Talk to a Tykling: we catch up with Mike Goerlich, Account Executive
Over the past few years, Tyk has grown from a side project to a global team effort, as the company provides more and more businesses with the cloud native, API-first gateway solutions they need to manage their operations efficiently and effectively.
This wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of a team of talented Tyklings, scattered around the planet but united by their passion to make things better. Each week, we talk to one of these Tyklings to find out what makes them tick.
This week, we sat down for a virtual coffee with experienced salesperson, Mike Goerlich. He shares his top tips with us, expounds on cooking as a form of meditation and tells us why your personality type can help decide if working remotely is for you.
What do you do at Tyk?
I’m a sales guy – part of the commercial team. It’s what I’ve done for the greater part of my professional life, and I think I’m not too bad at it! I go after new business; we all essentially make sure that we pull in enough money to feed the company.
How do you find leads?
Basically, there’s inbound and outbound. Outbounds are people we get in touch with. Inbounds are the people who approach Tyk directly, because they’d like to have something we have or indirectly, by signing up for a trial.
We reach out to prospects to help them ascertain what their requirements are. There’s a whole identification process – finding out who they are, what they’re doing, why are they looking at API management in general and what they hope to get out of the Tyk experience.
After identification, you move to the qualification phase, show them what could be on the horizon and hope that “something” you say will spark “something” in their minds. Then you’ve got that “something” to explore together.
API management is not quite a commodity yet but we’re moving into a space where there are 25 companies out there doing API management, so we need to distinguish Tyk. One of the things we do very well is the personal touch. Speaking to our customers and prospects, helping them find out what they actually want and need to do. We need to challenge them/their thought process at times; that often helps our customers find their way.
We don’t get anything out of just selling them something and hoping for the best – that doesn’t work for anyone. Tyk has a subscription-based offering, we depend on customers being happy and coming back year after year. If we give them the wrong impression, the wrong consulting advice or promise things that then don’t work, it’s simple – after a year, they’ll go away.
If there are more needs than simple requirements or architecture/processes questions, that’s where our technical whizz people jump in. We might need a deep-dive demo or a specific Tyk-based scenario, for example.
In essence, the commercial team gives our prospects that great Tyk experience so they can enjoy discovering how much better we are than our competitors!
I know you are based in Germany. Where do you like to work – home, office, coffee shop…?
Definitely not coffee shops, although I do go into coffee shops or pubs with customers to help them relax and feel comfortable talking to me. I like to work wherever my customers or my prospects are.
There’s nothing better than being able to speak with someone face to face to see what they are after. The personal touch is the big difference in whether someone will talk to you or not. That’s been so challenging in this pandemic, because when you do everything via a screen, you can’t see the nuances, or the body language and people can ignore you so easily! Sales has become even more challenging than it already was.
For the last 20 years, I’ve had a home office as I was travelling extensively; I didn’t want to have to go into the office as well – I preferred to work from home. It’s nice to go to an office to do specific things but it’s only ever been a day a week or two days a month that I would do that.
When the pandemic is over, will you travel as part of your role?
Definitely. I need to see some of the customers who’ve closed recently and personally say thank you. Sales and relationships become easier when you are actually looking your customers in the eye. Closing sales over the internet takes twice the amount of time compared to going to and talking with people in person. We’ve made the most of the screen and it hasn’t stopped us from selling but it hasn’t made the most of the commercial team’s potential.
If you had a magic wand and you could fix one thing about sales, what would it be?
Be honest. Be a bit more forthright.
I find that customers are not always very clear, whether on purpose or because they don’t know quite what they need.
My personal outlook is that every prospect that I talk to, I’ll always tell them that I will never lie to them. If you want to know something, I will tell you. This fits in with Tyk’s philosophy. Our differentiation is that because the people working at Tyk are fundamentally nice, we’re also nice towards other people.
Can you give me a potted history of your career before you joined Tyk?
I started out as a programmer on the mainframe for BMW back in the day and then I switched from the mainframe to the PC. I worked at the helpdesk and quickly saw that the future lay in automation and knowledge management.
I went into project work to make things easier and faster, then moved from the customer side to my first vendor when I pushed his project through the company quickly. I was a technical person at the time – a pre-sales engineer, a knowledge engineer, doing the actual work on the machines to prepare for demos and presentations. In the course of that work, I found that my story-telling abilities allowed me to use examples that the customer understood.
Learning how to manage a customer gave me the ability to know how to manage my own teams, with whom I’ve closed sales everywhere in the world.
Are there cultural considerations that come into play when closing sales in different places?
Yes, there are completely different approaches depending on where you are. In some countries, it’s really easy. You need a great PowerPoint, you need someone from the customer side who’s allowed to be enthusiastic, and you’ll be successful, because being curious is not punishable in terms of the corporate outlook. Staff can try things and if they don’t like it, they can throw it away and try something else. Budget is secondary.
However, in more conservative areas, things are very tightly regulated. Change is often seen as risky and therefore bad, and choosing a small vendor can be seen as a very big risk.
So, depending on the region and the size of a company, you sometimes have to work harder and sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do – it’s already been decided for you and against the wishes of the project team.
It’s all about risk management in people’s minds and that is the main difference.
The cultural differences are also there – whether you take people out for a beer or for a formal meal, or you give them a gift or not. But the amount of work has to do with the risk management of the person – what can he afford to do and to try in his company that will not result in impacting his career.
What do you love about working at Tyk?
I really enjoy the fact that Tyk allows me to do what I do best, which is sales. It allows me to play to my strengths. My weaknesses are also pointed out in a very nice manner and I can work on them.
The unlimited holiday is a great bonus but as a salesperson one can’t just be absent for four weeks. That’s the more difficult part! You try to be flexible and take holidays when your customers are away, which is Christmas, New Year, Easter and the summer.
No one at Tyk needs to justify time spent. As long as you’re reliable and you deliver what you say you’re going to deliver, it’s ok. You have the freedom to fit your tasks in when you have the time. For example, when the sun is shining, you just don’t want to sit in a room writing emails or code. Then just say you’ll be off for a couple of hours and there’s no question about that. It’s about autonomy and radical responsibility – if you can’t afford to do it, don’t do it, but if you can and you want to, then go ahead. That’s what we call having flexible hours!
What would your tips be for someone new coming to a remote-first company such as Tyk?
Not everybody is suited to work on their own. Some need the social contact, the coffee machine, the water cooler talk, etc. I used to smoke and my favourite time was going to the smoking areas and seeing people from different departments or on customer sites and just listening to the information exchange.
Working alone is highly stressful because you must motivate yourself to always give the best and at the same time you need to discipline yourself to stay away. That can be hard, but you should turn off notifications and get some down time.
It always depends on the personality of the potential Tykling and I’m not sure if you can always see that at an interview. You probably don’t want a typical extrovert for home-based roles.
People have to find out for themselves how they can handle being alone. I would say, if you don’t know if you’re cut out for it, just think about whether you could go on a vacation alone. Can you sit on a beach without speaking, without friends around you? Can you read a book, watch a show, look at nature and go for walks on your own? Can you be alone with yourself? If you can do that, then you can be a remote worker without a problem.
Is there a mistake you made earlier in your career and what did you learn from it?
Nowadays, I would call it the arrogance of youth. Mistakes I made were things I didn’t want to attribute to me – it was always everybody else. And what you learn over time is that honesty is not only external, it’s also internal. The more you think about yourself, take time to ponder, not necessarily about the ‘what if’, but more about what you could have done differently that would have helped. Never be afraid to try something slightly new!
Everyone’s got a strength that they always exhibit and the ability to use that strength to your advantage shows a certain passion. That passion shows the customers how deeply ingrained you are into this thing. But if it’s too much, they get upset with you, because then you become pushy. It’s a fine balancing act.
What’s important to you in terms of values?
The main thing is honesty. That is the absolute core of everything. If I talk nonsense, then I must start remembering who I’ve told what to… it’s just not worth it.
I think customers appreciate honesty, not just from the individual person but also from Tyk as a whole. Not everything is always shining and golden. It’s software. It breaks at times. It has bugs – we all know that. As long as our customers know we’re on it, they feel confident that they receive the best possible service.
If you were stuck on a desert island, which three books or podcasts would you take with you?
There’s no way in the world I’d take a podcast! I was an avid reader – I loved historical novels such as James Clavell’s Shogun and Tai-pan. I grew up in Asia, so I have a particular affinity to that type of thing. Also, Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth is historically fantastic. I always used to love those, as well as books by Alistair Maclean and Desmond Bagley – but nobody knows who they are anymore!
Recently, I’ve found I need time and mental rest to be able to consume books. With Covid, there’s so much going on, I’m stuck to the screen from morning to night. I just don’t want to read anymore.
So, my official answer would be, I like historical novels, but I haven’t read in quite a while.
You mentioned that you grew up in Asia. You live in Germany and you work for an English-speaking company. How many languages do you speak?
One of my advantages is that I am the only German speaker, so any customer who comes from Germany, I automatically get allocated to them.
Being born and raised in Asia, I’ve done a lot of business there in the past. I speak colloquial Cantonese – enough to get by – as well as a little bit of French.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I used to travel quite a bit, including going back to see my family in Hong Kong. My wife is from South Africa, so we also went there a lot.
Without the travelling, I enjoy gardening. I post photos of the things I’ve grown on our company Slack channel. My favourite pastime is cooking and I also share a lot of pictures on the company food channel. Cooking is almost like meditation – chopping, slicing, dicing, marinating… you don’t think about what you have to do tomorrow or next week, as you’re so focused. It’s a nice relaxing way of having a glass of wine or a bottle of beer as well.