches were today.

Fred Diamond: In your sales management style do you use a lot of sports analogies? I’m just curious.

Mike Durso: I do and sometimes I feel that I shouldn’t simply because it’s so second nature to me, but I don’t know that everybody always can relate to it. In a lot of cases I’ll apologize for them, but I do still find them as a big part of it. There’s a video, I think it came out a couple weeks ago about Nick Saban and I sent it out to my team and I referenced it on a call. It was just about how high performers want to be with high performers and low performers don’t like the high performers, it was a very interesting thing. I use analogies like that all the time.

Fred Diamond: As a sales leader, what are the two biggest challenges you face today?

Mike Durso: I have listened to your show, I said I listened to 3 or 4 episodes and Woody said this and I think Bill said it, too. I’ll say the same thing and I’ll go in a little bit of a different direction. Our job as leaders is to hire, develop and retain top talent, flat out that’s what we need to do. I’ve used the phrase a lot in the last month where we need to hire folks with something called “strategic hustle.” When I say that, the idea of hiring a very strategic rep today typically means you’re looking at that person that has gam-like responsibilities, somebody that’s managed the matrix organization maybe with two or three accounts and has gone incredibly deep and wide. That’s such an incredible skill set, it takes a lot of talent and practice to get good at that.

At Veeam we’re not quite there yet where we’re at the point of having two or three accounts, we’ve got 20, 30, 40 accounts. You have to have that strategic ability to build a long term contract, to do a very significant account plan to manage a matrix organization but you have to have that hustle to work the channel, to work the alliances organization, to manage a party or marketing business. It’s still a very wide range of skill sets that you need to be successful here and I think it comes down to finding that person with strategic hustle. It’s a unique skill set and when you find it, there’s a handful of people on our team today that have it and have just mastered it, it is unbelievable.

The other one I would say is that technology is constantly changing and being disrupted, finding people that are comfortable in change and comfortable with disruption and can thrive in that is not an easy thing. People inherently don’t like change and that just doesn’t work for our business, it flies in 17 different directions at any moment so finding people that are able to adapt well and maneuver is important.

Fred Diamond: Strategic hustle makes a lot of sense. Again, especially as a company which is making this big shift or has made this big shift from selling to the SMB into Fortune 1000. Like we eluded to before, there’s so many more people involved, there’s also more people in corporate here involved. Now you have different types of contracts, different types of companies have to purchase a different way, some companies may have 90 day terms, if you will and they have certain types of standards they need to meet that you have to meet now.

To be a successful sales leader into the Fortune 1000 is critically different, you have to manage the team, you have to understand their technology requirements. You guys are also new kids on the block in a lot of ways so they’ve probably had some of your previous VMware potentially already there. There’s so many factors that have to go into it and since you’re working for a new company, a funded company that’s been around for a shorter amount of time you don’t have the time that you did. You have to hustle, I love that expression, strategic hustle. You’re going to trademark it?

Mike Durso: I think I should.

Fred Diamond: You should before Nick Saban does, you better hustle on that.

Mike Durso: [Laughs] I probably stole it from somebody and don’t realize it so I should look before I trademark it.

Fred Diamond: Mike, take us back to the #1 specific sale success or win from your career you’re most proud of.

Mike Durso: I’ve got a couple different ways that I can take this question. The first one I’ll give you was an actual win and I was the first line leadership at the time leading a team of sales reps in the Southeast. We’d spent about a year calling on one of the largest healthcare institutions in the country and everything you’ve just described around contracts – difficulty in getting to the executive level, difficulty with the technology – all those things were magnified in this account because it was so big. One of the best sales reps I ever worked with who actually spent some time with me here at Veeam was leading the account at the time. No one had done a $10 million dollar deal in healthcare business at VMware at the time. My old CEO used to use this, Roger Bannister, with the four minute mile. Once he broke the four minute mile which took a long time to do, I think since then 1400 people have done it since the 50’s. It was a little bit of that, we had to break this milestone of a $10 million dollar mega-deal and it took a long time.

I was in Nashville which is one of my favorite cities, probably every other week for 6 months my leadership was there, that COO I referenced was flown in a couple of times. We finally got the deal and it was just so satisfying to break that milestone. A really cool part about it was there’s an argument over whether the deal size was broken but it was about a month later, there was a deal in very similar size that came in and then the floodgates opened and we started to make that a normal part of the business. It was a monumental win at that point. That’s everything I’ll say because I think this is an important one, it’s probably the thing I’m most proud of related to my time at VMware and it’s interesting.

I left VMware in July of 2016, we had built the healthcare business, we had it up and running and it was really in a very positive direction, we had been recognized on two straight earning calls by Pat Gelsinger as pacing North America with our results. I left at the height and when I left I had built a very good management team of incredibly talented leaders. They had success for three straight quarters after I left, it was actually better than what we did when I was there and that was a big feather in my cap and one of those things as a leader you look back and say, “They really didn’t need me at that point.”

That business, we had built it and put it in a position for it to continue to grow, I exited the business to do something else and they kept growing and kept doing really well. What happened after those three quarters is another story, but the three quarters after that they really kept churning and doing a good job which was just satisfying for me to know that you put them in a position and they executed afterwards.

Fred Diamond: Did you ever question being in sales? As you were sitting in the back of those rider trucks holding onto copiers moving up the Jersey Turnpike did you ever say to yourself, “It’s too hard, it’s just not for me”?

Mike Durso: I don’t think I ever said that sales was too hard. I was a basketball coach through college after I stopped playing lacrosse and at one point I had an opportunity to be a graduate assistant for a college basketball program. I thought for a few minutes that that may be something I wanted to explore, I didn’t and at that point I knew that sales was the direction. In my mid 20’s after selling for 3 or 4 years I was working for Dell and I started to train some martial arts. For probably about a 3 day period I was convinced I was going to be a UFC champion [Laughs] I was going to quit my job and sell everything I owned and pick up a move and that dream came crashing down pretty quickly when I got a little smack of reality. At that point I never really considered anything else and at this point in my career I don’t think I ever would consider doing something different other than maybe owning a business and doing something at a little bit of a larger scale, but there’s still a huge sales component to that piece, too.

[Sponsor Break]

Fred Diamond: Mike, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to the sales professionals listening around the globe to help them take their careers to the next level?

Mike Durso: I don’t think this is rocket science what I’m about to say, but I do think it’s incredibly important. Be overly prepared, know your business, know it stone cold, know it inside and out but be humble. I think that’s a big piece of being a young sales rep, you need to find a way to stand out but you need to do it with humility and with an understanding of your business that other people look at you and say, “That guy or gal really knows their business. I need to do what they’re doing.”

Fred Diamond: What does it look like, being humble?

Mike Durso: It’s funny in sales when you talk about humility because by nature it’s an individual sport. You have a team that works with you but you’re competing against your peers to be at the top of the quota list. I think it means when you do something really well, being open and sharing it in a positive way that you’re trying to help your team. Sharing those best practices and also not sticking your chest out, it’s the other portion of sales. You’re only as good as your last – whether it be 13 week quarter or annual plan. Not a big fan of the reps that like to pound their chest and tell everyone how great they are because the next day you could lose that next big deal or that next quarter you could be on the bottom of the list. It’s about having that steady humility and really approaching it in a team concept. Yes, you are responsible for your individual quota but if you’re doing something really well and it’s working, share it. Make sure you share it with your peers across the country so that they can be a part of it.

Fred Diamond: Especially in a growth organization when you’re all growing and you’re all learning. Mike, tell us one of your selling habits that has led to your sales success.

Mike Durso: Around leadership and selling habits I believe in honesty, transparency and accountability. It’s very important as a leader to be honest with your leadership team, to let them know the priorities of the company, to let them know the why. If you do that, it leads to building trust which then you can get to the transparency and accountability. If you’re not honest and you don’t build that trust, there will be a blockade between that transparency both ways, from the leader down to the manager down to the sales rep and vice versa.

I think that can not only be ineffective for a sale cycle and ineffective to drive revenue, but it affects the culture of the team you’re trying to build. That transparency, good or bad, is really to me what helps build that positive culture and have people want to be a part of it. The other side of that is you have to hold people accountable for what they say they’re going to do. If you’re honest and you’re transparent about the expectations, there should be no issue with accountability.

Fred Diamond: Mike, tell us a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success.

Mike Durso: Veeam is going through a very interesting time. Again, privately held software company, we’ve been profitable for probably 8 or 9 of the 13 years, we’re in a very strong financial position. We’re also going through a shift in licensing from a perpetual license model to a subscription license model. The question on how to do that and how to do it effectively and not only manage the financials of the company, the cash of the company but also how it affects the reps, how it affects the individual teams, how it affects product development and engineering that is building these product in a different way. They’re going to be consumed differently so it’s a challenge we’re working through right now.

I think like any challenge you work through, communication, transparency, making sure we’re bringing all the people to the table that have experience around these types of things and can really make sure we do it in the right way. It’s a very fun challenge to go through because there’s so many different dynamics to making this shift. Adobe has got a great story about it, they were a publicly traded company, they chose to do it cold turkey and they took a little bit of a hit for a few years – actually, they took a lot of a hit for a few years in their stock price. Now it’s a darling of Wall Street, now they’ve turned it around in the subscription business. We don’t have to do that publicly, it’s something we can do at our own pace but in the long run, I think it’s the right thing for the company and for our customers, which is probably the most important.

Fred Diamond: Why have you continued? Tell us what it is about sales as a career that has kept you going.

Mike Durso: A lot of it is the thrill of the hunt and I think that’s either in your DNA or it isn’t. That’s a big piece of it for me, I think the other piece is there’s very few careers out there where your earnings are directly tied to your performance. My dad worked for Johnson & Johnson for 20 years in finance and tax and he did great, he had an incredible career but I think if you asked him, his career was based on every 5 years you get a promotion and a slight bump and then maybe you get the 2% or 3%. In our world, you can dramatically affect your lifestyle and your income at any given year based on how hard you work, how strategic you are, how smart you are in going after the right accounts and how creative you are building a deal.

Those are fun things to me that you really do control your own destiny, so to speak. That’s a different career than a lot of others, if you have a couple bad years, it can be a challenge. Thankfully we haven’t had that but that thrill of the hunt and that opportunity to really go out and control your earnings is a fun piece of it for me.

Fred Diamond: Again, I want to thank Mike Durso, he’s the VP of US Enterprise at Veeam Software. I also want to make a quick comment, Mike. We’re doing today’s show – I’m not going to say specifically where – but it’s one of your customers, we’re doing this from a conference room at a really nice firm that’s a customer of yours. You must have developed strong relationships with your customers along the way. We really didn’t talk about that too much, but again when you’re selling into the Fortune 1000 there has to be this trust, especially with something like Veeam which is relatively new to that marketplace. Talk about your customer relationships before we ask you for your final thought.

Mike Durso: I mentioned trust, transparency and accountability and I reference it from an internal perspective. If you look at any healthy relationship out there, I’d guess that trust, transparency and accountability are a part of it. That’s been my mantra, I grew up as a sales rep, I think it’s important to say that I have a lot of sales reps that listen to this. When I started, I was a rep at Dell. When I started at VMware I was handed a list of zip codes, this was before they segmented the business and I was a sales rep going out there hustling every day building those relationships. The gentleman that is letting us use the conference room today is a CTO of, like you said, a large firm in Philadelphia. I met him as a Dell sales rep in 2005 and we’ve maintained a relationship for almost 15 years now.

It’s incredibly important, the old theory of people buy from people who they like has been around forever because it’s true. I think that likeability factor, understanding who somebody is, getting to know them as a person, getting to know what makes them tick, first of all it makes people feel comfortable. Second of all, it gives you an insight on how they’re going to operate in a negotiation or in a deal, so there’s no question. Building relationships and just being a regular person, that’s what I try. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not, be yourself and if you’re a likeable, honest, trustworthy person you shouldn’t have an issue building relationships.

Fred Diamond: Again, today’s Sales Game Changers podcast we talked to Mike Durso. I want to thank Christian Woodward who also referred us to Mike and of course, Mike Miller at Veeam. Mike, give us one final thought to inspire. You’ve given us so many great ideas, but give us one final thought to inspire our listeners around the globe today.

Mike Durso: Thanks, Fred. This has been so much fun, I’ve always had a dream – I think I mentioned this in your interview – of being on the Joe Rogan podcast so this is the next best thing to me, so I’m excited to be here. I would say one final thought, I’m a big believer in a theory of extreme ownership, so I love to follow military folks and navy seals. A lot of people read leadership books, those are the books I focus on because I think they are in the most intense situations. They are truly putting their life on the line and they have to do a lot of the things that we have to do every day, obviously on a much more important and much more grandiose scale than what we do.

There’s a book by Jocko Willink called Extreme Ownership, I’m sure it’s probably been referenced on the podcast before. The concept of taking accountability for your actions and before you look at someone else in your organization, what could you have done differently to change that situation? I have that conversation with my daughter who’s 12 all the time to try to avoid blaming other people and look at what you could have done differently to change the situation.

The concept in that book is there’s no bad teams, only bad leaders and I really subscribe to that. My management team will tell you I reference that all the time so I think it’s the concept of really looking at yourself, look at what you could do differently to affect a situation. How can you own it and how can you make a situation – a sales call, a sales process, a sales funnel – better rather than pointing the finger at a bunch of other directions?

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