Brian Grushcow of CM.com: “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesey”
Authority Magazine May 24
The art, science, and psychology of sales take patience. There is an emphasis on asking questions and listening. Sales should be studied as a foundation of any curriculum. Rather, it’s taught on-the-job at a school of hard knocks.
Asa part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Grushcow
Brian Grushcow is CM.com’s Director of North America, responsible for spearheading and establishing the company’s business in this key region. For more than 25 years, Brian’s success has been building early, high-growth VC and PE-funded technology companies. Brian has a track record of introducing innovative sales tactics for lean sales teams to drive results. Brian has helped many brands accelerate growth, taking them from startups, and turning them into profitable enterprises.
Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?
Right after college, I got a job at a Los Angeles-based feature film distribution startup working with their film production team. From production, I was allowed to work alongside the CFO in film financing, where I focused on our strategic development. This was truly eye-opening for me when I was presented with the invaluable opportunity to play a key role in helping the business secure $100 million in funding. It was an exciting start to my career path that provided me with experiences that don’t come around every day to just anyone. I was extremely fortunate that I was given the trust and responsibility to learn about and focus on financing, but also distribution, marketing, and production…all at once.
I became drawn to early-stage technology companies during the young dot-com days and decided to pursue a role at a startup incubator where I worked with several innovative companies changing the world through the “internet.” The startup incubator then introduced and led me to become one of the founding members at a company that consulted Fortune 1000 companies. From spending decisions to implementing solutions to support IT infrastructure, we consulted on all aspects of our client’s operations and were an innovative partner in helping them develop cloud computing solutions that were way ahead of their time.
Around that same time, I began taking actions that supported my long-term goals as a professional; to become a manager and ultimately a business executive. I sought advice from my Dad who recommended that I gain direct sales experience, being “a highly necessary and valuable skill” to help pave my path to achieve my career goals.
I then got my first sales-oriented role at an AT&T Business Partner company. I took on a Senior Account Executive position selling to named accounts in the airline, banking, and dot-com technology sectors. AT&T was where I got my first formal training in sales. This experience gave me an important foundation to support me evolving into a highly effective and efficient sales leader. Most importantly, it helped me accelerate my sales competency and values when I transitioned back to working with early to mid-stage tech startup companies.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
When it comes to tradeshows or conference events, never take the bait and spend too much time at an open bar or partying… it is not only a trap but a novice mistake. I learned this the hard way after I missed a breakfast meeting with a quality opportunity after a night out in Las Vegas at a convention once. To this day, I’m still kicking myself because of how I lost the prospective client’s trust, credibility, and the chance to work with the great team of people involved in that exciting deal.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
As the Director of North America at CM.com, my team and I have the exciting opportunity of launching the North American headquarters for CM.com, a publicly traded, communication and payments technology company originated in Europe and founded in the Netherlands. It’s a fantastic undertaking. I’ve been able to leverage my past industry experience, startup, and entrepreneurial DNA and deep appreciation for the skill sets and resources I need from sales to execute on our business plan.
You’ve heard it before, but it is critical to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and share your ambitions as a team. I support our salespeople with resources to make sure they have what they need to produce the best results and ROI. My successes and experience selling in different environments to a variety of buyers and verticals is a direct effect of my Dad’s advice, that was, to enter, study, and excel at direct sales.
Though CM.com was founded in 1999, has 15 global offices, and over ten thousand clients worldwide, at the end of the day, we function as a startup in some respects. For one, we’re establishing a brand unknown to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico by building the brand from the ground up and developing a sales-driven culture, which is rooted in CM.com’s overall brand mission. This culture of sales bleeds into all roles and deliverables of our company. It unifies every function to work in alignment with achieving sales-oriented objectives.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I was the first salesperson and part of the founding team at a company in Los Angeles which was a pioneer in the mobile text messaging technology industry. It was very exciting, and we sometimes would get carried away describing how innovative we were. My VP and I noticed that. He and I joined forces and brought a piece of paper with a “Q” written on it to each of our calls with prospects. He gave me this life-long lesson which reminds me that the most important way to understand your customer and help solve their needs was to ask QUESTIONS and listen — hopefully, the right questions! Ask. Be probing.
When you’re pitching, you’re not hearing your customer, creating value, and making the conversation about them.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
I’ve built a track record of success building innovative and successful technology companies from the sales and revenue side of the house. I’ve led lean sales teams and leveraged all of my years of experience to make more informed decisions and business plans. My focus is less of a sales-method but rather creating an experience driven by customer solutions. The journey I’ve taken, especially through the successes of launching early-stage companies, has created my unique perspective. I believe in Amazon’s Leadership Principles. When I look in the mirror, I see several key sales characteristics: Learn and Be Curious, Earn Trust, and most importantly, Customer Obsession.