Software Executive Magazine

February/March 2018

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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him an opportunity to do anything that hadn't already been done before, short of more moves. Marod is tak- ing my call from his Foster City, CA, office on the fringe of Silicon Valley. It's a long way from his home in Bell- ingham, WA, and even further from his hometown of Grand Haven on the shore of Lake Michigan. He's spent the past two decades moving around the country, from Florida to Missouri to Colorado to Washington, on his software sales odyssey. At Conversica, which Marod joined in the spring of 2013, it's the technology, he says, that's doing the mov- ing. "AI is the bleeding edge of tech," says Marod. "Selling it is akin to racing in a couple of ways. You have to throw some caution to the wind, and there are very few people with the stomach to do it right now." That's in large part because it's a highly educational sell. Everyone knows CRM. Selling it is simply convincing buyers that yours is faster, easier to integrate, or simpler to use. Selling AI is a different animal. It's teaching buyers what it is, explaining how the algorithms process data inputs and "learn," as well as convincing them that it works. Here's a five-point look at how Marod and his sales team at Conversica are overcoming those challenges. 1. Start With A Vertical Focus Marod was recruited to Conversica by its founder, Ben Brigham, who also earned his software business stripes in the automotive CRM space. During Marod's early years there, Conversica focused almost exclusively on the car dealership space it knew best. In fact, Marod took the task of building a Conversica sales team right back to Kansas City, home of former employer VinSo- lutions, where he had a target-rich recruiting environ- ment. "It's still early days for AI today," says Marod. "In 2013, it was very early days. If we didn't build our solu- tion and our sales effort around a vertical that we knew well and had a history in, we'd face a severely steep climb recruiting the development and sales staffs we needed to move forward," he says. ave Marod answers the phone in that wel- coming Midwestern kind of way, warmly and as though he's been looking forward to our conversation all day. I'm calling him to talk sales strategy at fast-growing Conversica, the bleeding-edge AI software company where he leads the sales effort. Our introductory small talk threatens to de- rail the interview from its start. Marod is a speed-freak motor head. He races motorcycles. When he feels like going fast, it's a Ducati superbike — capable of reach- ing speeds of 170 mph — in AMA (American Motorcycle Association)-sanctioned competition. When he feels adventurous, he opts for his KTM woods bike, which he races up and down mountains for hours at a time in WORCS (World Off Road Championship Series) endur- ance events. At this realization, we take quite a depar- ture from shoptalk. Both of my kids race in a similar off- road ATV series on the East Coast, so the conversation is fluent and excited. Here's the thing, though — my kids are 11 and 13 years old. Marod is damn near 50. "It's just kind of in my nature to go fast," he says. "It's thrilling. Operating a powerful machine at high rates of speed or on a technically-demanding course requires the engagement of all your senses. There is risk, there is danger, and those are both exacerbated by your competition," he says. "You accept the risk and push your limits because you want to be faster than the guy next to you." The parallels to his career in software sales don't go unnoticed. For much of his professional life, Marod worked sales for automotive industry-specific CRM and mar- keting software platforms. Over the past decade, he saw stints at Outsell LLC (strategic alliance manager), VinSolutions (national sales director), and Better Car People (VP of sales). These were strong, well-accepted platforms, and Marod was good at selling them. But his professional life selling CRM was sort of akin to riding a moped. There wasn't much speed involved. There was very little risk. It was unlikely those jobs would provide Conversica's AI-driven sales assistant is a new kind of sell, but veteran SaaS salesman Dave Marod is up for the challenge. SAAS SALES exclusive feature By M. Pillar FIVE SaaS SALES SUGGESTIONS SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 20

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