Building the Right Team with Ken Jisser at The Pipeline Group

Building the right team is essential if you want to scale your company. Hiring and developing your people allow for more creativity. Leaders must develop the skills of building the right team. Today’s guest is Ken Jisser, Founder & CEO at The Pipeline Group. Inc Magazine ranked his company #415 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. The Pipeline Group provides Go-To-Market services for B2B software companies looking to build predictable pipeline. Ken shares his strategies for building the right team. We talk about why this matters more now than ever.

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Ken Jisser: The Transcript

About: Ken is the Founder & CEO of The Pipeline Group, and is an industry expert on sales development, inside sales processes, data management, marketing automation, and CRM systems. He has been a speaker at numerous industry conferences. For over two decades, Ken has consulted with hundreds of executives to understand the issues constraining their business, and crafted demand generation and revenue-generating solutions to drive growth. Ken has been awarded the Top 25 Most Influential Inside Sales Professional award 5x by the American Association Inside Sales Professionals. He was the Silicon Valley Chapter President. During his tenure as president, he lead and moderated the quarterly meetings with hundreds of registrations and event attendees. He grew the local community by over 400%, won more awards than any other chapter president, and was a major contributor in growing the AA-ISP to a global community.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Ken Jisser: [00:00:00] As my friend, Marty Sanders from my Vectrus security, one said, you know, higher rights sleep well at night. And really that’s been kind of the key to our success. We really look at the type of people we hire. We want to make sure they fit in culturally. And, and then with the chemistry,

Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank this is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments. Of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett: Scaling your business requires the right team. Today. We look at building and hiring the right team with our special guest founder of the pipeline group Ken Jisser Ken and I talk about what does it really look like to hire the right team? First? We talked about the question he loves to ask most what’s most important in the hiring process. And some of the critical elements that they do differently than others they’ve scaled their company to number four 15 on the ink list. They were now 250 employees. [00:01:00] And I shared all this with you because I think listening to this episode will change your mind about what’s most important inside of growing your business. And it’s not what you. That’s my Ts today. When you think about your own journey as a leader, hopefully, you’re evolving.

I find a lot of leaders don’t understand this one concept that the it’s called the cascading effect of leadership, their skills of being a leader and their strengths are flowing down throughout the organization. Strengths are translating pretty well. Cause that’s what people see because you’re leading by example, but here’s the bad news. Also translating and transferring your weaknesses. This is a dangerous place because if you’re avoiding difficult conversations, if you’re not holding people accountable, if you’re not truly developing people the way you need to, then you are missing that opportunity because that’s what others are picking upon.

And eventually, you’ll have a company that doesn’t really. Grow and is not really working in CSUs to be fun anymore. I share all this with you because if you are feeling the same thing inside your organization, you want to continue growth, then make sure you check out this free gift I have. Now, if you could have picked this on your own, you would have done [00:02:00] it already. And then the fact that it’s still playing around in your mind, and you’re still thinking about it means you need to have a conversation about it that you’re not having with anyone else. That’s what I’m offering you. This is a gift. Do yourself a favor, go to Schedule your call. Let’s talk about what’s really getting in the way and let’s take your leadership to that next level. It’s going to I’m waiting for your call. Now let’s jump right into the interview with Ken.

Gene Hammett: Ken How are you?

Ken Jisser: I’m doing very well, Gene how are you?

Gene Hammett: I’m fantastic side to have you here. Growth think tank podcast. We’re going to talk about building the right team before we get there. Tell us, well, the pipeline group.

Ken Jisser: Yeah. So we started the pipeline group about four years ago and started the company in my garage with my head of operations, sleeping on my couch and my CTO working out of his garage because there was no way in heck my wife was going to have three people in her garage. So three guys, two garages, and four years later grown to about. 250 employees globally. And what we do is we help companies build pipelines faster, to grow valuation in their company. Fast. So much of our business comes from private equity and venture capital partners. [00:03:00] When they make investments in software companies, tech companies, they often ask us to do an assessment on their, go to market.

What we do is we provide sales development resources as a service with a bunch of managed services around them to make sure they’re successful, helping our customers build pipelines faster.

Gene Hammett: I want to go a little bit into that. The business of this. Cause I think it really relates to the audience here. What is the biggest myth that gets in the way of pipeline growth,

Ken Jisser: Yeah. well one that we see very often is I’m going to buy a tool and it’s going to solve my problems. I’m going to invest in some AI and machine learning. , it’s gonna solve my problems. I’m gonna buy this database, it’s going to solve our problems. And, you know, if, if it was just that easy to solve that problem to buy a tool by the database, then I guess we’d be out of business. And livestock ferry teach them more than that. , you know, to build consistent long-term sustainable and very predictable pipeline. It’s actually a combination of having the right data, having the right process, having the right tech stack, having the right content, having. The right [00:04:00] person with the right mindset to make all of that work for you. And so what we did is took a very complex problem that usually takes about five to seven people to try to coordinate and orchestrate together. And we provide that whole thing as a service. So having done, done this many, many times, We made a lot of mistakes. And so we just have this unique advantage to seeing what really works and what doesn’t.

So we can get our customers to build the pipeline faster. I’m glad we waited that details cause it helps us understand what you actually are doing with companies. So now we can dive into our real topic today, which is building the right team. You mentioned 250 employees. Why is building the right team important for a company that wants to continue to grow? well as my friend, Marty Sanders from vector security, one said, you know, hire right. will sleep well at night. And really that’s been kind of the key to our success. We really look at the type of people we hire. We want to make sure they fit in culturally and thinning with the chemistry. , what we do, Gene is not very easy. We, you know, we’re [00:05:00] constantly under pressure from the venture capital partners and the private equity partners that introduce us into the portfolio to drive a three X ROI with the pipeline that we’re building. And so it requires us. To hire people that are very results-oriented and focused. And just as you know, in sales, there are peaks and valleys.

So being able to dig your, dig your heels in pretty hard when the, when the valleys come and help you get to the peaks. I mean, we find that we have to interview people in different ways. To make sure they’ve got the right mindset and can and can have the right, approach to things. When when the going gets tough.

Gene Hammett: You got me curious, what is this different way of interviewing DPS?

Ken Jisser: So we, you know, we go through a, recruiting and hiring. So the company was designed to be virtual from day one. , we started that way because we couldn’t afford an office at the time. And so so it became increasingly harder to make sure. your Recruiting and hiring the right people. So what we have to do differently was everyone, first of all, that comes to the interview, says [00:06:00] they can do the job. , and so what we have to do is think about not only what they’re saying, but in testing them to do the job, but really looking at their character as well as a person. So one of my favorite questions to ask in an interview is, you know, tell me about a time where I experienced a real hardship personally and professionally. And tell me how you been able to. Overcome that hardship and what you learn from that process. And when you asked that question, Gene, do you get a lot of really interesting answers we’ve seen? You know, you’ll hear some people say, oh, I got really bad grades and I have to study harder and all the rest, but then you’ll hear stories like, well, I came to this country as an orphan. We were homeless and we have to dig our way out of being homeless to get to where we’re at today. So, you know, you really get to test people’s character when he asked that question.

And so that’s one of the big things we look for. Yeah is this person. Our playbook is really simple. We look for people that have kind of hit the cap and whatever they were doing previously. , and they’re looking to crack their way into tech sales, but the character really characteristically we’re looking for people that are more [00:07:00] mature, kind of have the right mindset are super hungry, and have experienced hardships in their life where they’ve been able to overcome them and learn from that process. Those individuals that really went well with our company and kind of fit in nicely. So those are some of the things that we tested.

Commentary: Ken just talked about this key question that he asked in hiring the right people. And he asked them about, tell me about a hardship that you’ve overcome. Nope. The real core behind this is, to see where they are. And if they’ve overcome some hardships. But I want to give you some, a different insight around this that will help you take it even a step further. And it’s this, ask them why didn’t they get to this faster or what was really standing in their way if they blame others. And that means they’re probably not willing to take ownership of this themselves if they probably are wanting to transfer that to someone else. And that really is a sign that you need to be paying attention to what you want, or people who are willing to own their own mistakes and own their own hardships. And that is the key to this question. I think that will unlock even another level of, of [00:08:00] greatness. If you will, when you want to hire the right people and hire for the right team, it really is necessary for you to have the right questions and the right processes around this. That’s what we’re looking at today with Ken now to our interview.

Gene Hammett: Glad, we went through that because I think that gives us some insight to you know, what you’re looking for in that process. And it is quite different because I don’t, I’ve never heard anybody explain it to me that way. Building the right team is a lot of things. it requires you to develop those people. What do you, what have you learned in this journey of developing people the right way?

Ken Jisser: So what we learned this is we have to apply a checklist. I mean, we see issues arise. I hate to say this, but we built this company off of checklists. When you, when you look at problem accounts or issues popping up with our customers we applied a checklist to the data systems and process. And then we applied checklist to the people as well to make sure they’re, they’re articulating the message correctly, they’re going about it in the right way. And so we do a lot of remote coaching. , we built technology to help us manage a virtual sales team. So we have this unique ability [00:09:00] to whisper into a seller’s ear without a prospecting us, we can also run a lot of role-playing sessions, training sessions, and we don’t just put one trainer or one manager to work with that person. We have lots of different people, managers, lots of different directors in the company now. And we get different takes from different people. You know, one person can give you a bit of feedback that to hear it. You know, once is an accident twice as a coincidence and then three times is a trend, right. , it allows us to just validate and invalidate the subjective sometimes aspects of evaluating people to really get down to what’s the crux of the issue.

Gene Hammett: Interesting approach to developing the team. You also have to, and I’m assuming here that you have some core values that the company runs by. Is that consistent with the way you approach your business?

Ken Jisser: Totally. , you know, having worked in my, my. pedigree in tech companies. So you know, you see sometimes as companies growth very fast the culture spot spirals out of control. And that’s one of the things that we wanted to make sure it didn’t happen [00:10:00] here. So we really, you know, we have a very simple saying we just don’t hire . And into the company, we want to make sure we’re hiring people that are coachable, adaptable, super smart, super hungry want to work hard because that’s who I am. And that to the executive leadership team is those are the characteristics of our entire team.

So making sure we have someone come in that actually compliments that culture is very, very important to us. Whenever there’s one person not working as hard or you know, doing the bare minimum. , versus trying to break through when the going gets tough, you know, we find is that puts a it the motivates the rest of the team. Like everyone’s, you know, people will come to us and say, why am I working this hard? And this person isn’t. So we try to avoid those scenarios by getting like-minded people in similar situations with similar career paths and goals, financial objectives, and all the rest. So something we routinely test

Gene Hammett: And these whole topics about building the right team. What else do we need to talk about to make sure that the right team. is on Onboard with us and as [00:11:00] we keep moving forward.

Ken Jisser: Yeah. So yeah, one of the things that we do is not just look when we hire, we don’t just want to hire and train and develop people professionally, but we try to train and we try to develop people personally as well. we find that. Less attrition. , more loyalty with our team when we get into helping them, not only professionally, but personally in their lives, like some things that we’ve done in the past that I don’t think most other companies would do is, you know, people have had tragedies happen in their life and then life throws up at them and we’ve taken actions and have done things that normally most companies wouldn’t do. it would require kind of board level approval, et cetera. Like one example that comes to mind is one of our top performers, her father passed away and she was living in Washington and her father was in California. And obviously she called me in, in, in the hysteric situation saying, Hey I’m in the drive down from Washington to California.

And I just said, give me one hour, let me call you back. And what we did is we had someone pick [00:12:00] her up, take her to California, stay in California until she had her business taken care of, and then drive her back to Washington and be took care of all the expenses associated with it. , when you did things like that, that are abnormal and unusual and show how much we actually care about. Person, not only professionally, but personally, it goes a long way. It just establishes loyalty in the company that you wouldn’t, you can’t just buy and you can’t just train and develop. It comes with just being a good person and having good characteristics and, you know, making sure the rest of the team is operating the same way.

Gene Hammett: That’s a powerful story. And I’m sure you’ve got dozens of others that you could give us an example with. You’ve got 250 employees. When you think about that type of leadership is it’s not just you. It’s a mini it’s cascading down throughout the organization. So how are others, how do you kind of lead and manage that across the organization?

Ken Jisser: Yeah, no, I mean, so we have when our managers are working with a team you know, you pick up a little soundbite of what’s happening in people’s lives, both personally and professionally. And what’s great about it is, you know, we need to [00:13:00] understand what’s happening. In the in the, in our customer’s environments with the person, with the systems of the data, the process, the content. But when we work individually with our team we learned a lot about them and what’s happening in their lives. And you do, we like to be proactive in recognizing hardships that can happen in people’s lives. Financial situations that pop up unexpectedly in people’s lives and help them through those tough situations.

It’s really important for us as a company to make sure we establish that loyalty, within the organization. And so, you know, we really pride ourselves in going above and beyond the call of duty, not just being an employer, having the employer and employee relationship, having a personal relationship. It’s one of the fun things about being able to be a leader is mentoring and helping people achieve career goals and financial goals that they didn’t think was possible entering into the company.

Commentary: Can’t just talk about being proactive. That’s a really important skill set and mindset of [00:14:00] anyone who is a leader. I think that being proactive is underrated. In fact, a lot of people are more reactive to the world. They’re reactive to the fires that are in front of them. They’re reactive to all of the problems that employees have and customers have. And they’re reacting to this constantly. If that translates across the organization, you’ve got a little bit of a problem. The best organizations, the ones that are truly fun to work in, and the people, the ones that give us energy are the ones that are intentional and proactive. So you’ve got to break this reactive mode. One way to do that is truly to look at yourself and start with yourself first and say, you know, where am I being reactive? That I could be more intentional proactive. And that is a really good place to start inside of this entire journey of breaking that mode. Now, back to Ken

Gene Hammett: I’ve got a curveball question for you here because I remember giving a workshop for a company before, and I’ve talked about the importance of caring for your employees. And the founder asked the question and I get the fact that he said he’s been taken advantage of because he cared too much. How do you address? Caring too much for your people.

Ken Jisser: Yeah. , I’d rather care too [00:15:00] much than not care at all. We’ve made this thing. We’ve been burned by being sometimes a little too nice, but it’s just not going to change who we are and how we do things. I think that the majority of, or it works the majority of the time in terms of really establishing personal and professional relationships with individuals. , so we’re just not going to change in the yard just because we got burned a half a dozen times or whatever. We find that it goes a long way for us and for them just being good people. So we’re going to carry that motto for them.

Gene Hammett: Well, I’m glad you shared with us, you know, the real details behind that you have been burned by desperate cause some people will take advantage of it, but I bet across the organization, the culture really sees that is you’re doing the right thing and these other employees are not consistently. And that will help build that loyalty that you kept talking about. This whole conversation is about building the right team. Is there anything we’ve left out that you think works?

Ken Jisser: Yeah. I was just thinking about some of the mistakes we made in hiring and you know, one of the things that we, we, you know, sometimes when we interview candidates, you know, they’re, they’re telling us everything we want to hear.[00:16:00] And in most cases, You know, we, we believe them, right. And we’ve come to find out that it wasn’t actually the case. , or it wasn’t the it wasn’t the what we expected it or wasn’t the true situation. , but I’ll tell you, after speaking to a lot of our team members, the way we go about doing things in terms of recruiting and hiring and interviewing, and the questions that we asked and getting involved into the real character of the person.

It’s helped us hire more of the right people and make less mistakes. So again, we have like a checklist for training, for recruiting and hiring and that, and we break the checklist, you know, checklists were designed to be broken and whenever we do break that checklist, we just had another check. To the, to the checklist to make sure we check that the next time. So what I, what my advice is is is, you know, it’s okay to make mistakes. You’ll learn from them, you know, comfort and growth. They cannot kill exist. And so you know, break the boundary. He pushed them all. Look,

Gene Hammett: I love all of this candy. You’ve shared a lot with us about building the right team.

Appreciate you being here and giving [00:17:00] us these insights.

Ken Jisser: Thanks, Gene. Appreciate it.

Gene Hammett: So in this portion, I want to just kind of reflect back on what I’m picking up from this interview, so that helps you as the listener. Building our team takes a lot of intention. It takes, you know, the carefulness of this and kept talking about the checklist. We said it dozens of times and that’s probably the most ever in any interview, but I really believe that when you want to create consistent growth and predictable growth, just like you do when your Salesforces. You have a cell, a checklist that allows you to do that. And then you, you learn and modify that.

But then the other part of this is creating loyalty through care, really shows a great sign of leadership and a lot of leaders just aren’t willing to do this. They’re so focused on the work. They’re so focused on executing and hitting the goals and the KPIs. And I get those things, but leadership is not about just that. It’s about developing the people around you and that level of connection and caring. That’s what we heard today. So building the right team takes all of this things, working together. Now you may be curious about what your next step is a leader. Maybe you’re struggling with accountability, or maybe you’re struggling with [00:18:00] education effectively, the way you want to.

I want to help you with that. My job is to help you be the best leader you can be. I have clients that are growing fast and it really do want to be extremely. You want to have that conversation with me? It’s an absolute gift for you. Do yourself. A favor, go to Schedule your call. I’d love to help you figure out what’s getting in the way of you being the leader, your team deserves. It’s going to and schedule that call right now. When you think of growth and you think leadership thinks of growth, think tank as always. Lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.




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