INSIDE Inside Sales – Ep 14: Planning Your Career Progression

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Don’t get passed over for a promotion again.

Kevin Mulrane is leading a scorching pace up the corporate ladder. As VP of Global Mid-Market Sales for Global Web Index, his advice for managing your career progression comes with verifiable weight. In this episode Kevin dishes invaluable advice on intentional progression, driving your own success, and having a plan to convert your career KPIs. If you are happy with where you’re at, you can probably skip this episode. However, if you are committed to growth and success, then dive right in!


Not in the mood to listen? No problem, you can read the transcriptions below.


 

Darryl Praill: Good afternoon, folks. Darryl Praill here with another episode of Inside Inside Sales where we actually talk, you know, what I like to say is bread and butter, meat, potatoes, the actual tangible, tactical takeaway conversations that you can listen to, learn from, and immediately implement so that your sales development career is a huge success. And what I love most about this podcast is I get to connect with the industry’s biggest and brightest, those who were changing the game, those who have been there, those who have done, those are in the middle of figuring it all out and they have a little bit of wisdom to bring back to the conversation and share with me and we share it together with you, of course. Along the way, what I love to do is ask those hard questions and you know, I’m being successful in that when they stammer or you have those long pauses so that, you know, if I can get one long pause an episode and I’m feeling like I did my job.

Darryl Praill: So if you don’t follow me, have to leave, please do so. Go to LinkedIn, you can follow me as Darryl Praill. I’m also on Twitter and you can follow me on my handle, which is opinionated because I do have opinions from time to time. Let me spell that for you. That’s O H P I N I O N the number 8 TED. So do that. I’ll be grateful. Finally, If you haven’t done it already, please subscribe to the show. We’d be most grateful. Give us reviews, all that fantastic stuff. It helps us out immensely. So one of the topics we get a lot, and I mean a lot, is how do I shape, how do I control, how do I approach my career path? Now how do I get promoted? What’s the end game? What are the steps in between, you know, for those who’ve gone before us and had had success maybe you’re today a vice president, but once upon a time, you were lower on the pole, you were, you know, just doing your job, making your calls, sending those emails, reaching out and trying to close deals, qualify, set appointments, whatever it might be, where you’re at. How did you get from there to here? Get them a lot.

Darryl Praill: Even most recently, I was on a debate with my fellow VP of sales hereat VanillaSoft, his name is Scott Anderson. It was a fantastic debate. It was moderated by Chad Burmeister of ScaleX and the conversation was around who owns the SDR, the sales development rep team. Is it sales or is it marketing? And we kind of floated it out there on social media, on LinkedIn before the show took place to drive, you know, people to listen, to register, but also to drive the conversation. And man, were we blown away with the conversation and and the opinions, but more than anything, what we saw over and over and over again was concerns that if we had the SDR team and the marketing, that would affect the SDR’s career progression. Today ultimately, you want to be an account executive, a business development rep or whatever that might be. And so career progression was number one and that was the catalyst. That was the inspiration for today.

Darryl Praill: So I thought to myself, who can I talk to who is really smart in this topic, and, if you haven’t met him, I’m going to introduce you to him now. My guest today, Kevin Mulrane. He’s the VP of global mid-market sales. He’s with a firm called Global Web Index. They’re kind of cool. They do a lot of consumer insights and research and their big game is around understanding how people are using digital. In fact, I believe one of the claims to fame is they have the largest survey of digital consumers to just track this various information. Kevin’s kind of a cool cat. He’s got, we’ll say ballpark, 15 people on the sales organization that he works with on a daily basis across multiple geographies and locations and this topic, it’s something he has a lot of opinion on, a lot of expertise and experience on. And we’re going to grill him today and you’re going to walk away with stuff you can do. So with that all said, Kevin, welcome to the show, my friend.

Kevin Mulrane: This is awesome, Darryl. Thank you so much for having me. I’m pumped.

Darryl Praill: How’s that for a buildup? Did I make you sound, you know, special and important and all that wonderful stuff.

Kevin Mulrane: A little, a little special, a little important, a little, a little nervous as well, so I’m hoping I can give you, you know that long pause at some point in this, but no, really, really excited to be a part of this.

Darryl Praill: Now if you don’t know Kevin or this is the first time meeting him, he is on Twitter at Kevin Mulrane, M U L R A N E . And I think you can handle Kevin. You gotta love that. Kevin Mulrane. So follow him while you’re listening. So Kevin, let’s talk about the path to promotion. Right now you’re a VP of the Global Mid-Market Sales, which is, hey, I mean you’re there man. You’re in the senior ranks. Where did your career in sales start? At what point? What level of the hierarchy did you come in as?

Kevin Mulrane: Yeah, so it was an entry level sales role, selling print advertising. So it was a B2B publication and I was pretty much calling on any type of HR advertiser that would answer the phone essentially. Definitely a very, you know, traditional sort of a concept, a lot of heavy phone work, a lot of calls, a lot of volume, in an environment where you couldn’t really hide, you know, you had to show up, you had to put the work in and you know, in terms of performance, you had to find a way to win. So I really look at it almost as my bootcamp of sales really, really went to the trenches, learned a lot of amazing things. But that’s, that’s what sort of gave me the foundation to build off of.

Darryl Praill: Print advertising, for those who haven’t done it because I know it’s changed a little bit. That was a killer, killer, I don’t mean killer in a good way me and killer in a bad way. That was a killer job because man, did you make a lot of calls and man, did you get a lot of rejection. Am I accurate when I say that, Kevin?

Kevin Mulrane: Yeah, dealing with no was a daily, hourly occurrence. It was a lot of volume, you know, it was definitely, it was definitely in a period where you saw print advertising declining and declining and obviously things like digital things like conferences, events, there was a lot of other mediums where those dollars were going. So not only was the dedication and work ethic had to be there, but really in terms of your technical selling ability, your skills, you had to be on top of your game at all times to have one call.

Kevin Mulrane: What we all, of course you’re going to make mistakes and make, you know, mess up on calls, but your margin for error was very, very slim.

Darryl Praill: So can I ask, how long ago that was? Would it be rude to ask? I don’t need age. Let’s work backwards. How many years ago was that job that you were that person to the field?

Kevin Mulrane: Yeah, that’s a good question. No, that’s going back a 12, 13 years ago.

Darryl Praill: So that gives you context. So that’s good. So, 12, 13 years later, he’s in the senior ranks, which actually in all seriousness, that’s really well done. And you know, it takes a while to get there. And guys and gals, you know, sometimes, I’ll be candid with you, sometimes it’s a little bit of luck, a little bit of opportunity. But often it’s, you got to set yourself up for position.

Darryl Praill: I’ve got two kids, Kevin, they’re, they’re 22 and 24 right now and they’re out of school and now they’re finally adulting on their own and starting their careers and neither one of them are in sales, but the concept of a shaping the career path and what do they have to do, it’s interesting to watch. My 22 year old desperately looking for that job and just wants to start. My 24 year old working for a couple of years already and didn’t get it right away. It was just like, it was so much excitement. Like, hey, I’m working, I’m doing something. I got a job in my field. Now it’s two years later and now he’s going, “Okay, what do I need to do? How’s my social media, Dad? And he helped my social media. Okay, how’s my, you know, how familiar, you know, my certain skills like, you know, I need to diversify my skills, I mean how’s my network?” And these are things that are blown me away. These, even having these conversations on these, that he is even thinking about it because, Lord knows, I’ve been hammering on his head, you know, for years, but he’s finally getting there.

Darryl Praill: So let’s talk a little bit about, from your point of view and the big picture. If I’m thinking about, you know, my path to promotion and it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the C suite or a VP, just maybe that next gig. What are some … Let’s talk about some of the basics that you need to be thinking about, be Intentional about to position yourself to progress. Where would you start?

Kevin Mulrane: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think, you know, for me personally, and this is a topic I’m really passionate about and I think I am having these discussions quite often within my role, but, for me personally, I had a pretty clear idea fairly early on that I wanted to get into more of a sales leadership, sales coaching type of a role versus being that individual contributor. I didn’t exactly know what it looked like. I did not have VP of Global Mid-Market Sales, you know, written down on a piece of paper that I was aspiring for every single day. But I knew that was a general path I want to go down. So for me it was let’s plant a flag out there and let’s find the ways and let’s figure out exactly what is it that I need to do to get there. And so that was able, at least for me to make sure that whether it was what I was doing on a day to day or my jumps along the way, I was being fairly tactical in the sense that it’s a linear path. It makes sense in terms of what my longterm goal is.

Kevin Mulrane: A lot of the conversations that I’m having, for instance, are with either junior salespeople or even on sales development reps where they want that path to promotion for an account executive, you know, and I think especially for sales development, an entry level sales, it’s super important to really take a look at, the, the KPI’s, the metrics, literally what is it that I need to do every single day that’s going to drive success for me, right? Whether it’s the number of calls that I need to make, the amount of leads you need to identify, demos to qualify, emails sent, whatever it is, but really look at the hard facts of what is it that I need to do every day to do this and to achieve this. And it’s about preparation, planning, and setting yourself up for success to do that day in and day out. But until you understand exactly what it’s going to take from a KPI, more of a hard metric perspective, it’s going to be really tough for you to get there.

Moving to the next level is about preparation, planning, and setting yourself up for success to do that day in and day out. 📝 ~ @KevinMulrane #SalesSuccess Click To Tweet

Darryl Praill: So is this something that your boss gives you, you know, you’re the SDR or are you saying, Yo, Yo, Yo boss, please tell me what are the KPI’s I need to do? Or is this something that you’re taking the initiative? So I’m making this up right now. If the boss says. “Yo, Billy, you need to make 40 calls a day, 40 calls to brand new prospects.” And we’re willing to talk about emails or social or the answer’s 40 calls a day. Do you say, my KPI’s now forty. Or do you say, okay, I understand I have to do 40, but my personal KPI because I want to stand out from the crowd or I want to get, you know, I want to develop my skills faster and the only I can do that as through experience, so my personal KPI is 50 calls a day. Like you so you understand I’m asking? You know, how much of these metrics are influenced and dictated to you by the firm you work at versus you impose upon yourself?

Kevin Mulrane: The ultimate goal there is the goals that you impose upon yourself. However, you need a good leader, you need your firm, you need someone to set a benchmark because if you come in and you set your own benchmark with not understanding what it’s relative to, you might, you don’t know if you’re falling short or you’re overachieving or if you’re right where you need to be, right? So if your benchmarks are say 40, 50 calls per day, you know, a poor performing salespeople don’t get promoted. That’s just the way it works. So in order for you to get the recognition, the identify that you have, the ability to execute in the skill sets that needs to get that promotion, you’re going to need to be a person that’s 120, 130 percent of their number month in and month out consistently.

Kevin Mulrane: So if the firm or your leader comes up to you and says, “Listen, our benchmarks and what we’re looking for is 50 calls per day, we want you to convert MQL so qualified ops at seven percent and we’re looking for, you know, 10 qualified demos every single month.” Well, you know, to an extent, you want to try and create your own formula for success. So if you can really look at how many dials it’s taking you to get a meeting, how many of those meetings are converted to qualified ops, you can start to really figure out day in and day out, what is it that I need to do from an activity perspective to hit 120 percent of my number, to hit 130 percent of my number. So you don’t want to come in and just be the status quo. You need to identify ways to rise above it and that formula for each individual person is going to be fairly unique. It’s not going to be, well that top performer over there is making 60 calls. So I need to make 60 calls. You really need to figure it out for yourself.

Darryl Praill: Alright, so we’re going to just take a quick break here. When I come back, I’m going to ask you, what are the exact KPI’s, and I know it’s not a one size fits all, but what are some of the KPI examples you can give to our audience that they should, if they don’t currently, they should be tracking whether that be performance, personal, whatever. So stay tuned. We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back. Don’t go [inaudible 00:13:56] guys.

Darryl Praill: All right, we’re back. And that was a fun commercial. All right, let’s talk about, the KPI’s. What are some of the KPI’s? Again, repeat these are not necessarily universal, but you know, these are somewhat generic that we should all be looking at to track for ourselves.

Kevin Mulrane: So I think in terms of KPI’s, one of the most important metrics or the most, more of the more meaningful metrics for me is really going to be looking at conversions. And obviously, conversion is a very general topic, but really identifying what are the most conversions for whatever the role is at your end. So if you are within a sales development role, you know the conversion can be MQL to qualified opportunity conversion, right? What is the benchmark that, you know, is sort of put it into place within our revenue model as a business? Well, if it’s say seven percent, which is an industry standard, you can say, I want to be at nine, I want to be at 10 percent. It can be on the conversion side with an account executive, you know, one out of three opportunities closing, you’re at a great closing percentage. However, what is it that you can do to identify, I need to get this to 40 percent? So conversions to me is a really true measure of execution but quality work. What you tend to see sometimes within sales development is that, it is a role that you can just power through with a lot of grit, with a lot of tenacity. You can just, you can make so many calls. You can make a ton of dials, a ton of emails, and you can get to your number. However, if your conversions are below whatever the benchmark maybe, if you’re converting at three or four percent, but you’re getting to your number, to me there’s an inefficiency there.

Kevin Mulrane: So I think the hard KPI’s is really identifying a conversion number where you can overachieve and then again, working with leadership, working with the mentor, to identify, all right, well, what are the activity measures that I need to put in place in order to overachieve on those conversions?

Darryl Praill: So what I would do is to your point if you’re listening, of course. I would say, what are the things I need to do? I need to track my calls, I need to check my outbound emails, I need to track my social touches, it may be it’s SMS, whatever it might be. And then to your point, how many conversions am I going to have from MQL to an SQL. I’d go one step deeper. I’d also say I would do that per activity because I know when I talked to a lot of the people that we have on the show, some of them are saying, you know, I figured out eventually I was really good at email, I was really good at phone and if I was really at phone, that means I wasn’t good at email and I need to get better at email.

Darryl Praill: So they would actually keep a log, a daily log and they will trend, you know, how many calls they made, how many emails they did, how many social touches they did, and they would trend which activity was converting more for them. So maybe again, this example, I was rocking the phone, I got him on a on a call, I could connect and I could sell. Therefore, I would use that as my own learning plan to improve myself on email or on social and make any changes that need to change so that I could actually show that I was putting the time in and taking responsibility for my own self improvement. Does that sound fair to you?

Kevin Mulrane: Yeah, no, that’s actually … it’s interesting you say because it’s a topic that we, you know, I often talk to my team about. One of the beautiful things about the day we live in today is that there’s so many channels to reach prospects. You have your social touches, you have your calls, you have your emails, even direct mail is still a thing that people are doing and some finding a ton of value within it. So you never want to cut off an channel completely. You know, there’s obviously tons of content. Cold calling is dead. Cold calling is still alive. You know, like which one is it? And I think that you never want to really cut off any channel or a way to get in front of a prospect, but being able to your point, track exactly where you’re finding the success, where those conversions lie and then lean into it more. Double down. If you’re getting a lot of great response over social channels where LinkedIn in mails, or you’re cold calling game is really strong, you need to lean into that to get the results you’re looking for.

Darryl Praill: All right. so we know if you are doing those metrics, those KPI’s, you are taking ownership of them and using them to track and trend and using them to influence where you’re weak so that you can intentionally do your own learning plan to improve and then doing almost an AB test everyday. Maybe we can email, so I want to try this format versus that format, see which format works better for me. That’s all good. That’s gonna help you hit your numbers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get promoted. That just means you’re a good SDR. And big part of the promotion part as well though is, you know, what kind of behavior, what kind of personality, kind of character do you have? In other words, you know, are you the kind of person we want to invest in and promote and continue to bring along. So what do I need to do, Kevin, on that aspect to, you know, to make sure I’m best suited for promotion on the behavior of the personality, the character side.

Kevin Mulrane: Yeah, I think that is a great question, and a really interesting topic because a lot of the time you can have a great SDR, however they may not be ready to make that jump into an account executive role. A lot of SDR’s I talk with are very eager to get into that AE role because they think it’s easier potentially. There’s not as many dials every single day, like the hard work that SDR’s put in every single day, I think they want to try and get away from it. So it’s really important. I like to have SDR’s start shadowing the account executives and not from necessarily from afar because I think there’s a lot of watching, listening and learning that happens very organically. But I think what’s really important for SDR to really walk in the shoes of an account executive, and with that account executive, really identify what are the differences in the actual skill sets. What are the differences in the behaviors? Because they are two very, very different roles. And just because you’re a great SDR. doesn’t actually mean you’re going to become an amazing AE. Some do and some of the best AEs I’ve ever managed, coached, anything, came from a really good SDR foundation.

A lot of #SDRs I talk with are very eager to get into that AE role because they think it's easier potentially. 🤔 ~ @KevinMulrane #SalesSuccess Click To Tweet

Kevin Mulrane: So it is a very organic career path and I think there’s a lot of value in that promotion path, but understanding what it takes, understanding why do you want to make this jump? Is it because you just hate the existing job because that’s not the right reason, but really taking a look at yes, I think this is a really good stepping stone for me, a role I can really sink my teeth into and depending on the sales process, what you’re selling the market, you’re selling into, really start understanding those different factors and say and have an honest conversation with yourself and even with your manager, with other senior members of the organization to say like, “Hey, do I have what it takes? And if so, let’s talk about a plan.” What else I need to work on, what we can do to get there. And if you don’t it’s the same thing. Understand, all right, well where’s my opportunity to improve?

Darryl Praill: You’re so nailing it. I mean, the biggest question I talked to when I talked to my reps, is I ask the question is, you know, where do you want to be in five years? Where do you want to be in three years? Where you want to be in one year? Because, A, that helps me understand if they got a plan. B, that helps me understand what I need to do to coach and mentor them. And but second question is when they say, “Well, I want to be an account executive.” I always followed up with why, because I want to know is are they treating this as a career or did they just think that’s the next logical step? I don’t know why you want to go there. I just know it’s the next step, you know? Or is it because it’s more money? And sometimes the answer of it’s just more money. Okay, that’s your motivation. That’s great as long as you do the job and you hit your numbers and hey, you’ve got to have a reason for doing this job every single day because it’s going to be days when it’s bad.

Darryl Praill: So if you don’t know your motivation for taking that next career step and what that role is that you want, then chances are you’re not going to get it. And often the best way to figure that out, it’s exactly what you said, is to do the ride along, right? In other words, I’m going to follow someone who’s there, I’m going to ask them to mentor me, be my buddy. I’m going to ask them all those hard questions. I’m going to think about what they said, and then I’m going to get my head around my motivation. So when someone asked me, they’re going to say, hey, George, loved the numbers you’re hitting. Your conversions are great. You’re making, you’re blowing away everybody else. We’re thinking about you for the next move. Why should we give you this job? It’s like, boom, this is the answer. You know why.

Kevin Mulrane: Yeah. And I love it, especially too, when you start to hear answers around, I love helping people, right? And again, I think really, you know, you’re going to get the standard, it’s the next step. It’s more money. It’s not SDR, but I think you’re the best salespeople that I’ve really had the pleasure and honor of working alongside and in working with. Or those that are just really passionate about people, about solutions and about whatever problem your product is potentially trying to solve. So you know, those I just want to get a little bit more entrenched in that aspect of it, is typically a really good sign for me to say like, yeah, they have really thought about this and it’s not just moving on from SDR or from a junior AE or whatever the role may be. They’ve really had a lot of thought into this and they’re passionate about it and that to me is a great sign to see.

Darryl Praill: So we talked briefly about behavior, personality. One of the things I’ll float here, another SPI, you could track, you know, some of the softer things. How many times did your peers come to you, have an email, you know, face to face and say, what would you do here? How did you tackle this? How would you approach this challenge? Track that. Because if they’re not coming to you often then they’re not viewing you as a leader or that are not viewing you as having that talent, which means maybe you need to work more on your social skills or more in your expertise. So that happens. Again, it’s character or it’s not just an individual who can close deals. I want to promote character and integrity in my team as well.

Darryl Praill: All right, let’s bring this all home. We’ve talked about all the different KPI’s, the soft skills around behavior, personality, talked about creating, you know, intentionally tracking your own plan, seeing the trends and then do an AB tests, where you can improve in areas where you’re weak. So you continually are growing and investing in your own growth. Finally, I guess, and what I loved about your point was, you know, understand why you want that next position, what it means to you, what’s your motivation? Because that makes it all clear to you. Finally, I guess if I’ve now been given that chance, the carrot’s been dangled, you can take the next job. What do I need to be thinking about so that I’m successful and this process can start all over again.

Kevin Mulrane: Yeah. I think it goes back to really prioritization and narrowing down the key objectives, because again, what it took to be successful in the previous role is not necessarily what’s going to make you successful in the next role. So truly understanding, again, starting from scratch as you mentioned, what are the KPI’s, what are the goals, what is a definition of success for me. When it’s an STR, it’s typically a qualified op. It’s a demo, it’s an appointment. When you’re an AE, at the end of the day, it’s closed business. And so really starting to reshape and restructure your game plan, right? What are you, what is it you need to do to come into every single day to hit certain objectives that are directly defining your success? Because as an AE, there’s a lot more moving parts, there’s a lot more going on and it’s really easy to feel like you’re working hard but not working on things that are driving to that definition of success. So define the success metric. Have a plan to hit it and the same exact thing, keep optimizing and learning throughout.

What it took to be successful in a previous role is not necessarily what's going to make you successful in your next role. 😕 ~ @KevinMulrane Click To Tweet

Darryl Praill: So the final thing I would say is this is not something you do all on your own. You’ve got a boss, you’ve got trusted colleagues and mentors. Do the career planning with them as well. Go to your boss and say, just so I understand, you know, what’s the next logical step? How often somebody normally in this position, what has to occur before you consider them for that next step, you know, in other words, the communication back and forth will convey that you want to progress, you’ll have clear understanding of their expectations and then you can work backwards on your own personal plan to make sure you meet or exceed them based on what they expect and based on the timelines they expect. So that’s how you take control of your own path to promotion. Kevin, I’ve really enjoyed today. Thank you so much for your time and your expertise.

Kevin Mulrane: Absolutely, no, this has been great. Thank you so much for having me. And, again, really excited to connect and keep chatting with you about this stuff. It’s always good.

Darryl Praill: All right, so if you’re looking for career progression, I just heard Kevin volunteer to be your personal mentor. You can reach out to him at Kevin Mulrane on Twitter or go to LinkedIn, Kevin Mulrane, just like it sounds. It’s nice and easy. In the meantime, if this show, this episode helped you, it will help others. So spread the good news. Share this on social so others can hear about developing their own path for promotion and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we do this show every single week.

Darryl Praill: Thank you so much, Kevin. I wish you much success. In the meantime, folks that’s it for another episode of Inside Inside Sales. We’ll talk to you soon.