Often times, success in your career may be attributed to things like hard work, intellectual athleticism, and determination. These are all the traits that has led to Michael Gear’s, the SVP of Global Sales at Qstream, repeated success. However, he also likes to point out that it doesn’t hurt to have the good fortune of a little luck added to the mix.
Growing up in the suburbs of Boston, Gear’s parents were both in the real estate industry. His dad is a real estate developer and his mom is a broker.
During high school, he took a trip out west to Boulder, Colorado. He immediately fell in love with the beauty and vibe of the town and ultimately decided to attend the University of Colorado. After his sophomore year, he spent six months traveling across India and Thailand, where he was able to witness different religions like Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism up close. This trip also gave him a deep appreciation for how different the world is, as he saw both affluent and poverty stricken environments.
Directly after college, he enjoyed a care-free lifestyle of snowboarding and bartending in Colorado. After a couple of years, Gear and his girlfriend (now wife), moved back to New England so they could focus on building a career.
Both of Gear’s brothers-in-law were in technology sales, which sounded like a feasible option to explore. He picked up a copy of The Boston Globe and physically mailed in resumes for various positions in sales.
He landed at a tech company called DNS Worldwide, which was selling EDI (electronic data interchange) software to businesses before the internet was prevalent. The software allowed suppliers to submit invoices in an electronic format, which was becoming a required format with larger companies.
“At the time, I didn’t even have an email address,” said Gear. “The software wasn’t overly strategic, but it was still an interesting product to sell in the pre-web era.”
At DNS, he was thrown on the phone immediately with a sink or swim mentality in terms of figuring out how to sell. He found out that he was a swimmer and tech sales was the right career path for him.
This experience led him to join Riverton, where he worked for Bob Potter, who he credits as giving him the training and guidance for the foundation of his sales career and taught him the art of selling. Even today, he still thinks of Potter as a mentor.
Then, a stroke of luck hit. Akamai, which at the time, was a venture backed, pre-revenue company with just 51 employees. He ended up landing an account manager sales job through the company’s Director of Sales, who just relocated from Maryland and had purchased his sister’s house.
Gear ended up working for legendary tech sales guru, Earl Galleher, who has been another mentor. His position was focused on converting pre-existing beta customers, such as CBS, Time Warner, and Disney, into long-term agreements.
The company grew rapidly due to the dot-com boom and six months later, Akamai had a monster IPO in 1999. He quickly grew into a sales management role, which turned into his passion. Gear realized that his strength was developing others and helping people on his team accomplish their goals.
After three years and four different roles at Akamai, he ended up joining the web analytics software company WebTrends. Over six years, he progressed from being a sales rep to running North American sales for the company. During this timeframe, the company grew from $50M to $100M in revenue.
Gear recognized that his product category was seeing a ton of consolidation and competition from newer products from companies like Google. So, he decided to move on.
He relocated to San Francisco to join GoodData, a company that was disrupting the business intelligence stack with a cloud based product. The company was founded by Roman Stanek (who was previously the founder of Systinet in Boston) and it had just raised funding from Andreessen Horowitz and General Catalyst.
When he joined the company in 2011, revenue was at $400,000. He helped grow revenue to $4.3M in his first year and ultimately to $30M+ in a few years.
It was time once again to move back to Boston with his wife, so they could be closer to family. After remotely running sales teams for software companies in Denver and Oregon, he was contacted by an executive recruiter about an opportunity to run sales for Qstream in Burlington, Massachusetts.
Joining Qstream was an easy decision, as he immediately recognized the value of the product since it helps optimize sales teams. Plus, the stage of the company, having just raised its B round of funding led by Polaris, is his sweet spot. It was an ideal situation to leverage his sales execution framework that he’s developed over the past ten years.
Gear’s sales execution framework is one of the keys to his repeated success with high growth software companies. This framework is all centered around a term he calls Distribution of Attainment (DOA). Meaning, if you have 10 sales representatives and only 3 are hitting their goals, then you have a 30% DOA, which is not a healthy number. If you get to 60-80% repeatable DOA, then your company is ready to ramp up the sales team aggressively.
So, how does a company get to a healthy DOA? Gear discussed the four legs of a stool he builds once joining a company to help get them on the right path.
First, he builds a rock solid on-boarding program for sales reps which focuses on accelerating the time to value for the new salespeople. Part of this first step is to also set up specific KPI’s for the reps like time to first deal, timeframe for building relevant pipeline multiples, time for attainment, and other goals.
Next is enablement and fluency. If a sales rep loses a deal, it’s usually because they are not able to situationally articulate value. In a market with multiple competitors, it is important that the sales reps are properly trained on the product and vision, so they can articulate the business outcomes (value) to many different constituents from executives to key sponsors and champions. They are all measured on different KPI’s so it is critical to understand these drivers and reverse engineer the sale to these individuals
Third, is In-Cycle Excellence (ICE), which involves coaching the sales reps on prioritizing opportunities, creating account plans, the sales methodology/process and finally the best way to move prospects through the sales funnel.
Last, is a maniacal focus on the top of the funnel. Nothing solves aggressive sales goals like a big, fat pipeline! Every sales rep is focused on an outbound effort and blowing it out with a business development rep.
At the moment, Qstream has a little over 50 people on the sales team globally, who are usually targeting Global 2000 companies across industries like pharmaceutical, medical device, financial services, tech, and others. Most of the people on the sales team are experienced professionals, who know how to navigate through a complex, enterprise level sale and how to get the win.
At this stage in Gear’s career, he can count on his own experience to help companies build out a high performing sales team. Although, a little luck never hurts.
Images courtesy of Qstream.