Periodically, we feature a member from our Team to provide a behind the scenes look at the people that make it all happen at the firm.
Featured This Month:
Brendon Schmidt – Director of Business Development, Sierra Ventures Operations Team
What is your role and focus at Sierra Ventures?
I am Director of Business Development on the Operations team. I have three main focuses in my role.
- Portfolio Support – I help our portfolio companies accelerate their growth through CXO engagements, key strategic partnerships, and analyst relations strategies.
- Corporate Engagement – I manage our CXO Advisory Board, a consortium of 75+ F2000 Tech CXOs. I’m responsible for curating and sharing insights on emerging trends and technologies and developing events and content pieces like our CXO Summit, CXO Tech Survey, and Quarterly CXO Calls.
- Deal Sourcing – I focus on developing our deal flow network with Service Providers and in regions outside the Bay Area including the Midwest, Colorado, and parts of the South East. I also support the diligence process when we’re evaluating new investments.
How did you get into Venture Capital?
I got my Master’s degree from the University of Florida in Entrepreneurship and I was always interested in the Venture Capital industry. After graduating, I worked at Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, for four years supporting Healthcare and Life Sciences CIOs and later worked with VC, PE, and Investment Banking firms. Sierra Ventures was one of my prospective clients. We clicked during the Gartner evaluation process and they asked me to come on board to run Business Development for the firm. The rest is history! It’s been an amazing experience working with the Sierra team for the past 3+ years.
What Sales or Business Development tips do you have for entrepreneurs?
- Establish a Sales Methodology – It is imperative that you and your team establish a “method to your madness” early in the customer acquisition process. Either adopt a specific proven sales methodology that fits your product/industry or weave together concepts across a few different methodologies to make your own playbook. This will help you increase your win rate and shorten the length of sales cycles. Here is a list of 14 popular sales methodologies. Once you hire a Chief Revenue Officer / Chief Sales Officer, allow them to have influence on how to adjust and adapt the methodology as the company matures.
- Hold Weekly Team Win-Rooms – A win-room is a collaborative, all-hands-on-deck type of internal sales pipeline discussion. These are a great way for different members of the team to weigh in with their thinking and discuss all the necessary steps to ultimately “win” top deals. Make sure one representative is present from each domain (CEO, CTO, Head of Product, Head of Marketing/Sales) and have everyone help identify where the gaps currently lie and prepare a “devil’s advocate” point of view. You should do this for all top deals, even for the sales cycles that are very likely to convert.
- Pre-Plan Live and Recorded Demos – Pre-plan and pre-record demos so they are well thought out and relevant for prospective customer presentations. For live demos, know your audience and plan a demo specific to the industry vertical or company size use cases. As you build out templates that work for certain segments/verticals, reuse them for future demos with iterations specific to the prospect. Live demos are best, but pre-recorded demos are good to have on hand as a backup should you run out of time or the live demo doesn’t work correctly.
What are the top three pieces of advice you have for entrepreneurs?
- Pitch to Customers with a Prepared Mind – Put yourself in the shoes of your customers (often key technology buyers) and think of ways you can stand out amongst the crowd. As a startup, it will require extra steps to earn the trust of these buyers. Be maniacal in your preparation before the first series of meetings ever take place.
- Never be Complacent – There are peaks and valleys in every Startup’s journey. You can learn a lot in the valleys, but it’s equally important to never take your foot off the gas during the peaks. The best Startups and entrepreneurs continue to leave “no stone unturned” when it comes to company growth, product improvement, and mitigating any risk to the business regardless of how well the company is doing.
- There’s No Shame in Asking for Help – All great entrepreneurs have received help at some point along the way. Use your network of trusted team members, industry peers, investors, and mentors as your support system.
If you had to recommend one book to an entrepreneur what would it be?
Range by David Epstein. I fully believe that you need to be well-rounded and continually acquire new skills to ultimately stand out in your field. Range combines anecdotes from sports, business, and other arts/professions to explain why generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Ironically, the content contradicts one of my other favorite books, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, which stresses the “10,000 hours rule” of specialization. Epstein highlights that hyper-specialization can get you to a certain point but has diminishing returns in most disciplines where generalization, or “range”, builds a foundation for heightened levels of success long term.
What is your best “life-hack”?
We have hundreds of “to-dos” each day and I find that triaging the top 3-5 tasks I want/need to complete on a professional and personal level each day helps me prioritize. If I’m able to accomplish these 3-5 things, the day should feel like a success.
Anything else you want to share?
I’m a huge sports fan! The Florida Gators are my top team and I also love watching my other favorite teams including Jacksonville Jaguars and Green Bay Packers (NFL), Milwaukee Bucks (NBA), and Milwaukee Brewers (MLB). I’m originally from Jacksonville, FL, but my dad grew up in Milwaukee and we both went to the University of Florida, hence all the affiliations!