In this episode: Carlos Hernandez, Chief Revenue Officer at SSIMWAVE joins us to share how a career in sales can take you on a trip around the world. How does culture play a role when you’re looking to be successful in selling internationally? How can you find “balance” in your career? And how can you take your past experiences and transferable skills to change direction? Stay tuned!
Connect With Carlos:
- LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/cahernandez/
In this episode: Carlos Hernandez, Chief Revenue Officer at SSIMWAVE shares how a career in sales can take you on a trip around the world and more. Stay tuned!
Joseph Fung: Today we’re speaking with Carlos Hernandez. He’s the Chief Revenue Officer at SSIMWAVE, and Carlos has built an exceptional reputation of being able to build global sales teams. But he started from a place of doing badly in sales, and his journey to success took him across continents and various industries, and you’re gonna love hearing his views on how successful sales are a byproduct from building a company and community success. Stay tuned.
Welcome to the seller’s journey, the podcast where we speak to great sales reps and leaders and share their real stories from start to sales success.
Joseph Fung: Hi everyone, I’m Joseph Fung, and today we’re chatting with Carlos Hernandez, Carlos, how are you doing?
Carlos Hernandez: Very good. Thank you, Joseph. Very excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Joseph Fung: Well, likewise! I’m really looking forward to this conversation. I know we’ve known each other for many years but getting a chance to dig into your story like this. This is new for me. So I’m super pumped.
Carlos Hernandez: Thank you so much. So I am.
Joseph Fung: So yeah, so first off, you’re at SSIMWAVE. Our audience is all across North America, and you guys have a very far-reaching product. But it’s kind of behind the scenes. Maybe you could help our audience. What’s the elevator pitch for SSIMWAVE? And what does the company do?
Carlos Hernandez: Yeah! It’s super exciting. We’re a software company that is really finding how to deliver video. And to connect the creators’ intent or the motions that you would live at a live event with the viewer and help all the participants in the value chain to optimize the scale and improve how to deliver that video while reducing costs. So we really envision ourselves as transforming the video and distributing it better.
Joseph Fung: So that sounds like your customers are streamers, hosts all of these online video platforms that were consuming every day now. Is that, am I understanding that right?
Carlos Hernandez: Exactly! from the studios that want to make sure that the quality is preserved to the broadcasters, the distributor’s, MVPs, OTT’s and everyone that pretty much takes video home, to your homes.
Joseph Fung: Well! On behalf of everyone who is binge-watching Netflix while they’re sheltering in place. Thank you! You are doing great work!
Carlos Hernandez: Fantastic! We’re excited to make a little contribution here on this situation that we all are going through.
Joseph Fung: Yeah, and I think your work, you know, speaks for itself. I mean, you know Chief Revenue Officer, and you’ve worked at a veritable who’s who of tech companies in from HP to Blackberry, to Startups, but let’s just think back of the start, I, one of the things that stuck out to me was you didn’t study business and sales, you had more of a technical background. Right?
Carlos Hernandez: Yes, that’s correct. I studied electronic engineering, as we call it, back there in Colombia. Here with the electric engineering.
Joseph Fung: And when you were graduating, what kind of a role did you think you were gonna have?
Carlos Hernandez: Well, it was mostly technical. When I was at school, I could find a software development company. So I start started coding. Basically, but then I abandoned that because I, the school was quite demanding. So later in school, I would teach rock climbing to find it kind of climbing expeditions. So those with my first entrepreneurial kind of activities. But then I started working on deploying wireless networks back there in Colombia when digital wireless communications were starting. So, I definitely started with the technical side. I was later on, my career that I moved to sales.
Joseph Fung: You know, before we get to the later part of your career, like many people, your background has a number of roles in it. And maybe you could help us, you know, think a little bit about that journey. I mean, you were you spend a good chunk of time at HP, and I know you had a chance to do everything from business analyst to general consulting and do you have maybe you can you know help us think about what your experience at HP was like? And how you moved between those roles?
Carlos Hernandez: Yeah! It was fantastic, when I started, it was at the time electronic data systems before it was acquired by HP, and my first date was actually not in Colombia was in Boston, the whole part of a group or a pipe, where we really were trained there in Boston to pretty much learn all the best practices from the wireless industry and bring it to Columbia because all the cellular networks were starting there. So I started as a Business Analyst, helping to employ workers networks, and then from there, I started growing my career on technical and project and program management. Then I was responsible for an entire billing operation for the hardest customer back there in Columbia. And then by having a more like a broader business management experience within that industry. Then I started kind of migrating a bit to more commercial kind of roles.
Joseph Fung: So, I want to come back to those commercial roles. But you slip that in there, here, you studied in Colombia, your first role was in Colombia, but they onboarded you in Boston?
Carlos Hernandez: Yes, that was very interesting. So I did my interviews, which it was actually very cool because I got in my last interview usually you get an offer letter or something after that. But for some reason, they just told me, okay, you’re hired, so when you start so, it just happened. I get like, it was I was just done, kind of getting my feet on the ground, and there was, I was working there. And for my surprise, a week later they told me, okay, we go to Boston to start your work there. And I say, of course, I will. So yeah, and I spent six months there learning from the best people in the industry and…
Joseph Fung: Oh wow!
Carlos Hernandez: Deploying that expertise back in Colombia and Venezuela, and other Latin American countries. So it was a blast. It was super exciting and also to bring all that expertise to the region.
Joseph Fung: With my last company, we had an office in Boston. It actually started just outside of Boston and Waltham, and I always love getting back there. Given a chance to spend six months there, as you guys started, must have been such a blast.
Carlos Hernandez: It was awesome. I was at Waltham exactly!
Joseph Fung: Really good. Small tons of great companies out there.
Carlos Hernandez: Yes, it’s a fantastic place to be.
Joseph Fung: Okay, so coming back you, mentioned that you were to getting into more commercial roles. Now, this is where I’m really curious. Your first kind of official sales role was still at Electronic Data Systems, now HP. what inspired you to take that role? You know why move all the way into a sales function?
Carlos Hernandez: Well, I was offered it. And I took it, and I really didn’t know what I was getting into. And the most interesting thing is that I failed miserably. I really had a struggle with how you really sell, and I was I had a really misconception of what sales was. And by basically hitting a wall based on those misconceptions, I really got to realize what sales is and what that most role of sales, how you manage them, and how you deal with people. So it was a very difficult way was a very interesting experience.
Joseph Fung: So when you said that you failed miserably, a lot of people are worried about taking on a sales role because they’re worried about that failure. What did failure look like in that context, that situation?
Carlos Hernandez: Failure was basically that I didn’t, I was basically coasting with the customer, and I thought I’ve been more into like you helped a customer to decide on what they want to do and you are instrumental and on helping them to get where they want to be. But, I think sales has a more important role than that. I think sales you can; you have to be a bit more guidance for the customer and help to connect them with the tools and what you can offer to them to solve the problems. And you cannot expect the customer to know how the path should be and what the options really are. And I think in some cases you need to challenge the customers and you really need to take the time to listen to them rather than just to go and do your speech and expect that, that’s really going to solve the problem. So you really need to get more in detail, understand the customer, understand what the drivers for them to make a decision would be and how really how much value you really add to that. It’s not about doing a PowerPoint presentation and hoping that you’re gonna close the sale that way.
Joseph Fung: What a great way to describe that balance between kind of being an active participant or passively riding along. I love the way you characterize that.
Carlos Hernandez: Yes, it was really shocking like my expectation is that you would I mean I think a lot of people have a misconception of what sales are. And I think that most people think that salespeople just go on chat with customers, do a couple of PowerPoint presentations, sometimes bring a technical person to help them out and then just go on do some well thing and close deals and make money. and I really think that is a different very different job at least when you do large B2B type of sales, you really need to be an expert, a trusted adviser, you need to challenge the status and help them decide how to improve their business if you don’t do that, you don’t really you’re not really contributing you’re just pushing your product.
Joseph Fung: So, I love the way you took away those lessons, and we spoke earlier about learning from failure. You’ve had all these roles take this sales executive role; you said you know where’d you fail miserably. What did you do next with your career? There’s so many people would just say, okay, I guess sales isn’t for me. But in you seem to have doubled down. You know what did you do?
Carlos Hernandez: Yes, absolutely. I took that, and I decided that it was time for me to take a different approach and to learn how to get it right. That’s why I ended up in Canada because basically, I decided that I wanted to take some education and do an MBA. I explored doing that in several countries. But I decided to come to Canada, and I went to Queens University to do my MBA.
Joseph Fung: Nice.
Carlos Hernandez: So, I quit my job basically. We sold everything, and we came to Canada to study. While I was doing that, I was a professor at the University in Colombia teaching in business when business was not a thing yet. So, it’s a pioneer doing business there, and while I was moving here to Canada.
Joseph Fung: You used an important pronoun there. You said we, so it wasn’t just you who-who had left your country and then came here for this opportunity. Who came with you?
Carlos Hernandez: My wife, we decided, we got a dream that we wanted to study abroad and grow both you know professions and as a team, and we decided to come here and sometimes as you take those sleep in life we came here to quit to Kingston. We expected that it would be a very large city where there would be lots of options for her to her master’s degrees, and that wasn’t the case, so she ended up going to the University of Ottawa to do her master’s degree on technology. So it was a challenging year as well. It was a very growing opportunity for both of us.
Joseph Fung: I imagine that that was stressful and amazing that you’ve you’ve completed it. We hear all this news about new companies like apply board, helping people you know, travel to, to learn internationally. And they didn’t exist when you made that journey. You did well! Well done!
Carlos Hernandez: yeah, oh thank you it was, and I can see their value now. I think they are contributing significantly. But yes, at that time, you would just basically it was a big bet we sold everything, we quit our jobs, and we just came here to Canada to study. Pretty much to spend all our savings on business schools. And it’s all what happened.
Joseph Fung: Okay, so I love the leap of faith that you can figure this out, you could learn how to do it right, there your teaching, your learning, your first sales role in the local tech area, you pick an amazing company to work with, Slipstream and I know that’s about when we got to know each other. But how did you get there? What was the story of landing at Slipstream?
Carlos Hernandez: Yes, so coincidentally, I didn’t study sales there either. So, basically, yeah, I was, when I finished school, Business School, so I was looking for an opportunity, and I happened to be in the Kitchener Waterloo area. And through Communitech, which is a technology organization here in Canada that helps startups, as you will know, I was connected to this great company, that was Slipstream, and I did a consulting engagement for them based on kind of my consulting experience that worked out well. I was asked to stay to the project. The project involved business in Europe and Latin America, which was a significant part of my expertise, and it was in Portuguese and Spanish. So I’m fluent in both. So I got engaging to those projects. I really really enjoyed working with the company and with the customers, and after deploying those projects, I start asking those customers to basically put me in contact with other people in their organizations. so learning from pretty much coasting and being with the flow of the customers, I decided that I would try and take the driver’s seat myself and I asked them for introductions, then from Portugal that was one of the perks, I was working on, I was got introduced to Spain then to France, and I ended up selling to four or five multinational telecommunications companies in Europe, the whole of UK, France. So it was a really, I really had the experience to pretty much apply everything I didn’t do before.
Joseph Fung: So I love how you just kind of drop those in all. I just happen to sell to these multinational telecom companies. It’s amazing!
Carlos Hernandez: Yeah! It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of work, and it’s a, it’s a very good challenge. It’s a lot of fun, yes.
Joseph Fung: What a great example of using the sales skills to sell your way into the role too.
Carlos Hernandez: Yes, absolutely! And you learn really you learned that that was one of the big learning opportunities for me, which is you really need to push the limits you really need to look how you add value, and you really need to start telling people that they the way they are doing what they’re doing maybe the right way or they make the other ways, and I think that people when you show them alternatives, they respect you. They start understanding that you can help their business and their personal career. And that’s where you that’s where I see sales having higher I guess contribution to the industry and to the community and then just pushing product is really helping marring technology with problems and solving those problems for companies to be successful that being your customer and your own company. So I think it’s a team effort from your own team but is also with the customer and with your customer company to both build something that is better than they couldn’t have found themselves.
Joseph Fung: What a wonderful way to put it. I don’t think of anything to add to how to treat the customers. But I do have a question on that journey, kind of coming here and that life change. Do you mind if I bring us back to that before we wrap up?
Carlos Hernandez: Absolutely!
Joseph Fung: Okay, thank you, because we chat with people all the time who have recently moved from their home to a new community. Sometimes it’s across the country, other times it’s across continents and much more like yours. So, if you’re chatting with someone who has just moved, maybe from Colombia, maybe from Pakistan, and they’re now in a new community, be appear in Waterloo’er or Boston or Austin or New York, and they’re trying to get into sales. What are some of the things that they should keep in mind? What’s your, what would be your advice to someone in that situation?
Carlos Hernandez: I think that we all have some areas where we can make a difference. And I think that when you come from abroad, you have the language, you have the cultural experience as you know sales is something that is based on relationships. But, relationships that are based on trust and communication, and my most important thing on themselves, is listening to your customer and understand how you can contribute to your business, and I think that when you as in the role that I am today, you’re trying to grow internationally, you don’t have the ability to understand and to connect with all cultures, in the same way, language errors cross-cultural communication and so on, and all those people can play a very significant role. So my advice would be to figure out companies that are trying to grow into the areas of expertise you bring from, your home country in terms of language, culture, industry, and so on, and you will find some places where your experience and your expertise are needed.
Joseph Fung: I love it that’s such an aspirational and positive message. I can tell already it’s gonna resonate with large portions of our audience. So thank you, Carlos.
Carlos Hernandez: That’s fantastic! Thank you!
Joseph Fung: I know I promised that we wouldn’t keep you too far past the bottom of the hour. But I’ve already done that. Can I ask a couple of rapid-fire questions before we go?
Carlos Hernandez: Yes, absolutely!
Joseph Fung: Okay, you have worked across many countries and several, you know, different industries. But as you’re selling, what has been your favorite sales tool?
Carlos Hernandez: Well, my favorite sales tool is quite basic. Actually, it’s my ears, and it’s just listening. I think that’s something we don’t do enough. But it’s the most important thing in sales.
Joseph Fung: I love that answer. When I ask that question so far, I think the most common has been the phone, but you could say it’s being used for listening, but I really like your ears, that’s a good choice. Thank you, I’m gonna take that one away. Next one, outside of work, you know not selling for your own time, movies, what’s your favorite movie?
Carlos Hernandez: Oh, it’s all over the place, that’s a tough one, but I like Invictus, Mandela, I think he’s fantastic; the way that I mean the whole message, the whole experience, I think is fantastic. I love the matrix. And there’s a few others, but those come to mind.
Joseph Fung: These are great, and if you think back even before college when you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
Carlos Hernandez: I don’t know, it feels kind of never-was, I feel old saying that, but that, I think that part of mine, perhaps, police officer or something, I think I was just thinking on helping people. And I still do that’s, what is most meaningful today, so I think that I really hope that, leave my job, I can do contribution to society, to the industry, and to the community.
Joseph Fung: That is the best way to do it, selling is a great way to help people.
Carlos Hernandez: Certainly, that’s really the biggest gold, and again sales and revenue would come as a byproduct of helping people and helping companies to connect with the solutions to the problems.
Joseph Fung: Absolutely! Carlos, this has been such a delight. Thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your story.
Carlos Hernandez: Thanks for having me. It was a real pleasure, and I hope to be in touch.
Joseph Fung: Absolutely! We’ll chat again soon. You take care!
Carlos Hernandez: Take Care!