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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 and hosted by Gina Stracuzzi on December 8, 2020. It featured SentinelOne Government, Education, and Healthcare Sales Leader Patty Trexler.]
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EPISODE 307: Women in Sales: SentinelOne Government Sales Leader Patty Trexler Lists Five Insights that Have Guided Her Business Career
PATTY’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “It’s really important for women in sales to take time for yourself. That’s what I try to remind myself of every day when I’m in my 6th or 7th hour of Zoom – that’s when you do your best work. That’s when you really reflect on what it is that you need for yourself to move your career forward. Where am I stuck? What am I doing right? Taking time for myself typically means some exercise, a walk with a friend or calling my mom, and connecting with someone that I know needs me.”
Fred Diamond: We’ve got a great show for you today. It’s with great pleasure that I introduce to you the host of the Women in Sales webinar, the Program Director for the Institute for Excellence in Sales Women in Sales Leadership Forum, Gina Stracuzzi.
Gina Stracuzzi: Thank you, Fred, as always, you’re so gracious. Everyone, welcome to our Women in Sales webcast. I’m very excited about our guest, let’s get moving with today’s show because we have a lot of really powerful stuff to cover. I would like to welcome my guest, Patty Trexler. Thank you, Patty, tell us all about yourself.
Patty Trexler: Thanks for having me, Gina. I’m the Vice President for Government, Healthcare and Education at SentinelOne. I am a mother of three, I have three boys, 27, 23 and 13. I live in Frederick, Maryland, I’m from New York originally and I’ve been down here in Maryland for about 15 years. A little bit about my career, I started in IT sales in the copier industry back in 1994 up in New York selling to the legal market, I transitioned to EMC after five years in that market working for Canon to EMC. I started working at EMC in 1999, I was one of the first women sales reps at EMC and I stayed there for about 11 and a half years, and then I went to VMware. I stayed for about a year and a half supporting the commercial vertical down here in the DC area. Then I transitioned into security, I worked for McAfee for a couple of years and then I spent 6 years working at Tanium building their federal civilian business and I started at SentinelOne in March of this year.
Gina Stracuzzi: That’s quite a career.
Patty Trexler: It’s definitely keeping me busy, that’s for sure [laughs].
Gina Stracuzzi: That brings us to the topic that we’re going to cover today which is your insights and lessons learned along the way that can help other women as they progress especially into sales leadership. You’ve come up with five things that you think are must-do’s, haves or pay-attention-to’s that you’re going to share with us. Like every podcast these days, there are five things you need to know, that’s how everybody starts these days and that’s easy to manage. Let’s get started with your advice, you and I have discussed some of these and honestly, I think it’s fabulous advice and things that people can do readily for themselves and can search out for help if they need it.
Patty Trexler: In no particular order, I can give you some of my insights. A lot of this is probably not super revolutionary to everybody. For many years in my career I’ve been both an individual contributor and I’ve run large matrix organizations where I’ve run global accounts and things like that or a lot of smaller set or very strategic accounts. I was a manager very early in my career, when I was at Canon I became a manager at like 28 years old and I was running a team of 5 or 6 men and some of them were old enough to be my dad. I have worked with and for men in the IT industry for many years, I actually don’t think I’ve ever reported to a woman which is interesting. You could look at all the things I’m going to talk about as an individual contributor but I also wanted to explore or give people insights into how it’s different if you’re in sales and you are an individual contributor versus a leader. I do think as a woman there are definitely differences and things to be aware of, it’s just a different landscape in my opinion.
One of the things that you and I spoke about which I think a lot of people don’t do, I really think that it’s important no matter where you are in your career to have a mentor or multiple mentors and/or a career coach. Very early on in my career I got a lot of good guidance from my mentors and one of them was like, “You really need to invest in your career.” If you look at a career coach, it may not seem very economically feasible but if you don’t look at getting hours, investing, spending some time and reflecting on where you are with another person that can really understand where you’re trying to take your career, you may not actually get to the place you’re looking to go as efficiently, effectively or in the time that you want to.
It’s really served me well, I started my first career coach when I decided to leave EMC. I got some good advice from one of my women mentors that said, “You might want to look at getting a career coach and having somebody that you meet with on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis to stay on point about what it is that you’re looking to achieve out of your career.” I think that really helped me to move into a leadership role more quickly and decide, understand and reflect on what I want with my career and where I’m looking to go. I probably would have stayed in direct sales a lot longer if I didn’t have a career coach to mentor me.
With regard to the mentors, I think especially as salespeople, one of our gifts is that we build strong relationships. I have great relationships and some of my mentors are customers that were customers of mine 10 years ago that I respect and admire greatly and still keep in touch with. I think it’s different with a mentor, I have mentors that I go to when I’m looking to make a career change that help me dissect the industry or industries that I may be looking at and get their perspective. They may know board members that are on some of the companies I’m looking to go to, they’ll connect me with them. Even in an individual contributor role when I’ve needed guidance on a particular very large strategic deal where maybe some of the team members internally, my leadership internally has maybe not the same goals that I have where I’ve sat down and spent some time to walk through a very strategic large multi-million dollar opportunity and say, “This is what I’m thinking and my gut is that we need to do this.” Having those sounding boards for different things in your career I think is really important and it can be super helpful to get an outside perspective.
Gina Stracuzzi: Absolutely, I believe in that philosophy 100%. Did you along the way ever have a sponsor within your company that helped pull you up? Because there is a lot of discussion around the difference between mentors and sponsors, not everyone understands the difference and they have very different roles in our careers. Did you ever have a sponsor along the way?
Patty Trexler: I think some of my mentors were sponsors. I was at EMC for 11 and a half years but I probably had five different positions during the course of those 11 and a half years. When I started with EMC, we only had one product line. We hadn’t made any real strategic acquisitions, we had made one in the server space but really our mid-range product line, backup acquisitions, content management acquisitions, security acquisitions, all of that happened through the course of my career while I was there. When I wanted to do something new, unique or something that would complement the experience that I had, the experience that I felt that I needed moving into a software-only position in one of the acquired businesses, I would go to one of my mentors and leverage them as a sponsor or career coach. Sometimes it worked for me and sometimes it didn’t, the good old boy’s network once in a while would say, “Patty’s looking to go for that global job but I’ve got Jim over here that’s been sitting in the sidelines waiting to take that job so I’m going to go give it to Jim.” I think even when you don’t necessarily get what you want, you can learn from it and eventually get where you need to go. I don’t know that I’ve had a lot of sponsors, I think I’ve really driven my career on my own related to getting jobs within each group. But people have connected me with different people to help me through the interview process, so I guess in some ways they would be considered a sponsor.
Gina Stracuzzi: Some people have very definitive sponsors and it works in a particular type of hierarchy so it really depends on the company too. I think a lot of women don’t necessarily spend the money on themselves, that it takes to find a coach or they don’t take the time because it’s just additional hours, so it’s good advice. You told me a really great story about your dad and about what he taught you and how he got you into sales. Can you share that with us?
Patty Trexler: He was probably my first real mentor. It’s an individual contributor story but I’ll tell it to you. I have a business degree and a concentration in marketing and when you get out of college you don’t know a lot about where to go, at least back in 1991 there wasn’t a lot of coaching or guidance around resume writing or where you go. Once you get this business degree, what do you do with it? I went to my marketing professor, Professor Guzman, and I said, “When I graduate, where do I go get this business marketing job?” I thought I was going to go start creating PowerPoints and start positioning products working inside a big corporation. He was like, “No, you actually have to go sell the product before you can become a marketing person” and I was like, “Sell the product? You mean I have to go talk to people and convince them to give me their money? That does not sound like something I want to do.” I immediately thought of a used car lot, I don’t know why, that I would be selling cars or something like that, I really hadn’t thought a lot about it.
Anyway, my step-father was in sales, he started out as an encyclopedia sales guy and he went to Xerox and had all of that great training back in the 60s and 70s that Xerox was providing at that time. He was a sponsor to me in getting me an interview at the company where he had worked and there were certain criteria I had to meet before I could get that interview at the sales company I was at prior, but he said, “If you meet these sales goals in the first year, I will help you get an interview with the company that I’m at.” One thing led to another, he saw how hard I was working at the job that I had and after 9 months he was like, “I’m not going to make you work the fourth quarter, let’s get you in for an interview.”
When I started working, my step father and I would commute back and forth to work together. From the very beginning he was just so dedicated to really making sure that I had all the right DNA about how to be the best salesperson I could be. Every day on the way home he would ask me, “Who did you meet today?” and I would be like, “Meet?” I basically sat in my cube studying the xerographic process or something and he was like, “The people that are going to support you, you need to meet them, you need to know who they are, you need to go talk to the three service directors, you need to go knock on the door of the divisional vice president’s office and see if you can get some time with him. You should meet and talk to everyone that’s going to support you in the job that you’re going to do, pick up the phone, call Chicago, call corporate, know the people that are going to process your orders.”
I was like, “Okay…” I wouldn’t have thought of that but it really served me well because it’s something that I took with me everywhere that I went and then every day we would go back and forth and I would report back to him on the way home of who I had met, things like that. I think that’s important, I think a lot of people don’t really think to reach out to their support people or get to know them when they start and as you become a leader, that’s even more important. People want to know that you care, you want to form relationships and an emotional connection with the people that report to you as well as the people that support your business.
Gina Stracuzzi: The reason I asked you to share was because there’s great lessons in what your father taught you and you explained it perfectly, the reaching out to people, the letting them know who you are establishing relationships immediately. That is all incredible advice, especially for women. You can’t assume that you’re going to get opportunities to meet people, that somebody’s going to open that door for you, you have to do it yourself. Your father saw that and he instilled it in you which I think is going to make you – and probably has, that’s why you’re in the position you are – a great leader and someone wonderful to work for. You appreciate what individual contributors need to know to really be successful, so thank you for sharing that story with us.
Patty Trexler: Thank you. Tying it back to what we were just talking about, the other thing that my step-father impressed upon me was that you always need to be learning, just because you have a business degree doesn’t really mean that you know everything about selling. Now they actually have degrees that you can get in sales, but when I was in college they really didn’t have a focus on selling, it was about all the other peripheral things but not specifically about the sale, sales methodologies or anything like that. I think it made me want to be the best that I could be, I started taking sales and sales leadership training courses before I even started working.
The company I had worked at prior did a Tom Hopkins sales training and I took a 16-week Dale Carnegie sales training class. I’m a student, I love to be learning so it’s not hard for me and I’m like a sponge, I really like to know everything from the inside-out and be as well-versed on any topic, whatever it is that I’m talking about. Whether it’s the technology that I’m selling or the leadership skills that I need to make sure that I’m investing in, I take it all in and I take it pretty seriously. I really do believe that continual learning and investing in yourself is really important. In all of those things, your coaching session or your internal sales leadership training, I’ve always tried to think about continual learning as like if I can walk away with one or two things that brings value to my customers and makes me better at what I do, then it’s worth it. I’ve always been a fan of making sure that you’re always learning as much as you can be learning.
Gina Stracuzzi: Certainly there’s never been more content, more opportunities to learn without doing much of anything, it’s all at our fingertips so there’s no excuse anymore. It’s not like you have to search it out or go someplace for a couple of hours, you can just do it at your leisure, do it while you’re walking the dogs, anything. It’s so easy now.
Patty Trexler: That’s true, you can listen to an audio book, I’m a big fan of that. Obviously raising three kids and building my career I’ve had to learn to be very efficient – not that I’m always efficient. But use any resource that you can and don’t worry about the fact that you didn’t read the written page, just put the audio book on and get your three miles in whether it’s a walk or a run or whatever, multi-task where you can.
I also find that when you’re running and you’re listening to an audio book you’re pretty laser-focused on the topic. If it’s not interesting then you probably should switch a book.
Gina Stracuzzi: If it’s a good topic and the narration has a good cadence, it can actually help your run.
Patty Trexler: Yes, as far as the information that’s an interesting point, I really feel passionately that our customers, especially now with the pandemic, they’re struggling to get done what they need to get done. I know how many hours I’m putting in at this point, I have to really schedule in time, down time because it’s just back to back zooms, so you need to be mindful of the fact that you need to show up prepared and be the best you can to your customers because they don’t have a lot of cycles to really waste. They can get the information from the internet so by the time you get there, half the time they’ve already pre-determined in their minds what they want, where they’re looking to go and it’s your responsibility to be prepared about their business and understand what their mission is, what they’re struggling with from a ransomware attack. We see that on the rise with healthcare, we see it on the rise with education in our market, all of those things tie back to the continual learning. Learning about your customers, knowing about your industry, knowing what’s top of mind is really important.
Gina Stracuzzi: We have a question from Karen, Karen wants to know what some of your favorite sales books to read are.
Patty Trexler: Most recently – and I’m government-focused so there’s a few things here – I mentioned to you that I read The Confidence Code and it’s a great read written by two women writers for The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. It was a great book for women in general but especially women leaders and women that are in a very male-dominated industry, it really talks about how we show up and it was very insightful to me. I thought I was the only one that felt this way but in reading that book it really tied some things together in my mind about how women’s brain work and how we’re just wired differently. It really helped me to catalyst myself to the next level and now that I’m in leadership I’ve read two really good books – again, nothing earth-shattering – The Connector Manager, that was excellent, I thought that had some really good information about different management styles and how they affect the team.
It’s not like I feel like I read the book and I was that management style, I think we all incorporate a bunch of different things from our experiences and who we are as people as well as other managers that we’ve been managed by. I got some good insights into what I’m doing well and maybe some things that I could take a look at and maybe change or modify in my philosophy or the way that I approach management. The third book that I just recently read was one about managers, The Accidental Manager which I think is a really good read especially for people that are looking at getting into management because a lot of us as individual contributors have a certain mindset and this book takes you through how your world is going to change when you become a first line manager which I think is the most difficult position in the company. It talks about some basic things you can do to help get control of this new job responsibility that you have where you may not have a lot of good coaching and guidance from internal resources because maybe your manager is too busy to really spend the time onboarding you properly.
I thought that book was excellent, it had a lot of great nuggets in there about interviewing, how to run your team meetings effectively, those are two big sections that I thought they did a great job with. Again, really practical stuff, just talking about constantly investing a percentage of your time in building your pipeline of candidates so that you’re never in a situation as you’re growing a business that you’re starting from zero in your pool of candidates. My assignment is national, I’ve got to go fill assignments in southern California or Chicago so I think again, building your network, that’s another great area where it can serve you well. As you’re working with your teammates, internal and external mentors always be looking for those outstanding candidates for sales jobs.
Gina Stracuzzi: The Accidental Manager really hits on something that becomes a problem along the way and that’s retaining really good talent and having a strong succession pool. Those are things I think all managers struggle with and it has an effect on individual contributors too and management. That could be a really great thing to be prepared for if you get that opportunity to become a first line manager.
Patty Trexler: Absolutely. I think all of these things tie together. My current career coach, I met him in a leadership training class, he uses this phrase, “Slow down to speed up.” I find myself saying that in my head because I think that we all do our best work when we’re mindful of the fact that there’s only so much that we can take on and do effectively. Again, going back to the pandemic, I think it’s at a whole new level and obviously I’m building a startup within a startup in a world where we’re not open. I think slowing down to speed up in your daily, weekly and monthly cadence of what it is you have on your radar as far as goals is important. What I try to do, for example, is make sure that when I’m looking at my week or my bi-weekly schedule that I’m mapping it back to what my OKRs or my goals for the quarter are. I say, “What things can I finish off?” and I try not to take on too much more or anything at all, I’ll just say I can’t do anything more. We get some of these things like over the goal line and let’s get these metrics met.
I think that in what I do I’m very reliant on other parts of the business whether it be legal, marketing, to meet some of my objectives because of where I am in growing my business. I really like to be mindful that I need to be the best for my team and those other matrix organizations and if I’ve got too much on my plate, I can’t do it all very effectively. I think that saying, slow down to speed up, is not just for whatever role you’re in now but you need to do that on a periodic basis. Tying it back to the career coach or the mentor, looking out 18 to 24 months has always served me well in looking at where I want to go in my career. Is it that I want to make a move within EMC and I don’t have pure play software only experience so I’m going to go do that for three years? Or is it that I want to move into management or I want to shift from being in the infrastructure or cloud business to pure play security?
Always take time, it can be 5 or 10% of your week to do a little investigation on the industry, where it’s going, it’s changing so rapidly that I think it’s important to do that. When I made the moves that I made, I felt very confident that I knew where the markets and the industries were going and where I wanted to be, what my interests were and how they aligned with the adoption we were seeing in that industry. The last thing you want to go do is sell something that’s 24 months ahead of where your market is. I think that’s served me well with the moves that I made when I made them within each organization. I won’t say that everything I did was perfect but I will say that I’m pretty happy with the experiences that I had both internally at EMC, at VMware or McAfee. I think slowing down to speed up is a good thing.
Gina Stracuzzi: We have a question from Carol who says, “How do you learn to say no?” That is something that I hear a lot in the Women in Sales Leadership Forum that we do that a lot of women, especially early in a management career, they often feel like they’re overtasked with things and everyone wants to give them something to do. They don’t necessarily know how to say, “No, right now I need to focus on this” or, “I can’t do that right now.” Do you have any advice for that? And Carol, thank you very much for your question because I think it’s an issue that a lot of women struggle with.
Patty Trexler: It’s definitely hard, I think that book, The Confidence Code, it’s in our DNA. We’re moms, we’re programmed not to say no and I’m married to a sales leader who is German, was an airborne ranger in a long range detachment surveillance unit and sometimes he runs the household like we’re his troops. The guy doesn’t sleep, no one is as productive has him, I don’t know anyone that’s more productive, I tell him he should be president, he’s got so many cycles. He really pushes us to do a lot and saying no to him is not always well-received, so that’s something I’ve had to learn both internally at home as well as with customers or my managers. I think I’ve done a much better job over the last two years defining my boundaries with my husband. Though I spend my entire day and week in an extroverted fashion giving, the way that I recharge – I’m actually an introvert – I really like to be alone. I need that down time to regroup, I’m a runner, I do yoga, that helps keep me balanced and centered and gives me time to reflect on what it is I need.
I do really struggle with saying no but I can give you one example. It’s a lot about boundaries and I think just because you have a career coach doesn’t mean that that’s not something that you can’t put on the table because that’s one of the things you talk about. “Here’s my work load, this is what I’m working on, I feel like this is pretty unrealistic that my manager is asking this of me.” They’ll help coach you through how to ask for what it is that you want and what it is that you need and basically help you with the language that you can use to be effective in trying to get out of that situation, what it is that you need to be successful. You can’t be successful by saying yes to everything and even with my customers, I’m actually texting with a customer today that I’ve known since 2007 who’s become a very dear friend of mine. He was my customer at T Rowe Price and he was a wonderful customer, we did tons of business together but he just kept putting stuff on my plate. I remember talking to my husband, this was before I had a career coach, saying, “I just can’t meet this person’s expectations, there’s so many things he wants me to focus on” and my husband just said, “You just need to go into his office, you need to schedule the time and you need to take him through all the things that he’s giving you and tell him to help you prioritize. It’s not like you don’t want to get to it but you can’t manage these other 6 things effectively if he’s giving you 6 more things to manage.”
Together hopefully whether it’s your customer, your coach, your boss or your reps that work for you that say, “I need to you to do this for me”, we can only focus on so many things and get an effective outcome, so which of these things are the priority? It’s really about prioritization and as a part of that you’re saying no for right now. I think that has to do with not taking more stuff on board, I can’t do anything more. I’m not going to hire the right people or we’re not going to get the effective revenue targets that we want if we start spreading ourselves so thin that we’re reactionary instead of planning and doing things in a methodical way.
Gina Stracuzzi: Asking for your manager or whomever is giving you what they’re giving you to prioritize it for you is good advice because it will illustrate to them better than they understand, “I forgot about that” or, “I didn’t realize I had given you all of those things.” Then it puts the onus back on them which is great advice.
There’s one point that you and I discussed and I think it’s a really important one and that is to ask for what you want. That’s the flip side of saying no, is also asking for what you want and what you need. Can you talk to us about that a little bit?
Patty Trexler: I think this is definitely something that has helped me a lot to grow into a sales leadership role and meet the goals and objectives that I’ve set for myself in my career. As women, I think we don’t always set our objectives as high as we could. There are statistics out there that are pretty fascinating where a woman would look at a job description even if it’s internal to a company and if we don’t meet 80% or higher of everything on that list, we will turn around and not interview for that job even though it’s something we may truly think we could do, even if we’re stretching and it may be something that we want to do. What I’ve learned is that you really need to go for it, don’t feel intimidated. I think I’ve felt intimidated in the past, I can give a good example when I was at EMC and I was working up in New York and I had a national role and I decided that I was going to move down to the DC area, I wanted to move into a software-only position that was in a totally different line of business but I was intimidated by the prospect of having to go to my vice president and tell him that I wanted to leave the team that I was on.
As an individual contributor when you’re achieving your numbers, people don’t really want you to move around and EMC has this subculture of, “You never leave the family, you don’t go to VMware, you don’t move into different groups.” I think you have to put your thoughts together, you need to put your justification together of why you meet the criteria to interview for that job and then you need to get the courage and go do that. You need to not cave, just be strong and go do it. In this leadership role that I’m in now, what I’ve learned over the years is all these things that we’re talking about. If you work for a company where there’s great leadership with good management practices, you’re pretty much going to be able to manage your way through any situation with grace and get what it is that you want and need. What I love about where my career is today is the company that I work for and the leadership that I work for allows me to ask for what I want and it’s still intimidating sometimes.
As one of the only women Vice Presidents in the company, when you get on the phone and it’s 15 men sitting on the other side of the Zoom I still sometimes feel a little apprehensive but I do have the support that I need so that I can ask for what I need or want to support my business. As long as you do it in a professional way and you have the data and come to the table with good intentions, if you have those things like a good leader and strong management practices within the company, you will typically get what it is you need or want to support the revenue targets that you have in that business.
Gina Stracuzzi: Can you give our listeners one piece of actionable advice that they could go out and take care of on their lunch hour or think about today that they could put into action to help themselves strengthen their position, further their career, maybe get clear on their career goals?
Patty Trexler: I think this ties into one of the things that I was going to talk about so I’ll just put it into the summary. I think it’s really important, especially this whole ‘saying no’ thing and women leaders, it’s really important to take time for yourself. When you take time for yourself and put yourself on the list – that’s what I try to remind myself of every day when I’m in my 6th or 7th hour of Zoom – that’s when you do your best work. That’s when you really reflect on what it is that you need for yourself to move your career forward. Where am I stuck? What am I doing right? I’m passionate about that and for me, taking time for myself typically means some sort of yoga or exercise or a walk with a friend or calling my mom, connecting with someone that I know needs me. Taking time for yourself is probably one of the things that is most important for all of us, especially now.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo