Sales Hustle is now Sales Transformation
Jan. 12, 2022

#226 S2 Episode 95 - Staring In Commission Only Sales To Cybersecurity Sales with Kevin Bartlett

In this episode of the Sales Transformation episode, Collin Mitchell talks to Kevin Bartlett, a successful IT and cybersecurity sales representative at ExtraHop. Growing up with learning disabilities, Kevin had to work harder and needed a lot more help to achieve the same grades as everyone else, including her sister.

While he eventually did succeed and became an academic success in his own way, this experience helped him develop a competitive spirit that would stay with him well into adulthood and his career in sales.

In his first sales role, Kevin worked and found success for four years selling real estate through commission alone, which is a testament to his skill and grit as a salesperson. For his transition to cybersecurity and IT, Kevin says he has finally found his home and enjoys the process of selling and learning.

For Kevin, it’s all about finding the strategy that works for you, never resting on your laurels, and always finding something to improve upon.

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  • A rebel without a cause
  • Getting into selling commission-only real estate by accident 
  • Always test what works for you 
  • Find your "why" and go from there
  • From real estate to medical device sales 
  • Growing up with learning disabilities and developing a fighting spirit 
  • Following a leader and transition to IT and cybersecurity 


Kevin: "I think it's kind of in my nature. We'll call it a rebel without a cause. I kind of liked to pave my own path. I liked to work hard. I liked to play hard. So in doing so, everything I learned from sales while in school was you kind of create your own path. To me that was exciting."

Collin: "Not everyone is for sales, but not everyone is for commission-only sales."

Kevin: "I love the idea of just trying different things too. Hey I have been doing this and I have some moderate success. Let's go try this and let's test it, maybe I'll get some more success, maybe I won't. Maybe I'll create a blend of the two. I think that's part of the evolution as we continue to push and get better and don't just rest on our laurels.”

Kevin: "I always had a chip on the shoulder or almost, like an insecurity like, man, I wish I could read like you and understand that. I wish I could  remember that. I wish. So early in life I said that that hurt me internally. But later on in life, it's become like a super power like I recognize that I own it and it's part of who I am." 

Kevin: "Look in the mirror, you're not competing with anyone else. There's a lot of things in the world that are gonna distract you and you're gonna look at people's highlight reels and look at that mirror and make that person proud and I think that's kind of what drives me."

Learn more about Kevin in the links below:

Also, you can join our community by checking out If you're a sales professional looking to take your career to greater heights, please visit us at and set a call with Collin and Chris. 

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[00:00:00] In the world of sales, you either sink or swim or breakthrough to the next level. My name's Colin Mitchell. And this is sales transformation, a new kind of sales show designed to bring you through the epic life-changing moments of elite sellers. So you can experience your own sales transformation.

[00:00:24] All right. Welcome to another episode of sales transformation. Very excited today to for today's guest, I've got Kevin Bartlett, uh, he's a current successful cyber security sales rep who has gone through his own sales and life transformation. As a whole high school student, he started a lawn care business, worked 80 plus hours a week in college and began his sales career in real estate.

[00:00:46] He later transitioned into. Uh, medical device sales, and finally found his calling in it more specifically, cyber security sales, Kevin, welcome to sales transformation. How you doing? Doing well? Thanks for having me call them. Yeah, thanks man. I know, uh, we meant to do this and something came up and we had to reschedule, so I'm glad that we're making it happen.

[00:01:06] Um, so just give us, you know, take us back to kind of where your sales journey started. Yeah. Um, so for me, like my sales journey, Probably started sooner than I ever knew. But when that being said, like there was no sales in my family, when I thought of sales, it was probably like most people who didn't have experience in sales was, you know, car salesman.

[00:01:27] You really don't really understand it as like a profession. So in doing so like retrospectively, like I started selling when I was. Middle school, high school things like when we would do ski trips, if I could get 42 people signed up and fill up a bus, I could get a free spot. So I would be the one hustling and grinding so I can get the free, free trip if you will.

[00:01:47] And I did that through college for spring break and, um, but not until I graduated, I'd taken a few classes. Did I get my first real professional sales job in real estate? Working full time. Yeah. Okay. And what was that first sale sales role? Like was there, you know, no sales experience, nobody in the family with sales, like, was it tough?

[00:02:08] So I think that's kind of in my nature, we'll call it like a rebel without a cause like kind of like to pave my own path. Um, I like to work hard. I like to play hard. So in doing so, everything I learned from sales while in school was you kind of get to create your own path. And to me, that was exciting.

[00:02:24] But it was, it was uniquely interesting. I was at Clemson. We're at a career fair and. I had no interest in real estate. Didn't didn't peak my interest whatsoever, and my friend wanted to be a project manager. So I went to the booth with them and they asked me why I went to Clemson from Boston. And I told them I looked good in orange and I didn't get into Syracuse.

[00:02:44] And I was really just being myself and joking around like a silly college student. And lo and behold, they had me come to Charlotte and interview, you know, within 48 hours and happened to be a good fit. So that was like, By by happenstance and by accident, I really fell into it. Um, I, quite frankly, you had that creative mind.

[00:03:02] I wanted to create commercials in funny commercials on television, and that was, you know, my, my passion and where I thought I wanted to go until I fell into this. And I'm thankful that I did. Yeah. And so how long, how long were you in that first sales role? So I spend about 40 years of a company called Pulte homes.

[00:03:22] Very very large developer. Um, they had another aspect called sun city. It was an active adult. So we were selling homes and creating lifestyles for people that were 55. And plus that had all the amenities at their fingertips and spent four years there. It was a a hundred percent commission. So right out of school, I mean, you're, you're living on ramen noodles anyway.

[00:03:41] So at the, Hey cool. I got health insurance now, so this is awesome. Uh, I worked every single weekend for the first four years of my life. I took one weekend off a friend's wedding, and I remember the partner that covered my neighborhood's sold like two or three houses. So I got $0 from that. I don't think I ever took another weekend off after that.

[00:03:59] Um, so it really was that eat what you kill, go after it. And, um, the end of the day it was, it was one of those great experiences that I still have my license. I still am active in real estate, but more as a. Um, I love real estate. I just don't want to be a slave to it. And, you know, working weekends now with three kids, I want to be there to go to games.

[00:04:21] And that was always my intent. And really the, the reason I left real estate was I knew at some point I was going to have a family and I wanted that family time. And so to me, time is the most important thing. And I had to create that change and actually step away from it for, for that re. Yeah. And so it sounds like initially there's lots of crazy hours.

[00:04:41] Um, but commission only, I'm always impressed. Uh, Bennett commission, only guy myself. And, you know, it takes a lot of guts to do a commission. Only a lot of confidence, you know, that, uh, not everybody has, right. Like not everybody's for sale. But not everybody's for commission only sales. I don't know if I'd go back.

[00:05:07] yeah, no, I agree. And I think the person that hired me was no longer with the company. When I graduated college, I had the job. This is actually a really funny story. So gentlemen, Marco, Brian had taken over the division and he'd kind of let go of pretty much the entire team that was hired by the last guard.

[00:05:24] He's like, Hey man, I'm sorry. I don't have a job for you. And I'm getting ready to graduate in three weeks. And I kinda was sitting in his office. I'm like, you can't do that. Like I I'm coming. I already have an apartment. You can't not hire me. You've already hired me. So we came to an agreement. He said, I'll tell you what, I'll give you three months.

[00:05:42] And then three months, you're not here. You don't qualify. We'll both step away from each other. And then obviously that led into a four year partnership and Jerry. He was an amazing mentor, amazing sales leader, um, you know, help give me that strong foundation that I've been able to build on. Yeah. What are some things that you learned from him in that first role?

[00:06:02] Yeah. So first was like, love your people. So, I mean, in our sales meetings, you would always say. And if you guys go to jail, if anything happens to you at two o'clock in the morning, call me, like, he genuinely cared about us as people. And like you can feel when someone's real about it. And when they're not, and in Marcus, he was passionate about his people and there wasn't hiding that.

[00:06:21] I think that was number one. And the second thing that always sticks to mind. Um, people buy for two reasons, fear, fear of loss, and a hope for gain and kind of understanding like the psychology and what goes through people's minds and, and, and kind of understanding that aspect. Um, as I'm talking, I think of a third thing.

[00:06:40] He taught us how to continue to evolve. So one of the neighborhoods that I was selling with that, it was predominantly, there's a lot of people that practice functioning. And I had no idea what it was, but he continued to push me and challenge me like selling to multicultural buyers and like understanding functionally, what angles should the house be at?

[00:06:56] What wasn't in the addresses that people look like. And, uh, look for when they're doing that. So continue to evolve and push yourself to get better, no matter what stance or circumstance you find yourself. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's a really fortunate when people have a good, you know, sales leader from the start, you know, that, that actually really cares about the people and not just the numbers and the number or, you know, what you're producing or not.

[00:07:22] Right. Oh, come on. The numbers are always important, but if you invest in your people they'll perform better. No, I, and there's a lot of this leadership of like more dictators. Right. And, uh, you know, cracking the whip and, and, uh, you know, creating a lot of stress in a sense. I mean, sales is stressful enough, right.

[00:07:42] And, you know, put a shitty sales leader in the mix. And, uh, and, and it's hard for a lot of people to perform this. Yeah, I agree. It sounds like you've had some experiences in that avenue as well. Yeah, man, my first sales leader. Here's the list of names. There's the phone, there's a script. Don't use the CRM because it doesn't work like that.

[00:08:07] Okay. You know, and you just, sometimes you just got to find your way and figure things out, right? Like even in all the sales training, all the sales scripts, whatever, like you gotta find what works for you, you know? Um, I think that's key, you know, is, you know, master what already works and then make it your own.

[00:08:24] I subscribed to that. I know. Look at you on LinkedIn. You know, the thing that you talked about recently, it was LinkedIn connection without a note. And I think that's extremely valuable because it goes across the grain and I'm very union yang. I think it's right and wrong at the same time, but it's what you invest in.

[00:08:39] And you, you become passionate about yourself. I think that can both work, but you gotta find like what works for you and your comfortability, and it allows you to have that confidence to push forward. So, like, I, I think action is the number one thing for anybody to take away from anything. Just do it doesn't matter if it's right or wrong.

[00:08:57] Just do. Yeah. I mean, take action, test new things, and always be learning. Right. Being open to learning new things. Soon as you think, like you've got this sales thing figured out you're in big trouble. Right. Um, and so that's the key, right? And like what works for Kevin might not work for Collin. Right? Like we target totally different people.

[00:09:19] Um, like there's just so many variables to say, like, For going back to that example, like don't send LinkedIn note, send the LinkedIn note, like you got to test what works for you. You can't just be following everything that, you know, then the latest guru on LinkedIn is saying like, take what sounds relevant, test it.

[00:09:41] And then, you know, make a decision. Absolutely. I love it. And I love the idea of just trying different things to like, Hey, I've been doing this and I'd have some moderate success. Let's go try this and let's test it. And maybe I'll get some more success. Maybe I won't, maybe I'll create a blend of the two.

[00:09:55] And I think that's part of the evolution as we continue to push and get better. And don't just rest on our lawyer load rules and what has worked for us in other people for years. Yeah. And then once you test it, like whatever it is, right? Whether it's a new cold calling script or a new LinkedIn strategy or implementing video into your prospecting, uh, whatever it is, like if you see some success, right, then, you know, you kind of have something and then you can optimize it and improve it, make it more efficient.

[00:10:22] Yeah, change some things up, test some different iterations of it. Um, so yeah. All right. So let's get back to your story here for a second. So after real estate, then, then, then what happened? Yeah. So I think my journey is unique. Um, I'm definitely not the smartest person in the room. Um, but I, I am typically forward-thinking.

[00:10:41] I put a lot of. Long-term strategic thought into my next moves. Um, if you spend time with me in college might not have thought that, and that was maybe the role that I played is, you know, the fun kid in college, but most 80% of what I did was, was thought out plan. And, and where, where does this lead from the future?

[00:11:00] Um, right now in the middle of like a midlife crisis with three kids, three and under, during a pandemic, trying to work with my wife, working at home and, you know, going through those challenges and why am I alive and why am I here? Um, so I think that leads to like this next step is I identify. I want to have time with my family, but yet I wasn't married.

[00:11:20] Right. So like, I didn't have a family, but I was always thinking of that. And this I'll go off on a slight tangent is everybody always says, like, what's your, why? What's your why? If you have your why? And I struggled with that for years, because you know, I hope other people can relate. And if there's one or two people, hopefully this resonates like my, why?

[00:11:39] I always thought it was copping out saying your family. I'm like, that's such an easy response. Everyone says that. And I kept going back to my family, even though I wasn't even here. So I'm like, to me, my, why was always my kids before I even had kids and then therefore like, but I still didn't understand that.

[00:11:55] So like, but that was what I would continue to come back to. And I, I struggled for a long time. Like, that's, that's not it. Like, what is it? And, and part of it. Leading that process and leading by example, and this was the next step into that was I knew that that was going to be a part of my life at some point.

[00:12:10] And I wanted to set the foundation of me having my freedom of time on the weekends to be with them. And quite frankly, I had a fair amount of friends that were in the medical field. Um, I didn't think any of them. Much smarter than I, and again, this is confidence maybe, maybe to, I always feel like I'm can compete with anybody in the room.

[00:12:32] If you put me in a corn hole tournament with a corn hole champion, I would walk into that thinking I'm going to. And have no doubt in my mind until I actually lose and be like, damn, I need to go practice more. But I have always had that, like walking into certain scenarios and that was like, I can do medical and nobody wanted anybody that didn't have business to business experience.

[00:12:50] And, um, I went through challenges, just getting an opportunities at the plate and finally was able to get an entry-level opportunity. Took full advantage of that succeed. And through that was able to get a job with a company called Medtronic being in the operating room. And that was kind of where I thought the pinnacle of my career was going to be and do that for the rest of my life.

[00:13:11] Wow. All right. So where does that, where does that, um, where does that confidence come from? Oh, I don't know. Um, I really don't. Oh man, come on. You gotta give us something better than that. Like, I it's weird. Like I'm probably the most confident, but also like the. Um, insecure person at the same time. Again, I'm very union yang.

[00:13:32] It's right. And it's wrong. Like I'm very conscious. But then at the same time I'm sitting here and like, why, why am I on this podcast? Like, it shouldn't be here. You know, I'm just an average guy that goes out and, you know, puts a shoes on the same way anybody else does. So it's, it's very, very ying and yang is the best way to explain it.

[00:13:50] So I always feel like if I'm going to show up, I'm going to win. That's just been my mentality. Um, I have the confidence, but at the same time I have the humility to understand, like I need to get better and I can continue to get better. And that's, I think what pushes me. Each and every day. So like, I, there's not a singular moment that, that I, that I can put that to.

[00:14:11] I've just been competitive. I've always been competitive. I can pick up a ball of sport and don't always be the best, but I can compete with most people in most things. There there's a few that I'm not good at, like basketball, horrible, but anything else for the most part, like give me a dirt bike. I'll go race.

[00:14:28] I'll go compete. Give me, you know, a football I'll go play. Um, give me cornhole. Um, you name it. Um, Hmm. I mean, is there something that happened in your life that just like, you know, the, I mean, I know, you know, is there something that just. Field that confidence, right? Like maybe it's, you know, something that happened in your life that was just, uh, may you feel like I can, you know, I can figure this out.

[00:14:53] I can do this. I love it. Or did you have, you just always liked to challenge? So my whole life, so I grew up with a learning disability diagnosed at a young age. So for me, reading. Reading comprehension or just things that just my brain does not process, right? Like I'll invert letters. Wasn't diagnosed with dyslexia, just a portion of it or reading.

[00:15:12] So for me, I always succeeded in school because one of the attributes of people with learning disabilities is, is actually they have, um, normal to higher IQs, but it's just the ability to process certain information the way that it's presented. So. Um, the time and effort that I had to spend to, to compete from a grade level, my sister was always very smart and still is always very smart.

[00:15:34] So she kind of led by example in the household. And my parents always treated me as who I was. I wasn't put up to that standard, but that was a standard in the house. You succeed in school, you do well in school, we didn't get paid for our grades. It was an expectation. It came with a lot of work and a lot of extra help.

[00:15:49] And so I felt like I always had a chip on his shoulder, almost like an insecurity that man, like, I wish I could read like you and understand that. I wish I could remember that. I wish. Um, so earlier in life I say that that hurt me internally, but later on in life, it's become like a superpower. Like I recognize that.

[00:16:09] Okay. It is part of who I am and because of having to struggle and fight so hard to get the grades and go through school and graduate with national honor society in high school, get in, you know, through my hard work, get accepted into Clemson university, graduate with over a 3.0 GPA and start my career.

[00:16:26] I think that's all an attribute of having a fight and scrap. My entire life, same with sports. I think sports played a big, big role in that as well. Um, so it's almost like, you know, you kind of had, you kind of had something to prove, right? Yes and no. Like biggest thing I have to prove is. So for me, that's, that's my competition.

[00:16:48] You know, the guy across the street, the person on the other side of the ball has never been my competition. It's always been me. I always want to win the wind sprints. I always wanted to be the scrappy hustler because I was never the most talented, but it was also to prove to myself, not to you, not to anybody else.

[00:17:04] Like, I know I can hang with you. Um, and I, that's still how I live my life and how I want my kids to live. Their life has look in the mirror. You're not competing with anyone else. There's a lot of things in the world that are going to distract you. And you're going to look at people's highlight reels and look in the mirror and be able to smile.

[00:17:20] And make that person proud. And I think that's, that's kinda what drives me. And some days I'm proud of myself and some days I'm not, but we just get up and the good news is, and the sun rises in the morning and we get to start over again. Yeah, no, I love that. I love that. Um, you know, I kinda, um, I'm a little bit overly confident myself sometimes.

[00:17:39] Just because of my own personal journey, you know? So I was curious, you know, what, some of your experiences where, you know, I've been through some tough things, especially, especially growing up as a kid. And I share, I've shared a lot of this stuff. Um, but it's like my superpower, it's like, you know, stuff that stresses people out and freaks people out in like a business sense or as entrepreneur or as a seller, I'm like, bring it on, you know, Um, all right, so, and, and so, so how did you finally land into it into the cybersecurity?

[00:18:07] I sound like you really enjoyed, you know, in the medical, you know, space right in there. Um, but then you transition, you know, it sounded like you thought like that might've, that was going to be home. Like you thought you had arrived is what you mentioned. Right. So how did you then make it to cybersecurity?

[00:18:23] It that's a great question. So I think sometimes your life brings you on a journey. You don't know where you're going and that this is the prime examples. As I was making the transition from real estate into medical, I had a very short journey, uh, at a business to business company. And in that very short window, I met a gentleman who was a successful salesman and I ended up going medical really quickly.

[00:18:50] He stayed there. I had a tremendous amount of success. He then went into it and then got into leadership and we'd always kept in touch. And gosh, we've probably been a few years. And finally we sat down and had coffee and kind of talked about the opportunity and it was one of those reflective moments of all right, what am I gaps now in my career?

[00:19:10] Where do I want to be in five to 10 years? Do I want to be in scrubs, chasing our cases and kind of doing this in five to 10 years, if not, and I want to get into leadership or where, where are the gaps? And I felt like my gaps were. Uh, return on investment, total cost of ownership, executive presence, and selling and enablement.

[00:19:28] And Brian Gatto was his name at, at EMC at the time he was the leader, you know, he had the it factor as a salesperson. So when you're around him, he's polished, um, his scripts, his presentation, and had those things that I felt that I was missing and he could have been selling. Like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I would have gone and worked for him.

[00:19:50] Um, just because being around that, I felt like that filled the gap and it just so happened to be in it. And that's, that's where I've then got into it, thankfully because of the people and where I was trying to fill the gap. And that's now led me to where I am today. And there's no looking back now, this is, this is where I'm designed to be for a long period to come, unless he moves and starts selling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

[00:20:14] And then my kid's initials are PB and J so a peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are very sacred in this house. I love it, man. Um, you have, so thanks so much for coming on and tell your story. Really appreciate it. Lots of nuggets in there. Uh, any final thoughts? Where can people connect with you? Yeah, I mean, for the most part, like I'm not teaching anything, selling anything I'm here on LinkedIn.

[00:20:40] Continue to do what I do. I'm working for the company. I work group. I do have a podcast. That's really just a legacy for my children. I don't monetize it. I talk to people with two degrees of separation. Um, so for me, you can, you can always listen to that. It's called my average greatness it's cause I think average people are doing amazingly great things and in 2019 I almost died.

[00:20:59] So that was my way. If, and when I die, it will happen to have a legacy and a message behind for my children to be able to listen to where hopefully I can guide them through some challenging parts of their lives. So, um, it's really the intent to listener of three for my children. But if anybody wants to listen, hopefully you can take a nugget away from it.

[00:21:18] Yeah. Awesome, man. We will drop your LinkedIn and podcast there and that show notes so people can get in your world. Check it out. If you enjoyed today's episode, please write us a review, share the show with your friends. It really does help us out. And we are also listening for your feedback. You can go to sales, transforming.

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