33. Pioneers. with Art Boyd, Senior VP, Growth Partnerships at Mirakl

"Art is always asking for the client's benefit first. When he was dealing with partners at Magento (now Adobe Commerce) he managed to build successful relationships that lasted for years. When I asked Art how he managed to earn the Sales Club recognition for 100% sales performance each year from 2006 to 2010 - the answer was: Piotr, it was what I did BEFORE this period. Relationships. Art got into enterprise software from banking (Citibank) so he had to be a fast learner too. More than just about his story we're discussing why marketplace software is so hot and what makes Mirakl so successful." Piotr Karwatka, Host.

Topics discussed:

Long before you did enterprise software you started your career in finance. How did it all start?

You ended up in a Director role at Citibank, late 90’. Dream career. When did you feel it was the time for a change?

How was it for you to completely change paths and get into IT?

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Then you landed at ATG and stayed there for quite some time 10 years actually. Even 13yrs if we count the time after acquisition by Oracle. 

Can you tell us a little bit about this adventure?

When I was reading your Linkedin profile one thing that I noticed from this period was that you Earned Sales Club recognition for 100% sales performance each year from 2006 to 2010. That’s impressive. What’s your secret sauce?

You worked at LivePerson and Magento? What did you learn in this period?

How did the eCommerce market change from 2000?

Then, you joined MIRAKL. What made you interested and ready for this change?

If I ask a regular person what the marketplace is, they might give me one example: Amazon. But you’ve actually got a huge number of clients. Who’s starting marketplaces? Is it a niche segment?

Does MIRAKL actually have any competitors? What’s the USP?

Can you share some client’s stories you found most surprising or interesting?

building a partner network for the marketplace software is something completely different than for eCommerce platforms. Or maybe I am wrong?

Do you feel like a pioneer?

Sounds like you don’t like to do the same thing over and over - makes perfect sense. On the other hand you’re super focused, 5,13 years at the same company.

How many years does a software company need to become a market leader?

If you are asked for some universal advice on how to be successful in enterprise software sales - what would you say?

It’s all a B2B market. You can literally name and know most of the actors in the market.

Are the relationships key to success here?

You’ve got a great, great talent for recruiting the partners. 

What’s a recipe for a long-lasting business relationship?

What are your goals for the upcoming year and the next 3 years?

How do you see the future of eCommerce enterprise software market

Is there a place for new players?



Transcript:

[00:00:45] Piotr Karwatka: [00:00:45] In today's episode, we are going to talk about leaving the comfort zone, relationships and enterprise software. My guest is Art Boyd. The Vice President at Mirakl.  Previously Art was in charge of partner relations at Magento, LivePerson, and Oracle ATG. Hey Art! I'm so glad you accepted my invitation.

[00:01:05] Art Boyd: [00:01:05] Well, thank you for inviting me. It's really a pleasure to be here and to talk. 

[00:01:11] Piotr Karwatka: [00:01:11] Art, do you remember when we first met?

[00:01:13] Art Boyd: [00:01:13] I remember meeting you and having a great dinner at Dom Vodka in Warsaw a long time ago, but one of the best evenings I've ever spent. And it was part of my time at Magento, which was really, really special.

[00:01:30] Piotr Karwatka: [00:01:30] That was a funny story, I guess it was about four years ago. However, what I remember from our first meeting was that you did a great job working with the partners. I mean, actively listening training to find a way benefiting all of the parties. Is it more like a feature of your character or something one can learn?

[00:01:53] Art Boyd: [00:01:53] I think it's probably both. You know, certainly my personality is I am a listener and I'm a connector and I really try to solve problems. But I've definitely learned over time that there's a book I read a few years ago by an author named Carol Dweck. It's called mindset. And it's all about how do you grow? And have a growth mindset. And one of the things is to ask direct questions, you know, and, and really go after what's important. 

[00:02:28] Piotr Karwatka: [00:02:28] Sure. So you need to, to be candid as direct question, but also not being afraid of answering and being very direct in this conversation. That was absolutely how I remembered our fifth meeting, you know It was the first time that we, as a partner, were partner with Magento back then and were treated very, very transparently, very much. I really loved it. So it's good to hear. That is a great job you were doing. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:02:59] Art Boyd: [00:02:59] That's really good to hear, you know, the moment in time at Magento.I remember that trip really well. Because at that moment in time, Magento had just changed. From being part of eBay to being you know, independent again and our partners were really uncertain. You know, there were a lot of changes, so it was really important for us to meet them. Tell them honestly what we knew and what we didn't know, and listened to them.

[00:03:31]That was really important. So that visit to Poland, you know, it was just super exciting market. We had yourselves and two other really committed partners and we needed to hear from you. And we needed to also like show you that we're committed back. 

[00:03:49] Piotr Karwatka: [00:03:49] Yea, absolutely. I think that we could go a little back in time now, because I wanted to ask you a few questions about your career path long before.

[00:04:00] You did enterprise software, you started your career in finance. So how did it all start? Yeah, 

[00:04:07] Art Boyd: [00:04:07] I'm not an engineer by training, you know, I, I studied economics and international relations, you know, in my university studies. So for me, I was looking for a job that, you know, let me do that for, for money, you know, paid me to do it.

[00:04:23] And so I ended up going into international finance, you know, it was a great area to combine those two interests of mine. And so I went and joined Citibank, you know, pretty early in my career which was, which was great. You know, it's an international bank. I worked for them in New York. And then I got to work for them based in Brussels, but really in a European context. So for me at that stage of my career, you know, it was a great place. I learned a lot, really smart people. It was very international. And combine my passions, you know, it also was a place where I could do like problem solving.

[00:04:59] So I mentioned, you know, earlier that I like to connect things, I like to solve problems. So that was part of, part of what I could do at Citibank. We were pretty creative in finance. So it was, it was a great experience early in my career. 

[00:05:11] Piotr Karwatka: [00:05:11]Yeah,  it sounds amazing. I mean, you ended up being the Director role at Citibank, in like the nineties. Sounds like a dream career. So when did you feel it was the time for a change? 

[00:05:22] Art Boyd: [00:05:22] Yeah, I had been there at that point for probably like six years, something like that. And, and it was a really good job. I had a great, great career path in front of me. But as I gained seniority there I started to see that a lot of what you were doing as you rose and became more senior was about risk management, not making mistakes because you can make a lot of money in finance. You can lose a lot of money in finance. So the career was like not making mistakes, Risk Management. And at that stage in my life, I was like, I don't want to not make mistakes. I want to try things. I want to take risks. So at that point, you know. I started looking around and, you know, I need to take any to be in a place where it's okay to take risks.

At the same time, you know, the.com world was booming. And, and so on the one hand wanting to try new things and take risks. And the other hand, you know, e-commerce, it was a pretty easy decision to jump into it. 

[00:06:29] Piotr Karwatka: [00:06:29] Gotcha. Makes perfect sense. But how was it for you to, you know, completely change a path and get into it? And what was the biggest challenge you faced? 

[00:06:39] Art Boyd: [00:06:39] Yeah, so, you know, it, it was definitely a challenge because as I said, I'm not an engineer, so I was moving over to a technology powered world. I had an awful lot to learn which sometimes it was uncomfortable, you know, it's like, I, I'm not sure I understand exactly what they're talking about.

[00:06:56]And I had to do a lot of homework. But what I tried to do is I tried to, you know, build on my strengths really from the business side. So I was never writing code. The world should feel very comfortable that I never wrote code. Cause I wouldn't do that very well. But I tried to stay on the business side. I tried to stay you know, really in the sales and marketing but. I did have to do a lot of homework to learn at least enough about the technology. So I could do my job really in sales and marketing. Yeah. 

[00:07:25] Piotr Karwatka: [00:07:25] Yeah. Gotcha. You landed out of ATG then, and stayed there for quite some time, like 10 years even maybe 13 years, if we count the time after the acquisition by Oracle. Can you tell us a little bit more about this adventure?

[00:07:41] Art Boyd: [00:07:41] Yeah. So it was an adventure that's for sure. I you know, cause I really rode that the.com boom and crash and early on. It was, it was a difficult time. I mean, we, I joined and the, the e-commerce bubble was bursting, you know, as I joined the company.

[00:08:03] And so for the first year, it was pretty stressful because there was a lot of downsizing and a lot of companies where, you know yeah, laying people off and so on. So that first year was pretty stressful, you know, in terms of getting ATG to the right size company. Cause we had, we had been built for continued, you know, thousand percent growth, which obviously didn't happen in that period of time.

But the good news was, you know, we were going to weather the storm because we had great technology. And we had great customers and our engineering team was really, really smart. I mean, I can't say enough about the core engineering team at ATG. They were very early into Java. Things that today we take for granted or in fact might even be, you know, old fashioned technologies like they invented.

So we knew we were going to be okay. It just was waiting for the market to come back in some ways. Yeah. But once we got through that restructuring, you know, like I said, we were in a great position. We were pioneers, you know, personalization. I like to say that we invented it back then now it's you know, it's something that everyone aspires to.

[00:09:14]But we invented the concept and ultimately, you know, we had success. Right. So I remember, I remember certain stories, you know, obviously being in the top of the Forrester wave was a milestone for us. You know, it's something we worked hard for over years. We achieved that. I remember knowing we were there, we had a walk-in customer.

[00:09:35] So, you know, think about enterprise software who walks into an enterprise software company and it says, Hi, I'd like to buy software. Can I talk to a salesperson? We had a customer, a major retailer from Mexico who was, who was up in Cambridge at an MIT conference. And I literally was by the reception desk.

[00:09:55] This person walks in, he goes, I'm the CIO of this company. I happened to be in Massachusetts. I'd like to speak to a salesperson. We want to buy software. And that's when I that's, you know, besides the Forrester wave, that's one of those anecdotes where I'm like. We're there, we're there when you have that kind of position.

[00:10:14] Piotr Karwatka: [00:10:14] So, so did, did he walk away with a know packet full of CDs with 

[00:10:19] Art Boyd: [00:10:19] It  was almost like that back in the day, but we still were on-prem software, but no, we did digital downloads, but we didn't send them away, but we did win them as a client, which was fun. It was really fun. And then of course we got acquired by Oracle, which, you know, again was another validation of how far we had come.

[00:10:38] So it was a very satisfying experience. It, and it was an adventure, ups and downs, but we, we ended on, we ended up high, so that's good. 

[00:10:47] Piotr Karwatka: [00:10:47] Absolutely. So can I rephrase it? As you know, starting in the middle of the crisis, no bursting bubble,  the worst crisis, the internet, and its software companies phase, I guess with very, you know, good core foundation, which was your engineering team and the software. You see this as let's say a chance opportunity, right? Is it was more like you stand it, the standard, this crisis and face the challenges, but all the, you know, opponents were having much harder times, I guess, because, because not having those foundations. 

[00:11:40] Art Boyd: [00:11:40] Yeah, that was, I mean, it's still, it was a tough time and it was a competitive market, you know, back then our big competition was like, IBM. And they had a slightly bigger market position than we did at ATG. But, you know, and anything, I think, you know, if you have good technology and you listen to your clients and you build good relationships with your partners, It's going to, it's going to work out. It will work out. The fundamentals are on your side and of course, you know, e-commerce this, the, the trajectory and the long-term was just up, up and up.

[00:12:14] And we still enjoy that today. So we were on the right side of a good trend with e-commerce. 

[00:12:20] Piotr Karwatka: [00:12:20] Gotcha. Gotcha. Very important lesson by the way, you meant relationships. And I think that this is a good moment to ask about those years between 2006, 2010 you earned the SES cup award recognition for meeting 100% sales performance each year during this period. I think it's, you know, it's really impressive. The question is what is your secret sauce for closing the deals? 

[00:12:48] Art Boyd: [00:12:48] Thank you. It was definitely really rewarding to have, have the success and it's always team success. So, you know, it's the, it's the, the whole selling team. I guess the two things that I would say, first of all, A lot of the work was done before 2006, you know?

[00:13:05] So you, you, you, sometimes you're doing the right things and you're doing hard work and you don't get success right away. And if you, if you believe you are doing the fundamentals the right way, keep doing them. I mean, always listen and see if maybe you're not doing it the right way, but, but sometimes you have to work really hard and the success comes later.

[00:13:27] So The success started really coming in that 2006, 2010 period, you know, but a lot of the work had been done earlier and I don't think there's any like super magic or secrets about it. You know, it is focused. So, you know, really have a plan and stick to your plan. Hard work. There is no substitute.

[00:13:46] Work, especially, you know, when the results may not be immediately obvious, that's when you really have to double down and work hard. I think as I said before, it's a team success, so don't sell alone. You know, that would be something that my experience is if you're, if you sell with your team and.

[00:14:03] Internal team and external team, you know, with partners. And, and, you know, in that period, we really invested in our relationships. And like I said, a lot of the hard work was before 2006, but the pay off came because we made those investments in the right partners in the right way. So that, that was a great period. It was a lot of fun. We had a lot of success, so it was a good time. 

[00:14:27] Piotr Karwatka: [00:14:27] I think that this is pretty counterintuitive for many of us listening to what you just said, because you said something like. The Longworth strategy doesn't work. That, that, that good. As you might think in sales roles it's a team sport.

[00:14:44]I think it's not that obvious. Right? And maybe this is the secret sauce that, you know you leverage some that you believe in that and it, yeah. And 

[00:14:51] Art Boyd: [00:14:51] I think it is, it is maybe counterintuitive because you know, salespeople they, they, they have individual goals. They're often alone. And the temptation can be, we call it a miracle.

[00:15:04] Now we call it hero selling. Don't do hero selling. Like you're not Superman flying in on a Cape and, you know, team selling. So, and the reason that's important, I think, and certainly enterprise sales is because how does the client make decisions? You know, they ask a lot of complicated questions. They ask advice that people they're, they're connecting a lot of pieces of their puzzle.

[00:15:30] So. And, and, and working with them and helping them do their homework, you know, you probably need more than just one voice. And, and it's often other technology, voices consulting voices. So so that's, you know, maybe, maybe that is the counterintuitive secret sauce, so don't sell it team.

(...)