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The Path from Door-to-Door Selling to Sales Leader with Xactly’s Steve De Marco


Steve De Marco’s sales career started during the most unlikely of times. It was a summer job selling books door to door — all while pursuing his industrial engineering degree. People said he was crazy to do it, and he would hate it. Turns out the opposite was true. He loved it.

After graduation and working as a consultant at Accenture for a few years, De Marco got his first job in technology sales. And he hasn’t stopped since. Now, as Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Alliances at Xactly, a cloud software company focused on helping more than 1,000 companies automate sales compensation, De Marco is committed to inspiring his sales teams and sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Why did selling books door to door get you hooked on sales as a career?

When I signed up for the summer job, everyone told me that people would slam the door in my face and I was going to be miserable. But I did it anyway. It was wildly rewarding in a bunch of different ways. First, it was a great opportunity to learn the basics and fundamentals of sales. I actually still espouse and teach the same things today to my sales team. It's a numbers game. You have to be persistent. You can't be afraid of people saying no to you. You have to believe in your product.

Second, I also truly believed those books helped kids do their homework. It was a much more consultative sale. I felt like I was just educating parents on a resource that was available. If they wanted them, great; if they didn't, that was OK. I wasn't trying to force them to buy, and that took the edge off of it completely. I wasn’t a sales guy trying to schlep my product. I was someone offering a solution I truly felt would help them. And, of course, the financial success was a bonus, too.

What do you think is the hardest part about sales?

The hardest part is the same thing that makes sales really great. It’s constantly changing and a game that never really ends, especially with quarterly driven sales organizations. Quarter after quarter, year after year, you have to succeed, hit goals, and then start all over again. As a sales leader, you have to get a whole group of people behind it and believing — in the company, product, and our mission. It’s just like what I learned back when I was selling those first books.

There’s always continuous improvement and refining of the sales process to do, which is one of my favorite parts of the job. What gets me up in the morning is trying to figure out how I can keep my team motivated, how we can do a better job, and keep on producing and delivering for Xactly.

How did you make the transition from sales rep to sales leader?

It’s a big decision. I talk to sales reps about this all the time when they want to get into management. I make them think long and hard about it. It’s perfectly fine being an individual contributor your whole career — rising up the ranks, doing bigger and bigger deals, and making a ton of money. I decided fairly early on that I wanted to get into management for a few different reasons. Part of it was the benefit of having some tremendous mentors and sales managers and leaders in my day. Quite frankly, I wanted to do what they did and be like them.

My background in engineering also held a big component to it. Industrial engineering is focused on refining and optimizing processes, and I felt like I could help with that more in sales as a manager. I was also very interested in getting other sales reps to be successful. I think that’s more rewarding for me personally than anything else — watching the development of another great sales professional benefiting from your management and leadership.

What’s your approach to hiring for your team?

When I got into sales management, my mentors told me, “You’re only as good as the people you hire. You’re only as good as the people on your team.” So, hiring has always been a number-one priority for me. We look for top-caliber A players to bring on board. They have to be really smart, have a great attitude, an excellent work ethic, and business acumen. I’ll say this, and I won’t be shy about it — they also want to make a lot of money. At the same time, they must want to deliver solutions that they believe in, educate customers, and make a difference.

It’s a very competitive environment out there. We have to attract and sell potential hires on not only our culture here at Xactly, but also the fact that we’re going to be competitive from a compensation standpoint. But one of the biggest things is getting them to realize they’re going to learn a ton about selling and really develop themselves for their career in the future.

If you weren’t in sales…

I'd be using my industrial engineering background manufacturing products like cars or high-tech devices — something with a process and a procedure that I could help refine and make better because I really enjoy that aspect of the job.

Do you have a favorite sales or business book?

The book that I actually talk about most with my sales team is Moneyball by Michael Lewis. It’s not really a business book, but it’s just such a great metaphor for what I try and do with my sales team. We have to think out of the box, use data and analytics, and disrupt our competition. Just like Billy Beane did with the Oakland Athletics.

Similar to a walk-up song, do you have a closing song?

My dad is my hero, and he taught me everything I know. He loves Frank Sinatra. There was one song that he listened to a lot when I was growing up. It’s called “The Best Is Yet to Come” and that would be my closing song.

The hardest part is the same thing that makes sales really great. It’s constantly changing and a game that never really ends, especially with quarterly driven sales organizations.”

Steve De Marco | VP, Worldwide Sales and Alliances, Xactly Corporation

Learn More

How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.



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