Leading Through Change: A Dialogue on Adapting Sales and Marketing Strategies

By Jen Whalen & Claire Pockell-Wilson

At this point, most of us have probably heard about the adjustments everyone has had to make in order to be more effective in a forced work-from-home setting. Managing calendars and conference calls while quieting barking dogs, making lunch for the kids, or dealing with bandwidth issues are all part of our “new normal.” But these insights into who we are at home play an important role in how we’re shaping business strategies and, in some cases, are fundamentally changing the way we approach sales and marketing. 

Last month, Salesforce, a sponsor of Women in Revenue, approached our team with an idea to bring a group of Sales Leaders together for a month-long engagement. During this time, 9 women in Sales and Marketing leadership roles would answer a few surveys and come together for a virtual, guided conversation, moderated by Nina Sommerville, SVP, Commercial Cloud Sales at Salesforce. 

The objective was to foster a Leading Through Change dialogue, ensuring we pinpoint key concerns and themes in an effort to truly understand what the new day-to-day is like and how sales teams can begin to recover and grow their business.

Here are 5 key takeaways:

1. Sellers are leading with empathy

More than ever, Sales and Marketing leaders are changing their messaging and tactics to fit for growth companies. They know that many of these organizations are not clear on what the future holds and how they will move forward. Because of this, it is increasingly important for sellers and customer success managers to ask customers and prospects how they can be helpful and add the most value. 

2. There’s more focus on a buyer-centric mutual action plan

Instead of moving through the sales cycle as they normally would, sellers are structuring the conversation around their buyer’s pain points, and are recommending and positioning their product(s) accordingly. In most cases, buyers are highly scrutinizing the need for new products or solutions, so sellers must quickly “read the need.” Additionally, changes in the approval process signal the need to sell not only to the end-user, but also 2 desks higher than usual as these stakeholders – the CIO, CFO, etc – play an important role in addressing needs more globally across their sales, marketing, and operations teams.

3. The changing needs of organizations means nothing is certain

It’s obvious that every organization has been impacted by COVID-19. Because of this, many companies are reevaluating their tools and systems to ensure value not only today but for years to come. Customer success managers are asking their clients how they can provide more value, and strategically asking for early renewals to secure funding. Assuming the state of both your customer’s business and your relationship with that customer is healthy, asking for early renewal is a no-brainer. If they agree, you’ll know your product, service, or solution adds incredible value to their business. Cutting through to the ask is also important; spend less time prospecting and/or negotiating and more on asking the right questions to evaluate if the prospect is a serious buyer.

4. Sellers are focusing on the post-signature game plan earlier

For sales teams, the goal is not only around getting a signature on the contract, but rather about driving long-term value. Because of this, sellers should focus heavily on reducing customer attrition by helping current customers get the most value from the tools they already have, plus setting them up for success for any new technology they onboard. This also means approaching and talking with prospects as if they are already a client; ask the hard questions earlier, get the bottom of why they would benefit from your product or service, and present a clear post-signature plan for how you’ll continue to help them grow their business.

5. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable

As we all begin to find our groove within the current business climate, we should shift our focus away from what we’ve done thus far to adapt and towards what we need to do to thrive. Organizations are ruthlessly prioritizing and pivoting to address the new needs of their clients and, while these shifts are not necessarily comfortable, they will be vital to future growth. As sellers, and as marketers, we can help our customers embrace the unknown by offering partnership and guidance, rooted in a trusted, value-exchange driven relationship.

While these strategies may be somewhat intuitive to most sales leaders, ensuring we’re focused on tracking the way our customers are pivoting and reevaluating their strategies is critical to our own recovery and growth. As time goes on, we’ll find more ways to be in lockstep with our customers in a way that serves both sides of the business agreement. Until then, let’s continue to have these open-ended conversations, share best practices, celebrate the small wins, connect through authenticity, and focus on what works. 

If you’re interested in joining our next phase of the “Revenue Community Conversation” with Salesforce, please reach out to Jen Whalen, Director of Product Marketing and Trailblazer Programs at Salesforce.  

Member Nadine Nana on her journey into B2B Marketing, how she set herself apart and advice for fellow BIPOC women in revenue

By Nadine Nana, Marketing Technology Consultant

Let’s start by saying, “humble beginning” is not enough to describe the early years of my life. I was raised in the slums of Africa. My family did not have access to electricity until I was 7 years old. We were the first in my neighborhood to have a TV when I was 13 and moved out of slums when I was 16. I graduated from high school knowing what a computer was but without ever seeing one.

I was introduced to B2B marketing technology 2 years after graduating with my MS in applied economics. I was hired to manage data and analytics for a start-up company who had no database. Because of my background with data, that was a greenfield opportunity for me. Over the next 2 years, I worked tirelessly to create the company data model, integrate different data sources, and support the implementation of the marketing automation platform. I was still very shy, but building my expertise in the marketing tech stack meant I had something of value to contribute and when I spoke, people listened because I could see patterns in data no one could. I took several classes to build up my communication skills.

One of my bosses encouraged me to be more assertive and more visible, that is when I started to fully embrace my blackness unapologetically. Learning to be candid with others (not trying to sugar coat things) made me a lot of friends and some few enemies. I would setup bold quarterly goals and use data to track our progress against them. I added value to others by providing them with insights so they could make better business decisions. 

I implemented marketing programs and built sustainable processes that made my employer a lot of money. I built a training program to enable other people in the company to learn how to use marketing technologies and understand marketing data. I travelled in Europe and Asia to train internal teams on MarTech and met with a lot of other minority women who were working in the mobile technology industry that were facing the same issues as I was.

I went on to develop a Demand Generation and Marketing Operations function at a SaaS company in North East. For 2.5 years, I had to battle my way through cultural biases and male chauvinism. I was the only black at the leadership level and the only female on the revenue operations and technology and infrastructure council. But if I learned anything about where I come from and some of the female role models I admire,  it is to not be apologetic about who you are and to not devalue yourself to fit in with “the guys”. In that role, I learned a good deal about leadership. One can be an expert in a topic or an area but unless they learn how to influence others and use their problem-solving abilities to add value to others, that expertise will always be overlooked. This is one of the reasons it is a lot harder for engineers to be good managers or leaders. They simply focus on their area of expertise and sometimes overlook the big picture.

To be successful in B2B marketing, one must constantly be learning about market trend and new tools and systems. When I managed to align the sales and marketing team on goals and KPIs using the demand waterfall process developed by Sirius Decisions, I felt like a superwoman. I implemented some other new cool and fun marketing technologies too. It is not always fun to be in B2B marketing because the goals are measurable and just like in sales when the goals are not met, it is obvious to everyone. There is a little left to subjectivity in B2B marketing.

My experience working in B2B was the catalyst for me to start a consulting business. I help small and mostly not -for-profit companies navigate the digital landscape through ROI oriented marketing operations processes and technology support. As a marketing automation/technology consultant I design, integrate and optimize processes across technology platforms to deliver better customer experiences – at the same time making sure that the right information is being captured, and use effective campaigns to nurture prospects and consumers.

Here is some advice based on my own experience women of color need to do to survive and thrive in B2B marketing:

  • Data is your best friend – a lot of us are still weighted down by stereotypes, girls are good at literature and boys are good at math, even though there are more females who are graduating in the STEM field. At some point we doubt ourselves and lose confidence in our abilities, even when we have a diploma that shows we are good at the subject.
  • Know your craft and know it well, and do not be afraid to show off. Assume you always have 2 strikes against you before a meeting even starts. A woman and a minority – double whammy. Do not be afraid to ask questions, especially “Why?”
  • Connect with other women, they do not necessarily need to be in the same field or at the same level as you. Building a network of people you can rely on for shared experience is critical. There are several B2B marketing networking groups with some good programs to help woman become a more effective B2B marketer.
  • If you feel that your skills are lacking, take some training online. There are a lot of resources nowadays on B2B marketing from setting goals, developing, and deploying campaigns and measuring.
  • Use your skills for social good or to help a not-for-profit. I find volunteering very fulfilling. It balances out the negativity of the corporate world and gives a sense purpose and boost of confidence. Also, we get a lot more from mentoring the younger generation. The new generation is bolder than we were at that age and are focusing less on being perfect than to be fully represented.
  • Stay true to yourself.  Know that you cannot win all the battles, but always look at the big picture.

The best part about being a B2B marketer is the constant learning opportunities. We are always trying new things, testing, adjusting, investing in what works and discarding what does not. It is a constantly evolving field.

Articulating Your Value and Evaluating Your Personal Brand

As part of the Women in Revenue mentorship community, peers gather to discuss common obstacles and questions they have on their career journey. In a huddle led by Sydney Sloan, a few members collaborated and discussed the importance of personal brand as a quick way to kick start their career journey or evaluate how they’re progressing. The content below is based on materials and recommendations from Sydney Sloan’s session. Thank you again, Sydney, for leading this group and providing great advice for the Women in Revenue community!

While you may not notice its importance until you switch jobs or roles, being able to articulate your value goes beyond your current role. It’s a part of your personal brand. Your personal brand allows you to assess what makes you different, know your key audience (and how to assess their perception), and can help you rise above imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome is a key hurdle for many when assessing their career path or looking to make a change. Yet, you can tackle this fear by analyzing your accomplishments and gaining confidence in what unique qualities you bring to a job or to your industry. 

Take the first step by assessing your current brand elements to gain confidence in what makes you unique and be able to articulate your strengths in your current role or as you look to make a change in your career. 

Assessing your brand elements can be done a variety of ways, but we recommend looking at the following.  

Categorizing your brand elements:

Have you done a SWOT analysis to understand your current strengths and where you may have room for growth? Conduct a SWOT analysis to understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for growth, and what threatens your personal brand today. 

Starting with a SWOT analysis before building your brand promise allows you to balance your known strengths with how your personal brand could lead to more growth or opportunities in the future. You start by understanding what unique qualities you bring to your organization, industry, and network. Where do you find these qualities could grow further and what threatens the growth or communication of your personal brand today? Digging into your threats isn’t about comparing your brand to your peers or mentors. It allows you to understand what factors, both external and internal, are impacting your ability to bring your brand forward, integrate your personal brand with your ambitions, and apply your brand to your current role. This analysis keeps you focused on the most important elements of your brand in all career activities. 

Promoting your niche qualities:

Similar to writing a personalized cover letter or working collaboratively with your peers, promoting your niche brand elements is about applying parts of your SWOT analysis based off your brand audience. Standing out is a balance of knowing your strengths and aligning to the ideal audience – whether that’s peers, organizational leaders, industry contacts or as part of introductions as you expand your network. 

How do you stand out? We have the ability to promote ourselves in an organization, via social networks, or other interactive activities. Yet pitching your brand requires knowing about the people that are listening – the people that will engage with you and whose perception impacts your ability to drive your brand forward. To promote your niche brand elements, start by aligning your personal brand with where you want to go next (think about the opportunities in your SWOT analysis) – what kind of people could help you get there and how do you present your brand to drive more engagement and foster more connections? 

Conquering imposter syndrome with your brand elements:

When you wrote out your threats – what internal factors are impacting your personal brand? More often than not, women at all levels are caught in imposter syndrome – believing that they don’t fit into a role or deserve the recognition for their accomplishments. Conducting this initial brand assessment allows you to look at the different internal factors impacting your personal brand’s growth and start evaluating what is in your control and what accomplishments illustrate your success in different areas. 

Developing a continuous process to evaluate your brand:

This process may require additional analysis and is only one step in a longer path to developing your personal brand. As part of the Women in Revenue community, we’ll regularly post resources and content to help you to continue this path and apply it to your career journey.

If you found this intro to personal brand valuable or you want more support overcoming imposter syndrome, the Mentorship Community is a great opportunity to learn from others across sales and marketing and connect to leaders that have been where you are today. Join the mentorship community to kickstart your personal brand assessment and connect with others. You can also check out upcoming events for Women in Revenue community members and the public via our website. 

Written by: Tabitha Adams

The Imposter Syndrome Cure

Have you ever found yourself exhausted and overwhelmed because you constantly feel the need to prove yourself? To prove that you deserve your job, position, your seat at the table? If you have, you’re not crazy, you’re experiencing imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is detrimental to your success because it has you focus on getting outside approval rather than doing the job at hand. Two very different things. 

Imposter syndrome is defined as “not feeling successful despite evidence to the contrary” I believe this definition misses the mark. I’m an executive coach who specializes in helping women overcome their imposter syndrome and get to a point where they KNOW that they deserve their success. In working with my clients, and speaking with women in all kinds of industries, I’ve found that imposter syndrome is far more common than we think. Yes, those who suffer tend to overlook their successes, and they also tend to struggle with feeling worthy, and needing to prove themselves. Over 70% of women say that they have struggled with these beliefs in the course of their professional lives (Young, 2011). 

Imposter syndrome isn’t a constant state- many of my clients find themselves feeling strong and capable one moment, and then like a fraud in the next. The rollercoaster can be exhausting, but the good news is that there’s a fix. 

Have hope that you can overcome this by learning skills to redirect your brain when it veers towards the imposter syndrome rollercoaster. This is one of my favorite exercises to do with clients:

You’ll need: A sheet of paper and a pen.

  1. Write down ten accomplishments. (Each one needs to have meaning to you and evoke a sense of accomplishment and pride.)
  2. Carry this list around with you. You can fold it up and put it in your wallet or copy it out in the notes section of your phone- wherever it will be easily available to you at all times. 
  3. Read this list every day. Make it part of your morning ritual, or the thing you read before you eat lunch- even better, rewrite it to yourself in an email every day.
  4. When your brain starts doubting you, pull out this list and read it again
  5. Think of it as your own personal set of affirmations. 

I’ve had clients scoff at the ease of this exercise until they’ve practiced it a few times and see how impactful it is, so please try it for a week and see for yourself.  How you speak to yourself matters. You are also your closest companion throughout the day. Would you speak down to your best friend the way you speak to yourself, or would you remind her of how deserving and capable she is? You have the power to change your thought pattern, your narrative, and how you feel.

Here’s the truth that often gets left out. There’s no forever fix to imposter syndrome, it will always find a way to resurface. We’d all like to be confident 100% of the time, but that’s not how it works, which is why I call myself, and the women I work with, “Recovering Imposters”. Armed with the right skills and tools, and with a regular practice, you’ll be able to redirect your thoughts from the normal Imposter track to the “I got this” track. How would that feel?

Written by Anna Hayes-Harless, The Imposter Syndrome Coach.

Guest Q&A with Jen Grant On Her Journey To Become CEO of Turbo Systems

Jen Grant was just appointed as CEO of Turbo Systems. To celebrate her success and share insights with Women in Revenue members, here is her journey. With Guest Interviewer: Luann Abrams, Founder CEOX, Partner with Women in Revenue.

QUESTION: Congratulations on your appointment as CEO of Turbo Systems, tell us about some highlights of your journey that got you here?

ANSWER: I spent the last 20 years building companies from the ground-up and taking multiple companies to over a billion dollar valuation. As CMO, I led Looker’s marketing until the 2.6B acquisition by Google in 2019, led the rebrand of Elastic and built the team that took the company public for 2.4B in 2018, and grew Box from a small start-up to an industry-leading enterprise content company with a 1.7B IPO in 2015. I’d say some of my favorite moments were the first Box billboard “Box vs. Sharepoint: Sharing should be simple” as well as developing, launching and MC-ing Boxworks and JOIN, keystone customer conferences for Box and Looker respectively. I was also instrumental in creating the culture at both Box and Looker by bringing everyone together to create company values that were fun, inspiring and authentic. And, even after all these years, those values are still there and still a part of those cultures. 

QUESTION: What are some of the goals you have for Turbo Systems now that you have taken the lead? 

ANSWER: This year my main goal is to build a repeatable go-to-market engine. We have seen that our mobile app for field service is a hit, and now it’s up to us to get the word out, share this product with as many companies as possible and show how we can continue to successfully deploy customers at scale. We’ve got 30 customers today and are in the hands of hundreds of field technicians. I’d like to get hundreds of customers and thousands of technicians. At the same time, I’d like to explore other common pain points that Turbo could solve.  Many companies are paying a lot for software and only using 15% of the functionality. Turbo makes it easy to create an app that molds to exactly what you need without all the extra functionality and cost of traditional software solutions. Especially in this time of crisis, companies can’t continue paying as much for software and must look at how they can cut costs and preserve jobs. Turbo can help, so we want to make sure everyone knows about that. 

QUESTION: What about your skills, abilities and experience made you the perfect candidate for Turbo Systems CEO?

ANSWER: Turbo Systems was founded by Hari Subramanian who is a brilliant product and engineering leader. He spent 15 years building ServiceMax as co-founder and CTO and deeply understands field service companies and what they need. I bring 20 years of experience in building marketing, sales and customer success engines at some of the most recent unicorn successes. In all of my companies I have been behind building the culture, values and strategy that ultimately drove each of them to a successful outcome. The partnership between Hari and I is the perfect fit of skills that we need to make the next billion dollar company. 

QUESTION: How do you envision building a diverse team at Turbo Systems, especially in the highly undiverse departments like sales?

ANSWER: Building a diverse team is very important to me and I was drawn to Turbo in some part because the team is already quite diverse. I was very happy that our first sales rep was a woman and a Latina. The US team is two-thirds people of color and I’m hopeful we can continue this trend as much as possible. But it won’t be easy to maintain that ratio, so we will need to be deliberate in our hiring process and make sure we are considering a diverse panel of candidates when we hire. From what I’ve seen in previous companies, taking the time to field a diverse group of candidates (and avoiding the “opportunistic hire!”) can make a very big difference. 

QUESTION: You have joined the company at an incredibly unique time in history amidst a global pandemic. What are you doing to help your company get through this challenging time and what advice would you give to others?

ANSWER: I’m thinking about it in three ways: 

First, part of my role is to check-in with my team and keep asking “how are you doing?” and “are you OK?” to make sure everyone is staying healthy and sane. At Turbo we’ve started weekly Appy Hours to just see each other on video, toast whatever success we’ve had that week, and share funny stories about how we’re doing with our pets and kids running around in the background. 

Second, I look for ways we can get back to the kind of productivity we had when we were all together. What tools do we need? Sometimes it’s a daily “stand-up” meeting where we quickly check-in, sometimes it’s just a few updates, sometimes it’s a fun brainstorm, but either way we’re trying to replicate the hallway conversations that we used to have in the office. Sometimes it’s literally a tool. We’re currently exploring how we can replicate sharing a whiteboard as we brainstorm solutions. Lots of different tools, iPads, Apple Pens, and there isn’t yet a stellar solution, but I’m sure it’s out there!

Third, I am asking the team to think about how we can help our customers and the small and medium sized businesses we serve. We know these companies are looking at their bottom line and wondering why they are paying so much for software. We’re offering 3 free months of Turbo to help: in just a week we’ll help build an app tailored to exactly what their company needs without spending a dime, then they can turn off the expensive software and save money. We’ve also built a safety checklist app that makes it easier for their field technicians to do their jobs with the confidence that they are protecting themselves. I’m sure there is more we can do, so we are continuing to brainstorm how to help. 

QUESTION: With only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs female, what do you think will need to change to improve these figures?

ANSWER: Women need to pull each other up. That’s what the Boys Club was right? It was the “opportunistic hire” of a friend and a “guy I know who’s great.”  While it would be lovely to say we can change decades of unconscious bias against women, it is unrealistic. Yes, there are some men that are wonderful (such as my husband) and some that are ‘woke’ to the realities of unconscious bias, but there’s no way we will change the perception of everyone. However, there are enough women in executive positions today that we can do this on our own. Those of us that are in these positions, we need to give a hand-up to other women. Give someone their first Director role when they are ready (and not 5 years later), fight for those women in your organization that deserve their VP promotion, notice when someone is struggling to move up and give them feedback that can help them succeed. And when you leave a role, pull someone up behind you. I was so thrilled that as I left Looker, there was an incredibly talented woman ready for her CMO role that could step right in my place. And, of course, organizations like Women in Revenue that bring us together, allow us to create our own networks of exceptional women leaders that we can use when we start to hire. It’s all doable and it’s all in our own control. 

QUESTION: At what point in your career did you start seeing yourself as a potential CEO? 

ANSWER: My mom might say it was very early that I started bossing everyone around! But in reality, for a woman, that’s a hard question to answer. There is so much internal struggle with accepting and asking for leadership roles. We are taught to be humble (at least in the 80s we were!) and so we sometimes don’t raise our hands enough for opportunities. It is also hard to even imagine yourself as a CEO, if there aren’t any women to look up to. I worked directly with CEOs for 15 years, helping them with their messaging, their vision and their big strategic presentations, but I always was in the background. I think at some point during those moments I would wonder, “why aren’t I on stage?” and it was then that I started to let go of my humble attitude and realized I was not only ready, but I had all the skills I needed.  

QUESTION: Did you have any advocates/sponsors who helped you achieve your career goals? 

ANSWER: There are so many people who have been there for me, it’s hard to point to just one (and harder to risk forgetting someone!). If I was forced to answer, first I would say the group of Box women that continue to be my friends, mentors, support group, and network of amazing business leaders. Second, I would say my husband. He gets to see those moments of weakness when I doubt myself or doubt what I’m doing. He tells me to repeat in my head: “I’m Jen “F-ing” Grant” when I’m feeling a bit less than myself and I’d have to say that it works in bringing me the confidence that I need.  

QUESTION: There are numerous leadership skills that women tend to score higher on than men (such as taking initiative, resilience, self-development, high integrity and honesty, Developing, inspiring and motivating others, building relationships) which do you think you excel at and how have you used them in your career? 

ANSWER: At my core, I am also most inspired by developing the people on my team. I can think of no greater joy than seeing someone grow from their first-job to being an executive. I’m often told that people love working for me because I let them do their work, cheering their successes, and giving them clear specific feedback on how they could do it better.  I am always looking for a person’s superpower. What do they do that is exceptional? Find that guiding light, and then give it room to grow, put them into projects to make it work for the company and for their career. 

QUESTION: You know that being a tech CEO is a rarity for a woman. Some women want to be known just as a CEO and others embrace being known as a “woman CEO.” Where do you fall on that continuum and why?

ANSWER: While it would be wonderful if a woman CEO was a normal thing, it’s just not the case today. And because of that, I have a responsibility to stand up and be counted. Does it mean an extra burden on me to speak more often and to talk about being a woman CEO? You bet it does. But I do it for all the women out there who need to see that it’s possible, and for all the men that need to see it too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “But there aren’t any women CEOs <insert Sales Reps, Engineers, etc.>” and it is just flat wrong. I believe I can help by being visible, so that is a burden I happily will bear. 

QUESTION: Women in Revenue ask each of our leaders, “What advice would you give your younger self?” and would love to hear what this would be for you?

ANSWER: I think earlier in my career I took everything so very seriously. There are always going to be aggressive people and those that want to push you down. But there’s no reason you have to let them get to you. Take a deep breath, avoid reacting, lean back and ask questions. Sip that latte, slow down the conversation, and even meditate when you get hot. Every time you stay calm while someone else gets aggressive, you win. 

Constructing Your Sales Success: Strategies for Women

The many sales challenges faced by men and women in sales roles are largely the same.

  • Difficulty getting through to buyers.
  • Not enough qualified leads in the pipeline.
  • Too much administrative work and not enough selling time.
  • Trying to keep competitors at bay.
  • Keeping sales skills sharp.
  • The rapid pace of change.
  • And more.

Selling in today’s 21st century environment is more challenging than ever. That means that our ability to transcend obstacles to success is as much about managing our beliefs, mindset and attitude, as it is about being highly skilled at the various aspects of the selling process.

I’ve written about the business case for women in sales many times.

Research supports that a strategic focus on diversity and inclusion positively impacts revenue, the customer experience and fosters cultures that are forward thinking and innovative.

Volumes have been written about bro cultures, women being held back, gaps in pay. All truths that have merit. There is no question that there is work to be done. Progress has been slow to fix many of the pervasive problems that persist.

At the same time, I want women in sales (or in any role), to remember that there are times when we may undermine our success without even realizing it through some of these common behaviors.

Being Seen Not Heard.

I’m not the only woman who has felt seen but not heard in meetings. Many women don’t realize that they are more likely than men to “wait” to be called on to speak.

Women also have a tendency to downplay their certainty about their ideas, business opinions, or even the products they sell. They hedge their assertions making them seem less confident than they are. If you want to be heard, rather than fume at being overlooked or feel your ideas were dismissed, make it your business to assert yourself by speaking up clearly, confidently and concisely.

If you are in a sales role, this behavior is especially problematic. There is a gap in gender diversity in departments other than sales in many companies, which means that the buyers we are approaching are mostly men. If you appear to lack confidence in what you sell, these male buyers won’t feel confident in buying from you.

Leveraging Relationships vs. Building Them

Often, we hear that women possess the innate strength of building relationships. While I believe that to be true, I’ve also noticed that many women shy away from leveraging the power of the relationships they’ve built.

I’m as guilty of this behavior as anyone. As much as I talk with guests on the Conversations with Women in Sales podcast about how important it is for women to stop sitting on the sidelines waiting for others to notice their good work, reward them, promote them or help them when they need a favor, I find myself doing the same thing without realizing it.

For many of us this is a bias hidden away in our DNA that cautions us against asking for specific help from the people in the networks we’ve established. Adding to our concern is the judgment many of us have felt by other women who signal to us that our ask is selfish or overly ambitious. For the record, women who judge other women, and it happens far more often than you might think, are often unaware that they do it.

I have to give a hat tip to men here. They don’t usually fall into this trap. If they need help, they don’t hesitate to ask for it.

The TMI (Too Much Information) Trap

This sabotaging behavior isn’t new news. How you use your words matter and never is that truer than in selling.

It is important to note that the urban myth that women speak 20,000 words in a day while men speak 7,000 was debunked in a 2007 study.

It isn’t the number of words men and women use in a day; they are basically the same number. The core difference is in how words are used. Women are often tuned out because they take too much time to get to the point. And, yes, I’ve been guilty of this behavior too. Women often preface their suggestions with a lot of backstory and unnecessary background. Side observations obscure the main point, while over explaining the rationale behind the point they want to make creates a perception that they lack confidence in their abilities.

Tip: Get to the point and let people ask for more details as they need it!


Stop downplaying your achievements!

There is that old joke about there not being an “I’ in team, which always made me laugh. Look closely at the word, and you’ll see the word “me”. Not we, me.

Our male counterparts use “I” more often when speaking. Women, on the other hand, use “we” more often. On the surface “we” sounds inclusive. When we believe that our accomplishments came together as a result of a team effort, we are reluctant to call specific attention to our part in the process.

Research confirms that using “we”, especially if you are responsible for leading a team, creates confusion about your role in a specific effort. The higher ups wonder… Did you lead it? Were you essential to the outcome? What exactly do you mean when you say “we”?

Women are discouraged from “self-promotion” beginning at an early age. Promoting our own efforts is equated to bragging. Bragging equals bad. How we present our accomplishments may be the difference, but marketing how we contributed to the success of the business or any team project is part of the job.

People Pleasing and the Perfection Trap

Many women, including me, suffer from the disease to please. Voltaire wrote that “Perfect is the enemy of good.” A manager I worked for gave me that feedback once, and at the time, it really annoyed me. When I thought about it later, I understood what Voltaire meant. He meant that perfection is an illusion. Not everyone will like us or agree with us but trying to navigate our careers through the lens of trying to be something we aren’t doesn’t make much sense. It certainly leads to more heartache than needed.

In closing

External factors that can block our path certainly exist.  I began my sales career in the macho, male dominated world of tech, and enjoyed great success all through the years. And like so many women, I’ve dealt with my share of biases that presented obstacles I felt were unwarranted or unfair. At the same time, I recognize that there have been times when I let my own insecurities and behaviors work against me. I know I’m not alone.

I’ve always been inspired by Viktor Frankl and his story. In the most horrific of circumstances, he came to the realization that no matter what the circumstance, WE HAVE A CHOICE! If where you are today is not where you want to be, what choice will YOU make to turn things around?

**This article was originally published on the author’s blog www.barbaragiamanco.com 

BIO: Barbara Giamanco heads up Social Centered Selling and she is on a mission to Ignite Sales Transformation. This transformation includes helping companies attract more women to their sales ranks, providing the path and support to advance women into sales leadership roles and to promote diversity and inclusion across all teams. Barb co-authored The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media – the first book written about Social Selling, and she hosts the popular Conversations with Women in Sales podcast.

Committed to excellence in selling, Barb has been recognized as a Top 50 2019 Keynote Speaker and Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencer by Top Sales World, a Top B2B Sales Influencer by LinkedIn and a Top 25 Sales Leader on Twitter.

Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter

How Companies Can Balance the Diversity Scales in Sales

When I started out as an inside sales rep for a distributor selling hardware and software computer solutions, I noticed that I was one of just a few women on the sales team. At first, I didn’t think much about the gender imbalance. I was hired for the role by the VP of Sales who was a woman. My first front-line sales manager in that company was a woman too. Later, I simply thought a lot of women didn’t pursue a career in sales. It was true then. It is true now. Many women do not think about or pursue a career in sales. And those women that do pursue sales positions are often turned off by male dominated, bro culture that is often the norm in many companies.

The Sales Function Has the Biggest Gender Equity Gap, Second Only to Supply Chain/Logistics. — CEB: Gaining the Talent Advantage

Times are Changing

In recent years, companies like New Relic, InsideView, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Culture Amp, Microsoft, 3Pillar Global, TechTarget, IBM, ServiceTitan, SalesLoft, AlphaSense, VMware, and many others have made it a priority to create more diverse and inclusive sales organizations. They recognize the many business benefits that diverse sales teams deliver. And research backs them up.

In Gaining the Talent Advantage: Gender Diversity in Sales, a CEB/Gartner Global study, they reported that higher-levels of gender diverse sales teams not only outperformed revenue goals but deals were much more profitable. Diverse teams also deliver a better customer experience because people want to work with people they can relate to. From a recruiting perspective, more women on your sales teams will encourage other women to apply for sales roles at your company; and they will be more likely to accept an offer if women are well represented (especially in the leadership ranks).

The Percentage of Women in First-Line Sales Management Has Remained Flat for Over 10 Years and Women Continue to Be Underrepresented at All Levels of Sales Leadership. –CEB: Gaining the Talent Advantage

Even though we are seeing improvements, the going is still slow. Women occupy roughly 36% of sales roles in companies, and women in sales leadership roles hovers at around 19%. Seriously? Companies can do much better.

As women join your sales teams, find out if they aspire to move into management. If they do, they may become frustrated and leave if they see few women being advanced into management positions. If women are expressing interest in moving into management, be sure you are providing guidance, mentoring, training and coaching to help them get there.

How do companies attract more women into sales roles?

Make recruiting women a strategic business priority. Don’t talk about it. Do it.

Use LinkedIn. A quick search on LinkedIn can reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of potential candidates. Granted, your job requirements may narrow the pool. For example, you may feel you need reps to live in a specific geographic location. But if you are having trouble finding the right candidates locally, perhaps this is an opportunity to assess whether or not the right candidate can work remotely and be just as successful in achieving their objectives. Times have changed. You have to ask yourself why you need salespeople to gather in an office every day. I’m pretty confident that target prospects and current customers could care less where your salespeople do their work. Automattic, a company that employs over 500 employees in over 50 countries who all work remotely believes that the work produced is more important than where employees reside or the hours put in. I couldn’t agree more.

Get creative. Consider women in B2C sales roles who could make the transition to B2B selling. A company looking to hire a rep to support their retail vertical could benefit by bringing someone on board who has experience in B2C retail. They already understand the retail world and would require less training to get up to speed. Don’t overlook women in marketing, service or finance roles who may be open to making a switch if they only knew what that might entail. On my Conversations with Women in Sales podcast, I’ve interviewed women who started in finance, marketing, and engineering and later made the switch to sales without looking back.

Instead of recruiting in the usual places, tap into women’s networks on social media, on college campuses, LinkedIn groups, local women’s events and more. Connect with women like me who have a very large global network and know hundreds of women in sales at all levels.

Fix gaps in pay.

Despite women achieving equal or even higher levels of performance against sales quota, they are paid less both in base pay and commission. This is a fact confirmed by CEB and other research firms. It is simply unacceptable.

Many studies have reported that this gap is initially created because women are less inclined than men to push harder for more money when negotiating the terms of their employment. As a result, women are behind from the beginning and over time the problem is compounded. It is true that women need to be more assertive in how they negotiate their employment agreements. What is more important is that the pay equality burden rests on the shoulders of companies doing the hiring. Women performing equal to or better than their male peers should not be earning less in their paychecks – there’s no excuse for that!

Adapt and update your benefits packages.

When it comes to benefits, the package that companies offer is key to recruitment and retention but too often we see benefits offered that are more attractive to men than women. Free beer and Foosball don’t appeal to everyone. A local Atlanta company who creatively reworked their benefits package is SalesLoft, who puts a high priority on diversity and inclusion. Their package now includes perks for new moms and dads like covering the cost and providing diaper delivery for 1-year or home meal delivery for 12-weeks to reduce stress when their newborn comes home.

Review and Rework Job Descriptions

Appeal to women’s desire to be collaborative in working with customers to solve problems. Review the language used in your recruitment messaging and in job ads when seeking to hire women in sales. Ditch the warrior language. Words like aggressive, crusher, killer, or take no prisoners are off putting to most women and creates an impression that selling is a cut-throat business. I’ve been in sales for two plus decades, and never once did I need to be “cut-throat” to succeed in achieving my quota goals.

Bringing it home.

Make diversity and inclusion a key strategic business priority. Gender diverse sales teams outperform revenue goals and deals are more profitable.

Customer experience is a key competitive advantage, and the experience buyers have with your organization matters. It is not uncommon for buying teams in mid-sized or enterprise companies making purchasing decisions to consider if the vendors they are evaluating have diverse and inclusive cultures.

Finally, from a recruiting point of view, more women on your sales teams will encourage other women to apply for sales roles at your company, and they will be more likely to accept your offer if women are well represented, especially in the leadership ranks.

**This article was originally published at www.scs-connect.com

BIO: Barbara Giamanco heads up Social Centered Selling and she is on a mission is to Ignite Sales Transformation. This transformation includes a heavy emphasis on helping companies attract more women to their sales ranks, providing the path and support to advance women into sales leadership roles and to promote diversity and inclusion across all teams. Barb co-authored The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media – the first book written about Social Selling, and she hosts the popular Conversations with Women in Sales podcast.

Committed to excellence in selling, Barb has been recognized as a Top 50 2019 Keynote Speaker and Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencer by Top Sales World, a Top B2B Sales Influencer by LinkedIn and a Top 25 Sales Leader on Twitter.

Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter

Women In Revenue Celebrates First Anniversary and Rapidly Growing Membership Base

Happy Birthday to….us!!! We are thrilled to celebrate our first birthday with our 1,000+ Members who have joined us and our amazing sponsors who have made it possible.

The mission of Women In Revenue, founded in 2018 by Shari Johnston and a supporting group of female sales & marketing executives, is to empower current and future women leaders in technology sales and marketing roles with education, support, and networking opportunities.

In addition to hosting multiple sold-out networking and education events in San Francisco over the past year, the organization has also launched a formal mentorship program and published proprietary research on the role women play in driving company growth. It is represented equally by women in advanced and early stages of their careers, with 48% of members being at the director level or above and 10% being female CEOs or Founders.

“While new groups have formed to advance women’s leadership in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), there are very few groups for women in other executive positions, namely those that drive company growth” said Johnston, the founder of Women In Revenue. “The high level of engagement and membership growth in just one year clearly demonstrates there is demand from women at all stages of their careers to have a community for mentorship, education and like-minded support in their careers.” 

“I’ve been a revenue marketer my entire career and recognize the strategic role it plays in driving growth. I am a proud member of Women in Revenue and support its mission of supporting female leaders on the front lines of redefining revenue strategy and execution for their businesses,” said Karen Steele, CMO of LeanData. “We’re honored to help Women In Revenue celebrate its one-year anniversary at our fourth-annual OpsStars event, which brings together revenue leaders from across the globe. LeanData is an active supporter of diversity and inclusion, and specifically gender equality, which is a key part of our culture.”

Women In Revenue will be celebrating the growth and success of its community at LeanData’s OpsStars event on Tuesday, November 19th at the historic San Francisco Mint building in San Francisco. The reception will take place from 6:00PM – 9:00PM and will include a special presentation on “Advancing Your Career in Revenue” featuring a panel of female executives from IBM, Conversica, People.ai and WomenInRevenue.

All registered OpsStars attendees are welcome to attend the reception. For more information, please visit https://ops-stars.com/.

Julia Stead, Senior Founding Member

Advice I’d Give To My Younger Self: Lessons Learned Pursuing a Career in Revenue

In anticipation of our Women In Revenue event on August 29th, “Advice I’d Give My Younger Self”, we’re kicking off a quarterly blog series featuring similar advice from founders and members. Here are some great tips and takeaways on career advice, and things we wish we’d known sooner about pursuing a career path in revenue. We encourage you to join the conversation and add your own advice in the comments!

Doors open when you aren’t looking

“My biggest piece of advice would be to NOT have a clear end point.  Doors open when you aren’t looking, listen to the signs and when opportunities come knocking, listen.  Tune into your gut and ask yourself ‘does this feel good’, that feeling of joy and excitement is your inner compass, your higher purpose talking through your feelings.  Learn to listen to it!

When someone tells you you can’t do it, let that be the fuel to your fire!  Only YOU know what you can do and what is best for you. Be authentically, unapologetically you! “

~Amanda Khalow, Founder and CSO, 6Sense

“Pay attention to helping others. It took me a while to understand that when you help others, that goodness comes back to you. So I’d tell my younger self to focus on solving problems and helping others achieve their goals. It took me a while to get that and had I learned it earlier, I would have reduced some of the hard lessons I learned along the way.

I started my career in revenue and here are a few things that would have been helpful in the early years:

  • Ask for help (from your network, your management team, your CEO, your clients)
  • Get personal – I kept my personal life separate from my professional life….once I merged them, I become dramatically enriched in my relationships
  • Have a growth mindset-you’ll remain constantly challenged”

~Debe Rapson, Enterprise Accounts Director, Sprinklr

“Don’t waste time planning out a pre-determined “career path”. You change. Environments change. Business changes. What you may think you want today will be different in 10 years. Focus on finding something today that you are good at and makes you happy. Then do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. What you are good at and what makes you happy is magic. Follow that path as it unfolds. Your instincts are right. Trust yourself. The job you are in is likely not the one you will retire from. Have the experience you are having and learn from it. It is not forever. “

~Jen Dimas, CMO, Gigster

“I thought success was achieved by being the smartest, hardest working person in the room. But that’s only a small fraction of the equation. It’s about being able to read the room. It’s about understanding what a “win” looks like for everyone. Being a leader is about empowering others vs crossing the finish line the fastest.

Being a great seller is about being a great problem solver. If you have to “sell” something, you’re either not talking to the right buyer or not understand the problem their trying to solve for.”

~Lauren Goldstein, CRO, Annuitas

Make sure to register to join us in SF on August 29th for our live event, featuring great career advice from Heidi Bullock, Laura Ramos, Sydney Sloan, and Tracy Eiler! And stay tuned for more great advice in this blog series in September.

Building Your Personal Brand

This post was guest-authored by Shira Abel. Shira is the CEO and founder of Hunter & Bard, an award-winning public relations and design agency that works with enterprises and scale-ups on building their brand through awareness and thought leadership. Hunter & Bard designs and implements smart strategies that grow companies.

As CEO of Hunter & Bard, Shira oversees a team that manages public relations, marketing, design, and brand development for clients across multiple industries. She develops strategies for organically growing companies through the application of behavioral marketing via digital engagement. Clients include UL, JELD-WEN, Sixth Continent, Folloze, Radix DLT, Signal Ocean and many more.

Just as a company brand is the opinions others have of the company (you don’t own your brand, your customers do), a personal brand is the sum of opinions others have of you, your abilities, and the impression from the experiences they’ve had with you. In social media, people prefer to follow other people, rather than companies.

A strong brand helps a company close deals faster and smoother. In the same way, a genuine personal brand will help you make better connections, get things done faster (or more easily), and achieve your goals. Remember “Zig” Ziglar’s motto: “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.”


When building your personal brand, there are three things you need to keep in mind:

1. What’s your goal? When you know where you want to go, it’s significantly easier to get there.

As a personal example, during my MBA studies I realized I had no real network. Research shows that opportunities come from loose connections – that meant building my network. I decided my goal was to speak about marketing at conferences around the world. I started by volunteering as a founding mentor at Google Campus and Microsoft Ventures Accelerator and giving the Marketing Talks at both accelerators. In exchange for providing helpful information to the community, showing my expertise, and meeting new people, I needed to share something of value. I’ve since spoken worldwide at conferences such as CMW and TNW and as a guest lecturer at universities, including Stanford and Berkeley.

You don’t need to become a public speaker, but you do need to get out there — attending events, writing blog posts/articles, participating in webinars, or doing a podcast. Make sure that the content you’re producing is relevant to the subjects you want to be known for and aim for the right audience. My podcast, SaaS Insider, was aimed at early to mid stage startups.

When Hunter & Bard started aiming up market to enterprise, the podcast audience was less relevant. I hit pause on the podcast. You don’t have to keep doing something that doesn’t get you closer to your goal.

2. What do others think of you? If you’re active on LinkedIn or Twitter you can see what people think of you. Here’s how you do it:

On Twitter, look at the Lists you’re a member of. For example, I looked at the Twitter account of Women in Revenue Sr. Founder, Debe Rapson. Here’s what I found:


On LinkedIn, check the skills you’ve been endorsed for. For example, Sydney Sloan’s LinkedIn skills look pretty accurate, given my familiarity with her work.


3. What do you want to be known for? The third pillar of your strategy is the answer to this question.

If there’s a gap between what others think of you and how you want to bethought of – you have some work to do. For example, someone who wants to work in public relations should observe what the PR pros she admires share about their work, how they describe their experience, and how they work on projects. Coherence and consistency are as useful for professionals as they are for brands.

Set your goal, find out how people see you and think about how you want to be seen. If there’s a mismatch, identify the gap, and how to fix it.


Share what you know that can help others either by writing articles, speaking at conferences and meetups, and/or using video. Personal branding is a form of marketing – which means you need to think about what your target audience wants, and what benefit you can give them. Why are they interested in what you have to say?

Build Up Others

As the book Give and Take points out, giving gets you more. The more you build up others, the more they will help build you up. Everyone wins. Here are 3 ways to include others in your thought leadership content:

  1. Ask. Ask your friends, colleagues, and connections what they would love to read about. What is the thing keeping them up at night? That’s one guaranteed way to write for your audience. It’s also how this post came about. Women in Revenue asked its members what they would like advice on.
  2. Include. Get quotes from experts you admire. People like to share their opinions. This way you can send the expert the post after for them to share on their own social media and you can start to build that relationship with them.
  3. Share. You’ll see this with groups of men all the time. They will work together, share each other’s content, and work to build everyone up in the group. Find your friends who share your level of ambition, work in complementary industries, and find ways to promote each other. It’s similar to the amplification of voices that Obama’s female staffers did, but on a more public scale. Don’t just promote each other in an office — promote each other to the world!


Sallie Krawcheck is the Founder and CEO of Ellevest. She also happens to produce some of the best financial advice content out there. Yes, she’s done incredible things and she has a big name so people seek her out – but she had to start somewhere. It was her thought leadership, as well as the results she’s brought consistently, that have built her name and reputation to what it is today.

What I Love About Sallie’s Content – it’s:

  1. Consistent: She gives a very consistent message. She talks about money, inclusion, and how it’s good for everyone.
  2. Clear: She uses simple language to get her point across. Everyone can relate to and understand what she’s saying.
  3. Interesting: She does a minute video a week in the Ellevest newsletter. It’s concise, educational, and helpful.

She mentions people who are helpful in her videos and is constantly not just promoting others, but helping. I admire this woman and what she’s accomplished so much. Want to be a success? Be your version of Sallie.


A brand is a promise of who you are and what people can expect from you. You may write, talk, share your message with others, but it’s the people who know you (or who think they do), those who come into contact with you, who decide what your personal brand is. That means every interaction you have with people matters. By giving helpful examples with your writing, speaking to groups small and large, building up others, and being overall helpful – reciprocity will work in your favor.

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