Amy Volas is the Founder and CEO of Avenue Talent Partners. In this episode, we dig into the state of B2B sales recruiting and hiring. We explore what Amy calls the 3 myths of hiring enterprise sales candidates, and discuss the continuing lack of diversity in B2B sales.
Andy Paul: Amy. Welcome to the show.
Amy Volas: Thank you, Andy. For having me, I’m excited to be here.
Andy Paul: Oh, good. We’re excited to have you here. So where are you joining us from?
Amy Volas: I’m joining you from Northern Michigan on a Lake where we have a place for the summer. So greetings from the country.
Andy Paul: From the country. So like, are you in the upper peninsula or not that far.
Amy Volas: No. Um, I’m about an hour and a half South of where the Mackinac bridge is. So Northwest Michigan.
Andy Paul: Yeah. So mosquitoes haven’t carried you away yet.
Amy Volas: No thank goodness. They have not. I have like a little kumbaya essential oil situation that I use and they stay away from that. So there you go.
Andy Paul: And how about the black flies? Do you get those up there too?
Amy Volas: No, we’re on the side of the Lake that, um, the flies don’t come our way. I mean, they do every now and then, but no, I don’t have a major situation. Thank goodness.
Andy Paul: For those of us, for those of you who aren’t from the Midwest or the upper Midwest, as long as from an Amy is, um, yeah, you get that far North, the flies can be an issue. They can ruin, they can ruin a good time.
Amy Volas: that’s true. Or if you go to Maine, they can be really bad there too. So
Andy Paul: Yeah. So where do you normally hang out?
Amy Volas: I normally hang out in grand Rapids, Michigan. That’s my that’s my normal abode. And, uh, Every summer we come up here, we have a place up here and I’m originally from Chicago and that’s why we went to grand Rapids was to get closer to this. It was either grand Rapids or with California. And then we realized
Andy Paul: California is farther away from Northern Michigan. Yes,
Amy Volas: exactly that was the decision maker between that and my mother. Having yet to cut the umbilical cord. The cord was, um, not as tight going from Chicago to grand Rapids, then Chicago to California. So there you go. That’s
Andy Paul: it. So mom wanted you to stay close.
Amy Volas: I think both families were both from Chicago and they thought when we were first talking about it and we love California and we go there and we sometimes in the winter we’ll rent a place there for a number of weeks. And when we started doing that, it was like family therapy, like the waterworks, the we’re aging you can’t leave us. There’s only so much time left and
Andy Paul: Oh, my heart, my heart. I feel my heart.
Amy Volas: yeah. So it was like, okay, well you did give me life. So, you know, I won’t go that far away.
Andy Paul: Well you saved a lot of money, not going to California.
Amy Volas: True story. That’s true. Um, but maybe now with people sheltering in place, I can get a better deal. I don’t know,
Andy Paul: Oh, with your, if you wanted to rent out here, I’m sure.
Amy Volas: Rent or if we ever wanted to buy like in the city or something. I don’t know. I’m not sure.
Andy Paul: So do you mean the city? Meaning San Francisco.
Amy Volas: Uh, any of the city, San Francisco LA. Um,
Andy Paul: San Diego.
Amy Volas: San Diego, as the legend, Ron Burgundy would say yes. All of those. Yes. Those are all options that we love.
Andy Paul: Got it. Right. Well, I can recommend San Diego for sure.
Amy Volas: Yes, please.
Andy Paul: Yeah, you have to, you have to come rent out in the area sometime.
Amy Volas: Um, yes, please. That’s going to be a different conversation for a different day and we are the conversation to talk about book writing. I’m going to have to add that into our agenda.
Andy Paul: Okay. All right, we’ll do that. All right. So, so you’ve been in recruiting mostly your entire career with this seems like a short break at one point, but, um, so what, what was it that was exciting to you about recruiting?
Amy Volas: Actually. Um, I was in that industry, but I wasn’t a recruiter. Um, I have been in sales my entire career. And it so happened to be inside the HR tech recruiting talent acquisition stratosphere. So you’re, you’re on the right track, but just a little bit of a different spin in terms of the industry was that, but the work was all sales.
Andy Paul: So what were you selling?
Amy Volas: So depending I’ve done a lot of different things and, and actually, I just lied to you a little bit. My first-
Andy Paul: Oh, that’s good. That’s a good way to build a relationship with trust,
Amy Volas: I know, you know what, um, let’s start lying. This is what you should always do in sales and recruiting. Just a lie to people and it’ll work itself out in the end, do not do that by the way.
That’s me being cheeky. Um, now I actually started out as a tech recruiter way back in the day, and it was for a company that was providing onsite, um, technical talent for the telecommunications industry. And that company was based in Denver. They had a satellite office in Chicago. Loved it. I have no idea how I even was a technical recruiter.
Like I have no idea. Like I was probably everything that I preached today about what’s broken in recruiting.
Andy Paul: Okay. Because when you started, you’re neither technical nor recruiter.
Amy Volas: This is, this is true story. So, um, the 9/11 situation sadly happened and the dot com bubble had a little bit of a burst and I remember I’d survived a bunch of laughs and the CEO who I absolutely adored in the team adored sat me down one day and he’s like, look, as you can tell, we have nothing for you to recruit for.
We’ve laid off a bunch of people and if you want to stick around, you’re going to have to get into sales. And so that was many, many moons ago and that’s where I got into sales. So at that point I was selling, um, Outsourced technical solutions to the telecommunications industry. Uh, and sadly by the time I got into it, it was uh, too late and the company folded.
And then I got into, um, a company called DataTrent, or excuse me, that was DataTrend. I got into a company called Jacobson. That was a blend of outsourcing consulting and staffing for a very, very specialized niche in managed care. And that’s really where I got my groove in terms of my sales career. And then I got into the HR tech space. So
Andy Paul: Well, so at Jacobson, who are you selling to that you got into your groove?
Amy Volas: Managed care organizations at the C level, the COO, um, mostly operational, sorry, I don’t know if you can hear that background noise. My neighbors decided to do something with the saw. You know, timing. Uh, so we were selling without getting too technical. Think about like Anthem and Wellpoint in, in, uh, Cigna and Aetna. They have software. And when they go through a new software implementation, this is a big driver demand at the time. I don’t know what they’re doing now, but at the time, they were going through implementations and when they would do that, if they didn’t do it well, and nine times out of 10, it would never go well, they would get into major backlog situations.
And if they were in a major backlog situation, they could get fined by the government really, really, really fined. And so that’s what we were solving for was if you’re in that hump and you need just in time, Uh, solutions in terms of having people that have done the job that know the system that understand the technology can immediately step in and start working to reduce the backlog.
That’s what we did. And so the people that I was dealing with, they were either the COO, uh, the SVP of operations, the SVP of Claim. Um, those were, those were my buyers at the time.
Andy Paul: And so what was it about, you said you, you hit your groove, hit your, hit, your you’re in a flow state. Um, what was, what was it.
Amy Volas: So I had a phenomenal boss that took a chance on me and I will never forget at the time this goes again, after 9/11. I remember when I was interviewing and they were like, yeah. So we think that this could be an interesting solution. There is a competitor that just was bought by Perot systems, but we haven’t heard a lot about them, but this could be big, but we need somebody that is going to validate the market essentially.
And my boss had stepped into the company, um, out of consulting and he was there through the succession plan of a father retiring and two son’s taking over as co-CEOs and, um, Yeah, his name is Darren and it was like kismet and he was everything that I wasn’t and vice versa. And he was a tremendous mentor to help me think critically to help me understand what it really looked like to have a seat at that kind of table.
And one of my biggest deals was inside of that company. Well into the six figures and bringing together two companies through a big merger. And at the time it was like a historical merger. And it was myself and two COO’s and their two, um, there are two managed consulting firms and I did that deal and I could have never done that had it not been for him. So that’s, that’s what it was.
Andy Paul: in addition to thinking critically, what, what other sort of big lessons do you think you learned from
Amy Volas: Thank You. Um, so many, but I really think it was about thinking critically. He has a unique skill set, where he can see something today and be able to look at that something and think through what needs to happen between now and the next 12 months and the plan that needs to happen and be right. And I’ve not really come across a lot of people that can do that well or accurately.
And he taught me how to think about that. Like, not just what you want now, not just what you need now, not just what is on your agenda, but think critically through what the situation is and what the buyer really needs and what they’re going through and immerse yourself in the industry and listen more than you talk, like all of that stuff.
When it, when it comes to seeking to understand in thinking critically. Was really where I fine tuned sort of my craft at that point.
Andy Paul: And I’m sure it’s improved since then. So what was, what was following that then? So take us to how you got to starting your own company from where you were at Jacobson?
Amy Volas: Yeah. So from there then I got into the HR tech space. So the first company that I stepped into from that was Yahoo hot jobs. And cool opportunity because you had this big brand behind you, Yahoo, and then you had the recruiting piece that I understood because I had spent time in the recruiting motion from the work that I had.
And so it was interesting to flip the script on that, to think about it from a recruitment advertising perspective and dealing with CHROs, SVPs of Talent Acquisition, VPs of Talent Acquisition, VPs of Recruiting, that was my buyer for Fortune brands. So I was on the majors team and that’s basically like jumbo accounts, global accounts, enterprise, like heavy duty enterprise sales. In my role was 35 to 40 ish accounts and a blend of existing, new, and a win back. And so the work inside of that was different with each account, depending on what the situation was. But what I liked about it, I had never been on the technic more technical side and it wasn’t SaasS that wasn’t SaaS then. It was more like digital advertising.
Talking a lot about how things were structured from a recruiting perspective of, well, wait, are you thinking about branding are, how are you managing this? What technology are you using to manage this? And again, that multithreaded complex sale. So, I that’s where I was bitten more by the tech side of things.
And, uh, the, that side of the recruiting industry was fascinating to me. And it’s always been the number one problem that my buyers have had. Whether it’s the work that I’m doing today or whether it’s what I did way back in the day, we don’t have a problem talking to people or seeing people or finding people. We have a problem finding the right people to do the right work and to stick around, to do that work. And so that’s not been lost on me. And that’s the common theme in my career is trying to solve those problems through the services or the products or the solutions that I’ve been able to sell.
Andy Paul: What was the impetus to say, yeah, I could do this better. Or let me start my own company.
Amy Volas: Uh, well, Darren comes back around, right? So Darren and I never felt out of touch. Um, and he, he has always been a mentor of mine. And so he and I spent a lot of time talking. And I remember when we both left, left, uh, Jacobson at the same time. When we left, it was sad. I was really sad to not continue to work with him.
And I think he felt the same way. And we always talked about like, well, what if we were to join forces again? And I should go back to Jacobson within my career there, I also got into sales leadership. Yep. And I was, um, a vice president by the time I had left. So I realized though, Uh, I loved being where the action was with my buyer and I loved leadership, but I didn’t always want to do it for everybody else, if that made sense.
Um, and so, yeah, Darren and I kept in touch. I loved what I was doing at Yahoo. It was a special time with special people. I did some great work there. I had some great deals, certainly proud of the work, learned a lot of new stuff and. I couldn’t shake Darren. We were talking and it was, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and sales folk, and I feel like it’s in my DNA to do my own thing.
And so we had gotten to, he had flown to Chicago. We were living in Chicago at the time. Uh, we had a lot of meetings about wanting to go back to what we had done at Jacobson. And wanting to do it better because there were certain limitations that we had in certain, um, things that I think the executive team there, they weren’t really interested in pursuing that we were, that we were hearing from our buyer.
And so the time was right and Darren and I both equally invested in the company and started BroadPath, which is still a company to this day that was in 2008. Um, 2008 was 2008. So-
Andy Paul: Yes.
Amy Volas: Yeah, that’s an election year. And that election year, not only was the economy breaking apart, but the big themes at that time were around the autos and the collapse of the autos and, um, the Bear Sterns of the world and the Bernie Madoff’s of the world.
And at the same time, it was also about healthcare. And remember, we were focusing on managed care organizations. I went from having a seven figure pipeline of clients that were so happy to have Darren and I back. Um, and I remember it was like, I was at like almost closed one, right? Like it was like I’m at 90% assurance that this thing is going to be a done deal. And within like a 10 day timeframe, everything dried up. It was like the Sahara desert. And the reason being was, guess what? We’ll talk to you in two and a half years, but we need to figure out what’s going to happen with healthcare because depending on who gets elected, there’s going to be a lot of regulation and a lot of change. And we don’t know what we don’t know. And then on the flip side it was, oh, and by the way, we’re also tied to the autos and if they collapsed, we collapsed too. So yeah. That sucked.
I will never, I forget I was in a Home Depot parking lot and not Home Depot, excuse me, Office Depot parking lot and I called Darren and we had had lots of conversations, but I was crying and I was like, I can’t do this anymore. And I couldn’t do it anymore because we, and I still believe in bootstrapping versus taking on outside funding, personally for a variety of reasons. And he felt the same way. And I said, you know, I, this is straining my personal relationships is a straining my financial situation. And I, I don’t have the wherewithal to not do anything for two and a half years in this business, like in terms of the economics and even Darren was questioning it. And Darren’s financial situation and working with living, what he was doing was very different than mine. And I’m so proud of him. I stepped away. That was the hardest thing I had to do. I’m really proud of the fact that even though I stepped away, we are still good. We were still good. That’s really hard to do. And, um, he stuck with it and sacrificed so much and flash forward to 12 years later. And that company is absolutely thriving and I’m thrilled for him. So that’s that.
Andy Paul: When did you start your company?
Amy Volas: Avenue talent partner. So, so, okay. 2008 happens. That was a sad day. I had to eat crow and go back to Yahoo. That that was amazing. And I’m grateful. And thank you for bringing me back Yahoo executive team. Um, but I also knew that it was a bridge and I needed to just sort of like, get my breath back again and get my feet underneath me and start thinking through like, okay, I’ve got to recover and I want to just get back to being the best version of me, which is a catalyst. They were a great catalyst for that. There was a little company at the time called Indeed that was giving like the Yahoos and the CareerBuilders and the Monsters, a run for their money. And one of our executives went over from Yahoo to Indeed.
And recruited me over to be the first, the first enterprise salesperson to build out a territory. And again, I have this common theme of being a guinea pig. I love the build that’s my, and as much as I loved Yahoo, Yahoo, wasn’t building anything. Um, and so the work is different. And so I like being where the action is. I like building, I like being close to my customer. I like being able to do things on their behalf that make them better without a lot of the red tape and bureaucracy. So long story short, uh, they recruited me and here I was the very first person that they hired to do this, but also I was remote. They were all in Stanford, Connecticut.
Their tech team was in Austin. And here is this, this person that’s in Chicago. And, uh, yeah, I was employee number 20 something and was there through a significant exit. So that’s my story up kind of moments of awesomeness, because when you go through that in the fruits of your labor and the work was hard, they didn’t advertise. We didn’t have a fully baked out anything. And you go through that and it builds into something. And then there’s an exit like that. That’s like the most amazing feeling ever. And that’s where I was bitten. And then you start chasing that like a drug and that’s what I did. So why did I have new talent partners?
Um, because I knew I was always going to do a company for myself and I wanted it to be very different and no offense to Darren, I didn’t want a partner. I wanted to do it for me. And so I think people start businesses for one of two reasons. You’ve been in a space for a long time and you understand it and you care about it and you’ve identified opportunities to make it better or bridge gaps or solve problems there.
Or you are brilliant. And you’re going to be like the dude from Uber. And you start thinking about, huh, I’m in Paris and I’d like to get a car like yesterday without a taxi. And all of a sudden, there’s this on demand space that’s created or Steve jobs with what happened at Apple. I’m not that person, my brain is not wired that way, but I am someone that cares deeply about my community.
And so the whole HR tech and talent and recruiting piece, and what’s broken there. Really speaks to me, startups really speak to me. Sales really speaks to me and I figured, huh, I get hit up by recruiters all the time, internal and external. And it’s always an icky situation. I’ve never had an amazing scenario. And so,
Andy Paul: Why? Why do you think that is.
Amy Volas: because I think that they preach it, preach it. I think that they approach it. Sorry. The same way that the majority of sellers do have, I’m going to spray and pray. It’s a numbers game, a quantity over quality, all that same nonsense happens in recruiting. Last time I checked, these are still one-to-one relationships.
And when you don’t treat them as such, it’s just this like highly transactional itchiness that you have high churn probability and it happens. Um, and I cared about a lot. I cared a lot about bad in sales and I still do, and I care a lot about that and recruiting still do. And so that’s why I started this.
Andy Paul: Hmm. Interesting. Very interesting. So you say you’re doing sales recruiting without the cringe. So the cringe was what you, you spoke about before, just the what’d you call the ickyness.
Amy Volas: Yeah.
Andy Paul: and how’s that going?
Amy Volas: Um, I’m almost afraid to say it out loud because of the time that we’re in. Um, and I I’m superstitious. I’m really grateful to say it’s going really well. Mmm. And I’m really proud of that. And it’s been a lot of hard work, but I have cracked the code for how to solve for the problems that I see that happen when it comes to sales recruiting specifically.
And I should say this, I don’t do all sales recruiting, it’s enterprise sales, sales, leadership, and executive sales. So that’s what I mean by that. Um, I have cracked the code for how to reduce the margin for error when it comes to mishiring and when it comes to reducing turnover, because our industry turns almost three times more than anything else, and that’s a big problem. And so
Andy Paul: When you said you cracked the code, but in terms of our clients were making the decision.
Amy Volas: Yep. But for my clients to work with me, they have to subscribe to the way that I work. So I orders. Like, it’s not like, Oh, you have a job. Great. Give it to me. And let me give us go, uh, blast out a thousand different inmails or emails and I’ve got a network and these are the top 10 people that I work with. And that’s it like, no, no, it’s not that at all. For me,
Andy Paul: So tell us how you approach that when you get a, an assignment.
Amy Volas: I’m going to keep it a little high level because some of this red sauce. So I will say this, um, everything that I do is the exact same thing that I did in my enterprise sales career that made me successful in the backdrop of that was to seek to understand and really peel back the layers beyond the surface of what do you really need? Why do you really need it? Why now what’s your real stage in the work that needs to be done? Um, I’m a big fan of a scorecard. I write about that all the time. That’s absolutely incorporated into my process. And then there is an interview motion. That I have created, uh, to reduce that margin for error. A lot of the time, I think what people do is they recruit on the fly and they try to figure it out along the way. And they still have no idea what they’re really looking for or what good really looks like for them in their stage.
Andy Paul: And so if, if, uh, if I understand what you’re saying, so when a client hires you, they have to agree to use your scorecard.
Amy Volas: Mmm. It’s much deeper than that, but yeah, that’s certainly part of it.
Andy Paul: So interesting. I mean, you and I have spoken before about this. I’m a huge believer in scorecard approach to a database approach to, to hiring, um, because we’re collecting all this data, if we set the right criteria, then we should be able to track that over time and see how that, what we could do better going forward.
Amy Volas: Yeah, well, and I think with anything it’s like go back and especially with the scorecard. What scorecard you might have used a year ago as your company, especially in the startup ecosystem, might be very different than where you are today. And so I like to allow enough time to kind of settle in and have a look at, but the scorecard is going to evolve as your company evolves.
And so this is, this is something that out of everything that Jason Lemkin has talked about, and I don’t agree with every single thing that he has talked about. But I do absolutely embrace this and agree wholeheartedly. There are 48 different kinds of sales leaders. You better make sure you hire the right one for your stage in the work that you need to do.
And that’s an article that he’s written and I think it’s absolutely spot on. And what most people don’t realize, especially people that aren’t used to, or it doesn’t come naturally, or they haven’t done it before i.e., and no knock on them. Um, but like a technical founder, for example, does it, how to hire a sales leader? They haven’t done the job. They don’t know the questions to ask and they don’t know the answers if they’re good or not, they don’t know how to, um, process that. So to speak, it would be like, if you asked me, and even though I was a tech recruiter back in the day, I contributed to everything that was icky, because I didn’t know if somebody was good or not. I was just checking off boxes. And it’s one thing to check off a box, and it’s a very different thing when you can quantify and qualify and put those pieces together to connect the dots. Most don’t know how to do that. So they’ll get caught up in the shiny objects or, Oh, I was referred to this person. This person is this VP of sales over here and there. They’ve done a great job and they’ve grown the business three X, well what that business was doing and how, and how it was structured internally, and the work that needed to be done may or may not apply to what you need, and do you know what that even looks like?
And nine times out of 10, the answer is no. And so that’s really the stuff that gets me up in the morning to think about and to solve.
Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, a lot of, of what happens is, especially in early stage startups is to your point, is the founders oftentime just want to shed the responsibility of actually having to sell and they may hire a VP way too early and the VP doesn’t want to get their hands dirty either. So they hire somebody else and he’s, and it’s like, well, no one’s ever sold yet. Right. You have to learn how to sell your product before you start bringing these people in
Amy Volas: And een if you’re not entirely sure how to sell it, you have to spend time with your buyer to understand them, because if you’re going to continue to be brilliant, which you are, and that’s great. To continue to iterate and when you’re thinking about your MVP and you’re thinking about additional features or whatever the case may be, if you’re just shooting in the dark, because you think it’s great. And because you’re little. Circle of people around you tell you how great it is, but your buyer hasn’t told you that and you haven’t spent time with them and you’re making major assumptions. And then you want to hire a team to validate the market. That’s insanity to me like that literally is such an expensive roll of the dice that tends to not work out so well.
I want to know. What my buyer wants needs what they don’t want, what they cringe over, what they, what delights them and what makes them better. And I’m a big believer, and this is the same thing with recruiting. People make decisions in the buying motion or in the hiring motion. For three reasons, you can help me get better.
You can help me solve a problem. You can help me reach a goal. And if you don’t know the answer to that, and you’re assuming because you think that what you’re creating is the most brilliant thing since sliced bread. That’s great. But the market will always speak loudest. And wouldn’t, you rather know what fun then waits until way down the road and have your rear end handed to you because you made the wrong assumptions.
And now you’ve brought people in and that’s disrupted their careers and the work that they’ve done. And you’ve spent a bunch of money on that. Oh, and if we’re talking about enterprise sales, you really truly only get one major shot at that table. And if you screw it up, And you colossally screwed up because that’s a multithreaded sales motion. Good luck trying to get back in. that people think through the big picture, they get like caught up in the hastiness of like right now, like, this is what we’re doing right now. And it’s like, okay. And so I guess to go back to what you were asking me about Darren, in terms of like how he influenced me right now is great, but right now is right now, there’s this whole other thing that’s going to happen after right now.
And are we thinking about that and how are we thinking about that? And that’s the stuff.
Andy Paul: And so they’re also back to right before the, the Darren comment you’re talking about, you know, hiring the right people and so on. Is, is there still seems to be this fundamental mismatch between the way companies think about who they need to hire and the attributes they need to have. And to the point you’re making about talking to the buyers, what the buyers need from that person in order to help them make a decision. And this, this seems to be persistent, right? It’s like, how do we break? How do we break that cycle of, you know, on one hand we need, you know, I’ve just in the last couple of weeks, you don’t see job listings for nanny Hunter, Anita extrovert, Nina, blah, blah. These are macho terms. And then what the customer wants is well, I want to curious open-minded problem solver, but you’re not hiring that person. You’re hiring this other animal, which does nothing for me.
Amy Volas: I want an assassin. Yeah, I know. Uh, yeah, that is like old antiquated, like archaic sales culture stuff. Truly.
Andy Paul: it’s still predominant.
Amy Volas: It is. Well, 78.3% of the sales population are white males. So yeah, of course. Um, and it starts at the top, right? So this is why I care one of the reasons why there’s lots of reasons why I care deeply, but this is one of the reasons that I care deeply about what the work that I do when it comes to hiring a sales leader, because I am a technical founder and I don’t know that.
I am trained because I read something on some blog that said, this is what you do when you hire a VP and it isn’t applicable to your stage. And maybe there’s one little baby piece of advice out of that whole thing that you read. But now you’re using that as the be all and end all because it’s how you sass, like that is insane to me.
Um, and so in my mind, the way to solve for that, and I am. I am grateful for the work that I do, but I am trying to shake up an industry that’s begging for it. And it starts at the top and it starts with the hiring motion. And in my mind, it’s like, okay, I know what that looks like. I vet my clients just as much as I would vet anybody, I’d bring their way.
And if it’s going to be that, and it’s like, we need a Ninja and we needed this and we needed that and blah, blah, blah. And, um, There’s all of that sort of like peacocking, pomp, and circumstance, like pounding of the chest. And it’s like Grant Cardone style’s stuff. No, thanks. I’m not into it. And no knock on Grant Cardone. I’m just not a fan. It’s not my style. It’s not my jam.
Andy Paul: I mean either. Well, so let’s follow down that path a little bit. Cause know one of the things that you’ve written about and you talk about is, is increasing the diversity in sales. And so how are you able to influence that with, with your clients? Because as you said, I actually, I think I was reading somewhere may have been even something you’d written with 78% of people working in sales are white, a big fraction of those men.
Um, yeah. How do you, how do you work with your clients to say, you know, we’re missing all these opportunities, these talented people, we’re just not even looking at.
Amy Volas: so I tend to not be the problem solver at my level, because remember. The work that I do is hiring a sales leader that has a lot of experience or an enterprise seller that has a lot of experience. And so the pool of available people that do the actual job fall into that statistic that you just stated that I talked about earlier. So I can’t fix it at my level. I can talk about it for sure.
Andy Paul: How you influence it?
Amy Volas: That’s it’s influenced in its education. And so in my mind, as an industry, we have done a colossal job of, um, bringing people into sales and quickly ushering them out because of the way we’ve treated them.
Andy Paul: Colossally bad job.
Amy Volas: Yeah. Thank you.
Andy Paul: Yes.
Amy Volas: Thank you. Um, this saw situation next to me is throwing my brain off. I’m sorry. I want to like, literally push, pause and go over there and take the saw and put it in the Lake, but I digress.
Uh, but now we’ve done. Uh, we’ve done a horrible job of keeping great people in sales that had a lot of promise because there’s a lack of onboarding. There’s a lack of training. There’s a lack of enablement. And if you don’t fit the norm, you don’t fit in you’re out. Or if it’s a horrible sales leader and that’s the first person’s experience in sales, they’re super turned off and they’re going to go elsewhere and that’s a pain.
And so I’m trying to influence it starts well before this hiring motion. How can we bring people in? How can we. Keep them, how can we support them? And as an executive, how are you creating a feeder system inside of your sales ecosystem to have a path and to have it be a nurturing path and to have it not be you walk onto the sales floor.
And the only thing that you hear is, uh, talking about Monday night football that might alienate every other underrepresented group. And that’s okay. Like if that happens, that’s okay. And if you know that it happens, that’s okay. Now, you know, what are we going to do about it? And I had a conversation with a founder and he was like, I can’t tell people what to say.
When I walk in, in the morning, all they’re doing is talking about going and getting drunk at the bar or the conquest that they made from the bar or some sort of sports thing. And we have three women that are in customer success. That would be phenomenal and sales, and they don’t want anything to do with it. Cause they don’t want to deal with that. And I said, so what are you doing about that? And he’s like, I can’t do anything. I can’t tell people what to say. And I said, no, no, no, no, no you can’t. But at the end of the day, what you can do is this. If you’re hearing it firsthand, it means that you’re somewhere on the sales floor, you’re walking, you’re around it.
You’re near it. As a leader, you can change the discussion. You can create chatter to be more inclusive. You can quickly reframe it and you can have discussion about what’s appropriate. And what’s not, that starts at the top. And it was insane, Andy, because it was like, you know what? You’re right. I’ve never thought about that before.
And what I’ve learned is sometimes what’s obvious to me, isn’t always obvious to others, but like, it doesn’t have to be a complete colossal reframe of everything that you’ve ever thought about doing it can simply be, change the conversation spend more time on the sales floor, have boundaries of what’s acceptable. What’s not acceptable because that’s how you, a lot of the stuff that happens, isn’t going to be attractive to a woman, a person of color, someone out of the LGBT community, you know, and the list goes on. Or we also have the other side of this in diversity. Isn’t just. A person of color or women, it’s a lot of different things and a big thing that nobody’s talking about. And I think it’s absolutely horrible. Is there some sort of stigma that after the age of 40 you’re put out to pasture and you don’t have really any light left in you and you’re not going to bring any value to the table, especially startups. Like that’s a big problem. Big problem.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. There’s explicit ageism as well as everything else. I mean, it’s, for me, a lot of it is just minuscule amounts of courage on the part of founders and sales leaders could begin to address this issue in a meaningful way. As I think that that yeah, the fear starts as well, I can’t do anything that would possibly disrupt this quote unquote culture we have because we’re producing and the investors expecting this invest, you know, uh, certain results within certain timeframes and it sort of works its way down the ladder where suddenly people say, well, I’m going to make the quote unquote safe hire. Mmm. Yeah. For most companies it’s not working out. Yet they’re all locked in.
Amy Volas: well, and, and there’s something that I read recently and I, I can’t quote it because I don’t, I’m reading a lot on the topic, so I don’t have it right in front of me. I have it saved somewhere, but it’s the thought of, and their statistics. I think it, McKinsey had a study about this, like. When you have a diverse group of people, your success ratio or number, whatever you want to say increases, you know, so like, and that’s not lost on me.
So if I think about it, if, if all I’m doing is hiring everyone that thinks like me has worked, like me, looks like me, talks like me. Does it the exact same way that I do it. You’re missing out on such an opportunity to think broadly, to think outside of yourself, to learn something, um, and to do such a better business in my mind.
And so that’s the stuff that it’s like, that’s really the benefit of diversity. And somehow people are really threatened by that. And it is a systemic problem. It’s not just, you mentioned something earlier and I think it’s important. I can lead the horse to water, but ultimately it’s somebody else’s decision to make.
And so it starts where the decision is made and culture comes from every single decision that’s been made to that point and is it will continue to be influenced and affected and enabled by every decision that happens after that point. And so like, what are you deciding to do people? Like it’s not just something that you just, I can’t tell you after all this stuff that’s been happening.
How many times I get on a call and it’s like, okay, so we want to hire for diversity. They don’t even know. Well, that means they don’t even know what that looks like. Truly. They’re not thinking about it broadly of like, okay, you want to do that. But the story that you’re telling on your website speaks to the opposite of that your Glassdoor reviews are horrendous and talk about the bro culture. How are you addressing that? Well, no, no, no. We just want to recruit for it and it’s like, no, no, no. It’s not that simple.
Andy Paul: But I think this gets, this gets back to the whole idea of, of people’s are driven by, I call it fear, but it could be their, their desire to, to please or whatever. But, you know, it’s just an article in the Washington post. I think it was this morning and last couple days about, you know, less than 1% of venture capital money goes to black entrepreneurs. So. Yeah, you have to think to some degree there’s both explicit and implicit biases at work in those decisions, but you also, it’s reasonable to expect that a founder that gets funded and sees this is like, well, okay, if they’re not comfortable funding black entrepreneurs, can I hire talented black or whatever employees?
Or am I going to risk? Raising risk the wrath of my investors. You know, this, this is just like, yeah, I should. The safe thing is to follow what’s been done and it’s it’s, it’s like, okay, well, we’ve got this little cycle, we’ve got breakout. And that’s unfortunately what you’re talking about when your clients are calling you, there was a, I think it was a different interview, but, um, One of the few black partners in VC firms in the Valley saying that, you know, tired of this diversity theater. And I think that’s, you know, just what you’re experiencing is somebody calling us. Yeah. We don’t want to recruit for it. That’s that’s theater, right? The non no intent to actually make it real. It’s just our, our play acting.
Amy Volas: And then that speaks to, is there a true desire to change it? Is it, is it just the trendy topic or is there a real commitment to that? Um, and that’s, that’s what I look for. And it’s funny. I, the, the stat that you’re quoting from something that you were reading that I wrote within that same article, uh, there is a company called Suchi. And I used their website video. Like anybody can go see it as a perfect example of what diversity looks like of walking your talk, not just saying that you care about it. Um, it, it’s pretty powerful to see it in practice and you don’t see it so much and they have done a phenomenal job of illustrating that. Mmm. You know, when I’m going to speak so strongly about something like this, I think sometimes people just feel paralyzed, you know? So the benefit of the doubt of people and not just the theater of diversity, but like, if you genuinely care and you just genuinely don’t know or you’re so bogged down in your own business, it’s hard to think about your business. Um, that’s where I try to provide examples and actionable insight that people can start in doing. So whether it’s how you think about your job descriptions and there just from a gender perspective, there’s a free gender decoder tool that you can use. And there’s companies like Textio and Tap Recruit, um, that are paid solutions that what you’re writing and sort of scores it and calls it out.
Um, so there’s like a lot of different things that you can do to solve for some of them as a place to start. Um, and like I said earlier, it is a foundational thing that starts at the top. And just because it was one person, I was on a panel recently with modern sales pros and one of the panelists and I talked after the fact post-mortem and we were talking about the fact that, where they work it’s a big topic and it’s where they’re investing to sponsor things and be involved in all the, all the fun stuff. But ultimately it’s beyond that individual of what they control and it’s decisions that other people need to make. And I said, well, are they making them? And are they bought into that? And it’s a mixed bag.
And so until there’s that alignment and then there’s thoughtful action taken beyond, I’ll throw some dollars to it, to sponsor something, to say, we have a commitment to diversity. There’s a big difference with that.
Andy Paul: Yep. Absolutely. All right, Amy, we could go on, on this, but unfortunately we’re out of time. So if people wanna learn more about what you’re doing and connect with you, how can they do that?
Amy Volas: so Avenue, talent partners.com is where all of the things that I’m featured in the blog and. How to get in touch with us. But for me personally, it’s a LinkedIn. I live out loud there daily. I think I’m the only LinkedIn. The last time I checked. So either Ave, talent partners.com or LinkedIn is a great place to find me.
And it’s easy to connect there.
Andy Paul: Perfect. Why encourage people to connect with you and follow what you’re doing on LinkedIn? It’s always a good stuff. And we’ll look forward talking on shortly.
Amy Volas: thank you. Thank you so much. I appreciate the invite to talk shop.
Andy Paul: Thanks. Talk to you soon.
Amy Volas: Sounds good. Thanks. Bye.