EPISODE 611: Why Datasite is a Premier Women in Sales Employer with Jenna Kroll

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Today’s show featured an interview with Jenna Kroll from IES Premier Women in Sales Employer Datasite. Read more about the PWISE designation and program here. the interview was conducted by Gina Stracuzzi, IES Women in Sales Program Director.

Find Jenna on LinkedIn.

JENNA ON WHY DATASITE IS A PWISE:  “We’re honored to be recognized and win this award. It goes back to everything that we’re doing within the organization daily. It boils down to that the company is committed to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion. That really is implemented across the company. We’re in a highly competitive industry and we have to continue to innovate. It’s crucial for our success, and we can’t do that if we don’t have a wide variety of differing ideas being shared. I think that’s why it’s really important for us to continue to innovate.


Gina Stracuzzi: Jenna Kroll, I am so happy to have you on. Datasite is an awesome company. I’m really thrilled that you have all, I won’t say won the designation, because you’ve earned it, and it’s an application process that is quite stringent, as you know, for anybody that had to fill that out. Welcome to the program. You are a director in Chicago, right? For Datasite.

Jenna Kroll: I work out of the Chicago office but oversee the Chicago and Canadian advisory channels.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Datasite, and then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of what we’re going to talk about.

Jenna Kroll: As I said, I work out of the Chicago office and oversee our Canadian and Chicago advisory channels, working directly with investment banks and private equity day-to-day on deal-making. I’ve been at the company for about four years now, and in my current role for three years. Previous to that I had worked in the industry. I’m going on about 10 years now of working with the M&A industry.

Gina Stracuzzi: Let’s talk a little bit about Datasite getting recognized as a PWISE company. Congratulations, by the way.

Jenna Kroll: Thank you.

Gina Stracuzzi: Why do you think your company did so well and why is it important for Datasite to get this designation?

Jenna Kroll: Thank you for setting this up. We’re honored to be recognized and win this award. I think it goes back to everything that we’re doing within the organization daily. It boils down to that the company is committed to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion. That really is implemented across the company. We’re in a highly competitive industry and we have to continue to innovate. It’s crucial for our success, and we can’t do that if we don’t have a wide variety of differing ideas being shared. I think that’s why it’s really important for us to continue to innovate.

Gina Stracuzzi: You’re so right. We can’t keep doing the same things, companies. Clients and customers really demand to see themselves represented in your sales force and in your company leadership. I think you’re spot on there. What specifically does your company do to make this an attractive company for women in sales?

Jenna Kroll: I think that they do a multitude of things. The first thing that comes to mind is we invest heavily in professional development. If that’s continuous education with webinars, ongoing sales trainings, product roundtables, bringing in thought leaders from the industry to continue to educate employees on shifting markets, we’re constantly doing that and that’s definitely something that is attractive for people looking to move into an organization. For women specifically, we also have some great employee resource groups. We’ve got Women in Sales Empowerment, we call it WISE, and then Women in Technology, WIT. Those groups are really founded by employees within the organization and supported by our leaders in order for them to find mentors, talk about topics that they’re seeing, share insights, development, things like that.

In addition to that, we’ve got a lot of other great things that we offer, one of them being flexibility in our workforce. With the pandemic hitting, we’ve been able to hire in different areas that we wouldn’t historically. Whether they’re not out of our headquarters office of Minneapolis, Minnesota, but we’re now able to hire and retain talent in different parts of the country and the world. I think that that’s been great because we can continue to offer those flexible work arrangements.

Then the last thing I would say that we do really well is provide a platform for recognition and visibility for people within the organization. We use a platform internally and you can think of it as a bulletin board to give shout outs to people within the organization of, “Hey, you did a great job on this pitch,” or someone in service assisting on a project, and really giving that ability to build that culture and let the team celebrate each other in their successes.

Gina Stracuzzi: I like that, just acknowledging people in a way that others can see it, because it really does resonate with people. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that women face in success in sales, and how does your company address those challenges?

Jenna Kroll: I would say that sales is a challenging career in general and it’s ever-changing. You’ve got to be eager to learn and shift and pivot quickly. My feedback is not necessarily just for women, but for anyone that’s looking to be successful in sales. It really boils down to three things. Work hard, be curious, and collaborate, and I’ll go into those a little bit more. But work hard. Sales is what you put into it and the harder you work, the better you’re going to do. You’ve got to be aiming towards your goals and constantly pushing yourself to excel. Things that Datasite does to help support that, I would say we have an extremely robust training program. When new employees are coming into the organization, they’re going through this rigorous training program so when they are in field, they can answer any questions that may come their way. Then as they onboard and continue throughout their career at Datasite, we continue to give them those resources. If you’re not willing to work hard and you’re not taking advantage of the resources being given to you, it’s going to be hard to be successful.

The second thing I would say is curiosity. It’s something that we look for when we’re interviewing candidates constantly. You have to be curious. In sales, things are always shifting and you have to be able to ask your customers what they’re looking for, be able to really understand what they’re saying and understand what they’re looking to use your technology for. If you’re not asking the questions, you’re not constantly curious, you’re not going to be advancing yourself.

The last thing I would touch on is collaboration. That goes back to internally and externally at an organization. You’ve got to be able to collaborate with your clients, with your coworkers, really work in a team environment in order to continue to see different perspectives and excel in your sales pitch. Something that Datasite does well is we have this mindset of surround the deal and working with each other and getting a win for the company. That really boils back down to the culture that we’ve built and working as a team.

Gina Stracuzzi: Let’s talk a little bit about what women are looking for in a company. When you came onto the company, when you came into Datasite, what were you looking for and how did you recognize it? The women that are coming in now, are they looking for the same things that you were looking for?

Jenna Kroll: Yeah. Women are looking for equal opportunity in any organization that they’re moving into. They’re looking to make an impact and they’re looking to be valued. They were definitely things that I looked for when I moved over to Datasite and things that I was happy to find when I was here. I think just over a third of our sellers and leaders are women within the organization, and I love that because we’ve got quite a few women and powerful women in the organization and they’ve been great resources and mentors for other women within the organization. I think just being at a company that values you and provides the opportunity for you to excel is really crucial.

Gina Stracuzzi: How did you know that Datasite would be that for you?

Jenna Kroll: A lot of research. I met with quite a few people in the organization prior to accepting, just to hear their thoughts. Something that we do as we’re interviewing candidates even on this side of things is put them in touch with other peers within the organization. I really think that it’s important that as you’re interviewing potential new employees, that they get a full picture of what the company actually offers. Because if they come into the organization and it’s not what you told them it is, they’re going to look elsewhere. They’re not going to stay there long term. We’re really focused on continuing that culture, retaining talent, and growing people from within.

Gina Stracuzzi: Let’s talk a little bit about how your company is attracting top talent now. Where do you think the industry is going in terms of attracting new sales talents? We talk to people all the time and most companies are really dedicated to attracting more women and greater diversity, but they’re struggling to do it. What is your company doing and where do you think maybe the industry should be trying a little harder?

Jenna Kroll: Well, I think most importantly for reaching people that you may not be able to reach through referrals or natural networks, it’s really important that you’re building a company like Datasite that has all of those diversity, inclusion, and equality aspects, and then applying for these awards. We got the award of one of the best places to work for women. We are recognized as the number one company to sell for by Selling Power magazine. All of those things are in network and they’re available to talent that we don’t know is out there looking. I think that’s a really important piece because you’ve got people coming and looking at Datasite who may not have found us otherwise.

In regards to actually bringing talent in and things that are different, I would say we rely heavily on referrals. I would say 90% of the team that I’ve hired since I’ve been at Datasite has been through referrals and I’ve actually even referred people to other parts of the business or other areas or locations. We’ve seen a lot of success with that. When you’re building a company that’s great, like Datasite, people want to stay here and they want to introduce their friends and they want their family to come here because they want them to be a part of something that’s truly special. I would say if you’re not leveraging your current networks, you’re missing the boat there.

Then the last thing that I would say that’s really important as we interview potential candidates and look to bring in top sellers into the organization, is we’re really transparent in the interview process. We walk them through what they should expect day-to-day. We walk them through the culture, we walk them through what our robust sales training program is, which is challenging. We put them with peers to be able to hear their feedback on things that have made them successful within the organization. Then here in Americas, which I think is something a little bit special as well, is every new hire that we’re bringing to the sales organization, our Americas CRO is meeting with, and he’s taking the time to get to know these people and to make sure that the people that we’re bringing in are fitting within the culture that we’re looking to maintain.

Gina Stracuzzi: Overall, do you anticipate how people find jobs or what they’re looking for will change over the next year? There’s been a lot of talk. We’re in this semi-hybrid world now, where some people are in the office, some are still refusing to come, there’s not this cohesiveness. If anything, it feels more scattered than it did when everybody was virtual. How are you all addressing that or where do you think things will go over the next year?

Jenna Kroll: We have the technology to be able to hire people remotely. We’re lucky in that format. A lot of my clients though are not in that situation that they can hire people necessarily in a remote world. As you’ve been reading in the news, it can cause some friction of people don’t necessarily want to be in big cities, they want to be somewhere else. But I think it’s going to continue to shift. The hybrid world has maybe opened the eyes of people looking for jobs, that they could find a job that they enjoy, that necessarily is not in the city that they needed to be in before. I think we’ll continue to see it shift. Then with the addition of Gen Z entering the workforce, that’s going to bring a new view on it as well.

Gina Stracuzzi: You started to touch on this a little bit, but let’s discuss some of the way that your leaders are leading their teams right now for success, especially thinking about the things we just discussed, that some people are hybrid, some are not. How are your customers asking for things to be done, and then how are your leaders responding to that?

Jenna Kroll: For my team specifically, we’re pretty much in-office. It’s a little bit easier just given that we’re in-office and we’re constantly collaborating day-to-day. But something that I think is good to touch on is an offering that Datasite has, and it’s called Manager Essentials. It’s a program that we put together for all leaders in the organization. I’ll tell you why I think that’s important. The reason is, is because we have people from all parts of the organization sitting in in one classroom type format, and we do these round tables pretty consistently of, it’s not just sales sitting with sales, it’s sales sitting with service, product, legal, HR, different formats of the business. We’re all talking about, how do you lead your teams? How do you help your teams be successful?

Even though we have different challenges and different things that we need to execute on, it really boils down to the same thing of, are you setting goals with your team that are achievable? Are you coaching them? Are you providing feedback in real time? If you are, how is that handled? Are you giving your team the autonomy? Do you trust them to be able to work on something without you having to be there assisting? I think what we’ve learned is that by building your teams up and giving them goals that are achievable, they get more confident and they just continue to grow in their careers.

Gina Stracuzzi: Do you foresee any challenges in staying a Premier Women in Sales Employer? In other words, all those great things that you mentioned, and some of the things that we didn’t hit on, flexibility around maternity leaves and that kind of stuff, do you foresee any challenges to remaining a Premier Women in Sales Employer?

Jenna Kroll: I wouldn’t say challenges. I would say that it’s probably going to continue to shift current market conditions. We work directly with M&A, things are shifting all the time. I think we’re going to have to continue to grow as our company grows. We’re going to have to continue to almost gut-check ourselves that we’re keeping that culture, or we’re keeping those benefits that people are looking for, that we’re staying in tune with our employees. I think how you do that is by scaling the business in the way that we have, of having leaders directly working with their teams and have that open door policy that they can provide feedback that’s actually going to be heard.

Gina Stracuzzi: Overall, what do you think sales employees are looking for in the way of support or other tools from their employees? This is all genders.

Jenna Kroll: I think that most people are looking for career development. What resources are you providing them, not only when they’re onboarding in an organization, but after they’ve been there, is there continuous education. I think that’s really important to people. I think that they’re looking for leaders who are heavily involved with their growth and want to be mentors for them. I think they’re looking for a company that is innovative. It goes back to what I said in the beginning, if you’re not innovating, then you’re not growing. If you’re not growing, people are going to look elsewhere.

Gina Stracuzzi: Jenna, let’s talk a little bit about your own personal journey in Datasite, and you can share with others how you know personally that Datasite is a great place for women to work.

Jenna Kroll: I joined the organization four years ago, and when I came over I was welcomed with open arms from women all over the organization and was really put in touch with some powerful people, which has shifted my career in a positive way. That’s been great and I’ve continued to help other employees coming into the organization as they onboard as well. But something that’s maybe a little bit unique to me is I’m a first time mom as of a year and a half ago. I had a son. Prior to being at Datasite, I hadn’t had kids before. I had never had to tell someone that I was pregnant, going to be on maternity leave. I was a little bit nervous about it. When I told our leaders, they celebrated, and that was just the most amazing feeling, to have this weight off of your shoulders, that shouldn’t be a weight at all. But just being in an organization that celebrated it, supported me, was great, during my maternity leave and then after. I touched on flexibility in the workplace before. I think that goes back to my experience as well. If there’s a moment that I need to work from home, there’s never a question as to why. It’s a, “Okay, no problem.” I think being in an organization that supports women in those facets as well is really important.

Gina Stracuzzi: Hearing a firsthand account is very valuable, because it isn’t always welcomed or celebrated for that matter. I love that story, Jenna. Now we’re at that point in our conversation where we like to ask our guests for one final action step that reps, or leadership, or whatever you would like to address, can take to improve their career, help their career, help their sales today.

Jenna Kroll: Listen more. Listen more to your leaders. If you’re a seller, listen more to your customers. Ask questions, be naturally curious. I touched on that earlier. If you’re not continuing to ask questions and push yourself further, you’re not going to be able to grow. I would say if you’re not doing it now, I would start doing it.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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