12: Paul Ohls, CRO of Sprinklr - Golf Course Gaffes & Career-Defining Wins

Join us as Paul Ohls shares tales of big time golf mishaps, major deals, and building champions in sales. Discover how quick thinking and resilience can turn blunders into business victories.

Episode Summary

Have you heard the myths about using champions to sell strategic deals and selling to business problems? Myth 1: You must have a high-level executive champion to close strategic deals. Myth 2: Selling to business problems is just another name for solution selling. Myth 3: A great product will sell itself, regardless of the customer's business problems. Tune in as Paul Ohls shares the truth behind these myths.

Paul Ohls, the Chief Revenue Officer of Sprinkler, is a seasoned leader in revenue management, with a noteworthy track record of success spanning over three decades. Having steered Sprinkler's sales and success teams through a 2021 IPO, Paul's strategic prowess and deal-making expertise have consistently delivered exceptional results. His extensive experience in navigating complex deals and championing value-driven solutions make him a valuable resource for sales professionals and deal leaders seeking to elevate their strategic approach. With an engaging storytelling style, Paul offers insights into a memorable career-defining deal, providing invaluable lessons in champion building and aligning solutions with customer priorities. His journey is a compelling testament to the transformative power of strategic deal-making.

We are all like an amalgamation of our experiences. My team will laugh, and some of them will shake their head and smile, because it's things that I still talk about today that I picked up on through this experience and experiences like this. - Paul Ohls

In this episode, you will be able to learn about:

  • Mastering Business Insights for Strategic Deal-Making: Uncover the key to unlocking successful deals in the competitive business landscape.
  • Understanding Customer Problems: Discover the game-changing importance of truly understanding and addressing customer pain points.
  • Leveraging Champions for Driving Change: Uncover the secret to propelling your deals forward by harnessing the power of influential advocates.
  • Establishing Proof Points of Success: Learn the art of substantiating your solutions with compelling evidence of success.
  • Strategies for Evaluating Opportunities: Unveil the strategic approaches for effectively evaluating and seizing lucrative opportunities.

Leveraging champions for driving change
Driving change, especially within large organizations, often requires having an effective champion. This is someone within the client organization who has significant influence and the authority to push through the proposed solution. Champions aren't just influential; they also understand the business's needs and can articulate how your product aligns with their strategic goals. As a sales professional, enabling and supporting these champions can be instrumental in securing successful deals.


Michael Katz: [00:00:00] Hi, I'm Michael founder of Kawin. And thisis The Winwire where we hear stories from industry leaders about theirtransformative career moments, including deals that shaped entire companies.

Our guest today is Paul Ohls, the Chief Revenue Officer ofSprinklr. Paul has built a fantastic resume in revenue leadership, leadingSprinklr sales and success teams for five years and through a 2021 IPO. Paulhas an uncanny track record of success with nearly every company he's workedfor over three decades being acquired or taken public.

Before Sprinklr, [00:00:30] hewas chief revenue officer of Tenfold and VP of North America sales at Fuze.Paul came highly recommended as both a leader and a storyteller, so I'm excitedfor you to hear about a memorable deal that changed his career.

Now, what I think makes Paul's story really unique is that notonly do we get to hear about a deal that would define most careers, but alsoget to hear about a client run in that Paul had that was so bizarre, I honestlythought it was a parody of a LinkedIn post. So without further ado, Paul Ohls.

welcome to the [00:01:00]Winwire.

Paul Ohls: Michael, it's good to be here. Thanks for having me.

Michael Katz: Ofcourse. You know, I was super excited to chat with you. You came highlyrecommended by Richard Rivera, who we've hosted on the podcast before. Hementioned you were one of the best strategic deal leaders he knows. So a

very high compliment.

Paul Ohls: Thank you,Richard. If you're listening.

Michael Katz: youknow, obviously you've had a storied career, which, you know, I just mentioneda little bit about in the intro. we're here today to [00:01:30]go behind the scenes on a deal that really sticks in your mind and changed yourcareer.

So, I would love to dive right in. You know, you shared a bitabout this deal with me already. I'm excited for listeners to hear about it. Ithink it's jam packed with learnings that influenced your career championbuilding , value. But more importantly, it also has one of the funnier momentsthat I've ever heard with a client.

But you know, before we get started, can you just set the stagefor us a little bit? Where were you in your career? And without spoiling thewhole thing, you [00:02:00] know, why was thisone so memorable or career defining for you and the company you were at?

Paul Ohls: Yeah. Wellthanks for setting that up. You know, I, this is over 10 years ago, I was aindividual contributor and you know, I think what makes these memorable, it'snot always the biggest deal you do or I. Things like that. It's, it's lessonsyou take away from it. And sometimes, you know, it happens to be very largetransactions, very strategic transactions, but you look back on it and there'sa [00:02:30] whole host of things that, youknow, you're unconsciously competent sometimes that you don't know thedefinitions of things.

You don't really know how they're supposed to work, but they .They do. And there's patterns that you start picking up that you carry forwardwith you. And it, you know, we, we we're all like an amalgamation of ourexperiences, right? And so my team, if they're listening to this, um, willlaugh and some of 'em will shake their head and smile.

'cause it's things that I still talk [00:03:00]about today that I picked up on through this experience and experiences likethis. So, yeah, so individual contributor. Uh, 10 plus years ago I was with avery small company. Uh, we were, I think at the time had raised like a series a$2 million, something like 25, 30 employees, and, um, didn't have a lot ofmoney, had zero name recognition and, um, Off we go.

[00:03:30] And somehow Ijoined, uh, this company was just super impressed by the founders and how smartthese guys were and the problems they were setting off to solve. And, uh, theytalked me into it. So, yeah, that's the, that's the background for, uh, forwhere I was and what I was doing at the time.

Michael Katz: Got it,got it. And obviously you took a leap yourself and clearly they hadn'tnecessarily done it all before and neither had you in some cases, but uh, youknow, I [00:04:00] think it would be helpful tojust take us through some of the scenes of the deal, blow by blow. You know,take us back to that moment. What was the core business issue the customer wasfacing?

Who were they? Um, and how did you first get in the door there?

Paul Ohls: Yeah, I, Imay not disclose who they were, but it'll probably accidentally come out atsome point, so I'm gonna do my best. Uh, it's been a long time, so I'm surethey wouldn't have any issues talking about it. but yeah. Why don't we startwith, you know, I think, and I, as I go through this, I'll call [00:04:30] call out, lessons that I still carry withme to this day. And I'll start with the first one, which is, and, and a lot ofthe founders at this company, the, the founders taught me this was as you thinkabout your, your ICP, your ideal customer profile. It's less around for me,it's less around like the firmographics of a business.

You know, how many employees do they have? What vertical arethey in? And the kind of things that I think a lot of people think about withICP. For me, what I was taught, and I [00:05:00]still carry with me is do they have the kinds of problems that I can solve? Istheir business one that that has the attributes and characteristics that comewith the kind of things my solution can help them solve.

A lot of time that spans verticals and it's a lot of timesthat's not always super obvious. You can't go look at a database and always seethose things. So it takes a level of research, but you have a hypothesis of howyou can help. Um, And in this case, um, [00:05:30]the, the particular product that, you know, we had at that time at thiscompany, and this is gonna date me a little bit, it was even before, it wasdefinitely before the concept of ai, which is all the rage nowadays in whichI'm a part of now at Sprinkler. It was even before the rage of predictiveanalytics. It back when this concept was called big data for those that, uh,recall that. So it was a big data solution and it was very focused on helpingsalespeople at that time [00:06:00] identify,cross-sell, upsell opportunities within their install base, which at the timewas kind of a cutting edge new thing.

Right. Um, this particular company that I targeted, they hadbeen. Acquiring a ton of companies. Okay. And it was a lot of companies thatwere not necessarily in their traditional sweet spot of products. They wereexpanding their product set. And what was very clear is, The biggest business [00:06:30] issue, or at least the one that was beingtalked about the most by their c e o, by the analyst community.

You could listen in to their, this is before you could likelisten to recorded analyst conversations on earning calls. You actually had tosit through the whole earnings call. Um, but it was very much about how do wemonetize these acquisitions? Like you've made these betts, how are you gonna goout there and in your existing customer base? Upsell them more of these thingsthat you've gone, gone out and bought. So [00:07:00]kinda lesson number one. Lesson number two for me, lesson number one was like IC P as, aha. This is a problem I can help solve. Right?

Michael Katz: And.

you sat through that earnings call or you know, how did youfind, find that

Paul Ohls: satthrough, I sat through a bunch of earnings calls for a bunch of companies thatwere, that were my, on my target list. Yeah. It wasn't the most efficient, uh,use of time back then. But, you know, it, it, it turns out that that's, and Istill believe this, that the answers to the test are in the analyst Q&A [00:07:30] of earnings calls. If you can skip, Imean, you know, there's all kind of sources now where you can go find thisinformation and read the transcripts, seeking Alpha and all these differentplaces or, you know, save hours of time for people. In doing this, the analystq and a is when the executive team is in the hot seat and the analysts aregoing, Hey, what about this?

What about this? Like the problems and challenges a companyhave. Pretty clearly come to life in that analyst q and a. So they werehammering on this pretty good. And so you've [00:08:00]got this, okay, I know what the biggest business issue is, and it doesn't takea genius to figure out if you can attach yourself to the biggest business issuethat a company has, or call it top two or three.

That's where the focus resources budget are. And if you canmake a clear case between the problem you're solving and that biggest businessissue. Odds of your deal getting funded, approved, getting to the front [00:08:30] of the line of people with, uh, the lineout the door with their pet projects. You get to the front of the line and youcan command a, a hefty fee if, if the, the business issue you solve hassignificant quantitative, uh, improvement for the company. So that was like theother lesson. The, the, the, the lesson I learned that was connected to that isthat big business issue that's at the C level. That's the CEO telling WallStreet, this is how I'm gonna solve it. Now, spiderweb [00:09:00]off of that are a ton of, uh, you know, strategic projects and initiatives thatdifferent parts of the organization own, but, That's where you start getting alittle lower in the organization, which is, you're responsible for this, that'sconnected to this big issue.

You're responsible for this. They're all somewhat connected tothis thing. And so my job, it was almost like an investigative reporter, or Iused to say I was a, you know, a c i A agent or an investigative reporter. Itwas like [00:09:30] I'm in the shadows tryingto figure out who owns these things, who is responsible?

Because what I was doing, and this is before I even knew, Likethe definition of a champion. If you think about like a medic term, I didn'tknow anything about that stuff, right? That was all completely foreign to me.But my instincts were probably the person who's on the hook for the initiativeor initiatives that are connected to this C-level thing.

Is the person I wanna [00:10:00]find. Right. Doesn't really take a genius to figure that out. But that's, youknow, that's, uh, that, that's where I spent my time. And it's a phrase I'veheard and I've stolen, you could say, but it's this concept of the chain ofpain, which is the biggest business issue, was the pain the analysts we'rereminding this company of at every earnings call, and I had to find, go downthe chain ultimately to the person who owned

An initiative that was directly connected to solving this [00:10:30] problem Well after, uh, a ton of meetingsand, you know, uh, back channel conversations and pushing myself to, to reallyhave my face in the place by just anyone and everyone. I didn't care if theywere an individual contributor. Or manager of individual contributors or ofC-level or whatever it was, like I am on the search for the people or theperson who ultimately is on, is on the hook for solving [00:11:00] one of the major initiatives associated with this.

And in this case it was how do we, uh, how do we getinformation in front of our salespeople, of which they had thousands globally?On which of their customers they should call and offer. Which of all of thisportfolio of new products that we bought using analytics to do that,

Michael Katz: this islike a multi, multi, multi-billion dollar company.

Paul Ohls: Yes. Yes.They're one of the biggest companies in the world.

Yes. Um, [00:11:30] and, andso, you know, that's another part of it. You know, I think as a, if you thinkabout the I C P, it's like, well, if I have a seat based. Solution where, whohas a lot of seats and that has this problem that I can solve. So I, I willadmit that went into my hunt as far as my, uh, my I C P as well, you know?

Michael Katz: Look,we've raised a Series A. We have a couple million. Yeah. Why not? Uh, targetone of the biggest companies in the

Paul Ohls: Yeah. Yes.Ignorance sometimes is your best, uh, your best weapon because [00:12:00] I just didn't know any better, to behonest. And maybe I was, you know, foolish you could call it. But I like to sayit was courageous. I like to say it was courageous to say why, you know? Butthere is an element of like, if you don't know any better, why not go for it..

And, and you know, it was like, and, and, and by the way, uh, agreat lesson for founders is the founding team that probably could have said,wait a second, Paul. These guys are way too big. And this is like, you know,this is more than we can [00:12:30] handle. Nota word. It was like, we can do it. We can do it. And so that is a great lesson,uh, for CEOs and founders is like, as soon as you signal to your , In thiscase, I was the only rep.

Your rep singular or more likely reps, plural, that it probablycan't be done and maybe, you know, this is, this is more than, than we canhandle is a signal to them that you're not bought in. Right? And so I never gotthat [00:13:00] signal of negativity from them.It was like, we can do it. We can do it, we can do it.

Which my confidence went through the roof, so, So I'm, I'm, I'mfollowing the chain of pain. You know, when I say get in your face in theplace, I, I, I'll, I will. This is also something my team hears me say a lot.It's like, I think I, I remember looking, we, I had 82 face-to-face meetings atthis company, just through this process, right?

Both in searching for my champion [00:13:30]target, but then also. I learned the importance of triangulation, which is Ilearned something about the initiative, about the individual that owns theinitiative. Let's go find someone. Who's tangentially involved in this? Andjust kind of in a respectful way kind of say, Hey, is, you know, is this persontruly own this?

And what, what's been your experience in them kind of drivingthings, uh, to completion successfully in this company? I'm trying [00:14:00] to learn. I'm just learn, learn, learn.And that's why I say I didn't discriminate between individual contributor, andby the way, the individual contributors, I went and talked to a lot of times orpractitioners or end users of these products.

I just learned a a ton about their pain that oftentimes theexecutive team wasn't even aware of in these companies. Right? And it was likereal things that they were like, man, if I had X, Y, and Z, or if I had thispiece of information, I'm confident I can do my [00:14:30]job much more effectively. So I'm making this case investigative reporter.

I find the person through triangulation, uh, try to understand,you know, is this, and so this person basically had been there not asignificant amount of time, they weren't a lifer, but they were there longenough to have a network. And most importantly, they were, they were brought inwith a mandate for change.

Right. So it was, they had worked with the [00:15:00] executive team. Before in other places,which is an amazing signal of someone who's got a mandate for change. And Italk to my team a lot of times if you, if your champion Target was brought inby the executive team of the company where they currently work from a past lifeand a past job, that means they probably trust them.

Right? And so this person had worked with the executivesbefore. That were relatively new. They'd come in with some of theseacquisitions that [00:15:30] they had made andit was clear to me they had a mandate for change. Now, another big learning forme, and I think I see a lot of people stumble on this, is there's a reason inthe definition of a champion titles aren't included.

That's intentional. Okay. Is I learned that. again, throughexperience without having been trained on this stuff, just of picking up , the,uh, [00:16:00] the, the school of hard knocks.I think this person had like a director title and, you know, they were, godknows double digits from the c e o of the company, but they, a, personalitywise, they were very much a go-getter with big ambition. That was number one.I. There was things I started to sense in meetings when they came in, you know,silly things, but in hindsight it's real. Like when they came in, people kindof quit talking and messing around and it was like time to get [00:16:30] serious. They would sit at the head of thetable, you know, you start picking up on these clues and um, but they, youknow, the title wasn't massive.

But even when they would bring in some executives to thesemeetings, the executives would say, what do you think? You know, how does thiskind of. Jive with your view of the world and, and you know, there was verymuch a, uh, a validation with this person. So, so I, it's a, it's a thing I tryto talk to a lot of people about, because you listen, [00:17:00]especially in these big companies, and I'm sure this is gonna be controversialand I'm sorry if someone gets offended, there's a lot of empty suits high up inthese companies. There are, right? There's layers upon layers. And just 'causeI have X, Y, Z title doesn't mean I have a mandate for change. As a matter offact, what you find a lot of times is they're all about not changing things.'cause it's like, let's just not disrupt things. I got a few more years beforeI'm outta here and I'd rather just kind of write off into the sunset.

And I'm [00:17:30] saying thisas a person who's got a C in my title, right?

Michael Katz: Yeah.Are you the empty leader? Yeah.

Paul Ohls: I hopenot. God, I hope not. But it, it, it's true. And, and so I think I see a lot ofreps and AEs and they gravitate towards, well, my champion's gotta be up theranks, right? They have to, it's like, no, no, no, no, no. Most of the actionis happening in the middle of these companies, of people who are like, the wayI'm gonna get into that seat is by really having some points on the scoreboardand, uh, [00:18:00] And then in addition toeverything else that, that you hear about in a champion, you know they'reselling on your behalf.

Most importantly, and the thing that people tend to tend tomiss the most is that they have access to an influence with the economic buyer,which this person absolutely did, not only in the things I talked aboutearlier. They were brought in by these people to . Drive this initiative. Butthere's, throughout this process, there's tests that [00:18:30]you're kind of putting in front of these people that's not right at thebeginning.

Get me to the EB because I've yet not yet even come close toearning the right to ask that question. But it's things like, can you get someof your peers in the room? And my team always is gonna laugh at this 'causethey hear me use this analogy. It's, it's a little bit like dating, right? Willyou meet me? Will you meet the friends? Will you introduce me to your friends?Right? Which is peers that they bring into the room. And do the, do those peersactually [00:19:00] show up? That's the test,right? Like can they get 'em to the room? Can they actually show up in themeeting? Will they participate in the meeting? Then of course, meet the parentsis when the relationship gets really serious in the dating analogy, which isthe economic buyer.

Right? Um, but I hadn't yet, I had not yet earned that. Right.So we're building this case. There's something that we're connecting to, uh,this person is getting it. They are having meetings with peers. 'cause youknow, in some of the, in a lot of these deals, it's like getting a vote [00:19:30] passed. In Congress or parliament or yougotta get multiple senators to say yes, not necessarily 'cause they have a yesvote.

It's because you want them to avoid a no vote, right? You wantthem to avoid killing your opportunity. So this person was very much involvedwith getting. Multiple stakeholders on board that couldn't drive the deal, butthey could kill it. And that involves everything from like IT organizations to,you know, marketing teams and, and, [00:20:00]and the entire ecosystem.

So those tests were being passed. Um, eventually we got theaudience for, uh, and this was a a, another lesson is the economic buyer fordeal one. It's not always gonna be the economic buyer for deal number 2, 3, 4,and five. And so in this case, it was for deal number one. The economic buyerwas the head of North America for this particular business unit.

And it was [00:20:30] one ofthese things where it's like, well, we can get them on board and go try to geteveryone else on board over a long period of time to go try to do the massivebig thing or. Do we do something smaller with North America and establish aproof point and what, you know, the other lesson I learned I still carry withme is once you've validated and tested, this person is truly a champion.

You gotta listen to 'em. And in this [00:21:00]case, after many conversations and many strategy sessions together, it was, wegotta go do the smaller thing first because if we can establish a proof pointof success, Then we have the greatest PR campaign and we go shop this to allthese other segments and we go do the global agreement.

Okay, so now what does that internal proof point look like?This is, uh, you know, and I obsess about this today, drives me nuts when wedon't do this. You have to [00:21:30] capturethe before state. So what is life like before we came in here? Then measureobsessively on what life is like after my product has been rolled out.

And in the case of this company and this product, it was asubset of sales reps where we divided them in two and gave one of 'em ourstuff. And the other one, the other 50% of them kept doing business as usualand created like a test and control group. And the lift in the team that wasusing our stuff was something like 15, [00:22:00]20% higher.

Cross sell, upsell, and it was like, well that's pretty cool.And, and, and so fast forward a little bit, it was, there was basically fourgeos in the world. We already had one North America that was bought in. We hadto get latam, we had to get amea, and then we had to get APJ. So, The nextlesson I learned that has become super apparent to me, and I think most peoplewill agree with this, is it became abundantly clear to me as we [00:22:30] traveled the world together to get thesedifferent teams on board using this internal proof point that we had.

Um, was that at the end of the day in enterprise sales, wearen't we at the time, me, as an ae, I we're not salespeople. We are enablersof champions. Who become salespeople within their companies. And it was, it wasto the point that, and I'm not suggesting people follow this, but he would callme at 9:00 PM at night and be like, [00:23:00]I got this me briefing with someone tomorrow at 7:00 AM I need you to put this,this, and this together.

And I would drop what I was doing and I would do it because Istarted to become clear to me that he was building. A champion deck. That'swhat I called it. It was this case that I was enabling him in the background.He wasn't keeping me outta meetings, but if we would go into meetings and Italked 10% of the time and he talked 90% of the time, that was an amazingmeeting for us[00:23:30] because he was sellinginternally.

And so it became abundantly, abundantly clear to me that I was,I was simply a sales enablement function for my champion. And, uh, and, and washelping arm this person, and I was with him every step of the way.

Michael Katz: Andwhat was, what was going through your mind at this point? Had you ever doneanything like that? Was this totally new territory for you? Were you scared?Were you, you know, how were you feeling?

Paul Ohls: yeah, Imean, it was thrilling. was thrilling. I gotta be honest. I mean, listen, it's,[00:24:00] it's like, and, and someday when weall hang up our cleats in this role, gonna look back and it's, it's the thrillof the chase that I think is gonna be the thing that everyone misses the most.Because, you know, when, there, there's money you get and there's all thesekind of things that's fleeting.

If you look back at like, I was on airplanes all over theworld, you know, putting together these cases, uh, for change that really wasmoving the needle for this [00:24:30] company.And though, you know, the, uh, the, the, the partnership and career advancementthat you gi that you're giving to other people as you go through this isactually what you look back on.

And then there's a whole ecosystem of people on my team, at my,my se you know, it was like Batman, robin. We were like partners in crimethrough this. Like, and, and so that's the stuff that you look back on . Was itnerve [00:25:00] wracking? Yes. Every big dealblows up three times. I was taught that, and of course we hit obstacles whereliterally it was like, guys, it's over.

We can't do it. And so you have to learn this kind of steadystate mindset where the highs can't be too high, the lows can't be too low. Youhave to expect and wait. Something bad is gonna happen. Only it's only blown uptwice. It means it's gonna blow up one more time. But once we get through thislast [00:25:30] blow up, you know the goal lineis right there.

At least that's the optimistic way of thinking about it. Butthat factors into forecasting as well, right? If your deal hasn't blown up andyou're calling it for this quarter, you may want to rethink that. 'cause thesebig ones have obstacles that are just hiding behind corners now. With achampion like I had in this case, armed with a bulletproof business case.

It's amazing what obstacles you can [00:26:00]overcome, right? And it's amazing when you have those two things, how all theother medic elements start falling into place. Decision process becomes crystalclear because this person is vetting this thing out. Decision criteria areshaped a hundred percent in in your favor, right?

We've already connected to pain. We've implicated the pain atthe front end of this. We've got metrics within their company. We've [00:26:30] already quantified the problem. Um, andthen of course, you've got the most important thing, which is the mostimportant thing in sales is the ability. build champions.

There's not even a close second place. It is the number onemost important thing in enterprise sales. So we've got these things we're,we've got everyone on board. LATAM is on board, EMEA's on board, and this is,we're going on like 14, 15 months at this point from the first kind of smalltransaction that we did.[00:27:00]

Last one is Asia Pacific. And the company's based in, uh, uh,their, their, their Asia Pacific headquarters. Were in Sydney, Australia. Sothe meeting is, this is the last one. If you can get this last GM on board,we're gonna do the global deal. Okay. So Sydney is not that close to Austin,Texas. So I, we decide we're gonna get there. A couple of days before, I thinkthe meeting was on a Monday. I [00:27:30]arrived like on a Thursday or a Friday. We prepped together and then we kinda,on the weekend, I decided I was just gonna go by myself and play some golf.Okay. And now Sidney, I don't know if you've been there, but real estate is ata premium, right?

And so these golf courses are at least the ones. I waschoosing, you know, they're set up so like the fairways just run parallel witheach other, right? It's not like you see in like the southwest United States.It's the, [00:28:00] these things are on a plotof land and they really cram 'em in there. So I give you that as context.

I show up by myself, I can't remember why Champion didn't wannaplay, and um, I show up by myself. Rent clubs, you know, buy a sleeve of golfballs. And, um, as I'm teeing off, I'm noticing there's all these other peoplethere that are wearing, like matching jerseys. So it's like they're on liketeams, you know, it's like four or two on two, they're in carts and [00:28:30] it's very, very serious.

Somehow I get wedged in, like in between 'em, I'm a single andthey let me go off and I, I tee off it, play a couple holes, blowing it allover the place. And because these fairways are like so close to each other, Ihit one, I go down the fairway. It's like just in the other. It's in the rough,and there's two balls there.

All right? And so I'm sitting there and I go, I forgot whichball I was playing. You know, they're like [00:29:00]both Titleist. And I'm like, did I have a Titleist three or a Titleist four?I'm sitting there forever. Waiting for someone to show up, and I'm like, youknow, I, I gotta hit one of these. And clearly this is

Michael Katz: you'rea golf purist in the truest sense, at least

at this point,

Paul Ohls: I wouldnot be accused of that.

No, at least not at that time. Nor am I a good golfer, whichmakes this even worse, right? So I, I end up waiting. No one comes, I end uphitting this ball, jump in my car, [00:29:30]drive down to the, to the green. Well, all of a sudden, this. Cart comestrucking towards me, matching jerseys, you know, big Burley Aussie jumps out,asks me did I happen to hit Titleist, whatever it was, and I'm like, man, youknow what I did?

I'm so sorry. And you know, I'm like Texan in Sydney. Texanaccent, American accent. It's probably pretty memorable. Hey man, I'm sorry, Ididn't mean to hit your ball and he wasn't pleased. [00:30:00]I think he had to take a stroke. , right? Like

As if

Michael Katz: weAmericans don't have a bad enough reputation,

Paul Ohls: Yeah.Yeah. The Yanks just going around, messing up people's very serious golftournaments. Fast forward to the next day. It's that Monday, the head of, uh,APJ, uh, Asia Pacific comes in the room, champion's there. I turn around. Howmany millions of people live in Sydney, Australia, and I happen [00:30:30] to hit the golf ball of the last decisionmaker in my global deal comes in and makes eye contacts with me and realizesthis is this idiot American who hit my ball.

So needless to say, the meeting doesn't start off with a bang.Um,

Michael Katz: I mean,what is even going through your mind in that moment? How are you even able tokeep your cool?

Paul Ohls: I, I'mjust sitting there going like, it wasn't meant to be, you know, all this work,all this effort, I'm [00:31:00] being punishedfor something and uh, well, you know, that just means something great's gonnahappen to me 'cause there's no luck as bad as this luck, right? Like, I'vebuilt up a, a bank account of positivity if this.

Bad. You fly around the world, uh, into a city of millions ofpeople only to end up hitting the golf ball that one guy who's a final decisionmaker in your global deal. Well, once again, a [00:31:30]tested, proven champion with an amazing business case and a very good sense ofhumor, uh, saves the day. We, had a great meeting.

Some, fortunately, Australians are great people who like tohave a laugh. This guy laughed it off. We had, uh, an amazing meeting. We gotthe last vote on this thing and, uh, you know, it ended up being a, a greatdeal for our company. It was, uh, you know, I think I'd said we had. We [00:32:00] had raised like $2 million in a Series A,so it was like a round of funding for us.

It was something like $5 million a year, three year global,global transaction. But you know, like I said earlier, it's less about the, thefinancial size of it and more about, you know, the, the foundation it givesyou. Um, of more than anything, to, to tell people and coach people andhopefully teach people a thing or two around what not to do because of the scar[00:32:30] tissue that you've got built upthrough the years of making, making the wrong decisions.

But every now and then there's some right ones that'll carryyou forward. So, um, overall a great experience.

Michael Katz: Yeah,it's pretty amazing. I mean, you just mentioned this is almost like raisinganother round of funding for the company in a way, and I think there's aninteresting aspect to this, given what a small company, comparatively you were,this was a totally new echelon. It took a long time to really make it [00:33:00] all come together.

I think. Every company, many sellers are trying to figure outhow to be the first and how to bat above their weight. I mean, it's the casefor me today. Running co win. It's, you know, we're a small startup. Trying tomake our mark big deals can be scary for the champion to stake their reputationon something like you guys.

I mean, how did you manage to get them feeling good? And thenwhat kind of impact did it have on your company?

Paul Ohls: Yeah. Soyou, you know, [00:33:30] in something likethat, and, and obviously I didn't cover this in detail, but you touched onsomething that's important. I mean, it, it is, you have to realize it. Thesecompanies wanna see it's more than just, you know, you and your SC. That thereis, uh, a set of people behind you that are all about making them successful.

It's the executives of your company. It's those who have todeliver. You know, you, you, you get product in many of these cases involvedto, [00:34:00] to show them the methodologyaround how you're. How, how you're writing your software, how customer inputgoes into that, shaping the roadmap. Um, they really wanna understand all thesethings and you should be proactively, for me, it's a champion test many of thetimes is are they willing to invest that amount of time in you and in thosekinds of discussions.

Because if they're not willing to do that, now someone is gonnashow up.[00:34:30] the 11th hour asking to dothose things anyway. So let's proactively pull those forward. Let's, let's dothese steps so that when pressed and you're asked the hard questions, have youdone a security audit? Have you done these things?

You know, have, have we met with their, their, their servicesteam to understand their methodology? You can say you've done those things andthat you've vetted this out and that you've left no stone unturned. So you haveto not only do those [00:35:00] things, mysuggestion is you proactively do those things through this process.

'cause in a transaction of that size, for a company that small,like we were, somebody's gonna ask for those things.

Michael Katz: Yeah,it makes sense. And I, and I'm guessing that deal alone gave you guys thelicense to, you know, pursue those kinds of things in the future as it's avirtuous cycle.

Paul Ohls: Yes,indeed. It pushed us, it made us better. And, and that's the other benefit tosome of these [00:35:30] customers. Now. Now,listen, I've seen some customers like this take companies down with theircomplexity, right? They've, they've, they've. Caused companies to, you know,just paralyze them because their, their, their needs were so complex and thethings they were asking companies to do were so bespoke to them that they endedup becoming like a custom development shop for a lot of these big customers.

And it can actually paralyze a company. Um, but so it's a fineline, but if [00:36:00] it's, if it's aproblem, multiple companies have. And it's it, it, it's a, it's a problem thatcan be spread across different industries and different use cases, but the coreof the problem's the same. You can obviously go then approach multiple companiesand it becomes a, a scalable solution.

But the big ones kind of get you into shape, right? They pushyou to do the kind of things you are gonna have to do. If it's not with them,it's gonna be someone else down the road and it's much [00:36:30]better to. To know what's coming and to, to, to have those boxes checked beforeyou truly try to scale up to the enterprise.

Michael Katz: Yeah.Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Uh, I mean, and what a great deal in general. Ofcourse the, the golf story is something you have to hear, to believe, I wouldsay. But, uh, but kind of transitioning a little bit, you know, it's, it'sinteresting that was pivotal moment for you. I was looking at your LinkedIn alittle bit before we got [00:37:00] on here,and you know, you have an uncanny track record of going to companies.Ultimately get acquired, or in this case, i p o. And I just kind of wanted toask you, what do you think has been the key to how you look at companies thatare worth giving your time to and evaluating them and, uh, you know, of courseif it's, if it's all because of you that they achieve these successfuloutcomes, feel free to that as well.

Paul Ohls: No. And,and, and trust me, some have been more [00:37:30]successful than others. I'll just put it that way. Um,

Michael Katz: sure.

Paul Ohls: listen at,at the end of the day for the role I'm in and the types of teams that I, I endup leading. It's not much different than the way you look at a deal, um, or anopportunity. It, it's really kind of a, it.

Can you and clearly answer the three whys, right. Why doanything, the three whys related [00:38:00] tothe solution that this company has, you know, Is this problem they're solvingon the why anything is the problem they're solving such that it gets to thefront of the line of the funding opportunities, the budget being made.

Is it, is it a, is it a, is it solve a kind of a vitaminsituation, which is, yeah, this would be great to solve someday? Or is it atruly a painkiller like man, We need this [00:38:30]solved right away. So that's number one. The why Now, part of the three why'sis, is it such that, you know, kind of what I was saying with the, with the,with the vitamin and painkiller, is it gonna get to the front of the line?

And in some cases it's so innovative that. Maybe you're aheadof your time too, right? Is it mainstream enough that it's, it's a problem thatpeople understand and they're going [00:39:00]to, you know, they're comfortable enough saying it's bad enough that we gottasolve it now, but it's not so cutting edge and scary let's let some others doit first.

Right? And then the uh, and then the last one is of course, whythat company. Is there something that company has, usually this comes down tolike kind of an architectural advantage. Is there something that company has inthe way they've been built, in the way they've architected themselves that willprovide some [00:39:30] level of, you know,differentiation?

That none of it's ever everlasting differentiation, by the way,but is, is there enough of a lead there where everyone is playing catch up? So,That is, uh, can provide some kind of time-based solvent now. And, and doesthis company have something that architecturally makes them different? And thenthere's other things around this is like, has the team done it before?

Has the executive team done it before, you know, [00:40:00] uh, have they done it in the kind ofenvironments that you're comfortable being in? Right? Or are you, are you kindof crossing into different worlds with each other where things may not jivelong term, but as far as like, will a company be successful, it's really canyou answer the three whys as a candidate to go work at that company?

And it's about, doesn't go much deeper than that for me.

Michael Katz: no,it's hard. And there's a lot of options out there and trying to choosesomething that's ultimately sustainable for [00:40:30]yourself and that's gonna motivate you. And you know, I just thought it was afunny, uh, funny trend for you. And of course every acquisition, some of themare more successful than others, to your point.

But I,

Paul Ohls: Yeah.

Michael Katz: I didfind that really curious.

Paul Ohls: Yeah.

Michael Katz: I didfind it curious. But, uh, you know, just to wrap up here, we've obviouslytalked about. Something really career defining for you that you learned from,from a personal experience. Of course, sometimes you can learn just as muchfrom other folks and their experiences and their mentorship.

Uh, you know, [00:41:00] whoare one or two leaders or mentors that have really impacted your career, uh,and why?

Paul Ohls: Well, I'mgonna give you one more than one or two. And by the way, I, uh, I ask thisquestion from people all the time in interviews. Um, and I force 'em to gimmeone or two and I'm breaking my own rule. Oh, and I'll, and I'll, and I'll bequick here, but I think it's more than just naming people, it's specificallykind of what they taught you along the way.

Um, but there's the founders of this company I [00:41:30] just talked about, the ex McKinsey, they,that was their background. So really like digging into. Deep business problemsand obsession with solving problems, uh, attaching to the biggest businessissue, and then how you articulate that to the C-level was uncanny in theirability to do that.

Then I plugged into this world of kind of repeatability, likesome of those instincts I was talking about early in this deal that I didn'thave definitions for and names for. I moved into that world and working [00:42:00] with people like Dan Fuer. Um, and ScottDavis at Medallia, um, you know, worked closely with, uh, uh, Cedric Pesh,who's now the, the C R O at MongoDB taught me a ton around, uh, kind of how tobuild and scale sales organizations.

Um, You know, and then most recently, uh, from a mentorship andleadership, Luca Lone, who was the c r O here at [00:42:30]Sprinklr before me, um, just an amazing leader and really taught me and manyothers, a lot how to kind of lead with inspiration of teams First, getting themto convince themselves they can do things they previously didn't think theycould do. Coaching them relentlessly on how to do those things, reallyproviding them a blueprint for success and, and getting their commitment toadhere to that blueprint, which then leads [00:43:00]to, at that point in time, you've earned the right to hold them accountable.And kind of inspect are they doing the things that we both mutually agreed wewere gonna do together?

And that framework that Luca taught me is, has really helped meand many others a ton. So those, I've been pretty fortunate in the last coupleyears, you know, uh, kind of starting with, with Dan all the way up through toLuca and the folks in between that I've had some great influences. And, uh,like I said, you end up being like a quilt work of, of your [00:43:30] experiences.

And, uh, and I've had some great ones. And, and now even on myboard of directors with Kevin Haverty, who, uh, I know we both know on theboard, Kevin's just ton of real world relevant knowledge, uh, for me 'causehe's been through it all in his ride at places like ServiceNow. So it's been a,uh, uh, I've been, had no shortage of some, some great folks to learn from.

Michael Katz: Yeah, Idon't think you get to a place that you are today without[00:44:00] that kind of village of support, honestly.


Paul Ohls: no doubt.

Michael Katz: in amillion. But, um, but yeah, I, I really appreciate the time, Paul. This wasgreat. Uh, thank you so much. Uh,

Paul Ohls: Yeah.Michael, good to talk to you man. Thanks for the time.

Michael Katz: Thanksas always for joining us on another episode of The Winwire. We'd appreciate itif you could share it on LinkedIn or Twitter, and rate us, or leave us a reviewon your favorite podcast platform.

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