In this episode: Graham Collins, Head of Growth at QuotaPath, joins us to share great tips on how to pitch more transactional experiences when applying to roles in more complex sales. How does selling change depending on what it is you’re selling? How can you measure your success from a qualitative perspective and not quantitative? What are the commonalities between sales and marketing? All that up next!
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In this episode: Graham Collins, Head of Growth at QuotaPath, shares great tips on how to pitch more transactional experiences when applying to roles in more complex sales and more. All that up next!
Joseph Fung: In today’s conversation, you’re going to hear how the Head of Growth from one of the fastest up-and-coming software companies went from selling shoes in college to now helping thousands of sales reps across North America manage their commissions and succeed in selling. You’re gonna get a lot of value from this. So 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 sale success.
Joseph Fung: Hi everyone, I’m Joseph Fung. And today we’re speaking with Graham Collins, Head of Growth at QuotaPath. Graham, how are you doing?
Graham Collins: I’m good. How are you, Joseph?
Joseph Fung: Doing really well. Looking forward to this conversation, I always enjoyed chatting with you.
Graham Collins: Yeah, likewise
Joseph Fung: So where are you calling in from today?
Graham Collins: I am in Sunny Austin, Texas.
Joseph Fung: Wicked. And life is good in Texas right now. We’re up in Ontario, so we’ve got kind of a good connection between us today.
Graham Collins: Yeah, it’s good here. We had a bit of rain this weekend, but things are looking really bright and sunny here.
Joseph Fung: Awesome, so think a little bit about your journey. You’ve got some fun times. Maybe you can help our audience start off. You know where did you grow up? And where did you go to school?
Graham Collins: Yeah, I grew up in Maine. So a little bit away from Texas. and went to college at a little business school called Babson college. That’s well known for entrepreneurship. But just about 2000 students. So it’s a little more unknown outside of the northeast.
Joseph Fung: So one of the things that stuck out to me is your sales and entrepreneurial experience definitely started early. I mean, we joke about selling shoes. But you know, maybe you can help our audience understand. You know what was the shoe connection there? And how is that your entry into sales?
Graham Collins: Yeah, absolutely. Before shoes, I was a middle school DJ. I Dj’d middle school and high school dances with a set of pa equipment. But you know, my first real job was selling shoes at a family-owned shoe store in Maine called Lamey Wellehan. And it was definitely a good exposure into sales. I earned commission, I was responsible for learning a whole training curriculum. Really wonderful organization to work for and taught me a whole lot about sales and how to treat customers because we were selling a pretty premium product. It wasn’t you could you go a lot buy shoes a lot cheaper on Zappos.
Joseph Fung: So you had a good chance. You studied it was like economics and marketing college. But selling on the side. You know what I hear from a lot of folks is that they study marketing, but it doesn’t prep them to sell. Did you see the same thing? You know how would you compare the two worlds?
Graham Collins: Yeah, for sure. I think that most people who are interested in sales study marketing because there are very few colleges that give you a sales major. I thought that a lot of the courses at Babson prepared me well for sales, not necessarily because it taught me negotiation, although I did take a great negotiation of course, but because we had to do a lot of presentations and so I had to get very familiar talking I mean if I’m being honest with you talking about things I didn’t totally understand in front of a large group of people.
Joseph Fung: Wait, what sales reps never have to do that.
Graham Collins: Yeah, exactly, or college students for that matter. So giving presentations were a huge component of my time at Babson your freshman year, you’re dropped into groups of 30, and you actually have to found a business, they grant you 5000 dollars at the time in 2007. I’m not sure what it is now, and you actually have to buy inventory and sell something. We actually sold shoes as well, sticking with the theme. But that was a great learning experience for me.
Joseph Fung: Okay, so you’re selling shoes, you’re applying your Babson college degree there. But you took a shift, and you know went from selling goods to selling you know services and information my media info. How did that happen? How did you land in that first role?
Graham Collins: Yeah, I remember going in for the interview and them saying, well, you know you don’t have a background in sales, and this is a full-cycle account executive position, this was a little bit pre kind of the SDR style role. And I was saying, well no, I have a background in sales. I sold shoes for six or seven years. And I think they probably hid their scoffs. But I do believe that it gave me a good background in selling to people, and really a big thing is just finding out where their value lies and finding a way of pitching your services to meet their needs.
Joseph Fung: So I was speaking to a couple of our students, the Uvaro students recently, one had been selling advertising, one had been selling Harley Davidson. And now they’re getting into tech. And one of the things that keep popping up is, how do you properly portray that experience and convey value? And you did exactly. That, so I’d love to hear what are some of the things that you think you did well or some of the things you coach you know people to do now that they’re trying to make that same leap, whether that’s from shoes or Harley Davidson’s into selling software. What do you suggest people keep in mind?
Graham Collins: Yeah, for sure, I mean, there are you know I hate the question what keeps you up at night. But that’s a really big thing is that you have to not only sell business value but you have to sell personal value. And finding out what is important to people by asking questions. I very rarely answer questions as opposed to asking an additional question in response to a question asked me by a prospect. So I, I’d say that that’s the most important thing is as soon as especially early-stage reps are asked a question oftentimes they just rush to the answer. As opposed to asking a question in return and getting more information because generally the first question somebody asks is not it’s not what they want to know, it’s what’s top of mind for them.
Joseph Fung: So if I think about that, I know I’m asking you to kind of cast your mind back, but are there any examples where you had to do that, you know, discovery and deep dive when you were selling shoes? Because I mean, I understand your comments, and I struggle to imagine selling shoes and applying that. So you know we’d love to hear is there a specific example that you gave or way that you know conveyed that when you were switching from shoes to information.
Graham Collins: Yeah, absolutely, I ended up using a lot of my shoe sales experience. And I have a very vivid memory of an example where I was selling a pair of shoes, and again there are sandals sitting out there for 19 dollars a pair that I could have sold. And I had sandals outback for two, three, four hundred dollars a pair. And again it was kind of a specialty shoe store, and so really a person came in, she said she wanted a pair of sandals, she brought me the box, or she asked for size, and I brought them to her, and she started walking around them, and I saw that she was kind of wincing a little bit. And I was like, you know-how are those? How do they fit? And instead of just immediately being like, okay, cool, you wanna buy those shoes? She was like, you know they fit, they fit pretty well, but then saying.
Well, I, I saw you wince a little bit, like, what’s going on? And she had what’s called a hammertoe if we’re going to get really specific here in the shoe in the shoe terminology. And so anyway, long story short, I asked about what each of her symptoms were? And what was going on? And was able to get her into a pair of 250 dollars sandals that she ended up writing me a letter of a thank you card afterward because when she was wearing these sandals, they entirely did away with all of her pain. And it was a win-win because I was earning a commission off of that. So I made quite a bit of money off of it, and she totally did away with all of her foot pain.
Joseph Fung: That’s fantastic, that is a fantastic example. I’m really glad I asked that question. That’s a gold mine right there. So thank you for sharing.
Graham Collins: Of course.
Joseph Fung: Okay, so my media info. This is kind of the first full cycle, a role; you know what is it that you had to sell? And what was that motion like?
Graham Collins: Yeah, so again full-cycle cold call all the way through to negotiate and close. I was selling two major things, a journalist database. So think of it as kind of like Zoom info but for journalists, and I was selling media monitoring services. So brands could use it to track what was being said about their company within the news.
Joseph Fung: So thinking a little bit about those, it would have been an entirely different buyer than the time it might be well in.
Graham Collins: Yeah, yes, certainly very different, yep. And maybe the same people but buying totally different things, I suppose.
Joseph Fung: Okay, so yeah, I’m sure I mean you applied to that role with some expectations, and I mean you stayed in that space for several years multiple companies. What’s surprised you the most? I mean, what was the biggest gap between what you thought you were getting into and what that experience was actually like?
Graham Collins: Yeah, a big thing within shoes is you don’t often require multiple demos and negotiation and follow-up, involving other people in the decision. So that was a pretty drastic change for me was going from the transactional model of somebody wants to buy a pair of Uggs, they can come in, they, I fit them for a pair of Uggs, they walk out with the Uggs. I cold call somebody, tell them what we do, set a meeting, I run the meeting, they bring their boss in, we run a demo, we negotiate, they run a trial, and then they decide whether to buy or not to buy. And so that was a big change for me was learning that the sales process has more than the greeting fitting of the shoes or software and clothes.
Joseph Fung: Okay. So now, if we reflect back, I mean as you had a growth, you’re now you know responsible for hiring staffing decisions, you work with thousands of sales reps. As you’re looking to reps or looking to hire reps, if you’re trying to assess that ability to run a process. If somebody is coming out of a transactional business if you’re interviewing a shoe sales right now. You know what are some of the things that you might look for to gauge their ability to navigate that change?
Graham Collins: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think that one of the major things that I look for within interview processes and early-stage employees is curiosity. Whether you ask questions and engaged questions as opposed to just you know what’s the culture like, asking engaged questions about the research you’ve done, or things that I’ve said previously within the interview.
That shows me that you have the ability to think longer-term than just getting the quick answer to are you going to buy. You know, one of my favorite questions is who else needs to be involved in this decision? Instead of, is there anybody else that needs to be involved in this decision? So questions like that where you know if I’m interviewing somebody and they say, you know what are the next steps in the interview process? That’s an okay question. But saying you know I saw that your boss is Kevin Mcewen and the CEO is Eric Huddleston, I have to imagine that the VP of sales is probably involved in the decision early on when it comes to hiring a sales rep. Am I going to have a chance to meet with Kevin before we move forward or don’t move forward? That’s a much better question to me. As part of an interview process.
Joseph Fung: That’s such a fantastic takeaway. I’m going to snag that language specifically to share with a couple of people. I’d love that.
Graham Collins: Thank you, of course.
Joseph Fung: Thinking a little bit about you know your journey, I’d love to speak you know fast forward a little bit, QuotaPath, Head of Growth. This isn’t you know about pitching your company, the product, but you have some pretty cool stuff. Maybe you can help our audience. What is the elevator pitch? What does QuotaPath do?
Graham Collins: Yeah, so we are a commission tracking tool. We help salespeople find out how much they have earned on deals that they’ve already closed. But also how much they will earn on deals that they’re currently working on, that are in their pipeline, to kind of bring it back to the whole pipeline discussion.
Joseph Fung: Now, earlier, we had the chance to talk about a kind of goal setting and managing your growth. And I’d love to hear your take on this. I mean, right, hey, I’m not trying to be glib, but why does QuotaPath matter? Does, isn’t the company responsible for logging my commission and reporting on it? Like, what’s the purpose there?
Graham Collins: Yeah, absolutely, and I bet a lot of your listeners are thinking to themselves, oh, I have an excel spreadsheet that I keep in order to track this, and that’s something that I kept for years and years. I still have it on my computer. I pull it up on demos sometimes. It’s from 2011 to 2014. I have all of the deals that I closed, the amount of commission I earned on it, and whatnot. And the major reason that I did that is a ton of research I’ve done, and you can link to Harvard business case studies, and whatnot about the more you track your progress towards a goal, and this goes for weight loss this, goes for sales, this goes for growth, the more you track your progress towards that goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. And the same thing can be done. It can be done in an excel spreadsheet. Obviously, I’m you know, without getting too pitchy, the quarter path allows you to do it as well. But if even if it’s a post-it on your monitor that says you know I’m going to make 100 cold calls today or I’m going to send 50 emails today and you check off every single email you send, the more likely you are to achieve that, because you’re tracking your progress towards it.
Joseph Fung: That’s awesome. We, I think we do a pretty good job of not making this show too pitchy. But I’m sure people will forgive me if we do this every so often. But if people did want to try it out, I know you’ve got a solution that’s free for reps. So I think our audience will appreciate that where would they go to do that.
Graham Collins: Yeah, just quotapath.com, and you can sign up for a free account. Connect your sales force and track your commissions and your Quota attainment. You progress towards your goals automatically.
Joseph Fung: Cool, that’s helpful. I wanna come back to that we’ll make sure we link to it in the description. But coming back again to your journey, you’ve had kind of the really fortunate opportunity to switch into tech, have a ton of great success there. But of all those steps and all those moves, what are you most proud of so far? You know what would you consider your biggest accomplishment?
Graham Collins: Yeah, my biggest accomplishment, I think, is actually a woman that I used to work with. Her name’s Lily Yoon. She is leading actually building out a sales development organization right now. But I would say that she kind of acts as the bellwether of my success when it came to Trendkite, which was my previous organization, the promotions, and the growth that I was able to see within the people that work for me.
So I saw Lily started as an SDR, she became a senior SDR, she was one of the hardest workers, one of the best SDR’s we had, we were able to then promote her into a manager, which was incredible. She was the best manager I had working on my team working for me, which offend no offense to anybody else who worked for me as a manager. And then when I, when I actually left Trendkite, I, I, spent about six months preparing her to take over from my role for me so I, would say that that Lily kind of marks my crowning achievement which has always been the people who worked for me being very successful in the world.
Joseph Fung: I love how you measured your own accomplishment in the progress of others. That’s wonderful. Casting your eyes forward, though, what else do you still hope to accomplish? You know if we were chatting to Graham of 10 years in the future, you know, what would you hope to congratulate him for having done?
Graham Collins: Yeah, oh, that’s a great question. Ten years down the line, current company QuotaPath, I’d love to see that into a successful SAS organization as well. The past two companies, I started with as early-stage employees have gone through acquisitions, have gone through exits, which has been really great and so I’d love to see QuotaPath, go through that and then I’d really love to start working with entrepreneurs and in investment and advising in helping them grow, whether it’s a sales team or an SDR organization or helping them really generate revenue out of the activities that they’re doing.
Joseph Fung: That’s great. Given your track you share, correct I’m sure you see that same success this time around as well.
Graham Collins: Sure, hope so.
Joseph Fung: So I’ve got a couple of rapid-fire questions, and then we can let you get back to changing the lives of sales reps. You ready for them?
Graham Collins: I am.
Joseph Fung: Okay, now we know that you made some money as a DJ, but if we think back to your earliest kind of childhood objectives, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Graham Collins: Oh man, initially a professional wrestler, but I was not really sure why? I don’t really know what that was about. But when I entered high school, I had a teacher named Ozzy Holt, who was a businessman, retired businessman, who became a high school teacher, because I think he was bored and so I really wanted to be a business person for a long time.
Joseph Fung: There you go.
Graham Collins: Which is a weird thing to be a child wanting that, but it’s the latter were…
Joseph Fung: You hoping to get that briefcase and everything.
Graham Collins: Yeah, I carried a briefcase in high school. I was a nerd.
Joseph Fung: There you go.
Graham Collins: A briefcase full of magic cards.
Joseph Fung: You know, I could imagine that, was such a great visual. Thank you. Okay, so you’ve had a chance to sell. I mean your own services are DJ, shoes, PR services software. You know all of that, overall that journey, what’s been your favorite sales tool?
Graham Collins: Oh man, I think that call recording. I mean I had way back in the day, I had a, I mean we’re not really that far back in the day, but even had just like a manual recorder that plugged into my phone, recording calls listening to your self-speak, it’s one of the most painful things that people do, the most people hate hearing their own voice, but the more you listen to it, and my pro tip is to speed it up by like 10 percent or 20 percent, then it doesn’t sound like you, so it’s not as big of a deal for you to listen to it but and there are countless tools to do it now, but I would say that that call recording in any format, is my favorite sales tool.
Joseph Fung: Great, I love that. And then one more personal one, outside of work, movies, what’s your favorite movie?
Graham Collins: Oh, “The Iron Giant”.
Joseph Fung: Oh, that’s such a good one.
Graham Collins: Yep, I have an I have one tattoo, and it’s the iron giant holding up, well there’s words underneath them that say, You Are Who You Choose To Be, which is a line from the movie, “The Iron Giant”.
Joseph Fung: “You Are Who You Choose To Be”, I love that definitely gonna pull that quote out. That’s a fantastic one. Graham, this has been a fantastic conversation. Thank you so much for the time.
Graham Collins: Yeah, absolutely. It’s been really fun getting to chat with you.
Joseph Fung: And some fantastic insights, there’s a ton of value in this, and I’m sure that beyond just checking a QuotaPath, a bunch of our audience is going to get value out of your answer. So thank you for sharing.
Graham Collins: Yeah, of course. And I’m always happy to connect with any of your listeners as well on LinkedIn.
Joseph Fung: Well, if you heard that Graham’s LinkedIn’s link, as well as the QuotaPath site, are in the description. So you can reach out and head him up there because he mentioned it, so fair game. There you go.
Graham Collins: I always tell people, I bought meetwithgram.com, if you go to meetwithgram.com, that’s my calendar, so if you’re feeling really bold, you can just book time.
Joseph Fung: Perfect. Graham, thank you so much. I hope you have a wonderful day.
Graham Collins: Yeah, likewise. Great chatting with you, Joseph.
Joseph Fung: Likewise, we’ll chat again soon.
Graham Collins: Sounds good. Bye.