In Dallas, Qualtrics Is Rapidly Building a New Enterprise Sales Team
Qualtrics recently invited us to their new sales office in Dallas (technically, a hair north of the city). What’s brewing? A team just barely a year old, bursting with energy, set to grow by more than 100 people in the next year. For this story, we spent a day in the office and interviewed four team members: Dannyele Wilson (Account Executive), Erik Katzen (Sales Engineer), Marissa Kelty (Account Executive) and Taylor Safford (Site Leader). Interested in working at Qualtrics? See job openings here or reach out to recruiter Natalie Cass at email@example.com.
Tell us about Qualtrics. What kind of problems do you solve, and what solutions does a sales representative sell?
Dannyele: We sell solutions that helps companies understand the vital signs of their business. There are three main use cases: employee insights, customer experience, and market research. Here in our Dallas office, we focus on market research and customer insights, so we talk to a lot of marketing directors, CMOs, and VPs of customer experience.
Marissa: We’re also focused geographically on the Eastern and Central time zones. Our Provo office focuses on all solutions — Market, Customer and Employee Insights — and our offices in Europe and Australia help cover global time zones.
What do you do differently than other sales teams? Do you have a defining philosophy?
Marissa: For me it’s the team selling environment. We are One Team. People jump on your calls all the time, even though they won’t be compensated. Team members ask “Hey, can you listen in and give me feedback? I’d like to know what you’d do different.” Our VP of sales, John, says, “You don’t get extra credit for closing a deal on your own.” That’s completely different than teams that say, “Hey, if you need help, ask for it.” We’re not butting heads. When you win, I win.
How do you create that kind of environment, where people are willing to hop on a call even though it won’t count towards their quota?
Taylor: I was actually trained by our CEO, Ryan. I would set up meetings with companies, and he would say, “We’re doing the meeting in my office. Let’s go.” I would literally take three or four pages of notes, memorize everything he said, and make it mine.
Ryan was so willing to jump in for absolutely everything. That’s when we were a much smaller company, but he still has the same mentality, and I think it’s trickled down to everyone. Company culture is critical. At Qualtrics, we have a “one-team” mentality. No matter what your role is, you’ve got to know our product and you’ve got to be able to jump in on meetings. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your role is — everyone always helps.
Marissa: One of the things we say is “never work a deal alone.” A lot of people think of sales as this dog-eat-dog world. It’s not like that here. For instance, I have someone in the Provo office giving referrals to me and he wants nothing from it. He’s not expecting referrals back; he just wants to see me succeed.
“One team” is one of your core values, right? It’s the “O” in “TACOS.” What do the other letters stand for?
Marissa: All in.
Dannyele: One team.
Marissa: Customer obsessed and scrappy. That’s almost in order!
Taylor: Transparency is the ultimate driver of the culture here. Everyone can see anyone’s numbers at any time. I can go in and see Dannyele’s weekly sales goals or Erik’s expenses. They can go in and see my paid leave. We can even see what the CEO is working on this week.
Dannyele: Everything is laid out. You know if anyone hit or missed their goals. You know how they’re doing on prospecting calls, how many meetings they set. You know everything about how everyone is doing throughout the sales process — that can be challenging for some people.
“We care about competence, not confidence.” — Taylor
Taylor: The point of transparency is to remove, or strive to remove, politics. We care about competence, not confidence. People with competence in a core area should be the ones who get promoted, not the people who are the best at talking themselves up. Part of this is that transparency illuminates poor promotion decisions. There’s really no room to say “I’m promoting based off my preference,” because everyone knows the numbers.
Why did you say yes to working at Qualtrics?
Dannyele: I heard about Qualtrics from a friend who said, “Qualtrics is really hard to get into. They only take five or six percent of applicants.” I thought, “I can do that.” Then, watching the video of Ryan, our CEO, give a tour of the headquarters, I became enthralled with the culture. I was like, “There’s snacks everywhere, the CEO has on a baseball hat, and there’s a golf cart in the foyer!” Plus, the interview process was awesome. You meet Taylor and you’re automatically like, “This is my best friend.” He has that effect on people.
“A friend said, ‘Qualtrics is really hard to get into. They only take five or six percent of applicants.’ I thought, ‘I can do that.’” — Dannyele
In the interview, when Taylor told me we get the week off from Christmas to New Year’s, I literally caught my breath. The previous Christmas, when I was at my last company, I could barely enjoy my time with my family because I was checking email every five minutes. Qualtrics believes employees are productive when we’re happy. You’re never a number here — you’re a human and the company cares about you.
Marissa: Being here in Dallas, building a new office — that was exciting to me. This office is like a startup within a startup. You have ownership of your own success here. If you have your head down every day and you’re doing good work, good things will come to you. I also really loved that Qualtrics is so family oriented.
What does “family-oriented culture” mean here?
Taylor: It’s both literal and figurative. You’ll see kids and families in the office on a regular basis, and also at all our events. It’s not even a question whether they’re invited. If my wife and kids aren’t at an event, someone’s going to ask, “Where’s the fam?” We have a vested interest in each other’s lives that goes far beyond, “Did you hit your quota?” Yeah that’s important, but it’s important to find success in all areas of life.
Marissa: The first Qualtrics event I ever came to, I didn’t bring my boyfriend. When I showed up everyone said, “We want to meet him! Where is he?” From that point forward, they told me, “You can bring your family, your boyfriend, friends, whoever.” Coming from college, in a sales program where you’re working with Fortune 500s, I’d never experienced that before.
We know we’ve got a boss in the room — looking at you, Taylor — but how would you all describe the leadership here?
Erik: Leadership defines the company’s vision, where the ship is headed. Our leaders aren’t the kind of people who sit back observing everyone. They’re in the trenches with us — hopping on sales calls, jumping through security documentation. A lot of them have had super, super successful careers. It’s very cool to watch how they navigate the end of a sales cycle where you have to ask a client to sign a check. They’re amazing at reading emotions. I’ve already picked up so much from watching the leaders here, but I still have a long way to go.
“Our leaders aren’t the kind of people who sit back. They’re in the trenches with us.” — Erik
Marissa: Instead of dictating what you should do, the leaders here actually lead you. They’re hands on, doing everything with you. They know exactly what frustrations you have and what you’re thinking coming out of a call, because they’re in the weeds with you.
What about you guys? What were you doing before Qualtrics?
Marissa: I like to say this is my first grown-up sales job out of college. I graduated from Baylor in December, then started at Qualtrics in January. I was part of the Baylor Professional Sales program, which focuses on professional selling and some aspects of marketing. Qualtrics seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring both those interests together.
Dannyele: This is my second job out of college. Before, I worked at a software company where I was able to move up pretty quickly.
Erik: I studied computer engineering in school, and my early jobs were more on the technical side. Then my previous company unveiled a new platform similar to Amazon Web Services. And they asked me to join as one of the first technical sales hires to help sell the product and build the team.
Taylor, we know it’s been a while for you. Do you remember what were you doing before Qualtrics?
Taylor: I’ve been with Qualtrics for eight and a half years — sorry guys, I know you’ve all heard this story before! I started my undergraduate degree in Finance with an emphasis in Statistics at the University of Texas, then transferred to University of Utah. I’m a bit of a math nerd. A semester prior to graduation, a high school buddy who knew I was looking for a job told me about this company some guy started in his basement. He kept saying “It’s legit!” I was thinking, “This definitely doesn’t sound legit, but I’ll check it out.”
I interviewed with one of the founders, and after 30 minutes he offered me a job in sales, which was the last thing I wanted to touch with a 10-foot pole. I was absolutely horrendous at sales my first year and a half. It was a really difficult time in my life. Seeing my buddies land gigs at Goldman Sachs and Pimco, or pursuing MBAs at Dartmouth—and there I was, turning down job offers to remain at a startup in Utah.
“Over the last five and a half years, my role has expanded seven times.” — Taylor
One day I called up a friend at Google, partially hoping he’d tell me to jump ship. Rather than listening to my latest qualms, he said, “Tell me what’s good about the company.” I told him, “We’re doubling in employee size and revenue every year. We’re profitable, which is unheard of in the tech space. We have a self-promotion path and a leadership team that genuinely cares about employees and is always accessible.”
When I finished, he told me, “You need to stay.” After that conversation, something clicked. I decided to go all in. That was a pivotal, career-defining moment for me. To be honest, though, I struggled just as much the next year — even though I was putting in more time and effort — but my third year was absolutely incredible. Things have taken off from there. Over the last five and a half years, my role has expanded seven times, I think. That’s a direct reflection on the company and the opportunity here at Qualtrics.
We’d love to hear about the nitty-gritty. What’s your day-to-day like?
Taylor: I get the coffee and the groceries. I mean, that’s a bit of a joke, but not really. I want to do every single thing I can to make sure every member of this team is successful. Whatever that takes, I’ll do it — including Costco runs.
We didn’t have a recruiter until three months ago, so I taught myself recruiting and sourcing. That was my focus for the first 15 months, along with many other things to help the team grow. I want to make sure everyone has the same opportunity that was in front of me eight and a half years ago.
Generally, though, my day involves jumping in on as many client-facing meetings as possible, training various employees, holding one-on-ones, and a lot of interviews.
How about you guys? What does an average day look like?
Dannyele: I’m able to plan out my own day. I get in around 8 a.m. and start making cold calls. We have meetings throughout the morning, then lunch, a break, and meetings again in the afternoon. Then I block out an hour and a half for more cold calls. If you don’t want to make cold calls, this job may not be for you.
Marissa: I second that.
Erik: My day is a little different. There’s so much variety in my role. Client calls are obviously a core activity. But I also build custom demonstrations for clients and work with the sales team when an opportunity is especially complex. In the midst of all that, it’s important for me to carve out time for personal development. Our engineering team is constantly updating the product; if you don’t stay on top of things, it’s easy to fall behind. Even if I go on vacation for a week and come back, there’s a new feature to learn.
OK, so we’re guessing your sales cycle varies. How long is it typically?
Dannyele: It could be as short as a week, or as long as six months. Before Qualtrics, I worked for a small software sales company, where it was more common to close a deal in a week or two. The range here keeps things interesting.
Erik: I’m in technical sales, so I’ll typically enter the sales cycle at a later stage. I specialize in developing customer experience programs where there are very specific requirements. The longer sales cycles are around six months.
We’re interested in where people go from here. The term “self-promotion” was tossed around earlier. What does that mean?
Dannyele: If you hit the quota of an account executive the level above you two quarters in a row, you automatically get promoted. That’s what I’m going after. In sales here, as an individual contributor, you move up through five levels and then can go one of two routes: leadership or enterprise sales. Personally, I’d like to go the team lead route. I really want to mentor people who are starting their careers as SDRs or entry-level sales reps. Depending on the track, you can make more money for yourself or provide a vision for other people.
Taylor: We really strive to promote from within. We would much rather promote Dannyele than hire someone from the outside.
Obviously Dallas isn’t an island. Can you tell me how this team impacts the rest of Qualtrics?
Erik: No matter how robust a product is, clients are always going to want and expect more. As they should. Sometimes that requires a custom configuration, or a new widget. The Dallas Sales team facilitates new product features by bringing client feedback to the engineering team. And the feedback cycle is constantly getting shorter. We’ll relay a feature request and the next thing we know, it’s in our product. Now future clients benefit, too. The fuel to this engine is the conversations that the Dallas Sales team is having on a daily basis.
What is the most challenging thing you’ve come up against in your role?
Dannyele: Qualtrics is useful to every company. That’s exciting because the addressable market is enormous, but it’s also challenging for Sales. I think it’s the best kind of challenge, though — it requires that you’re on your feet and able to pivot quickly.
At my previous job, I sold property management software, and I sold to only property managers. Here, you’ll be on the phone with a marketing director first, and your next call is with someone in product development, then someone in customer experience. You might be shifting from retail, to an airline, to a fitness company. We’re helping them solve similar problems, but our customers come from every corner of the business world.
“If you think education ends when you leave school, this role is not for you.” — Marissa
Marissa: Going off what Erik said, the sales engine brings feedback to engineering, who often changes our product by adding more features and functionality. The most challenging thing is knowing everything — in and out of the product. If you think education ends when you leave school, this role is not for you. Every day you’re learning and bringing your expertise to customer conversations. You’re in the position of a thought leader.
Taylor: At Qualtrics, I’ve never hit a plateau in learning, growing, and developing. I value that more than anything. Too often companies lure in talent with big paychecks, but limit them with glass ceilings. At Qualtrics, there’s always another challenge, more responsibility, more to take on.
Some of the best — and most challenging — advice I’ve received is, “Always find ways to be uncomfortable.” If you’re comfortable, you’re not necessarily growing or taking on challenges that stretch you. But if your environment is stretching you, if you’re sometimes uneasy, you’re going to look back on those moments and realize how much you grew. I would also bet that, alongside your personal growth, you made a significant impact in the role you held.
At Qualtrics, we’re used to doing hard things—that’s what makes us different.
Is there something you’re particularly proud to have accomplished since joining the team?
Erik: I’ve improved how I navigate complex conversations. I’m better at articulating my thoughts now, but some of the reps blow me away. When I sit in on their calls, I know where they’re planning to go, but the way they get there is just magical.
Taylor: Erik, man, you need to stop being so humble. Erik received, like, a perfect SAT score, so the guy is brilliant. And he does way more than consult on projects. A couple months after joining the team, he started asking questions in our weekly one-on-ones: “What’s the biggest problem we face in the office? What are we doing to solve it?” He developed a six-month training curriculum for new hires — and not because anyone asked him to do it. He just decided one day, ‘I’m going to take on that challenge, I’m going to impact the company.’
Before we sat down, you were explaining how Qualtrics ended up in Dallas. It seems to say a lot about how you make decisions here. Mind explaining?
Taylor: Our headquarters is located in Provo, Utah, which they call “Silicon Slopes.” From a venture capital standpoint, companies in our region are raising the most money in the world. That’s causing a lot of competition for talent, and we have very aggressive growth goals.
To support that growth, we began searching for a second location. Data was key in our process. We evaluated over 20 cities and markets, and we looked at everything: education, city infrastructure, cost of living. We chose Dallas, and we love it.
When you look around Dallas, there’s an emerging tech scene that’s in the infancy stage. We’re really excited to establish this office and contribute to its growth. We chose far north Dallas also because of the data. After graduating from college, most folks live in uptown Dallas for a few years, then they move north where houses are more affordable, and the elementary schools tend to be better.
Final question. Why is this a good time to join Qualtrics’ Dallas team?
Taylor: One of our company mantras is “nail it, then scale it.” The Dallas Office is performing well, and as a result we’ll be growing aggressively across functions. Right now we have sales development, account executive, and enterprise teams in Dallas. The goal for this office is to establish and build out the sales team across all levels, as well as other supporting functions to help the sales team be successful. We’ll soon be adding a sales development team here, which is really exciting. We’re also working through decisions around introducing additional teams, which could mean we grow to 500 or more people from the 35 we have today. This could happen in as few as three years.
Dallas is the right place to make this happen, in part because there is a tremendous amount of talent in the surrounding area. Because of our training process, we can hire folks without a strong background in sales, introduce them to Qualtrics, our culture, and feel confident they will perform exceptionally well. Those folks without a background in sales will start in a sales development role, get trained on our product, and move onto our account executive team quickly. Other doors open from there. For the right people, I think that mobility, given our self promotion path, provides a unique opportunity to accelerate people’s careers.