Even in the scrappy world of sales, few thought leaders have had as humble a start as Teejay Salazar. A native of Manila, Salazar worked for years in a call center that required him to travel two hours to work each way. Like most young men in the city, he faced a Catch-22: he didn’t have his own vehicle and the cost of transportation prevented him from saving any money.
Several years ago, however, Salazar was hired by HR disruptor Cyberbacker, which pairs American clients with virtual assistants from anywhere in the world. Though Salazar had never worked online before, Cyberbacker’s founder, Craig Goodliffe, was so impressed with his high-energy, optimistic personality that the young Filipino was quickly promoted to “growthbacker” — a position that oversees signing up new clients. Salazar was secretly terrified of moving into sales; after all, if he missed his quotas, he’d be fired and worse off than before.
Today, Salazar is an important part of Cyberbacker’s stunning growth story, one that includes paying its staff over $1 million dollars in profit-sharing. “In retrospect, the call center experience turned out to be the perfect on-ramp for sales. Dealing with different types of clients in the call center industry really helped me sell,” he says. “Customer service was my forte before. I would have conversations with irate clients and happy clients alike, which taught me people skills. AlI I had to do differently in sales was make the client understand what a valuable service we provide.”
Salazar now works from home; the 20 hours a week spent on his commute to the call center office is now spent with his family, instead, and the money spent on fares has been saved. “Working from home is an amazing environment,” Salazar says. “In sales, it’s important to be somewhere that you feel comfortable. When clients are giving different objections, you’re more likely to overcome them if they sense your calm.”
But the motivation to help others like himself has also been a factor in Salazar’s success. “The sales environment is very competitive, but we are a team and I would call it a healthy competition,” he says. “That’s another key to success — we hit our goals as a team. The pressure is always there, but we know that we’re all in it together. Our CEO is always saying, ‘No pressure, no diamonds.’ To succeed in sales, you need pressure, but also purpose.”
Salazar calls Cyberbacker’s founder Goodliffe “the master.” Before starting Cyberbacker, Goodliffe was a top broker at Keller Williams, a large real estate brokerage. The inspiration for Cyberbacker came from wanting to make his real estate practice more productive while protecting its profitability. Like many Americans, Goodliffe had more work than hours available in the day. Meanwhile, the Philippines had more young workers than jobs, many of whom already spoke fluent English.
“The question that Craig taught me to ask is ‘how?’,” Salazar recalls. “Every one of our clients wants to grow their business, just like Craig built his real estate brokerage. So, we ask ourselves, ‘What’s stopping them from doubling, tripling or even quadrupling their business?’ To be effective salespeople, we need to learn about our customers’ obstacles, and then provide the solution.”
Though Salazar handled up to 150 clients at a time as a Growthbacker, the salesperson at Cyberbacker, he believes that a successful organization should be purpose-driven, not volume- or money-driven. “When you start working, you care more about the salary and how easy the job will be, but you need a purpose. Once you know that you will do everything you can to get the job done, everything else will follow,” he adds.
It helped that, by the time Salazar joined Cyberbacker, Goodliffe had already laid out four purpose points: relationships, growth, fun, wealth.
“We build great relationships with great people,” Salazar remarks. “We have fun, we do disruptions and pranks, but we have fun with our clients, too. And the excitement of getting clients signed with a Cyberbacker is an amazing feeling; making the sale and then seeing people happy with their Cyberbacker, and watching the company grow fast — that’s fulfilling.”
Although Salazar says he is now making “awesome money,” he adds that there’s a reason salespeople do well: they have to work hard for the rewards. Thanks to long hours, he and his wife own their own car as well as a house, and are currently working towards getting their visas approved in the United States to continue to travel and grow Cyberbacker. His purpose now is helping his other Growthbackers become better sales leaders.
One of his favorite sales tools is the contest, a hallmark of Cyberbacker’s friendly competition principle. “Right now, the Growthbacker who has the highest sales of the year will get a trip to the United States,” he says, “we have monthly, quarterly, and yearly top Growthbacker awards. It’s all about incentives and motivation.”
Indeed, sales and motivation are important, but sales is also about keeping people happy. Even in a developing economy like the Philippines, retaining the best salespeople is never easy. Cyberbacker has an innovative profit-sharing program, as well as other perks like “Cyber capital” bonuses and access to a health maintenance organization (HMO). In order to facilitate faster growth, the company is now franchising. Goodliffe is a believer in the entrepreneurial model he learned at Keller Williams, but rather than strike out on his own, Salazar will stay on in his sales role — the one he once feared.
“In five years,” he says, “I’ll be the chief of sales and we’ll have 10,000 members in the growth division alone. Thinking of all of the jobs we’ll create inspires me to keep pushing forward.”