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EDITOR’S NOTE: We conducted this interview in February 2020. Since the show was released during the pandemic, we asked Todd what his advice is for sales professionals now. He offered the following:
- Show empathy in all your communications— As a sales leader, you need to give your teams ample oxygen to sustain life in the new normal. This includes being human. Some tactics to consider might include doing weekly, high-touch videos (that show you with your family) so your team sees all of you, and is reassured that we’re all in this together. Additionally, be transparent. We’ve found that our employees like to hear from our leadership frequently, and that they appreciate the candor and open lines of communication.
- Remain tech-savvy—As sales professionals, we’re all 100% inside sales reps now and there are incredible technologies we can quickly adopt so that we still can maintain intimacy with our customers, who by the way, are all feeling and experiencing the exact same things we are as sellers and company officers.
- Redefine success—We all want signed orders and uninterrupted revenue flows. However, we also need to adjust to this unprecedented time by adapt our definitions of success. Of course, sales is about bookings, but it’s also about the ‘building blocks’ of bookings, including forging new customer contacts, implementing smart outreach campaigns, providing demonstrations of new features, and reminding people of the essence of your product’s value. It’s basic stuff, but it is authentic, and plants the seeds for eventual growth.
- Be pithy— Right now, people are starved for time, so cut to the chase. Nobody—not a single professional—can recall a time where you’re simultaneously a) making the kids breakfast, b) responding to a forecast request from the board, all while c) trying to jam in a last-minute home-delivered grocery order (before your window closes). Be kind, be relevant, be brief.
EPISODE 245: Datasite Global Sales Leader Todd Albright Says These Four Things are Critical for Sales Professionals to Do Right Now to Be Successful
TODD’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “My grandfather once told me, “Don’t get too smart” and that was sage wisdom to say nothing will ever supplant or replace hustle and humility when it comes to being a successful seller. That hustle is staying vigilant day in and day out. You haver to put in the cycle time. If you put in the process and you’re disciplined about it, good things will happen.”
Todd Albright is the Worldwide Chief Revenue Officer at Datasite formerly known as Merrill Corporation.
Prior to coming to Datasite he worked at FIS and a couple other growth stage startups.
Find Todd on LinkedIn here.
Fred Diamond: Todd, it’s great to have you on the Sales Game Changers podcast. I’m excited to hear your story, why don’t you tell us a little more about you that we need to know?
Todd Albright: Dedicated in sales for the better part of 20 years, had a wonderful ride with great mentors, started like all great sales leaders carrying a bag for 10 years, laddered through that in my career and eventually stepped into some leadership roles, team leads and to regional managers and eventually you take on more responsibility. I’ve been the Chief Revenue Officer of Merrill Corporation/Datasite for about 5 years and prior to that I’ve had a nice ride with some great technology growth stage companies. It’s wonderful to be here today.
Fred Diamond: I’m excited. Have you spent most of your career based out of New York City?
Todd Albright: I was born and raised in northeast Ohio, spent a lot of time in the southeast, I’ve lived in Europe for four years, been in New York for 10 years but a wide geographic experience for sure.
Fred Diamond: Where did you live in Europe?
Todd Albright: I lived in Germany, I lived in Munich, I lived in Berlin, spent some time in London as well.
Fred Diamond: Again, we’re excited to talk to you today. Datasite, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you sell today and tell us what excites you about that.
Todd Albright: We’re a growth stage SaaS technology company, we specialize in providing solutions to the M&A community, Mergers and Acquisitions. Most of our customers are large investment banks, private equity firms, corporations, law firms, we do a ton of work with them and our principle job without boring you with M&A jargon is just to provide them with technology that accelerates the completion of a merger or an acquisition. They take about 6 to 9 months and with our technology it happens faster, it’s more secure and you’re assured better outcomes.
Fred Diamond: A lot of people listening to the show like to know who our guests physically sell to, so what type of positions do you sell to? Is it a Chief Technology Officer or someone in the program side or leadership?
Todd Albright: We sell primarily to the business itself so the people that are in the middle of these transactions or advising them, so our clients at corporations are CEOs, Chief Financial Officers, general councils and they have a group of advisers that are typically helping them through a sale process. It could be an investment banker like a managing director or a VP, even an analyst or an associate, law firms, accounting, tax experts, these are the people that we sell to primarily on the business.
Fred Diamond: What excites you about that? Tell us what gets you juiced in the day to come sell more to these organizations.
Todd Albright: There are about 30 thousand M&A transactions that happen each year globally and we’re in 170 countries, our sales team is about 200 people. I bet what excites us the most is that we really assure positive deal outcomes when you use our software, you can be at higher degree of certainty knowing and confident that that deal is going to get done quickly, auditable, safely and certainly securely. In the old days people got on planes, they flew to physical file rooms to actually do this work, it slowed the process, it certainly wasn’t secure. We’ve been making a ton of technology investment to make sure our system is world class for our clients and I have the privilege of leading the sales organization that gets to talk about that day in and day out.
Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about your career. Tell us how you first got into sales as a career.
Todd Albright: I wanted to make money.
Fred Diamond: Absolutely.
Todd Albright: [Laughs] I started my career in consulting at Ernst & Young and it was a wonderful ride. A lot of that work was learning how to solve customer issues and I really enjoyed that work. At the same time – and this was, I’ll date myself, in the mid-90s – there was this new technology called the internet that was being invented and I lived in Atlanta, Georgia and there was a small growth stage company called Security First Technology which was selling internet banking software. This was software that would allow people to look at their account information on the internet, it was [Inaudible 04:39] technology in 1994 and they were looking for salespeople and they were looking for salespeople and I thought, “I have no sales experience, I know nothing about banking or financial services technology, I’d probably be a good fit.” I’m joking, of course but that was my first sales job, I carried a bag there for nine years and learned a ton.
Fred Diamond: There are guests we’ve had on the show who were management consultants where someone said, “You have good skills in front of the customer, you should move into this side” and then we have a lot of engineers who supported the sales process who wanted to make the shift. Looking back, did you really have the sales skills when you were younger or were you barren to going into sales? When you made that transition, what were you thinking about how you were prior to getting there?
Todd Albright: There are many great paths to successful sales careers so everything that you identified, Fred, is an absolutely bedrock path to being successful, there’s no one-size-fits-all but I must tell you that when I was in elementary school, I got called to the principal’s office because I was selling candy from the deli next door at markup from my fishing tackle box. On the way to school there was this stop and go and I would pop in and buy all kinds of candy, I’d put it in the tackle box and I would get there early and the kids would want to buy the candy. I think I was a born salesperson from the start but eventually you start to understand what you’re good at. You’re curious and wanting to solve people’s problems and maybe you’re okay in front of an audience and maybe you can articulate an argument. That led me down the path of sales but the management consulting background was definitely the first step because what selling is about is solving people’s problems and creating better outcomes for them and that was really the starting point. Then wanting to be on stage promoting that good work to the customers out there.
Fred Diamond: When you made that shift, what were some of the key lessons that you learned that have stuck with you?
Todd Albright: Urgency. When you’re carrying a bag you’ve got a number to hit. There’s a lot of pressure there and learning how to work with that. Second is you may be a salesperson out there but the reality is depending on what you’re selling, you’re recruiting help and resource from all parts of the organization. How do I build internal credibility to get people to ride along with me and to get sponsorship from the top of the organization and all parts of the product and customer service group to be able to create those outcomes? Those are a few of the things that I learned early on.
Fred Diamond: Let’s go back to you for a little bit. Tell us what you’re an expert in, I’m curious. What do you think your area of brilliance is?
Todd Albright: I think all sales leaders have clarity of vision, good communication, good leadership skills, written and oral but I’d say that two things probably stand out. The ability to identify the objective and to harness the organization focused in that singular direction, I think it’s very easy in sales no matter where you are in the organization to get distracted by extraneous stuff that’s really not going to move the needle or deliver the result you’ve committed, so a clarity of focus. I think the second thing, and this is more to the orchestration work you make or you do as an individual contributor and certainly in the role I’m in now, the word I use is synthesis. It’s more than just having a great sales plan, you’ve got to bring together other parts of the organization from the product expertise, the engineering organization, customer service, marketing, etcetera to make it all happen. Certainly when you’re doing a deal you’re recruiting help from finance and legal. Getting those people on side is part of the learning curve but I would say those are the two things that I might distinguish myself, clarity of vision as well as the ability to synthesize and orchestrate those resources across different functional areas.
Fred Diamond: I just mentioned you’re the Worldwide Chief Revenue Officer. Talk about global sales for a second. What are some of the things that you’re dealing with today as a sales leader globally?
Todd Albright: It’s balance. We have a large sales organization for our space, the largest in the space, about 200 quota carrying reps and then we have a sales enablement organization and certainly a leadership core. There are standard things that we want to do as a company, where do we hunt? It’s pretty consistent from market to market whether you’re in Asia, you’re in Europe, you’re in Latin America, you’re in North America, it’s pretty consistent about where we want to hunt. So, our job at a systemic level is to help guide our sellers in the direction of the customers with the highest propensity to buy, that’s a lot of science, that’s a lot of analytical work. How we incent and how we pay our reps and motivate our reps, that is consistent worldwide but I would say that most successful global sales leaders are highly empowering of their field resources.
The reality is that the VP of mine waking up in Sao Paulo this morning knows a lot more and has an intimate understanding of what’s going to make that person successful in their home market and it might be very different in Paris, France or Athens, Greece or in Singapore or in Sydney, Australia where I was recently. I think it’s that balance between empowering the field sales force to tailor our approach on the go to market front while also building skill in the organization by having consistent culture, operating principles where we hunt and how we pay our people.
Fred Diamond: Again, you mentioned some mentors before, tell us about an impactful sales career mentor or two and how they impacted your career.
Todd Albright: I have to say that I’ve been really fortunate in working for great leaders and mentors throughout my career and that started at EY and through the various technology companies, I can list them by name but we’ll protect the innocent right now, Fred. I think it was important as well that these mentors didn’t just happen to me, I sought them out and not just above me in the sales organization but you start to look at who’s the head of customer service, who’s the head of product and engineering, let me learn from you. The reality is great leadership having a plan, executing that plan, it’s not like sales has a corner on any of that, it exists everywhere in the organization. I would say that the biggest thing that I learned or the consistency I found among them is you start to realize that whatever you’re selling, you’re selling to the individual needs of the people in the room.
Most of us show up to a sales pitch, maybe there’s three or four people from the customer. We’re not selling to an institution, we’re selling to the individual needs and wants at a personal level of the people in the room. The person from IT operations has a very different set of needs from the person who’s running the business and that person has a very different set of needs from the people in legal and finance and information security that you’re going to talk to through the process. Being really astute and sharp in not reading the room for any purpose other than fulfilling the need of that individual at the point of sale and it could be in some cases of an enterprise sale, 30 people. In a [Inaudible 11:58] might be a couple of people but that was probably the consistency that I found.
Fred Diamond: Just curiously, how would you coach some of the salespeople on your team to understand that? That’s actually a great point, you talked about that you’re selling to the individual needs of the people in the room and in the process what might be some of the coaching you would tell your sales team to get better at that?
Todd Albright: It’s not complicated, it’s human. If you’re raising children, for those of you out there you know that your children are a little bit different from one another so your approach is different. We do a lot of work at Datasite around interpersonal style and classically there are four different styles, you have drivers, you have amiables, etc. and we do a lot of work in identifying, “What is my personal style, strengths and weaknesses? What are the typical interpersonal styles that I’m going to deal with either in the seller universe i.e. the buyers that I’m selling to or within the organization that sell for partners of ours?” We spend a lot of time and I think what happens is we start to overcomplicate it, it’s all human but there are some skills that you can develop in terms of understanding that, “I happen to be a driver, my driver style can be endearing in certain capacities for certain people, it can be off-putting if I don’t edit that style.”
Fred Diamond: What are the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader?
Todd Albright: Scale, we can’t hire enough people. We are growing like crazy, I believe three times the industry average. I’m not sure we broadcast that but I just did, we feel good about our growth. My obligation to our board and investors is to sustain that growth so a lot of our work right now doesn’t keep me up at night because we’ve received accolades for the growth of our sales organization and we feel good about that. Attracting talent, then the second thing is how can we make the talent that’s in the building as productive as possible? By productive, it sounds like a grownup word but what I really mean is how do we put those people in a position to be as successful as possible? Those are the two things that we focus on, those are wonderful challenges to have, for sure but it’s what we focus on day in and day out.
Fred Diamond: Before we take a short break and listen to one of our sponsors, you’ve had a great career here. Again, we’re talking to Todd Albright, Worldwide Chief Revenue Officer at Datasite formerly known as Merrill Corporation. Todd, take us back to the #1 specific sale success or win of your career that you’re most proud of.
Todd Albright: I’ve been fortunate to either ride along or lead a few different ones but I’d have to say, when I was a young seller I got the mandate to sell a $10 million dollar order to this large bank who said they wanted to purchase “right now”. Five years later after multiple management changes we finally got that sale done and I think the reason that’s a signature win is it shows that in sales you’ve got to be patient. During that sales process executives changed on the client’s side or technology changed, etcetera. You have to stay vigilant and staying on top of that but eventually we got the deal done. What was most satisfying is that the number of people who were involved in closing that deal – and that was the point earlier I made about orchestration, that’s really the fun of sales, you’re the quarterback in effect bringing all that talent together from your organization to create a result for the customer.
Fred Diamond: Todd, before we take a short break and listen to one of our sponsors, again you started your career as a management consultant with E&Y and then you made the shift over to sales. Did you ever question being in sales? Did you ever think to yourself, “It’s too hard, it’s really just not for me”?
Todd Albright: No.
Fred Diamond: [Laughs] let’s just leave it at that. Let’s take a short break, we’re going to listen to one of our sponsors. When we come back, even though Todd has given us a lot of great tips, urgency and some other things, we’re going to ask Todd for his tips on how you can take your sales career to the next level. My name is Fred Diamond, this is the Sales Game Changers podcast.
Fred Diamond: Todd, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to the sales professionals listening around the globe to help them take their career to the next level?
Todd Albright: Build your network. I’ve talked a little bit about early in our career and we’ve talked about mentors, seek out mentors. It is very probable that the organization that you are joining, are a part of has a ton of knowledge already in the building, why not tap that knowledge?
The second reason you build your network, and I’ve talked about this, is you’re not out there alone as a lone ranger trying to get deals done. These are complex enterprise sales, it’s going to take an army to get that deal done not only because there are many buyers on the client’s side but the reality is you don’t have a corner on the knowledge required to get that deal done whether it’s process, a particular legal term, certainly deep engineering and product expertise. Build your network for the purposes of learning and accelerating your growth and also build your network because you’re going to need those people to be successful in the field.
Fred Diamond: I have a question, you gave us a great answer before when I asked you about your mentors. I’m sure you get a lot of people who reach out to you about you being a mentor to them. What advice would you give people who are asking you to be a mentor? How can they be a better mentee to you as a mentor?
Todd Albright: That’s a great question. One, I never turn anybody down. If you’re sincere about being successful no matter what your professional goals are, it doesn’t have to be in sales, I love giving back, I’m an adviser at a formal level for a couple of growth stage companies, it just stays fun all with the full support of my existing organization, of course. I enjoy doing it. I guess when you’re recruiting me I would say have a plan, have a vision of where you want to be in five years and map back from that and we can work on that plan together.
I think what doesn’t work – and this is independent if you’re approaching me or you’re approaching anyone that you’d solicit advice from – if it’s open-ended and not fit for purpose, it’s just hard to contribute to your growth unless you feel like there’s a shared plan you can work on together, so that’s a little bit of feedback. By the way, the other reason I never say no is I’m learning too, I’m learning a lot from people at different generations of their career, certainly people from other parts of the organization. I had a young person the other day who approached me and said, “Hey, I’m in the engineering organization, I saw a rec go up for a pre-sales resource. Can you tell me what is it like making that transition?” He’s a C++ expert coder, I don’t know anything about C++ so we’re learning together and I would say don’t be bashful but have a plan, have an idea of what kind of feedback you want.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us about one of your selling habits that has led to your continued success?
Todd Albright: Endurance, you’ve got to keep at it. There’s the old adage in sales, what have you done for me lately? For those of you who run a calendar fiscal year, we flip the page on 2019, we’re into 2020 and you’ve got that mountain to climb. I think what allows you to maintain that endurance is you break down the sales process into its amino acids, it is building blocks, pots and pans, etcetera. You’re never going to eat an elephant in one bite, if you’ve got a two million dollar quota you’re not going to sell that quota in one deal. It’s an amalgamation of little steps so I also find that when you have that high cadence, it keeps you fresh, it keeps you vocal. That would be a little bit of feedback in terms of my selling habits.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us about a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Todd Albright: We are at an incredible pivot point at Datasite right now so I mentioned our growth and success and our core market of supporting data rooms and we’re growing like crazy, we’re taking a ton of market share, revenues are up into the right expanding margins, great free cash flow. Everyone’s really happy but we’re not satisfied because we know within our world there are still lots of problems that we can solve and value we can add to our community of buyers. One of them is a space called asset marketing. What we support today is what’s called due diligence, think about when you buy a house you agree on a price but you do an inspection, a termite inspection, you got to get a loan approved, etc., that’s what due diligence is even if you’re doing a multibillion dollar global transaction.
What there isn’t a lot of technology supporting is the marketing of that asset, how do I assemble a list of potential people who might be interested in this house? How do I market to them? How do I run them through the process? We have this great new product coming out called Datasite marketing but it’s going to be a different sale. We’re going to be selling to a slightly different audience, how we’re selling that is going to be a little bit different, it’ll be an enterprise SaaS sale different from the high velocity transactional sales that we do today but that’s a big project for us as we pivot and learn new muscles for the organization.
Fred Diamond: Todd, before we ask you for your final thought I want to thank you, you’ve given us a lot of great insights today. I love your energy, I love a lot of the thought that you put into your career. We get that a lot with the people who started out their careers in consulting because a lot of what you’re doing is process, helping customers through process. I’m just curious though, you made the move from management consulting, you have global responsibilities, sales is hard, people don’t return your phone calls or your emails. What is it about sales as a career that has kept you going?
Todd Albright: I love the action, you love the energy. You’re in many cases at a very young age charged with being the face of your organization and representing that ethically, morally and valuably for the people that you’re selling to. I don’t know a lot of careers and what’s particularly exciting about what we do at Datasite is we’re selling to CEOs and CFOs and white-shoe investment banks and law firms and private equity so we get the opportunity to interact with really smart people on the client side every day. Those are a few of the things that keep us going at Datasite for sure.
Fred Diamond: Todd, again I want to thank you for the great insights today, it was a great interview, I appreciate all your insights. Why don’t you give us one final thought? We have Sales Game Changers listening around the globe, a lot of them in tech, a lot of them in some of the spaces that we talked about today. Give us one final thought to inspire our listeners today.
Todd Albright: My grandfather once told me, “Don’t get too smart” and that was sage wisdom to say nothing will ever supplant or replace hustle and humility when it comes to being a successful seller. That hustle is staying vigilant day in and day out, you just got to put in the cycle time. If you put in the process and you’re disciplined about it, good things will happen. The second thing, that humility, you’re never going to sell alone, you’ve got to recruit other talent from all parts of the organization and likely on the customer’s side to make you successful. Bringing those two things together, hustle and humility, will take you a long way.