EPISODE 663: Rising Sales Stars Margo Edris and Mayssa Haddad Share Insights with Women in Sales Leader Gina Stracuzzi

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Today’s show featured an interview with Margo Edris from Salesforce and Mayssa Haddad from AWS. Margo is the Institute for Excellence in Sales Jay Nussbaum Rising Sales Star Winner for 2024. Mayssa was the winner in 2023. Attend the award event here.

The interview was conducted by IES Women in Sales Program Director Gina Stracuzzi.

Find Margo on LinkedIn. Find Mayssa on LinkedIn.

MARGO’S ADVICE:  “I’m a big fan of setting the next meeting while in the current meeting, also doing those monthly meetings with who matters most, or really a quarterly cadence. But the more you stay in front of the right people and are stringent about your calendar and where you’re spending time and energy, that’s the real way to advance and see tangible results with what you’re trying to accomplish.”

MAYSSA’S ADVICE:  “Find joy in what you do and find what motivates you. Find your why, why will you get up in the morning every day? What do you want to be remembered for at the end of your career? It’s only after you have answered those questions that you will be able to, one, understand your motivation, and two, operate at your most optimal and happiest level.


Gina Stracuzzi: I’m super excited to have Mayssa and Margo with me today. They are both graduates of the Leadership Forum, which only makes the fact that they’re getting acknowledged for their hard work and their efforts to bring women in sales more visibility. It makes it even better. Welcome Mayssa, and welcome Margo.

Mayssa, why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are and what you’re doing right now?

Mayssa Haddad: I currently work at Amazon Web Services, also known as AWS. AWS is the cloud computing company within Amazon. I am a principal program manager within the sales and marketing organization, and I build, operationalize, and manage global programs that are partner-facing. The objective of these programs is to increase our partners’ sales. I’ve been with AWS for almost six years. I was based in New York for the past six years, and three weeks ago I moved to London. I’m still with AWS. I’m here on a 12-month assignment to build and launch something new and exciting.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s the kind of career you want, where you don’t just get recognized for your hard work. You get great opportunities like that. Good for you. Congratulations. Margo.

Margo Edris: I work as the Regional Vice President of Sales at Salesforce. I get the privilege of leading a team of accomplished sales professionals who partner with state governments across the Rocky Mountain region in order to modernize government services. That’s 12 total states across the Rockies. I live in Arizona. I also belong to the organization called Chief. It’s a community of more than 20,000 executive women across the US and the UK who are on a mission to advance women’s leadership opportunities. I graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in communications and business administration. Like I said, I live in Arizona with my husband, two dogs, three children, and strong support group of other friends and family and neighbors in the community.

Gina Stracuzzi: I love that you’re part of Chief. We do a lot of work with them, individuals through that. It’s a great organization. Good for you.

Well, you took us into your area of study, and I always like to ask my guests on this if sales was your chosen career or what you thought you were going to do when you came out of school. Mayssa, do you want to take a swing at that?

Mayssa Haddad: Let me start by saying that sales was definitely not my area of study in school. I actually studied engineering and my first job was in management consulting. Also unrelated to engineering, but also unrelated to sales. I only started in the world of sales when I moved to New York City in 2017 to attend business school at Columbia University. I joined AWS in 2018 as an MBA intern and was by chance placed in the sales and marketing organization within the programs team. I’ve been part of that team ever since. Sales kind of happened to me and I had never thought of sales as a career for me, especially being an introvert, but I’ve really enjoyed the ride. Sales is at the heart of every business. It’s where most of the action and excitement happens. I’m super happy to be here.

Gina Stracuzzi: You’re right, it is the center of things. At one point or another, we’re all in sales if we’re representing the company. You got to sell your ideas to management too. These are good skills even if somebody doesn’t continue all the way through their entire career. How about you, Margo?

Margo Edris: In school, like I mentioned, I majored in communications and business administration. I actually did an internship with MTV Networks for PR. I had moved to Santa Monica for a summer, learned what it was like to be in the PR world, media relations. After that I realized it would take me a longer amount of time to achieve the revenue goals that I had also set out for myself. Usually, you have to start out as an intern, often even just getting coffee for other executives within that world for several years. 5 years, 10 years, really work your way up on that side.

After that experience, I went back within my upbringing and my mom and my dad were both sales professionals, very, very successful within their sales careers. I remember being younger in elementary school and some of my friends would ask, “Why is your mom not on the field trip with us today?” Or, “Why is she not a part of the PTA or the PTO,” or whatever organization they call it? I was always so proud to say, “Well, she can’t come. She has a job. She is the breadwinner in our family, and she is in sales and is a female executive. That’s why she’s not here today.” I think just understanding my upbringing and what had shaped me, that also inspired me to get into sales to achieve some of those goals, just like my mom and dad did.

Gina Stracuzzi: It’s funny, I run into more and more people now who are in sales and their kids are going into sales. I love that because you get that support, you get that understanding, that if your parents are something besides sales and they say, “Really, do you want to go into sales? That’s a tough world.” I love that you have that support. It’s a nice segue into another question I would like to ask. What are some of the biggest challenges that you have faced in your role or in your career, and how did you overcome them and what were the outcomes of that?

Margo Edris: Challenges I faced since moving from an individual contributor in the sales world to now leading a sales team definitely have been escalated issues that you really just have to persevere through, find answers, but still lead with empathy and positivity even in the middle of turmoil. I do feel the way that I’ve been able to overcome some of those challenges is really just staying steady and consistent with preparation and a positive attitude, even when times are tough.

Gina Stracuzzi: How about you, Mayssa?

Mayssa Haddad: I like to think of my biggest challenges as my biggest learning opportunities. One of them was when I became a manager. I became a manager four years ago, right at the beginning of the pandemic, and my virtual team grew to eight people in the space of a few months. Creating an environment where everyone felt connected, felt energized to deliver on their work, despite the circumstances, was one of the challenges. Additionally, I had inherited seven of the eight people on my team. I hadn’t hired them myself. I hadn’t been part of their hiring process. As I was forming my management style, I learned through trial and error that the best thing I could do was really embrace my authentic self and show up to work consistently at a hundred percent of myself.

When I started doing that, I felt a shift within my team. Everyone was way more comfortable. They started bringing their most authentic self, they started opening up to each other, building meaningful relationships, and most importantly, it showed in the quality of their work and it improved the quality of their life.

Gina Stracuzzi: The two things together, I was just thinking about that, trying to figure out the pandemic just in general in your own life, and then to be given a new role and to have it come already fully staffed, those are a lot of big challenges. It sounds like you handled it well, and that’s really all you can do, is to be your authentic self and work through the challenges together. Honestly, I think if more leaders were vulnerable or open, like, “We’re all in this together.” I think actually that a lot of that came out during the pandemic. I think it was a great eyeopener for a lot of people. Like, “I didn’t realize the challenges people had.” That sounds like it was a great, as you say, growth opportunity too. That you found things in yourself that maybe you didn’t even know you had. That’s awesome.

Let’s talk a little bit about what advice you would give to other young women coming up in the sales ranks, especially as they get opportunities to move into management. As we know, that can be a really tough transition, especially if you happen to be leading people that you were just, metaphorically anyway, sitting next to, that can be a tough time.

Mayssa Haddad: I would say two things. For someone coming up in sales, always put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Ask yourself, what’s in it for my customer? That’s definitely something I try to do every day or every time I create something, how can I add value to them? No one will buy anything from you if it doesn’t bring them value. Whatever you’re selling or trying to sell, or building, make sure it brings real tangible value to your customer. From a management perspective, or if you’re in sales leadership and leading a team of salespeople, my advice is to listen, listen more than you talk and ask questions, and then more broadly, keep learning. Educate yourself on social behavior, EQ, all those kind of things, so you can be a better leader for your team.

Margo Edris: I would say it’s really leaning into your core strengths and competencies and using that as a competitive differentiator, along with achieving results. A lot of people want to get into sales or into sales leadership because they see the potential for winning all of the glory that goes into when you close a deal, the commission checks that you receive. But you have to understand the hard work that goes along the way and understanding where your strengths are and really being prepared to face any adversity, but then using your strengths to your advantage to really get to the next level or to close the deal.

The other advice that I give to people that are new and upcoming in sales is that it’s a contact sport. You have to be very comfortable with reaching out, building connections, making those contacts, and seeing the people you interact with, not only helping you today, but potentially in the future. You may be selling to a certain customer that’s in a role currently that might not be in a position to buy from what you’re selling, but then maybe they get promoted, or they move into another organization, and then they are able to purchase what you are presenting over. You never know what role anyone’s going to get into, and you want to harness the value of those connections.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s a perfect segue into the next thing I want to talk about, which is your personal and professional network. It’s been coming up a lot in conversations with employers and trying to figure out how to help people build their networks in these virtual environments, even within your own companies. Mayssa, do you want to think about that and tell us a little bit about what advice you got or what ideas you employ to keep your network strong?

Mayssa Haddad: Of course, networking is really important within and outside of your employer. It’s important to go to industry events to meet people that are in the same industry, exchange contacts. When I do that, when I go to external conferences, I make sure to know my personal story or my elevator pitch and make sure I can say it in under a minute. You never know where you’re going to meet people that may change the course of your career. Getting out there, very important.

For example, outside of AWS, I personally am part of other communities and I make sure to leverage these. Columbia Business School is one, Women in Tech or Women of the Channel is another one. Within AWS, or within your employer, also very important to build your network, and you can do that virtually as well. The way I’ve done it is there’s mentorship platform. I’ve been given the advice of just reaching out to directors of a line of business that is interesting to me. Just setting up a coffee chat, and picking their brains on what they’re working on, and it works. Mentors are very important and sponsors are also very important.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s true, and you learn that in the forum. What about you, Margo? How do you approach networking?

Margo Edris: Before I started at Salesforce, and really it was right around the time that the world shut down and everyone was going to this remote working setting. There’s no Salesforce office in Arizona. It’s all remote employees. There are probably about 200 people that are remote that live in Arizona. I made it an objective of mine to have a really strong online presence because there would be no physical office to meet my coworkers or customers or anyone that I was interacting with. One of my friends is actually a photographer. I had her take professional photos of me with some cactus in the background so people would know I’m in Arizona, that’s part of my brand. I care about the state. I was selling to the state of Arizona and the state of New Mexico.

I also made it a priority to have a really cool home office setting. I wanted to have some wallpaper in the background, be memorable. My husband and his dad actually put up the wallpaper in my last office and also in this office, so that anytime I was on video, people would recognize the wallpaper, they would know me, they’d come into my home essentially. That has really helped just with networking, making the connections. I also made it a priority for any virtual online meetings to really be present and show up on video when appropriate, which really in our online world, that’s a lot of what we do. I think that made a big difference because you can still connect with people by seeing those facial expressions through the video. That had helped as well. Just being intentional about my online presence and making that a priority.

Gina Stracuzzi: I can’t say that I was nearly that clever [laughs]. I love the idea that you want people to know where you are and what it means to you. That’s awesome. Really clever.

Let’s talk a little bit about what motivates you. You’re both being recognized, or have been, Mayssa, in your case, as the Jay Nussbaum Rising Star. Jay was all about bringing people into the fold and teaching others, and just being real and kind and generous. Those qualities are what got you here today. Let’s talk a little bit about those qualities and then how they motivate you and how you use that motivation to attract like-minded people for your organization or in your business dealings.

Mayssa Haddad: I did a lot of self-reflection in 2023 to understand what motivates me. There’s a few things. I will say the first one is connecting to a mission. Feeling like what you do serves a purpose is very important. Something I forgot to mention when I did my introduction is I’m a program manager, but I am focused on everything related to public sector. Government, education institutions, nonprofits, public healthcare. For me, being aligned to the public sector makes me feel like I’m serving a purpose and a mission. Serving customers and partners in that space is an important motivator for me. It’s at the heart of what motivates me.

Another one I’ll say is continuous self-development is a very big one for me. We have a leadership principle at Amazon that we call Learn and Be Curious, which really resonates with me. I’m always learning something new, reading something. I raised my hand this year to take on a completely new challenge. Opportunity to take on a new challenge is definitely something that keeps me very excited. Then being a real owner, being empowered to set a vision, define the plan, and actually go and execute on it, is extremely important. Being able to work with a team to do that and collaborate with other people is the cherry on top. These are some of the things.

Gina Stracuzzi: I love that you raised your hand. It’s something that I think is hard for people to do sometimes. It can be scary. You’re putting yourself out there, and even not getting selected can be hard if you do raise your hand. But you did it anyway and now it’s given you this great opportunity in London. Congratulations to you on that. Margo.

Margo Edris: I would say throughout the years it’s evolved in terms of my level of motivation. When I was early on in my career, it was all about running towards the finish line and just maximizing every opportunity to get to that next level. I now feel like I’ve achieved that success, and now what motivates me the most is giving back to those who have laid the path before me. If I’m helping others get to that next phase in their career, that motivates me and I feel fulfilled by what I can do for others because of all the people that invested in me along the journey nearly eight years when I was really climbing the corporate ladder and trying to get to the level that I’m at now. Now for me, it’s all about giving back and helping others get to the opportunity that they’re trying to go.

Gina Stracuzzi: That is a true Jay Nussbaum quality. He was all about raising others up and sharing the wealth, so to speak. Good for you. Where do you see yourself in five years? Five years can be a long time, but it can also be like that, as we know. Do you have bigger aspirations that you’re willing to talk about?

Margo Edris: Yeah, absolutely. I think for me, I’m still early on in my leadership career, and I actually work within a business unit that has very tenured, seasoned sales professionals and leaders. That might be kind of on the back nine, so to speak, of their career, to where they’re getting ready for retirement and a different side of life in the next two to five years, really. That opens up opportunities for me and other people in my organization to then take on those leadership roles. I very much am excited about the opportunity ahead. I’m always learning and trying to get feedback as often as possible to improve my leadership skills and just go through every single experience that I can. The hard ones and the easy ones, so that I master the ability to get past those challenges, problem solve faster and faster. It’s really just honing in on what I’m doing now and continuing to refine my leadership skills to then continue to climb when the opportunity presents itself.

Gina Stracuzzi: It is so important that if you have goals such as you do, that your leadership knows about those. Aspirations are not something we should be keeping in our own heads, because nobody can help you if they don’t know about it. Mayssa, how about you?

Mayssa Haddad: I always joke and say that I’ll never leave AWS because there are so many different teams and countless opportunities to learn and grow. I’ve been with AWS for six years now. I have not been bored one day. I can easily see the next six years pass by in the same way. But just to be more specific, in five years, I hope I can continue to tackle difficult challenges. I love a good difficult problem to solve. I hope to have an even more impactful role in the tech industry, manage a bigger team, and continue to work directly with governments, public healthcare providers, education institutions, and nonprofits to help them achieve their mission in the most technologically efficient way, using the most advanced tools, services, at the lowest possible cost.

Gina Stracuzzi: We’re at the part of the conversation where we like to ask our guests for one piece of specific advice that our listeners can put into place today to take their selling, take their careers to the next level.

Mayssa Haddad: I’ll say work is such an important part of our life. It’s crucial that you find joy in what you do. My advice is find what motivates you, find your why, why will you get up in the morning every day? What do you want to be remembered for at the end of your career? I know these are hard questions, but it’s only after you have answered those questions that you will be able to, one, understand your motivation, and two, operate at your most optimal and happiest level.

Gina Stracuzzi: That is really great advice. Thank you. Margo.

Margo Edris: I would say as people are getting into their sales career and really trying to advance to the next level, you really have to be stringent on where you spend time and energy. The more you organize your day, you prioritize your tasks, you put things on the calendar, the easier it’ll be to achieve the goals you want by prioritizing those meetings, those interactions with whoever it is. That’s often what I tell people that are in sales. It’s easy to do a pitch to reach out and do a customer presentation, but the harder part is the follow up and staying in front of the people that matter most to advance things to the next level in the deal or within your career.

I’m a big fan of setting the next meeting while in the current meeting, also doing those monthly meetings with who matters most, or really a quarterly cadence. But the more you stay in front of the right people and are stringent about your calendar and where you’re spending time and energy, that’s the real way to advance and see tangible results with what you’re trying to accomplish.

Gina Stracuzzi: Also, really great advice. I’m going to put both of those things into play myself. It is so easy to imagine that we are so busy that we can’t make things happen for us that we need for our career. If we’re happy, as you say, Mayssa, and we’re doing things we really want, and if we plan for them, as you mentioned, Margo, then you can make them happen. That serves the company too. It is not just self-serving. Everybody wins in those environments.

Well, ladies, thank you so very much for your time and your thoughtful answers. Congratulations, Margo, and congratulations again, Mayssa. I know you’re both doing Jay proud and he would be happy to know that we’ve got women winning this award too. Thank you very much for your time. Goodbye everyone. We’ll see you next time.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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