In this episode: Omar Ahmed, Account Executive, joins us to share the story of tech sales since ‘13. What did his transition from marketing to sales look like? What does true growth look like to Omar? And what can you do to stay motivated in your sales role? All that and more up next!
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In this episode: Omar Ahmed, Account Executive, shares the story of tech sales since ’13, the transition from marketing to sales, true growth. All that and more up next!
Joseph Fung: Today, we’re speaking with Omar Ahmed. He’s in sales Litmus Automation, and he has quite the interesting journey where he traveled halfway around the world in search of what his journey was going to be spent times in marketing before finding his feet in technology sales. You’ll enjoy this one. Stay tuned!
Welcome to seller’s journey, the podcast where we speak to great sales reps and leaders and share their real stories from start to sale success
Joseph Fung: Hi, Omar! Thank you so much for joining us. Where are you calling in from today?
Omar Ahmed: So, I’m calling in from North York, Ontario.
Joseph Fung: Awesome, thank you for spending the time with us. I really appreciate it!
Omar Ahmed: I’m happy and excited to be here and to speak with you!
Joseph Fung: So, I love the fact that you’re in tech sales. We speak to a lot of people who are in B2B software. You focused on the industrial internet of things. Can you give us the pitch? what’s the elevator pitch for Litmus Automation?
Omar Ahmed: For sure! So Litmus Automation is a software company. We’re about a 50-person team situated across Toronto, San Jose, and Tokyo and what we provide is software that essentially helps manufacturing organizations to collect different types of industrial data and to make insights from that.
Joseph Fung: Awesome, and in your role, you mentioned how you have a bit of a 360 view on things. You know with many companies who wear many hats. Would it be some of the things that you’re really focused on these days?
Omar Ahmed: For sure! So I was actually, Litmus has actually blown up recently after their series around. But I was the first salesperson in the company besides a sales engineer and the VP of sales in Japan. And so since the beginning, I’ve worn many different hats, whether it’s focusing on business development, you know doing discovery calls, you know going to events, and really you know for me, it’s just been doing whatever I need to do to help the company succeed, and anywhere from doing prospecting to having those initial calls to you know closing deals to just keeping customers happy you know, I’ve done it all my time at Litmus.
Joseph Fung: Nice! So when I think about your story, one of the things that intrigued me was, like many people, you didn’t study right near your home, but unlike many, you studied really far from home. Can you share a little bit, where did you do your undergrad? And what did you study?
Omar Ahmed: For sure! So, I actually went to high school in Dubai. It’s a bit of a long story, but…
Joseph Fung: Oh, you studied there! I didn’t even realize that you’re trying to kick it off. Okay, let’s rewind even further. Start there!
Omar Ahmed: Sure! Okay! I grew up in Markham, Ontario, and originally, my parents are from Pakistan, and they had spent some time in the Middle East as well. So when I was in ninth grade, my dad was offered a senior-level job at a bank in Dubai, and for me at that point in time, I was so young, and I had spent my entire life in Markham, and I was just like, “what’s going on? You know “what is Dubai?, do they you know do they go on camels to school?”, but so I went to Dubai for high school the American school of Dubai. From there I after that for my undergrad, I went to Dalhousie which is in Halifax Nova Scotia. And it was a great time there. And then, I did my graduate program in Australia. And that was really one of the most interesting and unique and really actually cool experiences of my life.
Joseph Fung: Wow! So we start off just outside Toronto, going to Dubai, coming back, going to Outer East, Nova Scotia, then heading out to Australia. You’ve been all over!
Omar Ahmed: I have. I’ve been to a few places.
Joseph Fung: Okay, and what were you studying?
Omar Ahmed: So my undergraduate degree, it was you know a BA you know I was focused on philosophy, and I know that a lot of people were you know saying you know do business and this and that. So I tried some business courses. And you know I went against the degree, and I went towards what you know what I was passionate about, and my parents supported that. And so I did a lot of classes around ethics and being able to sort of articulate different types of arguments, look at things objectively provide sort of rational argument, you know. Are you meant to look at different types of points of view, and that was, and I really enjoyed that experience. My master’s degree was a bit more sort of business-focused. It was around the topic of communication business. So technically, it was a Masters of Corporate Communication, and that focused on different topics around advertising, marketing, conflict resolution, and corporate training.
Joseph Fung: So you know, as you think about all those, it makes sense that you know you got it to a marketing role. Was that the direction you were aiming for? You know how did you land that first job?
Omar Ahmed: So that’s a great question! I decided to start my career in Toronto just because I had, you know, had grown up there. And at that point of time, you know sales, at least to my knowledge, wasn’t it wasn’t talked about too much. And there was a connotation about sales being really like the kind of like live and die, close. And for me, I just thought that marketing was, you know, where I wanted to go just based on online marketing and online advertising really being so big at that point in time. So I began an application process applied you know, started to try to look for my first job, and I landed my first job at a company called Leonardo. which is about a I’d say probably about a 200 maybe 80 to 150 person company, right on peter street focused on um digital advertising for the travel industry. And I was in sort of a marketing coordinator type role.
Joseph Fung: So you’ve come back, you’ve had this kind of world view where you’ve had a chance to see so many different cultures and countries. You’ve studied communication, you’re in a marketing world. A lot of this makes sense. It fits together really well. What got you thinking about a role in sales?
Omar Ahmed: So I was at Leonardo for a couple of years, and I realized that something was missing from the equation. And I didn’t quite know what it is. But after some introspection, I realized that a big part of what I’m passionate about as a human being is being able to communicate with other people being able to, you know, just have that dialogue and understand other human beings. And in that particular role, and I’m sure that does exist within some marketing type of capacity. But for me, you know, the idea of sales just made sense, it just made sense. And I just decided to try to make that leap and that plunge into sales. Because I wasn’t really feeling as much passionate about, you know what I was doing in that marketing role.
Joseph Fung: So when you came to that realization, and you decided that you’re going to be getting into sales. What was that journey like? Was it hey quick drop off a resume you got the job? Was there a big search? What was the journey like?
Omar Ahmed: It was a little challenging. It was a little challenging. Yeah, it was a little challenging. To be honest, it was you know it wasn’t easy, especially when you’re so early in your career. It’s, you know, it’s a lot. The ability to sort of get opportunities is more difficult than it is when you start to have a couple, you know, years on your belt, and you can leverage that experience for a future role. So being able to get your first job in sales is pretty tough, and at that point in time, Joseph, I, you know I, just didn’t have any knowledge of sort of the technology sales as far as you know BDR or AE or tech sales. All I knew was that sales, you know it was a sort of a profession I was aware of sort of the Xeroxes and I was aware of sort of that capacity. So it was unique, and it was interesting, but I felt like this that was the right place for me.
Joseph Fung: So if we’re thinking back to that you’ve got more experience, you’ve got several rules under your belt, you’ve had this impact at several companies. Thinking back to you know Omar at that point in time, you know when you’re out searching struggling with that, without that experience and you don’t have that background. What’s some of the advice that you would kind of give yourself from the past? Or somebody else that was in a similar boat, you know what would you do to help them succeed? What thoughts do you have?
Omar Ahmed: So my advice would be that A- you need to not. I know that sort of rejection is a challenging feeling, but you know one must understand that you really just have to put yourself out there, do the activity as far as it comes to work. So really put forth that energy towards you know networking with your networking, putting out you know applications. Just doing everything you can to try to speak to as many people as you can, whether that’s through like an actual application or whether it’s an actual interview or whether it’s just more of like an informal type of meet and greet. But you really just have to put yourself out there, and you really actually have to, really do the work. And you will see the results. You’ll build essentially a funnel-like when you’re applying for a job, you apply to x number of jobs, you’ll get x number of interviews, and then you’ll sort of you’ll trickle down. And for somebody who’s in sales, they understand that that’s the process, how it’s worked since the beginning of time. But when you don’t have that sales background, you may take things to heart. You may feel upset that, you know, you’ve applied to these jobs and only x amount of people have responded, or you’ve got these rejections. But that’s just the nature of the game, and it’s just the same as when you’re applying when you’re selling a product, that you’re gonna talk to have this many discovery calls which will result in this many demos, which will result in this many opportunities, which will result in this many closes. It’s all sort of science. But when you’re young, and you don’t know, you may kind of take it to the heart of it.
Joseph Fung: So I mean, clearly put in the legwork, you spoke about overcoming those challenges to get your first role. If we think about your most recent, you know, getting into the role at Litmus. Was it a similar journey? You know, was it the same kind of work? Or how did you kind of get into your most recent opportunity?
Omar Ahmed: Yeah, so I joined Litmus about three years and five months ago. So it’s a pretty good tenure as far as in the technology space. I knew that I wanted to get into more of this sort of a startup type of technology environment. I knew that selling more of a complex solution such as software would be better for my, you know, my professional resume. And so I started to look for the sort of more of like a BDR type of opportunity. Like more of like, I knew that I would have to take a couple of steps back in order to take a couple of steps forward. Meaning, in my previous role, it was a 360 sale, but it was not, you know a complex sale. So you know, got a sort of a bunch of sort of these authors of different companies. Like just a whole bunch and I chose Litmus because Litmus was a smaller company, and I felt that when Litmus would grow, I could grow with it, and it’d be great just to kind of create a process and help in that sort of that state kind of that that growth and expand you know that growth and sort of scaling. And it’s been a really positive experience.
Joseph Fung: That’s great! So, thinking back when you talked about first getting into sales, you mentioned how you were aware there was a profession, and you know the companies that are well renowned for like Xerox. But now that you, you’ve been in sales, and you reflect on your early assumptions. What’s been the biggest surprise? You know, what’s kind of sparked your interest and your curiosity the most?
Omar Ahmed: I think what’s really excited me about professional selling is just the amount of enthusiasm and energy in the space. And the amount of professional technology salespeople. And actually, the importance of sales within the entire tech space could not be, you know, understated. It is just such an immensely popular and incredible profession right now, and it’s just blowing up like it’s if you go on LinkedIn and you look at these different types of companies like Gong, Dot Io, and Drift and all these incredible kind of companies there’s just such excitement in the space, and it’s so wonderful to be part of a profession. Which has just so much excitement around it, and it’s so important; it’s so important for the entire tech space because you can build the product, but you need to sell the product, and it’s really, it’s a great career to be in right now and hopefully forever.
Joseph Fung: That’s awesome! So if thinking about kind of where you’ve come from, you’ve got this chance to kind of travel and take control of your own direction, you’ve worked at a couple of technology companies now. But still fairly early in your journey, and the journey is not done yet. So what does the future hold for you? What do you still aim to accomplish?
Omar Ahmed: For sure! So I think what’s important for me is to one thing about my personality Joseph, was I always believe in, and sort of in the process and you know putting in the necessary amount of work in order to get to the next stage. So I’m a hundred percent okay with sort of micro progression in my career and incremental steps to improve as long as I’m going in that direction. And I believe, and I trust the process, and I believe when you put the work in, you will achieve that. I have had some limited management experience at Litmus. I hired sort of a BD person, and I really enjoyed and appreciated the ability to inspire another person to come into work and to feel positive and to feel happy and enjoy their enroll. So that was something I really liked. You know, I think I want to do a couple more years research or just at least one more year or two more years of just peer selling, handling a quota, really just being kind of getting my, you know, just really being full in the trenches and after that you know, I think I’d like to try to get into some type of management capacity and help to inspire other people.
Joseph Fung: Thank you for sharing. I like that idea of, you know, putting in the time before kind of jumping to that next opportunity, and I love the way you described that that impact that you had. So, thank you for sharing.
Omar Ahmed: My pleasure!
Joseph Fung: We’ve got a couple of rapid-fire questions for you before we wrap up. Thinking about the companies you’ve worked at, what’s been your favorite sales tool?
Omar Ahmed: Phone!
Joseph Fung: Nice! Solid!
Omar Ahmed: I love to dial, telephone!
Joseph Fung: Make the dials, hit the numbers.
Omar Ahmed: That’s it! When you call somebody, it’s just, is what it is. I, to be honest, I, barely ever get calls like people don’t call me, so when somebody calls you these days, it’s actually a really good way to speak to somebody.
Joseph Fung: Especially while we’re all working from home. Double the dialer on that. It’s good
Omar Ahmed: 100 percent!
Joseph Fung: Okay! Outside of the office, outside of work. What’s your favorite movie?
Omar Ahmed: I would say, American Pie!
Joseph Fung: Nice! Nice! Good comedy! Got it! Got to be real, and you had a chance to kind of travel the world before settling on your path. But, when you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
Omar Ahmed: I think I wanted to be a comedian or an actor.
Joseph Fung: Nice! Nice! The programming element of that definitely shows up in sales. So…
Omar Ahmed: That’s right!
Joseph Fung: This has been a great conversation! Thank you so much for taking the time and for sharing your journey.
Omar Ahmed: My pleasure! Thank you for having me!
Joseph Fung: Looking forward to our next conversation. I hope you stay safe and have a great afternoon!
Omar Ahmed: You too!