How Jeremy Duggan, the man who helped build AppDynamics, learned to put on his game face
This is an excerpt from our “Legends” series, where we profile the top sales and marketing leaders around the world, digging deep into their formative experiences and lived lessons.
Jeremy Duggan got his big career break when he was passed over for a promotion. It was his first sales job and Duggan had quickly emerged as the top rep in his region. He was sure he’d be rewarded for his hard work and performance with a bigger role. Instead, his boss gave him some blunt feedback: He didn’t have what it takes to be a successful manager.
Duggan didn’t get upset. Instead, he focused on the reason he came up short, and then vowed never to let it hold him back again.
During a 25-year career in sales, Duggan has delivered on that determination. He helped turn software maker AppDynamics into an enterprise powerhouse that Cisco acquired for $3.7 billion. In addition to his six years there, which began in 2013, he’s been country and regional lead at several big software makers including Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC), BladeLogic, and BMC Software. He’s currently an advisor or investor in several startups, including MongoDB, Castore, People.ai, and DataRobot.
Today, Duggan is well-known among sales leads on both sides of the Atlantic for his ability to build high-performing sales organizations. At AppDynamics, where he ran the company’s entire line of sales and go-to-market initiatives in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Duggan helped the company grow from $23.6 million in revenue in the fiscal year ending January 2014 to a run rate of more $200 million when Cisco announced its acquisition of the software maker in January 2017—almost 10x growth in four years.
Just because you come from a working-class area or a school that’s not great doesn’t mean you can’t go and be a digital marketer at Google or a data analyst at Fujitsu and then have a route into the boardroom. I don’t think we’ve made that easy as a society, and that’s what we’re trying to do. So, if I can do that, that’s me putting something in, taking what I’ve learnt in the last 25 years and putting it to good use.”
Here are some of his keys to success:
- Duggan deploys a go-to-market sales strategy that’s predicated on three things: a super tight focus on recruiting, retention, and revenues, which he dubs the 3xRs. It means recruiting people who are intelligent and relish challenges. It means supporting them, hiring other A players as teammates, and creating an inspiring culture in order to retain them and keep them engaged. And lastly, it means building an assessment model based on historical data that measures individual and team success.
- “I’m the most introverted extrovert,” he says. But “I can’t be a great leader if I’m like that. I’ve got to go in a room and I’ve got to be enthusiastic and I’ve got to be passionate, and I am all those things. But it doesn’t come naturally to me.”
- Duggan’s decades of research into successful sales teams has shown him that attrition levels in IT software sales tend to be around 30% to 33% a year. Investing more time in the hiring process to make sure he finds the right people allows him to scale a company quickly, he says, because “I’m not constantly replacing the mistakes I’ve made from the previous year.”
- To spot the mythical A player everyone wants to hire, Duggan looks for two things: intelligence and character. “Someone’s intelligent or they’re not—you can’t coax somebody to be intelligent,” he says. “Character evolves as you grow up. Your parents help give you honor and integrity and loyalty and a work ethic and determination and sense of humor. I can’t give you that.”