DSMN8 Team: Introducing Roel van de Ven – Enterprise Sales

Regardless how innovative the idea, or how widespread the problem that it solves, any start-up must sell their solution to the masses: communicating why, exactly, a market must embrace and adopt a product.

While the start-up world turns at a head-spinning pace, and traditional thinking has long argued for a stripped to the core, lean approach for the start-up team – without the right sales talent, even the most ground-breaking products would falter.

As others around us in the software industry continue to advocate services teams as nothing more than a cost – to be replaced instead with third-parties, we know that strong customer communication and on-the-ground insight can only come from the right sales talent – for which, we’ve found Roel van de Ven, our new Enterprise Sales Executive.

Introducing – Roel van de Ven – Enterprise Sales Executive

From taking his first steps into the corporate world as an office assistant at an Attorneys’ Firm, Roel has taken increasingly larger leaps – moving onwards from Junior Business Developer at G4S, onto Henkel, a world leader in adhesive technologies, beauty care and home care, grossing 18 billion a year.

Roel’s initial internship would transition into positions on steadily higher levels – Regional Marketing Assistant, to Regional Product Management and finally securing Regional Pricing Manager, all in the space of 3 short years.

This heady rise into the upper echelons of a global leader’s business team demonstrates an impressive business acumen, yet Roel’s career history has been far from all work and no play. Following a stint as a Wealth Manager, he would go on to become co-owner in a wakeboarding business in Dubai – quite the stark contrast to the straight laced and serious world of financial services. The tenacity to be just as effective for high-net-worth individuals seeking financial advice, as adrenaline junkies looking for a speed thrill, is not to be underestimated (and truth be told, as an avid wakeboarder for over a decade, this is also a real labour of love).

As DSMN8 prepares for growth, it is in Roel’s direction, communication and insight that we’ll secure interest, clients and, ultimately, long-term sustainability.

Q&A 

What did you do before joining DSMN8? 

I ran my own water sports company called Wake Evolution, based in Dubai, which is still going strong. Prior to that I was part of the Regional Marketing team at Henkel – spearheading campaigns and growth in India, the Middle East and Africa (IMEA).

Describe your role in 5 words

Develop and maximize growth opportunities.

Who or what inspires you?

There are many great people in the world who I’m inspired by, but I would say my top 3 would be: Tony Robbins, Will Smith and Richard Branson. Each of whom have taken on industries, questioned the status quo and achieved progression by breaking with convention. They also know what true leadership looks like, Branson puts this best:

“A company is people … employees want to know… am I being listened to or am I a cog in the wheel? People really need to feel wanted.”

Why did you choose to work at DSMN8? 

For the challenge, potential and opportunities – challenge comes in many forms when positioned in the fast-paced start-up world, whereas potential can only be realised when ground-breaking opportunities are fully understood and strategically exploited. Around me are a team of leaders who have track-records for success – alongside them, we’ll be hitting the ground running at a speed that start-ups demand.

How does your role fit into the rest of the DSMN8 Team? 

I bring the business to the table – but this begins with a robust understanding of the product features and the ways in which I can bridge the divide between the end user, and our development team. In this way, I’m the cog that makes refinement of features and UX possible. This link is critical to developing a product that users need, and that users love to use.

What are the main challenges for Enterprise Sales at a Startup organisation? 

Starting from ground zero is fraught with many challenges – from an enterprise sales perspective, the most imposing is getting your name out there in front of big brands, over and above your more established rivals.

We’ve achieved this with vigorous research on what customers want from an advocacy platform – this has ensured we’re developing the right features and user experience. Of equal crucial importance, is our robust sales funnel, and our CRM that helps us talk about the right things, to the right people.

What sales tech do you use to make your life easier in identifying leads and booking pitches?

We use HubSpot which is an awesome tool for prospect and pipeline management. Besides that, we use old school tools: LinkedIn, cold calling and networking. Perhaps the most vital form of networking are trade shows, which place us face-to-face with industry leaders. We’ve met some fantastic brands at CES, NAMM and most recently IPSO.

How do you spend your time out of the office? 

I’m a wakeboarding addict, when not in the office, you’ll likely find me in the water at Wake Evolution or at the cable at Al Forsan.

Rockstar UFC employee Conor McGregor

How To Handle Rockstar Employees

Conor McGregor, the mixed martial artist, has almost single-handedly moved the UFC into the mainstream. For three years the young fighter from Dublin has dazzled crowds with his wit, fighting skills and a striking ability to predict what will happen in the octagon. He has been the biggest star of UFC, but in recent months the relationship has not been a harmonious one. McGregor has struggled under the notoriously tight control of the UFC. The latest stand-off between the two saw McGregor refusing to attend a scheduled press conference and promotional event. The UFC responded by removing McGregor from UFC 200, and for a while McGregor claimed to have retired. While McGregor has withdrawn his threatened retirement, the situation appears far from over. What is clear is that this is a case of egos getting bruised. McGregor is the rockstar of the UFC. He is the one crowds pay to see, and he has started to think that he is bigger than the UFC. This rockstar syndrome isn’t unique to sport. It frequently occurs in companies as well. Rockstar employees can bring in bring fantastic results, but if you don’t handle them right. They can be a nightmare to manage.

OK, firstly I know what it is like being on both sides of the table. I have been the rockstar employee giving my company a hard time, and I have managed rockstars who have given me a hard time. The problem with rockstars is they typically work really hard. Rockstar employees like McGregor can be tempted to think “Why am I the only person who works this hard?”. That’s not all, they usually create huge results for the company. In Conor McGregor’s mind he goes above and beyond the call of duty to promote fights. He does talk shows, radio, TV; he creates buzz on social media and his unique character is a huge draw for the fans. So when the pendulum swings the other way he expects more grace than others, and not every company will do that.

When a rockstar is making huge revenue for your business, everyone is happy, but this can quickly go wrong. If a company is too heavily reliant on one person to deliver results, the company is only as strong as that individual. So if the rockstar disengages and leaves the company, it can greatly reduce the value of your business, or even put the whole business at risk.
The company is always bigger than the egos that work there. This includes the board members, and even the CEO. When clients choose to work with a company it’s not just the rockstar they deal with. They interact with many parts of the business that are equally as important as the initial sale. So when McGregor says that he has made $400m for the UFC, he is ignoring the symbiotic relationship they both have. He can’t afford to forget that there had to be a UFC for him to gain the fame that he has.

Rockstar employees like Conor McGregor can be great for your business, but they are not bigger than your business. As a manager you should want every employee to reach the same performance level as the rockstar, but still to act as part of your team. For that to happen you must create an environment where every employee can perform at their best, feels appreciated, and makes a valuable contribution. You must inspire your employees and give them the tools they need to succeed.

 

Rockstars take risks

Part of being a rockstar is a refusal to play it safe. Rockstars have big egos, they like to push the limits of possibility and aren’t afraid to take risks. They don’t follow best practices, they create best practice. All the time they are getting results that’s great, but what happens when a rockstar employee fails? Failure is a normal part of life. Every employee gets it wrong sometimes, but when it’s a rockstar employee that slips up they will probably get it wrong in a big way. As their manager you have got to allow that to happen, and make sure that your company is not so dependent on one individual that their failure brings down the company. No-one likes failure, but if your employees are too afraid to take risks then your company is never going to be at the forefront of innovation.

If you want to manage rockstars then you have to deal with their egos. You must put in the effort to keep them focused and engaged with your business, so you can reap the rewards without letting them lose sight of the bigger picture. Here are three key ways you can keep your rockstar employees engaged, and working for the benefit of the whole company.

1. Continual Learning

No-one likes repeating the same tasks over and over. The ability to grow, learn more, and develop new skills is essential for employee motivation yet sadly many managers miss this point. More than 90% of employees learn more when they discover solutions themselves, but on 25% of executives believe that employees learn independently. Find ways to make sure they are constantly challenged. If your rockstar isn’t being challenged they are likely to disengage and look for the challenges they need elsewhere.

One of the biggest turn-offs for rockstar employees are managers who dictate the answers to problems, rather than helping employees to discover the solution for themselves. Any attempt to micro-manage a rockstar is likely to end in disaster, this is what sparked McGregor’s rebellion against the UFC promotional machine. The entire standoff could have been avoided if Dana White had presented McGregor with a choice, or even just the perception of choice. Pushing a rockstar into a corner so that they feel pressured to act in a certain way rarely goes well.

2. Strong Communication

Take time for one-on-one meetings with your rockstar employees. Provide regular feedback on their activities, and be specific. Rockstar employees need to know what they are doing well, and where their performance could be improved. Provide them with enough information so that their positive performance can be replicated, and the negative aspects of their performance improved. It’s important that they understand how their task fits into the wider company context. They may be a great employee, but they are not the whole company. They are part of a wider team, and for a company to be successful everyone needs to understand their role, and work together to achieve success. None of us know what may have been said in private, but what played out in public clearly demonstrated that McGregor and the UFC don’t view their respective positions the same way. McGregor understands that he is a huge draw on any fight card, but he also needs to recognise that without the UFC he wouldn’t be the huge draw that he is. He is popular because he is a part of the UFC machine, not independently of it.

3. Praise (Publicly)

When your rockstar does good work don’t be afraid to commend them publicly. Many managers make the mistake of assuming that rewards should be primarily financial. No employee is going to reject a financial reward but for most rockstars that’s not the motivation that drives them. They want to achieve. They want to make a difference, and by publicly recognising their efforts you are more likely to retain them in your company. Both Dana White and the UFC have publicly recognised McGregor’s talent and appeal, but he clearly feels this doesn’t goes far enough. He is refusing back down, and continues to test his position. The UFC will need to find a compromise solution if they want to move forward.
Finally, you have to work on your own performance. Leading an organisation with one or more rockstars isn’t easy. If you want an easy life look for a company with mediocre employees that is prepared to tread-water forever. Rockstar employees encourage those around them to constantly improve their own performance level. That includes their managers. Learning to manage rockstars effectively should keep you at the top of your game, and ready for anything.