Wednesday Sep 08, 2021
EP98: Is Venture Capital for You?
How did you get started in sales? And what led you to the position you now hold and the company you are currently involved with? Shane Mahi, Founder and CEO of SalesDRIIVN, and Gerry Hill, EMEA Regional Vice President of ConnectAndSell, are asked these very questions by our Market Dominance Guy Chris Beall in today’s podcast. Surprisingly, a common answer emerges to the first question: both guests, as well as our host, took their first step into the sales world by selling products door to door — and doing so successfully. Our guests describe the steps that subsequently led them to where they are today, and this leads to a discussion with Chris about funding new companies and the temptation and possible pitfalls of taking venture money to facilitate growth. Follow their conversation in this first of three meetings of the minds on today’s Market Dominance Guys’ episode, “Is Venture Capital for You?”
About Our Guests
Shane Mahi is Founder and CEO of SalesDRIIVN, a service provided by some of the sharpest minds in sales, generating quality meetings for its customers.
Gerry Hill holds the position of Regional Vice President/EMEA of ConnectAndSell, a Silicon Valley-based sales acceleration company, which provides technology that gets salespeople 10x more live conversations with decision makers.
The full transcript from this episode is here:
Chris Beall (01:29):
Okay, everybody. This is another episode of Market Dominance Guys, and this one is special. So we've had no guests. We did that for, I don't know, 50, 60, 70 episodes, because remember those of you who don't know, we're just trying to get material for a book on market dominance. By the way, the book still hasn't come out. But I am here with Shane Mahi and Gerry Hill all the way from the UK. So we recorded a bunch with no guests. Then we had a bunch of guests and finally, we had woken up to the possibility that there really is business, including sales, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. I think it's amazing that we discovered this. So I feel like, my name is Chris. So I feel like Christopher Columbus going the other way and finding out that, in fact, not only is there sales, there's a level of sales innovation going on in the UK right now that I've thought we should tap into.
Chris Beall (02:24):
So Gerry and Shane, welcome to the show.
Shane Mahi (02:30):
Thank you so much for having me.
Chris Beall (02:32):
And by the way, this is the first time we've ever had two guests at once. So I anticipate this is going to be a total cluster with regard to who talks when. So I'm going to try to be a good host and ask questions when at a time or whatever. But first I'd like to start with beauty and youth. So we'll go with Shane. And Shane, could you tell us how you got to here? You're running this company called Sales Driivn. We just observed you guys, your team knocking it out of several parks. I think in some games it would've been a six and others it would've been a walk-off home run. I don't know what it would've been in fencing, but somebody would've died. ConnectAndSell yesterday. But how did you get here to where we're hanging out on this podcast together?
Shane Mahi (03:12):
I think, I think you're being quite modest, Chris, but I got here from... There's plenty of good conversations with you around growing our business, and yesterday was a definitely an eye-opener, even for our team. We got a chance to trial the weapon. But trialing the weapon, selling the weapon, which is definitely something new for us. And we're able to achieve some incredible results based on our activity yesterday. And lo and behold, had a good conversation after. We are now partnering with you guys, and I am now featuring as a guest on the podcast. So, just really excited to be here and share our story.
Chris Beall (03:51):
Fantastic. Fantastic. And did you grow up in sales or did you intend to be something more productive?
Shane Mahi (03:57):
My dad told me one time, if you go to law school, if you go to Harvard Law School, I will get you any Porsche 911 that you want. That wasn't enough to get there. Clearly, because I did not get to that law school. But I was horrible, absolutely terrible at school. I was always a disciplinary issue in high school, middle school, college, didn't really take a liking to books. And when I got out of college and realized that I had not achieved anything in my life, I decided to sell Cutco Knives. So I don't know... In America that's a whole thing. Cutco knives, going door to door, family relatives, trying to sell knife sets for $1,500. Came to find out that I was pretty good at selling knives to parents and my friend's parents. So that obviously went into a whole rabbit hole of more selling.
Shane Mahi (04:54):
I ended up taking my Series 7 license, my Series 66 license to become a financial advisor, ended up getting into a different environment or walk of life and that cut that path right in half. And then long story short, I fell into sales, into event sales, then demand generation sales, corporate sales, and then oil and gas demand generation sales. And after a while of just thinking I I'm not working for a ship company, I decided to figure out a way to do things faster, better make people's lives easier. And that's when we created Sales Driivn.
Chris Beall (05:31):
Fantastic. Love the story. I didn't get into Harvard Law School either and I didn't try either. So, we have that in common. It's fantastic. Gerry, how about you? Here you are Gerry, by the way, runs AMEA for ConnectAndSell. He also secretly runs our most significant partnerships. He has many skills in these areas and advises me on all manner of things and corrects me on some. Here he is on Market Dominance Guys, probably the pinnacle of your career now, Gerry, I'm sure, as being on the show. But how did you get into this? You're you're a guy who's been known to do some other things. You're not the smallest person in the world or the least athletic. You've been known to play a little sport here and there. But how did you end up here overall? And specifically.
Gerry Hill (06:15):
I was looking to solve a problem and I Googled some stuff and ConnectAndSell came up as a thing that could potentially solve a problem for me. And I'm not sure if you'll ever remember this, Chris, but you took the lead exchange. You personally called me up from your cell phone on a Saturday afternoon and it about 1:00 PM in the UK. I think you were probably still in either Nevada or Colorado at the time. And we probably sat down and spoke for about 45 minutes.
Gerry Hill (06:44):
I was on my way out the door to play golf. I didn't play golf that day. Instead you and me had a pretty dynamic conversation about what was wrong with funding and startups, the VC code system being fundamentally broken. We talked about go to market being this flawed fabled complex exercise when it could be something really simple. And at the end of the call, you said to me, "Hey Gerry, you should do a test drive." And I'm like, "What's a test drive?" And he's like, "Oh, don't worry about what the test drive is. I'll get you over in front of my man, James Townsend, and you'll do a test drive." Like that's how I ended up here specifically.
Gerry Hill (07:17):
How did I end up in perfectional selling. Same story as everyone else. Probably the smartest kid in the room meant I was absolutely terrible in a formal academic environment, messed around at college, played a lot of rugby for dollars, had a massive ego and then suddenly wasn't playing rugby anymore and needed to make a living. And the only way I could make a living was at an 18,000 pound a year recruitment shop called Robert Half where I absolutely rocked it for 18 months, but realized the recruitment model was broken and transitioned into management, consultancy advisory research, and then into software.
Chris Beall (07:56):
Wow. Okay. So you didn't sell door to door. No knives for you.
Gerry Hill (08:00):
My first ever sales job was whilst I was still in high school. I was in my last year of secondary school, high school for the American audience for translation, and I was selling kitchens and I would work there two nights to the week after school being a demo guy for the kitchens. And then I'd be doing surveys and sizing and pricing kitchens and closing 30,000-pound deals with moms on Saturday afternoons when I was 17 years old.
Chris Beall (08:32):
So you did door to door also. It's kind of a funny theme on Market Dominance Guys, almost everybody that is on the show sold door to door at some point relatively early in their career, some more intentionally than others. I was probably the least intentional. I was trying to fund paying for a little gap in American healthcare called American Healthcare. And my first wife had had a miscarriage and I needed to make some money in a hurry. And the next day I found myself selling Fuller Brush door to door and that turned into... It didn't turn into a sales career, but it turned into a revelation, which was "Wow, you could do this in a really simple way that works." And that's not how most people are doing it. And then I kind of put that away. But it's interesting.
Chris Beall (09:23):
So I want to go to revelations here, not in a biblical sense, but in an eye-opening sense. Shane, I'm going to ask you this. There has to be a point in the process of learning all this stuff where you said to yourself, and maybe not, you can tell me if this didn't happen, where you said, "Wait a second, nobody knows what they're doing in sales. It's not like they think. It's simpler than that." Did that happen to you?
Shane Mahi (09:51):
Absolutely. And it was as simple as a Salesforce automation. So I was working at a very outdated intelligence agency, but mostly run on corporate hospitality and events. And it was literally a Mitel Phone, manual Salesforce. They didn't even want to fund LinkedIn, no technology whatsoever. And I came across few books and Google searches on how to make sales faster. And one of those things was just sequencing, just sequencing. And I found out through the Salesforce admin, yeah, you guys have the enterprise license, you can do that. So I started to that with my Salesforce admin. We started... And I started getting out tons of emails to people, started getting actual responses and I didn't have to do the work because this was at the time of the pandemic. And after I asked to roll it out across the team, the sales director said no.
Shane Mahi (10:56):
And that for me, it was just like, what can you do? You cannot be this stupid. And then more and more things. I started to learn and understand like, okay, this happened. You can do this multi-threading stuff. You can do this. You could do this. You got, you got systems that call for you. And he was just like, "We're not going to get the investment." So I closed this huge deal with Leica Microsystems, took that commission, and started my own company and said, I'm going to do it myself.
Chris Beall (11:23):
Alright. I love it. So you didn't just have the revelation, you had the revelation leading to you opening the door to action.
Shane Mahi (11:31):
Exactly. Had to. I'm an executor.
Chris Beall (11:34):
Well, didn't it scare the living daylights out of you to go out on your own? You got to little pocket full of commission check, but as you do the math, and I'm sure you can do the math, you realize them things dwindle like crazy over time when you're out executing. It's like watching a bathtub draining, except somebody punched a big hole in the bottom of it. Was it scary or was it just fun?
Shane Mahi (11:55):
I did a lot of personal development in the year of 2019 and 2020. And my life coach, she spoke to me and said, "What is the reason you're holding onto this job?" And I said, "Security." And the whole security came around a monthly paycheck that came with commissions. And she said, "Well, look at it. You are going paycheck to paycheck, anyway. You are waiting for your commissions, what they're holding from you anyway. So what security do you really have?" And that was an eye-opener for me. And I just thought, you know what, you're actually right. And do I hold onto these commission checks that are coming in or do I take a leap of faith and own my space, own my belief systems that I can do it. I know I can go make money and just go for it.
Shane Mahi (12:41):
What is the worst that could happen? My wife had just literally moved from Morocco. We were about to move into a new place, new things happening in my life. I asked my wife, I said, "Hey look, do you think I should do this?" She said, "Follow your dreams." And that was enough for me, my partner and myself, just going headfirst into it and saying, what's the worst that could happen? You fail. And you try again. So for me, there was no fear. I've been through too many things in my life to hold back growth for a little bit of something that could present a bit fear in my life. No, that wasn't an issue for me.
Chris Beall (13:54):
How about you, Gerry? You, you must have had a revelation at some point. You have a pretty iconoclastic view of sales and business, right? I do remember that first conversation actually.
Gerry Hill (14:09):
It's just an imbalance in the world. And I dislike the imbalance. It doesn't feel right for me. Like everyone else took the blue pill and I've taken the red pill. And I feel like I see the world in a very different context. And the context is that the model is broken. Now, I'm all for job creation, I'm all for the economy, I'm all for B2B. I'm an ardent capitalist. But the reality is we're now living in an automation first world, and those automations are becoming more sophisticated.
Gerry Hill (14:34):
All I really want from my talker-listers in the world, I want them to be doing their job. I don't want them to be admin junkies, I want them to be admin monkeys. The reason we allow that behavior to happen is because the way that companies are funded today, they no longer produce goods, products, inventory. You can't get rid of that inventory through a selling motion anymore. It's all esoteric. It's software. It's code. There's no real value attached to the manufacturing of those products anymore.
Gerry Hill (15:05):
But you take investment money, you need to be seen to put that money to work, and that money needs to go to work in two ways: The perception that we're a big company and the perception that we're a big company in two forms, real estate and headcount. And what do you get every time you hire somebody new? You get less profit per employee, because the value of that employee's contribution to the top line of your company diminishes because there's less of the pie to go around.
Gerry Hill (15:32):
So what the founders, what the company owners, what the people that create innovation and try to take it to market end up doing, they end up going into debt and don't realize the potential value of their own businesses because they take money from charlatans who wear [inaudible 00:15:47] and spend their life in spreadsheets who aren't executioners, who don't understand what it's like to build, run, bootstrap from scratch. So that is the imbalance in the world is this reappropriation of venture capital as another asset class staffed by investment bankers, treat companies like bets, not the vehicles for value creation, for founders, owners, original shareholders that they got the potential to be. And what do we see in the world of professional selling today? We don't see any professional selling anymore as a result.
Chris Beall (16:25):
That's fascinating. I'm listening to you and thinking back to the latest edition of Nathan Latka's magazine, and he has a physical magazine. It's a great way to consume the lists that he creates. Actually, I think you can't beat paper for consuming a list quickly with your eyes. I don't know why, by the way this is so, but it's sitting over here on a coffee table nearby. But this is the headcount issue. And it's kind of funny because Latka is very big into bootstrapping.
Chris Beall (16:55):
And even though there's a legitimate element to growth. We grew. We're bootstrapping and we grow when you add some people, but it was who grew the most in terms of headcount. And I was reading it and going, man, I always resonate with this Latka stuff, but I'm not resonating with this growth of headcount as a measure of, I kept up with the VC-funded businesses. To me, if I wanted to see how many people I could hire, if that was my goal, I don't know what I'd do. I guess I'd just make it really fun and attractive to somebody with a bunch of money so that we could hire a bunch of people and lose their money. But that sounds like the standard VC model to me.
Chris Beall (17:36):
So did you ever... Were you ever like on board, Gerry, with the VC model? And then I'm going to ask you Shane. Shane, did you ever get tempted by the VC model? Cause I know you could raise money, unlike me. Nobody would fund me. I mean, guys from Google actually told me you're so old, you could never be funded.
Gerry Hill (17:55):
I think part of my disillusionment was when I worked at Frost and Sullivan in the advisory space, a huge number of our clients were private equity and [inaudible 00:18:03] a bit jaded by the fact that they were just fueling these big beasts, these big corporate beasts with more and more debt. And then when you go down another level, VC is essentially the same. It's the same thing. You're taking other people's money, fueling companies with debt and not necessarily realizing the benefit of that debt or, turning that be debt to value in any way, shape or form. And then I started advising companies on go-to-market strategies and helping them prepare the go-to-market components of pitch steps.
Gerry Hill (18:30):
And I was going into about four or five VC pitch meetings a month. And I was just universally underwhelmed by virtually every single professional investor I met because they actually didn't care about the go-to-market stuff. Spent cycles prepping it. Spent cycles going through it. But unless you could talk about one number, your TAM and massive TAMs at that. They were the only things that they're ever interested in, even when they claim to be niche and differentiated. And then you actually get to the underpinnings of a term sheet and you realize what a racket it is.
Gerry Hill (19:05):
Gangsterism. They're still going to take their two and twenty out of the fund which means that the capital that you get left with is 80, 78% of the total realized value of the investment that gets made. After that 78% has been tranched based on performance milestones, which you may or may not realize, how much capital do you actually end up with over a four-year investment from that fund or that cohort of funds. One-fourth of the total number.
Gerry Hill (19:34):
And how can you put that capital to work, especially if you've got a technical deficit or you've got some fiscal issues inside the business that exists today. So by the time you've paid down that debt with the debt that you just took, your business is failing anyway. The only way you can get through that is to sell yourself out of it. And I think the biggest sort of tension that I found was speaking to CEOs going what's better, slower growth, bootstrap to profitability on a really robust sales process that's designed on [inaudible 00:20:02] rate improved with market dominance at the core, or take this money. And nine times out of ten, none of them could think more than the vanity metric of taking the investment round so that they could be featured at tech crunch. And I just got massively jaded that something's gone wrong in business.
Gerry Hill (20:17):
The business that my dad used to talk to me about as an ex IBM executive from the seventies and the eighties from Xerox that used to sell things and make profit and grow shareholder value the right way versus anything .io. It just doesn't make sense to me. And one of the reasons why I'm so emboldened by the mission at ConnectAndSell is to help companies realize the potential value of their businesses, whether they're funded or non-funded by giving them the tools to cookbooks and the playbooks to become market dominant. That's the mission.
Chris Beall (20:52):
It's funny that you refer to it as debt, because most people think when they take equity financing, it's not a form of debt and you have nailed it. It is-
Gerry Hill (21:01):
What else is it?
Chris Beall (21:02):
What else is it? Exactly. We give you money. You owe us. It just turns out that what you us is hard to figure out. Back when we were venture-funded, our corporate documents were that thick. And I was at one point tasked with understanding every word in those documents in order to be able to execute on some plays that were needed to essentially save the company from the VCs. And they needed to be executed very, very quickly. And unlike you, Shane, I did take to books and I can read documents like that and keep all that shit in my head and do okay with it.
Chris Beall (21:39):
But it struck me as I got deeper and deeper into it. I asked myself this question. In those documents, how many of the words were there to protect the VCs and how many of the words were there to protect the company? And how many of the words were there that had anything to do with growing the company? So the latter category was easy. Zero. None of the words were there to help grow the company. And I counted them up on a number of pages and you know how I am Gerry, I'll do this kind of stupid stuff. And I literally counted word by word, by word for a few pages at random in different spots and asked what were the words for? And 97% of all the words were to protect the venture capitalists against downside risk.
Chris Beall (22:26):
That was it. And I realized, these are salvage shops. That's what they are. They're salvage shops. And so to build something that looks like that boat behind me, but the chances of it floating are only about 3 or 4%. And so we got to make sure that we can kind of quickly get the steel and the plastic and the glass and the bones of the dead bodies that we can grind up for fertilizer and anything else we can find and sell it on and do it as quickly as possible. Because we only have so much time to focus on building another picture of a pretty boat. It's quite a while. No, Shane, I don't know if you obviously have... You haven't been subjected to as much of this as Gerry.
Shane Mahi (23:08):
No, I haven't. I'm thinking what the fu... I [crosstalk 00:23:08] wanted to get this. I don't want to touch it now.
Gerry Hill (23:15):
Pirates in chalets mate. That's all they are pirates-
Chris Beall (23:18):
Well, maybe the whole purpose of today's episode was to save you from a big mistake.
Shane Mahi (23:22):
Well, I think it already it is because I'm sure, I'm sure I'm certain that there are so many people out there that in the midst of what's happened since 2020, I know it's just a repeated topic that goes over and over again, but I truly believe that the world was going to change after March 2020. And I'm sure there's so many people that want to go get invested because when we were starting the company or in the midst of growth with our company, I was just thinking, I want more money. I want more money to grow. I want to grow faster. I want to grow faster. I want to grow faster than somebody told me. Look, calm down. You need to organically grow your business the right way. And it's... I'm guilty of it. All I saw was green. There could be dollars that more, that account balance more zeros on the account.
Shane Mahi (24:11):
I can hire more people. I can buy more cool technology. I can invest in more things and even having my colleagues or people in my network say, "No, you've got it all wrong. You don't understand. Investment is there to help. If you grow, they're not there to screw you." And then you hear the flip side of things. So being educated from people who actually have been in that environment like yourself, Gerry, or even you, Chris, who's actually read through documents, it's a massive eye-opener. And I think there’s a company stage two capital macro version, a whole bunch of leaders that are running that. And their whole thing too, is don't fall into the trap, do it the right way, right? Learn from other people's mistakes. And without even a section like this, I genuinely could have fallen into a huge mistake. I've taken a whole boatload of money and losing entire control of my company, losing control of the direction and the vision that we have, and potentially sinking the business. And that's just being naive.
Gerry Hill (25:13):
[crosstalk 00:25:13] I'm not being negative around why investment can be useful. Taking investment can be a good thing. But it has to be the right investor. I think the other difference, generally speaking, is most people don't understand how their valuations are calculated inside their own businesses. So if you are not in control of the valuion and what you believe your valuation to be, then how do you actually execute? Well, you've got to take third-party advice. Third-party advice isn't free. So the process of even giving yourself a gearing for valuation is tough. What's the easy thing to do though by comparison is do what you're really good at as a business. Pick up the phone, have conversations with as many people in your market as possible, down to the finest sweet spot, where you can leverage and market dominate that sweet spot as much as possible, refine your messaging, acquire enough customers in a short enough amount of time that you can then cross the chasm and go into that next market.
Gerry Hill (26:08):
Now you investment rate, because you've actually got tangible things on your balance sheet that you can talk to people about. And what do we see in the world? We see seed funds that are raising series A amount of money. We see series A that are raising series B. We're seeing pretty poor products raised to $115 million in capital on billion-dollar valuation. And the big trick that the world is being played at the moment is that there's so much access to free capital at the moment. This concept that I heard the other day from my mortgage broker, I just got approved on a mortgage, which is absolutely ridiculous. .99% fixed for five years. Why? Cash is trashed. So the amount of liquidity available to venture capitalists right now to go out and fund other people's businesses and prop, them up for another five years of not getting any further forward in their actual purpose, which is to acquire customers and serve customers. It's something that we are all going to be paying for in 20 years’ time.
or in 20 years’ time.
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