Before taking on a role here at Gun.io, Client Success Manager, Jeff Vedenoff, made his way up the ranks helping people with the biggest purchases of their lives: homes and vehicles. Hear what it takes to succeed and how to build a new department from the ground up.
Well, Jeff, welcome to the Frontier Podcast. I’m excited to have you here.
Yeah, thanks for having me.
This is your first episode. I don’t think we’ve had you on in like a group episode yet, have we?
No, that’s probably next though, right?
Well, maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see how much you’re willing, how much time you’re willing to give us, but we’re excited to have you here and this is your team interview, so I’m really excited to just kind of talk about what it is you do here on the team, what you did before you landed here with us Gun.io. And then as we get through that career journey, I always find it interesting to kind of dig into like pivot points in your career, especially for folks listening who might want to one day be a CSM, like you or, you know, work in a tech company. (Jeff: Sure.) You know, just pulling out some nuggets of advice for them. So, does that sound good?
Yeah, let’s get into it.
Cool. Well, Jeff, I guess let’s start with like, introduce yourself. Tell me kind of who you are and what you do here at Gun.
Yeah, I’m Jeff Vedenoff. I’m a Client Success Manager at Gun. I was hired on in September, so I’m sorry, mid-September around that time. And I live in San Diego, California. I’ve been here for eight years, but I grew up in Orange County. Born in Laguna Beach, so California native. And I’ve, I still feel somewhat new at, at Gun and I’m learning every day, but excited to be part of the team and everyone’s been super helpful in the transition over.
It’s–I always forget how new you are. Like it really has been, what, three months?
Yeah, it’s been, I think close to three months. But I tell Ben and the team all the time. It feels like we’ve been here for years already. So it’s, it’s yeah, it’s a, it’s a great environment to be in, but it just seems like we sped through so much at a quick pace, which is great for, you know, the team and ramping. But yeah, it does not feel like that short of the amount of time. It feels like I’ve been here for quite a bit.
And it’s also, you know, you came on obviously as a customer success manager, but also as like the first CSM we’ve ever had. So we brought you and Kate, our other CSM on at the same time. So you both were kind of forging the path for what that program even looks like. How has that either differed or maybe been similar to what you’ve done in the past with other roles?
It’s both. So it’s differed and it’s had its similarities. Differentiation would probably be that the last company I worked for was a larger scale company. I mean, we had 10,000 plus people working at the company. Faith: Geez.) To jump from that to a smaller company of, you know, under 50 people was kind of a big eye opener for me. But there was a lot of things that were kind of lateral as far as when I shifted over to Gun. But the unknowns for me at Gun were the, the intriguing parts because a lot of it was, you know, we were in, in the structure out this department and it wasn’t, you know, a, b, c like my last company where everything was kind of already set up. This was jumping into something completely new, setting up a department, structuring out how we wanna run it, implementing, you know, different items for the sales team. So it’s been, it’s been similar but it’s been quite different just shifting to a smaller company. But it’s definitely given me a great insight to, you know, how guns run and how the smaller companies kind of run and grow each day.
Definitely different working with us than a 10,000 person company. Walk me through a little bit about, you know, your career history. Like what, what, obviously we’ve touched a little bit on what you were doing before this, but like TL;DR give me the story of Jeff.
So basically I started outta college in the automotive industry which was pretty daunting cuz it’s very, you know, fast paced and you know, there’s, there’s a lot of different variables to that, that machine that are working. Jumped into sales at Nissan earlier, like right after college. Had an interest in just speaking to people and, and like helping people essentially. So that was my big focus, was love, love sales, love getting into people like why they wanna, you know, purchase something, you know, what the objectives were. So that was really fun for me. And then just learning, you know, the different personalities of, of people, the different personalities of a buyer, you know, handling objections. So I think those really kind of piqued my interest in the early stage. From there, I transitioned to a smaller private equity company up in Laguna Beach for a little bit. It was probably the worst time to get into real estate cuz I was ‘08 back when the market crashed, so…
Yeah. Yeah. It was fun. But it didn’t last too long just because the, the way the market, you know, course ran. So then I kind of shifted my priority back to automotive ‘cause I really enjoyed it. Really had a desire to work for a larger company as far as more of a luxury brand like BMW. So ended up shifting to BMW, started in sales there, was able to kind of move up to internet director, internet manager within them. So that was, that was interesting because not only are you, you know, doing sales for yourself, you’re managing a team and you’re kind of managing expectations and you’ve got goals to hit. So it was a little bit more pressure, but at the same time it was really fun to help people with their goal and aspirations of, you know, owning a BMW or maybe they’ve always wanted to have one and they think now they have the chance to purchase that. So it’s a pretty big milestone in people’s lives when they get to hit like a dream of theirs, so that was fun.
So two stints in the automobile industry? (Jeff: Yep.) A stint in private equity. (Jeff: mm-hmm. <Affirmative>.) And then you transitioned more into kind of a tech company, is that right?
Yeah, uh Better presented the opportunity around November, 2020, which is a great time. I really wanted to kind of spend more time with my family. I mean, if you know the automotive industry, it’s, it’s a very tough market to be in and live in. It’s, you know, weekends on, it’s holidays on, it’s late hours. So, you know, I did that for close to seven years and I finally had a, a chance at Better to kind of maybe work from home, work remote, be around my family a little bit more, have my weekends off, which I didn’t have for seven years, which is like a godsend. But yeah, that was kind of what drew me in. And just the, that part was a facet of it, but also just going into you know, the operations and customer success field in that, in that, you know, area, in that division of real estate was intriguing to me.
So didn’t really know, like similar to Gun, didn’t really know kind of what I was getting into. It was a big leap because I was comfortable, you know, BMW made really good money there and it was, it was definitely a hard decision to make, but at the end it worked well. And after that, you know, led me to you guys, so led me to Gun.
I mean, as I kind of look at your career from a bird’s eye view, I feel like the, obviously the common thread has been sales, working with people. Obviously now you’re in a customer success seat. And the thing that I’m always so intrigued by with people who have, are like kind of lifetime career sales folks is like, how do you manage the emotional piece of it, right? Because you get to help people through like making the best, like coolest, most exciting kind of purchases of their lives. And you know, I imagine that that really fills up your tank, but you also have to help people when they’re disappointed and sometimes like, deliver that disappointing news. Like how do you, how do you manage your own kind of emotional absorption or lack thereof of what’s happening at work?
It’s somewhat of a roller coaster in sales. You know, it’s, the highs are really high and the low’s really low and it’s, you, sometimes it’s kinda like doctors and lawyers. You do have to give that bad news sometimes to the client and it’s not the best feeling, but you still have to deliver that at the end of the day cuz you have a job to do. So, you know, you, you kind of take the motion out of it a little bit and, you know, focus mainly on the job at hand, the task at hand and, and put, you know, you’re basically it’s better to deliver news now than to wait a long time and, you know, give bad news later. So, I mean, yeah, I guess it’s different with, with each person on how they, how they kind of go about their day. But yeah, it’s, it’s definitely emotional. I mean, if you look at real estate, you look at automotive, those are very emotional purchases. People get, you know, attached and it’s the two biggest purchases of their lifetime. So you definitely have to manage expectations and go in with a smile.
Are you the kind of person who gets energy out of having conversations and like connecting one-to-one with people a lot during your workday?
I love being in front of people. I mean, I will take a meeting with someone that I don’t know, or a meeting with someone I do know at a moment’s glance. So just to get in front of them and like, be like, ‘Hey, how’s your day going? Like, how’s this going?’ And I would much rather be talking to people than, than be doing, you know, the busy work or the emails or the admin that’s all part of the job and we all have to do it. But love just being in front of people and interacting with them and, and trying to figure out, you know, their needs and their goals and, and how we could best facilitate those.
I feel like that’s what burns people out the quickest in sales is if, if their like natural kind of like energy, the energy that they get out of work isn’t aligned with what the job requires. And I feel like in sales it’s a lot of people time, right? For me, like I love, there’s parts of sales that I love, like I love being strategic and kind of fitting the puzzle pieces together and, you know, thinking about like business use cases for somebody’s needs. But I absolutely am drained after a day of like two or three meetings. And so I just, you know, I know that I, I would not perform well in a sales seat, but someone like you who’s been in it for a long time, (Jeff: <laugh> yeah), definitely long enough to be like, oh, well you’re probably not gonna burn out anytime soon. Obviously. It’s a different story.
It’s definitely a grind. I mean it’s, it’s sales is, it’s tough. I mean, in any industry it’s tough. So I tell people that are going to sales for the first time, it’s a lot of, it’s nine no’s to get a yes on number 10. So I mean (Faith: Mm-hmm. <Affirmative>), it’s a lot of rejection. You have to be, you know, comfortable in your own skin. You have to be comfortable, you know, in talking to people, and not everything is gonna be a yes in the first time. It might take three or four times. We have to circle back to that person to get a, you know, a yes answer from them eventually. So, it’s tough. You have to be, like I said, tough skin and take everything with a grain of salt and take emotion out of it. Don’t get emotionally drained over things because a lot of things are outta your control. You can only do your part and, and kind of move the process forward.
I’m curious, you know, folks are listening and maybe they’re in a sales seat outside of the tech industry and they’re interested in getting into technology sales. Do you have any kind of hard-won advice for them for how to go about doing that?
A great window into that would be take a sales job, take a tough sales job, you know, take something that’s gonna push you and gonna test you. Another thing would to be a customer specialist. You know, I feel like that’s a good pathway to being, you know, a CSM is being a started customer specialist, learn how people act, what their needs are, what their emotions are, what they’re tied to. You know, once you learn those attributes, you could parlay that experience into a CSM-type role, which is just the next level up. So.
Well, you know, obviously it’s a grind, like you said. How do you unwind outside of work? What’s your outlet?
Oh man, I got a couple things. So I love being outdoors. Hiking, running, bicycling. I’m a photographer as well, so that really gets me outside.
Oh, cool. I didn’t know that.
Yeah, so it’s, it’s great because it gets you away from the computer. I feel like you need to unplug, especially if you’re on a computer, you know, 8, 10, 12 hours a day. It’s good to be off the grid, be in nature, focus on, you know, it’s still a technology piece, but it’s, you’re outdoors and you’re enjoying it a little bit more than, versus being stuck, stuck on a keyboard essentially. So (Faith: mm-hmm. <Affirmative>), those three or four keep me pretty tied up after work. So I can’t really take on any new hobbies. I always joke that like I’m not gonna be a golfer at any point in the future cause it’s just like, it’s a lot of time. But yeah. Yeah, those will keep me busy for the time being
Maxed out on hobbies.
I always find like, you know, my outlet is being outside too. And so this is a really hard time of year for me because really the only chance I have to be outside that isn’t in the dark is early, early in the morning or on the weekends. And so that’s always, you know, obviously this has been happening every year of my life. So you’d think I would have a system by now to kind of replace that, that kind of evening at door time. But it’s tough. It’s a struggle.
I joke because right now we’re in the daylight savings time mode and it’s dark at 4:30 in, in San Diego, so (Faith: mm-hmm. <Affirmative>), it’s tough for me cuz I love being out after work and, you know, getting that late run in or being outside and it’s yeah, it’s, it’s a struggle. But March will be right around the corner and we’ll get our daylight back here.
<Laugh>. I appreciate the optimism. I needed that today. It’s also been, I’m in Nashville and it has been just like kind of almost comically terrible outside, like gray and rainy and just, no one wants to be out there. So I’m definitely feeling it a little extra this week.
<Laugh>. Yeah, it’s just been cold here. It’s blue sky right now, but it’s been, I think it was in the, it was 44 when I woke up this morning, which is very unusual for San Diego, so.
Yeah, I mean, if, if you anyone knows San Diego, it’s, it’s typically like, you know, anything that dips below 70 and people are, you know, throwing their Patagonia, you know, (Faith: oh shoot), poofer jackets on and, and it’s, it’s, you know, very cold to them. But yeah, it’s 44 is abnormally low for San Diego right
Now. Nice. Well I hope you survive it.
Oh. But we’ll be okay, <laugh>. We’ll make it.
Well, Jeff, this has been really helpful. I feel like, you know, thinking about the qualities that make you have longevity as a salesperson is an interesting thread to kind of pull at. So I appreciate your insight there, and it was fun to chat with you a little bit more and get to know you a little better.
Yeah, like I said, thanks for having me. It was fun.
Good. All right, well, we’ll invite you back, try to coerce you into another conversation here soon.
Okay. Sounds good.
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