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Today, Corey Willix joins host Islin Munisteri for a conversation about the next greatest thing in AI beyond AI and Natural Language Generation. The conversation also talks about finding mentors in your career, from where to go to look for them and why they're so important to find early on in your career.
Corey Willix graduated from Boston College in English and Theatre. He has worked across sales, marketing, operations and sales enablement, primarily for Tech SaaS startups for 22 years, with the past 5 years focusing on Artificial Intelligence. He is very passionate about bringing a lean and agile methodology to the sales floor. He currently is the Sales Director at Aquant.io.
Connect with our guest, Corey Willix, on LinkedIn.
[00:00:20] Islin Munisteri: Hi, this is Islin Munisteri with RevOps Careers today. I'm excited to be joined by Corey Willix. Corey graduated from Boston College in English and theater has worked across sales, marketing, operations, and sales enablement, primarily for tech SAS startups for 22 years of the past five years, focusing on artificial intelligence, he's very passionate about bringing a lean and agile methodology to the sales floor. He currently is the sales director at Aquant.io. Welcome to the show, Corey.
[00:00:54] Corey Willix: Hey Islin. Thank you. I really appreciate it. Looking forward to, just being a part of your journey over.
[00:01:00] Islin Munisteri: Awesome. So can, can you tell me more about your career journey and your rev ops?
[00:01:06] Corey Willix: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So it's interesting.
[00:01:09] I have a sales career. You might call it a traditional sales career, but actually I came into sales in a much more, a lot of people come into sales from all walks of life in essence. Right. So my career actually straddles marketing. Then sales and then into operations. So, initially speaking, I launched my career at the fifth largest marketing agency in the world that was on the Procter and gamble account.
[00:01:35] I had a knack for stepping into new customers and immediately fell in love with the idea of sales. And so from there on, I've been in sales for 10, 20 years, typically in the SAS technology space. But it's interesting because, the fact that I have that marketing KPI. Analytic driven, you know, DNA alongside a sales closer, you know, type of personality and, and, and matrix really means that I feel passionate about marketing and sales.
[00:02:07] A lot of organizations collide, marketing. It's easy to say. They should be in alignment. Most companies have that as a goal to be in alignment, but most companies are not in alignment. And so then later on in my career, I stepped into operations and sales enablement for the express purpose of building this alignment, typically around tech startups, artificial intelligence, SaaS -based environments.
[00:02:34] Islin Munisteri: That's great. And what, what made you focus on artificial intelligence and AI in the past five years of your career?
[00:02:43] Corey Willix: yeah, it's interesting. I've always said that, the tip of sales in essence is technology and the tip of technology sales is SaaS. And so now I'm adding another flavor of the tip of technology.
[00:02:57] SaaS is artificial intelligence. It really is. The forefront, the innovation it's, it's one of the most innovative arenas in the marketplace, the business marketplace. So I really believe in innovation, I believe in, you know, disruptive solutions, not a me too solution in essence. So I've been in artificial intelligence for the last five years and some of those companies that I've been in.
[00:03:23] I have had emerging AI that is not a very strong business case in the market. Other AI companies, didn't have a strong, ROI use case. In essence, they were too broad. They weren't specific enough. So when I came on board with Aquant. I immediately saw what they are doing well, that many AI companies struggle with.
[00:03:47] And so that's really, I believe strongly in what artificial intelligence will bring over the next several decades. And I'm excited to be in a disruptive environment, you know, not selling a me-too solution, but something that the world has never seen before.
[00:04:04] Islin Munisteri: Cool. What is Aquant all about?
[00:04:09] Corey Willix: Yeah. Aquant is an amazing company.
[00:04:11] We recently had our $70 million round C funding. So there's a lot of companies and venture backed organizations that have gotten our attention or we've gotten their attention. Shall we say? And at a high level, Aquant is a service intelligence platform, but we're the first platform in the world, that is powered by artificial intelligence.
[00:04:36] And really what that means is we take any organization that has service technicians, and we equip those technicians. Insights and expert level, solutions that their organization has never been able to compile in the past due to data, big data issues, a lot of intelligence lives inside of the technician's head in essence.
[00:05:00] So our AI can help extract all that mind, brain power, put it into a usable format. And then turn it around and give a junior technician 20 years where their experience in literally 20 seconds. So the reason why REI is powerful, I believe is because it's built for a very niche market. It's a very specific use case and no one else is doing that in that regard.
[00:05:29] Islin Munisteri: Wow. That's exciting. And I guess among all the different companies, you could have chosen the join, why did you choose Aquant? Cause there's a lot of different AI companies on the market, right now?
[00:05:41] Yeah. There
[00:05:41] Corey Willix: are a lot of AI companies. I had several opportunities to step into them and I had walked away from a few of them.
[00:05:49] And, it's interesting Islin I've been at. I've been in a lot of companies, especially startup environments and almost every company I've ever been. We have the phrase, we really don't have any competition. Right. And I've, I've never believed that I always can find near term or indirect competitors. , It's very often that there are some competitors, right.
[00:06:14] Even though we like to think they're really, aren't what I looked at. They really do not have any competitors, because we're so focused. We came from our founders, came from the service industry and as a result, they knew what the service market needed. And it's not just simply applying power BI or Tableau database insights into an organization. It's leveraging AI and natural language processing and a newer form of AI called natural language generation. That means that the AI can compile sentences and words and thought leadership , from a computer instead of needing a team of data scientists to put together, this thought leadership, I call it the Steve Jobs paragraph.
[00:07:02] If you could pay Steve Jobs, several million dollars to predict the future in X category. That's what natural language generation does. And it's incredibly exciting.
[00:07:14] Islin Munisteri: Wow. That's, that's what a lot of content AI blogging companies are trying to do. They're trying to do that AI generation. So, I know that you, you, at some point, at some point in your career, you're a VP and then you decided to take a step back and go down. a level to, to be a sales director. Was it just to be part of a plan that you did that? Or why, why did you move back?
[00:07:41] Yeah, no
[00:07:42] Corey Willix: great question. It's I have a philosophy as I built teams and hired a sales and marketing staff. I always have a philosophy. If you find a champion in essence, in a player in the marketplace that, that rare gem, if you find someone like that, Do not try to fit them into a specific job function that isn't a, you know, it's a square peg in a round hole.
[00:08:09] Instead when you find that champion person, you hire them and then you grow with them in your organization and you find the best function, you create a new role for them. That's always been my belief on the candidate side. I also believe the same thing in the company. If you find that rare company, that is a lightning bolt in a bottle, then you grab it, you grab the lion by the tail and you run with it.
[00:08:33] It does not matter what your function or position is in the organization when you do well, you want to be in a part of a company like that. So that's really why I chose a quant. I've seen AI before I've been around. And they're doing something so unique, so powerful that I believe in their IPO status in a very short period of time.
[00:08:54] So I just wanted to get in, get inside the culture's amazing and, you know, we succeed and we'll grow with it. That's exciting.
[00:09:05] Islin Munisteri: What was your biggest learning experience along your career?
[00:09:09] Corey Willix: Oh, man, it's interesting Islin. I've seen this newly formed role in the last handful of years.
[00:09:16] What I perceive to be this chief revenue officer role, it's basically a role that straddles several different type of functions. Many times you'll have marketing sales and operations that roll up to this. Revenue officer type of function, and it really helps to address the issue. When you have a CMO and a chief sales officer, a chief sales officer understands closing deals and opportunity pipeline generation, and closing. The CMO understanding qualifying leads, but typically they're not on the same page. Marketing typically says, well, sales, you're not closing leads because you're not good at sales, or you're not following up in marketing. I'm sorry. In sales of course says, well, you're not giving me good leads, but they're not qualified enough.
[00:10:05] And so instead of arguing back and forth, I believe in the end-to-end, marketing comes in, generate some leads, passes it to sales. Sales, pre-qualifies, qualified, closes get some out of the funnel that are qualified and then hands it off to customer success. Customer success then enables the customer and equips the customer for expansion and manages churn issues and all that predictive requirements on the customer success side. And then ultimately we should be feeding that data loop back into the marketing person entity. And instead of just saying, well, we want more of these customers because there are our highest revenue. Well, that doesn't necessarily mean we want more of those leads.
[00:10:49] There might be better leads, better customers that we have that are less revenue, but high margin. Or high propensity for loyalty and expansion. So it's not just a function of, well, go get us better, more revenue customers. It's get us the right type of customers that fit the core component of our product in our culture.
[00:11:12] And let's go find more of those and that's a data driven story. So I believe in this end to end loop between marketing, sales, customer success. And then operations really is the enablement function. That is the glue underneath all of these departments. So with that said, just to go back to your question.
[00:11:31] My greatest highlight across my career is just this idea of sales enablers. Marketing enablement customer success enablement. It's not just, can you put in a tool it's is that tool being used the right way? Do you have too many tools? Are the tools, being leveraged in the, in the proper fashion to gain ROI across the cycle?
[00:11:54] And it's all about velocity. I could go on for quite a long time about velocity, but, anyway, so that's the idea of chief revenue officer you have typically. And executive that has the charisma of a sales leader that can connect many department heads together internally, as well as connect externally with customers.
[00:12:16] But that person also needs to have the KPIs and the analytics of typically a marketing and operations person. So I'm excited about this role and seeing what it has to play in the marketplace over the next decade.
[00:12:29] Islin Munisteri: That will be interesting as we see more CROs pop-up and in the tech and SaaS space. You're setting up your tech stack and would you say there is a single source of truth in your tech stack or is it a bunch of different tools kind of jumbled together?
[00:12:48] Corey Willix: Well, certainly we leveraged Salesforce as a CRM. Salesforce likes to think of themselves as the single source of truth data flows in and out of Salesforce. So we have a strong Salesforce instance where you could easily say our CRM is our single source of truth. Then we have a few other data. Tech stacks that are fully integrated with it and we get data in and out, but we're still early on.
[00:13:15] From that standpoint, we still have a ways to go, but we have a really good foundation. Whereas a lot of organizations, when you look in there, they have too many techs. They're not integrated. They're being underutilized and, or they're not best of breed. So we have a very good environment from a tech stack standpoint, from a foundation there's many, many, many types of additions and upgrades and enhancements that we'll need.
[00:13:42] But it's nice because we don't have to rip anything out. We don't have to fix a lot of problems..
[00:13:47] Oh, that's
[00:13:48] Islin Munisteri: exciting. Yeah, definitely. For a revenue operations person coming in, they love that. There's a lot of problems. There are a lot of fires to fight. That's not so much fun.
[00:13:58] If you died tomorrow, what do you hope people would say about you and, and how you impacted them?
[00:14:06] Yeah, that's
[00:14:06] Corey Willix: a powerful question is when we're really getting off the grid for what's important about life and business. And, I am a huge proponent of being transparent in all areas in my life, so I don't have a business, work life and family life. It's all the same. One of my favorite quotes is from John Maxwell. He wrote a book, and the book is titled something to the degree of business ethics. And then underneath it, he's got a tagline that says there's no such thing because it's all one thing it's called ethics.
[00:14:38] And so I just believe in, being a champion in life and encouraging other people to be a champion in their lives, having the vision for their lives to take their life to the next level and elevating themselves. So what I would love for people to have a takeaway for me is that I was a champion that the people around me, helped elevate both in my personal and professionalized to become champions in their lives.
[00:15:06] So that's my goal across all walks of life.
[00:15:10] Islin Munisteri: Do you have any single piece of career advice you would tell your younger self or to folks in the rev ops community?
[00:15:17] Corey Willix: Well, I certainly do. I believe in mentorship, I believe in a fool has no one that they mentor with a wise person has many. And so I've tried to apply that throughout most of my career.
[00:15:31] But I would have applied it earlier on. I would have aggressively sought out. Some people to mentor with that are in my field that have this, the type of results I'm looking for with the power of LinkedIn. Now you can connect with people that you do not have strong relationships with, and you can connect with them.
[00:15:52] And seek out mentorship, business mentorship in your field, in your discipline. So I would just encourage people right out of college. You should have two to three people that you are mentoring with, that you are actively reaching out to maybe one or two that's in your network. Maybe they are alumni of your school, maybe they're a professional or personal friend in your network.
[00:16:14] That's one or two people, but then you should go after at least one or two people in your professional. Whom you really respect. And there will be very few of these professionals that will turn down an opportunity just to do some one-on-one mentoring. I'm not talking about, you know, the, the, the Bill Gates of the world.
[00:16:33] I'm talking about just people that are very successful. So if you are in sales and go find some very successful sales leaders, That you can reach out to one-on-one and ask, Hey, can we mentor on a monthly basis so you can help guide and shape my career? If I had done that earlier on that, I think I would have accelerated my career path and success on a much earlier timeline.
[00:17:00] Islin Munisteri: Oh, so you think you would've gotten, gotten to where you want to go much, much faster?.
[00:17:05] Corey Willix: Yes, but
[00:17:06] I wouldn't change it. I don't regret a single minute of it because of all the experiences that I've had this so many different types of companies, there's really not a business scenario that I have not seen.
[00:17:18] Several times that I immediately have a sense for what the solution is. So there's pros and cons to seeing a lot of companies, but certainly one of the many pros are I've seen it. And I typically know a solution on how to implement is, you know, an efficient, enabled solution quickly. So I wouldn't, I don't regret a minute of it, but I certainly would have started that mentoring process earlier in my career right out of college.
[00:17:49] Islin Munisteri: Wow. That's, that's useful to know. Cause I feel that same way. I feel like, like we could have scaled our agency a lot faster if we had those key business relationships.
[00:18:00] Corey Willix: Yeah. Many times successful people do have one or two people that they do mentor with. Right.
[00:18:06] That's a fairly common trait of successful people. But the difference is, and I did have those in my life, but I didn't actively seek people. I didn't know. Right. And that's a key is I did have one or two that I did know that I had relationships and I mentored through them. But if I had gone and said, this is what I want to do or become or accomplish in the next four years, let me go find three people in the business community that already have accomplished that. And let me go seek mentorship from them once a month, not to mention when you are mentoring with them, how can I bring them value? How can I expand and introduce them to people that maybe they didn't know, or introduce them to potential clients.
[00:18:53] So I never believe in, just a take relationship. I'm always developing win-win. So even when I am mentoring, I want to figure out how can I give back to that mentor in some way, shape or form, but I just really encourage find someone that is a professional in the industry that you wish and seek them out.
[00:19:13] It's tremendous.
[00:19:15] Islin Munisteri: Yeah, I agree. When, when I was working in the oil field, that's I had a couple of mentors that, that really helped boost me up and we helped each other along. I mean, and the interesting thing about mentors is that they don't have to be four levels ahead of you to be your mentor.
[00:19:32] They could just be like one step ahead of you.
[00:19:35] Corey Willix: A lot of times those mentors are more accessible, right? If I'm reaching and trying to track down grant Cardone, it's going to be very difficult to get his audience. Right. If I, instead, if I'm trying to do some, self promotion and marketing and, you know, there might be people that are more accessible that are one or two steps above, and then change your mentorship circle as you continue to grow.
[00:20:03] Islin Munisteri: That's exciting. Well, I think that's a wrap for our podcast today. I look forward to, having more guests on our podcast. Thank you, Corey.
[00:20:15] Corey Willix: Thank you. Fantastic Islin. Great to meet you. I look forward to hearing from your other guests and I look forward to seeing what happens in this revenue operations world.
[00:20:24] I'm extremely passionate about it. So let's go climb the mountain.