Sales Hustle is now Sales Transformation
May 20, 2022

#312 S2 Episode 181 - LEARNINGS AND EARNINGS: AJ Bruno On Understanding Sales And Compensation With Quotapath

Sometimes as a seller, we get confused about how our compensation is calculated. And this is a problem that AJ Bruno’s business, Quotapath, offers a solution. Collin Mitchell welcomes AJ in this latest episode of Sales Transformation to talk about his personal sales experience and how he and his co-founders came up with the idea behind Quotapath.


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HIGHLIGHTS

AJ's sales journey
Sales as a way of learning business
Success in sales through a mindset shift
Common mistakes by sales starters
Important learnings from selling experience
Understanding your compensation with Quotapath

QUOTES

AJ: “Sales will give you that background, that skill set, and learning how to operate a business. There is nothing closer to running a company than learning how revenue works in an organization.”

AJ: “All these limiting beliefs. I don't have enough money, I'm not old enough, I don't have the right education to start my own company, It's all bullshit.”

AJ: “I really gotten into a lot of experience by being curious and by trying to hone my craft of not just a seller, or a teacher or a mentor, but also in just like, understanding how the world works and how different business models work.”

AJ: “Sales is a craft sales is something you have to train on for years and years and years.”

AJ: “One is, as a seller, you have a compensation plan, you need to understand it, like just full stop, you should understand it. The second is you should get paid correctly.”

Connect with AJ and find out more about him in the links below:

AJ’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ajbruno3/
Quotapath LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/quotapath/
Website: https://www.quotapath.com/

Connect With Collin on LinkedIn

Want to Start, Grow or Monetize Your Podcast? Book a Free Strategy Call HERE!


Sometimes as a seller, we get confused about how our compensation is calculated. And this is a problem that AJ Bruno’s business, Quotapath, offers a solution. Collin Mitchell welcomes AJ in this latest episode of Sales Transformation to talk about his personal sales experience and how he and his co-founders came up with the idea behind Quotapath. 

 

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Want Your Reps Hitting Quota in 2022? Get Your Wingman Free Trial HERE!

HIGHLIGHTS

  • AJ's sales journey
  • Sales as a way of learning business
  • Success in sales through a mindset shift
  • Common mistakes by sales starters
  • Important learnings from selling experience
  • Understanding your compensation with Quotapath

QUOTES

AJ: “Sales will give you that background, that skill set, and learning how to operate a business. There is nothing closer to running a company than learning how revenue works in an organization.”

AJ: “All these limiting beliefs. I don't have enough money, I'm not old enough, I don't have the right education to start my own company, It's all bullshit.”

AJ: “I really gotten into a lot of experience by being curious and by trying to hone my craft of not just a seller, or a teacher or a mentor, but also in just like, understanding how the world works and how different business models work.”

AJ: “Sales is a craft sales is something you have to train on for years and years and years.”

AJ: “One is, as a seller, you have a compensation plan, you need to understand it, like just full stop, you should understand it. The second is you should get paid correctly.”

Connect with AJ and find out more about him in the links below:

Connect With Collin on LinkedIn 

Want to Start, Grow or Monetize Your Podcast? Book a Free Strategy Call HERE!  

Looking to start your own Podcats? Book a FREE strategy call. 🚀

Transcript

[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.

[00:00:29] Hey, before we start today's episode, I wanted to bring you in on the best kept secret in B2B sales. If you're serious about social selling and your only strategy is cold. The through LinkedIn you're missing the mark big time. Learn how I fully manage revenue generating podcasts can change your life and your pipeline@saleschasm.com.

[00:00:55] All right. Welcome to another episode of sales transformation. I'm very excited today to have ADA Bruno on he's the CEO and co-founder over at quota path after successfully exiting his first company in 2019, he co founded quota path alongside with his co-founders, uh, in addition to invest in, in dozens of startups and serving as a mentor to many more AAJ acts as a board member for Philly startup leaders.

[00:01:20] And as an alumni of the dream, it ventures outside of startup life. He can also be found spending time with his three daughters AGA, welcome to the show. Colin. Thanks for having me. Yeah. I'm excited to dig into your story here a little bit and, uh, talk about the topics that we have planned out that we planned, you know, like 30 seconds ago.

[00:01:41] It's the way we that's the way we do it. Yeah, we don't like you to over-prepare. No problem. None. I'm ready to go. Um, so just take us back, you know, where did your professional sales journey start? Wow. Uh, if you, if you really, if you asked me off the top, I'd actually say when I was probably four or five years old, and this isn't like an entrepreneurial, like slinging magazines or newspapers on the street.

[00:02:10] Um, I actually got my professional career started in acting. So it was a stage actor. Uh, for, for years I did a lot of Shakespearian theater, Midsummer night's dream. Um, and I acted on stage in Pittsburgh where I grew up, uh, and, um, professional theater. So there were my eighth grade year. I missed the entire year and I had actually a tutor because I was doing eight shows a week for, uh, about 24 weeks.

[00:02:36] And then I obviously had rehearsal and all of the things that surround that. Um, so. That's where I got my quote unquote sales career. I didn't think of it at that time, but so many of the skills and what I've learned and thought about and how I present. And storytell really started in those very early formative years of me being on.

[00:02:58] Wow. Yeah. I mean, storytelling is, is a huge superpower for sellers. When did you sort of connect the dots of like those skills that you acquired through acting, um, could be utilized in, in your professional sales career? Yeah, not until like 20 years later. Unfortunately not the only thing with sailors is like, sometimes they're not the quickest or sharpest tools and I, uh, I was thinking.

[00:03:27] Yeah, it was like, oh wait, storytelling's important. Oh, wait. Wasn't I an actor when I was younger, um, the, the, the answer to your previous question on the real sales standpoint, I, I, my first job out of school in 2007, so I graduated from Penn state and I was thinking about what I wanted to do as a career and how I wanted to think about.

[00:03:48] My first job, I had a couple internship opportunities, uh, with some consulting companies that I wasn't super interested. I actually interned at NFL films, which was a pretty cool gig, but I didn't want to get into production. I was, I had had enough of like the, the through stage of behind the camera work and I just, wasn't quite interesting.

[00:04:08] And my dad's a pilot. I also wanted to fly airplanes, uh, but I never want to be a professional. Uh, pilot, I didn't want to work for the airline, so I just wanted to do it on the side as a fun, uh, for fun. And so I was talking to an uncle about like, what should I do? Like he was very successful in business.

[00:04:23] I told him that I someday wanted to own my own company. And he, he gave me advice at that very moment. That changed how I thought about the world, which he said sales. And at that very moment in 2006, 2007, And what was going on in the world. Sales was not this illustrious career and certainly not a career that someone right out of school thought about.

[00:04:44] You definitely didn't have classes around it. Uh, even at school like Penn state, no one talked about that. Marketing was all they really talked about or finance. That's how I was in, in, at Penn state was finance, not. Finance and so fancy, fancy, and it was too fancy for me. I like you needed like a 3.7 GPA to get into finance and I was not a finance major, so they kind of what you will.

[00:05:09] But, uh, I, he, he said sales sales will give you that background, that skill. And learning how to operate a business. There is nothing closer to running a company than learning how revenue works in an organization. I was like, yeah. And that clicked. And I was like, oh, you're right. Uh, so I jumped into like the first thing it could, which was this company called Meltwater.

[00:05:30] Um, and away I went in Philadelphia, this 12% office and. Just the old classic pick up the phone book and elbow grease and start making some cold calls and we don't have a CRM, so you'll figure it out on your own. Wow. It sounds not too far off from my first sales experience, but I'm just curious, you know, given that it was your uncle and he was successful in business, obviously his opinion, um, you know, held some weight for you.

[00:05:58] Was there a moment where you were like, what the heck are you talking about? Like I just finished school. You want me to get into sales? Like, why the heck would I do that? Yeah. I mean, as I said, I wasn't the sharpest tool, so I was more about just interviewing and getting a job. So that question didn't come up until I was like six months into the job already of like.

[00:06:15] What the heck am I doing with my life? And I would, I walked, I had this hour and a half commute. I was in, uh, Pottstown, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia and Chester county. We're living with my parents still cause I was making $35,000 base and an OT on target earnings of 70 K. Uh, and so I would drive 30 minutes to the train station, take the hour, train in and then get, get into the office at 8:00 AM.

[00:06:40] Every free moment I had, I was prospecting and finding new leads. So when you were actually in the seat, it was the same. I mean, we all know this, it was calling hours, so you're like eight to 6:00 PM. And I couldn't leave before 6:00 PM. Uh, in fact there was a, there was an express train that left it at 6 0 3.

[00:06:57] And if I left at 5 57, I could make the express train and my boss at the time, wouldn't let me do that. Wow. So the world's changed a little bit, a little bit. I don't think, I don't think I'd have a single person, uh, in working with me or for me if I had instituted a role like that, but you know what I learned a lot and I are the six months in, I was struggling a little bit and I came home and I was like, oh, so my now wife.

[00:07:22] Girlfriend at the time like Angela, I don't think this is for me. It was just socks. This is miserable. I'm cold calling people. I'm getting hung up on so many door knocking rejections and they tell you how much fun it is, but this doesn't feel this doesn't feel like business. This doesn't feel like I can start my own company.

[00:07:38] Um, and. You know, fast forward, six months later, and I had gone through a little bit of a transformation myself. I had actually decided that I was going to leave, but ended up not leaving because my boss, same boss who wouldn't let me leave until six. It was like, look, let's just come to go to this summer kickoff.

[00:07:54] You'll see the entire company. There's 12 other offices in the U S and north America. And you'll see all the other people and it was fun. He was right. I, and I finally started to click. I finally started to get the. So to my brain, that storytelling was a thing. And then I should actually, uh, have confidence and then I could do this, that I could close deals and close, consistent deals.

[00:08:14] Um, and that just like snowballed in my career. And, you know, 12 years later I haven't really looked back, but a lot's happened in those 12 years. Wow. So it sounds like it was. I mean from struggling and questioning, whether it's from you for you and almost leaving that job to then, you know, going to that, you know, kickoff and then sort of having some success.

[00:08:38] It sounds like it was really just a mindset shift. That's all. It was, it was a mindset shift and that was something that learned even later. Uh, so the really big transformation for me was when I wanted to start my own company and didn't really know how, and I was fairly successful. My wife and I were living in San Diego.

[00:08:57] San Diego office for that company five years, uh, after I had joined, um, and I got a lot of sales, great sales background, but I just felt like something was missing. And so my, my manager at the time took us all to go see Tony Robbins. And I, I didn't know who Tony Robbins was like Tony Robbins, who the hell, that guy, that's a guy from shallow howl with Jack Black and right.

[00:09:20] Like that's, that's the Tony Robinson. So I went to this thing, not expecting a lot, but the mindset shift piece of it is what stuck with me. Like kind of the, make your move for your stress. Like, there's a lot of things that he has on positive affirmations that shifted my mind and said, you know what? All these limiting beliefs, I don't have enough money.

[00:09:39] I'm not old enough. I don't have. Keisha to start my own company. It's all bullshit. Like I'm going to go do this. And so in 2012, I made the shift into, to founding a company and, um, and I ran the sales team at that company as well, but a hundred percent, right. Sales is definitely about that mindset. Mindset shift.

[00:09:57] Yeah. Yeah. What a big difference. And then you stayed with that company for quite some time and worked your way up to leadership. Well, so the Meltwater, I had worked my way up to leadership from individual contributor to sales manager, to managing director, and then director of that, uh, the whole office, I ran the, the, uh, Philadelphia office and then the San Diego office.

[00:10:18] Um, and TrendKite the company I founded. I was founder and president. So I started the, the entire company and from zero to 25 million in ARR, about four years, I ran that sales team and that sales team grew to about 120 people. And that was all, uh, inside. We promoted within. So at the end of the day, the first eight sellers that I hired and promoted, uh, they were all, either sales leaders see that senior seller is two years later and, or the managers and directors of the, of the company.

[00:10:46] Wow. Okay. And so how do you think that your experience at Meltwater helped you? You know, be prepared to then start your own company and grow at such a fast pace. I didn't know what I didn't know. Um, and so at the time I looked at it as Meltwater is this, this, this is just what normal companies do. All companies just happened to be called Meltwater and or Norwegian or Swedish or whatever, and have this strange culture where Mauro and I respect are the thing.

[00:11:14] And there, the CEO jumps up on stage while electronic music pumps in every year. Like I thought that was like how companies just re. Um, and so I didn't know that there was a whole different world of, uh, of well, honestly technology and some level of efficiency and automation that could exist. I didn't know, CRM software thing.

[00:11:34] I didn't use Salesforce until 2013. When I went off to start my own company, I had marketing and email automation were actually fairly new. Uh, funny enough at that point, um, you had Yesware and tout app is like kind of the first in on those. And so I. Really garnered a lot of experience by being curious in my, like, trying to, to hone my craft of not just a seller or a teacher or a mentor, but also in just like understanding how the world works and how different business models work Meltwater gave us visibility to those things that we didn't.

[00:12:07] I now know that it wasn't actually true for other companies. Uh, so when I went to build a sales team, it was actually quite easy. It was, it was like, here's, here's the different pieces to it. Here's what we need. Here's the quota capacity model. Uh, here's how we should think about that flowing through and here's our head count planning.

[00:12:24] And that was a really easy conversation to have with the board. Uh, and I didn't, I didn't realize that even though I was just a director at, um, at Meltwater, it, it shaped my view because I was the. The person in that office, even though it was only like 13 person office, I was the person everyone relied to.

[00:12:41] Uh, and I had to understand. So like I was able to build that model based off of my experiences there. And then from there, I just like did a lot of reading and outside reading and continued to like up level. And we just continue to kick the can down the road of like, well, when are we going to bring in a VP of sales?

[00:12:56] Not now, not now, not now. And then four and a half years later, we're like, okay, well, we got this here. We are at 25 crossing to 30 million and we're about to get sold. So. Uh, I probably lasted long enough. It was good work. Yeah. Yeah. So, and I mean, I think that being able to sell or build a sales team is like the number one skill that somebody on the founding team should have.

[00:13:20] I'm a big believer in that. Um, and it sounds like it worked out well for you. Uh, I'm curious, you know, people who are maybe questioning or, you know, don't necessarily have that level of experience, what do you think are some common mistakes or traps that. First-time founders fall into, um, that you were able to maybe avoid.

[00:13:39] They always want to outsource sales as the first thing. Anyone can do sales, any, any idiot with a, with a phone can do sales and like, yeah. I mean, you might have that quote unquote idiot, but I like, I, Adele sales is a craft. Sales is something you have to train on for years and years and years. And there's different.

[00:14:00] I think that that's the thing. It's like, you take a, a elite athlete in basketball and you try to put them on the baseball field. What do you get? You get Michael Jordan. And like that just doesn't work. Right? It's sales is actually very similar people. Don't truly, as a first time founder, as you're scaling a team, you don't understand the nuanced difference between enterprise or transactional or mid-market or different industries or, or any of those things you just think like, oh, you can just pick up the phone and say, Hey.

[00:14:26] Yeah. You ask him, you know, who's your ideal customer profile. And they're like, well, anybody that writes us a check, anyone, any person you can go out on the street and to say they, they will be a customer of ours. Is that really? That's not how ICP works or personas or markets or any of the things, right?

[00:14:46] That's a, that's a common misconception from a lot of first-time founders. They think everybody's there. Yeah. I mean, I think they're smarter than that at this point in the game, but I think it's, it goes a level deeper. It's like, okay, I know that not everyone's my customer, but I can say anyone that is.

[00:15:07] Anyone that has a sales team of a hundred Mike. Well, is that true? What technologies are they using? Are they using HubSpot? Are they using Salesforce? Are they an enterprise team? Are they a small transactional team or is the sales leader running commissions or sales ops rev ops running commissions, or is finance running commissions?

[00:15:25] All different types of companies. And those are things that we think about and talk about all the time. And we've talked about since day one of like different personas, different customer profile. Yeah. You have to hone that. And so that's the second mistake is like once you've decided those things, that, that, that won't change.

[00:15:39] Well, of course, they're going to change the market changes, competition changes. Uh, you change, of course you change your company. You're even just dealing with people, right? Like even exact two types of people with personas, different personality, types, care about different things. Yeah, no, unfortunately for me, I found out the personality type early that I, I really built great relationships with with was higher ed with universities and non-profits as well.

[00:16:07] And boy does it suck selling sometimes. It just selling into them is a challenge because it's always like, uh, like eat level conversation, which has helped hone my, uh, background and skillset for like, well, I started my career in recession. I sell to like these, but these companies that were at boards cut budgets all the time.

[00:16:28] So I like remember some of those things. Uh, and whether we go through that or not now it remains to be seen, but like that sticks with you for a long time throughout your entire career. I remember those. Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, you've dealt with, you know, selling in uncertain times, right? So what are some things that you learned during that time period that you think, you know, may be relevant here in the near future?

[00:16:53] Well, knowing your. I think we've talked about that. I think that that's a very, very important one. And I think the company needs to know their buyer and the company needs to talk out loud about who their buyer is. And has the buyer changed, uh, understanding how messaging and those, those relationships as a seller, they haven't gone away.

[00:17:09] In fact, if anything, they're going to get more important. And now, uh, there that that relationship between the vendor and the buyer is pretty like lock step in some instances, The product and how the product interacts with the teams and the companies and the users. Um, so we're built for a sales team. So when we deployed a sales teams and that's important, we have to have that, that relationship and understanding with how sales teams are using us, how they're forecasting deals, how they're thinking about earnings, thinking about their goals and their quotas.

[00:17:41] How does that change? Um, we have the flip, uh, we already do this today. As companies need to flip to more of a solution cell of like thick, not asking, like, what are your business goals? Cause like everybody gets that, but how are you thinking about the outcomes of how you're using our products and our tools and how that relates in lines up with what you're thinking about this.

[00:18:05] Not this year, not this like first six months of the year. And I would actually say like this month, right? Not this quarter, but this month, uh, and how they're working towards their objectives and how those have changed and what are they hearing. And, um, just being really in tune and asking questions, continuing to have that challenger sell mentality and really, really diving into it and just going a layer deeper with your, your.

[00:18:32] Yeah. Yeah. And so when did, uh, when did you. Get the idea for quota path. What, what was the reason for starting quota path? I mean, call this is a really easy one. Have you ever been paid incorrectly from commission check? Yeah, I think like you say, oh yeah. It's like, oh, that's just a way of life. We just get used to getting it.

[00:18:53] But what other career is that? Okay. Like where is the house? Is that okay? Just to get screwed over. No, or maybe the, maybe the government, the government could do it. Right. And, and I mean, and then to add like an extra layer of complexity to it. I mean, sometimes comp plans are so confusing. Reps don't even know.

[00:19:15] How they're going to get paid or what they're eating, even earned sometimes I think like 80 to 90% of the time they can be confusing. So you just talked about the two very strong value props on how we think about it. One is as a seller, you have a compensation plan you need to under. Like we'll stop. You should understand it.

[00:19:36] The second is you should get paid correctly. Um, and so in 2018, when I was thinking about a next company and what we're going to work on, we had tried, we had. Bunch of reps come up to us and say, Hey, my spreadsheet doesn't match your spreadsheet. I was like, oh, this is stupid. Why are we like looking at different things?

[00:19:55] And it caused so much heartache and challenge. And, um, honestly it just felt like spreadsheet or spreadsheets software for. Uh, for these tools or professional services and they were very expensive. That doesn't make any sense. This should be pretty easy to use, should be understood. Uh, and that like hit me really hard building sales teams.

[00:20:16] So it took the point of view of the sales team should first and foremost understand it. And then we'll build the management capacity and then the VP of sales and then sales. Rev ops finance, accounting all the way through so that it's this end-to-end experience so that everyone is on the same page. Um, and four years into the business, we w we officially launched at the beginning of last year, end of 2020.

[00:20:39] Um, and we have over 400 customers today because it's, it's like, it's very easy to just like literally said, Hey, have you ever been paid? You know, like, yeah, like, does that sound like, yeah, Not want that to happen. Yeah. Like, cool. All right. Check out, go path. Like it's pretty easy. And I, and I know even from my own experience, it's super simple to set up.

[00:21:01] It's easy. I mean, you don't have to. Really know much about technology or be savvy, like it's super easy to install and just like start using it right away. We ask. Yes, no questions. Like, do you have a quota? Yes. Is it measured in ARR? Yeah. Sure. Or is it measured in bookings? Like it's a very TurboTax for, for sales comp experience where hopefully you're getting money back at the end.

[00:21:24] End of it. That's like how I easily can explain it as well. And. Liv and prescriber ourselves by this idea of product led growth, which is just investing heavily in the product and continuing to think through the integrations and what that end to end experience looks like. Uh, about a third of our team is product and engineering, which is not typical for a SAS B2B companies.

[00:21:50] That's incredible. So what are some new, uh, exciting things to potentially look forward to with. Oh, well, the, the thing that you mentioned at the beginning of this is like compensation and how I should start my sales team and how I should build the comp compensation plans. Uh, we have some pretty exciting things that are coming up in that bucket, so that as founders or new leaders to, to new brand new, go to market teams, new roles, uh, uh, helping them understand an like the real.

[00:22:21] Numbers that their comp plan should look like and not just in terms of market, but in terms of like scenario modeling for their actual company and organization, um, are some of the exciting things that we're doing. And do you have any like cool stories, right. That you could share as far as like, you know, um, I don't know, time, money saved, you know, from people who have installed and started using, I think one of the greatest, uh, stories all the time we have this good vibes channel and every day we have new customers.

[00:22:52] Testimonies. But one of the really interesting ones was a few months ago. Um, one of our CS, someone on our CS team was helping on an onboarding. It was going through an account and we have this goals, uh, goals page, where they can set up their goals. And so basically they can forecast their earnings to see how much, what percentage they're going to get.

[00:23:10] And one of the sales reps had put in as their goal that they wanted to pay off their grandfather, his mortgage, and. That's really cool to see that and kind of see how that is. So we tracked that to see how they progressed. And then when they actually did it, we sent them a gift, uh, afterwards. So it was just really great.

[00:23:28] And like, that was that I love. And that makes its way back to the company. Of course, at some level we didn't actually have to do that, but like that's, that's the thing that I. Ultimately think about, especially in this, the uncertainty that you talked about, and if you're a seller, you're like, oh, as the sales team going to get laid off, are we not going to get laid off?

[00:23:48] Um, and at the end of the day, like if, if I know my comp plan, that's one thing. But if I feel secure in my environment and I have these strong goals and I'm working with my manager, And my team knows how much I value that that's a whole different ball game. And you, you literally can't quantify. I mean, you can on an ROI you're like you absolutely can.

[00:24:07] So the time savings and efficiency. Sure. Yes, that's a checkoff, but that's what we really, really, to the heart talk to the heart of, for the sales team is that, that goals and achievement. Yeah, that's a really cool feature. I love that. Well, AGA it's been awesome having you on really appreciate it. Enjoyed learning a little bit more of your story, any final thoughts, and where's the best place for people to get into your world?

[00:24:32] Uh, LinkedIn is still, still absolutely best place. I run a, I run a series called value props, where I fly around the country and interview sales leaders in the cockpit of my airplane, which is fun. I'm on season two. Um, so you can always find me in a cockpit somewhere. Uh, but other than that, I send me a personal note on LinkedIn and I'm I'm 99.9%.

[00:24:53] Sure. I'll respond if it's a personal note, uh, because I, I, otherwise it gets missed, but, uh, I'll make sure to respond there. So make sure it's a personal note, a personal note. Yes. The references. Uh, awesome. Thanks so much, JJ. Really appreciate it. We'll include the links there, uh, in the show notes for everybody.

[00:25:14] If you enjoy today's episode, please write us a review, share the show with your friends. It really does help us out. And we're always listening for your feedback. You can go to sales, transformation.fm, give us some feedback and we'll get back. Hey, you stuck around that tells me you're serious about your own sales transformation.

[00:25:31] If you're tired of doing things the old way and want to get started in your journey with other people on the same path, head over to sales, cast.community, and crush your numbers on your leaderboard. Yeah. It's free sales cast dot communities. Send me a DM with your best pitch and mention this ad. And I might even give you free access to our best templates.