We're thrilled to welcome to Michael Leigh, who joins us today as VP of Sales! Mike is an athlete in the true sense of the word. He is able to take a new business with all its uncertainties and unknowns, ramp up a brand new team, and lead the charge to winning the market.
Mark Leslie, former CEO of Veritas, currently of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, speaks to the importance of athletic sales leadership in his paper "The Sales Learning Curve." Leslie argues that ramping the sales team sky high immediately following product beta pretty much guarantees failure. In the critical initiation phase following a product beta, a start-up needs a special kind of sales leadership that aims to maximize operational learning of how the product and sales process must be tweaked to deliver maximum value to the customer. Furthermore, sales leadership must work closely with engineering & marketing to improve the product and the processes within the company. This phase might require a handful of sales reps at most.
Hiring too many reps will burn out the rest of the company, burn relationships with customers, and burn up the cash in the company's coffers. Hiring too few does not allow for operational redundancy and may fail to provide sufficiently diverse market input.
The initiation phase ends when reps can pay for themselves, i.e. the sales they bring in pays for the fully loaded cost of the rep. In the transition phase, where sales yield goes from 1x to 2x the fully loaded cost of a rep, sales management must refine the sales model and grow the sales force at just the right pace so as to garner market share while improving sales efficiency. Finally comes the execution phase, where the product is well ready for an eager market and and reps are given full and mature quotas.
It takes a special type of sales leader to drive from start, all the way through to the execution phase, where the sales team generates cash to fuel growth across the company. Mike Leigh is exactly such a leader, experienced in driving startups through product-market fit and beyond. He has done so thrice before, at Vina, Consentry and most recently, at MobileIron.