"When every team member feels like the CEO of their book of business, that is a happy sales team." - Arvinder Gujral

Arvinder is Twitter’s Managing Director for Southeast Asia. He has over 22 years of experience in internet, media, telecom, tech consulting, and advertising. Before joining Twitter, he was with Aircel (an Indian Telco) and served in various roles (mobile/enterprise messaging, tech consulting) for over seven years while living in California (US).


Please tell us about your journey with Twitter as Managing Director, SEA?

Joining Twitter was serendipitous for me. They recruited me. I declined. So, in classic Bollywood love-story fashion, we got a happy ending! (laughs). In 2013, I became the first Twitter employee in India, essentially setting up the company’s operations there. For the next several years, I developed partnerships for Twitter across the Asia-Pacific region. Then, around three years ago, I moved to Singapore to be the Managing Director for Southeast Asia. 


How can you tell if it’s a happy sales culture?

The simplest way to distinguish between happy and unhappy sales culture is to look at who within the team has ownership. Are the team members drivers? Or are they participants following a leader who sets KPIs for them to achieve? Yes, there is always a revenue number that every sales team needs to hit. But individual contributors on the team need to own the revenue number. When you break it down to sub-team and individual levels, you need to ask, “Do individuals get to feel ownership? Do they think like drivers of their book of business?” When every team member feels like the CEO of their book of business, that is a happy sales team.


What about the teams that typically support sales?

No sales team works in isolation. You always rely on cross-functional team members to meet your objectives, so you need to align their goals with sales, or you will always struggle. The sales teams are happiest when individual contributors feel like drivers and people in support functions are fully aligned, sharing the same objectives, enthusiasm, and ambition as the sales team.


What is your view of the traditional “work hard, play hard” ethic in sales?

The “work hard, play hard” ethic is a thing of the past. We are no longer machines who just need to log more hours. You cannot measure a person’s success using out-of-date metrics. Today, we use “concept sales,” which means selling to people’s minds, appealing to their intelligence in relatable ways. Salespeople must bring mental equity to the table. It’s no longer sufficient just to say, “work hard, play hard.”


What’s your formula for driving to high performance in sales?

First, it’s given that every sales team wants to grow. So, you need to ask: “What is growth for you?” Is it a pure dollar number of the sales? Numbers of clients? Numbers of clients who move up a tier? And what is the external opportunity you are trying to grow? 

Second, what does the team stand for? A rallying cry is a great way to unify not just your sales team but cross-functional supporters as well. So, every year, I create a new hashtag. Its purpose is to unify the team, to create “muscle memory” around our goals.  

Third, every team has a growth equation. But you must connect the macro-level growth equation to individual contributors. It’s a way to make individual contributors feel they are part of the team. 

Number four, you need to create milestones. You can’t just say, “In five years, we will be doing X, Y, and Z.” How does that motivate people who have no intention of staying for five years? It’s okay to have long-term goals, but you also need shorter-term milestones that people can identify with and which are within their grasp to achieve.  

Finally, you need to define what it means to be a high-performing team. Everyone on the team, from top to bottom, needs to participate in that process. It is something we do every year in my organization.  


How do you solicit and manage feedback from your teams?

Twitter does formal global surveys that touch many facets of our organizations and leaders. I also do my own anonymous polling 2-3 times each year. My team gives me feedback; I collate it, analyze it, and present it back to the team. For me, both transparency and anonymity are essential. Too many leaders take feedback, digest it, and then nothing happens. 


How do you deliver feedback?

When giving feedback, you need to provide the good, the bad, and the context. For example, you say, “This was what you were trying to achieve. Here is what happened. This is what you could have done better.” So, instead of perceiving it as a personal attack, a person can take your feedback to improve. 


Learnings to share.

When you are planning, assume massive constraints and see what happens. Then, start evolving and iterate your plan as new opportunities arise and you obtain new resources. 

Another important aspect is patience. Depending on how your company is structured, you could be living by month or quarter. Salespeople tend to divide their lives by those periods. I think it’s important for salespeople to know it’s okay to lose revenues and opportunities if you have a longer view of the business book and what you are nurturing. I believe it’s essential to have a patient, long-term view of your book of business.

(The interview was conducted during the second half of 2020. It has been edited for brevity and clarity.)