About Episode Six
In today's episode Greg and Owen invite Dan Tyre, HubSpot employee #6, published author, and the inventor of the sales and marketing alignment word "Smarketing", to the Growing Tech Podcast. Dan discusses his achievements and challenges with tech sales and marketing, his experience working in startups, and the biggest mistakes tech companies make when it comes to selling.
Listen to the audio
OS: Welcome to Growing Tech with Greg Williamson and Owen Scott. Today, we're with Dan Tyre from HubSpot, the Michael Jordan of tech selling, experienced sales director, president, CEO and executive. Today, we're going to cover how Dan got into tech and then some of the key challenges for selling tech companies.
GW: Great. So, uh, good morning our time, Dan. Good afternoon your time.
DT: Owen, Greg. Owen, that was a big build-up. I like that. Maybe I should-
OS: Yeah it was a good start wasn’t it?
DT: I like that. Did you make that up, the Michael Jordan of tech? Yeah, alright, I'm gonna use that. I'm gonna say, my friend Owen talks about me as the Michael Jordan of HubSpot.
OS: Yeah. You can, you can use that. You can use that.
GW: So we'll start at the ... so you're, you're at, at the top of your game now. But if we go back, um, you actually start, I think your first selling job was selling books door to door, was it? How did ... what did you learn from that?
DT: Yeah. Okay, so that was amazing. I, I know I sound like your grandfather, right, but selling books door to door in 1972, 1973, right? I grew up, um, solidly middle class but, uh, I didn't have a lot of money to go to university. So, uh, I did all these odd jobs while I was at, uh, college. I was a football referee, I was on the radio. I worked in the dining hall. Uh, but I still didn't have enough money to go back the next year. So there was this company called the Southwestern Company, which had this business model, they would recruit, uh, at, uh, Northeast Colleges. They would, um, kinda suggest that you'd go down to Nashville, Tennessee, in the south of the United States, drive down in the back of a station wagon. They'd teach you how to sell for, uh, a week. Then they'd send you all the way across the country. In my case the first year in, uh, Bellingham and Seattle, Washington. The second year in Portland, Oregon. And they sent you across the country 'cause 80% of the people washed out, right? They, they, they
... like, selling books door to door was hard. I was selling two dictionaries for 40, $40. $40, it's way before the Internet, right? And these dictionaries, uh, had, um, special sections for like new math and English and all this stuff encyclopedias had. And, um, it was pretty amazing, right? And selling dictionaries door to door, um, you learn a lot about, first of all, sales. Second of all, you learn a lot about, um, doing things that are hard, right? Because 80% of the people left, then you're left alone. You're like, okay, I'd better sell something or I'm not gonna eat, right? And you get an opportunity to engage with all kinds of different socioeconomic classes; rich people; poor people; people who are scuffling; people who are on Easy Street; people who are hardcore; people who are lazy. And it was amazing, right? When you meet that many people at a relatively young age ... I was probably 17 or 18, right? Uh, first of all, it redeems your faith in humanity. These people were so nice to me. Oh, my goodness. I'm knocking on their door, I'm ringing their doorbell. They were like, "Who are you?" I'm like, "I'm Dan. I'm the book salesman. You don't shoot them around here, do you?" And they would be like, "Sometimes," right? I still remember my pitch. This is like 40 years ago, right? And then I would, uh, explain to them what they were. And then I'd have to get them to give me money upfront, right, which they did. And the first year I made 5,000 US, the second year I recruited some guys and made 10,000, uh, US. But the most important thing that I learned is, uh, how to hustle, right, 'cause it's hard work, right? You would talk to 60 people a day, right? If they weren't home, you'd cycle back at the end. And you'd have to move quick, right? Uh, but I learned the basics of the sales process, about how to engage with people, how to be friendly, right? How to use emotional tie-downs, how to answer objections, and it served me as a very good entrance into, um, my, uh, 45-year sales career.
OS: So Dan, with that sort of background, you know, knocking on doors and in my understanding you started selling, you know, PCs at a store in Boston, how did ... you know, why do you think you've done so well in, in selling technology?
DT: Right. So, uh, a couple of things. First of all, when I graduated the university, I was a bass player in a heavy metal rock and roll band. I had longer hair than your producer, who is in the shot just before that.
DT: It was like, uh, one of those things where, um, it was a great job but it didn't pay a lot, right? And, uh, after a year on the road I'm like, okay, I need to like, start to establish my career. So, uh, back in 1982, right, when you wanted to buy a personal computer, you went into a computer store. You guys are too young to remember that.
GW: Ha-ha. No, we do. We do.
DT: Anyway, I went to a place called The Computer Store 'cause it sounded pretty good to me. It was the worst-run company in the history of America. These guys were horrible, right? They had terrible management. They had constant turnover. They had inventory problems. They weren't particularly ethical or moral, it was crazy. Uh, but I was there and they offered me a job. I sold Apple (two ‘e’s) right, for this place called The Computer Store. They had an exclusive to sell Apple computer east of the Mississippi ... like, the center, half of the United States, and they found a way to screw that up. Anyway, I was, uh, I was good because, um, I understood the business value of a computer. These accountants would come in ... and there was this old program called VisiCap. Do you guys remember VisiCap?
DT: Lotus 1-2-3? It was just a spreadsheet, right?
DT: Now you've got Google Docs and everybody uses them. But like, people would cry when they would see how you could adjust one cell and the whole calculation would instantly fall in place. It was, uh, very rudimentary by today's standards but, um, the business value was amazing. And in the early days of PCs, the way you sold them was, you said, "We have PCs in inventory." And people would come in and give you $18,000 US, because you had them. Because one of the greatest, uh, like, attributes of being a good salesperson is, you should always sell something people wanna buy. Right? And in 1982, everybody was buying computers 'cause it was brand new. Anyway, um, my boss comes in after about a year and he says, "I'm quitting." I'm like, "Why?" He's like, "I'm going to a startup." I'm like, "What's a startup?" He goes, "It's a small company that's gonna grow quickly." I'm like, "Okay, knock yourself out." He's like, "No, no, no. I wanna bring you with me." I'm like, "I've already got a job." He goes, "I'll pay you $100 more US a month." I'm like, "Yeah, I'm a startup guy." So I left with Roger, right, and, and it changed my entire life. It changed my entire life. I moved to this company called Business Land, which was $2 million when I joined.
Over the next nine years, they grew to $1.4 billion, right? It was explosive growth. It was growing thousands of percent’s per year. And I moved from a sales person to a manager, to an area director, to an executive. And I really liked the hyper growth. The reason I was good at it, right, is because, uh, I always went the extra mile. Uh, what my book-selling days taught me is how to work hard. No one works harder than me. Even today, right, I get in the office at seven o'clock in the morning, right? And people look at me like, what are you doing there, old man? I'm like, "I'm working." They're like, "Why are you here at seven?" The office really doesn't open anymore. But like, most people get in at like, I don't know, between eight and nine. I'm like, "Because I wanna get a headstart on everybody." And I, number one, outworked everybody. Number two, I knew how to hustle. Number three, I always like helping, right? So if people had a problem, even if they weren't my customer, I'd be like, yeah, let me see if I can help.
And, um, the industry, as I mentioned, was, um, exploding and people needed to just a little bit of extra care and help. So, uh, part of it was my environment. Part of it is, I'm the luckiest guy in the world. Part of it was my applying the classic sales process to, um, selling computers. And, uh, part of it was being in the right place at the right time.
GW: That's awesome. I mean, I think, um, you were employee number six at HubSpot. First sales manager, started the partner program ... which we're a part of, obviously and, and, and really, uh, value. Can you sort of believe how successful HubSpot's been? And, and what would you ... what's your biggest sort of insight from the, from your years at HubSpot?
DT: Amazing. So as I mentioned, I started it as an entrepreneur in 1982. I've done five startups but HubSpot is by far my most successful. My first one went to a billion and a half dollars, right, in the '80s and the early '90s. Then I quit, then I started my own company, um, ALI Technologies in Needham, Massachusetts. And I grew it to about $30 million, sold it to a Phoenix-based company. That's how I got to Arizona, which is where I am now, in the United States, Southwest United States. My third company went bankrupt, which taught me business planning and humility, right? I'm a hard-charging entrepreneur, right? And now all of a sudden, I'm, my company is going into receivership. And that was hard for me to understand, but it taught me a very, very valuable lesson. My fourth startup got bought up by Microsoft. Lucky me, right? And then my fifth startup ... at my fourth startup, my boss was this guy, Brian Halling. And, uh, when Microsoft bought, Bruce Networks, he went to, uh, MIT, Med Turmash.
I went to, um, the ... work for Microsoft for six months and then president of a software company. And when they, uh, started scaling, Brian called. And they're like, "We need you to start this new company." I'm like, "Why do you need me? You're in Boston. I'm in Arizona." He's like, "You're a good startup guy." I'm like, "That's true." He's like, "You're a good sales guy." I'm like, "That's true too."
"And we need you." So I joined and it was amazing, because everything I learned before 2007 went right out of the window. I was not the vice-president of sales. In fact ... and I, I didn't start the partner program. That was my buddy, Pete Caputa. But I was an early employee. I get so much credit for starting HubSpot, partly because I always, I'm always branded. But partly because I've been around for 15 years, right? We're just celebrating our inbound program, right? Uh, 10,000 people will be in Boston in the early part of, uh, September. Barack Obama is gonna speak. Um, all kinds of, uh, great, um, speakers. Uh, Jane Goodall, the gorilla lady. Uh, anyway, everybody thinks, just because I've been there for so long ... Uh, it wasn't my idea. I wasn't on the ... at a very early stage, for the first seven years, I was an executive, ran divisions and, um, did every job at HubSpot. Uh, but then the real entrepreneur ... like, the real business people took over, right? And I just liked the mission so much ... everything that we did, uh, before 2007, was obsolete, right? The way we grew companies, the way we focused.
In fact, I worked for this guy, Mark Roberge ... you guys ever heard that name, Mark Roberge?
GW: Yeah. Yeah.
DT: He wrote a, he wrote a book that you should, uh ... your podcast listeners should get, called The Sales Acceleration Formula. He's the entrepreneur-in-residence of Harvard Business School. He's the general partner at Stage 2 Capital, where I'm a limited partner. And he's just, uh, in seven years, we had one argument, right? He's the nicest guy. He's super smart. He's strategic. He set the, um, the direction. He set the strategy and all I had to do is im-, uh, implement it. And he was super smart, he looked at all the numbers. The reason he was so effect- we went from zero to 100 million in seven years, right? Which in those days, no one ever did. That was like one of the fastest-growing companies. Now, it's a little bit different because we pivoted again. Right? But, uh, I learned so much about how to look at sales as a technology. How to look at sales from an empathetic perspective. And I remember, uh, very early in the, uh ... in, in, um, like, figuring out sales strategy, we think, okay, what would Oracle do? We're gonna do the exact opposite.
Whatever like, a major tech company would do, we're gonna do the complete opposite.
GW: Good strategy.
DT: A- and it turned out great. We went-
DT: ... we went very, very quickly. All of our selling was on the phone, right? We rarely went out belly to belly with a customer. We didn't do trade shows, and we leveraged the inbound revolution of, people come the website ... I invented this term called smarketing. Have you guys ever heard of smarketing?
DT: Say it with a New Zealand accent, smarketing.
GW: Smarketing. Yeah.
DT: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's sales and marketing pushed together. I, I invented that term.
GW: Oh, right. Yeah.
DT: I know, in 2007. Uh, this guy, um, Thomas Steenburgh, he was a professor at Harvard Business School. And he's like, um, he was interviewing us for, um, some paper he's doing. And, um, I said, "It's, in 2007, it's not sales. It's mar- it's not marketing. It's, it's smarketing. It's pushed together. Because, right, in the old days, uh, sales was always the hero. They did everything. They did 90% of the work. They got a 100% of the glory, right, and marketing was always in the dog house, right? Marketing would create the brand and do lead generation. Sales would take the leads; qualify the leads; do the product demo; answer the objection; close the deals, and they got all the budget. They got all the glory. And in fact, if marketing did a bad job, I would blame them. They were my built-in excuse. I would say, "Ah, I don't have enough leads. It's marketing's fault." They get thrown under the bus. Or, "I've got too many leads, I don't know which to call. It's marketing's fault." And that process ended with the beginning of the inbound revolution where you check out your website, right, where you generate inbound leads. Where the sales people take people who have already raised their hand and shown that there's an interest in, uh, engaging. And then you pick up the phone.
And it's a much different process now in, uh, 2022, than it was back then, right? Inbound has gone through this huge change over the last 15 years. Where it used to be inbound marketing, now it's inbound marketing; inbound sales; inbound service; inbound operations. And HubSpot and the whole inbound revolution is all about, um, the front office execution of technology, uh, to grow for a competitive event.
OS: So what do you see the biggest mistakes that tech companies make when it comes to selling? You know, in this particular, I suppose in this, this new inbound world that you've been talking about.
DT: All right. You put that on the briefing sheet and ... Uh, that is a very good question, right, that I rarely get asked. Right? Um, but it's an important question, right? Because, um, it's just different now, right? And, um, there is a couple of like, foundations to the inbound revolution. Right? Um, the first is ... Uh, have you ever heard of an author by the name of Daniel Pink?
GW: Yes. Yeap.
DT: Yeah. He wrote a book called, uh, To Sell is Human. And what he said is that every minute of every day, you're either buying or selling. The people who listen to this podcast, they're either buying what I'm saying or they're like, rolling their eyes going, oh, my goodness. Another crazy American, right? And so you have to be aware of that. It's a, a basic human kind of thing that everybody does, right? Um, so understanding that, um, that exists is like an important component of ensuring that, um, everybody understands the right approach, right, to helping. And the inbound process is, uh, ensuring that you are, um, doing the right thing for everybody, right? We help first before we, um, sell, right? The basis of the inbound philosophy, I wrote a book in 2018 called the, um, Inbound Organisation, right? And the Inbound Organisation is all about, number one, treating people like human beings. Which seems like, uh, i- it seems like you shouldn't have to remind people about that in 2022.
GW: Yeah (laughs).
DT: Uh, just like, look at my Twitter feed and you'll recognise that you'll have to remind people about that. Number two, right, you help first, regardless of economic self-interest. Number three, focus beats bandwidth. So lots of times people are just general. They'll say, I'll sell to everybody. But in 2022-
... the riches are in the niches. Or i- in New Zealand, if you wanna go to the beaches, you've got to work the niches.
And so, the idea is that you're, uh-uh, an expert in a specific area. Right? Number four, you've got to solve for the customer. If you're not solving for the customer ... and that is hard in any attribute, right? As you're scaling as HubSpot partners, you're going to understand that there are some difficulties and challenges, right, with, uh, some of your early customers. But you, you got to do the best you can to solve for that customer. And then, uh, customer experience is your only competitive event. So, uh, in today's world, product development goes so quickly, that we used to make decisions based on, uh, product features that competitors wouldn't have for a long time. And today, virtually all products are fundamentally the same and if they're not, they will be in a short period of time. So understanding the, uh, journey that each persona takes, intentionally designing an experience to make sure that you're meeting the customer where they are. Right? Building in win-win relationships with everybody in the ecosystem like HubSpot, um, worked so hard to do with our, um, partners. Uh, and then finally, measuring everything and leveraging technology to create personalised value.
In the old days you could say, "Oh, I'm a non-profit. We're not really technical," right? Or, "We're just a startup. We haven't leaned in ..." You can't do that anymore, right? Uh, driven by our B2C experience, right, you expect everything personalised, right, immediately delivered to you, just like you have on your iPhone, right, or on your Android phone. Right? And so that permeates through all of business. And it's, um, it's a 30-year, um, migration. And we're probably, I don't know, 40, maybe 30, 40% through. Right? But if you cycle in and somebody know- doesn't know who you are ... if you've dropped your contact information and they haven't reviewed you on LinkedIn; if you don't have lead intelligence or lead notification; if you don't have, uh, instant access to your CRM, whether you're on the road or whatever, right, then you're in a huge, uh, competitive disadvantage. Right? And so, um, technology now provides that competitive advantage and inbound, um, is, uh, one of the premium ways to, uh, deliver.
GW: Brilliant. That's, uh, that's great insights. Thank you. Dan, um, I suppo- I mean, it's ... and it's really resonant, that riches in the niches, uh, concept. I mean, that's certainly the way we've approached it, you know? We're at the bottom of the world here, but we're focused on technology companies as our customers and, um, you know, managed to get to Elite that way. You know, coming from a, from a small little town at the bottom of the world, so, you know, it does work.
DT: You and Owen are super smart. So first of all, you'll scale more quickly. If you're the go-to, uh, HubSpot partner for technology companies in New Zealand, right, there's got to be ... I don't know, 1,000 ... at least a 1,000, maybe a couple of hundred, right, that they want to know that you're specialised in technology, your software hardware.
DT: They wanna know that you know the vocabulary and the seasonality and the sequence and the pace of all that kind of stuff. They don't wanna-
GW: Well, I, I'll tell you, Dan, actually we had, we managed to get a, uh, contract with a Silicon Valley company last year 'cause they were looking in the HubSpot directory for a tech specialist. So that's, that's not too bad, hey? They're selling ice to the Eskimos.
OS: Yeah (laughs).
DT: All right. Owen, we didn't practice that, right? That wasn’t in the briefing sheet, just off the top of your head, because you guys are focused. And if I was, um, looking for a partner in New Zealand, that's exactly what I would do. I'd go to the, uh, HubSpot Solutions partner directory. I'd find New Zealand. I'd look at the reviews. I'd find the people who say, now, we work with tech companies or global tech companies worldwide.
DT: Right? And then I'd engage. And if you're saying, oh, no, no, we work with global tech companies that are moving into New Zealand and that wanna accelerate their understanding of the local market, does that sound like you? People would be like, that sounds exactly like me. You're getting that business, right? If some- somebody cycles in and say, yeah, we're an HubSpot customer, you may get that business but it's a lot harder. So it's one of the hardest things that, um, entrepreneurs do. And you asked a good question, Owen. You're like, what, what's the hardest thing to do? That niching, you'll actually grow more quickly in 2022. It's not always the case 'cause in the old days, like 2014, you could be a generalist. But in, uh, 2022, right, if you're focused on a very specific niche and you get good word of mouth ... HubSpot calls that the flywheel, right? Flywheel is the way in which you generate word-of-mouth buzz by putting your customers at the center of the, um, sales process. Right? And, um, the flywheel, uh, helps you build community. And in 2022, right, you're as strong as your community.
The ability for you to generate, right, that good word of mouth, is as important to your company as your sales organisation. 'Cause when the sales person ... First of all, in the sales process, 80% of it is done with the marketing anyway. By the time one of our sales people picks up the phone, it's still hard, there's still a lot of stuff to do. But somebody's been to the website multiple times. They've seen the pricing page. They understand a little bit about the HubSpot culture code. They understand a little bit about what the business is all about, and how we may be able to help. And all the studies say that people prefer self-service. They wanna go as long as they can in the sales process without talking to a salesperson. Once they've done that, they want the salesperson to understand what their journey is previously, all the things that they've looked at, answer a few questions, give them a good discount and get an easy on-ramp to get started. Right? And unless you have one central repository of information both sales and marketing are looking at, right, that becomes a little bit more, uh, difficult. But if it's all in one place and everybody can look at it ... and I can say, wait a second. Owen, you came to the HubSpot website in 2013 and then you didn't do anything for two years.
And then you came back with Greg in, uh, 2015 and you downloaded these three, uh, E-books about, uh, becoming a partner. Right? Now all of a sudden you're like, okay, this guy Tyre is on the ball. Right? Rather than saying ... a- a- and it really helps build that, um, trust in the relationship that's critically important.
GW: Brilliant. Um, well, we're just, just about out of time, Dan. So I mean, I suppose we'll, we'll finish. Do you have any final piece of advice for, uh, tech companies down under ... we work with tech companies across Australia and New Zealand, uh, wanting to, you know, grow globally, particularly in the US?
DT: Yeah. Awesome. Uh, number one, always find your 'why.' If you go to DanTyre.com, you'll see I have a vlog article called, uh, Scaling a Successful Company in 2022. The first question I always ask is, why are you doing this? Because as you guys know ... How long have you been running your agency?
OS: 18 years.
DT: Okay. There are a few twists and turns in 18 years, haven't you?
OS: Yeah, there's a lot. Yeah (laughs).
DT: Yeah, yeah. And there have been times you're like, oh, my god, what did I do? And times you're like the master of the universe. But if you got a strong why and a good partner, right ... we always, we'd like to see companies that, uh, are emotionally supported. Companies that have two co-founders are typically more successful than solo entrepreneurs. Um, that goes a long way towards helping you through the tough times. Number two, I tell people, always have a plan, a written plan. My third company went bankrupt, it was because I didn't have a written plan. If I had a written plan, right, I still would have lost 95% of my revenue. But I would have known and have a pivot, and I would have anticipated that and I'd have a contingency. Number three, build your competitive advantage in a niche, find your niche. If you don't have a, a niche, get one. Right? Because the nichier you can be, the more successful you will be. Build a great culture, right?
Uh, in the book I wrote, Inbound Organisation we asked, um, Brian Halligan and, uh, Frank Auger, and Alison Savery and Katie Burke, what's more important? Is it your happy employees or happy customers? What do you think they said?
GW: Happy employees?
DT: Why? You're right by the way, Greg.
DT: And the way I was thinking, the briefing sheet, I put you right on the ...
GW: No, that's right 'cause they deliver the experience I suppose, for the customer, don't they?
DT: If, if you have, uh ... if you don't have happy employees, it's hard to get happy customers.
OS: Yeah. Yeah.
DT: Exactly right, and so you'll focus on the culture. HubSpot has the culture code, just Google culture code or ask Greg and Owen, they'll give it to you. We get, uh ... we go through a lot of process to make sure we get people who, uh, ascribe to the culture code, use good judgment, right? And then, uh, we support them. Uh, that employee happiness is critically important. And then number five, you create a great customer experience. That's no easy task, everybody is different. But if you're in a specific niche, right, it becomes a little easier. After you create the experience, you create a world-class community. And, uh, the virtual part of, uh, inbound this year, 2021, um, we'll talk a little bit about the stepping stones, using technology to create community. Because building a community of your folks are super important. And then, uh, if you need help along the way, just don't forget to raise your hand, right? HubSpot, uh, gives away a ton of free stuff. You can get it through Greg and Owen. They have all of the contacts.
And, um, our tagline is, we want, uh, millions of businesses, individuals, leaders, companies, uh, divisions, to grow better. And the reason, uh, I'm honored to be on your podcast is, uh, happy to be part of that and will help you or, um, any of your customers to the best of my ability.
GW: So that brings us to the end of, uh, a very enjoyable interview with DT from HubSpot. Um, Owen, what did you, um, make of that? Wha- what was sort of an insight you pulled out of it?
OS: Well, it was pretty cool listening to Dan talk actually. I really enjoyed that. Um, I think there was a whole lot of really cool messages in there, but one that I picked up to me was this sort of changing role of marketing and sales. You know, sales used to be, they were in control of the situation. They were the boss and it was all about them. About pushing, pushing, pushing and closing deals, selling. And now it's much more of a, I suppose a balance, with marketing and sales and also the consumer. You know, with the inbound concept he talked about with them, you know, trying to be helpful and giving them-
OS: ... giving them material. I think there's just ... the way that's whole changed, you, you need to be aware of that in your business and make sure that you're working that way.
GW: Yeah. Yeah, I know, I agree. I mean, having that customer at the center of everything, the customer experience was really cool.
GW: But also I think a bit of that, um, you know, he talked about the old school of, you know, he did learn the hard way-
GW: ... around how to sell, how to meet objections, how to deal with ... you know? And he's used that nice combo of a real inbound philosophy with those fantastic skills and energy as a salesperson.
OS: Yeah. It was also really good to, you know, to hear him re-enforce the, the niche.
OS: That's been a real philosophy of Concentrate, about focus. And he's basically saying, if you're a tech company and wanna go to the States, it's all about the niche, to really, really focus down. So that was awesome.
GW: Yeah. So some great, um, insights there for tech companies. Um, I hope you enjoyed it. Uh, we certainly did. Uh, and we'll be back with another great, um, guest with some expertise on growing your tech company, uh, very soon. Thanks for, uh, watching and listening.
Interested in learning more about growing your tech business? Make sure you check out our blog which covers all things New Zealand tech. You can also subscribe to our podcast channel on YouTube, Spotify or Google Podcasts.
See you next time,
Greg and Owen.
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