EPISODE 389: Why Women in Sales Club Cofounder Alexine Mudawar Recommends Community-Based Learning Initiatives

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Women in Sales Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on June 18, 2021. It featured “Women in Sales Club” co-founder Alexine Mudawar. Learn more about the Club here.]

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Find Alexine on LinkedIn here.

ALEXINE’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Get really involved in some of these community-based learning efforts. Clubhouse is a really cool channel for you to be able to learn not just about sales process, there’s so many different groups and communities. There’s Clubhouse, there’s Thursday Night Sales, there’s all of these Slack communities, Revenue Collective, all of them. You can connect with so many different salespeople, sales leaders and talk about some of these topics together. My recommendation would be go outside of your company. I think it’s really important to have these conversations internally, but more so, what are other companies doing? Always having an ear to the ground of what’s going on with other organizations and with other salespeople. I think that is the way forward and I’m a huge proponent of that.”


Gina Stracuzzi: Welcome, everyone. Join us every week at Tuesday at noon, where we have really great thought leaders, sales experts, coaches, all kinds of really neat women who are advancing Women in Sales. None more so than my guest today, Alexine. She runs the Women in Sales Club on Clubhouse, which is just an awesome program. She has a slightly different take on how to speak to women in sales which I love, which includes men.

Alexine Mudawar: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.

Gina Stracuzzi: Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got to the point where you decided to start the club for women in sales on Clubhouse.

Alexine Mudawar: We’re now branching out into LinkedIn, and then the next step is going to be live events. Stay tuned, because there’s a lot of exciting stuff to come.

My name is Alexine Mudawar, thank you for everyone who’s attending this. Basically, I spent the past 8 years in outbound sales positions as a full-cycle sales rep, predominantly with high-growth startups. I’ve worked in the tech B2B SaaS sales space my entire career and I came straight out of college planning to go into retail buying, and ended up in tech sales. It’s been an awesome ride ever since.

Part of the inception of the Women in Sales Club was by virtue of the fact that most of the teams I’ve been on, I’ve been one of the only women on the team or the only woman on the team. For me, it was really important to find a place where I could connect with other women in sales and also connect where men who were part of sales teams and leading sales teams as well.

Gabrielle Blackwell that co-founded the Women in Sales Club with me, she and I had a lot of mutual alignment. We were seeing a lot of conversations that we wanted to provide a space for and we were really excited about those.

We went ahead and built this from the ground up and it’s been such a crazy ride. We have almost 3,000 followers and members. Like I said, we just launched on LinkedIn our group, so we’re just teetering towards a thousand on there. Just slowly in build mode right now.

Gina Stracuzzi: I do love that you’re including men in the conversation. We had some plans to do a one-day conference and I was going to put together a lot of panels that included men so we could have some really open and frank discussions. Then, of course, COVID hit.

I’m really glad to see that you’ve taken up the space and you’re addressing issues. It’s still amazing that 20, 30 years into women being in sales and sales leadership, we’re often still the only woman in the room, which just boggles the imagination.

Even when there’s a couple of us, we still have the same kind of, how do we get heard? Why do people just stare at us blankly when we speak? Kind of situations. Then somebody else repeats it and it gets heard.

I love what you’re doing. Talk to us a little bit about the kinds of conversations you have around inclusion in the Clubhouse and what it means to you personally, and how you’re trying to bring that into the workplace.

Alexine Mudawar: Our conversations have run the gamut of so many different things. We talked about impostor syndrome from a different lens, does impostor syndrome exist or is it a construct that things have been set up within an organization? That was a really interesting conversation.

We’ve talked about tactical topics as well and then we’ve talked about being the only woman on a sales team, owning your voice, we just did a session on managing up as well. The idea behind it is these are discussions that Gabrielle and I have also been coming to a lot of our members and folks that have been attending consistently, and asking them, what do you want to talk about? What do you feel like hasn’t been coming up enough? These are the conversations, we’re following along with the topics that people are raising to us.

The next conversation we’re actually having this weekend which is a big one is around ageism on both sides of the spectrum, because there’s a lot of folks early on in their career. I think of inclusion in the lens of not just the traditional gender, male/female on the team, men and women. I think of it also from the lens of who else do we not see on sales teams? That includes folks with different education backgrounds, that includes folks from different age demographics, from different races.

There’s so much that goes into that, so I think that really anybody, when I look around a traditional sales team that we’re not seeing, that’s who I think of when I think of inclusivity. We’re just missing a lot of people still, and the fact that we still have teams where it’s predominantly men. Maybe you have one or two women on the team and it is surprising, now it’s been like you said, 30 years.

The other interesting thing is there’s a lot of data that’s come out. Gong has actually published a lot of data around sales teams that have very inclusive teams as a whole, by numerous definitions, that they perform better. What I hope with this group is to really provide a place for us to have these conversations and get through some of the taboo topics.

Ageism is a really tough topic to talk about and you don’t see it a lot out there. We’re trying to have some of those conversations in a really comfortable way. We’re not providing a place where we are talking at people or lecturing them, Gabrielle and I are both in the back end taking notes ourselves. We’re sharing a conversation topic guiding the conversation, the discussion, but then very much also taking the information back and learning ourselves.

I only know as much as I know, even Gabrielle’s experience is different from what I’ve had as a salesperson. She started on a predominantly female team, I started on a predominantly male team. There’s just so many different lenses as part of the conversation and I think of inclusivity that way. I just think it’s really important to have a cohesive, forward-thinking conversation if everybody’s involved.

Gina Stracuzzi: One of the things that I’ve been reading about and listening to podcasts about is so many well-meaning companies have diversity and inclusion plans in place. But they are more a marker and less of an actual philosophy, and a lot of it is because there are people that maybe just aren’t trained in how to actually integrate an inclusivity plan into everything that they do. It really has to be from the top down.

Do you hear people in these conversations talking about frustrations at their own company that there’s these supposed plans in place, but they don’t see the actual outcomes of it?

Alexine Mudawar: Yeah, there’s that piece. I’ve also launched the first employee resource group twice now for two different companies, and they’re both being women’s groups. That experience of launching an employee resource group has been very fascinating as well.

Because usually regardless what company you present it to, the initial reaction is, “If we create any employee resource group, are we then creating more of a divide?” There’s a visceral reaction to it that’s always really fascinating.

But then, in my experience in running those groups specifically, we had representation from very key groups, like a lot of folks that were from the LGTBQIA were attending our events. We had a lot of women attending the events, not a lot of leadership and not a lot of men.

There was this disconnect in who we really almost needed to be part of that conversation too, because we’re talking about here’s some of the things that we’re seeing. Here’s something that maybe happens on a day-to-day basis on a team meeting that people don’t even think about.

But then we’re talking about it amongst ourselves in a vacuum so that was where, for me, I’ve always felt like how do we get some of these leaders to the conversation? Because the times that we did have sales leaders or male leadership actually attend those sessions, then they would come to me later and say, “I haven’t even thought about that” or, “Maybe I had done something like that, I didn’t realize it.”

It was such an impactful moment and I wanted to have more of those. That was why when Gabrielle and I were launching this Women in Sales Club, we made it very intentional from the get-go. From the first time we had a room, we made it very clear. There are going to be men, women, everybody’s going to be part of this conversation, everybody’s going to be up on the stage able to speak, ask questions.

As long as people are coming from a place of earnest and not being mean or derogatory, then all questions are welcome because I think that’s part of it too. How would someone know the experience of someone else if not learning from them and hearing from their point of view?

It’s been really interesting and actually, our second to last event that we did, it was actually almost a 50-50 split between men and women in attendance. Which was for me, honestly, just an incredible moment to see the group and see everybody talking and speaking amongst themselves. That for me felt like a really big step forward.

Gina Stracuzzi: It’s awesome that you’ve provided this respectful place where people can share their experiences and have people who by no means do anything malicious but just go on about their day, and don’t even realize that they could be adding to the problem. Or at least, not helping the situation.

A lot of times, when you talk to men or to leadership and you actually get them to listen to a personal account, they really are genuinely like, “I had no idea.” And how could they, really? Everyone’s experience is completely personal, and if you’re not a Latino woman, you’re not going to have the same experience. You’re not going to know unless you listen, so kudos to you for making that happen.

Alexine Mudawar: It’s cool behind the scenes too. I will get messages either via LinkedIn or some people will text me afterwards. A lot of specifically revenue leaders will reach out in some format and say, “That was a really impactful session” or, “These are some of my takeaways.”

I think that’s a piece of it too. A lot of the topics that we’re going through aren’t specific to women, it’s just that the conversation is led by two women in sales, so we want to own the fact that we’re launching these discussions and being part of this group. But the conversation topics are very much, like ageism, it applies to all of is. If it doesn’t apply right now, it will in 25 years. Those are discussions for everyone to take part in, that’s part of this too, what’s really interesting about it.

Gina Stracuzzi: We will know when we’ve hit maximum inclusivity when we are just people in sales, and it is not about a gender or race. We’re just people extending revenue and making things happen for our companies, and that’s how it should be.

All of these efforts that we’re doing to try to draw attention to the value that women of diversity and people of diversity can bring to the bottom line, it takes a while to turn a big shift. But we’re getting there.

Let’s talk a little bit about topics that you were mentioning earlier. How do you and Gabrielle decide on what topics you’re going to cover?

Alexine Mudawar: If they’re ones that are top of mind, both of us are pretty heavy LinkedIn users so we’re constantly going through feeds. Occasionally, I’ll screenshot something and send it to her and be like, “I keep seeing stuff about this, let’s talk about this.” Or she’s a voracious reader, so she’ll send me like, “I was just reading this article.” Some of the topics come about that way.

Some of them are ones that keep us up at night type of thing, like we just have to do this one at some point. That’s the ageism one, I felt like that one was sitting on my mind a lot lately because I know so many folks, we keep talking about the tech job sales market recovering so quickly.

But then I know a lot of folks who are in the 50+ demographic who are having an awful time finding roles and are very qualified and are willing to take these SDR or early-stage positions, but companies are not willing to bring them into those roles. That was one that was sitting with us a lot and heavy on our minds.

The other piece is from the community, some people will actually send me stuff and just ask that I bring up the topic anonymously. I’ve had people send me page-long descriptions of a situation that they’re facing right now and, “Can we talk about it? But please leave it anonymous.” I’ve talked about that a couple times too where we literally go through the whole situation and help someone that’s on the call, but nobody knows who it is.

There’s that piece and recommendations people are sending us in general. “This is a topic that I would love to learn more about selfishly.” Usually, the last five minutes of the Clubhouse, because it’s two hours every Saturday so it’s a huge chunk of time and I’m exhausted afterwards, but it’s so reenergizing in a different way.

At the last five minutes, we’ll go through and say, are there any topics that everybody’s thinking about or anything that comes top-of-mind? Usually, we’ll get three or four that way too. I’m just keeping a spreadsheet with Gabrielle off to the side and we’re logging, these are all the topics we want to get through.

We have probably 10 more sitting out there that we still have to get to and I’m sure this weekend we’ll have even more to add. It’s been great. It’s not been hard to think about topics to speak about, I can say that much.

Gina Stracuzzi: Anne would like to know, “What time on Saturday and is it just Women in Sales Club?”

Alexine Mudawar: It’s 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Central time every single Saturday on Clubhouse. Both on LinkedIn and Clubhouse, the group is under Women in Sales Club. There’s an outer space logo with pink text so you can recognize it.

Gina Stracuzzi: How do you manage the conversation when you have so many people? How do you decide who gets to talk and what ideas are shared?

Alexine Mudawar: Good question, because we’re learning this in real time every single week. The format for us, we fluctuate in numbers. It seems like we land between 30 to 35 people pretty consistently so the way that we have it situated, we actually bring everybody that we’re directly connected with up on stage.

There’s a third bracket of folks who neither of us are connected to and usually we just try to be cautious, we just don’t know who’s out there so we want to be careful who we invite into the discussion. With the people that we bring on stage, we just ask that everybody’s respectful, that we allow space for everybody to have a chance to speak if they have something.

We also will help guide the conversation too and say, hey, I saw you, you and you came off mute, let’s go to this person first and then this person, then this person. Gabrielle and I are interjecting in between and making sure the next person gets then mic and passing it along.

We’ve only had a few instances where we’ve had to curve a couple people back and we did it very privately behind the scenes. It was very non-issue. We’ve been very lucky in that sense so far, and for us we’re still learning. When we inched towards 50, it was definitely hard to keep everything organized. But for the most part, everybody’s been super respectful of one another. We’ve been grateful for that.

Gina Stracuzzi: Anne wants to know as a follow up, are there recordings of the sessions?

Alexine Mudawar: No, I think it’s meant to be in real time. I didn’t really know what the rules and restrictions were and I didn’t want to get kicked off of there, so we’ve not been recording them. Our thought process is we’re going to launch a live event series here in the next month or so which we’re super excited about.

In that case, we’ll have playbacks for those and be able to offer those up to the broader group. But a lot of people share personal stories and details that felt a little uncomfortable to record it from my perspective. But that’s a good question.

Gina Stracuzzi: Every platform’s different, and people are just learning about Clubhouse. It’s interesting, because maybe six months ago someone said, “Let’s talk on Clubhouse” and I was like, what the heck’s Clubhouse? So she sent me a link and I was like, well, this is pretty cool. Then suddenly, it was everywhere, as these things happen.

It’s great because it does allow people to join in a conversation, and to me, that’s what changes things. From a personal work standpoint and what you do on a day-to-day basis, how have you been able to leverage the work with your efforts to elevate women in sales? Where do you see it going and what would you like to see happen next?

Alexine Mudawar: To this point, I’ve been able to keep the two worlds somewhat separated, somewhat intentionally too. I want to make sure first and foremost I’m getting paid to do my current job, so I need to be successful there. If that means me taking less events during the workday, things like this – I made a special exception for you – but that’s part of it.

We’re starting to do a lot of our Women in Sales stuff at 7:38 a.m. before the workday starts or 5:00 p.m. and after, and that was something Gabrielle and I talked about and got really intentional about. Then the Clubhouse is on Saturdays, so it really doesn’t interfere with my work week and I think of them in different buckets.

I feel like I have a few buckets like this, I’m very involved in Thursday Night Sales as well, that’s a different bucket. But again, it’s on Thursday evenings, so I feel like I have a lot of buckets and I don’t necessarily need all of them to combine for any reason. I like having my different sanctuaries, if you will.

Gina Stracuzzi: I can see that. There might be in the future a way to leverage what you’re doing to grow visibility in the workplace or whatever. The two don’t necessarily have to be separate, but everything goes at things differently. I was just wondering if there are women in your workplace that know what you’re doing and are interested, how supportive people are. But if you keep it separate, at least for now, I can totally understand that.

Alexine Mudawar: We did do a really cool crossover. One of my co-founders is a woman, she’s based in Australia, she’s wonderful. We actually did not so much the Women in Sales Club, but we did an International Women’s Day event which was really my community from Thursday Night Sales and the Women in Sales Club. We did a discussion with Amy Bullis, Christine Rogers, Matilda who’s my co-founder and myself, and then I interviewed the three of them.

I do think there are crossovers like that, and my co-founder was super excited about that event. I sent it out to the rest of our company and they all listened in and had a lot of fun with it. Originally, it was going to be something that we kept internal just to celebrate International Women’s day, but then we actually ended up sharing it out on LinkedIn through our company page too.

I think there are some cool overlap points and there’s definitely folks internally that have been interested and asked how things are going, or even sent people my way that they thought would be a good fit. Someone had their sister reach out to me so we could get her connected with the group. There’s definitely been some overlap.

Even with some of my clients, I’ve had a couple clients who have someone in their life that is in sales, so they’ll connect us and ask if I can help them get involved in the group. That’s been really cool too, as I’m closing accounts to have the ability to then help someone in their life connect to this group has been a really rewarding experience.

Gina Stracuzzi: I bet, to be able to say, “We’re doing this and I would love for you to be part of it.” That’s a great way to leverage it. Do you have guests on your show? Do you bring specific guests to tackle a topic or get the conversation started? How do you jump into these?

Alexine Mudawar: We always set up the conversation, we introduce the Women in Sales Club because we always have new people every single week. We do not have guests set aside, however, we do have people within the group that typically align well to certain discussions so we will call upon them.

Larry Long Jr. comes to a bunch of our events, so does Jeff Bajorek. They have a great leadership lens that they can add a lot to the conversation. Lori Richardson, she shows up all the time. Alice Heiman is there constantly. They have a different perspective as well.

There are people I would say that we intentionally tap during the conversation, but we don’t have speakers set aside. We just make sure that if it’s a conversation like the ageism one, there are a few people that we have within our community that would be really good to speak on this topic, making sure that they’re going to be present and want them to be part of that discussion.

I would say we do more of that, making sure we have a few people in the room that can help us keep things moving along. We have a lot of faith in the group that we have, we have people that come back religiously every single week for a few months now. They do a great job of contributing their thoughts and encouraging others to share. We’ve been really lucky in that aspect, I’ve been grateful for everybody that’s consistently attended.

Gina Stracuzzi: I’m sure that as you do more of these kinds of programs and you get larger following on LinkedIn, the numbers will keep increasing. As we were speaking about at the beginning, this is really how we move mountains. To just keep the conversation going and bring more people into it, more voices. The more male leaders that are aware of it and bring people in, the better. I really applaud that.

What is the next thing that you would like to see happen for the Women in Sales Club? What’s your ultimate goal for the club and how will you know that it’s reached its epitome of successfulness?

Alexine Mudawar: I’ll answer a different way. I will know that it’s time to stop doing it when it stops being fun. It’s been really fun to this point. Gabrielle and I are super busy, we’re two weekend workers. I was up until eleven doing stuff last night, so we’re both super hard workers in our day-to-day role.

I don’t think we know yet where we’re headed, this took off a lot faster than we anticipated, we just were planning to have a couple conversations with ten of our friends on the weekends. I think with the live event series, that will be something that takes us to the next level and help spread the word via LinkedIn.

We’ve had Clubhouse that’s amped up pretty quickly that we’re lagging on LinkedIn, so we’re starting to get the name out there, but we just launched that a couple weeks ago. It’s pretty fresh. I’m not sure from there, I know that there’s companies that are going to want to attach their names to this and we’re going to be very careful about what companies we want to partner with in the long term as well.

We’re very carefully vetting folks that are reaching out to us that want to collaborate or do something with. We want to make sure, are these places that truly embody our values and what we’re trying to do with this group? If the answer is no, then we will not be partnering with them. I think that’s a learning curve too, because obviously it’s exciting when really notable companies reach out to you and they want to partner but if our values don’t align, then shame on us if we choose to go that path.

We’re having to build the car as we’re driving it down the highway, but it’s a very healthy growth. Every single week I’m learning something new, I think Gabrielle feels similarly. We’re getting a lot of conversations going together so it’s been really fun to build off of each other. We’re very different personalities but really good friends behind the scene.

It’s funny to see because sometimes we’ll disagree on things, and it’s not in a combative way but she’ll have a different viewpoint than I do and we share both of those viewpoints. Then it’s up to the folks that are with us to decide, where do I fit? Do I fit in one side or the other, somewhere in the middle or do I have my own viewpoint that’s completely separate?

That’s the long-winded answer of I don’t know what the future holds, but it’s been fun, we’re having fun and it continues to be fun. We’re continuing to do great things and we’re just going to keep it rolling, see what happens.

Gina Stracuzzi: I want to back up just a little bit and ask you, since you’ve covered ageism at least once, maybe twice on the Clubhouse discussion, what came of it? What advice did people have? Because I too have friends who are in that boat.

They got let go during reorgs or whatever the case was, and a lot of people got let go during covid. Now they’re struggling and they have such a wealth of experience, it just boggles the imagination why companies can’t see the value of it. Did you all come to any great conclusions or ideas on how to fix it?

Alexine Mudawar: The discussion is taking place this weekend so I’ll know more in a couple days. I’ll let you know what I find out, but this question came up, it might have been on Thursday Night Sales or one of the other communities I’m part of. I know one of the recommendations was to upskill, really get into some Salesforce certifications.

I know one of the topics that someone raised was maybe behind the scenes, the interviewers were concerned that due to someone’s age, which is not fair, by the way, that maybe their technical expertise or acumen would be lacking in comparison to someone that came fresh out of whatever it is.

Part of that was maybe proactively do things like these Salesforce certifications or really get up to date on some of the other tools that exist. There are also programs like Aspireship that Christine Rogers runs, which is an incredible program where you can do a bootcamp-style session, really get upskilled there and then have a connection to a bunch of organizations that you can potentially get placed in.

I know a lot of folks have been going that pathway as well, and I think that’s a really incredible opportunity to connect with really successful leaders in the sales space. But also to be in a pipeline that goes towards potentially getting a placement.

I’m going to have a lot more ideas after Saturday, I’m just as much learning too. I’m excited to see what people are coming up with or what ways people are approaching this. Also, so that if I hear this stuff, I know how to approach that conversation too. I just as much need to get better versed in how to handle these discussions as well.

Gina Stracuzzi: It’s an important topic and it’s not one that’s going to go away, so I applaud you for addressing it. I hope that everybody that’s listening will tune in, and if you’re listening as a podcast and you’ve missed, you can reach out to them. Alexine and Gabrielle, by then they’ll have all the answers.

Alexine Mudawar: We’ll be ready to go. Then also that conversation goes the other way too, when you’re one-to-three in sales, a lot of people are facing a different discrimination as well, people coming straight out of college or sometimes having trouble with placement. I think there’s two spectrums to that which will be really interesting.

I’m excited, I think it’s going to be a good conversation but selfishly, some of these topics are things that I need to learn more about. So I’m always excited when we’re facilitating these discussions because I want to learn just as much as I want to talk about it.

Gina Stracuzzi: We all know that continuous learning is the way you grow. As you’re talking, all I can think is companies should pair the older people that they have on staff that they’re concerned might not be keeping up with technology with some of the newcomers, because they could probably teach each other a great deal.

The more seasoned salespeople know how to build those relationships and really leverage what the relationships bring to the table, and extend those relationships, whereas the people coming out of college don’t. I’m sure that the kids coming out of college could teach them a thing or two technology-wise, so maybe that’s where the answer lies, somewhere in there.

We’re just about out of time now. I’m wondering if you could leave our audience with one piece of advice that they could do today, put into place. Maybe it’s to go find all these different programs and efforts that you’ve spoken about so that they can start learning more themselves and educating themselves on these topics.

Alexine Mudawar: My recommendation is what I’ve really been doing these last couple years. Get really involved in some of these community-based learning efforts. This is a really cool channel for you to be able to learn not just about sales process, there’s so many different groups and communities. There’s Clubhouse, there’s Thursday Night Sales, there’s all of these Slack communities, Revenue Collective, all of them. You can connect with so many different salespeople, sales leaders and talk about some of these topics together.

My recommendation would be go outside of your company. I think it’s really important to have these conversations internally, but more so, what are other companies doing? Always having an ear to the ground of what’s going on with other organizations and with other salespeople. I think that is the way forward and I’m a huge proponent of that.

I dove head-first during COVID time into community-based learning and I feel like in I in the last year got an MBA in sales. I’ve learned so much and connected with so many incredible people, I’ve gotten mentors out of the experience, I’ve started mentoring more people out of the experience. I could not put a dollar amount on the wealth of knowledge that I’ve gained on the last year alone.

I definitely encourage people to follow suit and lean on your community. Look for some of these community-based resources because they are a treasure trove of information that will serve you well your whole career.

Gina Stracuzzi: You’re right, it’s never been easier to connect with outside communities because we all were forced into this box of a reality. But it has opened up the world and you can learn from people everywhere now, things that you wouldn’t have done. You would have gone to things in Chicago, I would have gone to things in DC and that would have been pretty much it. But now we’ve got, as you say, a treasure trove of opportunity. That is really excellent advice.

Alexine, I thank you so much for coming on and I hope you’ll come back and talk to us about things you’ve learned maybe six months from now. As it’s grown, the things that you’ve come away with and other pieces of information you’d like to share with us.

Alexine Mudawar: I would love that. You and I will definitely be keeping in touch because we have some more events ahead. I may be gathering you for one of those. I’m really excited, thank you for the time today and thank you to everyone listening to this, really appreciate your time as well.

Gina Stracuzzi: We will see you again very soon then. Take care. Bye, everyone. See you next week.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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