The Qualified Sales Leader: A Must-Read Book for Product-Oriented Founders

There’s something in the Boston water that’s great for enterprise sales.

A decade ago the phenoms were the Murphy Brothers, the Flying Wallendas of enterprise sales, not two, three, four, or five — but six brothers (Tom, Frank, Dan, Jeff, Joe and Bob) all of whom ended up with big careers in enterprise sales.

Today’s phenom is John McMahon, widely recognized as the only person ever to have been the CRO at five public, enterprise software companies (PTC, Geo-Tel, Ariba, BladeLogic, and BMC).

Yes, you saw PTC in there.  Back in the day it was the Xerox sales mafia that commanded great respect in enterprise sales.  For the past two decades, it’s been the PTC mafia in that esteemed position.  Even A16z tapped into that mafia via operating partner Mark Cranney, who brought the PTC wisdom and magic to interested portfolio companies.

I’ve always felt the sales greats, the people who invent and build new methodologies, rarely come out of the always-clear market leaders like Salesforce or Oracle.  They come out of places like Xerox, PTC, and Knowledgeware.  (Remember, the subtitle of Solution Selling is “creating buyers in difficult selling markets.”)  Adversity, in the form of competitive markets or complex products, makes the sales methodology stronger.

People aside, PTC is famous in sales circles for being the birthplace of MEDDICC, what some would call a “sales methodology,” and others simply “an acronym,” and which is officially called a “sales qualification framework.”  The somewhat counter-intuitive acronym stands for Metrics, Economic buyer, Decision criteria, Decision process, Implicate pain, Champion, and Competition.

So this is where John McMahon, the author of The Qualified Sales Leader, comes from and in this post I’ll do a brief review of his book.  I’ll start with the conclusion:  this is a must-read book for the product-oriented founder of any enterprise software startup.  Better yet, you don’t even have to read the whole book.  The book is broken into a series of short chapters and I think every product-oriented founder should ideally read chapters 1 through 28 (about half the book) and at absolute bare minimum chapters 1 through 17.

Why do I say this?

  • It’s an easy read.  Like many business books these days, it teaches a lot through storytelling.
  • It paints a super clear picture.  My neck almost literally started to hurt from nodding so many times as I read parts I and II of the book.
  • It paints a bit that will be all too familiar to many startup founder/CEOs.  Thin pipeline.  Missing forecasts.  Slipping deals.  Grumpy salespeople.   Lack of standard vocabulary and process.
  • It explains what’s going on and how to fix it.  Frankly, I never read something that so clearly describes the world of many startups, explains what’s going and why it’s happening and then walks through a way to fix it.

If you’re in sales or sales management, then by all means, read the whole book.  To me, somewhere chapter 28 it flips from what I’d say it the high-level and conceptual to the heavily applied — e.g., how to find a champion, how to test a champion, etc.

I’m not in love with the forecasting strategy part of the book near the end — it felt a bit out of place — because I greatly prefer triangulation forecasts and probabilistic forecasting to anything else I’ve tried.

But overall this is a great book, for the sales practitioner, the sales manager and, for my purposes and more importantly, for the product-oriented founder and general startup executive who wants a ringside seat to understand what typically goes wrong in an enterprise sales organization and how to fix it.


One response to “The Qualified Sales Leader: A Must-Read Book for Product-Oriented Founders

  1. I was acquired into BMC In 2010 shortly after the BladeLogic acquisition. I met John in the Waltham office. He was already a legend. I got a private lesson in MEDDIC. It forever changed the way I think about applying rigor to the sales process. I met Dev Ittycheria and Vance Loiselle, both Blade execs and legends, shortly thereafter. The cumulative wealth generated and, more important, lives impacted, by those three can’t be measured. The PTC diaspora deserves all the praise typically heaped on The PayPal Mafia. Dave, thanks for the book review. John, thanks for being generous with your time. You cast a wider shadow than you realize.

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