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The Revenue Operations Blog

People First Leadership with Joe Venuti

November 17, 2021
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The Interview

Kluster's Take

Josephine spoke with Joe Venuti, Vice President, Sales Development at UpKeep. He explains his people-first mentality.

Joe stresses that reps aren’t walking quotas, it’s critical to manage the person. He believes that the individuals on your team can make or break your organization. Because of this Joe thinks it’s important to be able to manage the individual. He understands that everyone has big numbers to hits. They’re human beings with a family and the same stresses that you have. He thinks it’s great to push and motivate a team, but you shouldn’t forget to manage the human being. 

You need to have quality conversations with the team to understand what’s going on. He’s uncovered some innovative ideas by just asking reps what they would change.


Don't forget to manage to the human being. I think that's the biggest thing that I've learned throughout my career. I've had amazing managers. You did that, and I've had some managers that did.

Thing is I try to lead with the people first mentality, um, the individuals on your team. I mean, that's going to be what absolutely makes it breaks the entire organization success. So I really, really tried, no matter how busy my calendar looks, no matter travel, whatever it might be. Um, you've gotta be able to manage to the individual, right?

I mean, I think that we all have big numbers to hit and it's easy to lose sight of the fact that. You know, these people are not just walking quotas, right? They're human beings with a family and the same stresses you have and everything else. Sure. It's great to like push a team and motivate a team and really try to drive a team to a number.

Um, but don't forget to manage to the human being. I think that. The biggest thing that I've learned throughout my career. Right. I I've had amazing managers. You did that. And I've had some managers that didn't. Um, and I remember my experience as an individual contributor, so, um, I try to take some of the things that I've learned from the good, uh, and hopefully that's how, you know, people perceive me as.

Hmm, that's brilliant. That's such a good answer. Okay. So talk me through now that you've joined a new company and you obviously get into grips with a whole new team, what are the metrics that you're looking for, whether it's tracking performance or just getting to know your sales team? Yeah. I mean, obviously there's a lot of layers to this question, right.

I think like super high level, right. Running a still development team. Like the three big things that I care about are, you know, opportunities, pipeline and revenue source, right? Like that's the big three, but there's a million other data points that I need to look at and analyze to make sure that like we're executing it and hitting those big top line numbers.

Um, you know, everything from as simple as. Daily, you know, outbound dials and emails and social touches and all that to, you know, conversion rates and, um, you know, dials to pitches, dials to meetings. So there's, there's just so many layers of data. And I think it's important to kind of take it in stages, right?

You come into a new organization like I have, right. I'm going I'm two weeks in and all I've done is pull reports and try to get historical data. And like that's all super helpful and will help you. Chart a course forward, but you know, I think at the same time you can really kind of overwhelm yourself.

And I think that at some point there's a lot to be said for having like some just good quality conversations with the people on the team, like understanding the needs and understand. You know, if they had a, I asked every rep on the team when I did a one-on-one with them. If you had a magic wand, what would you change right now?

Right. Like some of them had great answers. Other ones said they want to make $10 million, but you know, so I'll kind of wait it out and land in the middle, but yeah, I mean, there's just so much data out there and it's amazing, but I think like the biggest thing is. Understanding that you can't boil the ocean all at once.

So kind of prioritize, start checking boxes and move down the list. Um, and you just cannot drown in data because, you know, one bad day, you can't go and change everything that you're doing. Right. So that, but like historical data that the trends are so solid. Hmm. That's a really great answer. I understand how difficult it could be because there's so many different metrics you can focus on.

Can you talk to me about how you align the tactics with the strategies? Is there any metrics on the same metrics? Is there any metrics that help you do that?

When you're talking about an outbound team and you're trying to build an execute on, on an ABM process. Right. I think that there's a lot that you can look at around account prioritization. Um, you know, how many people they're working inside of accounts, right? Like what you don't want to see is an outbound rep working like one person in 50 different accounts.

Right. You'd rather them work at deep and wide and, you know, try to generate good conversations and bring multiple stakeholders to the table. So like, I think that that's probably. Like one of the easy ones, right? Like when you're looking at. Okay. How do you take data and make it actionable? Right? Like how many of these accounts are you working?

How are you prioritizing? I mean, there's a lot of great tools out there that you can use to help with account prioritization, but there has to be some structure you can't just expect, you know, an outbound BDR to come in and make 50 dials and send a hundred emails and like meetings to just fall. Like there's, there has to be way more structure to it and then prioritization and intent data.

Um, and then on top of it, understanding how to leverage effectively. Hmm. What do you mean by the last bit? Like how, how do you do that? Effectively leverage intent data. Um, so there's tools to help, like, you know, one of the tools that I've, that I've used a sixth sense, um, they have all these data points they're analyzing in the background that basically is able to give the STR or the manager of view of, you know, who on your target list is, you know, potentially in buying mode or who has potentially been to you where your competitors, websites, things like that.

So you really, really understand where. You know, you probably have a lot of velocity with a little bit of friction, right? So that's something that should be prioritized. Right? They're looking at this now. They've, they've, they've done X amount of things that has raised a flag now is the time to go have a genuine conversation.

So moving onto the theme, which is linking strategies with tactics. So don't you come into this role, obviously a strategic or strategic strategy has been set. What's the first three things that you've done and why were they so important? Yeah. Um, I think, you know, the first thing is I just tried to listen and observe.

Right. I think that, like, I really wanted to do very little talking and a lot of listening. Um, And then, you know, start to understand. Like the data points, right? I've not even the data points, like the process breakdowns, where do we need process to be refined here? What are some of the things that I can do to make the outbound BDRs lives a little bit easier?

How do they, you know, how do we set them up for success? Right. And I think that, like, I just kind of said it, but. BDRs needs to come in and have a repeatable process to then understand like, okay, call block here and, you know, social touches here and review this report here. Um, and if that's, if they're not able to do that, I think that the day becomes hectic and before they know what it's like three o'clock in the afternoon, they have to make dials.

And then, and then they're simply sitting there dialing to Salesforce versus like making actual outbound dials, you know, to set an appointment, they just try to hit a metric. So, um, you know, I think that. Really like processes is the biggest thing. And then, um, execution and then scale. Right? So it's three steps, right?

So build the process ensure they can effectively execute and they were enabled. Um, and then start to scale it double down on the things that are working really great answer. Okay. So could you talk me through a time where you feel tactically you've got it wrong, whether it's when you're creating a new process or even when you was trying to say.

Yeah. Um, at a, at, at a previous company that I worked with, um, team was really, really young as far as like just inception. And we had tried to run our version of like an ABM, outbound play. Um, We didn't have really the right tools. Um, we didn't have the right level of enablement. And quite frankly, what we did was we really, really hurt production.

Um, you know, so we kind of learned that, Hey, like we're maybe not mature enough as an organization to run the play at this scale. So we backed off of it for a little while. Um, And then eventually down the road, you know, we brought in more tools and we had more senior leadership and we had better alignment across other departments because like, you can't do all this stuff on your own.

Right. It's not just like me sitting, you know, sitting here saying, okay, you know, make these 20 dials. And you know, there's, there's a lot that goes into it. Right. You've got to be alive with sales. You have to be. Um, so like all those pieces were finally in line. Um, and then we were able to really kind of pivot and segment the team and, you know, we were just probably six or seven months early, the first time we, we, the emptiness.

Okay. That makes a lot of sense. So that's why now coming into this role, you spoke about doing a lot more listening, seeing where there's like breakdowns of processes. Yeah, for sure. I mean, I've. There's a foundation built here for share. Um, you know, there's really, really, really strong leadership on both the sales and marketing side.

Um, so it's not like I'm coming in and building from scratch. Like I have in the past. Right? My last few roles prior to coming to upkeep, um, I've really built from zero, right? There's been no SDR BDR function. Um, that is not the case here. Right? I mean, upkeep has been around for, for a while and they've been successful and people know who they are.

So it's a little bit of a different situation. I'm walking into a little more mature of an organization, um, of walking into an organization where I already have alignment with, you know, Leaders, right. The CMO, the Sierra, like the people I need to really, really pack it with to be effective. So, you know, that was an exciting piece about this opportunity for me as well was, um, you know, I'm not the first one in, right.

I'm not like, I mean, I've had roles where I was forced to sales force. How do you do this without ed, without a CRM? You know? So, um, yeah, it's, it's a little more mature of an organization, but at the same time, uh, we need to scale, right. We're going to scale, we're going to build this thing up. Um, so yeah, I mean, it's an exciting opportunity.

Hmm. It sounds really great anyways. Okay. So if you were in every room full of revenue leaders, is there a burning question that you would want an answer to it. I don't know if there's one burning question. I think so I've been fortunate to find myself in that situation several times. Right. Especially now that we've got virtual, there's a lot of opportunity to do like virtual meetups and whatever it might be.

And you're on a call with, you know, 14, 15 other people who, you know, were just like you. VP is a sales VPs of sales development, and. I get so much from just kind of like listening, right. Or talking through just in general. Hey, like I'm dealing with this right now. Have you ever seen this? And just that, that, that collaboration and sharing information back and forth, uh, has been hugely helpful.

So, you know, there's a couple of forums out there that I'm pretty involved in. So, um, I get that level of collaboration. I think, I hope that there's times that I give bits and pieces of my experience and knowledge that helps people out as well. Um, but I don't know if that I have like one like burning, like how do you do X, Y, Z question.

Hmm. Okay. That's fair. Do so do you have any pieces of advice for any leaders out there who are thinking about alignment of their strategies and tactics? Um, you know, I think that the big thing is enablement and communication. Right? I think that it's very easy to sit in a room with a bunch of other leaders inside of your organization and say, Hey, we're going to go do this.

And then you put it down on some process. Doc, you put a half an hour meeting on the calendar with the sales and sales development team. Here's what we're doing. Ready, set, go. And then you just assume it's all going to work. Um, There needs to be a lot more than to admit they needs to be, you know, accountability.

Check-ins I think that, like the biggest thing is, you know, communication, like check in, like make sure that, that they feel, um, supported and they have an avenue to ask questions. Um, you know, I think that like, that's where a lot of times, like we missed the mark is just kind of roll something out, assume it makes sense to everybody, but you know, everybody perceives things differently and.

Is, you know, this is an aggressive click path, right? As you start to move through like an SDR BDRs, day-to-day right there in four or five, six different systems, you know, click this, click that update this update that like, it just, it just gets overwhelming for them. So, um, it's gotta be understandable.

It's gotta be concisely. Have to have an avenue that.