In this episode, we’ve got Shaan Hathiramani with us. Shaan is the Founder and CEO of Flockjay. Shaan started Flockjay as a way to train people from non technical backgrounds and usher them into the tech ecosystem primarily through sales. Now Shaan has made Flockjay a platform to give managers and sales leaders cheat codes to how and why they win by following the journey of their success stories.
If you missed episode 213, check it out here: Branding a Company that Specializes in Account Based Marketing with Nirosha Methananda
What You’ll Learn
- The evolution of Flockjay, going from an academy to shining a spotlight on what companies do well and not so well
- Having the proper structure and being a good product leader would enable you to sustain to tough times
- How to do more with less as a sales leader
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Show Agenda and Timestamps
- About Flockjay and their growth [3:35]
- The challenges moving from a training business to a software company [11:57]
- Leveraging short form videos to promote inclusiveness company wide [23:45]
- What is the future of the SDR role [29:00]
- Paying it forward [32:29]
- Sam’s Corner [35:36]
About Flockjay and their growth [3:35]
Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody. Welcome to The Sales Hacker Podcast. Today on the show we’ve got the CEO and founder of a really cool company called Flockjay, Shaan Hathiramani. And we talk about this evolution of Flockjay’s journey from being a training academy for people from non-tech backgrounds and welcoming them into the tech ecosystem, primarily through sales.
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Sam Jacobs: In your words, tell us about Flockjay. What do you do? How do you do it? And where are you in your growth journey?
Shaan Hathiramani: Our mission, as you mentioned, is to expand access to upward mobility, specifically through education on the job, focusing on sales and go-to-market professionals in particular. I think we can all agree that in the past three years, let alone the past three months, a lot has changed in terms of how we think about showing up to work, especially in sales — one of the most accessible and upwardly mobile career paths. And we’re really focused on aggregating, structuring, and surfacing winning knowledge in companies to give reps, managers, and sales leaders the cheat codes to how and why they win. And we’ve built a platform that end to end is purpose built to do that.
Sam Jacobs: So you started off as a bootcamp if I’m not mistaken, helping people from underrepresented or diverse backgrounds enter kind of the sales ecosystem, but now you’ve built a platform. Tell us about that evolution a little bit.
Shaan Hathiramani: In many ways, we’re following the journey of our learners and our graduates as they start their careers. And so I started Flockjay, as you mentioned, with a singular mission of providing a platform for folks from all kinds of backgrounds: Retail, hospitality, you name it, to access what, to me, is still one of the best kept secrets for upward mobility in our economy today, the software sales profession; and just broadly speaking, sales jobs in general. They’re in many ways leveraging lived and life experiences, and with some training and some mentorship and support, can unlock a whole different quality of life and leadership potential and career growth.
And in that journey of building our sales academy, and especially during the pandemic, we haven’t always been remote, first in terms of how we train folks historically, and how our company has been. The thing that was just glaringly obvious as folks graduated our program and started SDR and AE jobs in fantastic companies, is even the most tenured and storied enterprise software companies were fundamentally not set up for their reps’ success in onboarding and continuous learning in the rapidly changing market that we all exist in today. And the work environment without, in many cases, four walls of an office. And all the sort of historical crutches that we leaned on to help folks get situated in a job, ramp up on a job, continue to hit their number, drive productivity, become leaders, whether that’s peer to peer mentorship or tapping someone on the shoulder and asking how to do something, or going on a walk and really sort of collecting that institutional knowledge, a lot of that has crumbled. And so we took a step back and said, “What’s the larger problem here? What’s the structural problem?”
The challenges moving from a training business to a software company [11:57]
Sam Jacobs: How has it been moving from what’s effectively a services business to a product and engineering business? I work with a lot of founders who are my peers that have services businesses that are building products. And it’s been a challenging evolution for them. Have you found similar challenges? Or has it been pretty seamless?
Shaan Hathiramani: I would hesitate to say anything is seamless these days, just given the world we live in. But I think one of the traits I value most in both being a founder and a CEO, and also just anyone I work with, is humility and knowing when you’re not the smartest person in the room. And a lot of my job is to get a mile wide and an inch deep on a lot of things. I’m Flockjay’s first and original BDR, myself. I did a lot of Flockjay’s original design. I did some of the initial front end work for tech building and some technical stuff. But I am by no means the sharpest technical person in the room.
I think where I can learn the most is bringing really smart people together who are excited about the mission and sort of see the TAM of how large this problem is, if all this institutional knowledge had stuck in companies, and help organize and structure the product roadmap and translate the vision into lines of code and into a platform that is ultimately something that reps use every day. That’s the goal.
Leveraging short form videos to promote inclusiveness company wide [23:45]
Sam Jacobs: How should companies think about capturing short videos from other reps that talk about why they won, or articulating a success story? Is that part of how we can also drive inclusivity, by using the different faces of the company to onboard people in a way that makes them feel included? How do you think about helping companies not just hire diverse candidates, but make sure that they are incorporated into the corporate organism in a healthy and productive way?
Shaan Hathiramani: You’re spot on, Sam. That’s a huge part of continuous learning and meeting folks where they are today: Is giving folks a way to share their knowledge in a way that’s far easier than they have today, which is usually submitting some kind of form, in some kind of Salesforce field, or something like that, and really emphasizing that video and interactive piece, but also really structuring that knowledge. So think about a deal story: You just set a meeting, or you just closed a deal. There is a beautiful moment of time where you have something really valuable to share with your organization. And right now, that knowledge is trapped in reps’ heads, and it’s not getting out. If you’re lucky, it’s maybe being shared freehand in a Slack wind channel, and Slack is what we like to say is where great ideas go to die. If you miss it, it’s gone.
What is the future of the SDR role [29:00]
Sam Jacobs: The role of the SDR: I find it controversial. Buyers, it is now dogma that you need a person to create a meeting and prospect, and then another person takes the meeting and hopefully turns it into money and a customer relationship. But it can be a difficult and frustrating experience for buyers because they are aware of what’s happening, and they’re aware that they’re going to be passed around. And also there are so many different SDRs that are using so much crappy messaging that it really sort of stains the specific role a little bit. And yet, it is also a good entry point into the sales ecosystem to teach people how to prospect, to teach people about how to do this job. What’s your point of view on the future of the role?
Shaan Hathiramani: I think all of us can empathize from a buyer perspective, just the degree of volume of content in our inboxes and the degree of phone calls we receive. And from an empathy perspective, when that’s your job as an SDR, it’s the job that we have supported as a bootcamp for a while, it’s really hard. And so the way I think about it is, as we have overcrowding of tools, of emails, of messaging. Can you do 30 dials instead of 20 dials? Can you send X amount of emails versus Y amount of emails? The future of the SDR job really comes down to what makes us the most human and what sort of differentiates an SDR from someone who’s actually doing the sale.
Paying it forward [32:29]
Sam Jacobs: Who are some of the people, ideas, or books that have had the biggest impact on you, that you think we should know about?
Shaan Hathiramani: The person most immediately outside of my wife because we have a newborn and she is my continued source of inspiration as we bring a new person into this crazy world we live in, is actually one of my mentors and someone on our board, DP Brightful. He’s the president of field operations for Qualtrics. He was an SVP of sales at Salesforce for many years before that and had a pretty storied career, Microsoft, IBM. But the thing about him, which he doesn’t readily share, is that he came up from a background which is being entirely outside the industry and trying to find a way in, and really having to chart that path for himself.
And then on the book side, it’s a field of sales, but there’s a book called Bewilderment, and it’s all about a father and his son and nature and coming up in this world, and having an appreciation for slowing down. So highly recommend that novel to anyone who’s looking for a good read.
Sam’s Corner [35:36]
Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody. Sam’s corner, my little corner of the world. Really enjoyed that conversation with Shaan. I find what he’s doing really inspiring. I talked to a lot of founders who are trying to build products from effectively services solutions, and they’re struggling. But my sense is that Shaan thinks about things in the right structured way that he’s probably a pretty good product leader. And certainly, when I took a look at flockjay.com, the website looks pretty cool. And I just love that they started as this one thing, which is an academy to train people from nontraditional backgrounds. Maybe they played sports, maybe they were in retail, maybe they didn’t graduate from college, and help them enter the tech ecosystem.
And now it’s really a much bigger idea. It’s an enablement solution leveraging short form video to help mirror the best practices and behaviors of your reps, and then bring together all the other context that you might need into one place. And then that way, it’s sort of almost a new kind of solution.
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