#050 The Human Side of Sales with James King
How a 25-Year-Old Company Stays Agile and Adapts to the Changing Landscape of Sales
Guest & Host
James King & Thomas Miltschuh
Welcome to Speak Revenue, the podcast where we emphasize that revenue is not just a goal; it's a result. In this show, we shift our focus from the output to the inputs. We engage in conversations with sales leaders and entrepreneurs about their remarkable journeys. Our mission? To uncover the true root causes of success. In this special 50th episode, join us for an insightful conversation with James King, Director of Alliances and Strategic Partnerships at Redgate Software. Discover the keys to success, the challenges of managing multiple roles, and the shifting landscape of outbound sales. James shares insights on building partnerships, leveraging ecosystems, and the importance of empathy in leadership. As we bid farewell to 2023, we're taking a holiday break to spend time with loved ones and reflect on the incredible journey so far. Wishing you all a joyful holiday season filled with warmth and happiness. We'll be back with more inspiring episodes, fresh perspectives, and engaging conversations in the new year. Until then, thank you for being part of this amazing journey. Happy holidays, and we can't wait to see you in 2024!
December 14th, 2023
Thomas Miltschuh: Welcome to the new episode of Speak Revenue. Remember, revenue is not a goal. It's a result, but a result of what In this show, we turn our eyes from the output towards the inputs. We speak to sales leaders and entrepreneurs about their journeys. Join us on our request to uncover and learn the root causes of success. Let's unpack what worked for them and what didn't today with our guest, James King. Hi James. Welcome to the show, great to have you.
James King: Hey Thomas. Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.
Thomas Miltschuh: Hey, let's step right in. Let us know, who you are? What do you do? Why are you so successful?
James King: Cool. Yeah Thomas I'm James King. I'm a sales director at Redgate Software. I'm also wearing two hats at the moment. I'm a, I'm director of sales for the US but I'm also a director of Partners at Alliances. As I step into that role I've been with Redgate for about 13 years now. I've left four times. I've come back every time. Which is something I'm sure you'll probably wanna ask me about as everyone usually does. But yeah, I've worked my way through the company over the last sort of 13 years, so here I am.
Thomas Miltschuh: Awesome. So it's two roles. Maybe the next question is a bit yeah, maybe not really quick to answer. What are your goals for the remaining year and also next year? Probably several different goals, right?
James King: Yes. I think one of them is definitely to only have one role by the end of this year Because I wouldn't recommend it for anyone. But I've stepped into a new role while I was still transitioning out of the other one. And my focus next year is gonna be more around building a partnership and alliances team. I Have about 25 people who work for me in the US in my sales team, and I didn't wanna leave them without anyone for the remainder of the year.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
James King: I've two things precarious.
Thomas Miltschuh: Expansion in the US seems to be important when it comes to partnerships. Are you also focusing on the US market as well, or is it Europe?
James King: So it's gonna be a bit of a global thing. As a company we've been a bit agnostic towards partners and channels for the last, we're a 25-year-old company. It's not that we haven't really put much effort into over the last 25 years. We've tried things here and there and fired a few bullets as we call it. We've not ever done the thing with any real strategic direction and with a real, sort of solid goal in mind. So it seemed to me as an exciting challenge. I like to do something new. I like to throw myself into something that's a bit difficult. And seemed like a good next step, and added to that as well. I've just moved my family back from the US to the UK.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
James King: Managing the US sales team probably wasn't the best isn't the best use of my time going forward.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. makes sense. Yeah. But looks like it still makes sense to talk about sales and your sales role. Process lead generation to upsell. I think you.
James King: Yeah. Re redgate software. Again, we've been around for 25 years and we sell database tools, so everything from monitoring your databases through to automating releases. So really important stuff.
Thomas Miltschuh: Alright. Yeah.
James King: I'd say I, I like to joke, it's the boring stuff that keeps the world moving, and that's why it's so important. If we weren't there, people would have problems. For us, we're very well recognized as a brand within our industry. From a lead generation perspective, we've always been quite fortunate that people have always come to us. We've had a very big sort of community base. As you probably know from talking to other people, the world is changing and you know the days of Aaron Ross with Predictable Revenue, you can just add a BDR, add an SDR, add another salesperson. You add another million dollars to your revenue. I think those kinds of days have passed a little bit. Everyone's doing it and everyone's able to do it. And I dunno about you, but I look at my inbox these days and about 90% of my inbox is just inbound from people trying to prospect me.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah.
James King: As a leader. And I think that's a challenge that we all have in the world of where we're trying to do this thing of calling people and emailing them and we're cutting through some noise that's there. For us and this is partly why the change of role as well, we're looking at, how do we leverage things like our ecosystem? How do we cut through the noise and help other people and continue to grow as a business? That's still gonna involve outbound. I think any salesperson that thinks they can, not pick up a phone or, do that sort of that part of their business is probably dreaming. But I think certainly we know we've moved into a world where we have to be smarter and more personable and human in our outreach.
Thomas Miltschuh: So outbound sales is still relevant for you? Is it a big part of your sales strategy? Although there is a big historical community. Yeah
James King: I think. Someone said it to me the other day, and I think this really rings true. I think if you are in a tech business at the moment, it doesn't matter what role you are, you're, you are in some way, shape or form part of a demand gen process. Whether you're in marketing or sales or an ISR you've got some part to play in that. And I think outbound still has a part to play in that. But again as I said, 90% of my inbox might be inbound emails. The ones that stand out to me, the ones that look like it's been written by a person. It's actually focused and targeted to me. They're asking me something that's related to something they've read or seen, and that will always cut through the noise. And I think that's where I think the world is changing. Slightly in outbound sales.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Those are very rare. Still doesn't matter if it's LinkedIn or email actually.
James King: Right? Template Template and just insert name. It doesn't work, it doesn't work.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, and I think even some companies are not even aware that it's maybe not the right approach for their specific business. They're just try because maybe they heard it's a standard process and many companies do it and they should do it as well, but it really depends on the business model if it works, and on the specific right approach of how it works for you.
James King: Exactly. And I think, there's that shotgun approach. If you spread a wide enough net, you're gonna get something. . But when you start to look at the sort of returns on that, they're probably less than 1%. I would probably argue, less than half a percent return. Whereas I always remember back in the day, I used to sell houses and this is where this sort of thing really clicked with me. We'd get a new property and my boss would come in and say, Hey, phone everyone. Phone everyone in your Rolodex. Because that's how old I am. Phone your Rolodex and tell them about this property. And that's what good salespeople do. They phone everyone. They're active, they're engaged. But great salespeople, they'll know who to call. They don't have to phone everyone in their Rolodex or everyone on their CRM. They know the right people to call and they may be phoning three or four people. And I think, again, in today's world, that's become a skill that is almost essential for any salesperson to really succeed.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Being efficient. Reducing waste. Avoiding wasted activities. Yeah. Very important. So there are BDRs in your sales team, right? How's the process? They have the calls, and hand it over to AEs?
James King: Yeah. For our BDRs we mainly have a metric now around setting meetings. We used to have this motion where it was about creating opportunities. Again, I think that's become quite a challenging thing. And, an opportunity can be quite a gray area. How qualified is this?
Thomas Miltschuh: Yes.
James King: And, but also, there's an element of the more touch points the customer has, the less connection they're gonna have to you. With our BDRs, what we're actually doing now is we're just setting them to try and get us meetings if they can set the meeting, then we can allow the AE who we pay a lot of money to, to be good at their job, to actually qualify that and really build, an understanding of what the problem is and can we solve that. And I think that's removed some steps from that process and it's also made us a bit more I guess credible in those engagements.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. I am not sure who's the original source of this quote, but maybe Henry Ford. The best process is no process So if you can remove something that's the best way to improve the whole to or process chain. What are the tasks of your AEs? Is there any specific framework they're following and how does it work towards the actual sale?
James King: We are very I dunno if it's fortunate or unfortunate. We've got a very technical we've got, some very technical solutions and…
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah.
James King: One of the best things I've talked about very briefly there, and one of the hardest things is I don't... this is gonna sound a bit controversial, but I don't truly believe in processes and playbooks. I think I like to think of it, someone said to me once as a recipe to make a cake, you know you need eggs and flour and sugar, but quantities can vary and they can change, you can mix in different and find processes can actually. Make us almost robotic in the way we engage with people. But the flip side of that is that the process also helps people on board and get up to speed and learn like MEDDPICC, for example, as a way of qualifying. But really what I find is with our tools, because they're quite technical. It takes about 18 months for someone to be quiet. Quite comfortable and have credibility and confidence in talking to our customers. But they also then usually have to use a sales engineer or solutions engineer with them on the calls as well because, we can start going down some pretty deep rabbit holes with the technical side of things.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah.
James King: Even after 13 years in the business, there's still gonna be things that will throw me through a loop when you ask me certain questions. We used to have this tagline of we're ingeniously simple. And it's increasingly complex. It's probably about a tagline these days…
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah.
James King: …technology world.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yes.
James King: But, I think for salespeople as part of a process, really what we're looking for them to do for our account executives is understand the challenge. It's the "M'' part of MEDDPICC. What are the metrics that people are trying to look to achieve? What's the state at the moment and where they're trying to get to? What's the pain they're suffering from doing this? Is the pain enough to make a change? And then, do we have a champion? Because if we don't have those three things, then, really we should probably be advising someone. They're not probably in a position where they're ready to go down this process, which can be quite long and intensive in their time.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yes. We're talking rather about ideal volumes and enterprises, right? Yeah.
James King: Yeah. I guess we play this both for our small to medium business as well as enterprise, it's, I think the model still works the same.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. And there are technical experts assisting the AEs. Did I understand that correctly? Okay.
James King: Yes. Yeah.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. Yeah. So that makes deals really individual from client to client. May, maybe some ground rules are still necessary on a process level, a little bit. But. Okay. This makes it also complex for customer success, right? So it's a complex technical solution. Complex technical details to be taken into account. I assume there's already well designed let's say, yeah, customer success or onboarding and upselling process in place, right? It
James King: Is funny she mentioned that Because for the longest time we were not just AEs, but we were the customer success. We see customers as like a long-term sort of relationship. It's not just to sell them something and off we go. We want to make sure that we embed that and we wanna avoid shelfware at all costs. That's probably a big mantra for us, don't sell people something they're not gonna use. But we have, as we've scaled quite rapidly, and, you know, got to the size of the company. Today we've actually really started investing in customer success as an individual unit. Again, I think we wanted to take ownership of our customers. We wanted to be able to look after them. And there's a saying, obviously, I dunno if this applies across a lot of regions, in the UK we say a pet is for life, not just for Christmas. I think a customer's a similar thing. You know, if I sell you something, I should look after you and make sure you are set for life, not just for that one deal. But customer success is definitely, as you scale to a certain size, it becomes an inevitability and you just have to learn to work alongside that.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. But how do you keep your team motivated? As it seems that it's so several steps in the sales process and different people, not only BDRs and AEs, also technical experts and the customer success team when it comes to onboarding, how do you keep them motivated?
James King: That's a really tough question to answer. Because I think there's a lot of different things that go into motivation, but from a very high level, I think our solutions are very. Are very good solutions, and I think that really helps us in doing what we do. We can go to bed at night feeling confident that we're helping the world. We're not curing any serious illnesses, but we are making things better for people. That certainly helps a lot with motivation to see the outcomes and see, see things we do. But I think also one of the really interesting things for us is. We have a very team-based mentality. You know, I think sales can be very full of lone wolves. And I think we're more like a wolf pack in that respect. In the positive way that is, everyone's working to help the customer and they're working to help each other, help the customer. And it's not like an individual sport. It's, we say, it takes a village. Legal or InfoSec or customer success or support. Everyone gets involved when it comes to a customer depending on what the problem is or what the challenges we're trying to help with. And I think that keeps everyone motivated. I think that keeps everyone's motivation high because they've all got a goal that's a singular goal for them.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, I've heard Sales are like sports teams, something like that. Many cases, the wolf pack is a new one…
James King: Again, it's only Because of the lone wolf thing. And I think you see, every, if I'm looking at employing someone and I see someone, I think they're a lone wolf. I don't, I think instantly you're probably not gonna fit in here.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. How do you find the right people for your team? And what makes an outstanding salesperson for you?
James King: I think something really hit the light bulb switch for me was it Patrick Lencioni? I can't say his name correctly, but Patrick Lencioni, "The Ideal Team Player" book.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
James King: That was something I must have read about six or seven years ago now. And they talk about being hungry, humble, and smart. And I think that's really important for me. It can help, but it's not everything. Previous roles can be a minefield, especially in the tech space. You've got people who are jumping maybe every 18 months, or they come from a big brand company, a high street name that everyone will know, but they might not necessarily fit into what you are doing cause it's a different setup or different process. But if I see someone and I think, you are motivated, you are hungry to succeed. And I could give you that shot. Or, you're humble as well, so you're not arrogant, you're not in it for yourself. You are here to learn, you're here to grow. And then they've got the smarts as well. A bit of emotional IQ as well as sales IQ and, understand, obviously we sell a complex tool, you gotta have some understanding of it. I've found people in the most amazing places. I'm talking about ex teachers. One of my guys is an ex-fireman.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
James King: But yeah we actually did this thing and we still do it, it's called raw talent. And we actually have this company where we pull people in and do this like mini apprenticeship, or mini apprentice style sort of day where we have, I dunno, 20, 30 people. We don't see their CVs at all, and we put through all these sort of tests and interview parts and then we cut the team down to half, and then by the end of the day, we usually make three or four offers. It's only then we look at the CVs and we think, wow, this person wasn't even in sales for the last 10 years. They've never been in sales, but they've got the natural ability to have what it takes. And we start them in these junior roles. But, now some of my senior AEs have come from, but some of the best AEs at Redgate have come from one's come from Nando's selling chicken. That was his job before he came here and the other one was selling cars. So we have a great mind when it comes to who, what the right person looks like, but it's more about the person than the raw talent we see.
Thomas Miltschuh: That's really interesting. Yesterday I had a conversation I, I recorded an episode for this podcast with J.R Butler who is doing coaching and recruiting services. Veterans and athletes who want to join the sales area. They're in general very competitive, and it's a good fit for sales.
James King: Yeah, I completely agree. They're disciplined. They're disciplined. They're eager to succeed. They want to win. Generally, they've been humbled, they have to be humbled during that process. If they've got the smarts as well, then I see that as a winning combination.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yep. And they're still alive. And that doesn't matter if it's veterans or athletes that they might have survived somehow. Again, sports can break you somehow as well. So I think, yeah, being hungry is very important. Just depends a little bit. Hungry for what? Hungry for money. I think hunger for knowledge is really critical.
James King: That's a really hard one. I think when we spoke earlier, I was saying I'm not, I don't feel like a typical salesperson and I've been to a lot of sales interviews where you know that they almost assume you're a coin operated thing. Put some money in, you'll do this task. And, personally, that's never driven me. Money's a byproduct of success. It's a byproduct of doing the right things. And I think being hungry is more about you. You've got some sort of motivation and you're determined. And, again, especially if you start out in these sales roles where you're a BDR, you're basically, you're picking up the phone 30, 40 times a day. And 95% of the time you are getting, you're getting hit in the face basically and you have to have resilience, and you have to have a hunger to get up and do that same thing day in, day out, until you can get to a point where you understand what works and what your routine and your rhythm is, and your winning suc winning formula, your winning recipe.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. You need to be able to embrace failure and learn. Learn from it continuously.
James King: All the time. I think every day I think it's one of the interesting things I'm digressing a bit, but as I've grown through my roles, every time you get a promotion, you feel it's almost like imposter syndrome. You go for being very good at what you are doing. So you get a promotion and then suddenly you are, you're not very good at this next task. You have to learn a whole new skill. And I think, even as you grow through the roles, you have to keep that resilience and you have to keep that motivation, that hunger going. Otherwise, the higher up you go, the lonely you are in it as well. There's less people to draw on their expertise. And, I think that, again, that's a talent that kind of transcends the different parts of an organization.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The more topics you need to handle the more important it gets to really try out, maybe a bit to try and error. Of course, I need some, yeah, maybe some methodologies, approaches and knowledge. But in the end it's some trial and error as well. Yeah.
James King: Fail fast, fail spectacularly, but…
Thomas Miltschuh: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. As you've been with the company for so long and it's so much great expertise, it would also be great to know something that didn't work in the past, it's something... Do you have something in mind?
James King: Trying to think of something really good, but I've definitely failed a lot. That's something I've definitely failed a lot on. But I think initially, actually probably one of the things that I really struggled with is stepping into management. And, actually, this was my failure the first time before I stepped back, and then I stepped forward again.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
James King: And I think this is something that I see a lot with, especially newer people coming into the industry. We all have this motivation, this drive to succeed and sell something that's quite strong. There's also this whole thing, and I tell this to my kids all the time, if you run too fast, you'll fall and you'll hurt yourself. And I think we have this sort of thing where we come in and we get into the role and we're like what's next? And you haven't been in there for more than five minutes or, even a year and you're thinking, I wanna be at the next level. I wanna take you at the next level and you're not quite ready. And I think I did that to myself. I sabotaged myself by pushing into a management role when I wasn't ready for it.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
James King: I'm trying to teach people how to execute and the role is very different. And basically what I ended up doing was trying to be a player coach and trying to do the execution as well as guide people on how to do it. And it's a bit like what do they call it? It's unconscious competence, so we know how to do it, we know how to breathe, we know how to walk. We don't think, what we have to do as part of that process to do that. And I think that was a muscle I hadn't learned and I hadn't even thought about. And I stepped into this role as a manager and I instantly felt like I was failing my team because I couldn't tell them what to do. You just do the thing. You do the thing and the thing happens. And that was being a bad leader. And I think for me to step back and really think about what it means to be good at the role that I'm trying to teach people was probably one of the best decisions I made. And I think it's a big challenge for people to step back. They feel like a failure again. They, you have to dig into that resilience, but sometimes it's the right thing to do.
Thomas Miltschuh: When did you realize what was your specific situation?
James King: I think it wasn't a specific thing, it was just an accumulation of feeling.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
James King: More and more uncomfortable over a period of time and feeling, I'm, something's not right. I'm not happy with my role. And I think happiness in your role should be something that everyone should look for. Because we spend the majority of our lives working, the majority of our week is in this office doing this thing that we do. And if you're not happy, I think that's, I should be raising alarm bells. For me it was like I'm not. I'm not succeeding here. I've gone from being very successful to not even unsuccessful, just feeling like a failure, feeling like I'm not achieving my potential, feeling like I'm struggling to help other people get there. You have to…
Thomas Miltschuh: May I ask if you realized it or first or your superior team leader?
James King: I think it was both of us. It was almost an unspoken thing. But, we're very open, I'm very fortunate. I've got a leader that I trust and I can have open conversations with. And again, I think that's very important.
Thomas Miltschuh: That's great. Yeah.
James King: And, we said this isn't, you're not having, I think the conversation was too, to me was you're not happy. And, my response was, no, I don't think I am.
Thomas Miltschuh: That's a really hard decision. Yeah. I've met several people who, of course they wanna be promoted and be a team leader, but if you specifically ask why exactly? Why is this the right next step for you right now? Many of them also struggle to answer. It's just like it is, it's just a path. It's how it's supposed to be. What would make you happy? And what is necessary to be successful in such a role.
James King: I think to me it's all about the right motivations. I think you just alluded to it very well there. It's like why, do you wanna be a leader? Or just Because that's the next thing to do. It just feels like the next progression. But I think people almost see it as surely it gets easier as you climb. Because you are telling other people what to do and you don't have to do that. Horrible stuff, but actually , I think because anyone knows who goes through the leadership route, it's very challenging. It's, your time is stretched more, you've got more responsibility, and personally, I carry a lot of the stress that my colleagues would carry. I carry it personally. If they're struggling, I'm gonna struggle alongside them. And you have to learn to separate those two things a little bit. And that's something I'm still learning to do myself is, okay, I can't take that person's problems home Because there's 25 people and that's a lot of problems. For me it was motivation was, I want to, I wanna add value in the next way I can for the business. And I wanna scale the way I can add value. And for me, I enjoy mentoring people. I enjoy talking through problems and understanding them. And I guess my customers just became my team instead of the external customers I'm trying to help solve problems for. I think once that kind of thing fell into place, it really made my life a lot easier. Stop trying to do…
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah.
James King: Trying to tell people to do and just help people get there themselves.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. I understand. I think there are already several actionable insights for our audience. Maybe any lesson learned you would like to add and share?
James King: Yeah, I think one of the most important things for me as a leader has been empathy. This is something I still find very interesting. I'm involved in Pavilion I think like yourself and there's lots of network peers and ex-colleagues that got moved on to other places. And I think one of the things that really kind of strikes me from where I feel my success has come from is trying to understand it. Was it Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs We're all humans. So when I've got an employee who's struggling with that first thing, they've got maybe problems at home, they haven't rested, they're not gonna get to the next level. If I've got them to the point where they feel safe and secure and happy, then I can get them feeling like they belong as part of the team. And then once beyond that, you get to build their self-esteem, then you. To take off and fly. That's the point when you wanna get to, you get to your A players is they feel safe, they feel secure, they feel happy, they feel like all their worries are gone and they can focus on execution. And I think for me, that's come about from being as empathetic as possible. I start my one-to-ones with How are you? Not, how's your business? Not How's your pipeline? What's, how's your forecast? It's how are you, what's going on in your life that you know I should know about or I can help with?
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah.
James King: And then, know, you build trust. You build trust, and that enables you to really get the best out of people.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah. Really important to become successful with your team in the long run.
James King: Yeah, it's you. You're running a marathon, not a sprint.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah. So time is running and, think we could talk much more about those topics maybe in another episode. For now it brings us to the end of the episode of Speak Revenue. I Wanna thank our guest, James King for joining us today, sharing such valuable insights. Huge shout out to all our listeners. Your support means the world to us. Remember to check out our website: speakrevenue.com for full transcript and additional resources, and if you enjoy the show, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts or there we go for your listening needs really helps get the word out. Also, follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram or on YouTube. We'll be back soon with another great guest. Until then, stay curious and keep listening.