20 Sales When To Hire Your Head of Sales First Reps, What To Look for in 10x Sales Candidates, How To Structure The Hiring Process, How To Onboard New Reps Efficiently, How To Set First Quotas and more with Kyle Parrish, Figma's VP Sales



In the inaugural episode of "20 Sales," host Harry Stebbings interviews Carl Parrish, VP of Sales at Figma, a design platform that facilitates collaboration among teams. Carl shares his unconventional journey into the world of tech and startups, from a finance student to building sales organizations at Dropbox and Figma. He emphasizes the importance of tenacity, work ethic, and a growth mindset for sales success. Carl also discusses the critical role of discovery in sales, the shift away from top-down tactics due to informed buyers, and the value of founders being involved in early sales to understand customer narratives. Additionally, he advises new sales leaders to ask questions, adapt, and focus on customer experience over discount negotiations. Carl admires Slack's sales culture and aspires for Figma to surpass its success. The episode is sponsored by SalesLoft, a sales engagement platform used by leading companies.

Summary Notes

Expansion of "20" Media Company

  • "20" has expanded to become a media company that features interviews with leading figures in various fields.
  • Last month saw the launch of "20 Growth," and the current focus is on the newly launched "20 Sales," a series dedicated to interviewing top sales leaders.
  • The purpose of "20 Sales" is to explore the tactics, strategies, and experiences of these leaders in scaling successful sales organizations.

Last month we expanded with 20 growth and today we launched 20 sales, a dedicated series to interviewing the world's best heads of sales to uncover their tactics, strategies and experiences.

This quote explains the recent expansion of "20" into a series specifically focused on sales leadership and their effective strategies.

Introduction of Carl Parrish

  • Carl Parrish is the head of sales at Figma, a rapidly growing company.
  • He built Figma's sales team from the ground up, which now boasts over 100 members.
  • Prior to Figma, Carl spent over five years at Dropbox, holding various positions, including scaling the Austin, Texas office and leading global partnerships.

At Figma, Carl built the sales engine from scratch to today with over 100 incredible people in sales.

This quote highlights Carl Parrish's role in developing Figma's successful sales team from its inception.

Sales Loft as a Sales Engagement Platform

  • Sales Loft is presented as the leading sales engagement platform that assists sales teams in driving revenue.
  • The platform is described as a comprehensive workspace for prospecting, managing deals, coaching, forecasting, and closing deals.
  • Major companies like IBM, Shopify, and Stripe are mentioned as users of Sales Loft.

Sales Loft is the leading sales engagement platform, helping sales teams drive more revenue.

This quote introduces Sales Loft as a prominent tool for sales teams to enhance their performance and revenue.

Carl Parrish's Background and Journey into Tech

  • Carl grew up in Southern California and studied finance in Arizona.
  • Despite good grades, the 2008 financial crisis led to a halt in his finance career prospects.
  • Carl traveled to Asia with friends, which was a formative experience.
  • Upon return, he moved to San Francisco and joined ADP's sales program, which he found successful but not culturally fitting.
  • His exposure to tech startups in San Francisco led him to join Dropbox, which was transformative for his career.

I ended up getting a job moving to San Francisco in January of 2009, and they had a really renowned sales program.

This quote summarizes Carl's initial foray into the sales world through ADP's program in San Francisco.

Founder's Role in Creating the Sales Playbook

  • Carl believes CEOs can shape the framework of a sales playbook but should not be solely responsible for creating it.
  • The CEO's early involvement in sales is crucial for understanding customer needs and the company's narrative.
  • As the company grows, hiring a dedicated sales leader to develop a repeatable playbook is advisable.

Does the CEO need to build the playbook? I don't think that's the best idea.

This quote emphasizes that while the CEO's involvement is important, they should not be the primary creator of the sales playbook.

Hiring a Head of Sales vs. Sales Reps

  • The decision between hiring a head of sales first or sales reps depends on the company's stage and market traction.
  • If there's confidence in market fit and the need to scale quickly, hiring a head of sales is preferable.
  • A head of sales brings experience and relieves the CEO of the burden of managing the growing sales team.

When you've got some conviction that, hey, this is a motion that's going to require a sales team... Go and get that head of sales.

This quote advises on hiring a head of sales when there's certainty about the need for a sales team.

Timing for Hiring a Head of Sales

  • Carl suggests hiring a head of sales once initial sales reps are successfully closing customers and the CEO's management load becomes heavy.
  • Bringing in a head of sales allows for strategic leadership and can relieve the CEO of operational sales management.

What happens is they start bringing in advisors, they start bringing in angels in fundraising rounds that have led sales teams, our vps of sales, our heads of sales at other companies, and can give them guidance and advice, which is good.

This quote discusses the interim solutions CEOs may use before deciding to hire a head of sales for strategic guidance.

Recruitment and Talent Sourcing

  • Emphasize the importance of bringing in someone with perspective and playbooks for building a sales team.
  • Foundation building should be based on understanding the current state and starting from first principles.
  • Avoid merely replicating past strategies; tailor approaches to the current situation.

"You need to bring in someone who just has more perspective and playbooks. I don't think it's about copy pasting what those people have done in the past, but it's about coming in, understanding where they're at today and from first principle, starting to build a foundation of a repeatable sales team, not just prove that you can sell a product and bring in some revenue."

The quote highlights the need for a nuanced approach to building a sales team by leveraging experience and adapting strategies to the specific needs of the company, rather than simply copying past successes.

Characteristics of Successful Sales Reps

  • Tenacity, work ethic, and a growth mindset are key to sales success.
  • Successful reps observe and learn from others, integrating effective strategies while maintaining authenticity.
  • Efficiency and the ability to handle high volume and diverse lead types are crucial.
  • Preparation and diligence, including prospecting and pipeline management, set top sales reps apart.

"I think what allowed me to be successful was tenacity, work ethic, and just always looking to get a little bit better... I was working smarter... efficiency on top of the kind of just motivation and tenacity were key."

This quote describes the personal attributes and work habits that contribute to a sales rep's success, emphasizing continuous improvement and smart work strategies.

Hiring Process for Sales Reps

  • Sales reps should have a personal playbook for success based on preparation and diligence.
  • In interviews, questions should reveal a candidate's learning and adaptation of their playbook.
  • Prospecting should be treated with the same importance as customer meetings.
  • Attention to detail, consistency, and thoughtfulness in time management are signs of a great sales rep.

"Every good sales rep, they develop a playbook at that company, at that role, when they're hyper successful, it's not a fluke."

This quote emphasizes the importance of a sales rep having a well-defined strategy or "playbook" that they have developed and refined over time to achieve consistent success.

Resilience and Adaptability in Sales

  • Hiring should focus on finding candidates who have demonstrated resilience through adversity.
  • Candidates with long tenure are valuable as they show the ability to adapt and remodel their playbook as needed.
  • The ability to embrace change and see challenges as opportunities is a desirable trait in sales reps.

"You're looking for people that have been through adversity, professionally, personally... those kind of people are the people that you want on your team."

The quote stresses the significance of hiring sales reps who have proven their resilience and ability to thrive despite adversity, suggesting they are well-suited to the dynamic nature of sales roles.

Structuring the Hiring Process

  • Candidate experience should be positive, regardless of the hiring outcome.
  • Efficiency and focus are key in the hiring process to respect both the candidate's and the company's time.
  • A multi-stage hiring process includes a fit screen, first-round interview, discovery exercise, and a product demo.

"We're trying to think about the candidate experience being a positive one... You want to be efficient, both in terms of your team's time... And the last thing, I think is just focus."

This quote outlines the principles guiding the hiring process, highlighting the balance between a positive candidate experience, efficiency, and a focused approach to evaluating candidates.

Common Mistakes in Hiring

  • Founders may err in the type of people they hire or in the hiring process itself.
  • It's important for founders to recognize where they might be repeating mistakes and to adjust their strategies accordingly.

"Where do you think founders most commonly make the biggest mistakes with the type of people, the process."

This quote prompts a discussion on the common pitfalls founders face when hiring, suggesting the need for reflection and improvement in hiring practices.

Hiring Early Stage Sales Teams

  • Early stage sales hires at seed to Series C companies should have genuine excitement about joining a non-sales culture.
  • Startups often have cultures created by engineering, product design, and founders, not sales.
  • It's important for early sales hires to provide product feedback from customers.
  • Communication with product and engineering teams is crucial, as is understanding their challenges and limitations.
  • Founders may be tempted to hire individuals with big company experience, but startup sales require the ability to thrive in ambiguity and chart one's own path.
  • Testing for entrepreneurial spirit and a builder mentality in potential hires is essential.

"So you're joining a culture that's probably created and kind of like stood up by engineering, product design, the executives, the founders, of course."

This quote emphasizes the unique cultural environment of startups, which is often not sales-focused and is shaped by different departments such as engineering and product design.

"Startups is all about prioritization."

This quote highlights the importance of understanding and respecting the constraints and priorities within a startup, especially when it comes to product development and engineering resources.

"It's not a fluke that those people have chosen those opportunities and tend to work in large organizations."

This quote suggests that individuals who have long tenures at larger companies may not be the best fit for a startup environment, which requires a different skill set and mindset.

Ideal Onboarding for New Reps

  • Onboarding at startups like Figma involves multiple roles due to the lack of specialized teams early on.
  • Bonding and team cohesion are crucial during the initial stages of onboarding.
  • New hires should shadow calls, absorb resources, and learn about the company's product, competition, and market.
  • Early onboarding is about sideline learning rather than immediate active selling.
  • The focus is on understanding the customer, brand, product, and effective sales techniques.
  • Good discovery skills are essential for sales success.

"You got to get thing off the ground to prove you can bring in resources and additional headcount and other experts that know that area much, much better than you do."

This quote describes the multitasking nature of early roles in a startup, where individuals often wear multiple hats until the company can hire specialized teams.

"Early on, I feel like it was a lot of kind of sidelining. You're on the bench, you're watching the players on the court play for only a couple of weeks."

This quote illustrates the observational phase of onboarding, where new hires learn by watching and understanding the business before actively participating.

Three-Month Review Expectations

  • By three months, there should be measurable data on a sales rep's performance, including discovery calls and pipeline additions.
  • Reviews should consider both quantitative metrics and qualitative feedback from various teams.
  • Managers aim to provide tangible goals and maintain motivation.
  • Success stories, like that of the first salesperson at Figma, are used to illustrate the growth potential and trust required in the early stages.

"So by then we've had baseline metrics in terms of number of discovery calls, like initial call, the customer, they would expect pipeline that you've been adding."

This quote indicates the importance of having clear, measurable goals for new sales reps to aim for within their first few months.

"You got to trust me. We're going to get there."

This quote reflects the reassurance and trust that managers need to instill in new hires, especially when the company is still developing its sales processes and structure.

Identifying Non-Performance and Efficiency

  • Early indicators of non-performance include lower conversion rates from initial calls.
  • Call recording software helps in reviewing and improving sales calls.
  • Efficiency and the ability to work at a fast pace are critical in a hypergrowth environment.
  • Sales reps must be efficient with their time to ensure high output.

"Say for example, you're doing a bunch of initial calls with customers, but you're just converting at a much lower rate."

This quote identifies a potential red flag in a sales rep's performance, suggesting a need for further investigation and coaching.

"Can you be efficient? You can't take 2 hours every day to close out."

This quote stresses the importance of efficiency in a fast-paced startup environment, where time management and the ability to quickly adapt are key to success.

Post Mortems and Deal Reviews

  • Figma conducts biweekly deal reviews with various team members to discuss strategies for winning deals.
  • There is more focus on deal reviews than post mortems, though the latter are considered valuable.
  • The process involves discussions with sales, operations, and executive teams to understand the complexities of each deal.

"We do deal reviews and we have kind of an outline that they follow and they bring it and they come and they talk with myself, our CRO, our sales ops and rev ops leaders, frontline managers, and we just have a good discussion on all of the different things that it's going to take."

This quote explains the collaborative approach to deal reviews at Figma, involving multiple stakeholders to strategize and improve sales outcomes.

Relationship Between Founder and Head of Sales

  • The relationship between a founder and a head of sales is crucial for the success of a company.
  • Regular meetings (at least weekly) for a minimum of one hour are recommended to maintain a strong working relationship.
  • The sales leader should own the agenda of these meetings and bring in metrics, hiring profiles, challenges, wins, and losses.
  • The CEO provides support, feedback, and insights but the sales leader should manage the structure and framework of their department.

"I think what I learned in being close to Dylan and his role and working with Amanda closely is that early on as a founder, again, you've maybe never been at a company, never founded a company, never worked in sales in any capacity...So what I learned early that I think the founder and that sales leader should be meeting at least weekly, is my expectation for an hour at minimum."

This quote emphasizes the importance of regular and structured communication between the founder and the head of sales, especially given the founder's potential lack of experience in sales.

Maintaining Humility and Drive in a Successful Sales Team

  • Overconfidence in a sales team, especially during periods of success, can lead to complacency and ultimately to failure.
  • It's important to stay focused on future performance, not past successes.
  • Keeping a team grounded is essential, even in the face of success and high company valuations.
  • Competition should be acknowledged as a means to stay motivated and not become complacent.

"We're now a $10 billion company with the most recent fundraise. But we also genuinely think that that's just the floor...And so I think as long as you can talk about the journey that we're embarking on and being on the very, very early part of that, it keeps people grounded."

The quote discusses the importance of keeping a sales team grounded and focused on the long-term journey, despite current successes and high valuations, to avoid complacency.

Evolution of Sales Tactics

  • Good discovery, where the customer speaks more than the salesperson, remains a timeless sales tactic.
  • Educated buyers and the availability of information have rendered some traditional top-down sales tactics ineffective.
  • Sales leaders should ask questions and be open to adapting their strategies to the changing market and world.

"I think there's more and more focus on today. One of the stalls, the strongest methodologies I'm hearing about is force management command of the message. But good discovery, having the customer talk more than the salesperson."

This quote points out that while methodologies may evolve, the fundamental principle of good discovery in sales remains unchanged.

Advice for New Sales Leaders

  • New sales leaders should ask questions and avoid bulldozing ahead with preconceived plans.
  • Adapting to changes, such as transitioning to hybrid or remote sales, is crucial.
  • Being open to trying new things and learning from the existing team and market conditions is essential for a sales leader.

"It's like what I've learned is sometimes this job is three steps back, one step forward, five steps back, ten steps forward. It's not this directional line that we're just marching on. So ask questions, learn, and be open to adapting."

The quote advises new sales leaders to be flexible and adaptable, recognizing that progress is not always linear and that asking questions and learning are key to success.

Changing Sales Dynamics and Discounting Practices

  • Sales strategies are evolving to focus more on customer experience and success rather than on discounting practices.
  • The shift away from discounting allows sales teams to focus on developing better skills and fostering long-term customer relationships.
  • Companies are moving towards models that emphasize product value over price concessions.

"We don't discount the product. It's something we've held to really strongly...removing that so you can focus more on the customer experience, more on customer success, more on learning better skills and sales development that'll further people's career long term."

This quote highlights a strategic move away from discounting products, instead focusing on the value of the product and improving customer experience and sales skills.

Admiration for Slack's Sales Strategy and Culture

  • Slack is admired for building a strong sales organization and culture despite initial reluctance to build a sales team.
  • The company's sales strategy and culture are respected for balancing strong customer expectations with impressive results.
  • Slack's success provides a model for other companies, including Figma, to emulate in terms of sales culture and performance.

"I think stewards, notorious for saying, oh, we're not going to build a sales team early on...And then what they did in a relatively short amount of time, they built a really impressive sales.org and of course had an amazing exit and outcome."

The quote expresses admiration for Slack's successful development of a sales organization and culture, which serves as an inspiration for other companies.

Sales Engagement Platform: Salesloft

  • Salesloft is highlighted as a leading sales engagement platform that helps sales teams drive more revenue.
  • It provides a modern workspace for prospecting, managing deals, and gaining insights for performance coaching and accurate forecasting.
  • Salesloft is endorsed by major companies such as IBM, Shopify, and Stripe.

"Salesoft is the leading sales engagement platform, helping sales teams drive more revenue with the modern revenue workspace."

This quote underscores the value of Salesloft as a comprehensive tool for sales teams to enhance their sales processes and outcomes.

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