SPECIAL EPISODE 008: Advice, Insights, and Wisdom from Past Episodes with World-Class Women in Sales Leaders Featuring Gigi Schumm
GIGI’S CLOSING TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “They need to take care of themselves by exercising, meditating, whatever helps them to stay energetic and grounded and motivated. Also invest in yourselves from a learning perspective.”
This is a special show. The Institute for Excellence in Sales is launching our Women in Sales Leadership Forum for women who are looking to move into management and leadership. In honor of that program being launched, we asked Gigi Schumm to share some of her insights on how women in sales can grow into leaders.
Gigi is the Senior VP of Sales at Threat Quotient and was a guest on one of the most downloaded episodes of the Sales Game Changers podcast. What we’re going to do today in honor of the launch is we’re going to reflect back on some of the past episodes that we’ve done with some of our great guests, some of our Women in Sales leaders who have been on the Sales Game Changers.
I encourage you to go back and listen to our episode with Gigi.
Find Gigi on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: Hey, this is Fred Diamond, host of the Sales Game Changers podcast. Thanks for listening and thanks to FeedSpot for naming the podcast as one of the top 15 sales podcasts on the internet. Today’s episode features highlights from some of our past episodes with some amazing Women in Sales leaders. We’ll get to that episode in a second. First, this episode complements a new program from one of our sponsors, the Institute for Excellence in Sales. The IES announced the launch of its Women in Sales Leadership Forum which will kick off in November. Go to I4ESBD.org/womeninsales for more information.
The number of Women in Sales Leadership has remained flat for over a decade, only 1 in 5 leadership positions are held by women. The leadership forum was designed to provide new opportunities for young women aspiring to sales leadership. Its transformative experience will help companies motivate, elevate and retain your most promising young Women in Sales leaders. Again, go to I4ESBD.org/womeninsales for more info. That’s http://www.I4ESBD.org/womeninsales for more info.
Now to our episode, I want to thank Gigi Schumm who is our co-host for today’s episode.
Gigi, I’m excited to get some of your insights in color as we go through some of these critical questions that Women in Sales are dealing with.
Gigi Schumm: Thanks, Fred. Thanks so much for having me on the first time on Sales Game Changers and again today, and I am excited to hear what some other women sales leaders had to say to answer these questions.
How’d you first get into sales as a career?
Fred Diamond: We’ve gotten some great answers and I went back and as you know we transcribe all of the episodes that we do and we put them into a report that’s available for people around the globe to get access to, and when I went back and started re-reading the transcripts and listening to some of the shows I was personally really inspired by some of the journeys and that’s been one of the great gifts of the Sales Game Changers podcast is listening to people’s stories, how they started, as we’ll talk about here in a few minutes. Not everybody started in leadership roles at great companies.
You of course worked for some tremendous brands, but a lot of the women we’ve interviewed came from different backgrounds. As a matter of fact, when we asked the question, “How did you first get into sales as a career?” there’s usually two different types of answers we’ve gotten. There’s the first answer which is, “I’ve been selling lemonade since I was 10 years old” or, “I found myself in sales on a consultant, a finance analyst, some case as a techy and I was tapped on the shoulder or I began to realize that I’m probably better off being in sales.” If I recall, you were an English major.
Gigi Schumm: I was an English major and had no idea that I would end up in sales. I was definitely in that second category you talked about and even though I was an English major, I started out my career on the technical side. First writing technical documentation and then I moved into being a developer for a while, I actually wrote software and then onto the pre-sale side on the technical side as an SE and it was really there that my eyes got open to, “Oh, this is sales. This is what it’s all about” and I began to get attracted to it. Luckily for me, some other people there thought that I might be better in sales as well, so I made the leap and never looked back.
Fred Diamond: Very good, and you’ve held some great positions. Threat Quotient is a high-flying company now, it’s got a nice infusion of cash and I’m looking forward to hearing more of your stories about your interpretation of some of the answers. What we’re going to do on the podcast is we’re going to listen to some of the previous interviews and then we’ll get some of Gigi’s thoughts.
Let’s take a listen to a quote that came from Leticia Proctor. Leticia is a senior VP of sales, revenue management and digital strategies at PM Hotel Group. Her podcast got a lot of great interaction. She came from the operation side, she has a wonderful personality, a personality that you would really attribute to someone in sales and she made that shift from operation into sales. Let’s take a listen to what Leticia had to say and then, Gigi, I want to get your thoughts about making the move from a back office role like operations into sales.
Leticia Proctor: It’s funny, I actually started in operations and because of my personality I kept getting asked, “Why aren’t you in sales?” and I thought, “That’s interesting.” That kind of started my path towards the sales environment so prior to being in this space I was an assistant general manager for a hotel for a little while. The great thing about my experience is that I understand the operation’s component as well. For me, it’s not just about top line revenue, for me it’s about that full cycle of business. How does it flow to GOP? How does it flow to that gross operating profit? How does it flow to that net operating income? It’s not just about, “It looks good on paper, have we collected the funds that we thought we would to ensure that we’re a profitable company?”
Fred Diamond: So what do you think, Gigi? Making the move from operations, is that common? Is that an easy shift for a woman in sales?
Gigi Schumm: I think whenever you make a shift from one kind of role to another it’s going to have its challenges. There’s going to be a lot to learn but in some ways, Leticia probably had some experience that the other salespeople didn’t have understanding – she said it, right? – all the operations, how the whole process works and that can be a huge advantage, too. So I think that women tend to underestimate the knowledge that we’ve picked up along the way and we may or may not really think we’re ready for that next leap but as Leticia proved, she was ready and she’s done a great job with it.
Fred Diamond: You were telling me something as we were doing the interview before, during the pre-work about in some cases if a woman is applying for a job she has to be fully qualified before she’ll even consider as compared to a man who may have one of the characteristics they’re looking for and will think that he’s perfectly suited.
Gigi Schumm: Absolutely. No question, that’s a study that was done and it gets quoted a lot, that women tend to need to meet all 5 of the criteria and even then, and I will tell you, I’ve seen it again and again as I’ve mentored young women and I might suggest to them, “Well, how about this? Have you thought about that?” “Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t done this” or, “I haven’t done that” or, “I’m not sure I could do that” and it’s a shame because it’s one of the ways that we hold ourselves back.
Women have faced real challenges, we don’t need to pile extra ones on ourselves by not having confidence. I’m really proud that Leticia made that leap, she did a great job with it and in a lot of ways I think her background in operations gave her probably a step up over a lot of other people.
Fred Diamond: Just curiously, how would you coach a young professional, a young woman who may not have all 5 of the criteria, if you will? Again, you’ve held leadership positions at Symantec, Oracle, Sun, of course now Threat Quotient. Those are three of the biggest names in the history of technology. It’s the NFL of sales, if you will, especially in public sector and other markets that you’ve served. What are some of the things that you would say to a young woman who is hesitant about her abilities to take on the job?
Gigi Schumm: Absolutely. It’s a great question and I have been super fortunate about the places that I’ve worked and the people that I’ve been able to watch and learn from. One of the things that I say is let’s say one of the jobs is that a woman needs to have a background in – this is a little bit off-track but I was just talking to somebody who has just become a female CEO and she had never had the experience in fundraising before. Super common that if you’re going to be a CEO they’re going to want you to be able to go out and raise funds, it’s a big part of the job but what she knew was that she hadn’t personally done fundraising before but she had a very good network of people who had done that that she could call on.
One of the pieces of advice that I give to young women who may be aspiring to be a sales leader but think that they don’t have a piece of it because they haven’t done it before is, “Do you know other people who have? Can you call on them, can you get their advice, will they help you?” and their answers to those questions are, “Absolutely, of course I can. Of course I do.” Well then, that’s the important thing. You don’t have to have experienced it personally yourself if you can call on a network of people that you know who are willing to help you.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great answer. If you think about it, a woman who’s applying for a job in sales leadership or even enterprise type sales, she definitely has a bigger background, a bigger network than she probably thinks. She probably came from a decent school, probably is making good use of social media as compared to maybe a woman who is in a back office job who may not have the social networks per se, so being able to tap into that network of people that you know is a critical thing to think about. The other thing that we’ve heard from some of the women who didn’t necessarily start in sales but realized after being in a consulting job or something like that, they realized that they really enjoyed working with the customer.
Let’s take a listen to an interview we did with Monica McEwen. Monica’s the VP of Federal at a company called MapD. She was a consultant, she worked for the American Management Systems and then she started dealing with customers and she began to notice that she really enjoyed it and not only did she really enjoy it, she was also very good at it. She was helping the customers achieve their goals and she really saw value. She made the shift eventually becoming a VP. Let’s listen to what Monica had to say.
Monica McEwen: Honestly, I stumbled into it, which is a little bit embarrassing to admit but I started my career as a consultant at America Management Systems now CGI and realized the part of that job I liked the most was the direct engagement with the client. From there I got a job as a pre-sales architect and really didn’t even know what that was when I took the job but had been told by the recruiter it was very client facing so that intrigued me. When I joined Cognos at the time I was able to pick up the technology and learn it but really I’m not a technologist at heart in terms of really deeply understand technology. I can certainly talk to it and consider myself relatively technical. So I was in pre-sales a couple of years at Cognos and realized that while I was technical enough to give a demo I probably wasn’t going to be able to make an entire career of being a pre-sales architect and so I started looking around at the other roles within the organization and realizing that sales was really where I thought my skills might be in terms of that direct client engagement. From there I had a sales leader who took a chance on me, I put my hand up and said I want to move out of pre-sales and into sales and they took a chance on me and I’m glad they did.
Fred Diamond: Gigi, the thing we just heard that Monica mentioned at the end is that she had someone who took a chance on her, someone who saw that she had this ability to be good in front of customers.
Gigi Schumm: Absolutely. I get to talk to a lot of leaders, sales leaders, technical leaders who say to me, “Gigi, how do we recruit more women?” They know they’ve got a diversity problem and they want to do the right thing. First of all, I don’t have all the answers but one of the things that I tell them is, “Sometimes you’re going to have to take a little bit of a chance, a little bit of a leap of faith and you’re going to have to hire somebody based on what you believe they’re potential to be rather than what they’ve already done or proven.”
That sounds like it might have been the case with Monica and I hear stories like hers often and it’s a great one because she had demonstrated all the baseline skills to be good in sales, so even though she had not carried the bag and had the quota herself, somebody – in this case it was a manager, a leader – saw that she had the potential and was willing to take that leap of faith and may have chosen her over somebody else who they could have hired either internally or from the outside who had done it before but that was a pretty great decision on that leader’s part because Monica has proven to be a huge success.
Fred Diamond: I have a follow up question for you on that, you’ve managed hundreds of people, very successful sales professionals over time. Let’s say you noticed a young lady or an emerging female sales professional who has those types of skills that you just talked about, and you’ve noticed that maybe they’re an SE, systems engineer or consultant. Do you ever get pushed back as a sales leader when you’ve noticed someone who has the ability to be exceptional in sales that you have said, “Hey, I think you’d be good in sales.” Do you ever get pushed back on that or historically have they jumped at the chance? Or what have you seen on that?
Gigi Schumm: I think there’s two possible areas of push back. One is from the person themselves who as we talked about when we were talking about Leticia may not have recognized that they are really ready for the leap. In that case I can encourage, I can point out some things that they may not have seen but they also have to get themselves to the point that they’re ready. You can’t drag somebody into a role like sales because it’s hard and there’s going to be great times and there’s going to be tough times and so they have to be mentally ready but you can help them overcome any insecurities or concerns that they may be worrying about. The other place that you can get push back is from your leadership.
You’re now going to make a hire that’s a little bit of a risky hire because it’s somebody who doesn’t have that track record and so I have gotten questioned about, “Oh, OK. Why are you hiring this person as opposed to finding somebody who has done the job?” And I welcome those kind of conversations and those kind of challenges because I if I’m going to take a risk on this person, I should be able to articulate exactly why I do believe that they are worth the risk and that it’s the right decision from a business vantage point.
What are you an expert in?
Tell us a little more about your area of brilliance?
Fred Diamond: Very good. One of the questions that I’ve asked on the Sales Game Changers podcast that I’ve always enjoyed asking is, “What are you an expert in? Tell us a little more about your area of brilliance” and when I start asking that question I expected people to say, “Oh, I’m an expert in federal procurement” or, “I’m an expert in helping hospitals with their security concerns” or something, and frequently the answer I get is, “That’s a word that people don’t usually say about me, brilliant or expert, if you will.” But I’m going to play here a clip from Sam McKenna. Sam is a sales leader now at LinkedIn. When we did the interview, she was a sales leader at a company called On24, it’s a webinar company and she talked about emotional intelligence. Let’s take a listen to what Sam’s comment is and then Gigi I want to get your thoughts on the whole concept of emotional intelligence, not just, “Are women better than men” but how can a woman really take advantage of the concept of emotional intelligence to move her career into sales leadership. Let’s take a listen to Sam McKenna.
Sam McKenna: I think in terms of what makes me so successful at sales is I really understand people. I have a high emotional intelligence they say and I think that I’m able to really understand people, their needs, their fears, their problems, which I know sounds a little psychologist of me but it’s just something that I innately get and I think if you understand people, you understand the dynamics of their company, their teams, their challenges, what they’re measured by, right, how what you’re selling is going to impact them. You can really start to build a story of how you’re going to help them, how you’re going to get them to their goals. The thing that I think is important to you is you are doing something that’s going to advance them in one way or another and don’t be afraid to have those conversations with them. Right, “How are you measured annually and here’s how I can help get you to your goals.” Just understanding people and understanding relationships, how people are connected, how they connect the dots, “Do you know people within my network? Have you worked in and purchased from us before?” Understanding the dynamics of those and how to connect the dots is also really important.
Fred Diamond: Gigi, what do you think about that? She said understanding the dynamics of those and how to connect the dots is really important. It’s definitely emotional intelligence, talk to me about emotional intelligence and how much that’s played in your ascent and how can a woman optimize that to really help her grow her career?
Gigi Schumm: Absolutely. I think Sam has hit the nail right on the head. She talked about emotional intelligence, the full range of it, because sometimes when you say emotional intelligence people think that just means being able to connect with people or being a good listener and those are certainly a piece of it but they’re not the whole thing. I love how she talked about connecting the dots because when you think about it, sales is really about that. It is about understanding the needs of the business or organization or person you’re selling to and then how what you have to offer – whether that be a product or whether that be a service’s offering – how that can help meet those needs or alleviate the problem that the customer is dealing with.
Being able to engage in those conversations, recognize those needs and have that bridging or translating conversation – what Sam is calling connecting all the dots – is really the essence of what being a good salesperson is. The other components of emotional intelligence like persistence and resilience and the ability to bounce back, the ability to take some criticism are hugely important when it comes to having a long career in sales and so it’s something that if you don’t have it, you probably won’t have a career in sales. If you do have a high emotional intelligence, it will help you a lot and you need to continue to hone those skills over time.
Who was an impactful sales career mentor
and how did they impact your career?
Fred Diamond: Very good. For the listeners to the Sales Game Changers podcast, a book I’d like to recommend, one of our past speakers at the Institute for Excellence in Sales and a member of the Sales Speaker Bureau at the IES, Colleen Stanley. Colleen wrote the book, “Emotional Intelligence for Sales.” It’s a great read to understand some of the concepts and further thoughts on what Gigi talked about. Let’s talk a little bit about mentoring. One of my favorite questions on the podcast is, “Talk about an impactful sales career mentor and how they impacted your career” and we’ve heard some great stories, we’ve heard stories about someone’s first boss and the first person who took them under their wing and you actually had a great story about some really impactful business leaders who guided you along that you were gifted with.
I want to provide a clip from Lynne Chamberlain. Lynne Chamberlain was at Red Hat and this was an amazing story. I was a history major in college and I’m always very attentive to business history. One of the champions of technology was doctor Grace Hopper and as Lynne’s telling us this story, she talked about how she spent two years taking doctor Grace Hopper around the beltway to customers and that she spent two years supporting her. Did you know Doctor Grace Hopper, did you ever deal with her at all?
Gigi Schumm: I did not, no, but certainly her reputation is fantastic and serves as an inspiration to so many young women in the computer field.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great story. Let’s listen to Lynne Chamberlain at Red Hat, let’s listen to her talk about her relationship with Doctor Grace Hopper. Then we’re going to come back and Gigi, I want to get some of your thoughts on how a growing woman in sales, an emerging sales leader should be mentored. What should they expect out of a mentor and how should they make that relationship as optimal for them.
Lynne Chamberlain: I had some great mentors growing up through the sales ranks, but one person – we didn’t have social media back then, so when you hired somebody into your organization you really didn’t know a lot about them like you do today because you can Link-In, you can Facebook, you can find out anything. I was asked a digital equipment corporation when I was running BD and the civilian side to help a new person that they just brought in. Her name was Doctor Grace Hopper. Now, I didn’t know who Doctor Grace – I didn’t sell to the navy so I had really no idea at the time who she was and she was a little petite navy officer, wore her uniform, came in and I was to take her on sales calls and take her out because at that time, she was selling her Nano wire and she would go around and talk to all the navy customers. And I was there to help escort her and educate her on how to sell, but you know what? She ended up educating me on the value of discipline and the value of feeling passionate about something. She was the oldest person in the navy at the time as an officer when she retired. She was passionate about what she did and with that, I learned a lot from her. It wasn’t till years later that I realized who exactly she was and how inspirational she was to whole culture people.
Fred Diamond: Gigi, what are some of your thoughts? How should women out there be using mentors, what should they be expecting, how should they be interfacing with their mentors to help both cases, the mentor and the mentee, optimize the relationship?
Gigi Schumm: Absolutely. First, I just have to say wow, what a great story. I cannot believe that Lynn, who I know and who is great had the chance to work with Doctor Grace Hopper. I am super jealous and what a lucky coincidence that she had that. Mentoring I think can be hugely impactful but it’s one of those terms that probably just gets overused to the point that I think all young people, men and women, think, “Oh my gosh, I have to go find myself a mentor because I know it’s going to help my career.”
I think the advice that I gave when you asked me this on the podcast but I’ll give you here for short is I think the best way to make a mentor-mentee relationship work is if as the mentor – first of all there has to be a personal connection in the sense that you have to get along well and feel free to talk to each other and things like that, if you can bring a particular problem or scenario or situation, maybe a skill set that you’re trying to build, bring something tangible to the mentor to help with.
I have had many young women who come to me and say, “Will you mentor me?” and sure, absolutely. What can I do for you? “Well, I don’t know, I need a mentor.” Well, that’s a little broad, what do you need help with? So what I would say is it is very helpful to the mentor as a mentee if you bring them something, “I’m trying to work on my presentation skills”, “I have a tough negotiation I’m about to embark on”, “There’s this job that I’m aspiring to and I’m not sure if I’m qualified or I’m not sure the best way to go get that job.” Those are all topics that are perfect for a mentoring conversation and so don’t be afraid to bring those to the situation.
Fred Diamond: You mentioned that you have been approached many times to mentor young professionals. Do most women of your stature and your management level, do you think they’re willing to mentor, they want to mentor? Do you think it’s a prevailing attitude that they want to help younger women who might have been themselves a couple years ago get to the next level of their career? Is it ubiquitous, do you think? What are the general terms?
Gigi Schumm: I think so absolutely. You mentioned my other radio show and we talk about mentoring on that show all the time and I ask women guests. I’ve never met anybody who said, “I’d rather not” or, “I don’t have time” or, “I don’t have the appetite for that for one reason or another.” I think most women and particularly when – I’ll just speak for myself – when you have had the good fortune and the success to be mentored by great people and be helped and coached and sponsored by people who have helped me, I want to give back now to young women or men. I’m happy to take the time.
Now, I still have a day job and I have to get that done but my kids are grown, I’ve got a little bit more time in my life now and I am always happy. I find that to be absolutely the prevailing thought among women and men, frankly, who if they are asked for help are usually very happy to jump in and give help.
What are the 2 biggest challenges
you face today as a sales leader?
Fred Diamond: Alright. Gigi, thank you so much for all the insights you’ve given us so far. One of my favorite questions that we’ve been asking on the Sales Game Changers podcast are, “What are the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader?” The #1 answer by far is hiring, retaining, motivating and elevating top tier talent. As a matter of fact, the Institute for Excellence in Sales has shifted its mission to helping sales leaders address those challenges: hiring, retaining, motivating and elevating top tier talent.
But there are a couple other challenges that we’ve heard. I want to listen to a clip here from Christine Barger. Christine’s had a long career of success at Microsoft, she’s at the general manager level, she’s been there for a long time, she’s spent time with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer over her career and has really brought great things to Microsoft. She talked about the challenge of finding clarity, the challenges of finding clarity around goals, clarity in distilling messages and clarity in removing obstacles to your success. Let’s take a listen to what Christine had to say.
Christine Barger: I think just making sure that people have clarity around goals. There’s so much information and different priorities that come from every which way. It’s very much a priority for me. I’m a simple person, I like three to five things to be good at, I feel like that’s the best way to show impact and the greatest impact is to make sure that you figure out what your three to five things are that are important and you just hunker down on them and be the best at those things. I spend a lot of my time trying to distill down messages and priorities that come from fourteen different directions into the top three to five things to provide clarity for my people so they feel like they’re making impact.
Fred Diamond: Gigi, that’s a challenge that we’ve heard frequently. There’s so much noise out there, there’s so many possibilities of distraction. Things happen, you get asked by management to take you off course a little bit, how do you stay focused? What is some of your guidance for some of the sales leaders who are emerging here to really get focused and understand the clarity so they can perform as optimally as possible?
Gigi Schumm: Absolutely. I think Christine made a great point, she talked about information and priorities and messages coming from 14 different directions and then trying to distill those into the 3 to 5 that are really going to be impactful and boy, do I relate to that because my mind spins at a thousand miles an hour about all the things like, “Oh, we have to do this and we need to do a better job at that and we can’t forget this other thing” and I have to be careful that I’m not just giving that information unfiltered to my people who are not only hearing from me, they’re hearing from their customers, they’re hearing from other people in our business.
You can only focus on so many things, you can only be impactful if you are really focused and you can only focus on probably three things, right? So I absolutely view that part of my job, I 100% agree with what Christine said is to just try to bring clarity amid all the noise and try to help people. Sure, there’s all of these different distractions, there’s all fo these different demands for your time, there’s all of these different tiny things you can think about but let’s start to break through that and break it up into bite sized chunks of what are going to be the three top ones that are going to yield the most impact today.
Fred Diamond: I want to talk about another thing here as it relates to challenges. Sales has always been the most honorable position. A lot of people who aren’t in sales or aren’t in enterprise business, a lot of times they might gravitate towards the used car salesperson, if you will, and I believe you even dealt with that as a challenge when you made your move from being a writer and writing documentation for the companies that you started your career out with.
We’re going to take a listen here to Tina Fox. Tina runs a program called Women on Course. She works with business leaders, typically business owners to help them get networking, to help them get community, to help them be more successful as professionals. She talks about the notion of sales being an honorable profession. Let’s take a listen and let’s talk about that.
Tina Fox: And then, the other thing, this is something that it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, is really convincing people that sales is not a dirty word. That sales actually is an honorable, one of the most ancient careers anybody could ever have and it can actually be done in an elegant manner. And I don’t think anybody relates elegance with sales, but you know those people in your life that you didn’t want to be sold to but somehow you bought from them because you trusted them, and that person is an elegant sales person. They identified the need and they did it in a way that didn’t make you feel like you needed to purchase but you purchased anyways because it was the right thing for you at the time.
Fred Diamond: Gigi, one of our past guests at the Institute for Excellence in Sales, Lisa Earle McLeod wrote a book called, “Selling as a Noble Profession” and again you’ve worked at Symantec, Oracle, Sun, now Threat Quotient. Sales is a profession that requires intellect, it requires intelligence, requires perseverance, requires strategy, planning. If it can give it as an honorable profession is probably something that comes second-nature to you and to people that you’ve dealt with, but is there a stigma with some young women in moving into sales?
Gigi Schumm: I related to that clip that you just played from Tina because I remember when I was young and went into sales and told my parents, and I come from a scientific engineering focused family and my mother’s reaction was, “You’re going to be in sales?” like to your point, used car sales, and I had to help her to understand. Later she became very proud of what I did and my accomplishments and she totally understood it, but there were the early days where she didn’t. I think these days most people understand, but it’s funny.
Every now and then you will still run into that stigma or you’ll run into somebody who feels like, “Well, I didn’t buy this” whatever it may be, a house, a car, an enterprise class software, “Because of the salesperson, I bought it because it was the best one out there.” And I always chuckle to myself when I hear that because everybody always thinks that they’re buying something for purely logical, rational reasons but we all know that they buy things for emotional reasons and then back them up with logic.
We also know, because we’ve had great experiences when we’ve bought something in our lives, or terrible experiences when we bought something that the experience that you have colors the way you feel about not only the salesperson but also the product or service that you’re buying as well. It is an important job. I had an old boss who was the CEO of Symantec who used to tell me and used to tell everybody, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something” and that’s true. You can have all the engineers in the world that create the greatest products, you can have super finance people in HR and marketing and everything else but unless you’ve got a sales team that’s going to sell that stuff, none of the others have a role to play.
What is the most important thing you want to get across to junior selling professionals to help them improve their career?
Fred Diamond: Yeah. We’re going to talk about some of the tips that we’ve gotten over the course of the Sales Game Changers podcast. One of the great things about the podcast is we’ve talked to so many exceptional sales leaders and they’ve given us great tips. I get emails and text messages and LinkedIn messages from Sales Game Changers around the globe who are thankful for some of the great advice that’s been passed on. I want to hit on a couple of these and get some of your insights.
We’re going to listen to a quote here from Telesa Via. Telesa runs sales for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, she’s a hospitality executive, she’s had a great career. A thing she talked about was finding someone who’s going to provide constructive feedback. Of course she also talked about advancing your learning, but listen to her quote here where she talks about how she found someone who was honest with her and how that helped her take her career to the next level.
Telesa Via: The most important thing I would say is to find someone that is going to provide constructive feedback to them and I think what happens when you’re starting out in the industry, you want to continue to hear “You’re doing great, you’re doing great, you’re doing great” and what happens is that may not be the way where you can actually learn from your, either mistakes and or areas that you may not be perfecting. While you could simply say mentorship, I will go a step further and I would say find someone that you can connect with that is always going to do a reality check and provide you with a different way of looking at things because the one lens or the one way is not always the best way. That is one and I actually will add another one and that is always continue to find avenues to advance your learning. Sometimes in a professional setting they may have areas of training, things of that sort but not all sales companies offer that so I would just say push yourself, go out and reach out to see what tools are out there to educate yourself on how to continue to sharpen your saw because you cannot rely a hundred percent on the company that you work with as the only way.
Fred Diamond: Gigi, what do you think about that? She talked about finding someone who will be honest with you. It’s very easy to find people who are like, “Great job” and, “Wow, you’re going to do great at this.” But to really take your career up a notch and to the next level you need the hard feedback. Talk about that as it relates to coaching women in sales and how do you cross the line – how do you balance the line, I should say – with being appreciative of hard feedback versus being resentful and not taking it properly?
Gigi Schumm: This is maybe a little bit controversial, Fred, but I’m going to tell you that one of the things that I think… First of all, I think Telesa’s advice is right on point but one of the tough things about it, and particularly for women, is you have to make yourself somebody who invites feedback. That doesn’t just mean saying, “I would really like your honest feedback” but it really means that you have to open yourself up to it and take it well if somebody gives you feedback. You really do have to. It’s a little bit of a cliché to say feedback is a gift, but it truly is.
I think that a lot of times if you have a male manager and a female salesperson, the dynamic can be that they’re afraid to be too tough on the female, they’re afraid to be too tough on that woman salesperson and so first of all, to all the male sales leaders listening to this, I want you to know that most of the women that I’ve come across in this industry are as tough if not tougher than the men. Believe me, they can take it. To the women I would say make sure your boss knows that, make sure they know that they can give you the good news and the bad news, the brutal facts and that you are not going to cry, you are not going to crumple up, you’re not going to slink out of their office. You’re going to take that feedback, internalize it, maybe agree with some of it, maybe not agree with some of it and then learn from it.
Fred Diamond: Gigi, for the women and men listening to today’s Sales Game Changers podcast, again we have people all around the globe listening. You’ve again reached the pinnacle of your career in sales, you’ve worked for Symantec, you’ve led teams at Oracle and Sun, now you’re the senior VP of a high flying cyber security startup called Threat Quotient. What do you do? Tell us some of the things. Again, on your podcast we asked the question, “What do you do to stay fresh” but give us some insights. What should the young women listening to today’s podcast who are looking to move into sales leadership roles, tell us some things that they should be doing to help themselves advance their career.
Gigi Schumm: Absolutely. I love what Christine said that she has picked up from both Warren Buffet and Bill Gates about the fact that how much time they spend reading and reading all kinds of different things. This I think is a particular challenge for women who are in those years where they’re having children and they’ve got families. There’s lots of studies that show that women still even with supportive spouses that they end up carrying a lot of the brunt of doing the work at home with the house and the families and the kids, and then their job. So the first thing to go usually is themselves whether it’s taking care o themselves, exercising, meditating, whatever helps you to stay energetic and grounded and motivated but also this concept that we’ve been talking about, investing in yourselves from a learning perspective.
I start out the day by getting up early and I watch the financial news. Most of it is about where interest rates are going and is the dollar weak or strong and it’s got a little bit of the political news built in there but also the companies are releasing earnings and is the Dow up or down and to me, it’s a way to start the day with a broader perspective than just my job and my company. I also am a big reader, I have a pretty voracious appetite for reading all kinds of things from… I just came back from a week at the beach where reading novels and frothy kind of things all the way to reading biographies and just different books of interest, self-help books and things like that.
There’s lots and lots of different ways you can learn and I love the point that Christine made about don’t just think about specifically those resources that are going to help you get better skills for your job, just to help you more broadly to understand what’s going on in the world and frankly make you a more interesting person. That will help you in sales because it’ll help you relate to all different kinds of people.
Fred Diamond: Once again, the Institute for Excellence in Sales is going to be launching our Women in Sales Leadership Forum. Actually, if you listen to this podcast after it came out, our program is underway. We’re going to be holding at least two consorts per year. I want to thank Gigi Schumm for the great insights today. Again, I’ve mentioned this a number o times through the podcast, Gigi is at the top of her game as a sales leader after a great career running sales teams at Symantec, Oracle and Sun. Right now she’s the senior VP of sales for Threat Quotient, she’s based here in Reston, Virginia. Listen to her previous podcast on Sales Game Changers, you can find it at salesgamechangerspodcast.com/gigischumm.