Sramana: Selling the first few instances of a new product is vastly different than building a sales organization that the market has validated and accepted. Could you talk about what is unique about the early sales process? You don’t have reference accounts, you are selling a new concept. What have you learned over the years?
Chris Cabrera: There are things that a sales person needs to do. When you are making the very first sales, those things are incredibly amplified. We always talk and train on the sales side that you need to have relationship selling. You need to be the trusted advisor into the company. When you are selling that first customer it is more important than ever. People believe you and trust you.
I always told me reps that if you don’t believe then how is the customer going to believe. There is a certain level of passion and evangelism that comes naturally to me because I believe in this space. Being credible and becoming an advisor happens because that confidence is visible. You are able to paint a picture for somebody that they can envision this future state of happiness. To a large extent that is what we do today. In the early days you really have to be on point.
Sramana: Depending on the product you are selling it is often better for the founders to sell the first 10 deals.
Chris Cabrera: I agree. It is really hard to start a small company with no revenues. Selling comes naturally to the right founders. Most of the time it works that way.
Sramana: Founders who cannot do that initial selling are at an incredibly disadvantage because if you cannot sell your concept then who else is going to sell the concept?
Chris Cabrera: Your right. There are a bunch of super smart engineers who become CEOs and they have a lot of advantages that I don’t have. Coming from the sales and marketing background that is one of the big advantages that CEOs who have my background are able to do, we can get those first customers. Folks like me that do not have a technical background get a co-founder who has that technical background. That creates a one-two punch of credibility and passion.
Sramana: You founded Xactly with Satish Palvai. How did you two meet?
Chris Cabrera: We worked together at Callidus. He left to go start a different company a few months prior to my departure. When I decided I was going to do this I called him up and told him what my idea was. He told me that he liked my idea better so he scrapped what he was doing and we started Xactly.