Learning to Sell from the Founders of Bullhorn

June 15, 2012 | Michael Johnson
Learning to Sell from the Founders of Bullhorn

Back in 2001, I decided it was time to run from a dead-end retail career and find a way to get started in software sales.  Even though dotcom’s were failing left and right, and every  installed software vendor was downplaying the ASP model,  I knew in my gut the internet was going to change the way companies develop, deploy, and consume software…and that it was going to happen fast. I definitely had the requisite passion for the job, but none of the necessary skills, so I started the hunt for a startup willing to give me a chance.

My search ended with a single-paragraph job posting on Monster – Bullhorn needed someone for entry level lead generation and I knew I was their man. I’ll never forget my first meeting with Art, Barry, and Roger in the old school house back on B Street in Southie. They didn’t have many customers, the software lacked functionality, and incredibly the pay was less than I could make in retail…way less! Even so, I couldn’t help but think they were three of the smartest guys I’d ever met and that this was my big chance.

Art Papas was the brains and the coder extraordinaire, yet he could communicate his ideas so clearly and in such a down-to-Earth manner that I had no doubt they’d become a reality. Roger Colvin was the money man, the guy who keeps the lights on when times get tough, but I also got a sense he’d be ready to take the risks necessary to reap the big rewards. And Barry Hinckley, what can I say about Barry? He was the visionary, the dreamer, with a passion that was so all-encompassing, mine paled by comparison.

Over 7 years Art, Roger, Barry, and Bullhorn’s customers taught me a lifetime’s knowledge about how to sell SaaS.  

From Art, I learned how to translate customer problems and needs into scalable, technically sound solutions and, most importantly, how and when to say no. In the early days, customers fed the development of the platform at an incredible pace and it seemed like no feature request was left unturned. It was Art who focused the team on the key ideas that still provide value to their recruiting and staffing customers to this day.

From Roger, I learned that a good deal can be good for the sales person, the company, and the customer. I still remember my first 6 figure deal and without Roger’s creativity, I’d have lost it for sure. 

And from Barry, I learned that passion and commitment are the keys to success in any career. The day he moved from his office to a desk on the sales floor is the day the sales team turned the corner and kicked into high gear. Just listening to him on the phone and seeing his passion for the company and SaaS was the best training a new software sale rep could ask for. 

The biggest thing I learned was that when a team works together and their strengths complement, they can achieve so much more than any one person working alone.

Congratulations to Bullhorn and their customers on the Vista Equity Partners acquisition. It’s a testament to your hard work and if I’ve learned anything from you, it’s that I should expect even bigger things in the future!

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