In this episode of Sales Therapy, Alper and Javier reunite after their time together in Rotterdam School of Management 20 years ago to talk about their mutual interest: Sales!
Javier Ortega Estrada Is an experienced B2B sales exec, who is currently the CRO of Veriff, the scale-up with over $100 million in investments.
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Javier shares insights into his early life, upbringing, and academic journey, emphasizing his curiosity and active nature. Raised in Madrid, he initially aspired to be an army officer, following a family tradition dating back to his great-grandparents. However, his father wisely redirected him toward economics, recognizing Javier's mismatch with military life.
The conversation delves into pivotal moments in Javier's career, such as his transition from consulting to tech and sales. Despite rejections from other tech giants like Google, Javier's persistence and background as an entrepreneur opened the door to Dropbox. The defining moment came when he decided to embrace the unknown and relocate to a different country.
The interview touches on Javier's entrepreneurial stint, where he co-founded a platform for creative professionals. Despite the venture's ultimate failure, Javier highlights the invaluable lessons learned from the experience.
The conversation addresses the stereotypes around sales roles, contrasting the perception of sales as a less prestigious career with the reality of it being a consulting-like role, requiring strategic thinking and relationship-building. Javier emphasizes the need for a long-term perspective in sales, encouraging professionals to prioritize customer success and avoid short-sighted optimization for quarterly results.
As the discussion shifts to leadership, Javier highlights the crucial shift in mindset from individual contributor to manager, stressing that a manager's success is intricately linked to the success of their team.
“The biggest change when you become a manager is realizing that your success is not yours and that you are only as successful as your team. And I think that this is what a lot of sellers that go into management get wrong. Sellers are very used to the thrill, to the recognition, to being the one on the screen with a big win and in the dashboard, the number one. Once you become a manager, you become invisible and you need to be fine with it.”
The conversation delves into Javier's experiences at Hopin during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. They explore the dynamics of managing rapid growth, lessons learned about scaling, hiring, and adapting to market shifts. Javier shares his hiring philosophy, prioritizing traits such as curiosity, resilience, and a growth mindset.
He reflects on the significance of aligning the right people with the appropriate stages of a company, citing past experiences where mismatches between talent and company stage led to challenges.
“I think it's very important to understand what is the stage of your company and what is the profile of the person that you are hiring. I think that bringing someone that is used to very big support organizations into a series A company could be very challenging. In the same way, bringing someone that has only worked in a series A company to a publicly traded company can be too big of a jump, especially if they don't have that growth mindset that we talked about before. So I think that my biggest mistakes have not been about the people, it's been about bringing potentially the right people to the wrong stage.”
The discussion concludes with insights into Javier's current role, where he is involved in building and scaling global go-to-market teams and infrastructure. His emphasis on hiring, adapting to different company stages, and fostering a growth mindset provides valuable perspectives for professionals navigating their own career journeys.
Javier discusses the challenges faced by revenue professionals, particularly in dealing with longer sales cycles and prospecting saturation. He emphasizes the importance of personalization in the sales process, highlighting the age-old truth that people buy from people. Javier delves into the need for early and thorough qualification, creating urgency, and aligning with the buyer's return on investment expectations to navigate complex deal cycles successfully.
“Making a very solid discovery early on leads to shortened sales cycles, leads to less ghosting or inactivity in accounts, and just more of an understanding of what's going on. That it's eventually what fails in 80% of the deals. Like you as a seller don't have perfect information. And that's a problem. If you have perfect information, your forecast will always be perfect.”
Additionally, Alper Yurder and Javier touch upon the innovative approaches to address these challenges, focusing on buyer enablement, digital sales rooms, and mutual action plans. Javier expresses interest in these solutions, recognizing the need for a more seamless and collaborative way to create closing plans and mutual action strategies.
The conversation underscores the shift towards a buyer-centric approach in sales, understanding and adapting to the dynamics of the buyer's journey for more effective engagement.
“In sales organizations, everyone talks about the selling cycle. I think we need to talk about the buying cycle of your customers more and understand how they function.”
Alper asks Javier about the future of the sales profession and where he sees hope for salespeople. Javier expresses excitement about the potential role of AI in managing repetitive and administrative tasks in sales, freeing up human sellers to focus on meaningful interactions. He anticipates that mundane tasks like updating CRMs and forecasting will be automated, allowing sales professionals to engage more with people.
Despite the challenges faced in 2023, Javier remains optimistic, stating that there is hope, and he envisions improved results and attainment becoming the norm in the coming years
A good product.
Understanding your ICP very well. Narrowing your focus.
I think the unsung heroes of most go-to-market organizations are revenue operations. And I think that without good revenue operations teams, you cannot scale, you cannot track, you cannot correct, and you cannot grow.
Alper Yurder: So today, this will be a long intro bear with me guys in the therapy chair, we have Javier Estrada, Javi, who is an old friend of mine and he's a highly sought-after B2B sales exec, who is currently the CRO of Veriff, the scale-up we all know with over $100 million in investment and the preferred ID verification service provider worldwide how he's an ex-consultant, a revenue leader, and a fellow alumni of mine from Rotterdam School of Management. Despite his still very young age, I would say, he has been running from success to success, having grown the online event platform from six to a hundred million dollars in revenue, and he wore multiple revenue leadership headsets, Dropbox in Europe and the US, all the while keeping all of his hair on top of his head, which I notice is very nice and shiny. So we'll talk about how he didn't lose it in all these, you know, years. We'll talk about his success, the joy in the pain and the journey. Welcome to Sales Therapy, Javi. That was a mouthful, but how are you feeling today?
Javier Ortega: Thank you, Alper. Thank you very much for the introduction. I'm feeling great. I'm very energized to be here with you for two reasons. One, because you're an old friend of mine, but two also because I'm a big fan of your podcast and therapy in general. So happy to be here.
Alper Yurder: Ah, wonderful. How wonderful to hear. You were supposed to be one of my first five guests to see my worst rookie days, but in two months, I feel like I've become a pro, I'm kidding. But I'm so glad to have you here, and it's gonna be a great chat. So, was that intro enough? Did I miss anything major? More than enough.
Javier Ortega: Thank you, looking forward to it. That was more than enough. I think you were too nice to me. I don't feel that young anymore. We're trying to keep ourselves a little bit.
Alper Yurder: Exactly. And you've been in the US for so long after moving to Europe, but currently you go back and forth between Madrid and Texas. Is that it?
Javier Ortega: Yeah, that's correct. I still call Austin home because I spend more than six months a year here. But I have a global team and I find it very, very positive to be able to be in the same time zone part of the year. So right now I'm splitting my time.
Alper Yurder: Excellent man, excellent. So from those very young fresh ages, what were we 21 20 whatever at Rotterdam? Where we met during our exchange times, you've kept it wild though for quite some time haven't you? Before now you settle and be the CRO the commercial leader that you are
Javier Ortega: Yeah, I definitely had fun when I was younger. I still try to have fun, different type of fun. But yeah, when we finished college, I went right into consulting and I did like seven years in consulting. And that was the beginning of my career.
Alper Yurder: Excellent. We'll go into all of that. And you had a little run at being a founder as well, if I'm not remembering wrong. Ah, yeah. We'll talk about that too.
Javier Ortega: I did, I did, I did. I mean, it was unfortunately not a success story, but it was a lot of learning.
Alper Yurder: Excellent. We'll talk about all of that. So any good therapy starts with childhood and growing up. I love understanding how the growing up experience shapes the people that we are today and our professional persona. So, can you tell us about the younger Javier a little bit? Maybe 12 to, you know, university?
Javier Ortega: Yeah, I've always been a pretty active guy and very, how will I say, naughty is not the word. Curious might be. No, I was always curious. I was a curious guy. I grew up doing a lot of sports competitively, I think.
Alper Yurder: Oh, I bet you were not, Javier. I bet you were not.
Javier Ortega: that my parents, even though they wanted me to do sports, they also kept me straight into my academic trajectory. And until I was 17 years old, I wanted to be an officer in the army, partially because of my upbringing. I come from a very long history of military officers in my family. And at some point, my dad told me that I would be very bad at it. He told me like, don't go into that, you are not.
Alper Yurder: Oh wow.
Javier Ortega: You will question everything and you're not mentally in the army. So do something else. And that's when I decided to go into economics.
Alper Yurder: Who started the army tradition in the family?
Javier Ortega: Yeah, great grandparents. He goes way back.
Alper Yurder: Wow. Do you have pictures of them from those years? Like with the costumes and stuff?
Javier Ortega: No, not with me. I mean, I'm sure my mom has a lot of pictures, but I don't carry them in my wallet.
Alper Yurder: Yeah. Okay, got you. All right. That's really cool. And then your dad kind of deviated you, deviated you from that route because it was too obedience or too much discipline. What is it?
Javier Ortega: I think he knew I wouldn't strive for that. I think a good parent knows the strengths and the weaknesses of their child. At the end of the day, they spend a lot of time with us growing up. And he knew that knowing that environment well, he knew that I wouldn't be fully fulfilled there. And he recommended me to seek other avenues. I'm not very grateful.
Alper Yurder: Okay. And in terms of their careers, were they also like execs or entrepreneurs or what were they?
Javier Ortega: No, so my dad is a general in the Spanish army and my mom is an interior designer. So very different, very different backgrounds. My mom is an interior designer, but I don't think she has worked since I was born. But yeah, no, I don't come from a family of tech people or entrepreneurs.
Alper Yurder: Oh, he was a general too? Okay. And you grew up in Madrid, is that it?
Javier Ortega: I grew up in Madrid, born and raised until I went to college. I went to college for my first three years of college in Madrid to Universidad Carlos de Cetero to do economics. And then we met after those three years. I went to Rotterdam and I spent over a year there. And then I came back to Madrid.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, Madrid is probably after Athens my favorite town in Europe. It is this wonderful air, which is dry and warm. No humidity in summer. I loved spending June in Madrid. Do you agree with any of that?
Javier Ortega: June is bearable. If you go in August, you might feel a little bit different about the humidity. But yeah, Madrid is lovely. That's what I still consider to be my home and it's a place where I want to go back at some point.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, I love Madrid. Yeah, I love all of Spain. So coming to the years of starting a career, you already alluded to that. You went back to Madrid. Can you tell us a little bit about how things evolved for you? Like consulting, founder, exec.
Javier Ortega: Yeah, I'll tell you the whole story. I'll tell you the whole story. So I went back to Madrid and I had no idea what I wanted to do during my last year of university. I was like, what am I gonna do? I don't know.
Alper Yurder: Tell me.
Javier Ortega: And then I thought, okay, you know, you go to this career first and you talk to banks and you talk to consulting firms. And in my mind, I'm doing economics and business. I thought, okay, either I go to banking or I go to consulting. That's the path that back in the day was expected for me to follow. And I was like, okay, banking seems to pay better. And that was a factor. But then I felt like I don't know what I want to do. I don't know.
things and I'm curious. So I went into consulting not because I wanted to be a consultant but because I wanted to learn about different industries and I wanted to be exposed to different types of projects and different bosses. So I went into PWC to do management consulting, very focused on process improvement as well as post-merger integrations and like yes like it was a time where we were in the middle of our recession, it's in the early 2000s and like a lot of companies were cutting costs and it was a time where for consultants there was a lot of gnarly work.
Alper Yurder: At the same time, I think we all were presented. It's so funny at the time we started our careers, the cool things were investment bankers and then strategy consultants. And I guess I wonder what it is now. You probably recruit a lot more than me, but I guess it's, you know, startups being an entrepreneur, that journey is still quite interesting.
Javier Ortega: Yeah! people want to follow your steps. They want to be founders. They want to have their own companies and that's what the top percentage of classmates are probably pursuing. I think tech changed the way people look at the workplace. And I do think that more traditional industries have had to catch up in these past few years to offer a similar work environment than the one that tech companies offer. I remember my first paycheck in TWC. I had a partner and he told me, Javi, with this paycheck, you need to spend it all in one suit and two shirts. And you need to expend all your money on that. You need a good suit and like whatever. Now for me, it's just like, I only wear a suit when I have to go to a wedding. Um, and a tie. I don't know. I don't even know if I would wear a tie. Uh, depends on the wedding, but yeah, uh, I think the world has changed. And in my opinion, for the better.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, no, I absolutely agree. And I think COVID played into that. And I think COVID has been quite influential in your career too. We'll talk about that too. But so before we get to that, I like to ask my guests a bit of career defining moments. The thing is a lot of our listeners, they look up to you, us, et cetera. The leaders that they admire, but obviously the career is full of lowlights and highlights. I'm wondering what were some of your career defining moments, some highlights as well as some lowlights where you said maybe I have to change or whatever.
Javier Ortega: So one of the most defining moments is when I decided to apply to Dropbox. Being in consulting, I was based in Spain, but all my projects were in South America. I think at the time, it was very easy to export talent from Europe to...Spanish-speaking Latin America, similarities in culture, language, as well as a little bit of the financial system. So for one year, I will never forget this, I spent 310 nights outside in a hotel room, like in a, and at that time I thought, why am I paying rent? It doesn't make any sense. Also, yeah, I also felt like I went into all these places and I compare consulting with going to the movies a little bit. You go to the movie, at the beginning it's slow, you don't know what's going on. And being a consultant, for me it means that when the movie's getting interesting and it's starting to, the plot starts to develop, they pull you out of the movie theater and they put you in the next room to watch a new movie. And I was like, ah! I want to see the end of the movie. I want to see if they get married or not. I want to see what happens here. So at the time I decided then to try to move into tech. After having had my own company for a year and a half that was not successful, but it was a great learning in the tech space, I was like, okay, I'm going to, I'm going to try to apply to Dropbox. It's a company that I know. And I use it when I'm in, I was in Columbia at the time when I'm in Columbia and my peers and my colleagues were in Madrid. We have changed files through Dropbox. It's a great company. I'm going to apply. I didn't know anyone there. I applied and I happened to get the job. I didn't even know what it was. I applied for a role that was sales and operations, very broad. And I think that that's probably the most defining moment in my career at the time. I decided to embrace the unknown and take a risk and go to what at the time was a small company. That was a serious big company. And I decided to move my life to a different country. Yeah, that would be one.
Alper Yurder: Yeah. That jump from consulting to the first job is always very, you know, defining for a lot of people. Also, it's good that they took you because a lot of people try to make that jump, especially to like cool, sexy startups, like Dropbox, and they just get rejected. Um, do you have any rejections by the way, in that period from other places?
Javier Ortega: so many reactions. I think probably Google. Yeah. I think Google rejected me like 20 times or something. Then they came. Yeah. A few years later, they came back and they were interested. But then I was not interested. Yeah. I tried to apply to Google, to Facebook, to all the big ones. Dropbox at the time was tiny. As I mentioned, it was a series B company that was only based in San Francisco.
Alper Yurder: Okay, good. That makes you human.
Javier Ortega: It was not the enterprise company that is today. But they took a chance with me. They took a chance with me partially because of my stint as an entrepreneur and also because usually consultants, the good thing is that you're supposed to learn fast and you're used to working hard. So they said, okay, this guy has some potential, so let's bring him on board. But I'm very great.
Alper Yurder: I love that. And you still had the same amount of hair back then. It's incredible. I have two questions for you about that time. One is maybe three. How was the experience in Colombia, Dominican Republic, all those, you know, exciting places for a lot of people, which we might not have been in Europe? And then I'll ask the other two.
Javier Ortega: So the experience was great for multiple reasons. One, I got exposed to a different culture that felt somehow similar to the one I had in Spain. So we share a language, we share a lot of common history. So it was easy, but it was different enough for me to be a push outside of my comfort zone. And also looking forward, something that gave me experience to emerging markets, to markets that are not as consolidated as the ones where… I've grown up and then they also define my trajectory in my career. I started working with Southern Europe and I took emerging markets at Dropbox. And that helped me grow a lot. So, um, all in all, the experience was great. I have to confess that, uh, in the Dominican Republic, it was hard sometimes when I was going to work, wearing my suit, going to the bank, um, and then you would see people with, um, with swimsuits, uh, in their honeymoon or, uh, in some kind of like fun trips and you're like, oh my God, have to go to work and everyone else here is on holiday.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, yeah, I'm sure after that you put the suit off and you jumped to the ocean, so I'm not gonna be too sad for you there. How was the quick stint at being a founder that one year?
Javier Ortega: It was good. It was fulfilling. We raised some money. So what we were trying to do was, and you have to put yourself back in time. We're talking about pre-LinkedIn having content. We realized through a friend of ours, an architect, that for creative professionals, it was very hard to showcase their talent and they had to change physical files. And we thought there was a better way to do that. So we created an online portfolio for creative professionals. Now, we made all the mistakes that you can make in the world. None of us was technical. We outsourced all our development to, I think it was India at the time. And then we tried to launch in a market that was in a huge recession. It was Spain at a time where young unemployment was in the 50s, 50% plus. So no one cared about creative professionals. Like it was not top of mind for anybody. So wrong time, wrong markets, also wrong team. But it was, it was true.
Alper Yurder: Okay, I love that.
Javier Ortega: And I think it's one of the experiences where I learned the most. I often say that you learn almost as much from failing or even not more from failing than from winning.
Alper Yurder: Yeah. And I guess you learn to fail fast too. I should remember to ask you about the executive experience with that. Last question on that section is that I made the switch from consulting to sales because this is going to be ridiculous, but I just wanted to be with people, talking to people, understanding their pains. I enjoy that. I didn't enjoy the endless Excel, the due diligence is in a row, sitting in an office. So I wanted to be out there and go out and speak to people and sell something like the thrill, the adrenaline of it. But at that time I was being very much, how should I say, what's the right word? A lot of people in my very close circle, they were like, what the hell? You're a consultant. That's a smart job. You're going to go and be a sales guy. Like that's not, nobody in my immediate circle is a worthy job for me to do, which is so sad. And I think it still persists a little bit today.
Javier Ortega: I'll say that's very European. And I, and I, I chuckle a little bit with that because, um, when I look at, um, a lot of account executives in Europe, they call themselves, um, business development. They call themselves partnerships. They don't call themselves sales. And I think that in, at least in my country, Spain, still a salesman is seeing someone that is going to try to, um, convince you to do something that you don't want to do. Um. Yeah, and that's not what a salesman is doing. In my opinion, a salesman is a consultant, really. And when you talk about that, for me, going from consulting to sales was a very natural step. Because as a consultant, you're selling a service, and you need to do a good job to make sure that you are selling another project afterwards. But when you're engaged with customers, with clients, you're always selling. And you sell your firm, you sell your work.
Alper Yurder: Yeah.I used to say what's a McKinsey partner but a glorified salesman? Like, you know, at the end of the day, they're selling projects too. That's the trajectory.
Javier Ortega: The more senior you are in consulting, the more you sell.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, exactly. That's it. Okay. So the progress dropbox, like let's hear all those steps, the exciting career journey in summary, and then we'll delve into bits of it.
Javier Ortega: Yeah, I'll be brief because it was like seven years and something there and I don't want to bore you. But I moved to Ireland to open. Well, I first went to San Francisco for a few months just to learn the ins and outs of the company. Then I went to Dublin where we established our headquarters. I was one of the first hires in Europe and our role was to figure out EMEA very rudimentary sales process with a very good traction in the consumer space, but with no traction on the B2B side yet. We were tasked with expanding the business footprint. I started with Southern Europe, Spain and Italy first because of language reasons. Then with time I grew into a management role and I took… France and emerging markets, so Southern Europe and Emerging Markets being Emerging Markets, the Middle East, Israel, as well as CEE. And we expanded into taking it like all business development in Europe and into more teams. And at some point I got the opportunity to move to the US to lead our New York office as well as our enterprise teams in the US. And I made the jump. I moved to New York. In between that first job and moving to New York there were five years, five years of growth, of ups and downs, of changes in the market. There were definitely quarters that were fantastic, quarters that were hard, bosses that were phenomenal, bosses that were less good, and a lot of learning in between.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, I guess the natural question is top learning and I like to ask it with this view. Like if someone is in your shoes right now going through a similar, you know, career journey, what would you recommend them to do and don't?
Javier Ortega: Yeah, so I always recommend two things. One is to play the long game. As a seller, sometimes it's easy to be short-sighted and to, yes, try to optimize for the current quarter. I think those things always catch up. You need to hit your quarter for sure. But life cycles of customers are long, so you need to make sure that you are making them successful in the long run. So that's one. And also the second one is like work hard. And I know it's not very accepted today to say that you need to work hard. People always talk about like, I don't know, there's all these trends about like four day weekdays. But the reality is that people are working hard around you. And I think that hard work trumps talent 80% of the time. And if you put in the work, eventually you will get the reward.
Alper Yurder: Yeah. And I think it's sometimes fair, especially when you say in that environment, you sign up to it. This is an organization that works at this pace. So you're expected to do it, you know? So if it's not a match, it's not a match, bye bye. And you know, we'll be friends and you'll find something else in your drive, right? I think that way at least.
Javier Ortega: Yeah, I'm with you. I'm with you. I think that that's something that I did differently. I was often the first one in the office, or if not always. And I was leaving late. I was trying to figure out how to learn, how to engage with more customers, how to follow up accurately, and eventually how to keep my number consistently. And then when I took a team, how to make sure that all my team was also successful.
Alper Yurder: How did you... that's a very difficult thing like knowing what to do and coaching others to do that. Do you have any nuggets of advice? Also for me, I'll take it. How do you manage to coach people on that?
Javier Ortega: Yeah. So I think the biggest change when you become a manager is realizing that your success is not yours and that you are only as successful as your team. And I think that this is what a lot of sellers that go into management get wrong. Sellers are very used to the thrill, to the recognition, to being the one on the screen with a big win and in the dashboard, the number one. Once you become a manager, you become invisible and you need to be fine with it you need to be fine with it and you need to make sure that your people are the ones that are on the screen. So I think that once you become a manager you need to stop seeking merit and making sure that the merit is distributed.
Alper Yurder: That is so powerful. I'm like, okay, let me digest that. Once you become a manager, you stop seeking merit. Did you really stop seeking that recognition, that hurrah, Javi, you are the best, you know, that kind of thing?
Javier Ortega: Thanks for watching! Yeah, for me, the merit at the time was like how many people I can qualify for the President's Club, how many people can get on top of the board. And by association, eventually, you might also even qualify for the President's Club. But it's not, it's not the heavy show anymore. It's your team.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, I think that's, I've seen that time and time again, once it stops becoming a show, some people just don't want that. And I think a senior IC role is really great for those. Yeah, that could, that could be my retirement role.
Javier Ortega: Yeah. That's why you got one. Yeah. Sorry.
Alper Yurder: That could be my retirement role I'm saying, very senior IC.
Javier Ortega: You never know. I actually think that some of the best professionals that I work with are people that decided not to pursue a career in management and they become really masters of their craft and, um, it's, they can achieve things that only a few can. Uh, because like, uh, what does it say? Like 3,000 hours or 10,000 hours. Well, they do more than 10,000 hours. So.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, absolutely. The massive growth for you has not been once, twice. Now it's happening again and we'll come to today, but the Hopin story is probably very interesting. I was watching you from afar in the middle of COVID, you shifted gears. How was that experience for you from what? Six million to a hundred million. How many people was that in terms of recruitment effort?
Javier Ortega: Too many, too many Alper. And that's probably my biggest learning, right? Like, learn when to scale, how to scale, and don't over hire. Hopping was a very interesting story that I wouldn't change for anything in my career. It was wild. We came at a time where the world really needed us.
Alper Yurder: Okay, tell me, tell me all of that.
Javier Ortega: You remember and I think everyone that is listening remember everyone was back in their homes you couldn't communicate with people and we were craving that social aspect because we're social creatures once some are more social than others but at the end of the day we all seek interaction so hoping came at a perfect time we're feeling a very big need in society at a time that is very hard. So the company grew a lot in the customer base, obviously with customers is also revenue. And we scale the team thinking that trajectory was never going to change. We truly believe that we have found a product market fit beyond the pandemic and that the events industry is going to shift to mostly virtual worlds. The reality is that the events industry is more than events. It's food and beverage, it's traveling, it's lodging, it's like entertainment. So it's very difficult to go against something that powerful. And after some time there was a correction in the market and we had to scale down. But the companies still around are succeeding in different ways, they're pursuing different avenues, more towards streaming and community. And it was a great ride.
Alper Yurder: Hmm. So in that first year of like that massive, ridiculous growth, I mean, I'll definitely hold someone from Zoom to hear their story too, but what did it feel like? How was the adrenaline?
Javier Ortega: So it felt that it was never enough. People think that when you are in one of these rides, you are always smiling or laughing. It was the most stressful time in my career because we had to optimize for speed. And it was literally like building a rocket while you're riding it. We had to build not only the teams but also the processes, infrastructure, the systems to support a growth of that magnitude in such a short period of time. I think that very few companies have grown that fast and it gave me a lot of perspective on how to optimize for speed and how to hire fast, how to scale fast and how to pivot because we have to make multiple corrections all the time.
Alper Yurder: And throughout that, so if you take that 10 year period, like, were there any emerging traits where you felt like, okay, when I'm in this pattern, I'm my happiest and when I'm in this pattern, I'm not enjoying life that much.
Javier Ortega: Yeah, for me it's very easy. As soon as I stop learning and I start getting bored, then I start getting itchy and I wanna do something else. So one of the reasons, people ask me often, like, how do you live Dropbox? You had it so good. Like you had a big team, big piano, great responsibility, public trade company, good work-life balance. And the reason I left because the company was mostly optimizing at the time. And I left consulting because I didn't want to optimize. And this is what consultants do a lot, right? You come into a place, you look at improvements and you find a few percentages here and there of efficiency. I get excited about triple digit growth. I get excited about figuring out new growth avenues or new go-to-market motions. And when I start seeing that things are figured out, then I know that it's my time to maybe save for something else.
Alper Yurder: Okay. I love that. So I guess then after that decade, you kind of mature as a leader and your new employer, the new founder or whoever is bringing you in to solve a problem, they know what this guy is good for, hopefully. So let's come to that a little bit. Um, with that intro coming to today, let's talk about some of the current issues you tackle because you're building and scaling the global go-to-market team, the infrastructure to support the growth, all of that. What do you know about yourself that you are really good at?
Javier Ortega: Hmm. So I think that the number one thing that I've learned to do well, it's hiring. And that's, and I think, and I think that that's the, probably the most important thing in an executive or in a people manager. Like, uh, I like to surround myself with people that are better than me, people that are smarter than me and people that have deeper knowledge in a particular area. So, um. I think that probably 90% of my success is the people I surround myself with. And I've been very lucky with that and they have a good network of people that have trusted me over the years, that have come to different adventures with me together and I think that they are 99% of the success.
Alper Yurder: Okay, so what were you... I mean hiring is huge for every stage and I think definitely especially for scale up. That's the most important at any stage. But anyway, um Again share with us some wisdom and some major fuck-up about hiring you did and I'll share one too
Javier Ortega: No, I have so many. I will start with the success and with what I look when I hire. When I look for someone in an IC role, I don't necessarily look for experience. I mean, experience is nice to have. It's not a must. For me, the most important thing are certain traits that I always try to prove. Curiosity. I talked to you at the beginning when you told me how you describe the hobby of the past. I was a very curious boy and I think I've continued being curious over time. I think that in any job, if you're curious, you're going to be more successful, but especially in sales, if you're curious to learn about your product, about your customers, about the problems you're solving for, you're going to trust you more and you're going to work harder curiosity is one. The second one is resilience. I think being resilient in our line of work, it's very important. You get a lot of no's.
Alper Yurder: It's also such an overused word that people don't know what it is, I think.
Javier Ortega: Well, I use it as like grit or stamina, the ability to overcome a challenge and stand up and raise up after you are put down. For me, that's someone that is resilient, right? Perseverance towards a goal. There are many definitions, but I look for that in anyone working in go-to-market because the reality is that in order for someone to close a deal...
Alper Yurder:Yeah, bounce back. Yeah, I agree. Yeah.
Javier Ortega: Like you're going to lose more than you win. Like 80% of the time. And then you need to stand up. And there will be days where you think that the world is falling apart and you're not closing anything. And you're seeing your dashboard and you're at 0%. And you're like, how am I going to get there? So you need to believe that you can get there. So I look for that. So curiosity, resilience, and then I also look for people with no ego, because I think that ego is… how people get complacent and stop learning. So people that have a growth mindset, for me it's something very important.
Alper Yurder: Oh, wow. On that last note, the moment you explain it as complacent and not learning, isn't that typical, and I've been that guy for sure. Like I know it all. I've been here for one year. I'm the only one not fired. I know it's like no REVOPS. Don't tell me new things. Sales leader. Don't tell me new things. I know my way. I'm going to close it. I don't know. I, it, definitely strikes a note with.
Javier Ortega: Yeah. And major mistakes hiring. I can share some of the traits that have led me to make bad hires. It hasn't been about bad people. I like to think that everyone is, most people are very good people and no one wants to go to a role to fail. When someone takes a job...you need to assume that everyone is going to try to do their best. But I think it's very important to understand what is the stage of your company and what is the profile of the person that you are hiring. I think that bringing someone that is used to very big support organizations into a series A company could be very challenging. In the same way, bringing someone that has only worked in a series A company to a publicly traded company can be too big of a jump, especially if they don't have that growth mindset that we talked about before. So I think that my biggest mistakes have not been about the people, it's been about bringing potentially the right people to the wrong stage.
Alper Yurder: Mm-hmm. Okay. And the one thing that I've learned, especially I've been hiring for quite a long time too, but I guess being a founder has taught me things. It's so funny how as an old dog, you learn new things and it's crazy. It's endless. And I think with me, the struggle is always on fire fast. I mean, that's it. Um, I struggle with that and then it gets to a bit of a friction. And I think. In a scale-up, you don't have the luxury. I don't know, what do you think?
Javier Ortega: I think firing is the thing that no one enjoys doing, but at some point it's part of a people manager's job, unfortunately. And when I hear firing fast, I cringe a little bit because I think that yes, if you made the wrong hire, you need to correct it. But there is also something about making sure that the person has a chance, right? And I will distinguish two different types of reasons that can lead to a termination. One is a skill issue and the other one is a will issue. If you have a skill issue, I will invest my time in making you successful as long as you are willing to put in the work. Now in sales, we don't have the luxury of making that time forever, but You need to give the time, but if someone doesn't have the attitude and someone doesn't have the, doesn't put in the work, then is when you need to be quick because they're not betting for their career, you shouldn't bet for their own careers.
Alper Yurder: I mean, 200% and all the, you know, especially the VP above everybody tells me the same things. I think for me, it becomes a bit of a personal thing. I hate to admit to myself that I brought the person who didn't have that determination from the beginning and I made a misjudgment. I think that's my personal struggle with that. I'm not going to ask yours. That might not resonate with you anyway. Good. Okay. So coming to today, if you don't mind. What are some of the things you are solving? And actually, this is the bit where I love to learn, like what's the latest and greatest from leaders, you know, what are they solving? Are they finding new and innovative ways to solve an old problem? Any of that comes to mind. Let's talk about that a little bit.
Javier Ortega: Yeah, and I love what we're doing right now. I love what I'm doing. I love the mission of my company, that it's to make the internet a safer place, right? I think the explosion of online transactions has led to a lot of fraud and to a lot of fraudsters to thrive. You can hide behind this wonderful thing that is the internet. But… I'm very happy with what we're solving for as a company. But now more at an individual level, I think that everyone in revenue is struggling a little bit with longer sales cycles. I think we all are struggling with prospecting. People are saturated with their prospecting techniques. So top of the funnel is a challenge. And I think we need to, more than ever, get personal. And like I used to have a sales coach. Ryan in Ireland, that Ryan O'Reilly, that used to say that people buy from people. And that's one of the most, most real things that I ever heard. Like people buy from people. So you need to be personal. You need to learn how your customers are, you need to get closer. When you're prospecting, you need to be personal as well. Like, I'm not gonna ask you how many emails you receive a week, because probably the numbers go triple digit. The reality is that we all are set.
Alper Yurder: Everybody gets cringed about my inbox.
Javier Ortega: So yeah, it's about getting personal and doing your research. I think that that's the solution to a null problem that it's always been the solution, but now more than ever. And then for deal cycles, longer deal cycles, I think that it's getting closer to your customers and understanding their pain, understanding what they are solving for, and making it about the customer, not about yourself. I think that a very common mistake is selling features, and that's something that we all have done. If there is any seller listening here that tells me that they never sold on features, I will call it bullshit. You learn with time and you realize that selling on value is the best way to go. But now more than ever, you need to realize and remember that people are only going to buy if they see a clear return of investment.
Alper Yurder: And I think both points elude to why we're building flow lanes away, which leads beautifully to that. Standing out is impossible, longer sales cycles, more complex deals, more stakeholders, et cetera, et cetera. And combined to that, the macroeconomic environment, everybody wants to do more with less. And also the buyer now has the power, they buy in their way, it's not linear, et cetera. So I'm curious, like, do you take any specific initiatives to improve those things, like improve the long sales cycle, improve win rates, improve the buyer experience. Can you name a few things that you are trying to do to implement, to combat those things?
Javier Ortega: I can, and I'm going to oversimplify, because we could spend the next three hours talking about this, but I think everything starts early in the process. The qualification it's like you told me before that as important as hiring fast is firing fast. I think as important as qualifying in is qualifying out when it relates to sales. And I think that.
Alper Yurder: Let's... I'm kidding.
Javier Ortega: Making a very solid discovery early on leads to shortened sales cycles, leads to less ghosting or inactivity in accounts, and just more of an understanding of what's going on. That it's eventually what fails in 80% of the deals. Like you as a seller don't have perfect information. And that's a problem. If you have perfect information, your forecast will always be perfect. But unfortunately, it's an imperfect game here. So make sure that in the early discoveries, you're earning the right to ask the questions. And you are capturing very well why you are talking to your prospect and what the business need that you are solving leads to shortened sales cycles. Also creating urgency and making it very tight to ROI and bringing on finance buyers early on companies have different finance thresholds now than they used to have in 2021. For example, in my company, pretty much any PO goes through my CFO. Great guy, but when I bring something to him, he's gonna tell me, okay, Javi, you're spending this much, how much are you bringing in return? And you should expect that the same questions are being asked to your customers.
Alper Yurder: Good. Yeah, absolutely. Is he your best friend, the CFO? Hey, okay, good. I love that and I stand by everything that you just explained. Do you have your secret? I mean, it might not be a secret. It's a stupid thing to say secret, but as a leader, as a seasoned leader, what are the signals you look for to say, okay, this deal might close or will close?
Javier Ortega: He's one of my best friends for sure. If you're listening to me, yes, I need more headcount.
Alper Yurder: And this one doesn't spend any time. What do you look for? What are your secret flavors you want in a deal?
Javier Ortega: So, I'm a funny one because I like to get into the systems and I like to listen to calls and I like to go with my sellers to sell if I can be of help. I always say that in go-to-market or in any revenue function, the moment you stop getting in front of customers, you become useless and I don't wanna become useless. So, everybody sells in my work. Now, what I look for in deals, it's a… an understanding of what is the pain that we're solving for, what is the ROI, and also who we are talking to is very important. Understanding if we have the right people on board. So if I'm dissecting a deal, I poke holes in the authority or in the use case that we're solving for the most, as well as the return of investment. But like, there are very clear signs, right? When you look at engagement with a customer, like, we use one of these revenue intelligence platforms that tells you how many touch points you have, what is the change of files back and forth, what is the frequency, what is the tone. Nowadays, there are a lot of technologies that can help you understand the temperature of a prospect. But at the end of the day, I trust my sellers and I think that no one knows the deal as good as they do. So I will ask them to commit or not commit a deal.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, those signals definitely, I mean, it's always been a huge part of what I wanted to solve and that's what we try to do with Flowla. Do you have any interest or insight into RSpace buyer enablement, digital sales rooms, mutual action plans? Do you have any comments on it, any projections and feel free to say no or yes or whatever you want.
Javier Ortega: Yes, I actually do. I actually do. Yes, I actually do. And this is something that, unfortunately, I don't see enough. I don't see mutual action plans. I don't see closing plans, I share with customers often. And I think there is a need for a better way to do that. Seamless, something that doesn't feel forced, something that can be collaborative, dynamic. And I like what you guys are doing. So exactly in that line of work, I think there is an opportunity for sure.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, no, I agree. And it's mostly driven by the buyer really. Like when I started, I was like, as a seller, it was a hell to close a $5 million deal with 50 stakeholders over six months. Then I stepped into the buyer's shoes and I realized it's even worse to try to buy and seek the information, chase the seller, you know, like create you even in the buyer organization, you think somebody is your champion or an ally not the seller I'm talking about, I'm talking to the buyer organization. And then you realize they're not and they have another agenda. So all of those complexities, we try to somehow, you know, improve. All right.
Javier Ortega: I love that. I love that because in sales organizations, everyone talks about the selling cycle. I think we need to talk about the buying cycle of your customers more and understand how they function. So yeah, I fully agree.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, everything that we preach at Flowla now is buyer-centric and we're just gonna launch our new ebook around what do your buyers want? That's what we call it, and we try to shed a bit of light to it. Okay, that was a great conversation, Javi. Coming to the end of it, I'm gonna ask two, three rapid-fire questions and you can tell me whatever you wanna answer or not. Okay, so great. So again, all this...
Javier Ortega: Let's go.
Alper Yurder: time of building and scaling, global organizations, What do you think is one common thread that is key to revenue growth?
Javier Ortega: A good product.
Alper Yurder: It's a no-brainer. Question two, expanding market share. What are some tactics that worked for you in the past?
Javier Ortega: Good one, good one. If I have to be fired, I would say, understanding your ICP very well. Narrowing your focus.
Alper Yurder: Excellent. And finally, number three is going to be a longer one building world-class go-to-market motions for high growth companies. Tell me other than hiring, by the way, tell me one thing that one tool or one aid or support that you couldn't do without or support or people resource. Without that, you cannot build a world-class high-growth company.
Javier Ortega: Yeah, I think the unsung heroes of most go-to-market organizations are revenue operations. And I think that without good revenue operations teams, you cannot scale, you cannot track, you cannot correct, and you cannot grow.
Alper Yurder: Yes! Yeah, I admit it was a leading question. I wanted that answer. So, because sometimes, unfortunately, rev-ops sometimes are seen as a bit of an underdog, as a roadblocker, and I don't always get it. What was the best thing that rev-ops did for you in your career?
Javier Ortega: I'm pretty sure. Oh man, I actually don't know where to start. I couldn't do anything without DevOps. Not today, not back in the day. I think that building a framework that enables your organization or yourself to succeed, it's very important. So that definition of success, almost that playbook of how to win, it's something that I cannot function without.
Alper Yurder: Yeah. And I think rev ops, if you're a series A, it can be just that one super smart person who gets strategy and sales and marketing, although they're not called rev ops, but at what stage is it A, B, C, whatever it is, when you're like, without a rev ops, I won't do.
Javier Ortega: Think of the time where you need to start scaling. The moment where your sales process stops being founder-led sales and you start adding external people that come with less context, with less knowledge, then is when you have a need to build something that can scale and can be replicable. So as soon as you move from a founder-led sales motion to a more professional sales motion, then you need someone to help you build for the future.
Alper Yurder: I agree. And finally, the final question of the whole show is, let's finish on a good note. I know that a lot of people are struggling, pipelines, standing out is impossible, this, that, but you seem to be still, you know, doing fine, at least from the outside and is there hope for salespeople and where do you see the hope in the sales or the revenue job going into the future? Where do you see the most, what are you most excited about the future of this profession?
Javier Ortega: So I'm very excited about the fact that a lot of the things that sellers hate are going to end up being managed by AI, right? Updating the CRM, forecasting, moving stages in the systems, all those more mundane or admin tasks. I think we're going to, at some point, not need a human to do them so we're going to be able to focus on usually the things that people enjoy the most that is talking to other people and is there hope absolutely yes. We started the show saying that there is a bad perception of sales but I would say that without sellers there is no company without revenue there is no there is no business so yes there is hope I know 2023 has been hard for a lot of people, but I'm sure 2024 is gonna be better and 2025 is gonna be again, a year where we start seeing attainment hopefully as a norm in the three digit percentage.
Alper Yurder: Fantastic. I love that. I think everybody loves to hear that. That good note. Now, Harvey, that's a wrap on this episode of SalesTherapy. Any closing remarks before we go?
Javier Ortega: Thank you. No, thank you. It's been great to see you. You also keep your hair altered and you keep yourself young. Looking forward to seeing you next time I'm in London. And thank you everyone that tuned in today.
Alper Yurder: Fantastic. So our time is over and I'm going to cut us on the clock, just like any good therapist. That's a wrap on this episode of sales therapy. If you enjoy the show, subscribe to us on YouTube and your favorite podcast platform. And I think Javi so much for being here. We, you inspire us to be better leaders and keep doing what you do and come back to the show. Thank you.
Javier Ortega: Thank you, we'll do, bye bye.