A Passion Is Born During The Pandemic With Marya Dzmitruk
If there is one consolation with the pandemic we’re experiencing now, it is how it has given some of us ample time to rethink our passions and find ways to pursue them. Marya Dzmitruk, a 30 under 30 Forbes Entrepreneur, is well familiar with this story. Locked in from COVID, she pursued her passion project through the company Avanii, which she created to solve the problems we are facing due to global warming. She shares how this passion, born during the pandemic, helps organizations track their employees' work-related carbon emissions through their intuitive platform. On the role of AI in sales, Marya then talks about using Checkbook.io and how she saw the future of integrating technology into your sales process.
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A Passion Is Born During The Pandemic With Marya Dzmitruk
I’ve got Marya Dzmitruk. She is the VP of Sales from Checkbook and it's Checkbook.io. She runs a sales team there and it's a cool product. We're going to get a little bit into that. They do ACH and they're completely disrupting the check industry and check business. You'll have to check it out. She's even paying rent and all kinds of things through their own application and it shrinks the time to collect and it makes things a lot more frictionless. Welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me, Chad. I’m excited to be here.
You’re in San Francisco where it's still smoky. I'm in Colorado and about once every other day or so, we get a whiff of the smoke coming over the hills and up through the atmosphere and all the way over. I used to live in Belmont and I'm told that they've had some fires of their own there and that as much as a third of the town has been evacuated, which is wild. I can't even imagine. Stay safe. Thanks for joining. Before we get started, how did you end up at Checkbook? How long have you been there? What did you do before you joined Checkbook?
I'm a serial entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. I have my own startup called Avanii that I’ve cofounded with two wonderful people from Canada. We're focused on the environmental impact of carbon emissions and essentially provided a solution for a carbon emission offset program. For my side of things being locked in from COVID, I was looking for ways to have the passion project, which is Avanii, solving the problems that we're facing with all the fires and other apocalyptic events due to global warming. Also to tailor to my own passion, which is I love to build things. I'm not an engineer by trade or at all. In fact, I can’t build anything for you other than a team and the process.
I love building sales teams, marketing teams, customer experience and customer support teams. That's where my expertise lies. You can't have one be successful without the other. It's like a chain-link effect. I was looking around for solutions that I thought were impactful. Impactful has changed its meaning based on what the needs versus the necessities are in the business world. When I came across Checkbook, having extensive conversations with our CEO and Founder, PJ Gupta, we figured out that there is an opportunity for me to come in and to build out their sales team, their marketing team. Those processes lay down that foundation and make sure that we're able to create a sustainable organization that will be able to have not only to know predictable revenue machine model but that we're also able to scale the organization beyond what it is now. I’ve been with Checkbook and it has been a great ride so far.
The topic of the show is artificial intelligence and sales. It's interesting because I think a lot of companies, VPs and CEOs that we work with don't know that they're using AI. AI has a bad connotation. We talk to Alexa to order food or we use our phone and we send a Google Mail and it auto-corrects and knows what we're about to say. There's so much AI that's being used in life in general that's now starting to carry its way into the business world. Have you seen artificial intelligence at all in your day-to-day working life, either at Checkbook or otherwise? Talk a little bit about that if you would.
Technology is not a silver bullet to an absent process.
I think it reminds me of this quote that I can't remember who said that, so I hope the person turns up and takes the credit. They said, “If it's written in PowerPoint, it's AI. If it's written in Python, it's machine learning.” With that being said, I definitely have seen artificial intelligence as the buzz word being present in the sales organizations. The most important thing to point out is that before you bring in any technology to your org, sales, marketing. We're focusing on sales. Let's talk about that. You have to make sure that you have your manual process which is as polished as it can be because technology is not a silver bullet to an absent process.
It can make or break things. Technology is only as powerful as the people that are using it. Making sure that the team is equipped to benefit from all of the innovation that is happening around AI for sales, it's essential. From my side of things, I’ve definitely seen not at Checkbook but all of the other endeavors that have been privileged to be in the journey so far, AI being used in communication platforms specifically. When you're getting onto your conference call or you're cold calling a prospect and then as you're talking to them, it's being transcribed simultaneously as you're having the conversation.
You don't have to take notes. It's pulling the keywords out of the conversation and starts building a case for you. It's Dialpad. That's doing that with their Uber conference as well as the cold calling. I'm not pitching any products out there right now but it's definitely here. You're absolutely right. We don't always recognize that we are using some of the machine learning and AI capabilities within our day to day. It stems from being accustomed to innovation to the point of being spoiled.
Have you heard of TOPO, Craig Rosenberg, by any chance?
TOPO does sound familiar. I believe that I’ve been to their conference a few years ago.
They're doing a virtual conference and they came out and said that in the world we're living in now, which as you said has been “interesting” to say the least. They said that the companies have changed from a five-year outlook ahead to more of a 2 to 3 months’ outlook because there's so much uncertainty around everything that's going on in the world that they're looking out for 2 to 3 months. He used three words. He said, “Companies need to be flexible, agile and they need to have more speed than they've ever had.” You think of have a sales plan and on day one, January 1, you say, “Here's what we're set out to do.” By March, it's changed. By April, May, June, it's changed again. It changed again in September. What are you doing as a head of sales to stay ahead of the change and be flexible, agile, and have time to market and speed advantage?
One thing that I do is I don't set the five-year goals. Trying to keep up with all of the innovation that is happening and how to empower the team, first and foremost, to get us to the only KPI that matters in a sales team, which is revenue. We can talk about all of the KPIs that exist in the sales team but the bottom line is that only the revenue that we bring in is the one that is of the most impact in essence. In terms of keeping up with the change, it's exactly what you said. It's being able to be flexible and nimble. It is much easier to do a U-turn on a jet ski than on a Titanic.
That being said, it's paramount to have a constant pulse and review your sales dashboards, your internal processes not on a quarterly basis but do so every week with your team. From my side of things, we have four hours that we slotted away with our team in the beginning and throughout the week and then at the end of the week. We're constantly reviewing our pipeline or funnels and keeping track of everything that's going on and seeing where we can invest more resources and spend more time and things that we need to eliminate that noise.
Out of curiosity, your team or you personally, do you use video in your selling processes at all like a Vidyard or a Loom?
We tried to do that and I think that it can be impactful. For the most part, our prospect base or customer base would be benefiting more from getting on a call with us where we're walking them through and showing them the product capabilities. We've built a product that is simple to use that it almost makes you question how valid it is. The simpler it is on the frontend, the more complexity there is in the backend. Using things like video for interaction does have its value. We see it being more relevant towards the end of the sales cycle, where you've already gone through the demos and went through the pricing proposals on the NDAs and all of those technical things. You're able to answer some of the questions by using video without having to jump on a call and do a walkthrough and then send a recap email.
I’ve always had mixed feelings. I remember when it first came on the scene, I'd get a video message and it would have my name on the whiteboard. Usually, it was, “Chad, this is Marya. I am excited to talk to you.” I was like, “I'm not sensing a lot of business value. What's this all about?” What I’ve seen it morph into is, to your point, “This is Marya. It’s good to meet you. I'm the VP of Sales. I'm looking at your profile, I'm looking at your website.” Maybe you're in a screen-share and you say, “I see if your customers want to pay you, they're paying you in an old-fashioned way. Here, check out tab number two. Let me show you how Checkbook works easily.”
Technology is only as powerful as the people that are using it.
I bring it up because our company partners with a lot of other tech firms. We look for the latest and greatest tech that's out there and we bring it to market to our customer base. This company, they're called BHuman, which is interesting. The scariest part about AI is, are we going to lose our humanity? Having been in the space now for years, AI done right brings humanity more to the picture. What this company does is allows you to prerecord 80% to 90% of that walkthrough. The short little 1.5-minute demo of look how easy the ACH automated check is. Maybe 30 seconds to a minute of the beginning. You patch those two pieces together and now the reps not having to do the same dog and pony show 800 times in a week. It's interesting to see.
To your point, is it automation? Is it AI in a PowerPoint or is it machine learning in Python? That's a legitimate phrase. I too would like to learn who said that. I'm sure there's AI for that. We can ask Siri and Siri might be able to tell us. Moving forward into the future, you've been in and around sales and marketing for a while. What have you seen change over the last couple of years? Where do you think it goes 2 to 5 years into the future? What's going to be different than it is now?
The first thing is as salespeople, we're not going to be terrified anytime that the IT team comes in and they're like, “We've got this new tool for you, guys. It's AI.” We're going to be like, “They're taking our jobs.” No. The most valuable place where AI can reside is making sure that the people that are using it are able to save their time and start reaching out to people that are the most engaged. When you're looking at many people who come to your website and look at your product and maybe sign up for a demo or fill out the talk to sales form, they all land in one place. They land in your CRM. For an AI to be able to go in and say like, “This person was on your website opening all of these links. They have been active for the last four days. Maybe you should talk to them.” Putting that in front of a salesperson so that they're not trying to go old school way of like, “I have this lead that is open and reach out to them,” but actually engage with those who are engaged.
Using the technology in that way is going to be empowering. In five years’ time, if you look at all of the innovation that has happened, I can't even think what people are going to come up with in the next five. In my opinion, it's going to be more polished and focused. There are many different granular solutions that we have. We've talked about you're able to do video outreach but then there's also all of these plugins that you can put into your CRM. You can have with your C-cast solution or you can have with your marketing automation, all of those wonderful things. I think that in five years’ time, we're looking at something that will allow for us to be focused on who we're reaching out to, why we're reaching out to them and with what we're reaching out to them with. It's going to happen way before the five years mark.
It seems to me the one-to-one communication is where things are going. If you think back ten years ago, let's email blast everybody. I was with Webex from 2005 to 2008 and you could email blast anyone. “Are you guys getting on a plane and traveling? How would you like to screen share instead?” You'd get a relatively high response rate. Our close rate was 87% win rate in the industry. That was before everybody left Webex and went to Zoom video and RingCentral numbers. Nowadays, you have to be much more specific. It's not just, “Marya, you're the VP of Sales of Checkbook. We should have a conversation.”
It will tell me your personality, your buying behavior, how you like to be communicated with, whether it's in bullets or a video. I think it gets to a level where a salesperson might be able to send an email. It goes through a filtering mechanism that helps correspond to the right buyer with the right type of formatting of the message. It's 0s and 1s. As the firstborn son with a brother and a sister, I have a certain personality type and you have a different personality type. How cool would it be that if you were sending an email or leaving a voicemail, that some of that work was done to make sure that the communication format was done properly in the first place?
Maybe even aligning the sales rep with a similar personality type to be reaching out to that prospect.
Especially on an inbound. Think of a company that gets so much inbound, why try to force-fit them into, “You work with Johnny because Johnny covers the Southern California region?” Who cares? It's not region-based anymore. It’s virtual. Line people up by social proximity or personality buyer type to seller type. That's right.
Technology has allowed us to eliminate borders. You're in Colorado, I'm in San Francisco and here we are talking to one another. It's definitely going to continue on that path and connecting people. First and foremost, you're not connecting a business to a business. You're connecting a person to a person, which is something that we're getting lost in the past couple of years but now it's coming back.
That's one of the side benefits of AI. Traditionally, a lot of salespeople get on, “Let me show you this cool product. Here's the demo,” versus, “Let me get to know you first for a few minutes. Let's break the ice before we go deep into the technology discussion.” That's cool. If somebody is reading this, we get people from salespeople all the way to VPs, CEOs, founders, etc. What advice would you give to them in terms of the use of technology? You gave a little advice, which is don't buy technology for technology's sake. First, figure out your process and then add technology later. What else? Is there any other advice you would give to folks looking into technology for their businesses?
Don't be afraid of change. Change is good. As I said about technology, it’s not a silver bullet to look at your internal processes. Also, look at your people. Look at your team and figure out what their strengths are. We're not all made the same. Someone may be a better written communicator. Someone can be a better verbal communicator. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Don't forget that. You can't use molds anymore to try and replicate success. We can all be successful in our own ways. The solution that you have is be human.
Don't be afraid of change. Change is good.
I’ve been in sales for many years and I’ve always thought of myself as a leader that brings together a team of Mighty Ducks. Someone told me on a podcast, “The Bad News Bears.” I was like, “No, I think more of the Mighty Ducks.” Either way, we're all different shapes and sizes. We come from different backgrounds and we all have our own unique strengths. My son is an engineer. My daughter is a social justice warrior. She's already shown her stripes that she wants to change the world and I applaud that. When you have a team of people that you can recognize, it's not a one size fits all role.
If you happen to be good on the phone, like a guy named Jordan is on my team, great. He can drive 1,000 to 1,500 dials a day, schedule 5 to 6 meetings. Another person would be like, “Are you kidding me? 1,500? I would burn out. I couldn't talk to four people in a day, let alone 50.” On the other hand, I think high levels of EQ is important in this world. If you're going to write an email and social communications, I don't want Jordan writing those communications. I would rather have somebody else who's well-trained at mapping the message to the right person at the right time.
There's a reason why your football team is not all quarterbacks?
This has been a fun conversation. The speed boat versus cruise ship, I’ve used that before in my conversations. You and I have a lot in common here. Congratulations on your company launch during COVID. A lot of people have followed their passions and that's exciting. To your point, in these kinds of weird markets is exactly when major inventions occur and people change the world. Kudos to you for following your passion and doing what you know you can do.
Thank you, Chad. Thanks for having me here. I hope that it was a good use of our time.
Thank you for joining. I will catch you in the next episode. Thank you, Marya.
About Marya Dzmitruk
Innovative business leader with global experience leading sales, services, marketing, and operations teams through the challenges of scale and strategic change. Experience and comfort operating across SaaS companies. Energetic hands-on leadership style with a proven track record of establishing and altering organizational momentum for the purpose of building results-orientated high performing teams. Customer-facing and consultative problem solver, excellent communicator with strong written and verbal skills, with a proven track record to successfully establish and maintain executive-level relationships.