On this episode of the REVolution Podcast...
Steve Travaglini shares his winning mindset philosophy. We discuss everything from how he got his start in sales to how he’s creating a butterfly effect for his team. You’ll want to hear about their work with a mindset coach and what Steve thinks about being “hard-core”. Spoiler alert… it’s not as intense as you might initially think. We wrap up by talking about alignment and why shared goals across sales, marketing, and customer success are critical.
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About our guest
Steve is the Chief Revenue Officer at LinkSquares, the fastest-growing AI-powered contracting platform for legal teams. He got his start in the "school of hard knocks" and has worked his way up from an individual contributor, to team lead, and well beyond. He's passionate about empowering others and coaching them on their path to success.
From hard knocks to frisbee games
As the conversation kicks off on the last day of the quarter, Steve talks about his background in the “school of hard knocks” and why it’s important that he makes sales careers more approachable to people from all backgrounds [1:30].
Steve reminisces on what his dad told him about some of his early, hard jobs [3:19] and the meaning behind getting to choose your hard. No matter your profession, you’ll face hard times and it’s always a choice. He also shares how he got his start as a BDR (business development representative). We also share a few laughs about Steve’s Italian family and what dinners must be like when many work in sales [5:20].
Then, we transition into athletics and how Steve’s football experience is correlated to sales [8:15]. We all recognize focusing on ex-athletes being great sellers is out of vogue because you'll absolutely miss out on a lot of great people. It’s more about the commitment people show to anything at a high level. There are a lot of commonalities between individuals that will relentlessly pursue something, train for it, and work hard on that mission as part of a team. Those types of passionate individuals are ideal for sales roles.
We wrap up this section by talking about how a friendly frisbee game changed the course of Steve’s football career and how it ultimately landed him in sales [10:55].
Hard-core doesn't have to be scary
Mary brought up Steve Ballmer’s commencement speech that Steve T. has linked as part of his experience on LinkedIn, and we discussed the place “hard-core” has on our teams today [15:15]. Steve talks about how language like hard-core is often too intense, yet what he finds interesting is how Steve B. has a way of demonstrating what it means in a compelling way. For example, being optimistic about what you can achieve, pressing forward through adversity, and even in our own evolution and desire to continuously learn, get better, and build new skills. Steve B. shares that people are like sharks because we’re always moving forward; hard-core people either move forward or they die. When Steve T. thinks about people he wants on his team, he wants them to be passionate, be willing to go all in, and push themselves. Being hard-core doesn’t have to be intense, it’s all about your mindset which we discuss next.
The importance of mindset
We then talk about the importance for sellers and other professionals to know how to balance their highs and their lows, and we recognize that it’s not often taught as a skillset [18:11]. It’s currently more of a learned skill you acquire over time. During Covid when everything was exponentially challenging, Steve was thinking about how to keep morale high and tangibly invest in skills development to manage the lows. Sports teams have been doing it forever and he thought it could work for sellers, too.
That's when Steve reached out to Kevin Bailey, a neuroscientist who teaches the science behind performance mindset, balance, and things that are good for our brains at a neurochemistry level [19:35]. The goal in working with Kevin was to help prevent burnout and keep team members out of the ditches proactively. LinkSquares has been investing in this area since late 2020 and it's helping tremendously.
We then discuss why more businesses aren’t supporting their leaders to get this type of coaching and why it’s hard to do at scale [21:10]. Steve explains that it’s about teaching people at the brain chemistry level what’s going on when you’re high and low, feeling great or feeling bummed, and what the tangible things are you can do to give yourself the best chance for high performance while staying balanced in tough situations [25:00].
Steve then wraps up this topic by talking about how skillset is the old school way of thinking about how to train sellers to hit quota [25:50]. Mindset is the new way. You still have to train on skill, but it’s just as important to teach people the skills they need to keep their mindset positive. We also learn more about how LinkSquares managers work on their own mindset and how it helps their overall team dynamics.
Scaling a high-performance culture
Mary transitions into how you scale a high-performance culture. Steve has been there before as LinkSquares has grown exponentially during his tenure [30:30]. He shares how his first sales mentor talked about the first seven floors of a building and how it’s stuck with him. Essentially, you imagine walking in the city and you see a skyscraper going up and they work on the foundation for what feels like forever. Then, all of a sudden the building shoots up [30:57]. Steve thinks about the early days at LinkSquares as the foundation building where the first hires matter so much because that’s what sets the table for everyone else that will come. He also talked about the train the trainer mentality [31:45]. At LinkSquares, 80-90% of their leaders started as ICs so it’s about creating opportunities for people, sharing what the expectations are, and letting them run.
The evolution of GTM (go to market)
Alex kicks off this topic by asking Steve about his title of CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) [33:00]. At LinkSquares, it's sales, customer success, revenue operations, and pre-sales engineering, essentially all the incredible folks that make the sales happen and help onboard customers.
When we talk about alignment, Steve also shares how putting sales and marketing together on the same team under a CRO is an easy button for alignment that may not work for all organizations [34:33]. Instead, he believes it’s more important that they operate as one team and each have deep expertise in their own skill areas.
We also talk about Customer Success (CS) being part of the sales organization and Steve thinks it’s critically important [36:00]. At LinkSquares, it is part of the same team, so it’s natural that they all work together to hit both new acquisition and post-sale goals. Steve also talks about how to balance compensation plans to incentivize sales and CS to do the right things for the customer and the business overall.
Mary then asks Steve how metrics and KPIs help drive alignment [39:15]. Steve touches on how marketing and sales share the same high-level goal at LinkSquares, revenue (ARR, NRR), and how some organizations over-engineer attribution and it works against the teams being on the same page.
Finally, we touch on why simplicity is important [40:00]. While the level of complexity can be deep, how you think about goals should be simple. Steve says it’s important for leaders to support each other in hitting top level goals and believes trust between marketing and sales leaders matters tremendously [41:51].
The butterfly effect
We wrap up this episode talking about what’s important in attracting people to join a team [46:00]. One of Steve’s core missions is to throw the rope back over and give opportunities to other people the same way he was given opportunities. He says even if you're hitting your revenue goals, if you're not promoting people, if you're not helping them get to the next level, if they’re not developing a skill that's going to transcend your company, you're failing them as a leader [46:49]. Steve is passionate about creating a butterfly effect [48:00] where the impacts could be huge for many years to come in a really positive way through all ICs (individual contributors), managers, executives, and beyond.