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Blog post • Nov 182019

Around the world in one day with our Sales VPs

Nela Urbančok
Communications Officer at Kentico Software

This month, we reached out to three colleagues who, though thousands of miles apart, share a common goal: to help Kentico grow around the world. This month’s #KenticoTurns15 blog introduces you to Kentico’s Sales VPs. Discover how Bart, Eric, and Wayne got their starts, where they see CMS moving, and what it’s like to work in their unique regions.

Hi, guys—introduce yourselves!

Bart: I’m Bart Omlo, and I joined Kentico (as the first Dutch guy!) in 2015. I’m based in Amsterdam and work as VP Sales EMEA, where I’m responsible for all sales activities in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. With my colleagues from the UK, Belgium, Austria, and the Czech Republic, we help our partners and clients use our great products, Kentico EMS and Kontent, to tell their stories.

Eric: My name is Eric Webb, and I am the VP of Sales for North America, focused on both EMS and Kontent. I joined Kentico over 11 years ago to establish and grow the business in the US and Canada. We now have over 40 employees in the US representing sales, marketing, consulting, technical support, customer success, and office operations, most of whom work out of our US office in Bedford, NH.

Wayne: I’m Wayne Jasek. I’m the Director of Asia-Pacific Operations, and I’ve been with Kentico for 12 years (wow, time flies quickly). I’m Czech, but I moved to Sydney, Australia, in 2012 to establish a local presence in APAC. The team here is predominantly sales and consulting roles focused on extending our business footprint and providing kick-ass customer service for both EMS and Kontent product lines. Since our region is pretty massive, we’ve established further outposts in Melbourne and Singapore to be closer to our clients and partners.

And how did you first find Kentico?

Bart: In 2009, I joined the European JBoye CMS Experts group. At the time, I was a Nordics manager in a large international web agency based in Sweden, and I came across Kentico during one of the group meetings organized in Prague. I was impressed by the product and the vision that CEO Petr Palas displayed. In 2015, I left the agency, and, at that moment, Kentico was looking for somebody to build up the Benelux office. The combination of a new challenge plus the maturity of the product and organization piqued my interest, so I decided to join Kentico.

Eric: I’ve been in the CMS market for almost 15 years, coming to Kentico from a Channel Sales Manager role at a now-defunct competitive solution, Ektron. A partner I was managing wasn’t pleased with Ektron’s direction, and they were very vocal about a comparable CMS as a potential standard for their business going forward. It was Kentico—or, as they said it, “Kenteeco”. (Kentico wasn’t big in the US back then.)

I realized the potential value this platform could offer the US market, and I approached Kentico’s CEO, Petr Palas, with a proposal to launch a US office for them. As luck would have it, they were also contemplating how to grow their US business and corporate footprint. We launched in the US office in 2008 and have consistently grown ever since.

Wayne: When I started at Kentico, I was wrapping up my university studies and looking for an opportunity to move into tech. I’d worked in organizations that weren’t particularly innovative, and I wanted something conducive to personal and professional growth with the potential to disrupt the market.

Back then, Kentico was what you would today call a true tech startup (before everything became a “startup”)—a handful of people, a tiny office, transparent business plans with global goals, and a growth-based culture with market opportunity ahead. Joining was a no-brainer. While we have grown amazingly since those humble beginnings, the DNA of the company hasn’t changed, and that’s truly unique in such an ever-changing industry.

What has your journey been like with Kentico?

Bart: I started as the Benelux manager and developed our office in the Netherlands. After nine months, the old VP Sales EMEA decided to leave, and I had the opportunity to apply for the job. I believe the combination of my professional background and results in Benelux helped me get the job, and I was already used to not working from our HQ in Brno, Czech Republic.

Eric: When I started, my background was in direct sales and channel management, and I needed to extend beyond business development to, essentially, the equivalent of an entrepreneur and business owner. I had to take responsibility for all aspects of the US office: office operations, human resources, legal, marketing, etc.

The success we found in those early years, operating locally within the US, allowed us to grow our resources to ensure many responsibilities could be delegated better. It was quite the rollercoaster and was certainly a phenomenal personal growth opportunity and learning experience.

Wayne: When I came for my first interview, I think I applied for a different role, but our CEO Petr Palas offered me a Product Manager position which, back then, meant doing literally everything (minus coding). As the company matured, I anchored into sales, account management, and business development.

In 2012, I took on the challenge of establishing our APAC office and moved from our Brno HQ to Sydney, Australia. The first year was fun, to say the least—I was desperately trying to manage a million things at once myself. Over the years, we organically grew the team to support our business, and now we have most major commercial hubs covered with a physical presence.

In your opinions, what’s the best thing about Kentico?

Bart: The best thing is the enormous drive that our organization has, both to deliver a great product and to create an awesome working atmosphere where people have the ability to grow and show their value.

Eric: Kentico has consistently been a company that prides itself in the quality of its technology, while recognizing the value of every employee and each customer. It holds true to core values founded in transparency and honesty, conferring great pride in representing Kentico and championing its technology.

Wayne: There are so many good things, but ultimately, it always comes back to the people forming our culture. Our company culture is the biggest asset that drives everything else.

If you could sum up Kentico into one word, what would it be?

Bart: That is always a very hard question, as there are so many good words that can be said about Kentico. I would have to say professional, which we are across the whole organization.

Eric: If I had to illustrate Kentico in a single word, it would have to be a hyphenated term: customer-centric. Every aspect of our culture related to transparency, honesty, and quality of work is focused on the success of our clients.

Wayne: That’s a hard one. Can you really sum up any business in one word? But if you insist, I’ll go with transparent. I’ve mentioned our culture already, and being transparent inside out is directly aligned with it.

What’s the most difficult aspect of your job? The most rewarding?

Bart: I think the most difficult aspect of my job is to create a team of individuals that are located in different countries and have different cultures. But then the most rewarding part is when it works to deliver great results and we enjoy the work we do. Also, it is always great to see many nice brands and companies using our products!

Eric: One of the most significant challenges that I, and probably most managers, encounter is determining how to bring out the best from each of your team members. Everyone has their own personality, and sometimes the best ways to engage them are not clear, from learning styles, motivators, recognitions, personal idiosyncrasies, etc. As with any relationship, this can be difficult to successfully navigate. But this is also the most rewarding aspect of my role—when you establish that connection and can begin building a mutually respectful relationship that brings the best out of both parties.

Wayne: In both cases, it’s related to the ever-changing nature of our industry. I love change management because it keeps you on your toes, but it sure does come with challenges. We always need to adapt and be ahead of the curve. Luckily, our CEO Petr does a great job predicting the next market moves!

Apart from that, it’s always rewarding to see you’re enabling other people’s success, be it our own team, partners, or clients.

Lost opportunities happen from time to time. Can you tell us about a particularly memorable one?

Bart: Actually, the first opportunity I participated in was lost. The client was a big insurance company from the Netherlands that issued a huge public tender to replace their old CMS. As I was new, I just calculated what I thought they needed and actually realized this client needed a lot of flexibility and all the cool features in the product. That was the moment I decided to offer the largest and most comprehensive license we had, with the idea that would fit. I think it was the first (and last) time I lost a pitch on price!

Eric: One memorable loss was a large financial institution. Kentico was jointly pitching the project with one of our agency partners. Short-listed, we were set to deliver an on-site presentation to show Kentico met all requirements. While we typically present the solution (we are the Kentico experts, after all), the partner really wanted to do it. So they did.

Well, the presentation went way off course, down a very technical and pretty incomprehensible path, for an audience that was mostly marketers and content authors. Afterwards, the client indicated that, in their eyes, we “laid an egg on the table” during the morning session, and there was no need to continue.

This really reinforced the idea of “staying in your lane” during project pitches. Kentico best represents our technology, features, and capabilities, and our partners best represent and position their services, project approach, and methodology. These pitches are often better together but should be delegated to the respective representatives.

Wayne: We had one large opportunity that we didn’t win mainly due to a lack of information and context. As we didn’t understand the situation well enough and relied on presumptions, we couldn’t propose the ideal solution for the customer. Sometimes it’s better to walk away if you are missing key stakeholders’ perspectives and business drivers that the customer wants to achieve. That’s even more the case when you know it will be very resource-heavy to participate in the pitch. We constantly learn and remind ourselves, “Do your research, don’t rely on presumptions, and pick your battles.”

What is the most important quality for someone to succeed in sales? What would make someone struggle?

Bart: I think you have to be persistent but also have the ability to create a certain “likability” pretty quickly. This ensures that you keep the focus on closing the deal while also using human interaction to create an open discussion about any doubts and hesitations organizations might have towards your product or company. If somebody is missing empathy, it’ll be hard to sell well—selling will always be a human-to-human interaction.

Eric: Pride and humility are typically the most significant traits I see in those who succeed in most aspects of life, and certainly sales is no exception. Pride in yourself, your work, your efforts, and your results; humility to know there’s always room for improvement and learning. I’ve found those who take pride in their work and typically are willing to share their experiences and continue to look for ways to improve.

Wayne: For me personally, it’s the right mindset that makes you succeed in anything in life, and sales is no exception. People who want to better themselves and improve others’ lives usually thrive in any role because they provide more value. On the other hand, if you’re only focused on yourself, the next sale, or a paycheck, you won’t last very long in this field.

Motivations are super important in sales—what do you do to keep your team (and yourself) motivated?

Bart: I genuinely believe our products are among the best solutions on the market, and they have great potential to solve all the content challenges organizations have. It really motivates me to be able to not only sell our product but also know that it will make a difference for them in their day-to-day job. I think this is the same for my team, and I know they are very motivated and engaged with our product and company. To keep them motivated, we make sure that we share a lot of experiences together to help make our work better. We also try to do some social activities regularly to keep good personal relations!

Eric: I pride myself in the success of my team, and my team prides themselves in the success of our clients. I believe that the greatest motivation within our team ultimately revolves around helping our clients make a difference in the world in their own particular way. From the top down, that’s what motivates us to come in everyday.

Wayne: It may be a cliché, but what drives me personally is the idea that I can make a difference. And as for my team, it’s the same, really. Allowing them to make a difference by delegation and helping team members take ownership to drive their own initiatives.

As a manager, what’s the thing about your team that you’re proudest of?

Bart: I’m very proud that our very diverse team—in terms of age, gender, culture, and background—really acts as one team. I believe all team members on the EMEA team feel very happy about the fact that we managed to create a good working group together with open and transparent communication, but also a lot of work satisfaction.

Eric: I am very proud of the culture we maintain in the US office and especially our sales team. They are a high-performing group and are always willing to pitch in to assist someone else on the team. I truly value the integrity with which they conduct themselves in all aspects of their jobs and responsibilities, working with clients, partners, or colleagues.

Wayne: We are the most remote office, and some of our team members are more than an 8-hour flight away from the nearest colleague. It makes me all the more proud to see that we managed to retain Kentico’s culture with a bit of lovely local flair to it.

You all are VPs of different regions. What is unique about doing sales in your region?

Bart: My territory spreads over four continents and includes many different markets, cultures, countries with very different market maturity, sales approaches, and languages. It is almost impossible to see it as one region and make a generic, broad way of working in my region. What I try to do is see similarities and while using the differences in the markets to compare. But we also try new approaches for new areas. This dynamism and flexibility makes it unique to work in my region.

Eric: First, I must say the US office has a distinct advantage of conducting most of our business across a couple countries (and in a common language). The majority of our opportunities are from the US, Canada, or Mexico, which have many business and cultural similarities, so we can establish a closer connection with end clients without necessarily needing solution partners.

The US market seems to be significantly more litigious when it comes to license agreements. Clients in the US (almost) all request changes to shrink-wrapped software license terms and conditions. The additional management cycles and fees related to these negotiations often affect the sales process, business model, and occasionally the nature of the customer/vendor relationship, as compared to other Kentico regions, as I see it.

Wayne: I’ve had the good fortune of experiencing sales in all our regions. The fundamentals are always the same, of course. However, there are quite a few specifics in APAC. The distances are enormous, but people still prefer to meet in person, and business and personal life are more entwined. In many parts of Asia, credibility and trust are far more important than technology.

How have you seen sales change over the last 15 years?

Bart: I think technology creates a huge speed (or need) for change, not only for our clients but also for our partners and even within Kentico. So while sales managers in the past could use their standard sales skills and be fine, they now need to adapt to the market much faster and recognize the impact of digital changes, all to understand their clients’ needs better. The way we deal with this on my team is that we continuously update each other on things that we see, lessons we learn, and best practices that lead to good results. Experience sharing on sales teams is key, as it is impossible to keep track of everything alone.

Eric: CMSs were relatively new in the early 2000s, when developers realized they no longer wanted to manage HTML update requests from marketers, and marketers were frustrated with the time it took to make those changes. At that time, the sales process was highly consultative and educational. Developers led the initial evaluation; business user buy-in was secondary. But as CMSs and DXPs matured, the selection process became more product-focused, as marketing teams took greater ownership of the evaluation process, meaning developer buy-in became secondary.

As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. So as headless CMSs become a new industry standard, the sales process is again highly educational, led my developers. I fully expect the process to transition into a marketer-driven one in the coming years, as mainstream adoption of headless will continue to grow as the technology matures.

Wayne: The way we sell has changed significantly as our products evolve. Moving from simpler tools to more robust, enterprise-scale solutions brought about a need for different selling methodologies.

More broadly, the fundamentals of selling are still the same, but the buying persona is different. Some 10 years back, only IT departments were buying software. Now, the final decision is more and more reliant on marketing or other commercial departments, as these changes affect the entire business.

Final question: Where do you see Kentico and sales going in the next 15 years?

Bart: As content becomes a bigger strategic asset in organizations, the focus will be more on how to solve challenges from that perspective with new tools, approaches, and processes. Content management will go back to real content management, not how (and where) content is used. Adding Kentico Kontent to our product portfolio is a strategic move forward into that new world.

I also believe that software will become more invisible, and AI will erase many of our tasks. More decisions will be based on suggested content rather than actual content creation and maintenance. Let’s see if that’s where the market goes!

From a sales perspective, this means salespeople need to focus on the ROI of their products, not the solution itself. Conversations will be about added value, what the solution can solve, and how it can make life easier for content creators. And when the client is convinced, they’ll get a subscription, activate it, and the system (hopefully) will do the rest!

Eric: Content as a Service will certainly play a major role in the future success of Kentico. While traditional DXPs will still be significant and relevant for the foreseeable future, most organizations will adapt towards more effective, centralized methods of managing content. This will either manifest as an agile extension of their existing legacy content solutions or by successfully connecting with their audiences across all channels.

I predict that within five to 10 years, most traditional, monolithic solutions (CMS, CXM, DAM, PIM, etc.) will be irrelevant. Significant market shifts towards best-of-breed microservices architecture will continue. As these “-as-a-Service” solutions will mature in capabilities, ease of implementation, and UX, marketers and business users will make developer-independent decisions on their MarTech stack.

Wayne: We will see progress in a more holistic approach to buying technologies. Success metrics for picking technologies are changing from fit-for-one-purpose to innovation potential and adaptability to change; from functionality to scalability; from specific technology preferences to business outcomes and UX as the main drivers. This will make “-as-a-Service” the new standard for essentially all technology vendors in order to be able to compete in this highly demanding environment.

Of course, there will be a transitional period, and not all markets will move at the same pace. We already align with that vision today by offering two product lines addressing both customers in the current and transitional period with Kentico EMS, and those looking to future-proof their online presence with Kontent.