October 23, 2014

5 Minutes with a Leader: Mark Kuta – Oracle Executive, Author of “Think Like a CEO”

Mark Kuta Jr Think Like a CEO Leadership TipsI was working for a client at a trade show in San Diego, when I met a light-haired, affable young man with an outgoing personality. This man was Mark Kuta, Jr. who, over the course of his career, has sold over 100 million dollars of enterprise software, with a significant amount of these sales being OVER list price! (That’s virtually unheard of in the software industry.) Currently the Value Chain Planning Manager at Oracle, Mark is also the author of the award winning (and career enhancing) book, “Think Like a CEO.”

In his book, Mark covers the language of business, how to understand your client’s strategies and then how to align your value proposition with theirs. These key principles aid in building a clear and concise C-level case for change that allows the reader to increase sells, the ASP (average sales price) and margins, as well as compress the sales cycle. Additionally, Mark shares the real tools and strategies that can allow the reader to not only “get into the head” of C-Level executives, but also become their trusted advisor.

“Think Like a CEO” has garnered tremendous reviews from executives and managers in numerous industries worldwide, such as Pepsi, SAP, IBM and Banco do Brasil. His book won two gold medals for being the best business book and sales book at major book shows in Los Angeles and New York. Additionally, testimonials sent to Mark reveal that those who have used his Wall Street Selling Methodology™ or other information from his book have driven over 6 million dollars in combined sales (and that’s just from those who have contacted Mark to thank him for his book!). Personally, I can tell you that his book has changed a lot of my thinking and strategies, as well.

Obviously, Mark knows how to not only think like a CEO, but also how to sell to them and make tremendous profits, at the same time. Because of that insight, Mark is highly in-demand as a speaker and, obviously, why Oracle scooped him up to be a member of their team.

However, there is more to Mark than just helping sales professionals and executives meet and exceed their sales goals. He has climbed the Colorado 14ers (58 peaks in Colorado, 14,000 feet above sea level) and the Grand Canyon. Mark snowboards, competes in triathlons, serves on numerous boards, and plays the electric guitar. And, more importantly, he shares his wild life with his beautiful wife of 18 years and two equally beautiful little girls.

Mark is a leader who thinks like a leader who can talk and sell to other leaders and helps other people do the same. Since he gets into the “minds” of CEOs, let’s get into his mind.

Question 1: Many people who possess successful strategies, insights and secrets, oftentimes, don’t like to reveal that information. What drove you to divulge your secrets and put them in a book?

Ha, that’s very kind of you, but it’s not like this is really any big secret. I used these methodologies with great success and when I took over a leadership position, it was just natural for me to teach my team these methods too. The book really came after my success in teaching my sales team these techniques.

Question 2: Your book is like a crash course Harvard MBA program, yet it is easy to read, understand and implement. How were you able to simplify so many complex things like P&L statements, profit liquidity and so on?

Well, to be honest, I’m kind of a simple guy. People make these concepts – balance sheet, P&L, etc. The result is that most people only learn these concepts in a finance class and then forget them. If you take my methodology to heart – and understand the simplicity – you can then talk the language that executives speak. Like I say in the book, I like to summarize everything in a Clear, Concise, Compelling, C-Level, and CRAYON way – with the emphasis on the Crayon!

Question 3: In your book, you talk about becoming a “trusted advisor” to your client and his/her company. Does that give a salesperson or executive the edge over the competition?

I think so. I mean, I’m a professional salesperson and I hate salespeople. Now, a person who is there to help me, that’s a different story. And if you can establish this from the initial phone call, or first meeting, maybe by honing in on what their CEO is stressing to them – his strategy for instance – then you start getting his or her trust right away.

Question 4: How did you develop your Wall Street Selling Methodology™?

It really came about when I was doing some manufacturing consulting, and I had never been in a manufacturing plant before. I started talking metrics like inventory turns and days to the executive, and he responded. And just as importantly, it allowed me to explain things easier to him. For example, it took his factory 30 days to manufacture an item, but if they expedited it, it could go out in two days. So it really only had two days of work content in it. I put that idea in financial terms, showed him the value that he had ‘on the table’ as we say, and it really made it easier for everyone.

Question 5: In your opinion, what stops most sales people from selling to the C-suite and executives from selling to those above them?

I think that most salespeople are probably intimidated. The truth is…and I’m divulging a big sales secret here…the higher up you call, the less in the weeds the executive is. So if you are calling at a management level, he will ask you all sorts of questions about your product, service or whatever. How long will it take to get up and running? What types of infrastructure will I need? What type of training do I need to provide to people, etc.? The executive wants to know one thing: How much value is this going to bring me, and what is my risk? So if you can think like the CEO, you don’t have to understand the nuts and bolts of your product or solution. You simply align it – and what it is able to do – with his profit strategies. Bam! He is interested, and you do what no other sales guy does. So think about it…do you want to spend your time in meetings talking about the lowest level detail of your product or service, or do you want to talk results and get someone excited? That’s why I call high in an organization, and why I teach salespeople to do that.

Question 6 As an Oracle sales executive, has anyone ever tried to use your strategies on you?

I probably still get one or two emails a month saying, “Are you the guy who wrote this book?” I always get excited to hear about how “Think Like a CEO” has helped close deals, or move them along. And I get a lot of those types of emails.

Question 7: One segment of your book, “How to Learn Any Industry in 30 Minutes or Less” covers how to sell to the C-suite in a number of industries from airlines to restaurants to sports teams and beyond. Is that really possible?

That’s probably the easiest part of the methodology. Here’s a true story… I have a partner who several years ago got recruited over to McKinsey & Co. As he is telling the story, he says, “Mark, the first thing I packed from my office when I was moving was your book.” He then continues on the story. “So, at one of my first meetings, there are a number of partners and we are discussing a possible new client in an industry that none of us ‘operations guys’ are familiar with. I read four or five 10-K’s from the main players in the industry, and by the end of the meeting the other partners were looking at me as if I were the expert!”

Now, I found it hard to believe because all my partner did was to spend a little time reading through publicly available information, and probably doing a few calculations as he was going through it., which probably took him less than an hour.

In the book, we talk about how to do this, and where to find the information for all types of companies. For example, I am working a lot in the hospital industry now. Well, most all hospitals are not-for-profit companies. There are 7-8 publicly traded ones, so I simply teach the guys I work with to read through a few 10-K’s, and then show them how to find the IRS 990 Form, so that they can do a few quick calculations. (Revenue growth, operating margin, inventory days, etc.) Then, when you talk to your prospect, you say, “I did some research on your company. I pulled your IRS 990 Form. Can I ask you a few questions?” (I mean I love that – the IRS 990 Form. Nobody really knows what it is, and if they do, they don’t know where to find it, and even if they did, not a single salesperson ever brought it up to them.) Right there, you get credibility. And, oh, by the way, if you use some of the metrics like the book teaches, you will nail their problems right away. That’s unbelievable credibility!

Question 8: Writing a book is a daunting task. It takes an amazing amount of skill and time. How did you write your book?

The whole concept was a labor of love for me. I wrote it over four years, whenever I was traveling, and for the last year, late at night at home. Over a four year period I only read four books, and I’m a voracious reader. I did read over 3,000 annual reports, though! I would write on my business trips, and kept the television off and my computer screen on. One thing that kept me going was visualizing me on a plane one day, and looking over and seeing someone with my book. I would ask, “How do you like the book?” And in my vision they would say, “It sucks!” I mean, I had to keep it real to myself, right? But seriously, that kept me going.

The book itself is the thirteenth written copy. (I remember when I handed out my first copy, it was 250 single-sided pages. I printed it at Kinko’s and mailed to five or six friends.)

Once the book was pretty much done, I flew to New York and got into Book Expo America. I walked the floor for two days, until I found a publisher. So, now you know. If I can do this…anyone can!

Question 9: Successful people also need to be inspired. Do you have one favorite business or motivation book and is there any one person who has inspired you?

It sounds corny, but my father is my greatest inspiration. His father was a custodian at his high school, and he grew up poor in Texas. He worked his ass off, got a master’s degree and opportunity opened up for him. We moved to New York, and I remember him many an evening speaking into a tape recorder with a mouth full of marbles. I asked him why and he replied that he was practicing losing his “southern drawl.” It seems people in New York took that drawl to be less intelligent. As a young man seeing that, how can you not be impressed?

Question 10: Is there one thing you would say to a salesperson or executive who has not read your book as to why they should?

Ha! Anyone who knows me can answer this for you. I like to ask them if they like to eat steak or bologna. Because if they don’t want to try a new set of tools, to get some real useful strategies and methodologies that work – not fluff – well, you’d better get used to that bologna sandwich. In the uber competitive world of sales, if you are successful, you eat steak. If you aren’t you eat bologna. The Kuta family eats a lot of steak, I can tell you that!

Thank you Mark for the interview and for sharing your leadership and sales insights. To get your copy of “Think Like a CEO,” go to – http://www.thinklikeaceo.com/about.htm. Mark also has a unique audio book titled “Sell in the USA,” which is focused on helping those outside the US sell more effectively to the American market. Get “Sell in the USA” at – http://www.thinklikeaceo.com/index.html  or at Amazon or your local bookseller.

Recognized as an entertaining motivational speaker who speaks on increasing personal and professional development for clients worldwide, Bob Garner is the author of books as well as countless articles that have been featured in various magazines, blogs and sites.

©2014BobGarner. All rights reserved. Wall Street Selling Methodology ™ is a trademark of Mark Kuta Jr. 5 Minutes with a Leader™ is a trademark of Bob Garner. To use this article, you must first gain permission to do so in writing from Bob Garner. Contact him at http://www.bobgarneronline.com/contact.php .