Andrejs Juščenko is a vastly experienced professional with over 20 years marketing, sales, and business development practice in leading IT and Telco companies, such as; Microsoft; Nokia; and Lattelecom, transforming business in 24 countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Regarded as a thought leader with a vast knowledge of modern business practices; from change management experience, Go-To-Market strategies, channel development, and digital marketing, to marketing governance and execution in cross-country setup, Juščenko is admired and revered as a highly capable leader able to translate complex business problems into simple, understandable terms.
1. Can you share with us your hacks on how to manage stress?
I think probably I would be one of the happiest people on the planet if I would be able to manage my stress extremely well, but I think I’m on the way towards that goal.
I do exercises like; breathing, meditation, and many other things. What I can suggest, is to follow a very simple rule: try to stay in the present – at the moment where you are. Do not worry about what happened in the past and what will happen in the future. Actually, it doesn’t make any sense; why worry about the things that you can’t change. Things in the past had already happened, while things in the future have not happened yet, and they might never happen.
If you follow this simple rule, you’ll definitely have less stress. Also, simple things like walking, spending more time in fresh air, drinking less coffee, and enjoying a healthy sleep. This is especially relevant for our generation, which spends so much time using PCs and smartphones, especially before going to sleep. It’s not good. I have an established daily routine: I try to go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 6 am. It’s a pretty common practice for me.
I practice morning yoga because it’s quiet, and your mind is more open. But it also good before you go to sleep. Take a seat and have a deep breathing exercise. Something very simple like inhale-exhale, and so on. Try to concentrate on yourself, even 2 minutes will help. If you can prolong it, it’s even better. You’ll see that your mind will become more calm and relaxed, and then you can go to sleep. Because when you go to bed, accompanied by a smartphone or PC, you can spend even more time looking into a screen, ensuring that even during sleep your mind is still working.
2. How do you educate yourself on business development and entrepreneurship? Which online and offline resources do you use?
On daily basis I follow industry trends, influencers, blogs, articles from Harvard Business Review – there are so many of them!
I use Feedly. It’s an app, and also on the web. You can sign up for different sources, and it’s aggregated just for you. Very convenient. When I have time – like during breaks or when I’m waiting – I like to look through this and read the topics. If I’m looking for any specific knowledge, I can always find it on the internet.
LinkedIn is a good source of highly-crafted courses on very different topics, and they are short – you don’t need to spend weeks learning these topics. You know, it’s a very easy way how to digest the particular knowledge you’re after.
What I’ve learned to be effective is that you need to spend more time with your customers. Whether you’re already a mature company or a very young company, if you don’t spend time talking to your existing or potential customers you can lose all sense of reality.
Similarly, you can spend more time in the whole ecosystem, especially if there are some industry events or communities, and not even physically. Just talking to your competitors and being in a good relationship with them, understanding what they do, and how they live all helps. Of course, it can be a sensitive thing, but it’s also very helpful.
I think everyone should find their own sources that work best for them.
3. You’re a mentor at Startup Wise Guys, a European B2B startup accelerator. What is your advice for startups on how to find a mentor and how to grab their interest?
Generally, people from startups don’t hesitate to approach other people. If you need somebody to help you and to share some insights or coach you on some topic or other, just ask. Either on Linkedin, or somewhere else – wherever the opportunity is possible. You’ll see that people are more willing to help than you might think.
From the moment you approach somebody, I recommend you to be really prepared and clear about what you are actually looking for, what help you need at that particular moment, what you want to achieve, and then, if that person is able to help you in a particular area – well, in my case I’m usually opened for that – be ready to take what is given, because sometimes people give you different things than you initially imagined.
Appreciate everything that is given. You never know where and when it might be helpful to you. Also, I’d recommend to young (and not so young) entrepreneurs to be persistent, do not give up. Just go ahead and do what you need to do.
There are 2 sides to the coin. From your side, when you’re asking, you need to have clear motivation why you are asking for help. A mentor also has a motivation, because they want to share such experiences, or maybe they want to develop their own skills working with other people, coaching other people, etc. That’s why I always say – just ask! Maybe not the 1st time, but on the 2nd or 3rd the person will agree. If not, find somebody else to ask.
4. Do you practice a flexible work schedule? If yes, how is it possible to build a successful work schedule within a team with flexible working hours?
As you know, I spent more than 11 years in Microsoft, and Microsoft is a very supportive company. I used to use a flexible working system. We were never asked to spend a certain amount of time in the office, it was more about delivering results – whatever it is that you have to deliver. Therefore I’m very positive, it’s a good thing to have.
Of course, there are downsides. Now there is a new trend, and people are saying that it’s not good to work remotely anymore. I think that the truth is somewhere in the middle. It’s important that everyone understands what flexible working means. Does it mean that we’re working from 9 to 6 and we’re free to work from different places, or we’re working 24/7? For me, the point of this type of work is true for both managers and employees. You have to have people whom you trust. If there’s no trust it’s hard to stay flexible. At the same time, there should be accountability. If you agree on something, you should keep that accountability and deliver what you have agreed or promised.
The practice shows that people are different, it also requires adaptability, and that you can accept different ways of working when it comes to working remotely. But, there should be some common rules to follow. You should definitely have some regular face-to-face meetings, 1 per week if possible. If it’s not possible and you need to work remotely, you need to establish some regular reasons to meet, like morning coffee. For example Monday morning, everyone calls remotely during a coffee break and we have a quick chat about last week and the further plans we have. Of course, many different practices are available, but it’s important to stay connected.
5. Which skills will be most relevant for sales managers in the next 10 years, and why?
In general, the need to move forward will be required. To develop leadership capabilities, I’m talking about everyone, not only about managers.
Taking responsibility, being proactive, that is something that always has been and always will be needed. Nowadays things are very different and much more turbulent, for managers it is important for them to help their teams to feel a sense of stability and safety, so you need to bring clarity, even you don’t know what is going to happen – your task is to explain and to make sure that everyone understands where we’re going.
Bring positive energy! Help your people to stay energetic. Understand their routines, and concerns. Nurture adaptability, empathy, and focus on employees and customers as well. Especially in sales, go beyond your product, technology, sales targets, what you need to understand is what your customer cares about, what their business is going to be in future, changes which are happening or are going to happen, and help them to overcome all of this. Do this and the sales will come naturally.
6. You often talk about Digital Sales Engine as a tool and process for international business growth. What type of industries does it suit best?
We always start with the statement that the way people buy today has changed, and this is regardless of the industry. It’s in every industry. It’s not only how people buy, but also how they engage with any other company. Therefore, in order to stay relevant and connected with your future customers, especially when you think about scaling, every company should truly leverage the power of Digital sales engine, inbound marketing, and sales practice. Especially startups!
The challenge which startups usually face is that they have a great idea, even a prototype of their product, and perhaps maybe even a product. To my experience, startups are usually technology-focused, in terms of their internal competencies, they are engineers and software developers, but they are lacking the sales and marketing capacity. If they are not going to leverage those digital possibilities it will be super hard to develop the business, because the competition is so high. If you’re not aligned to help people buy today, the possibility for you to scale and to be successful will prove very difficult in the future.
7. With an engineering background, you built your career in business administration and sales. Do you think young entrepreneurs need to get a degree nowadays, and why?
My first education was in engineering, and I wanted to, and almost started working in the technical field. But, as it turned out I spent almost the whole of my career involved in sales and the digital market.
I believe that education is essential. If you really want to achieve something you have to learn. The ways in which you gain your knowledge can be very different. There are so many opportunities available today.
The traditional education system is able to set a basis, to give you the basic information you need, and then you still have to keep on learning for your whole life.
The prediction for the future is that people will change the profession several times in a lifespan. That is very unusual for older generations. My recommendation is definitely to get an education, but you’re free to choose the manner in which you get it.
Even if I was to turn time back, I would still tell you that technical education is a very valuable thing. Moving forward, it will be more valuable, as technology is becoming a commodity and you have to know how to deal with that. But, back at that time, there were other nice professions too, that have nothing to do with technology. With hindsight, probably, I wouldn’t change my educational experiences.
8. Based on your experience at Microsoft and Nokia, which practical guidelines can you offer on how to execute product evangelism, and why product evangelism is important?
If you create a product, you need to create a mindset about that product.
An example: 6 years back, when I was leading a Microsoft office division, the cloud story popped up. We were entering a market with a completely new service and a completely new business model. That was especially true for companies that rely on a partner ecosystem, where you need to convince others about making a change, because of that, you really need to know what you are doing.
Whether it’s a product or something else, you need to get people to believe in what you do. And, when you create some critical mass for your followers it becomes dramatically scalable, letting you reach a much broader market with your message, product, or service.
Product evangelism also includes PR. It depends on whom you want to evangelize. Nowadays in technology decision making there are many people involved: both technical and business people – who are also becoming more technologically savvy.
They think they understand technology, they think they can make technology decisions on their own. You need to be relevant to all of these audiences. You need to approach technical people with their own language, show them competence and provide them value. And you also have to talk about the benefits to business people, their scenarios, objectives, and how that will help.
How you do it is different: either physical events, PR, blog, communities, webinars, etc. It comes down to the Digital sales engine. Nowadays, with the help of digital marketing technologies, you can do incredible things for evangelizing your product and service. What’s vitally important is creating a pool of loyal followers, not necessary customers for now, but at some point in time, they may become your customers.
9. Tell us more about Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy and development. What steps does it include, and tell us about a few successful business cases you have accomplished.
When you think of GTM strategy, there are a few components.
First, you need to understand how you position yourself in the market. It’s super important that you create a unique value proposition. How do you differentiate from others? Why somebody should buy from you, and not from your competitors? From my experience, very often this is a missing component. In order to define your position, you need to understand who are your customers, who are the buyers, and how do they make their decisions. Armed with all that information, you can create your positioning, and it’s your strategic decision whether you position yourself for a specific industry, scenario, or something else that the customer will appreciate, and that you can use as a differentiator.
It’s also important that the process is repetitive. Not something that you complete once and can then forget about – the market is changing, your competition is changing, your customers are changing, their priorities and technologies are changing, and you need to revise your positioning from time to time, and adjust accordingly.
There is a UAV factory which produces very expensive cameras for drones. On the one hand, there are many other vendors on the market who have similar solutions. But in their case, in order to position their product, we made the differentiation on the capabilities of their technology and on ways how people can enjoy the greatest experience with this product.
In this case, positioning was determined as one of the top brands in the industry. First of all, we found what competitors did, and more importantly, what they didn’t do. In this manner, you can overcome and outperform them in all ways. Do they do video reviews? Do they have blogs? Do they provide valuable content? This is the type of experience that you can create for your potential customers.
The second important thing is understanding what people who tend to buy care about when selecting the solution. What are their concerns, what do they need to learn, to understand, and to communicate to others in order to make a final decision. After you understand that, you can create content that will help and guide them toward the key phase of the decision process. If you support them with all of that, they are likely to be very grateful and tend to become more loyal to you for your efforts.
The product grew from almost nothing to 2,000,000 EUR in revenue in 1.5 years. This strategy should be executed properly. The thing is, many companies have the strategy, but how many of them really follow it in their daily activities? Plus, how many adjust, and/or review the strategy on a regular basis?
10. Which tools may help best in the daily routine of sales executives, and which features in CRM are the most relevant for them?
There are many tools that help you to automate things, including communication with customers and various task management functions. I use One Note (Microsoft) – a note-taking tool – when I talk to somebody. It really is super helpful, as you can put notes and tasks all in one place. A tool like Teams (Microsoft), is also super helpful. We rarely use email. Instead, we use Teams for our organization, because it’s far simpler, chat-based, and content-based. For customer communication, I use meeting-scheduling tools, where you can publish your calendar and the customer may then choose a convenient time to talk. On an ongoing basis, we’re trying different tools for that function.
CRM is a mindset, it’s not a tool thing. If the organization doesn’t understand the value of using CRM – it’s a really big issue. On an individual level, you can keep track of everything that is happening with your accounts and your customers, and you never lose sight of anything.
For sales executes, CRM helps them to stay on top of things – their goals, what they want to achieve, their sales pipeline, and more. You can predict if you achieve these goals or not, and you can define if you need extra investment or extra people to help you.
It is also helpful for good relationships with your customers, as it gives an overview of everything that has happened in the pipeline. From a company perspective, it gives you predictability in your business. If you have trustworthy information in the CRM, you can manage your business and predict for the future more accurately. This can be a great benefit and can give you a huge competitive advantage.
Lead scoring is vastly important because you want to know how your leads are developing. Warm leads need to be passed to sales and immediately acted on towards converting them. We need to consider what both sales and marketing are doing to build the marketing and sales pipeline. Because too often it is only considered as being the sales pipeline.