Daniel West is an extremely accomplished sales executive who has worked extensively with cybersecurity organizations ActZero, Inc. and IntelliGO Networks, Inc., the latter of which was acquired by ActZero in early 2020.
ActZero is a Gartner recognized market leader in Managed Detection and Response Services (MDR), focusing on artificial intelligence and machine learning to solve challenges for SMB and midsize organizations across North America.
Across these companies, West has been the top account/sales executive in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. He has received the CEO Top Achiever Award, and was in fact the only nonexecutive to earn this award.
At ActZero, he built a Mid-Market strategy that resulted in $7.9 million of highly qualified pipeline in under 12 months. From 2017-2020, West closed approximately 60% of all clients at ActZero/IntelliGO.
West also closed the largest deal in company history, valued at $648K.
Additionally, West has grown the MM team from one person to nine and helped the SMB team go from one person to nineteen. As will be discussed later in the article, West is instrumental in the hiring process and is also heavily involved in mentoring salespeople and helping them reach new heights.
Artvoice reached out to Daniel West as he is one of few sales leaders in Canada who has been able to navigate the landscape with such speed and velocity. West has made his mark in defining what sales success looks like. What’s really impressive about West compared to other Sales Leaders is his ability to adapt quickly to the changing dynamics of the market, and how quickly his teams have grown. Most sales leaders take 5 years to do what Daniel has been able to do in 2021 alone.
West shared incredibly valuable insights with Artvoice regarding sales strategies, hiring, productivity, and mentorship, and we highly recommend that any sales professionals among our readership take a look.
Developing new sales processes
West has spearheaded numerous changes to sales processes and structures during his career, and some of the most important changes have focused on tailoring the sales approach to meet buyers where they are, not where the organization wants them to be.
“At any given point in the sales process, buyers have a certain set of questions they are looking to answer. Taking what I had learned from other sales processes, I used that as a starting point and expanded on it. This helped inform an understanding that we were selling a new product with new requirements while leveraging the first several buyers to guide the process.”
When interacting with early buyers, West was able to identify several consistent themes across target buyers and what they were looking to accomplish from a purchase.
This knowledge informed choices at multiple stages of the sales process, giving a more accurate idea of what kinds of documents, presentations, proposals, etc. would address the key questions that buyers want answered.
This process change shortened the SMB sales cycle from 180 days to 90, which helped increase revenue from 2020 to 2021 by 485%.
“When looking at the sales process, there are several key differences compared to what other companies use to push deals forward. We truly understand the buyer’s psychology, we understand what role the AE played at each stage, and we determine when and where to bring other people in the organization into the conversation.”
This process has created a mental model that allows for the sale of larger and more complex deals, and as stated earlier, the process is far more efficient in terms of timeline as well.
According to West, hiring salespeople is one of the hardest hires you can make. Professional salespeople are already skilled communicators, so one of the challenges of the hiring process is to determine whether a specific candidate can actually execute what they say they can.
For West, it’s important to find people who are top-tier players and understand the sales process and strategy on a deep level.
As the hiring process moves forward, it becomes even more important for candidates to prove their abilities.
“By the third interview, we want to see proof of what they say they can do. We ask them to do a presentation on the value proposition of our company. This isn’t a test of knowledge of MDR or cybersecurity, it’s to understand their research process, how coachable they are from previous
meetings, how they run sales calls, and whether they’re thinking about the right questions to ask.”
Using this approach, West and other high-level managers involved in the hiring process weed out unsuitable candidates. Roughly 10-15% make it to the third interview, and from there, West makes his decision to hire based on whether each candidate can execute, understand key concepts, learn quickly, and adapt to change over time.
Mentoring sales leaders
In addition to the rigorous hiring process of new salespeople, West also makes it a priority to coach and mentor members of the team to further ensure that everyone is delivering on their potential.
West told us that he speaks with sales leaders a minimum of three times a month. In this structure, each session focuses on a different set of topics and goals.
“One conversation is focused on their growth path: where they want to go, what areas they need support and coaching on, and what areas they want to leverage more as they coach the rest of the team.”
These aspects are especially important for team leaders, as they need to be very aware of both the direction of their own progress and the progress of the entire team. Without this kind of introspection, it might be easier to lose sight of big-picture goals and how well the entire team is progressing toward these goals.
The subsequent meetings cover important details regarding structural facets of operations, all of which are crucial for allowing the team to function as efficiently as possible.
“The second conversation is focused around optimizing the sales process while building the foundation of the rest of the team. And the third meeting is focused on how to better structure team communication, how to run better and more effective meetings, and how to build growth plans for individual contributors in order to improve and get better on a daily basis, while also moving towards their longer-term career goals.”
These latter conversations sit in stark contrast to more traditional sales environments where tried-and-true methodologies reign supreme and go unquestioned for (potentially) years at a time.
When a sales team fails to question the status quo and consider changes, it also fails to adapt to the very real changes of any given industry.
Further, West’s personalized meetings with specific sales leaders also communicate to those leaders how important they are to the process, which can strengthen a sense of trust.
Increasing sales productivity
Productivity is a key parameter in any workplace, but for sales environments in particular, productivity is extremely important. Not every activity will result in a sale.
For West and his team, improvement once again started with questioning the status quo. In this case, it was largely about looking at the activities team members were performing each day and subsequently finding ways to increase the pace of these activities.
“Previously, the process was very manual. We had to manually create prospects, dial numbers on our phones, send emails with one-off templates, and we had to log activity in our customer relationship management system. This wasn’t a productive use of our time, and we weren’t able to scale fast enough.”
When it came to drastically improving productivity, automation was a key factor. The team purchased automation solutions such as SalesLoft, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, ZoomInfo, and ConnectLeader (now Koncert), all of which reduced the time and effort to complete various outreach tasks.
These technologies led to enormous productivity increases, specifically in the area of contacting prospective clients.
The team was suddenly able to prospect thousands of contacts and bring them directly into SFDC (SalesForce Dot Com) on a weekly basis rather than doing this all manually. Dialers were able to complete five hundred calls in just two to three hours. Representatives increased their total daily activities to more than two hundred per person, which is 4x more than the industry average.
Multiply these gains across a large sales team and the value is clear. Each team member can do far more on any given day, which generates more leads and brings more prospective buyers into the sales pipeline.
For any organization, challenges come in many different forms, and an ill-prepared organization may not be able to confront these challenges well.
The results of this type of scenario can be disastrous. Either the problem is largely ignored until it reaches a crucial state or the team focuses too much of its energy and resources on solving the problem, and meanwhile, normal processes are slowed or come to a complete halt.
West feels that major challenges often come from an organization not truly understanding and misaligning its priorities with its objectives and key results.
In this situation, the first priority of the leader is to re-align priorities so that they will achieve the larger, overall company objectives.
When it comes to actively solving a problem or crisis, West tries to make it clear to his team that the best course of action is to focus on the most high-impact initiatives.
These are steps that have a strong effect while not requiring an outsized amount of time or effort from team members.
West shared an analogy for this approach:
“When you’re building a company, you’re juggling both glass and rubber balls. It’s important to keep the right balls in the air. You can drop the rubber balls, but you can’t drop the glass ones. Understanding which is the key to success in any role.”
While West acknowledged that close percentages can depend heavily on industry specifics, he did offer some more general advice for how to increase close percentages in sales environments.
“It starts with truly understanding the buyer. Creating an ideal customer profile makes it easier to precisely target prospective customers. The second major step is to redefine the sales process in its earlier stages with qualification questions that fit the buyer.”
Knowing the buyer also means knowing how to answer specific questions during various conversations and being sure that your organization can give them what they want when they want it.
Overall, West’s leadership has emphasized finding better ways of doing things while not losing sight of core goals. Processes improve, salespeople improve, and as a natural result of these improvements, revenue increases.