August’s Sales Smackdown brings us Patrick Purvis, Director of Sales at DiscoverOrg. We discuss sales gongs, spirit animals, and how to maintain a strong start-up culture amidst a rapid growth phase.
Patrick, this interview has been a long time coming. You graduated from Oregon State, and 1 year later you were a sales manager at one of Oregon’s fastest growing, most exciting companies. Tell me how you ended up at DiscoverOrg.
I was a semi-professional online poker player, and I took a long time finishing school because I prioritized poker for so long. There came a day in the online poker world called “Black Friday,” and online poker was pretty much shut down. That was the kick I needed to go out and get a real job. At that point I went out looking work, and our CEO Henry Schuck had recently posted a position on Oregon State’s job board- He had actually forgotten about it by the time I decided to move on it. I wasn’t the best student, and I hadn’t done any internships at all, so my strategy was pretty much to walk into the DiscoverOrg office, wear a suit, bring my resumes, shake hands and try to interview right on the spot. It worked! Henry really needed a sales person; I really needed a job; so the timing was right. One hour later, he hopped on a plane to France to get married. I interviewed a few more times after that and eventually got a job as a rep.
When I showed up to work I knew nothing. They taught me how to sell, how to use Outlook, how to do everything. I didn’t start out as a great rep, but I became a good sounding board to Henry, and I emerged as a thought leader in our group. When it was time to promote leaders I was one of the reps tasked with growing our sales team.
One of the reasons I’ve been excited to interview you is because you run a really unique and in-depth interviewing process. Tell me how your process evolved to be what it is now.
First of all, I wouldn’t pass my own interview these days. It used to be really unstructured. Three of us asked the candidates what came to mind, and then Henry stumbled across a test called the Jobfit, and we gave it to our existing team. We realized there was a common thread among us and we all scored really highly in a lot of the same areas, especially on the cognitive side. Once we realized that, we started incorporating the test and set some thresholds. That had a huge impact on our retention rate.
Why are those tests so effective for DiscoverOrg?
You don’t necessarily need to be good at math to sell our products, but scoring well on these tests usually means you can wrap your mind around the complexity of our sale and communicate well with our high-level customers.
Your team has grown so much since you started, how do you maintain your sales culture with all of your growth?
I think the culture is a living thing that came from Henry. He’s ambitious and intense and hardworking, but once we got to a critical mass the culture took on a life of its own.
Now we have this mentality that we want to “get there” together. We want to work hard to achieve our goals in a really cooperative environment. We all learned from others here and we all pay it forward.
I think there’s no doubt that DiscoverOrg is achieving some lofty goals. What’s your secret to leading your teams?
The biggest thing is that we are never done getting better – that we are going to move quickly – that we are going to make decisions – and that we may make mistakes. But we need to keep pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone, and leading a sales team is all about pushing people beyond their comfort zones so they constantly get better. We always say that “Everything meaningful in sales happens in the grey area.” This is where the best sales people operate…outside of their comfort zone.
What’s the #1 bad habit you need to combat on your sales team?
I would say it’s not asking enough questions. Everyone talks about listening well, but few really put it into practice. A great sales rep doesn’t just show a feature and say, “would this be something you are interested in?”.
So, what does a great sales rep do differently at DiscoverOrg?
A great sales rep delivers fresh insight and fresh ways of looking at problems that our prospects hadn’t thought of before. We follow the challenger sale, because contrary to conventional wisdom, relationship builders aren’t the best sales people. We want our reps to challenge our customers and bring them out of their world outlook and into our own world outlook. Many of our prospects look at us and think we are expensive, and they look at us as an added cost. But our best reps let them know that we aren’t an added cost, that they are already gathering data at some cost somehow. The best reps convey that well.
How do you like to reward your performers?
Of course commissions. That’s the best thing about sales. Your pay is directly correlated with your performance. But the big one is recognition. We have a Sales Gong right on the sales floor, and reps who ring it usually get a round of applause. We also have a Thor Hammer which goes to the top rep of the month. Little things like that really matter. We also give out “crusher” bottles of wine. I have no idea how Henry found that one, but it’s great and people love it.
What’s the best answer you’ve ever heard in an interview?
There’s a guy on our sales development team, and he’s doing well today. I asked him if he would be ok starting as an SDR and waiting a full year for his promotion. I painted all the negatives clearly for him, and after all that his response was, “Patrick, you could put me in the mail room and I’d be excited to work here. I’ll prove to you i’m worth it.” It showed me that he cared, and I knew he’d be committed. His tone was equally important because it was very convincing. I’m glad we took a shot on him.”
What’s the worst answer you’ve ever heard in an interview.
We used to ask these stupid questions before we started using assessments. We would give our candidates a thought experiment that they had to walk us through in a panel interview. We would ask them to picture a boeing 747 with no seats, and then we would have them walk us through how many mid-sized sedans they could stuff in there. As long as the answer utilized some math, and some logic, and they communicated their thoughts to us we accepted their answer. One guy just said “5.” When we asked him why only 5 mid-sized sedans would fit in a boeing 747 he just said it felt right. Guessers don’t work out well at DiscoverOrg.
What are your pet peeves when interviewing sales reps?
When I ask a candidate what intrigues them about DiscoverOrg, and they don’t have a good answer, the interview is over. Maybe I’ll give them a few minutes to recover, but not always.
I also don’t like any answer that contains “I’m a relationship builder.” It’s not unique at all.
What’s one thing nobody knows about DiscoverOrg?
From a product perspective, what is totally the most unique thing about us is that we do it all with in-house research. Companies for years have been burned by bad data purchases, and we don’t have that problem. We have teams of people who hit the phones conducting research for our customers. We have a team of about 100 researchers, and that’s what our customers are buying. It’s not just the data.
If you were to hire any person on the globe as a sales rep, who would it be?
I could never get him, but Stephen Hays, the CEO from InsideSalesTeam.com. He’s probably the best sales person I’ve ever met. He has an incredible way of asking questions.
If you could seek advice from any leader in history, who would it be?
Elon Musk. Hands down. The guy is a visionary and he’s changing the world in 3 industries. He’s the most accomplished person alive.
What sales movie do you want your team to watch?
Glengarry Glenn Ross is the staple. You have to know the “always be closing” speech to be hired here. That’s the one and only movie requirement we have.
The guys in my office affectionately refer to you as the “The Purv.” How do you feel about that?
Unsurprised. When you’re growing up and going to school with the last name of Purvis, you learn not to be offended easily. My whole team calls me that as well.
What is your spirit animal?
If I had to pick, I think it might be an owl because I think of them as inquisitive and intelligent- It must be their big eyes looking at the world in constant wonder.
If you had to pick a band or musical group that represents DiscoverOrg, what group would it be?
I really want to say Led Zeppelin- only because they are my favorite band, but there is also a new band named “Big Data.” I guess I have to go with that one, right?