“You can be a CRO and be a mom. I'm proud of it.”
The most important aspect of sales is listening to the customer, says Miriam Mark, CRO at Compete.
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How do you find yourself in a position where you're spending meaningful time at such incredible companies in hyper-growth stages?
When I was in college, I interned at shopping.com, and afterwards, they hired me full time to be a sales associate. On my first day, I got on a call with a watch company in Florida. I closed the deal on the first call, and I was bitten by the sales bug. It was the most euphoric feeling to close a sales deal. That was it for me.
I did that for about a year and a half. The next thing I know, I'm on a plane moving to Los Angeles with tears in my eyes. I loved selling, but my heart was in Israel and my family is in Israel, and I really wanted to do something that would make it easy to go to Israel all the time. So I became a teacher, actually. I taught middle school girls, Judaic studies. I actually was pretty good at it. I connected with the kids, and I enjoyed the curriculum.
About five years in, I looked at myself and said, "What are you doing? This is not your passion." When you're not doing it as a passion, you're cheating the kids. So I left and went back into sales. I remembered my true passion was really in sales and business.
What is sales to you?
That's a question that I ask every single person I interview for any sales job. There's one word I look for in that answer: "listening." It's listening to your customer. To me, that's what sales is. If you don't listen to their needs with active listening, you can't sell them anything.
What are some things that you've learned about either enterprise sales or growing sales organizations that young entrepreneurs can learn from?
I think some people find a mentor, and that person just takes them along and helps them figure it out. That was not my story. For me, I had a lot of grit. I would kind of figure myself out in an organization. At Farmigo, there was a pivot in the company, and I showed that I could build a sales team. When WeWork came up and I had the opportunity to move, then I showed myself I'm talented at sales and I hit milestones along the way. For me, the milestones came because I put the stakes in the ground. I did things. I think a lot of it is just doing and making waves yourself and not relying on other people.
How do you even know what milestones to set and where to aim yourself so that you're both satisfied but also not upset that you didn't necessarily reach those uncompromising milestones?
I think you have to aim high. So you set the milestone, and you aim higher than where you want to land. That doesn't mean I wasn't disappointed if I didn't get to what I aimed for, but at least I landed someplace that I could be proud of.
What is the fun moment beyond just closing the sale, especially in building a sales organization?
I love building high functioning sales organizations. I love hiring people. I love mentoring people. I love watching people get to the next level. I love helping people reach their goals.
I love building infrastructure. If you don't put infrastructure in place, everything falls apart. I love doing that. I'm at Compete now, and I'm having the best time just putting everything in place. I love working with great people. I want to go to work every day where I work with amazing people. It's actually why I chose Compete.
As young entrepreneurs are transitioning to build a sales function within our organizations, what are some things we’re oblivious to or maybe taking for granted?
Hire a great sales leader. Don't think that you can sell your product yourself because you can't do everything if you're the CEO. You need to put a team in place. Also, everyone's a salesperson in the organization. Everyone should always be selling. Everyone should always be thinking about the customer.
Before we started recording, you mentioned the personal journey that is accompanying the professional one. Tell me a little bit about yourself as a mother running these organizations.
I'm a mom. I have four children. My oldest son has special needs. It's a big part of what defines me. I have always been 100% comfortable talking about my family. I think it's really important to be who you are, be human, and not to hide your personal life. I think when you are honest about who you are, people embrace it and embrace you and understand you.
I used to travel for WeWork all the time. That was the reality of our life in those days. We picked up and moved our family to New York for two years for an opportunity at WeWork. That was Mommy's job. I think it's important for kids to see that Mommy works and that's okay too.
I have encouraged women to understand that it's not about work-life balance. Sometimes I'm the greatest mom and sometimes I'm the greatest boss. Sometimes I'm the worst at everything, and I've learned to forgive myself in those moments. You can't be great at everything. I don't know who decided we should be. I think that it's really important to be okay with who you are. You can be a CRO at a company and be a mom and that's fine. I'm proud of it.
What are the consequences, positive consequences, of being that authentic, of being that open?
There have been quite a few at my kids’ school. People used to say, "Do you even live here?"
At work, I got passed over many, many times. I've been underpaid as opposed to my male peers. I sat in a room many, many times while we interviewed for a VP of sales role. And every time a female came up, they said, "Oh, does she have children? Will she be able to travel?"
There have been positives. I created the maternity leave policy for women in sales at WeWork. I've counseled so many women on what it is to be a working woman. Now, I get to work with Amit. It's the first time I've had a female boss and worked with a female entrepreneur, and it's incredible.
Miriam, what does the chief revenue officer do? What is your responsibility now within this rocket ship that is Compete?
Today I'm building a sales and marketing organization. That means I'm building all the infrastructure for sales: the metrics, commission plans, hiring. I'm trying to figure out what our goals should be. I'm trying to figure out how we get from one round to the next round. That's just this week. I'm hiring. I have a lot of open roles.
What is the type of person that you're looking to work for and with?
What I'm looking for on my team is active listeners. I look for people who can relate to customers. I look for people who are authentic. I look for people who are able to understand their weaknesses. This is a really big deal for me. I ask: Do you understand your strengths and weaknesses? Do you know how to play to your strengths, and not to your weaknesses?
Michael Matias, Forbes 30 Under 30, is the author of Age is Only an Int: Lessons I Learned as a Young Entrepreneur. He studies Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University, is a Venture Partner at J-Ventures and was an engineer at Hippo Insurance. Matias previously served as an officer in the 8200 unit. 20MinuteLeaders is a tech entrepreneurship interview series featuring one-on-one interviews with fascinating founders, innovators and thought leaders sharing their journeys and experiences.
Contributing editors: Michael Matias, Megan Ryan