In this episode: Mahmoud Hmouz, Corporate Development Associate at Constellation Software joins us to share his amazing travel stories while also touching briefly on sales. How do you make the jump into tech sales with an engineering/science degree? What does a course on entrepreneurship teach you? And what does it truly mean to call yourself a sales professional?
In this episode: Mahmoud Hmouz, Corporate Development Associate at Constellation Software shares his amazing travel stories while also touching briefly on sales and more.
Welcome to the seller’s journey, the podcast where we speak to great sales reps and leaders and share their real story es from start to sales success.
Joseph Fung: Hello everybody, I’m Joseph Fung, and today we’re fortunate enough to be chatting with Mahmoud Hmouz, The Head of Sales at Growth Genius. Mahmoud, thank you for joining us.
Mahmoud Hmouz: Thank you for having me, Joseph.
Joseph Fung: I love these conversations because we get to unbox all the fun stories with zigzags, and I particularly love yours because of the journey from your academic background into sales, so thanks again. This is gonna be fun.
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
Joseph Fung: So I know we’ve had the chance to get to know each other over time. I mean that the tech scene and the conferences, but maybe you could help our audience. Where did you grow up? Where’d you go to school? Let’s start there.
Mahmoud Hmouz: Sure so you know the first part of my life I was I actually grew up in Poland, now and I left Poland when I was about seven going on eight then from 8 till 18 I was in Jordan the Middle East, and that’s where you know you can say that I grew up and I was a teenager and live the most of my life.
Joseph Fung: And then you came to Canada for University, right?
Mahmoud Hmouz: Correct, so I went to Ottawa. At the University of Ottawa, I didn’t know how cold it’s gonna be, but I found that soon enough. But it was bad.
Joseph Fung: That’s quite the shocking surprise at times I’m glad we’re getting out of the winter months now.
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah, of course.
Joseph Fung: So you didn’t start with sales. You did a double major. Am I right? And Biochem and Chemical Engineering?
Mahmoud Hmouz: Correct!
Joseph Fung: And what was the focus? What were you hoping to accomplish at that? Because that’s definitely a different direction in sales.
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah. So here’s the thing I grew up. You know my dad is a medical doctor, my mother’s a pharmacist. I had my life laid out for me. You know I was either gonna be a doctor or an engineer. Right. You know I come from a culture in the Middle East where you have to be a doctor, engineer, or pharmacist for people to kind of look up to you. Even during my high school, all I did was math, biology, chemistry physics. So I didn’t have much of an option. I was either gonna be, you know, an engineer or doctor. I decided to be an engineer. And in University, I really enjoyed science, so I found this program that would allow me to do both, be an engineer and scientist. I was a big fan of chemistry, so I decided to do Chemistry, and then Biochem was also something that I was passionate about during my grade 12 biology. So it worked nicely, it took me about five years, and I have to finish, but it was good.
Mahmoud Hmouz: Correct. So I did my undergrad thesis in the command lab. I enjoyed it, so I worked as a Research Assistant for a bit. And it’s interesting you know you think that when you can grow by keeping about engineering and like working in a lab, you would gonna be that mad scientist running crazy experiments. When you get to the lab, it’s a lot more boring than that, so you could spend the whole week just designing an experiment, and you know working on it slowly and it’s not as it’s definitely not as exciting as movies make it to be.
Joseph Fung: So what was the trigger? The catalyst if I can use a chemistry term to get you to know that you wanted a different direction.
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah, so after being a Research Assistant, I worked as a Process Engineer in a factory in BC, actually. And that was okay. We started off small, and we were just three chemical engineers that set up a manufacturing facility, and we ran it basically day night. So I loved small. So I know that for a fact like I loved working in a small team. Then I moved back home, and I worked in pharmaceuticals as a Project Manager for about three years.
I worked in a big company, six thousand people and it was fun, you know because it was my first professional job or I had to, you know wear business attire and you know would be careful of politics and all that kind of stuff. But this whole time, I was, you know, checking on business news and startup news, and kind of you know seeing how companies go from ideation to creation to then scale up. So after three years, you know I decided, it’s time to switch gears and get into business, and that’s when I when I basically traveled to Sweden to do my Masters in Business.
Joseph Fung: All right. So, just to recap the journey so far. We’ve got. Poland, Jordan, cold part of Canada in the University, West Coast warmer part of Canada, for one roll, back to Jordan for another roll, now to Sweden for your Masters. Do I have this, right?
Mahmoud Hmouz: Correct!
Joseph Fung: Okay, so you’re in Sweden. You’re doing your Masters. What were you studying? As in entrepreneurship, any specific focus?
Mahmoud Hmouz: Correct, it was basically managing new venture creation. So it was actually a really cool program were, in ten months, you had to start with an idea and then actually make a company out of it, register the company and come up with a business plan. So you know, they took us from ideation to idea evaluation and then to actually, you know, making sure that you scale up your company and you have sales and marketing and all that stuff. So it was a very good program. Ten months, I didn’t want to go back to school for another two years. So it was perfect timing as well.
Joseph Fung: Yeah, you said that you had to start your own company, what did you start?
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah, so, me and a buddy of mine, we actually started a soap company. So we were the soap guys, and we actually manufactured soap…
Joseph Fung: It’s great!
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah, we’ve made factory soap out of waste falafel oil.
Joseph Fung: Wow
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah, and then the waste glycerin from biodiesel.
Joseph Fung: That’s so fascinating. So it’s the kind of waste product from two different industries and yourself. I love it. Now you mentioned, though, that it was while in Sweden you got your first real sales role. Is that right?
Mahmoud Hmouz: Correct!
Joseph Fung: And what was that journey like? I mean, that first sales role is always so tough. What was that search like? How’d you find it? How’d you get started?
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah, that was super tough, and so now you know anyone that wants to break into sales and message me on LinkedIn or emails me. You know I’m always open to have a conversation with them to give them tips just because, yeah, I would have loved someone to tell me, you know, how to do it? You know that coming out of University, I knew I wanted to be a startup. And startup you’re either you know on the product size or the customer side or sales. So I was naturally good at talking to customers during our startup creation.
So I decided to stick to sales. It wasn’t easy. I had to you know the process was applying online. But also, doing what you do in sales. So following up with my prospects. So you have to treat it as you know you’re selling yourself basically. So what I did is I came up with those stuff for those companies that I want to work for, started, you know, seeing if they have any posts online; if not, then I would reach out to them. You know, ask for either virtual chat, a coffee, or any tips on how to get in that industry. by the end of it, it worked because, you know, the person that hired me said that he was impressed with me following up with them after applying and he thought that’s what a successful salesperson should do and he gave me the opportunity to be in sales, and I’m almost, I’m gonna be forever grateful to that person.
Joseph Fung: So you’ve had a whole series of successes in your sales career since, I mean now to the being a Head of Sales at Growth Genius. In that journey, you know, what’s what surprised you most about sales?
Mahmoud Hmouz: So it’s funny whenever I tell my dad I’m in sales, he thinks, you know I’m like a car Salesman or one of those guys that like sells pens or something like that. I think what surprised me the most is how you have to be super smart if you were gonna be successful in sales because it combines different aspects, you have to be really good with numbers, you have to know your numbers inside out, so you have to be good at math. You have to be really good at relationships because honest people buy from people they like. But you also have to be empathetic, and you have to be smart enough to position yourself as a service that your customer basically cannot live without. And you have to combine all these to be successful sales, and it’s not easy. Right. You have a lot of moving pieces I have to come together for you to make a sale, and again it’s definitely not as easy as people think it is.
Joseph Fung: Now it’s exceptionally challenging, and it does take a lot of intelligence systems thinking. And you talked a bit about it earlier. You know when you say to your parents, or you’re in sales, you know their reaction, but I do hear that from many people you know there’s that family pressure or the assumption of taking your career in one direction and you know people are often surprised when we’re getting into sales. How do you talk about that now with family? And do have they changed their opinions at all?
Mahmoud Hmouz: So I mean, my dad still asks me the questions like, are you ever gonna go back to engineering. Like why did you go to a school that for six years if you’re just gonna appear it’s gonna be in sales. So I try to explain to them that being in sales is not, you know, it’s not just basically calling up people every day and asking them for their money. It’s not. I think the older generation that has never been in SAS sales or a Solution Selling, it’s a bit hard to get them to understand exactly you do. But they’ve seen that, you know, I’ve had successes, and I went from being, you know, in a, to being out of sales. And I’m happy with what I do when they support me 100%.
Joseph Fung: That’s incredible. I love it. Now, if thinking a little bit about that journey is, we’ve kind of talked through that process. If you’re gonna speak to yourself of you know ten years ago you’re kind of finishing up your schooling looking to choose your next steps. What advice would you give yourself from 10 years ago?
Mahmoud Hmouz: The advice I would give myself would be. So I think it’s important for you to take time off after school to realize what you want to be. You know I think that for me personally I think that our education system is a bit broken because you have to decide what you want to be in further in your life when you’re 18.
Joseph Fung: Correct!
Mahmoud Hmouz: Like that’s not even legal, it’s not even legal to drink in Ontario when you’re 18, yet you have the power to decide what you want to be for the rest of your life. So I would say, you know, take some time off, maybe work for a year, explore different industries, talk to different professionals, and see what you want to be. It’s a very important decision, and I think that you know if you start early and whichever career you want to be further that’s for your life, your life is gonna be a lot easier. I got into sales when I was thirty years old. Right. Like you find you that this world existed, I could have got in it when I was 22, and I would have had an eight-year head start. I don’t regret it obviously because I think that my engineering background helped me. But again, I had no idea that sales could be so much fun when I was 18.
Joseph Fung: That’s such a great piece of advice, and that dovetails as well. We were just actually interviewing another gentleman who spoke a lot about during his University time, his college time tasting different careers or different opportunities, and I like the way you characterized it as you’re taking time off between school and work to kind of make up your mind and figure out where you want to go. I think that’s great advice.
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah. I think so. I mean, some programs have a co-op. I am programming right now. Some Universities have a program co-op right now, and I think that’s very good because at least you got a taste of the real world, and you see what your life could be like after into went to the University. So you know, if you could definitely get yourself one of those programs as well.
Joseph Fung: So, this is fantastic advice, and I love the trajectory and the journey you’ve already had. But I’d love to hear where are you heading. So that was the advice you might give yourself from 10 years ago. But if you’re speaking to future you, what do you hope to congratulate him for?
Mahmoud Hmouz: So the first thing that comes to mind is you know, first and foremost I think that you know before being in sales, I am a father and I have a four-year-old kid, I have another one on the way, so in 10 years, I definitely want to be a good father of two…
Joseph Fung: That’s exciting! Congratulations!
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah, Thank You! But in terms of career-wise, I definitely want to stay in sales. I enjoy sales. I think there’s so much to learn in sales. You know I’m a sale student, I tried to read every book I can, I try to listen to podcasts all the time, there’s so much knowledge in sales to stay in. and it’s very interesting how this sales world has evolved from back in the days there was this you know information asymmetry between the buyer and the seller.
Now that doesn’t exist anymore, and you know successful salespeople have to adapt to that and super interesting to see how people do it. Right. So there are the different vices you know like be human and empathize with your customer, and you know to make sure that you give them positive ROI regardless what I’m trying to say is that I really enjoy selling and I enjoy learning about sales. So ten years probably so on sales hopefully you know have a VP title, if not then probably the sales department basically.
Joseph Fung: Love it. I love particularly your comment about learning and growing. Any particularly favorite podcast or books top of mind right now?
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah, so I’m reading right now “Sell The Way You Buy” by David Premier. I just got a couple of weeks ago. Definitely, really good book. David is also a good guy. I’m part of his sales group as well. I think he’s doing a lot of interesting things in the sales world just because he comes from like I make in engineering background just myself, so he’s always trying to justify sales using science. All his talks are good, his podcasts are good, his book is excellent. I also love “Sales Gravy”. “Sales Gravy” was the podcast that I listened to when I first started my job at Growth Genius, and I needed some motivation. So every morning, I would listen to Ted Blunt speak about how to crush it in terms of prospecting and closing deals and going after your clients. So you know if you need some motivation, definitely needs Sales Gravy.
Joseph Fung: I love both of those recommendations and I have to take the opportunity for a selfish plug. If as a listener, if you’re listening in, and this is your first episode, we did interview David back at Episode 5, so you might want to check that one out, and I completely agree his book is great. I am digging through it myself, and this is such a blast.
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah, I’m lucky to have David in Toronto for sure.
Joseph Fung: We really are. Definitely, ups the game locally. Mahmoud, I know I said it, I wouldn’t take you to take too much of your time. Can I go through a couple of rapid-fire questions before we wrap up?
Mahmoud Hmouz: Of course!
Joseph Fung: Okay, so, first one, tools and systems. What’s your favorite sales tool?
Mahmoud Hmouz: So, I am biased, and I’m gonna say it, The Growth Genius Platform.
Joseph Fung: There you go. You gotta take the opportunity.
Mahmoud Hmouz: I am in Sales, though!
Joseph Fung: And what’s your favorite movie?
Mahmoud Hmouz: Favorite movies, “There Will Be Blood”.
Joseph Fung: Nice, and when you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
Mahmoud Hmouz: I wanted to be an astronaut.
Joseph Fung: And that is fantastic. Me too, me too. I’m glad to hear it.
Mahmoud Hmouz: I mean, my kid now, she spells she wants to be an astronaut. So I think it’s common.
Joseph Fung: I feel like there must be a pattern there, you know, you wanting to be an astronaut, going into engineering, getting into saleslike, I can empathize with that journey.
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yeah
Joseph Fung: Alright! Thank you so much. This was such a great conversation. I appreciate the time.
Mahmoud Hmouz: Thank You, Joseph! I know this was my first come with the podcast, and I really enjoyed it.
Joseph Fung: Awesome! I am looking forward to our next conversation. You take care!
Mahmoud Hmouz: Yea! You too!