Interview with Shep Maher – SVP of Sales at GuideSpark

Sales Management

Editor’s Note: Guest post by Craig Jordan, Co-Founder at Red Bridge.

The Sales Hacker team is interviewing our speaker lineup for the upcoming Sales Hacker Conference in New York on April 30th.

First up we have Shep Maher, the SVP of Sales at GuideSpark. Shep grew his team from him and an SDR into over 65 reps across the US in 2 years. He has also led GuideSpark into a hyper growth phase growing ARR from $2M to $20M last year completely through Outbound Sales.

Some of the Topics Covered in the Interview:

  1. Scaling Your Sales Team
  2. SDR to AE Ratio
  3. Hiring Process
  4. Outbound vs Inbound Model



What is GuideSpark?

GuideSpark solves a core problem in today’s workplace. Companies invest in really sophisticated platforms to communicate with their consumer’s, but when it comes to internal communication we’ve been stuck in a time-warp, in 1999.

One of our clients, Riverbed Technologies, refers to this as the People, Paper, Pizza method. And what that means is you invite a bunch of people into a room, talk to them for about an hour about 401k, tell them pizza will be there (cause if you don’t they won’t show up), and when they get there you dump a bunch of paper on them.

There’s no way to measure if that is effective or not. No way to know if they actually read the material and take it home to discuss with their spouse versus just throwing it into the trash. It’s not effective or engaging.

The technologies exist to communicate with employees in the manner they expect to be communicated. Millennials today are the largest segment of the workforce. They’re used to saying: “There’s an app for that” or “I can just look up the answer on my tablet.”

GuideSpark helps companies make all the important “stuff” (Insurance, Retirement, Etc.) into videos that match the company’s voice and branding and that really does engage their employees. It also give you the ability to measure if that material you’re putting in front of your employees is effective or not.

How big is the team at GuideSpark right now?

When Shep joined GuideSpark had 9 employees. Now they’re at 200 employees. The sales team went from 3 to 65. And of that sales team half are Lead Gen (or what GuideSpark calls RDRs) and the other half are Quota Bearing reps.

Jon Parisi, Senior Director of Revenue Development at GuideSpark wrote a guest post on how they’ve done this fast-paced hiring and onboarding Shep mentioned. He walks us through the entire Sales Development process at GuideSpark.

Are you focused Domestically or Internationally?

GuideSpark focuses on North American companies, which is about 50,000 organizations. The international business GuideSpark does are for those North American based companies that need to communicate with employees overseas (GuideSpark has been translated into 24 different languages). Too, if an international company has employees in North America they would work with the domestic teams of that organization.

Going international is a prime opportunity for GuideSpark to expand, but as Shep put it:

“When you’re growing a startup you have to be very disciplined about deciding what NOT to do. If you spread the peanut butter too thin, you could end up doing all things poorly.”

Therefore, GuideSpark has elected to focus its growth strategy here at home in North America.

Advice Growing the team to another SVP from 2 to 10 to 25

First, start at the low-end, especially when your company is less than 10 – 20 people. There are probably a couple of people in that mix who are really really good at conveying the value proposition of the organization.

Given that, the first two hires at GuideSpark were RDRs. One of which was  CPA with no sales experience, who had graduated college weeks before starting at GuideSpark. (Keith, CEO at GuideSpark, was second guessing whether Shep knew what he was doing or not at this point, but it’s safe to say now that he did).

In Shep’s words, “The core need for us at the time was swings at the bat. Don’t think you need a heavy hitting enterprise sales guy right off the bat. Get that engine going. For us we have an outbound model and we want to get that engine going.”

Second is recruiting. Every Friday GuideSpark has a “People Pipeline” call to discuss who is in the funnel on the hiring front. To Shep, his people pipeline is just as important as my deal pipeline.

“My people pipeline is just as important as my deal pipeline. Recruiting and attracting talent is critical and I spend 30-50% of my time doing it.”

This year GuideSpark has interviewed 500 people and has hired 20.

Dive Deeper into that Ratio. Throughout the lifecycle of your startup how has that ratio changed?

Shep interviews every salesperson who comes through the door and up until six months ago the CEO was also on all interviews. Culture fit is a huge competitive differentiator and one way to ensure culture is consistent and strong is that literally everybody is involved in the interview process.

Even the most junior RDRs hop on calls with candidates. In fact, Shep brings in a majority of candidates for an afternoon to listen to actual sales calls. This was there are no surprises on what kind of role they’re getting themselves in to.

Explain Nitty Gritty of Growing Your Sales Team

There are so many different sales models right there, but once you commit to one find people that fit that model. Sit down with stakeholders and decide what attributes you want to hire for. It has to match the company culture and it is important to get many inputs from different departments.

“Let’s build a culture that works for me and the rest of the organization.”

How did you decide on an outbound model?

GuideSpark is creating a market, so people aren’t looking for a solution. They’re changing a behavior that hasn’t changed for over 10-15 years. Behaviors that aren’t broken per se; they just sorta work.

Hiring Pipeline Model? Do you take the same outbound approach?

At GuideSpark, Shep takes the same outbound approach to hiring as he does sales. Him and his team source people themselves, they have an in-house recruiter, and they use outside partners to help fill their People Pipeline.

What Era of Sales are We In?

According to Shep, this is the era of Sales Humanization. He says we’re transitioning out or the 1998-1999 mentality of solution selling because people just don’t like talking about their problems (especially to a stranger sales guy).

Now there is a blending of professional and personal that we can empower with technology that we haven’t been able to do before. In addition the power of storytelling is changing the way we sell. Instead of asking about pain we say “Let me tell you about client X who had these problems and how we solved them. Are you experiencing any of that?”


Sales Hacker Conference - New York City

Sales Hacker Conference New York

Join Shep at the next Sales Hacker Conference where he will be speaking more about building a sales team!

Craig is the Director of Marketing at Sales Hacker and the Founder of Red Bridge. A marketing agency focused on helping B2B Tech Startups accelerate their growth.