Paul Katzoff on Using Strategic Vision to Creating Corporate Growth - Mind Training for Salespeople and Sales Leaders

Paul Katzoff (@PaulKatzoff) is the CEO of WhiteCanyon Software, a data erasure software firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. WhiteCanyon Software has been providing data security software since 1998. And all Sales, Support and Development is performed at their Utah headquarters.  Paul loves surfing, spaghetti, and Whittaker’s Peanut Slabs.

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[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]

Umar Hameed 0:01
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone. My name is Umar Hameed, I’m your host on the no limit selling podcast where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how you can become better, stronger, faster. Just before we get started, I’ve got a question for you. Do you have a negative voice inside your head? We all do, right? I’m gonna help you remove that voice and under 30 days guaranteed not only remove it, but transform it. So instead of the voice that sabotages you, there’s one that propels you to much higher levels of performance and success. There’s a link in the show notes. Click on it to find out more. All right, let’s get started.

Umar Hameed 0:41
Hello everyone to another episode of The No Limits Selling Podcast and today, I’m here in Athens, Greece, I can almost see the Parthenon, okay, there’s buildings in the way. But today, I’ve got the pleasure of having Paul Katzoff here with me, he’s the CEO of WhiteCanyon. And today we’re going to talk about leadership sales, what it takes to be successful in the world that we live in today. Paul, welcome to the program.

Paul Katzoff 1:07
Umar, thank you for having me here on the No Limits selling Podcast. I appreciate being here, I love listening to you and your podcast. Thank you for the chance to talk to you and your audience. I appreciate you’ve made my day to day.

Umar Hameed 1:19
Brilliant, you need better standard my friend but anyway, so we were talking before this session today, a couple of days ago, we were talking about white drive. And one of the things you said that kind of blew my mind was a lot of my hard drives now are SSD drives, so solid state which is like totally brilliant. And you said did you know that there’s multiple copies of everything that you own on that? So you think it’s erased, it’s not. And it was like what?

Paul Katzoff 1:48
Yes, yes. Yeah, it’s, it’s just the technologies changed from hard drive platter base, which are like records that just you know, they have different levels there. And they write all that data on those different levels there on the on the hard drive platter-based drives. On the SSD, solid state drives, those are all flash-based, which, over the last 10 years, a price has just dropped incredibly where it’s way more kind of affordable, or cost affordable for a lot of OEMs out there. So almost every device now has SSDs but they work differently. They have about 25% more memory than it lists on the device because those chips go bad so often are over over that three to eight-year lifespan. So what happens is the SSD itself is always trying to optimize where data stored and how that data is handled internally. And what it does is it moves your files around all day long, like you may think, with the platter base drives you just kind of right at once, maybe later on, you delete it still sitting on there, and you go well, I need to erase it get all the data off there. But on the SSDs, it’s continuously optimizing if the flash chip goes bad, it’s moving all those files somewhere else, or it’s duplicating files just in case because they think that flash chip may go bad. So your SSD may have 14 copies of your taxes on there and it’s just it’s normal. It’s just how those SSDs function.

Paul Katzoff 3:10
Brilliant, I guess we take the good with the bad, we get like super fast speed and reliability but then you’ve got the other. So let’s talk about the company, WhiteCanyon, how many people in the company?

Paul Katzoff 3:23
Just under 50 employees. We’ve been in business for since 1998, so 23 years. We’re a small software company here in Utah, we like to claim we’re one of the original Utah software companies. And we’re actually named after a place down in Moab, Moab in southern Utah is really famous hiking spot. And White Canyon is one of those famous hikes or famous canyons down there. And that’s where the name comes from.

Umar Hameed 3:47
Brilliant. So did you work your way up through the company?

Paul Katzoff 3:50
I did. So I started here back in 08 right after the big housing crisis and the big crash as looking for a job, I had my MBA, and they had a position here as a tech support agent for $12 an hour, 40 hours a week, I took it, I was happy to have a job back then. And after nine or eight months, nine or 10 months, I moved up to Tech Support Manager and I did that for two years with the company. And they approached me and said, “Hey, Paul, you know, we need a sales rep. We’d love you to move into sales,” and I I kind of hesitated because I just you know, to me the used car salesperson, personality, all that type of, of handling clients that didn’t really fit with me. But they pushed me said, “Hey, we really need you to come on board. Let’s try it out for a little while you can always go back or work something out with you,” and it was great. I moved into enterprise software sales. And we’re in a nice little niche where we deal with a lot of Fortune 100, Fortune 500 companies so we get a lot of big players coming in the door, and it’s just a great experience to work with them, do a consultative sales approach with them and learn how large enterprises need a product to work properly, and then how to sell to them how to speak to the pain points and also to the to the features. And, and close deals, the best part about sales is you’re sitting there and PO hits your inbox and it makes your day all that work,

Umar Hameed 5:14
Yeah. Absolutely.

Paul Katzoff 5:15
is working, so it’s great. So yeah, so I did that for seven or eight years, became a sales director, manager sales team here. And then I left for about a year to just kind of get experience out there in the real world or with other companies. That was amazing, I recommend that to anyone, if you’re kind of in the same place for 8 or 10 years, hop out there, see what the markets like meet other people, I met some amazing sales reps. And WhiteCanyon had a executive change and they reached out to me and said, “Hey, we know you have your MBA, you’re with us for almost a decade, we’d love you to come back in the CEO role,” I said, like anyone else, “Absolutely, I’d love to,” and I’ve been back in the role for three and a half years.

Umar Hameed 5:57
Brilliant. So we’re going to kind of backtrack a little bit.

Paul Katzoff 6:00
Sure.

Umar Hameed 6:00
When you first joined the company, there was probably a vibe there, a culture there. So let me let me set the stage for culture, this is what I think culture is, that if you go back to elementary school, to physics class, the teacher gave everyone a white sheet of paper, and they got some iron filings, and they dropped them on the paper and nothing much happened, then you put a magnet underneath the paper, and then you drop the iron filings and they moved to lines of flux. So in my worldview, the iron filings are the behaviors and the attitudes of the employees. The paper is the company and the magnets, the culture. If you go and move those individual behaviors, if you don’t address the underlying culture, they just move back to the lines of flux after a day, a week, a month. So how was the culture when you first joined the company? And what was it like when you came back as CEO? Before you did any changes? Like was that?

Paul Katzoff 7:02
Yeah.

Umar Hameed 7:02
Was there a Delta before you got started making changes as a CEO?

Paul Katzoff 7:06
Yeah. Great question. So I totally agree with your analogy on culture and how that kind of works in a company. So when I first came on board, it was a small company, we had five or six employees, we were owned by a larger company up in, in Washington, and they eventually merged and moved us everyone down to the same location. The culture was very, the very kind of your left to be successful, and your expect to be successful, kind of on your own, you’re expected to show up, do your work, be on time, get your projects done, everything that you need to get done, make customers happy day in, day out, it was a very kind of like, long term, we don’t like shooting stars, where you come in, you work really hard, and all sudden, you’re not doing anything, and you’re kind of you know, you’re dragging everyone else down. So that was a culture, when I first came on board, there were some, some negative parts of the culture as well, just kind of communication was expected with the company. When I left and came back, I came back to a situation where we had a, you know, executive leave, and there’s just a lot of turmoil in the company. And there wasn’t a lot of direction in the employees, they want direction, they want to know that they’re doing a good job, they want to know that they’re making a difference with that with your organization as well. So that was kind of the situation when I came back, the Delta was kind of like, there’s confusion, there’s some frustration, but also underlying, there’s some really good talent. And we also lost some good talent during that phase. So I came back to kind of a, you know, not as great talent as we were before and we need to improve that. And kind of as a company, get straight on that path and start moving was kind of what I saw.

Umar Hameed 8:56
Nice. And so what transformations have you made? So you’ve been there for a few years as CEO, what have you done to make the culture better?

Paul Katzoff 9:04
I think first off, I like to let my passion out for,

Umar Hameed 9:07
Nice.

Paul Katzoff 9:07
I you know, like, I love talking about data security, I love how it, how it ties into recycling and e-waste and helping us to help the environment, which is very important to me as well. So my side when an employee gets me talking, I’ll just start raving about what we’re doing, and this is happening, this is happening, the industry is going this way. And so on my side, I try to share my viewpoint, I don’t I don’t want to hide it, I don’t want to just kind of give a boring speech, you know, every six months, let everyone you know, go with that. I like to talk individually and ask what they’re working on and then share when I was in tech support what I used to see and how that was and when I was a tech support manager, what I thought there and what was good, was hard how that compares to what they do. And on the sales side as well, I like to talk about, you know, my sales experience. So on my side, I like to connect with my employees on the devs I can’t really, I’m not a developers. I can’t really connect to all of them, but I still like to connect with them and kind of talk about what I see with the company, where it’s going, how, how we’re driving it. And I don’t really have specific culture goals, but I’d like to have passion and let people know,

Umar Hameed 10:13
Nice.

Paul Katzoff 10:13
“Hey, I’m in, I’m here day in, day out. I’m trying to push harder than you are, as far as effort and what’s what I’m trying to get done every day. And I hope you guys follow with me,” and I and we have good talent and good and good employees, you know, the world’s our oyster is kind of, I say that phrase a lot, actually, I think.

Umar Hameed 10:31
Nice. So from my point of view, there’s like a CEO has three responsibilities. One is a kick-ass, amazing, strategically sound vision that inspires people to go, “I want to be a part of that.”

Paul Katzoff 10:44
Yeah.

Umar Hameed 10:46
The second one is that culture piece, because I think ultimately, at the end of the day is how do you get your people to go above and beyond the call of duty, because it’s human nature to be selfish, look what I did or that’s not my problem. This is like, how do you get people to go? What needs doing and let’s get it done? And let’s outpace the competition. And the third step is very much how do you increase the value of the company over time?

Paul Katzoff 11:11
Yeah.

Umar Hameed 11:11
And so out of those three, which? Give me the, which is the hardest one for you to kind of tackle? Because, you know, all three are tricky, so which one do you kind of go, “Yeah, this is one that we we continually work on.”

Paul Katzoff 11:26
Um, the first and the third one, you mentioned their strategic vision,

Umar Hameed 11:30
Vision, yup.

Paul Katzoff 11:31
and long-term value, those two kind of tie together. Personally on my viewpoint, your purpose is to drive the long-term value of the company, your strategic vision gets you there. And I think culture ties in because that’s your employees, they’re helping you get there, you know, they’re the ones that do the day in day out to help the whole corporation get there. So great, I love those three different points. On my side, I think strategic vision, you know, we’re in a constantly changing market, and so you have to, there’s so many options, It’s really funny on the CEO side, you can do anything, you know,

Umar Hameed 12:07
Yes.

Paul Katzoff 12:08
And when you can do anything around unlimited number of different alternatives to what you’re doing, it’s very tempting to say, “Well, let’s try that. Let’s try a little bit of that. Let’s try, let’s go over here. I like the consumer side, look, should we focus on that for a little bit,” rather than, like we said, a strategic sound, direct kind of purpose and vision of what needs to happen and how we need to get there? I think that’s the temptation of my role to kind of do a shotgun effect rather than a rifle.

Umar Hameed 12:37
Yeah, it’s a, it’s fun being the CEO. And also, you have the entire company on your shoulder, so it’s kind of like a balancing act. So tell me about your sales team? Do you have a sales manager between you and the team?

Paul Katzoff 12:53
I do. Yeah, we have a sales director, she manages a team below her. And then she reports directly to me, on my side.

Umar Hameed 13:00
So tell me about some of the conversations with her in terms of getting, so we’re not going to name names but this will be really useful for other CEOs to hear. So when you take a look at a sales rep that’s doing a really good job, but you and your sales manager can see that, director of sales can see that this person could be frickin’ fantastic, like, how do we get them to really believe it’s possible for them? Can you walk me through one of those saying, you know, “Oh, yeah, we had this rap that?”

Paul Katzoff 13:29
Sure, sure. I’m not gonna name names, but we’ve had a lot of really good reps come through. And on our side, first off, you recognize them, and you say, hey, the quality of their conversations or emails or communication, you know, we’re in software robots, a very remote kind of selling environment, you’re on site, maybe once or twice a year conventions but other than that, it’s all phone calls, of video calls, and then emails, but you’ll bump into a sales rep, and you’ll go, “Wow, these guys have either the natural talent or the learn talent to be very good as a sales rep. And on our side, I’ll sit down with a sales director and have the conversation with her and say, “Hey, what do you think with this sales rep?” Both of us will look at and say, yeah, you know, we can tell that they have this potential. How do we get that potential from a potential to actually being realized? And on our side, what we do is we go into kind of a training mode or a mentorship mode, where we’ll have that sales rep sitting on calls with either the sales director that’s managing or another very experienced sales rep that has that talent, and let that sales rep kind of just, you know, learn from that mentorship and pick up that information, pick up how someone else does it, and therefore they can then start applying it, and they’ll start watching to see if they apply into their workflow and their processes. That’s the initial stages that kind of mentorship is what we do.

Umar Hameed 14:55
Brilliant. And how about sales reps that you know, we all have things happen that can throw you off your game, could be a personal thing at home, it could be a Mercury’s in retrograde. So how do you handle that when you have a well-producing sales rep that gets into a slump? How do you get them out of that slump? Other than tasers?

Paul Katzoff 15:19
That would work, but maybe it might, might work? You know, the, that’s a great question. The the sales rep that moves into a slump, you got to communicate, okay, that’s the first thing is, it’s very easy on the management side, to kind of say, “Well, let’s take a hands off approach. Let’s wait and see what happens. Let’s not address it. Let’s, you know, maybe they’ll come out on their own.” And personally, I feel like that’s kind of selfish on the sales director of management where they’re trying not to do work.

Umar Hameed 15:49
So I’m just gonna add to that, I hate to interrupt you there. It’s also chicken shit.

Paul Katzoff 15:54
Yeah.

Umar Hameed 15:54
It’s like, “Hey, I don’t want to have that uncomfortable conversation.” We’re all humans, and even though you’re the boss, sometimes, like, “Maybe they’ll figure it out on their own.” But please go on.

Paul Katzoff 16:04
Yeah, no, I, I agree completely with that because it’s very easy to dial back and say, “Well, I’m not going to engage.” And as a manager, the second you realize you’re not engaging, that’s when you realize you’re not doing your job, okay, so the sales director should sit down with that sales rep and say, “Hey, first off, talk them up about what they’ve done, you know, here’s your previous results, here’s your skill set, we see you here. This is how we we view you from the management side.” And if they are a great sales rep, you’re going to, you’re going to make them feel good, because they are a great, great partner.

Umar Hameed 16:35
Absolutely.

Paul Katzoff 16:35
And then they’re going to try and address and say, “Hey, we noticed, you know, four weeks ago or six weeks ago, things have just started being very slow on your side or not seeing the success and results that we are, you know, anticipate with you? Is there something going on?” or we have to be very kind of HR related on there. Is there something that our HR team should know about or that you need to discuss with them? First off, you have to start on the personal side. And as a management team, you can’t just personally I feel like you can’t just ask them personal questions, “Why? Why? Why?” Say, “Hey, would you like to share that with me, if not, you don’t feel comfortable sharing it with me, we have an HR team that be happy to talk that with you.” And they’ll communicate too with me on how I should work with you on this, you know, on this item, if there’s something there. And then second, by having that conversation, you’re saying to them, “Hey, I want you back up here.” And sometimes you have to talk about career goals, sometimes you have to talk about where they see themselves in 5 or 10 years, what they want other company or the position. There’s some items there where you have to get through the nitty gritty and discuss those. And then after that, you’ll both be seen eye to eye. We’ve had situations where they’ve come out of this slump, we’ve had situations where they said, “You know what, this slump is because of x, y, and z, I’m actually gonna, you know, I’m we’re gonna move I’m headed somewhere else. Thank you for the time here, but it’s not a good fit.” And so that conversation, I think a lot of managers are afraid because of the possible results. But you can’t, you can’t run that way, It’s not going to be successful.

Umar Hameed 18:03
Yeah, I’m gonna break down what you said. So thank you for sharing that that was like really, really useful. So I think if you have a really good relationship with folks that you can have frank, open conversations that are not seen as attacks, because oftentimes, we’re trained that, you know, if somebody is pointing something out, I get defensive, and I make excuses. And if we can have that relationship with, you know, “Hey, Bill, what’s going on,” or the other way around a sales rep saying, you know, “Hey, right now, I’m not sure, but the phone is not my friend right now,” like, I’m not sure what happened, all of a sudden,

Paul Katzoff 18:41
Yeah.

Umar Hameed 18:41
I’ve got difficulty picking it up. And if we’re going to have those open conversations, we can fix them really easily. And that’s what I mean about culture, if we can get to that level of connection, that together, we can conquer anything. And kind of your thoughts on that?

Paul Katzoff 18:58
Yeah, I agree. It goes down to the culture in the relationship with the sales director with their, with their team members. I mean, that’s key, if there’s any sort of attitude or issues between the head or conflicts, they’re going to back up and not share their information, and say, you know, “I, what are you talking about, I’m fine, everything’s going to be great.” In your, yeah, if you have a good culture, they’re going to share that you’re going to work with the mine, he explained to me, “Hey, we want to work with you on this help you through it and see if it’s a good fit.” We don’t want employees that don’t want to be at their job. And we don’t want to job’s not gonna be done correctly, if there’s employees there that don’t really want to do it. So it’s got to be a fit for everyone involved. And everything’s a career move, you know, you work in a company for a little while, maybe you there for 14 years, you move up to CEO, maybe you’re you hop around every two or three years to a new kind of, you know, software tool that you’d like to sell and you’re passionate about for a couple years, you kind of get tired of it, you want to try something else, there’s a fit for everyone. And another item here is the feedback and talking to that sales rep, maybe they’ll say the leads aren’t any good and maybe you’ll uncover an issue with marketing or with your lead volume or, you know, your your lead quantity numbers are X, and they’ve stayed that way but actually, maybe the quality is dropped. And he’s talking to people that aren’t decision makers and he’s on his side saying, “Hey, this, or they’re not real clients potentials,” and so on his side or her side, they’re saying, “Hey, I’m doing the best I can. I’m not given the same intake as I previously was,” and that’s what’s going on. Then you can kind of as a manager or CEO, say, “Well, let’s take a look at marketing, let’s see what’s going on over here. If these leads aren’t good, this is a symptom of something a big problem. So let’s jump in and solve this.”

Umar Hameed 20:38
Absolutely and I’m glad you’re gonna see it that way. So I’m gonna backtrack, again, going back to you had mentioned HR, so in a lot of companies, HR is seen as the enemy. And when you ask employees whose HR, they’re the people that say no.

Paul Katzoff 20:53
So true.

Umar Hameed 20:54
But the reality is when HR is done right, they’re the glue that holds everything together. When it’s done right, they can empower CEOs and managers and employees to do stuff. But that comes down to the CEO on how do we get HR to fit into this system where they’re seen as a great resource for everyone and not the people that are like, “Well, you can’t talk about this, and you can’t do that, and you can’t do this,” which is part of the responsibility. So before I let you answer that, here’s my theory is that HR needs to be split into two, one side of HR needs to be the, “You can’t do that people,” because there are rules and laws that we need to obey. And we need a second side of HR, which is all about, “How do we get the best performance out of our employees,” like it almost needs to be split into two.

Paul Katzoff 21:45
Yeah, yeah. Now there is kind of a conflict there in HR site because they have the rules and trying to teach employees how to behave correctly or, you know, professionally in their environment, and avoid legal liabilities, all of that. And I think it’s very tempting for HR to stay as a very heavy-handed area, but actually they are supposed to be light and soft. And if you have a great HR rep, which we do, and we have a great HR team is they should know everyone, they, we run some you know, competitions internally for the company, we…

Umar Hameed 22:18
Nice.

Paul Katzoff 22:18
have catered lunch every week, we do…

Umar Hameed 22:23
What days is that?

Paul Katzoff 22:24
Yeah. should come over from Greece come and visit us, we’d love to have you. So we try to make, they should be soft and fuzzy. And as a management team, I think you also have to communicate that, to communicate that they can defer and talk to HR instead of you. And if a lot of companies it makes it look like HR and the CEO are like seamless, the same person. And I think you actually have to make it look like they’re two separate entities. If you have an issue with me, your manager, talk to HR will resolve it, HR will, will discuss it with us and we have to work it out with HR and resolve that issue rather than we tell HR everything that happens and, and. So that’s kind of my viewpoint on it, that’s where we’ve been successful on our side but I do agree with you there is a conflict. And some corporations don’t get through, you don’t get through that and it becomes an issue, so.

Umar Hameed 23:16
So here’s kind of my thoughts on that, is that two things, I think, one, they do have a responsibility to make sure the rules are taken care of.

Paul Katzoff 23:27
Yeah.

Umar Hameed 23:27
And sometimes they’re labeled that way and they’re not that way by the employee, so they just got labeled that way. But one of the things that you talked about was, you know, soft and fuzzy on one side, and my version of HR is not that, is like I want them to be bold, and, and strong and support.

Paul Katzoff 23:48
Yeah.

Umar Hameed 23:48
And it’s like, because I think that human side of the company is so important. When things are going well, that’s nice and you can actually do better. When things going bad, your employees and the relationship with management is so critical to getting over tough times or tough situations.

Paul Katzoff 24:08
Yeah.

Umar Hameed 24:09
And…So I think the CEO job is a tough one. I’m not sure if you remember this episode, or if you ever saw it. It was Fred Flintstone where he wished that he could be the boss and his new character let him be the boss for one day, and like the worst experience ever. He thought the boss is even like playing golf, eating fat lunches, and…

Paul Katzoff 24:28
Yeah.

Umar Hameed 24:28
his board of directors is like, “No, no, I want to go back to be worker. Thank you very much.”

Paul Katzoff 24:33
Yes.

Umar Hameed 24:34
I salute you, Paul, for doing a great job there. And thank you for this conversation, I think it was really really insightful. And I appreciate your transparency and your expertise.

Paul Katzoff 24:45
Yeah, thanks, Umar. appreciate being here on the No Limits Selling Podcast talking with with you and your audience. And if anyone like to reach out to me, please reach out to me on LinkedIn or on our website, www.whitecanyon.com we’d be happy to talk with you.

Umar Hameed 25:00
Brilliant and we’re gonna put all the links in the show notes, so you’ll be easy. Just go click and you will find them. And I’m looking forward to our next conversation.

Paul Katzoff 25:10
Yep, thanks.

Umar Hameed 25:16
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you’re looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I’ve got a free mind training course there, that’s going to teach you some insights from the world of neuro-linguistic programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.

About the Author Umar Hameed

I am a performance coach who uses Applied Neuroscience to help individuals and teams break through their barriers so they become awesomer! Take a look at my Motivational Speaker Kit

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