Ladders recently spoke with Max Altschuler, Founder of global B2B sales community Sales Hacker and current VP of Marketing at Outreach.io., on how he finds efficiencies in businesses, his advice for Millennials looking to get into sales, his keys for cold calling and more. Read on below.
What inspired you to start Sales Hacker?
In the early days of my career, I was running Business Development at Udemy, growing the instructor base. Anytime somebody asked our founders how we were growing so quickly, they’d say, “Talk to Max.” So I ended up meeting a lot of people who were doing some really unique things in their sales processes, and we started a Sales Hacker Meet Up.
Then, later, I was leaving one job and thought it’d be fun to do something on my own, and have a conference. When I asked my Meet Up who would attend, lots of people raised their hands, two people offered to sponsor it, and others wanted to be speakers.
That level of interest showed me that even people I considered to be on the cutting edge of sales tech and sales process felt they needed more help. So I set out to connect the best sellers in the world with those who want to learn from them.
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What purpose does it serve and how has it evolved?
Sales Hacker exists to elevate the sales profession and help modern B2B salespeople be better sellers and sales leaders. That’s been our mission from day 1.
But we have definitely evolved over time. For example, we used to run a lot of physical events and had Meet Ups all over the world. Now, we deliver our training content as free webinars twice a week and have grown our blog to 125k subscribers. Going digital has helped us reach more people who need advice or tips.
What technology/innovation/platform has had the most profound effect on the field of sales in the past few years, and why?
Well, I’m biased but I believe it has to be Outreach. The big change facing all sellers right now is that buyers have more power and knowledge than ever. We used to talk about personalizing outreach as a way to stand out, and that’s not enough anymore. We used to talk about “social selling,” but now the way to think about it is called “omni-channel selling” and we see tools for salespeople that help them be where their buyer is, at scale. Make all of your reps do the actions that your best reps do, automatically, giving you efficient and predictable revenue.
What are the biggest challenges, from a technical and/or business standpoint, that those in sales face nowadays (can tie into the previous question)?
I think a lot of people still struggle with finding the right balance between effectiveness and efficiency, personation or relevance and scale. We’ve got a lot of new tools on the market that do both, and finding ways to help those tools work together can be complicated.
Big picture, do you feel the worlds of sales and marketing are converging, and if so, is this a good thing? Or should they remain their own distinct fields? Please explain.
They’re converging, but I think we’ll always have distinctions. It shouldn’t just feel aligned. It should feel integrated.
What are the key steps that salespeople should take when it comes to cold calling/emailing?
Especially for those who are just starting with a new product, or new audience persona, stick to the script. Cold outreach success in the long-term depends on your ability to make smart decisions based on data. If you don’t keep some things consistent, you won’t have good data with which to make those decisions.
Learn the most common objections your colleagues get and shadow their calls to hear how they handle them. Take notes and prepare your best responses for when you get the same objections.
Prepare good, open-ended questions, and practice your whole script, with questions. Practice with anybody you can, so by the time you get a prospect on the phone, you’re not practicing, you’re a pro.
What should they avoid?
Don’t waste your or a prospect’s time if you don’t think you can actually help them solve a problem. Focus on reaching out only to those prospects for whom your solution could make a big impact.
What advice do you have for Millennials looking to make a career move into sales?
First, sales is a great career!
If you want to start a career in sales, be prepared for lots of rejection. Whether you begin as a Sales Development Representative or dive right in as an Account Executive, you’ll face a lot of “no’s.” And that starts during the job-search, so design a plan for follow-up and treat your future employer like an account you’d like to sell. Reach out to multiple contacts, and research the company as well.
You’ve built a career on finding efficiencies in everything from startups to large organizations. Do you take a different approach to each or is there a similar strategy you employ? Please explain.
I’m a big fan of automation. I think people should spend their time doing things only people can do. That means, creative thinking, analysis, complex problem solving, communication, etc.
I try to look at organizations as if they’re systems and think, “Are there other systems (or people) out there that can do parts of this for us?” The goal isn’t to reduce headcount, but to help people focus on the things they’re really good at, that add the most value.
Asking that question is one thing, though. Following through on it and being rigorous about what kinds of work teams do is what takes discipline.
What has been the most satisfying moment of your career/proudest career achievement, and why?
Getting Sales Hacker acquired by Outreach and joining the Outreach team, hands down. My own personal mission is still to help sellers be better at what they do, and Outreach has proven they’re on that same track. Seeing how they’ve invested in Sales Hacker to help make that even more possible has been so fulfilling.