Save your money, Mulesoft: Great sellers are made, not bought

Posted by David Hammer on September 25, 2017
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Great salespeople matter. If you don’t believe me, just ask MuleSoft — they just announced a jaw-dropping $100k referral fee for anyone who refers a seller to them.


Think about what that means for a quick second. For a seller who is productive over four years, they’re willing to spend a minimum of $100,000 — plus the training, quota relief, and ramp-up time. Fully loaded, MuleSoft is probably investing well over $300,000 to hire and onboard a successful seller.

Why are they willing to spend so much?

I’ve spoken to dozens of sales leaders over the course of the past few years, and three key traits continuously emerge when they describe the sellers they’re looking for:

  1. Network/domain expertise. A seller who understands the domain she is selling into and knows the key decision maker will be able to ramp fast and sell more effectively, naturally. Being able to be credible across the table from a buyer is not something that is usually earned overnight.
  2. “Nose for a deal.” This is that undefinable, ineffable criterion that great sellers seem to share — the ability to identify when a great opportunity is presenting itself and pursuing it aggressively. Some leaders describe this as “intelligence” or “curiosity" as well.
  3. Drive & adaptability. Great instincts and deep networks aren’t relevant if the seller isn’t willing to put in the effort to win the deals and learn from his or her mistakes. Every sales leader has made the mistake of hiring a big-game hunter who is simply resting on his laurels.

The problem is, it’s hard to find all three in one. Sellers who have taken the time to build a deep network and have the nose for a deal tend to have already closed a lot of business and are often coasting on what they know. One can find junior sellers with strong work ethics and good sales instincts, but they lack the relationships and inside knowledge that they need to be effective in their space.

The solution, as Mulesoft would imply, is simple: Overpay. Spend tons of money on comp, commission, referral bonuses, whatever. Just get the right one in.  Of course, it’s never so simple. Overspending doesn’t guarantee the right people -- in fact, it can select for exactly the wrong people in many cases.

At Emissary, we think there’s a different way. Hire great sellers — regardless of domain — and surround them with a team of insiders who can coach them through their deals. Focus on sellers with the IQ, the discipline, the nose for a deal — and have other people provide the inside truth for them to do their best work.

In my previous career at Google, we were once considering acquiring a competing product for $60mm. Ultimately, we successfully convinced Larry and Sergey that if they gave the existing team half of that money, we could leave this competitor in the dust. The same holds true here: Keep your $100k referral bonus, and instead invest in making your existing sellers great.

Topics: Emissary News