Cambridge-based cybersecurity ‘unicorn’, Darktrace, was reported by mainstream media to be having its recent float ambitions potentially thwarted by scandal.
Last year, Forbes magazine exposed the allegedly unsettling approach to work of a key figure. One since sentenced to five years for white-collar fraud on an eye-watering scale elsewhere.
Under the title Skeletons in the Closet, you felt the reputational implications by the close association pointed out for hacker-detection-through-ML firm Darktrace were potentially requiring of address.
More recently, London-based broadsheet The Telegraph report a list of possibly dubious practices [subscription required].
Whatever the veracity of such allegations in this particular organisation – and let’s note that the aforementioned piece does contain a Darktrace spokesman denial of nefarious HR practice – there remains merit in highlighting the wider message for when such might rear their head in a sales culture.
For I have seen with my own eyes, and heard with my own ears, when they take hold in a sales office.
The outcome is horrendous.
I can never understand how the time and energy put into oppressive regimes had not been spent on proper, sustainable win-win process focus. For the effort of the former requires much more maintenance than the dedication of the latter. It is not only better to follow your collaborative solution-orientated formula, once in train, it is actually quicker and easier to both keep on track and develop further too.
In my view, the firms that twist arms the most to make the sale seldom if ever enjoy high customer delight marks.
They always put targets ahead of process. In classic flawed cart-before-horse thinking.
Just ask an Olympian athlete.
Anyway. Here’s one section from Forbes’ 2020 article for starters. It references the now convicted subject of the piece, currently seeking an appeal, who it is claimed was a Director with a Finance bias;
“Sales team members would also have to give [him] mock pitches, as if they were trying to hawk Darktrace’s artificial intelligence software to a real customer. Two ex-colleagues say he was an imposing figure in the room. “That was the part that they dreaded the most, that final pitch to him,” says one former sales employee.”
Well. Let’s disregard any behavioural inference. This is to my mind a task with best-practice written all over it.
If you have a product that you must sell to any formal budget holder, then to mock-pitch to your own such person is surely a winning part of any ongoing training.
Things elsewhere though take a darker turn.
One word that repeats is “aggressive”. Very much so.
Nobody likes an aggressive rep. Assertive, with a smile, is fine. Hostile is certainly not.
Strangely, there is little meat on these allegations.
Spamming a prospect with fifty different LinkedIn requests is just plain silly.
Yet does perhaps give insight into how the salesteam was programmed.
Whilst one industry exec is quoted as noting “extremely sharp” sales practices, none appear to illustrate.
Happily there may be light out of the darkness. Any internal undue Sales influence may well have ceased back in 2018. As reported;
A spokesman for Darktrace said the company’s global head of sales, Katie Newton, had worked to create a “different kind of sales culture at Darktrace: she has worked to foster a sense of ambition and drive but crucially, one where collaboration is key”.
If this means that acknowledgment of any shadier side of the profession has allowed for a redraw of direction, then all the better. One for which you wish well. And note that the FT [subscription req’d] they have “proper technology” behind them.
How does your sales culture compare?