Career Insights from Tech Sales Leaders

This week, Instant Financial hosted some of Vancouver’s top tech sales leaders for a career focused panel session. Overlooking Water Street, with the steam clock chiming in the background, the panel was an incredibly engaging and thoughtful dive into everything tech sales. Jam packed with insightful lessons that extended beyond a career in sales into how to thrive in any field. Here are my top takeaways from the event, on some topics that really make me tick.

Moderated by Kevin Froese, SVP Sales and Marketing at Instant, the panel was asked what they look for when hiring a sales person. Dan Woods, Sr. Director of Sales, at Clio looks for a strong work ethic, the right attitude, and coachability. They can teach you the rest and turn you into a strong sales person. They like different perspectives but they’ve found that it’s a detriment if someone is too stuck in their ways.

Dan and Kevin jammed on an all too common candidate mindset. When they’re hiring, they’re not interested in someone who’s ‘trying to find themselves’. They’re interested in someone who will help the organization with its goals. Do some critical thinking and ask yourself some tough questions like what industries do you want to sell into and why.

This point was so well articulated. I speak to dozens of job seekers every week and they seem to fit into one of two mindsets. The first is the ‘what can your company do for me’ and the second is the ‘let me tell you what I can do for your company’. If you’re a millennial, you need to work extra hard to prove that you’re in the second category. Show your prospective employer that you’re not just willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work but that you’re itching for the opportunity.

The importance of culture fit. At the end of an interview, Adam Smythe, Head of Strategic Accounts at buddybuild, asks his team ‘Is that someone you’d be fine sitting in a canoe with, with no paddles, in the middle of a lake for three hours?’. He communicates the team and company culture up front so the job seeker can understand if it will be a good fit for them too.

On standing out from the crowd, or the sometimes hundreds of other applicants, Laura Simpson, Sr. Account Executive, at 7Geese shared her story of how she got noticed at Hootsuite in early 2014. It involved a ton of research, creativity, and thoughtful preparation. If you ever get a chance to connect with Laura, make sure you ask her about the resume ransom note (it’s a fantastic story!).

Laura told us that the way you apply to a company is the first indication of your passion and work ethic that you’ll bring to the job itself. The whole panel begged the audience to please ditch the ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ application. You have to go the extra mile to try to make yourself stand out.

The panel was asked what’s in the DNA of a great sales person. Resiliency, curiosity, and ‘woo’.

Mike Lidin, Manager, North American Sales Development, at ACL used the professional hitter analogy. You have success 30% of the time and you strike out 70% of the time. You have to be resilient and be able to get back up when you get knocked down. You’ve got to get comfortable with the idea of failure. You need to have a strong ‘why’ so that you can get right back up.

Adam likes to help his clients find a solution to their problem. As a sales person, he suggests that you’ll get more satisfaction if you genuinely believe in what you’re selling and if you approach each interaction with curiosity.

Kevin added that the ability to have people follow you, want to hear what you’re saying, and want to be around you, is a powerful skill for a sales person. ‘The woo’ is one of those talents that likely can’t be taught.

Kevin left us with a final takeaway. Take a percentage of what you earn every year and invest it in yourself. This can be through taking a course, going to a conference, purchasing books, or whatever it is you need to do to invest in your growth. You need to always be getting better so that you don’t fall behind.

One of my newly discovered and already favourite authors, Andy Grove, puts this another way. Andy says that: “Nobody owes you a career. You own it as a sole proprietor. You must compete with millions of individuals every day, and every day you must enhance your value, hone your competitive advantage, learn, and adapt”.