Episode 7: It’s All About Networking | Victor Karpenko

In this episode, we sit down with the multi-talented Victor Karpenko, and this conversation takes a slightly different look at sales from an athlete’s perspective. Read JR’s takeaways from this discussion, and tune into the podcast for all the details. Victor Karpenko is the Channel Sales Manager at Five9, a cloud-based contact center software solutions provider. Before that, he played football and ran track in high school before going on to Cal State-Chico where he excelled as a sprinter and in rugby. He’s also an accomplished powerlifter. The words “strong” and “fast” barely begin to describe Victor.

Subjective vs. Objective

Victor’s a humble guy, but you can’t debate “strong” and “fast.” Numbers don’t lie. Victor’s background in both team and individual sports gives him a unique perspective on both sports and sales. He remembers being told he was fast in high school, being asked to join some relay teams. At that point, he believed he was strong and fast because that’s what people told him. But numbers don’t lie. Individual sports are far more objective than team sports. The clock doesn’t lie. The fastest person is the fastest person, and the fastest person wins. In team sports, it’s a different dynamic. Everyone has an opportunity to play, but not everyone gets the opportunity—in other words, subjectivity (opinion and bias) plays into who is on the field, ice, or court. Being involved in both has shown Victor the best and worst of each, lessons that he carries to this day.

You vs. You

I had to ask. Which did he like better, team or individual sports? While Victor is still involved in both to this day, Victor prefers the black-and-white, cut-and-dried nature of individual sports. Instead of dealing with distractions that can creep into team sports (things like favoritism), in individual sports, you have ownership and accountability—it’s all on you to put yourself in a position to succeed. In individual sports, it’s you v you, and Victor thrives in that environment. In sprint events, the race is so short that there’s little time for course correction if something goes wrong. One-tenth of one second is 10 feet of track—relinquish it and the race is over for you. In team sports, you have a whole game to adjust, re-group, adjust your game plan, make subs, or whatever else you need to do. It takes a different kind of discipline and regimen to be successful in individual sports—one that Victor will tell you is not as fun. Team sports win in the “fun” category hands down mainly due to the sheer variety of people and training and social activity involved. Track offers a sense of “team,” but it’s different when you compete individually.

Eyes on the Prize

As a senior in high school, Victor made it to the conference finals and the state meet. There are a lot of people and hence a lot of athletes in the Bay Area, so standing out in that pool of talent was a huge accomplishment in and of itself. But what really made it special for Victor was that qualifying for these meets was the goal he set as his target, the thing he strove for continuously. Seeing his goals play out the way he planned was extremely gratifying to Victor—and thus why he views this as his biggest athletic accomplishment.

Professional Goals

Victor will be the first to tell you how hard transitioning from student-athlete to working professional is. First of all, you have to get from one place to another. This is where a mentor and/or a network comes in handy. Set yourself up for success when you’re still in school. Lay down some stepping stones. Ultimately, networking Victor landed a job at a gym—and this was where he learned to sell. He was continually selling memberships, personal training, and supplements…and he was successful. But he didn’t see himself and his future in the gym world, so he set his sights elsewhere. Despite some initial challenges upon being labeled a “retail guy,” Victor kept pushing for the sole reason that he knew he could do it. And he did.

3 Tips for Making the Transition

  1. Talk about yourself. Athletes are trained to be humble. Forget that. Talk about your athletic accomplishments. Tell the hiring manager what you did and how you made it. Show that you are driven, organized, and capable of meeting goals. Don’t minimize your experience and accomplishments.
  2. Sell them on you, on why you. Tell a compelling story about how you can help them and their customers solve problems. Highlight your coachability, your commitment outside of practice, and your willingness to assume responsibility. Translate your experience into outcomes.
  3. Close on the interviews. Push a little. Ask what’s next.
Listen to the podcast to hear more about Victor’s transition, what makes him elite, and what qualities he thinks makes someone a true sales pro.

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