CEO Sales Insights

CEO Sales Insights with Max McLaren from Red Hat

February 4, 2022

CEO Sales Insights

Sales IQ Global has a worldwide audience of sales leaders and professionals operating in B2B environments. Tony Hughes is Co-Founder of Sales IQ Global and a best-selling author. He hosts a live monthly CEO conversation shared with an online audience sharing CEO insights with peers looking to drive sales, and aspiring sellers seeking to better understand how to engage a CEO.

Leading Red Hat ANZ for the last (fascinating) 15 years, Max McLaren has had "a very different job every year" - leaving him with an amazing breadth of knowledge.

Join Tony Hughes as he and Max cover everything from producing high double-digit growth year-on-year, to finding and retaining top talent, to the sales pitch he used to cut his teeth.

Delivering wisdom with the genuine and up-front approach he frequently touches on, this episode of CEO Sales Insights offers value for every level of the org chart.


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If you're looking to enable yourself (or your team) to #BeTheBestYouCanBe as professional salespeople, consider the Create Pipeline Program from Sales IQ Global.

Max McLaren
Regional Vice President and General Manager, ANZ Red Hat APAC,

[00:00:00] Tony Hughes: Welcome to the CEOs Sales Insights Podcast. I'm your host, Tony Hughes and I am so excited to bring you real world insights from legendary CEOs on how to drive and sustain top line growth and create a customer centric culture. Whether you're an aspiring or seasoned corporate leader, you'll hear wisdom with real world application that can make a real difference in your work. But we also provide insights here for sales professionals seeking to elevate to the C-suite. As a seller, you would better understand how a CEO actually thinks and what it really takes to earn a conversation. Let's jump in with this episode's CEO.

Welcome everybody. I'm Tony Hughes, co-founder and Sales Innovation Director at Sales IQ Global and welcome to the CEO Sales Insights Show. I'm really excited about the guests that we have today. Max McLaren from Red Hat. I'll introduce Max formally in a few minutes. Sales IQ Global brings you the CEO sales insights show. We've got a brilliant course that specializes in helping sellers fill the top of funnel opportunity pipeline.

The conversation we'll have today with Max McLaren will really help you do that. So I really encourage you to take notes. So I'll bring Max in, in a moment, but just to introduce Max, Max is regional vice president and general manager, Australia and New Zealand.

For Red Hat, Asia Pacific and Red Hat is without doubt the global leader in source software. Some of the biggest banks in the world, actually, most of the biggest banks in the world, biggest government departments, corporations are using Red Hat. To drive down costs, to improve operational efficiency to be able to division, to be able to deliver innovation, to market faster, just an amazing business.

And Max himself has over 35 years experience in leading and managing tech sales and marketing teams worldwide. He's been leading Red Hat, Australia and New Zealand for over 15 years. Prior to that an amazing career with IBM he's an executive who is proud of the fact that he's built successful teams, that I've had the privilege of working with his teams for many years.

Amazing positive team and sales culture very customer centric. But Max has done a brilliant job in attracting and retaining the best talent in the marketplace. As well as driving the timing of goals with focused regular review for execution. And and I know that Max has been one of the highest performing managers within the head organization globally.

So without any further ado I'll actually bring Max in Max. Welcome. And thanks for giving us your time today.

[00:02:42] Max McLaren: It's a pleasure Tony, good to be here.

[00:02:44] Tony Hughes: Mate. Thank you. Would you mind providing a little bit of a brief overview of Red Hat and the value proposition, and also how you go to market. What, what your organization looks like just to contextualize the conversation.

[00:02:57] Max McLaren: Sure. So Red Hat it's been around for just shy of 30 years, 1993, we started and we started out with putting for some of the younger fellas. They wouldn't remember these days, but used to stick CDs on the slug of magazines and send those up.

And that's how you got your, your Red Hat Linux. And then, you know, some smart people in the organization, one of which is still here, Paul Cormier, who runs the organization now figured out that Enterprises could run the staff. It wasn't a hobbyist sort of thing. And so we started doing the whole testing of making sure that Linux would work with hardware and software.

And that was the kickoff of Red Hat enterprise Linux. And that was in about 2002. And that really was the start of, of Red Hat as we know it today. And to your point, you know, it's become a 5 billion business now. And. I would say about 60% of that business is probably Linux I'm talking about in the ANZ context.

I'm not quite sure of exactly worldwide. But you know, we've since then acquired a middleware technology organization called JBoss and evolve that over many years, we acquired other organizations. For example, the virtualization engine that is an open stack KVM and evolve that into a visualization play and then OpenStack and the world's built sort of a private cloud solution based on, on, on that.

Probably the biggest acquisition was a small little technology that we started a little. Almost sandpit where developers could come and start developing online and that's evolved into our container platform, OpenShift leveraging the power of, of containers like Docker, but, but a variety of others.

And of course, Kubernetes is the orchestration engine that we worked with Google in making a reality and, and then Ansible is our automation technology with. We acquired in about 2011 and has now become the largest automation of effectively compute storage security, and a variety of other automation processes integrating into other technologies.

So a variety of technologies and effectively what we do is we make open source consumable. Originally, as you said, We just drove down costs. We were a good enough alternative to some of those very expensive proprietary solutions. But I think over time you know, open sources, attracted developers, and as a result, a lot of the innovation in the world now happens in the, in the open source community and read it because we're so connected to those communities is able to identify.

I suppose the big movers in that space and put efforts behind it and then legitimize it. And as I say, make it enterprise consumer. And so, as you pointed out in the introduction, banks and airlines and utilities and governments, et cetera, et cetera rely a lot on what we do and effectively we've, we, we coined the phrase many years ago, hybrid cloud which has now become sort of a a du jour type comment, I suppose, for, for how organizations run, even those organizations that were born in the cloud and only ever provided.

But as I said to a CIO of a bank, one day when he said we're going all in to the cloud and that's where we're going to do, I said, that's interesting. So your core banking system on your mainframe, what are you going to do with that? Well, apart from that, obviously, and then, so my point is, is that there will always be in most organizations, large organizations I suppose a variety of different platforms and our value proposition to organizations today is how do you optimize the way you run and manage and bolds all the, for want of a better term digital transformation.

Value propositions to your customer base and your, your employee base with that cloud as, as, as a, as a platform, right? And, and figuring out where best to run it and how, how to optimize the way that runs across a variety of different platforms.

[00:07:03] Tony Hughes: What's the profile of your own span of control with the organization that you're running?

[00:07:07] Max McLaren: Well as you said, I've had a varied career and I was in. Southeast Asia and south Asia with IBM. I'm running the Lotus business for many years. And then I was lucky enough to get an offer to come down and run that in ANZ. And I really liked it. And so when they gave me the option, Moving to a very small organization, relative to IBM, Red Hat to run ANZ I was pretty excited.

We had no presence in New Zealand and now it's a significant part of our business. And I I quite like the fact that I don't have to fly more than at best five hours to Perth. And and just run the ANZ business and, you know, to, to be able to work in an environment that. I'd say pretty innovative.

I mean, I think we're relatively early adopters of technology. And that's been the case in, in Red Hat. You know, we were some of the very early adopters of cloud computing, for example and how we leveraged and ran that. And it, I think it's been a fabulous guide. I used to be part of a group of CEOs and I said, Max, you must have been the longest serving CEO, or I'm a sales director effectively of an organization in ANZ. And I probably have been, but it's been a very different job every year that I've, I've embarked on it.

[00:08:23] Tony Hughes: Yeah. And Max, you've obviously seen, seen a lot of change. So in what ways has revenue generation models changed within the software industry and where do, what do you think it's going?

[00:08:36] Max McLaren: We were probably the first, anyway, major organization to embark on the subscription model. So, you know, traditionally it was a licensed based model with renewals or maintenance every year. And that was tough. I remember, you know, in some of my early days at IBM in, in Australia, Trying to convince CIO is that despite the fact that they've partnered with millions of dollars the year before they needed to give us another 10, 15% the next year when they hadn't deployed a lot of it.

Right. And so the proposition of the subscription, which by its very nature was substantially less than a traditional license model in endeared us to customers. And I think that's been a big evolution, many organizations haven't heard that. And we know a lot of. You know, relatively new platforms are desperate to try and evolve a subscription model because that annuity model is being very lucrative for us.

Because traditionally customers renew, you know, every year you know, the great thing about open sources, they don't have to do, they can stop using us to today and still continue to use the software. It's a perpetual model for that. They don't get the updates and fixes that we provide. And they don't get the support and all that other stuff that goes with a subscription at Red Hat, but they can still use the software.

So I think it's an attractive value proposition. And then of course, cloud today is creating a very different market. You know, I think the hyperscalers have created a great marketplace. Organizations are finding that constructing a procurement process with a cloud hyperscale. Has been sort of attractive, interestingly ISV, he's kind of like Red Hat.

You can buy Red Hat value propositions on, on the marketplaces of the hyperscalers. And use those today in many organizations do I'm found that appealing. And it's interesting, you know, I think we're seeing effectively the hyperscale is almost evolving in. Traditional distributed distribution land in terms of what you're able to, to facilitate.

[00:10:33] Tony Hughes: So you've had an amazing career. There's a lot of sales people to watch this show, to try and gain some insights into how to approach someone in the C-suite. But before we talk about that, talk about your own career path because your career path through leadership included a lot of selling rights. So this goes out to anybody in selling it's a into a right path.

[00:10:54] Max McLaren: Sure. You know, I was lucky enough. I stumbled into it. I, I, I grew up in Zimbabwe. We did a degree in marketing, bachelor of commerce, majored in marketing at the university of Nitel in Pietermaritzburg. And then I went overseas and did the normal stuff, but I managed to find a mate in a pub who offered me a job.

As a sales rep and one of the very first IBM PC dealers in, in, in west London and evolved through that very early stage of, of I suppose, the PC revolution. And then I got into in those early days, I realized that hardware was becoming a bit of a a challenge. And that cost was the primary definer of, of whether they bought it from me or not.

So I moved into software and I sold accountancy software. And then I'm progressed into working for, for Lotus selling Lotus Notes and probably some of the best times of my life, because effectively, you know, my professor at university told me that marketing was business. And what was interesting. I was being exposed to a huge amount of business in selling accountancy software and then selling Lotus Notes.

And I could almost walk into any organization and provide them with a solution to some of their deep down, down pains and, you know, getting to grips with understanding how organizations run, understanding the pains. I think. An exciting thing. You know, for an inquisitive mind, which I think most of us have and being able to help solve those problems is, is, is wonderful and effectively.

That's what you do as a sales guy, right? We'll go you're solving business problems and I think. By being able to do that. And also, you know, along the way, actually make a few bucks because it's been a lucrative career for us. You know, I started with literally nothing. I had no money in my back pocket.

I had to borrow money to buy a suit for my first job. And, you know, it's paid us a good living over, over time. So I, I think selling in the it world you know, effectively solving business problems is very exciting and. If you get that right. And are able to do it and it's hotter and hotter and hotter today.

Yeah. Because you know, they so complex all those problems. But if you can get to do that, you're, you'll be a successful salesperson. ,

[00:13:17] Tony Hughes: There's some great wisdom there for everybody watching this. So for anyone in sales, be genuinely curious, it's such an important trait in life. Be genuinely genuinely curious about the world of your customer.

Think about the real problems that you solve. Something that's a serious problem. Otherwise there's not going to be serious money available to actually solve it and turn up and have some insights. So, you know, you've heard from Max, he really gained some insights into how businesses were running and he could take that to any customer he was talking to.

So Max lit let's talk about leading an organization because one of the reasons I think. People at inter sales have got such an opportunity to progress into leadership, is that any buffoon in business can cut costs, right? And there's so many things that you do as a leader and that all CEOs do, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is to drive top line revenue growth in a way that really sustains and a big part of your role and any leader's role, whether there was.

Business with a bold that they report to, or for yourself, you're reporting up into an overseas boss. What's your advice to leaders that are watching this right now in managing the expectations of the board or the, or the boss above them, especially when it comes to forecast.

[00:14:30] Max McLaren: Yeah, there's a lot in that question.

Let's take the last bit first you know, I've had the adage that what you see is what you get, you know, you gotta be authentic. And you've got to be able to balance being pragmatic and authentic and deliver the message and also sell the vision. Of positivity for the future, you know, as sales reps, you're trying to convince your sales manager, that you understand how to close this piece of business.

And you know, we can talk about the process of getting there in due course as a sales manager, you're effectively trying to sell to your boss. The vision of, of, you know, we've got this. We've got this. We w we figured out how to do this. These are the key deals that we're going to close. And you can trust my, my forecast.

You got to deliver. But you know, I've also never been afraid of, of delivering bad news. I think that's important. You can't keep delivering bad news though, as you won't be delivering any news for four orders, but, but I think that's the practicality getting there is the complex beast. Right. You know, the forecast, I think is the end point, getting there in terms of how do you build the business?

How do you continue to drive top line? Yeah, I Red Hat's been a, an aggressive growth company and we've live a high double digit growth for years. In order to convince the market that there was something in this open source thing. And then we actually got a bit of a following and. You know, the share price went up pretty high and ended up with IBM paying $34 billion for us.

[00:16:10] Tony Hughes: $34 billion. I think at the time it was the highest valued acquisition in the it industry. Yes.

[00:16:15] Max McLaren: Yeah, probably. Yeah, certainly up there. So anyway.

[00:16:19] Tony Hughes: Yeah. Incredible. And Max, I really agree with your comment. That is a leader. We shouldn't be afraid of delivering bad news. I think it's so important that we deliver the bad news early, not late.

And for all of the sales people watching this, I'm sure Max will agree with me cause I've also run the region for north American multinationals in my life as well. But I'm bad news early is usually something we can with the, we can do something about, we can find another deal to try and plug the gap.

We can maybe go and turn things around if there's a problem, but bad news later, negative surprises just make people's heads explode. And it really damages the credibility of every. So the next year, I

[00:16:54] Max McLaren: mean, the forecast is the outcome, right? So I think it's important to have a plan to communicate that plan, to show progress in, in, in meeting that plan, you know, finding great people, keeping great people, beginning to evolve opportunities to build the pipeline that gives confidence to your senior leadership.

You've got this and you, you know, how to, how to run and build a business. Right.

[00:17:21] Tony Hughes: You just talked about finding great people. How would you describe. The styles culture that, that you've built in your business because you've delivered sustained double digit growth, not off a small base of very big numbers.

You know, anybody can talk about, Hey, we've got this percentage growth, isn't it impressive. But it's only impressive if it's off a big base, right. Or you've been working with a big base and still driving amazing growth. A big part of that as I look at your organization is the culture that you know, that you and the team have created.

So, so how would you describe that culture? And then at the secondary level, what do you look for in sellers and your sales leaders?

[00:17:59] Max McLaren: Sure. I think, you know, culture and people is the primary value proposition that we can deliver as effectively, you know, the sales organization of a product company, you know, having great products.

Is the key to the door, right? One that helps you attract customers, which helps you attract, attract sales reps, et cetera. So, you know, long, long time ago, I learned that, you know, as, as salespeople, we only have ourselves to. Organizations, and if you feel you good, make sure that you work for an organization, that's got great products.

Fortunately had read it, we've got great products and have done and consistently grown more. And haven't set in our laurels, you know, like, like a lot of organizations have done and then faded into you know, history. But I think people and it's trite, but it's. Absolutely fair dinkum people are the critical success factor.

If you've got the right products and we've tried at Red Hat, we've had because of the open source nature of the organization, a very authentic, open, collaborative type organization. You know, our previous CEO Jim white just would be at a sales kickoff and come and sit in there. And have a beer, we'll have a bite to eat, and you wouldn't know that he was the CEO.

If you didn't know who he was, you'd just be a genuine, straight up guy. And he would do that more than once. And that was the nature of the organization. And I think, you know, because we were a little different because we had started creating some success in ANZed, we attracted good people and you know, I I'm, I don't try and run a culture where.

You know you know, we we've heard of the organizations that. Naturally you want to get rid of the lowest 10% every year. That to me is just right. You know, you're dealing with people's livelihoods, make sure you try and find the right people that you coach and develop them and that you're authentic and open with them so that they feel comfortable about being authentic and open with you.

And to my point earlier about forecasts and surprises, et cetera, they'll feel comfortable. You know, we sort of, unfortunately. I have the odd sales rep. That's scared about putting an opportunity and to commit on they leave it in pipeline until the last minute, because they worried about inspection. We don't inspect.

We try and help, you know, to goals and develop and progress those opportunities. That's our objective inspection is as far as I'm concerned again, an F. What you really should be doing as sales leaders is helping sales reps be successful and that's progressing opportunities, progressing careers, building capability, through coaching and developing.

And we've tried to keep that the primary culture at Red Hat for a long time. Unfortunately, we had a relatively flat organization because we. You know, very widely spread. So we didn't have a lot of opportunity to develop people into senior roles. So some people have been in sales roles for many, many years and, and be comfortable.

The careers have changed dramatically from running, you know, 50 to a hundred accounts now to probably running one or two and being very successful at doing that. And that is progression and development for those people as well. Fortunately, we're now reasonably large organization. We've got two 50.

To 300 people in ANZ in the sales services, marketing organization. And so we've had, we've been able to develop from within and both build a, a good culture of leaders. And they've all come from the field majority anyway, as sales people into sales roles, if not with Red Hat outside of Red Hat and have spent long, a long time at Red Hat and evolved into that culture.

People genuinely are. I'm surprised because now we talk about the cultural, the time at Red Hat, but I think we walk the talk in terms of delivering on that to what makes

[00:22:03] Tony Hughes: I really love that. Cause I've, I've always believed that culture is nothing more, nothing less, less than the lived values and the manifested behavior of the leaders.

And I, I really love that comment. You made a couple of minutes ago about, you know, if someone's not performing. You know, we need to look at ourselves. We need to use a mirror as the first diagnostic tool and be able to look ourselves in the eye and say, we've done everything that we can possibly do to help this person be success.

You know, it's, it's so easy to blame the employee. It's our job to remove the roadblocks and set them up for success. So I really, really agree. Yeah.

[00:22:37] Max McLaren: And we do often have to have performance improvement plans for, for reps that aren't making it right. But absolutely the objective is it's between us try and figure out whether you know, you've got the ability to do this and we'll do everything in our power to help you get there.

But sometimes, you know, it might be. Better for you and less stressful for you personally. If, if, if you decide that it's not the right thing for you and it's not right for everyone, right? Not everyone can be a business problem solver and a a sales process negotiator to, to close an opportunity.

[00:23:13] Tony Hughes: I've just seen a question come in from Brendan. I'm asking, what's your view about. Finding the right talent today. We know it's increasingly difficult to find great salespeople, I guess, I guess, within the it industry, you know, it's difficult. What, what's your best bet finding great people today in the software industry.

[00:23:30] Max McLaren: Oh, and you know, I think almost every professional is struggling with finding the right people at the moment, but it in particular and then I ANZ, especially because we haven't had immigration for, for a couple of years, but I, you know, I, I think.

Sometimes we're guilty in the industry of plying the same Farrow and looking for people in the same space all the time. And, you know, recruiters often do this because I appreciate it's easy to sell the capability to the future employer that this person's done it before, but I've often found good salespeople come from left field.

You know, some of my best salespeople have come from. Related, but sometimes relatively unrelated. Part of the industry or if not in new parts of the industry and, you know, I think selling is selling. And I think we should maybe broaden our aperture a little especially because we're all struggling to find good, good people.

And as I said earlier, you know, I think you can earn a good back in this industry if you're reasonably successful. And I think you can earn probably more than in most industries as a salesperson. So I think we should broaden that aperture a little and we're trying, you know, so for example, in, in Canberra, Not in the sales industry in particular, but in technical roles as well.

We need consultants, right? And we need technical salespeople. And so we're working with a partner in trying to find veterans in the, in the army and the Navy and the air force and bring them. Into our organization. They can go, we've got a great learning services organization, and so they can do all the enablement and get some of the certifications.

And as a result, we, we can give people roles that have probably not been in the industry before. Right. And so I think those are the sorts of things that we've got to get better at doing. And I think other industries probably have done that better than the it industry. One of the hard things is because of.

Of the technology requirement. Oftentimes w we, we think that. Is a, as a prerequisite, but I do think we might need to broaden our horizon obviously in technical sales roles. That might not be the case, but I'll never forget the first time I went for that, that role as a sales rep. And I picked up the PC magazine, what the hell are they talking about?

We did a whole lot of work to equip yourself and enable yourself. And I was specific in terms of my study to make sure that you could get. Every day and I'm actually impart some wisdom.

[00:26:04] Tony Hughes: I met some seeing lots of questions coming through. We've got people from Spain the USA there's there's people I've known for years, hi mate. It's really good to see you're tuning in here.

Hey, there's a question from Bryn. He's asking. What are the leading indicators, Max that you tend to focus on from a metrics point of view, beyond the traditional things of sort of pipeline

[00:26:25] Max McLaren: Gee, we've tried to do a lot of work in this regard. I I've evolved what I call a recipe for success in this.

Industry where you're given the products. Right? So let's, let's take away that the manufacturing part or the development side of the, of the business, but effectively, you know, as a, as a, as a sales leader director, you've got a few leavers leavers to pull. One of those is coverage. How do you optimize the coverage of the market or the.

Pyramid of, you know, going to the top, obviously for the, for the big, big dollars to begin with, and then eventually broadening that. And we've been trying to do that for as long as I've been at Red Hat and then it's almost a. Conflict. How do you evolve some focus within that regard? How do you hold productivity within those, those people?

How do you continue to develop capability in a sales capability, technical capability? And then, you know, I, I was lucky enough to, as I said, major in marketing, and I'm a passionate believer of marketing being integrated with sales and making sure that we integrate. And, and go to market together as, as a coordinated marketing and sales org organization to bold you know, opportunity identification and then evolve that into a pipeline.

But we also try and do things like, you know, what are the critical success factors at progressing an opportunity from a to Z and making sure that we, we measure. Whether we doing those or not, for example. Right. So I think there's key performance indicators that you can have evolve across your business that are leading indicators.

Towards that pipeline and that forecast and focus on, on making sure that those are being done. And those are being done consistently across the organization.

[00:28:19] Tony Hughes: Yeah. Max, I really agree with that. And I know that the Red Hat focuses strongly, for example, on account planning with these important accounts.

So things like doing account planning to truly know the customer. Focusing on what creates a deal progression, you know, it's time stuck in stage. Cause the thing we all know is that between opening and closing is the middle and the middle is often where deals can stall or die. So I know that you and your leaders focus very much on how do we create progression?

Are we creating the right commercial value for the customer? To sustain the motivation. Do we really understand their process of we achieve consensus for change? So you're all of those things,

[00:28:56] Max McLaren: especially when it's so complex today and the opportunity to solve a problem has so many different solutions.

How do you help the customer identify the best one? And I think we work really closely with our services team as well. And our technical sales teams to make sure that we help doing that, but opportunity identification piece, and then the exploration of the opportunity. With the customer to make sure that they understand what the problem is.

Oftentimes they don't and then, you know, we can overlay how we solve that problem.

[00:29:36] Tony Hughes: Yeah. That's great advice. Hey Max, in a moment, we'll just, we'll pivot in a moment and provide some advice for sellers, for the salespeople here of how to get to a CEO, someone like Max, but I've got a question here also he saying, working for a global company, how do you manage global expectations around growth? You know, especially in the last two years where the market's been very tough. So how do you manage those expectations around revenue growth expectations?

[00:30:02] Max McLaren: Yeah, I think I alluded to it earlier, you know, I think you've got to evolve a recipe and a plan for success.

You've got to make sure you sell that. And then you've got to execute against that. T it's tough to find new business in this virtual world. Right. And you, you can't go and have a coffee or a bite to eat with a prospective customer or partner and evolve opportunity that way. So that has been very tough.

And I, I take my hat off to my sales team and my marketing team for doing that, but we've just tried to pivot towards doing much more virtual events to try and replace what we've done that way. You just got to sell the vision. And if you don't have the pipeline, if you don't have the plan, it's hard to sell that vision.

You are selling a vision about how to do it. And yeah, I mean, it's, it's been rough. It's been easy for me either because sometimes the numbers don't, don't quite add up. Right. And revision for what you've been given as And what you can deliver sometimes are our ways apart, but as long as you've progressed, really getting closer and organizations can see that you progress beginning, trying to say.

I don't think anyone's naive enough, even above us to appreciate that it's a perfect world at the moment. So if you're making progress, you're growing faster than your peers, et cetera, then you can, you can allay some of those concerns as long as you feed income. I think, you know that don't bullshit. Be fair dinkum, tell them the bad news and, and show them that there's a few bells and whistles at the end.

[00:31:45] Tony Hughes: Yeah. And you know, obviously the reality is for many of us running a region is we can do as much bottom up planning and presenting what we think the numbers should be. Often. We just get a number imposed on us anyway, you know, as part of a global growth strategy.

And we're just told, go and find a way. So obviously we just need to manage those expectations. I agree with Max a hundred percent,

Hey, Max, let's, let's provide some advice for sellers. So my first question is this, if you think about your average week, How often do you get a phone call from someone trying to sell to you in an average week?

[00:32:18] Max McLaren: Oh, a couple of times a week. I'd say you know, one of the things that I I'm not really asked to do is to be a big procurer of staff. Right. So we have lots of functional organizations that support us for offices and it, and all that other stuff. Right. You know, hiring has been one of the areas that obviously I've, I've got some insight into, but again, we've evolved our own internal talent organization to do that.

So I get a lot of those calls and, you know, one of the things that I think sellers need to appreciate is you are getting a lot of those. And so how do you differentiate the thing that I like the most is people that assume I know them and I don't. So that's hard. I think you'd be got to be respectful in terms of how you approach someone and just again, try and be fair.

You know, this is what I do. Yeah, the last thing you want as a seller is to waste your time with someone that doesn't have a budget or doesn't have the responsibility to, to, to acquire things. So try and get to that nut really quickly qualify that really quickly without being assumptive. And I, that, that would be my recommendation, right?

[00:33:32] Tony Hughes: No, I'm really with you. I'm really with you. I remember when I was running the APAC region. For a multi-national I'd get bombarded by recruiters. And, and we had a policy in the company where it was all done in-house so I couldn't use an external recruitment agency at the time. And the first thing that annoyed me was this disingenuous friending kind of approach from a stranger.

But so that didn't work well, but I would literally say to them, look, you know, you're selling to someone who combat. There's a global policy in place. I can't use an agency and then they just keep selling and I'd say, you're, you're not listening. You're trying to sell to someone who can't buy from you. Oh.

You know? Oh. But if we could say I D it just gets annoying, so yeah. Definitely people need, need, need to listen. So there's, there's definitely some good advice there.

What's typically the best time of day. To get to someone in your role. You know, you've got hundreds of people, lots of managers reporting up to you in the, in the days of pre COVID, I guess the travel time in one of the office with a great time.

But now, now that we're not doing the traveling, when do you think is the best time for someone to get to someone like you? Yeah,

[00:34:37] Max McLaren: I wouldn't know, because I would imagine everyone's day is kind of different, right? Yeah, not too early, but you know, I dunno, eight, eight, half eight, probably as good. 5, 5 30, I dunno.

[00:34:53] Tony Hughes: Okay. So, so sort of the shoulders of the day, do you,

[00:34:56] Max McLaren: The middle of the day you're generally involved in something, right?

[00:34:59] Tony Hughes: You are. Okay. So

[00:35:01] Max McLaren: last thing you wanted someone to disturb you while you're trying to shove a sandwich down your mouth in the half an hour or 10 minutes that you've got in between.

[00:35:09] Tony Hughes: Okay. So the, so the shoulders of the day rule for getting to the C-suite executives is still true in a world where people aren't traveling in and out of the office every day. Okay. And in your view, no earlier than 8:00 AM. So it was early than 8:00 AM would be crossing more.

[00:35:26] Max McLaren: It's hard to. To impose on people's time. You know, if they've got kids they're probably in the school process or at least trying to feed their kids and whatever else. Right. So that's always tough. And, and so you've got to respect those sorts of things. And I think, you know, we are humans, you know, we're all humans, so just pay respect to what, what humans should be doing, right?

[00:35:48] Tony Hughes: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Let's let's maybe change the topic a little bit. What's your advice for contacting you and not getting delegated away? Right. So, so what are the types of things people need to talk about that resonate with you as a leader?

[00:36:02] Max McLaren: I, I, I think I alluded to it earlier. It's all about the issue that you're faced with, right?

So for example, my business would be growth. You know, again, I get many people approaching me because they think they can find me a whole lot of prospects.

[00:36:18] Tony Hughes: Right.

[00:36:21] Max McLaren: I'm not trying to be disingenuous, but why do you think you're better at finding prospects than, than, than my sales organization? So some insight I think is important, right?

Having a little insight into how the organization runs and then being able to pick up on an issue that I'm likely to be facing. And. And then try and, and, and, and break through.

My point is, you know, as a sales rep, I was used to try and do this, do the, do the homework, and that can take a while and then make the call and have it really, really lined up quickly.

Hi, Tony, Max McLaren. I'm from so -and -so. I think you've got this issue, am I right? I think I've got a solution I can do so-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so. Simple as that. Right. And I could say to them, sorry, I don't have that issue. So-and-so might have that issue, you know, or they could say, is someone else responsible in your organization for that.

But just straight up. I don't think you need to, to, to, to have any camouflage. Organizations, people are busy. But I think most. People most procurement people actually do appreciate that. If someone's done the piece of work and hit you with something that is on the, on the money is relevant, you're going to, you're absolutely going to give them some time, right?

[00:37:42] Tony Hughes: Yeah. Okay. Hey Max, we're just getting close to wrapping up. Have you got any great examples? Good. Good. All bad of sellers trying to gain the attention of someone in the C-suite, you know, something you thought wow. That, that worked really well. Or gee, you know, that was a big miss.

[00:37:57] Max McLaren: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I've had a few procurers that have come through to me and they just nail it because they've, they've correlated what the issue is.

I have very quickly, so I don't remember. I remember for example, There was a graduate procurement organizations. And if they still still exists, they were called progress. And I'll never forget calling me and saying. We know it's really hot. This is many years ago. We know it's really hard to find good salespeople.

Have you thought about building a graduate trainee program and I'd say sure, but it's hard. And I say, what happens? What happens if we could help you with the hard bit and just give you you know, as, as qualified, great. Potential hires as possible. And I thought, shit, that's a no brainer. Would you mind spending a day with us and being part of the process to go through weeding out some of the good grants and.

Yeah, again, it wasn't something that was top of my, my, my day in terms of an issue, it was something at the back of your mind and, you know, we weren't a big organization at the time. And so we didn't have the capacity to build our own graduate trainee program. We're beginning to do that. Especially down in, in, in Canberra, in our, and our services business and have been for a number of years now in progressing those people through the organization, which is very exciting.

But we didn't have the capacity to do that. And so, you know, they hit me with something that, as I said, probably wasn't top of my mind, but if they made the assumption that I probably did.

[00:39:40] Tony Hughes: Yeah.

[00:39:41] Max McLaren: And they would straight up, you know, there was, there was no bells and whistles. It was just, he has the value proposition. Max doesn't resonate or doesn't.

[00:39:50] Tony Hughes: Hey Max, I'll just go to one last question from our audience and I hope I pronounced that name correctly. And Max, you just talked about professional services. I know a big part of Red Hats revenue is services, although you're very partner centric. So. Your channel or your partners generate huge numbers of services around Red Hat as well.

But the question from is what about forecasting professional services versus product? Do you think there's any differences or things to consider there? Key?

[00:40:20] Max McLaren: I would say it's almost easy. In the professional services business for our guys to focus, they've got two challenges. They have to focus revenue as well as bookings.

But I think generally the opportunities are a little bit more developed when the professional services guys get engaged in our business. Anyway. So I would say it's almost a little easier. And you know, I mean, really it's basic fundamental qualification go through the methodologies. There's thousands of them out there.

You know, I remember the very first one I had needed willingness competition. Right. And you just go through the, the process and figure out whether you're you, you you've qualified it according to the methodology that your organization uses or that you personally use. And And, and, and I think you've got a better chance in the services space because there's probably a little less competition.

It depends. I mean, sometimes services are, are quite generic, but in our business, it's, it's quite specific. So it's it's a bit harder and yeah, absolutely. We use a lot of partners. They oftentimes have been doing, you know, multiple services engagements for that customer. And so they'd probably close.

To the customer in terms of understanding, not just the requirements, but also the process to close staff, right?

[00:41:42] Tony Hughes: Yeah, yeah. And the other thing I'd encourage you to think about is that any professional services organization is very familiar with, with, with project plans and actually building out a Gantt chart project plan, apply that thinking to your selling.

So actually create a mutual plan with the client as soon as you can in the selling process. So that there's no nasty surprises. So we're all aligned with timing and process for actually getting the deal done.

[00:42:10] Max McLaren: So process Tony, you know, generally there is, you know, identifying the opportunity, qualifying it, and then proposing it in very short terms.

Make sure that your process of quantifying it is solid because that's the piece that allows you to forecast

[00:42:31] Tony Hughes: Yeah, especially making sure the customer has got a strong business case for securing approval because at the end of the day, they're going to be competing for resources and funding internally. So, so I really love that.

Hey Max would just wrap up. So I'm assuming the best way for people to connect with you is in LinkedIn. So Max McLaren on LinkedIn. Yeah. Great. Okay. Thank you.

And Max, here's my last question. If you could go back into. To meet the 25 year old self. What, what advice would you give yourself? I was assuming you were living back near South Africa then at the time,

[00:43:08] Max McLaren: very early days. And you know, as, as a, as a sales rep in those very early days, you know, one of the, one of the things I think you don't appreciate. Is that you've got something to offer organizations, right? Depending on how good you are that, you know, that offer is much bigger or smaller. Right. But, but be confident, be confident in, in you as a, as a commodity.

That you can bring to an organization. And as I said, as long as they've got good products and you need as a, as a prospective salesperson or whatever to, to do that piece of work, that homework to identify just how good their stuff is be confident that you are a commodity and and that they, they need you just as much as you need them.

And I don't think we appreciate that. It's kinda like dating, you know as a, as a guy, anyway, you're always paranoid about what the girl would think about you. Right. And you know, it's the same as the. You, you you've, you've got both then needing good salespeople with good capability and, and you needing a good company with good products so that if the two get together, you can be successful.

[00:44:18] Tony Hughes: Max it's funny use that analogy in my book COMBO Prospecting, I've got a little piece in the book about how to be the hottest one at the bar. And it sort of does that dating analogy. Right. But it's, it's so important as a seller that we don't come across as needy or desperate. You know, and that we're just all about the other person, because you're right.

There's, there's mutual benefit, right. So we definitely want to, don't want to be needy and we all need to drop the need to be liked in life. Right. That the reality is, Hey, we can need to genuinely help the person, or we can. Let's not waste each other's time. So I really think that's great advice.

[00:44:50] Max McLaren: You know, I've talked about capability earlier as a sales person, your primary capability is your ability to qualify.

So if you haven't done it, make sure that you gen up on one of the processes. There's a hundred out there. I love solution selling. We're using MEDIPIC of the moment. Just make sure you use gen up on that and that. You're confident in how you apply that to an opportunity. Yeah.

[00:45:16] Tony Hughes: Yeah. Max, thank you so much for taking the time.

I know you're incredibly busy. You run a phenomenal organization. Great leader.

Thanks for being on the CEO Sales Insights show Max. We really appreciate it. And for everybody, please make sure you go to So thanks everybody for attending. Thanks for the questions that came through. Sorry. We couldn't get to all of them and I'll see you on the next CEO Sales Insights show. Thanks Max. See everybody.

[00:45:42] Max McLaren: Thank you everyone. Bye bye.

This episode was digitally transcribed.

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