Take note: there’s a powerhouse sales readiness organization in our midst. Maybe you’ve seen their bright green letters emblazoned on their building in San Mateo – Apttus. The fast-growing, dominant quote-to-cash company is growing their sales force at a pace matched only by other skyrocketing startups like Zenefits, Optimizely, and New Relic. But the really interesting story is how they’re getting their “troops” battle ready. It’s their intense and extremely robust Sales Academy, led by Becky Elenez and Cassandra Owens.
Once on board, new Business Development Reps endure an 8-week sales boot camp. Upon learning this, my first reaction was, “How can anyone possibly sit through 8 weeks of training without going insane??!?!?”… But then they invited me in to see their operation and meet their newest batch of BDR graduates. I haven’t seen behind the curtain to see the actual training content, but something has these guys and gals fired up. The culture at Apttus can only be described as infectious. After spending about 2 hours with their BDR team, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen such universal alignment, camaraderie, and focus in a single sales organization. It’s almost militaristic in nature, or perhaps like a fraternal organization (think business fraternity, not beer guzzling fraternity).
The genesis of Apttus’ Sales Academy comes from CEO, Kirk Krappe’s vision to eschew traditional training and hiring methods, i.e. hire sales rock stars and train them on how and what your company sells. Krappe and his team instead said, “Let’s get a bunch of young, eager, and bright people and bring them into an environment of learning and development.” In choosing this route, Apttus has effectively created a sales factory where the input is a constant stream of ambitious, energetic individuals—many of whom had no sales background at all, or came right out of college, or came from a different industry—and the output is a fast-growing team of proficient sales athletes.
I needed to learn more about where this company is going, so they let me talk to several BDRs, BDR managers, sales support, VPs, and even their CEO. The short story is that they have set out to be the top player in their industry. They plan to do this by staying true to their core values and hiring raw talent (many right out of college) and shaping them into members of a precision sales machine. So far it’s working. They have already raised a $37M Series A… Yes, I said Series A.
Here are some of the other things I witnessed:
Everyone I spoke with said they felt fully equipped and confident to do their job with a high degree of skill. For this they credit the importance that the leadership team puts on education. Several lamented that in previous jobs they were often left to “figure it out” and ended up leaving because they were not set up for success. Thinking back to when I graduated college, I had tons of energy and ambition and I was HUNGRY, but I was also nervous about whether or not I’d be any good at sales. This is true for most new-grads in the job market, but unfortunately many of them will get jobs with big, well-known companies who employ the “figure it out yourself” on-boarding method. What a waste of talent! Not so at Apttus.
I also encountered a young man, Maurice Francois Lapuyade in the sales bullpen who had just been promoted to BDR manager after 4 months on the job. As we talked, his team worked the phones with the fervor one would display when scooping water out of a leaky boat. I learned that there are numerous other career paths for a high-performing BDR as well: BDR team lead, BDR manager; Account Exec; Sales Engineering; Product Management; Value Consulting; Partner Alliances; and supporting the Academy Program itself as a trainer.
Finally, the training facility is beyond state-of-the-art. Case in point: http://imgur.com/a/beMiS. Yeah, that’s a touchscreen display where Apttus BDRs practice client presentations. It’s also used for live executive client presentations
Apttus is hiring on a regular basis and always looking for top talent. If you’re looking to break into sales, or if you’re already in sales but you’re looking for a change, you can check them out here: http://apttus.com/company/careers/
For a little more context, I asked them a few more questions about the environment surrounding the Academy. If you’re developing sales training for your company, you may be interested in this short supplementary interview:
Bennett: Can you tell me the detailed layout/agenda of your 8-week program?
Apttus: Our high level weekly focus areas are Apttus product, Leveraging Resources, Solutions & Sales, Objectives, and other situational training sessions, paired with extensive repetition to ensure it’s being digested properly.
Bennett: How was it decided to do 8 weeks?
Apttus: The decision was made by executive management. Our CEO, Kirk Krappe acknowledges the importance of training to ensure company and employee success. When we began to gather curriculum and key information, we realized that eight weeks was indeed optimal.
Bennett: Now that you’ve delivered the academy a couple times, how are you guys refining/improving it?
Apttus: We have feedback meetings with key managers and new employees after they are in their new job roles. Based on the findings, we revise, revamp and include suggested curriculum topics on a continual basis. Apttus is a growing company, and we often have new products or updates to existing ones, which can impact training drastically.
Bennett: After completing the training, how long is it before a new hire is totally ramped up?
Apttus: We provide ongoing training to all new hires. In our opinion, an employee is never totally ramped up. They continue to gain new skillsets. Our expectation is immediate and quantifiable results. For example, the second group of Sales Academy participants were on the phones with customers immediately following Dreamforce 2014. The impact on our business was tremendous.
Bennett: If someone is struggling after completing the training, how do you get them back on track?
Apttus: We provide a mentoring program along with continuous training. If a person is struggling, we address during our 1:1’s and provide re-training if needed.