In this episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast, we have Kerry Hudson, VP of Commercial Sales at Conga, a sales leader in the high tech space across multiple verticals. Join us for a timely conversation about producing high performing sales organizations with a focus on people, process, and customers.
If you missed episode #183, check it out here: Dear Sales Team, Set Your Own Quotas, with Tom Glason
What You’ll Learn
- Discovering your passion, not following it
- A systemic approach to finding diverse candidates
- Taking a bet on talent, enthusiasm, and potential
- How the sales process has changed in the last 18+ months
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Show Agenda and Timestamps
- About Kerry Hudson & Conga [1:45]
- Kerry’s career journey into leadership [4:25]
- Misconceptions about sales leadership [7:06]
- All about diversity hiring [10:59]
- Why you should track the 2 Ps [13:15]
- Changes in today’s sales process [16:48]
- Paying it forward [20:29]
- Sam’s Corner [23:08]
About Kerry Hudson & Conga [1:45]
Sam Jacobs: Today on the show we’ve got Kerry Hudson. Kerry’s the VP of commercial sales North America for Conga.
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Now let’s listen to my conversation with Kerry Hudson. Kerry, welcome to the show. What we like to do is start with your baseball card, a way of helping contextualize your experience and expertise. What does Conga do?
Kerry Hudson: Conga is a rev ops platform that helps organizations find opportunities within their business while creating efficiencies with their sales, legal, and operations team. We help your organizations get business done faster while making more money.
Conga has roughly 1400 employees globally, with about $350 million in revenue.
Kerry’s career journey into leadership [4:25]
Kerry Hudson: I had a unique opportunity after going to school in New York to live in Telluride, Colorado for a couple of years, and met some fantastic people who really informed my leadership style. I decided to move up to Denver, and focus on a sales career.
Like many sellers, I was a former collegiate athlete who liked the competitive nature. I knew within sales, you could build your own territories. You could build a sales organization. I was able to start where most sales reps do, as an SDR, and then grow my career through that trajectory.
I like to work smart and not hard. The SDR role is the hardest role within a sales organization. Where I found my success is using data to help inform the decision of targeting into our existing base of customers. It was my first foray into using data to make informed decisions and find success. I took the leap over into the channel side, where you’re selling through first and second tier distribution and learning how to sell through relationships.
I was at a startup called MX Logic, which focused on email security. We were acquired by McAfee, and caught the ear of our COO. He brought me over to another tech company when he left McAfee, and I was able to take my first leap into sales leadership.
Misconceptions about sales leadership [7:06]
Kerry Hudson: In my first leadership role, I was a terrible leader. I made mistakes that are common with first frontline leaders. As a high performing sales rep, you expect everybody to do things the way you do. What I learned in that role was that you have to focus on the people. What are their intrinsic motivators? What’s it going to take to help them to get to the next level?
I spend a lot of time coaching, working with my team on having an individual path or plan for each one of the sellers, so we understand how they’re motivated, where their individual gaps are, so we can fully develop them into the best sellers they can be.
It’s unpacking what skills they want to develop, so they can open doors they might not know yet. We can develop the skills they’ll need to open doors for them and so they can pivot where they need to be.
All about diversity hiring [10:59]
Kerry Hudson: It’s something I’m really passionate about. Instead of focusing on my gender in my role, I’m focusing on the skill sets that I need, and what I need to do to be successful. Make sure that you’re within an organization that has a supportive team. I’m fortunate that in my career at Conga, I have an ELT that’s focusing on this issue.
What we’re doing at Conga is creating multiple layers of leaders that have a diverse background. In 5 to 10 years, we haven’t just put one leader into the community, we’re putting hundreds of leaders in.
As an organization, when we focus on things, we achieve our goals. In the last six months, 46% of all of our new hires have come from a diverse background. It’s having situational awareness about it and saying, “what are we doing to solve it?”
When you look at candidates, you’ve got to take risks and put the resources around them to be successful. I’m a product of that. My ELT believed and had confidence in me, and said, “we’re just going to put some more support around you, so you can do that.”
Having the sponsorship and the support around you, that’s where Conga is leading the way in solving the diversity challenge.
Why you should track the 2 Ps [13:15]
Kerry Hudson: We have a clear understanding of how to motivate each individual. We help reps understand the key activities that will make them successful. It’s not the number of dials anymore.
How do you motivate the team? Different reps have different motivations. Some like to see their paycheck, others, the club is a motivator for them.
For every partner meeting, we’re going to get X number of opportunities created. We focus on my sellers’ pipeline build from that perspective.
I also have my growth team, and the leading indicators for us are our demo requests. Are we seeing an increase on the front end demo requests? We know that we have strong conversions all the way through the funnel.
There’s a wealth of technology platforms out there that we’ve been using, so we’re on the cutting edge of a number of things. Drift has been a key solution for us, and organizations like 6sense, who are helping us understand how we should engage with those accounts. That tool in particular has given us a lift in marketing intelligence.
Changes in today’s sales process [16:48]
Kerry Hudson: We’ve accelerated our deal motion a bit. In order to support that with the inability to meet in person, we focused on our executive relationships and contacts earlier on in the sales motion.
We’re a rev ops platform, so when we think about the efficiencies within our sales cycle and our sales motions, we have the tools in house, we drink our own champagne to ensure that we’re being successful.
We’ve focused heavily on creating an experience that customers need to understand and evaluate remotely, as opposed to being hands on, which was our motion prior to COVID.
As an organization, we’re taking a conservative approach now. We’ve reopened our offices, and we’re going to work with our customers to see how they feel about it. We have some that are open to meeting in person, and others that are taking a very conservative approach for their own corporate strategy, so it’s still on a case by case basis.
Things have changed, the world has realized that you can perform and conduct business successfully remotely, so I think it’ll be a hybrid approach for years to come.
When you purchase technology, you’re not purchasing just the product, you’re making an investment in people. There’s always going to be that sense of, how do you build that relationship? A lot of the motion will continue to be remote, but you’ll never get away from that face to face contact.
Paying it forward [20:29]
Sam Jacobs: Kerry, what we like to do at the end is pay it forward a little bit. Who are the big influences in your life, people or ideas that informed who you’ve become.
Kerry Hudson: The one who was the most impactful was Norman Schwarzkopf, a leading commander of the Gulf War. When I lived in Telluride, I got to know him really well. He taught me that you always need to know and have influence on the boots on the streets. He said, “I knew the infantry better than anybody else under my command.” I asked him why. He made a comment saying that the infantry and the frontline will always know the changes in the sands before your leadership teams.
I’ve always stayed close to my front lines, in the weeds with them, because then I can understand how the market is shifting quickly, and I don’t have to wait for the data to support it. We can react, or understand, or evaluate in a faster turnaround time.
I’m a huge fan of Jeb Blount and all of his books, they help me connect to prospecting and customers. I love his book, Sales EQ.
Eric Salava, who is my CRO today. My team that I learn from every day. It’s great to be part of an organization where you get to grow and learn. I love to speak to a number of people, so LinkedIn is a great way, or my email address at email@example.com, you can reach out to me.
Sam’s Corner [23:08]
Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody, Sam’s corner, great conversation with Kerry Hudson, a very talented sales leader. She said a number of things that I think are really interesting.
The first is that we talk about figuring out people’s why. Why are you here? What motivates you? What do you want to be when you grow up? Most people don’t really know what motivates them.
The better advice is to discover your passion, rather than follow your passion.
Conga doesn’t just put one woman at the top, it’s much deeper than that. It’s systematic in terms of their outreach to diverse candidates. It’s systematic in terms of recruiting. I completely agree with Kerry. There’s plenty of people out there in the world that want great jobs, and many of them are diverse. It’s a focus issue, which is you need to build diversity into the core of the organization.
Bringing different people into your organization brings different points of view. You have to honor, welcome, and respect those points of view if you truly want those diverse people to feel included.
Sometimes it’s about moving past the resume, moving past ‘I need somebody that has done exactly this before.’ If you truly want diversity, you’re going to have to take a chance, bet on talent, potential, ambition, enthusiasm. and passion. Every one of the VPs at Pavilion is a first time VP, and we’ve got I think eight people on the leadership team, four of them are women. They’ve rewarded us with incredible growth and leadership.
If you want to reach out to me, firstname.lastname@example.org or LinkedIn.
Talk to you next time!