Erik Claster, Chief Advisor of Viking Consulting, is our next 10 Minute Series interviewee. Besides for his love of outdoor adventure sports and being a vintage motorcycle enthusiast, sales and sales development has always been a part of his life – having had over 15 years of experience in the field. His passionate approach to work and life is something we can all learn from and strive for.
- Tell us about your role and how you got here? What pushed you to work in a sales-related position?
I have been in sales all my life (yes, one of those). In the early 2000’s, I entered the realm of tech sales and have been very fortunate to be part of very unique companies and mentored by some of the industry’s leaders in Inside Sales and Marketing. My first foray into the Inside Sales ecosystem was in 2011 when I joined an up-and-coming company in the ERP upgrade space called Panaya. They were at the forefront of what we know today as Inside Sales. Then, it was still very much a hypothesis when it comes to B2B SaaS sales (especially for enterprise). The ability to sell professionally in a B2B environment without the physical facetime, and then scale this in a way that can fuel a rapid growth plan, was still unproven. As the years went by, the Inside Sales model proved its validity and today is par the course, especially B2B SaaS.
As the B2B space continues to flourish, the need for Inside Sales professionals has grown to the point that there is far more supply than demand. This exacerbates the challenges growing organizations have and this is the area where my company helps.
- How do customers benefit from using Viking Consulting?
We provide consulting/advisory services for startups’, both those at the beginning to their go-to-market as well as those in hyper-growth. Because I have been on the receiving end of what we provide, I know just how valuable it is. Most early-stage startups are caught “between a rock and a hard place” when it comes to their Inside Sales initiatives. On the one hand, they need to start formulating their processes (that are forever morphing) that will sustain their growth, and on the other hand, they need to get their “new logo’s” under their belt in a hurry. It is an obvious strain and risky to do both (well) in parallel.
Organizations we work with benefit from our consulting side, as well as the outsourced Inside Sales teams we can deploy on a temporary or extended period of time to alleviate some of this pressure.
- How is Viking Consulting different from other consulting service companies?
Our objective is to provide value. My team and I truly get satisfaction from doing this and have a more holistic approach to our engagements. Sometimes we end up “working” together and sometimes not, but the experience of working with someone who appreciates the “craft” and the value of the interaction is never a loss for either side.
- What are some of the pain/pressure points you encounter on a daily/ monthly basis?
The startup world is “high octane” and very volatile. We aim to understand the particular challenge(s) and objectives our customers are facing and discuss how together we can alleviate some of these daily pressures so they can focus on running their companies.
- How do you try and overcome these pain points?
Understanding the objectives is always first. Then it’s about expectations. When we set the expectations and make bite size/measurable metrics limiting confusion or unclear attainment of goals, this clears up a lot the stress.
- How do you prepare for a sales meeting?
Extensively. It’s both the way I train and guide my staff as well as the way I “practice what I preach”. In today’s world of information at your fingertips, there is really no excuse not to do your homework as it is not a function of availability but effort. So, coming prepared to a meeting really shows your work ethic and approach to giving effort even more than the cleverness of what you know.
- What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
There are no shortcuts. While there are a multitude of productivity tools in our eco-system (that DO have a significant impact), there is no substitute for time management and execution of the tasks at hand.
- In your POV, what is the most important thing a salesperson should be doing in order to have a successful relationship with his/her customers?
Listening. I thought I knew how to listen after years of sales experience until I worked at Gong.io. That is where I learned how to really listen and how everything else stems from this (asking the right questions etc.). Providing value means you have to be good, first and foremost, at deploying empathy and you can’t do this unless you listen.
- What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I read and also consume digital media (podcasts etc). Currently, I am reading “The Power of Little Ideas” by David Robertson.
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“You have to live spherically – in many directions. Never lose your childish enthusiasm – and things will come your way.”
- What advice would you give someone who decided to be an Inside Sales Advisor?
First, be a person with integrity and drive. You have to be motivated to constantly learn and improve your craft. If you like helping people, that is a good place to start. Understand if you are good at listening and fixing problems. The nature of “running your own show” is that you truly have both edges of the sword when it comes to work/life balance (whatever that means these days).
- Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read
For over 15 years, Erik has built and managed successful Sales and Sales Development teams and processes. For the past year, his company Viking Inside Sales Consulting has worked with early-stage start-ups and companies in hyper-growth, building their Inside Sales strategy, processes and teams. In addition, Viking Consulting also provides a managed Inside Sales professional service (LRR, SDR, AE).
Erik is married and the father of 5 beautiful children.
To learn how Exceed.ai assists SDRs in engaging, nurturing and qualifying leads, click here.