EPISODE 549: Life Balance and Sales Excellence with Deltek’s Natasha Engan

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast was sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales, and featured an interview with Natasha Engan, sales leader at Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses.

Find Natasha on LinkedIn.

NATASHA’S TIP: “Hit your numbers! Show up every day doing all the right actions and you will achieve success. When I say all the right actions, that means spend the time to know your customers, know your products, know your industry, know the tools that you have at your disposal, and ask for help. That would be my number one thing. Ask for help to help you solve your problems. It takes a village in a lot of these more complex solutions that we’re selling. If you ask for help and you leverage everything around you, you’re going to be successful.


Fred Diamond: Natasha Engan, you’re the sales leader at Deltek. Give us a brief introduction into Deltek. I’m excited to talk to you.

Natasha Engan: Thank you, Fred. I’m really excited to be here today. What are we at Deltek? We are a software and solutions provider providing the best industry based solutions for project based businesses. We focus on five core industries, architecture and engineering, government contracting, agencies, consulting. We are just really great at what we do and we have a passion for our industries and our customers.

Fred Diamond: I’m broadcasting from Fairfax, Virginia, right outside of Washington, DC. You’re up in the New England, the Boston Area. A lot of our guests have been in the government side. Either government sales at companies like IBM, or Oracle, Microsoft, or Red Hat. We’ve had a number of government contractors, companies from like SAIC and ICF, for example. They’re all familiar with Deltek. Deltek is the company that helped so many of these companies provide originally the accounting solutions, the DCAA compliance accounting solutions. It’s really remarkable to see how large Deltek has grown and all the new product lines and industries that you serve. Let’s get right to it. Right now, how are things going for the sales side of the business? I’m just curious, how has the pandemic affected your efforts as a sales leader?

Natasha Engan: Things are going really well, actually. It’s pretty exciting. We had a lot of uncertainty, fear, and doubt going into the pandemic. I think the biggest challenge during the pandemic was how we shifted from spending a lot of time face to face with our customers, engaging with them at events, our trade shows, the industry events, and we had a shift to entire virtual environment. That was a very challenging, different motions, different actions from sellers, from prospecting, with our marketing team, to SDRs. We were doing a lot of webinars, and it’s interesting. Right now, we’re shifting back to more of a hybrid type environment with our customers figuring out, “What do they want in a virtual setting versus what do they want in a face-to-face setting?” That’s our big shift right now and things that we’re focused on.

Also, another thing that’s going on right now with the recovery from the pandemic is really hiring, and The Great Reshuffle has really been a focus area for us. We’ve seen that slow down recently in the last month or so, or two months. We’re starting to see more stability with team members in sales, which is always great. But I’m really excited and optimistic about where we’re going and think the hybrid environment is a great sales environment for our customers, for our sellers, and especially for our sellers and sales professionals that have many different professional and personal things going on, such as women in sales, which I know you guys have a passion for at IES. Women have unique challenges. I think oftentimes being caregivers, taking care of children and parenting, and elderly family members, so there’s a lot of challenges. I think hybrid environments bring a unique opportunity for women to excel and focus on work and then focus on professional.

Fred Diamond: Well, let’s talk about the women in sales for a second or two. I know you created a program at Deltek for the Women@Deltek. The IES Women in Sales program is one of our crown jewels. You’ve had some of your people go through our program. As a matter of fact, one of your previous sales leaders, who’s now retired, was the first recipient of our Women in Sales Leadership Award, the great Mary Beth Cockerham, so obviously Deltek is very focused. Let’s talk about that a little bit.

The US Chamber of Commerce announced recently that close to a million women in white collar type jobs have left the workforce. What does that mean to you? Talk a little bit about some of the things that you’re focusing on to help Deltek stand out for that particular piece of the workforce.

Natasha Engan: For me personally, I’m a parent and I’ve also been caring for elderly parents and a parent that’s been going through cancer treatment and actually living with me and my family right before the pandemic and throughout the pandemic. For me personally, I understand some of the challenges about balancing a career and going through life-changing events and having to take care of a lot of other people that rely on you, as well as having a team.

For me, being a woman is really important. Early in my career, I had a lot of support. I worked at a large technology company that provided a lot of support for women who had careers, trying to balance doing different things, taking risks. I was a part of a women’s group where I had a mentor and it really made a profound difference in my career. I was given an opportunity to understand that things do work out. You just got to sometimes put yourself out there and have some faith that it’s going to be a bumpy ride sometimes, but it’s going to be okay. That for me was the impetus when I came to Deltek to co-found Women@Deltek to help support other women no matter what their profession is within the company, engineering, consulting, sales. For me, it’s a real passion project.

Fred Diamond: What are some of the recommendations you have to your leadership team about paying attention to people? For example, I interviewed a guy who was one of your peers at DMV about a year ago. I asked him, “What is the biggest challenge?” He said, “Managing our people’s fatigue.” That stuck with us. A lot of people responded to that. How are you and your leadership team getting a little bit deeper into seeing how people were doing? Your answer just now was a great one, it’s, you’re right, everybody’s going through so many challenges, some might be apparent, but a lot of the challenges, Natasha, that we’ve gone through over the last few years, they’re monsters. This isn’t just like a tough quarter, “What are we going to do to grow our services revenue?” Tell me some ideas on how you’re getting even deeper to see how your people are doing right now.

Natasha Engan: I think one of the things that we’ve done very well, getting deeper with our employees, is making sure that all our managers in sales are doing one-on-ones with their employees weekly. For some folks it may be biweekly, because that’s what they prefer. Also making sure that we are actively listening to them and looking for cues on what’s going on with them.

We did some special training for our managers on mental health, because mental health has historically been more of a taboo subject in the workplace, and in life in general, in this country and globally. We have been trying to bring that more to the forefront that it’s okay. If you need help, it’s okay to say that, ‘Hey, I need a day off,’ or, ‘I need time to do this.’ You got to give people the respect and time to figure out what they need, because you don’t know what it’s like to be in their shoes, and you can’t assume that you know what it’s like. We’re really trying to arm managers with what they need to train them on how to have conversations or at least do active listening with their employees and with our sellers.

Fred Diamond: Let’s get deep into the sales process here. Software sales has changed over the last year. Actually, even before the pandemic, it was beginning to change in a lot of different ways as we moved towards a more software-as-a-service model, if you will. Talk a little bit about how software sales has changed over the past year and how has Deltek responded?

Natasha Engan: As I mentioned, software sales has changed over the last two and a half years with the pandemic, going for majority in person interactions with customers to more virtual interactions. Now how it’s changing as we’re finding out, given that shift for customers, we’re seeing customers do a lot more research on solutions upfront. According to Gartner, they’re doing like 80% of their research before they have engaged with prospective vendors or vendor partners. That changes how we have to show up.

We’re training everyone from our SDR teams, to our sales development reps, to our SEs, to our sellers, to be better prepared before they enter that initial discussion with a customer. You have to really know your customer, know what questions to ask to really understand what their motivation is to buy something right now, and what problems they’re trying to solve. Then make sure that we’re not just showing up with the same way we did prior. We need to make sure that it’s targeted and tailored to the customer in all our responses and our presentations.

Fred Diamond: I want to talk about that for a second. When people ask me for advice, “Fred, what should I do to get better in sales?” One of the things I always say is just become the expert in your industry. You happen to be offering X right now to the government contracting industry, or other industries, entertainment, financial services. Deltek is very focused on a lot of vertical markets. Again, you guys got built servicing the government contractor market and you mentioned some of the ones that you expanded into. Well, let me ask this in two parts. One is, does someone need to know the vertical market to be successful selling tools that you offer, solutions that you offer? How do you nurture that? How do you ensure that your people are knowledgeable about the markets that they serve?

Natasha Engan: The first question, do people need to know the industry coming into Deltek, if they were going to join our sales team? I would say not necessarily. We hire sales development reps, a lot of times early professionals or people that are changing careers to come into an entry level sales role, or someone that’s been in a different industry that wants to go into a higher end sales role, and we will train them and we enable them. As long as they have a growth mindset and are willing to come to the table to continually learn and develop their skills, we’ve had tremendous success providing the right training and enablement for them.

One of the things that we’ve seen is that we’ve had to get better to make sure that we’re providing the right enablement for our sellers. It’s all about them and their journey. It’s not about us. It’s really the seller experience that we’re focused on now, so it kind of changes things. It’s not just about the industry knowledge, which we train on, the product knowledge. It’s also about the sales tools and the sales stack. What are the tools that they need to do their job effectively? It changes. It’s not a point in time, “We’ve got the sales stack. We’re good to go for the next three to five years.” It changes probably every six months and it changes by role. You just have to assess, “Are we meeting the needs of our sellers and their seller experience, and are they able to reach the customers that they’re trying to reach?” Our marketing efforts are also changing. My marketing partner or CMO, Perry and I, we’re continually trying to figure out, how do we better adjust our marketing tactics to make sure we’re relating to people and we’re resonating in our messaging and our events, are what our prospects and customers want?

Fred Diamond: I’ll give you a chance here to speak about why Deltek would be a great place to work. What does a person need to be successful at a company like Deltek? You mentioned growth mindset, of course, but we’re all challenged with finding great talent. The mission of the Institute for Excellence in Sales is helping sales leaders, at B2B companies typically, attract, retain, motivate, and elevate top tier talents. We also added in diverse audiences as well. Hence why our Women in Sales program is so important to us. But what are some of the characteristics of someone who would succeed at Deltek in sales?

Natasha Engan: Someone that would succeed at Deltek is someone that loves a challenge, wants a good culture, because I would think our biggest differentiator is our culture. We have continually been a great place to work in the DC Area. That’s where our corporate headquarters is. We’ve got a unique culture. I’ve worked at a few different companies and we are extremely supportive. We’re willing to help each other learn, grow, and develop. We really truly take a collaborative team approach. If you like that type of environment and you’re willing to continue to learn and evolve and grow, this is a great place for you.

I would say another thing that we do that we’ve really been learning about during the pandemic, we have instituted things to try to maintain our culture. I mentioned earlier we’ve been training on mental health and wellness for our managers and our employees. We’ve also understood that people need some time to decompress during the week. We instituted Project Nation Fridays, which are every other Friday, we’ve given the whole company the afternoon off every other Friday, this is during the pandemic, to focus on what they need to focus on. If they need to finish up a project, they need to take time with their family, it’s really their time to determine what they need. Do medical appointments, whatever they may need. It was such a popular shift for us that we’ve actually instituted doing it continually in our culture now. I think if you really want to have a balanced, successful sales career, this is a great place for you. There’s always ability to focus on learning and development and also cultivating a career here.

Fred Diamond: We have a question that comes in here from Monica. The question is, “What does Natasha do to keep her mindset fresh and ready?” Give us some insights into you. Again, you’ve had a great career in sales leadership. Deltek is one of the crown jewels of the DC Area. It’s been that way for a long time. You lead sales efforts from them. You’re a great supporter of women in sales. But what do you specifically do? Give us a little bit of insight on how do you keep your mindset and your performance as fresh as possible?

Natasha Engan: First off, I schedule time in my calendar every day. I start my day off by working out pretty early in the morning. That’s really helped me have the ability to just get perspective and just focus on myself, my health, and my wellbeing, because I can’t support my sales team or be a good parent, wife, daughter, unless I’m taking care of myself first. That’s what I’ve really done for myself. Also, since I’ve had a lot of personal things going on over the last couple of years, I have two kids that are in middle school, and kids that are neurodiverse. Both my kids are neurodiverse. I have two kids that are neurodiverse that have learning disabilities. That’s been challenging at times.

Then I also have been taking care of my mother who’s been going through cancer treatment since October of ’19 and my parents have been living with us. There’s been times where I’ve had to schedule in going to chemo or kids’ events or things. I just actively schedule them in. I’m very transparent with my team, my peers, that, “This is what I have to do. These are my priorities. I am available, but this time I’m going to be unavailable.”

I think it’s just being clear and setting expectations with others around. For me, that’s been very successful and enabled me to also model some behaviors that I think are important for our sellers and our sales teams. We have other things in our life besides work. Work is very important, but we’ve got other things.

Fred Diamond: Thanks for sharing that. We talked about women in sales. Again, you’ve had a great career. If a woman came to you, let’s say she’s a senior in college, and she’s maybe an engineering major or maybe a PR or something like that. She found out that you’re a successful sales leader in the career that you’ve had, and she asked you, “Ms. Engan, should I pursue a career in sales?” What would you tell her? What would be your answer to something like that if a young lady asks you, “Should I pursue a career in corporate B2B and enterprise sales?”

Natasha Engan: First of all, Fred, I would say, “Absolutely, at least you should try it.” I think the next generation or the next generation that’s coming out of college, they’re going to have multiple careers, and there’s nothing wrong with trying different things. If it interests them and it’s something that they want to pursue, especially if they’re a technical major or an engineering major, I think it’s a great place to start. You could be a sales engineer, you could be a seller. I just think it’s a unique perspective to add, because we’re solving complex business problems for our clients.

Fred Diamond: You talk about some of the challenges that you’re facing in your personal life. We talked about business as well. How are you coaching your people? I’m curious, how are you coaching your senior people right now? Again, Deltek’s been around for a while. You probably have some salespeople on your team who have been with the company for a long time, possibly close to 20 years, maybe longer. How are you coaching them specifically, and then how are you coaching your junior people? You mentioned that you’re also open to a whole bunch of junior people in the SDR role, or BDR perhaps. If they asked you, “Natasha, give me some coaching,” what would you tell your senior people? What would you tell your junior people?

Natasha Engan: First off, my senior people, the people that are reporting to me directly right now, we’re going through leadership training as a team. I’m modeling the behaviors for my team because we have to all get better. Learning and development is core to our culture, and making sure that we’re continually showing up in a way that we want to show up. If we don’t know ourselves and know how we’re showing up for our team and our peers and our leaders, we can’t effectively lead. I think that’s one of the things that I’ve been focused on with my direct reports. Then in turn, we are very focused on career development just as an organization. We’ve got individual development plans that we do with every employee in our sales organization.

This isn’t about, “I want to hit 100% of my target.” This is more about, “What skills do I want to develop to be a better seller, to be a better sales development rep? What skills do I want in the short term that are going to help me get to my long term goal to be a sales manager or a vice president of sales?” We really try to be thoughtful in figuring out and having career paths for our sellers to move up in experience levels. We’ve got specific career paths within some of our sales teams. Then we also provide leadership development at Deltek across team leads, management level, executive management. We’ve got great leadership development programs as well that we leverage as a team.

When we get to the individuals, to the sellers, we do individual development plans with each of our sellers, but we also have a number of classes that we offer for presentations. We’ve got a sales enablement team that offers a number of courses that helps new sellers come in. We do two weeks’ intensive onboarding and then periodic training thereafter. Then for experienced sellers, there’s always continuous development and learning that we have. From an industry standpoint, quarterly, because of all the industry dynamics that have been going on in every industry over the last few years, so we have a quarterly update there that we provide. Then we provide ongoing product training, sales stack training, and sales skills training.

Fred Diamond: Everybody’s been affected over the last two years, personally, professionally, financially, we need to be sensitive. I have time for one more question, before I ask you for your final action step. I want to talk about how you’re working with your customers right now. One of the big words, of course, over the last couple of years has been empathy because, like I just alluded to, and as you’ve talked about a couple of times, everybody has gone through various changes, personal, professional, financial, et cetera. How are you interfacing with your customers and what are they expecting from you right now? Again, you’re Deltek, you sell software, provide services to help them with their projects and things related to that, but what are they looking for you for? How are you telling your people, how are you guiding your people to be more valuable to your customers? Again, we’re doing today’s interview with Natasha Engan, sales leader at Deltek. We’re doing it in the spring of 2022.

Natasha Engan: To be relevant to our customers today and be more empathetic, I would say that we are trying to listen more. We’re trying to better understand where they’re at when they engage with us and having a better understanding of their business and their pain points and challenges that they’re going through. As I mentioned earlier, we have to do a lot more research as we engage with our customers, and we’ve got to figure out people. I think the buying patterns are changing a little bit. People are being a little bit more conservative on what they’re doing, given the market conditions. I think we’ve just got to partner with our customers to make sure we’re providing what they need for their current solutions.

Fred Diamond: Natasha, I just want to acknowledge you for, first of all, the great answers. I really love what you told us today. You’ve had such a great career helping so many people. Again, you’re so passionate about helping, obviously, all of your sellers and all the employees of Deltek, but particularly the women in sales. The IES Women in Sales program, like I mentioned before, it’s our crown jewel. Deltek has sent some of the women through our leadership forum program, and hopefully we’ll continue to work with you to send more as we’re so passionate and committed about helping them grow as sales professionals and as humans. Good for you and congratulations on the great career and all the stuff that you’re initiating over at Deltek.

I’d like to end the show with an action step. You’ve given us 15, 20 great ideas that people can implement right now, but give us one thing specific. As people wind down listening to today’s podcast, tell us something they should do right now to take their sales career to the next level.

Natasha Engan: Hit your numbers [laughs] no. Show up every day doing all the right actions and you will achieve success. When I say all the right actions, that means spend the time to know your customers, know your products, know your industry, know the tools that you have at your disposal, and ask for help. That would be my number one thing. Ask for help to help you solve your problems. It takes a village in a lot of these more complex solutions that we’re selling. If you ask for help and you leverage everything around you, you’re going to be successful.

Fred Diamond: You joked in the beginning about hitting your number. Hit your number. Everyone who’s listening today is in sales, or they want to learn how to sell better. At the end of the day, even with everything that we’re going through, your company needs you to hit your number so that it can continue to grow and invest and hit the markets that it needs to do. Once again, I want to thank Natasha Engan for being on today’s Sales Game Changers Podcast. My name is Fred Diamond.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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