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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Women in Sales virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on December 12. 2021. It featured an interview with Carahsoft Sales Leaders Tiffany Goddard and Lacey Wean.]
TIFFANY’S TIP: “Seek mentors. I always encourage people because mentors are a powerful thing to have. They can help you with career advice. They can help you through professional transitions. They can help you get some insider advice into promotions that you want or that are available. I think mentors are such a powerful thing. You could have one or two or build an army of mentors. Maybe it is someone that you meet once a month for coffee, I think that every mentor-mentee relationship is different, but someone that you can reach out to that you trust that can give you advice and that you can maybe perhaps lend some value to when you can as well, is really important. Then once you’re in a position where you can mentor somebody else, be a mentor and be a guide.”
LACEY’S TIP: “Make yourself known outside of your direct team. And just say yes to the next opportunity that’s presented to you. Sometimes it means getting out of your comfort zone a little bit. If it’s something that maybe scares you a little bit, like speaking up in a meeting, or sharing a new idea that you have, or doing a presentation or public speaking, saying yes to just putting yourself in a different scenario even though it might be scary, it’s only going to help you grow as a leader.
THE PODCAST BEGINS HERE
Gina Stracuzzi: I would like to welcome Tiffany Goddard and Lacey Wean. Welcome ladies. I’m looking forward to hearing your stories. Why don’t we take turns here and you could tell us about yourself? Tiffany, we’ll start with you.
Tiffany Goddard: Hello and thanks for having us. My name’s Tiffany Goddard and I work at Carahsoft Technology. I’ve been there for about 14 years. Carahsoft is an IT sales and marketing company, and we specifically focus into public sector. Because of that focus in the public sector, we oftentimes will group our technology solutions into solution verticals, and all of the solution verticals are based upon government buzzwords or government initiatives. I manage a couple of those for Carahsoft. Any technology that falls into customer experience, geospatial, law enforcement technology, or training technology, falls under my umbrella of solutions that we market and sell to the government.
Gina Stracuzzi: Lacey, what about you?
Lacey Wean: Hi, everyone. I’m excited to be here and chat with you all today. I’m a sales manager here at Carahsoft, which as Tiffany mentioned is focused on government IT sales and marketing. I’ve been with the company for about 10 years, and in my role I focus on a few specific technology verticals for the company. Those for me include geospatial, our UAS and drone business, digital manufacturing, and law enforcement. As part of my job, I’m responsible for managing a sales team of about 20 people and overseeing the company’s involvement in the corporate strategy within those technology verticals.
Gina Stracuzzi: I remember when you were in the forum telling us about selling drones and those kind of solutions, and I was just like, “That sounds so cool.”
Lacey Wean: It’s exciting.
Gina Stracuzzi: Maybe it’s because I’ve watched too many spy movies or something, but it seems like it would be an interesting field, definitely. Lacey, let’s stick with you and let’s talk about how you got into sales. Was it something that you always wanted to do or somewhere you found yourself, and what’s the kind of backstory to how you got into sales?
Lacey Wean: I would say sales wasn’t really originally my chosen field, or the type of work that I was in. I feel like my background’s actually maybe a little bit odd for sales, but making it work. In college I had originally majored in political science. That’s really where my interest specifically in the government market came from. I also majored in interior design, which is totally unrelated. Then my work experience after college and prior to Carahsoft, I had some jobs doing some design related projects, had some jobs in the legal space, a job in accounting, but it wasn’t quite the right fit for me.
I originally just became interested in sales mostly because I had a lot of friends that were doing sales and they constantly kept telling me, “Hey, you love talking to people.” Plus they knew I was bored with my accounting job at the time, and being buried deep in Excel spreadsheets all day wasn’t quite for me. They kept suggesting that, “Hey, maybe you should look at some sales jobs and it seems like it might be a better fit for you.”
I specifically became interested in Carahsoft mostly because I thought selling specifically to the government market was really of interest to me and relevant to some of the political science stuff I had done previously. Then when I started at Carahsoft, I actually got onto the geospatial team and really took an interest in geospatial mapping and some of the AEC technology we sell. I wasn’t an expert on it by any means, but it was something that was comfortable to me. It was something I was familiar with, mostly because of the design background. I knew how to use CAD products previously. I knew how the design and engineering process worked. It ended up being the perfect mix and the perfect fit to move forward in a sales career and specifically something that was relevant to my skills and that I was interested in.
Gina Stracuzzi: All of those jobs, as we find, it’s funny where you pick up little pieces that you then apply. In the middle of it, you didn’t think it was going to mean anything to you later on, but then you find yourself like, “Wait, I actually know about this.” I could see how you could use a lot of your background in what you’re doing now. Tiffany, how about you? Was sales your chosen field?
Tiffany Goddard: No. Similarly to Lacey, my degree in college was in political science as well. My path was going to go into law. I had an internship at a law agency. I took my LSATs, I had my applications out for law schools, and I couldn’t decide what area of law I wanted to be in. Nothing spoke to me. I had a moment of panic of, “Okay, maybe law isn’t for me.” I just went to a recruiting agency and said, “Hey, I really am a little bit lost. Totally took a turn.” They spoke with me for a couple of times just to figure out where to place me since everything was white space to me. They were like, “I think you’re a salesperson,” and I had never really thought of that. They said, “No, you’re a salesperson. The talking to people, the communication, all of that.” I said, “Okay.”
Then looking at different sales jobs, I found Carahsoft really interesting because of the technology piece of it. Technology is always changing and I thrive in a space of where you can be a lifelong learner. Because of the changing environment of technology, that really appealed to me because I am always going to be learning something new, technology’s always advancing and changing. That was how I got into sales, and specifically how I got into IT sales, was from those factors.
Gina Stracuzzi: I can see how your background would fit nicely as well. It is interesting to me, I think the last four guests that I’ve had have political science backgrounds. I started off in political science too in college, and then decided that marketing and communications and sales were more my speed, because you had to fit into a certain slot, and I wasn’t interested in that. I think there is something about the mindset of interest in politics that also lends itself just beautifully to sales, because there is a fair amount of diplomacy in sales too, as we all know. Let’s talk about leadership a little bit, and Lacey, we’ll go back to you. Tell us about your first leadership role and what that was like. Is that how you got to Carahsoft, or did you get your first opportunity for leadership at Carahsoft?
Lacey Wean: I would say Carahsoft was really my first professional leadership role. Some of the jobs I’d had previously was really just getting started and getting my foot in the door. I had other leadership roles in college and other projects that I had worked on outside of my career. But when I started at Carahsoft, I think one thing I always loved about the company was just the ability to advance in your career here. Tiffany can probably attest to this too, but I think I was someone who came in the door day one with an interest in a leadership role. It’s really great that Carahsoft was somewhere that offered me that opportunity by giving me the ability to just not only hone in on my sales skills, but to constantly take on new projects and get involved in new opportunities, and eventually gain more leadership responsibilities and still have that same opportunity today, which is great.
Gina Stracuzzi: Tiffany, how about you?
Tiffany Goddard: Every time I’m asked this question, I have a quick cheeky story to tell, and then I’ll reel it back in. My first leadership role, I started working at a water park when I was 14, and I worked there only on the summers, because it was a water park. I worked there when I was 14 for the three months. Then I went back in when I was 15 for my second summer, and I was like, “I’m ready to be a manager.” I had worked a whole three months. I had all the confidence in the world that that was what I wanted to do. I had a way that we could redo the scheduling or something, and they gave it to me. I think I was a junior manager or something. I tell the cheeky story just to illustrate, unlike not knowing that I wanted to do sales, I knew I always was interested in leadership, even at my first whole three months’ experience that I had. I think back then they must have been rolling their eyes the entire time, but they still gave it to me [laughs].
Then at Carahsoft, much like Lacey, was very interested since day one and I love this company, I’m invested. Where can I grow within the company? The first leadership job was as we were building these solution portfolios that I discussed in my intro, we had a couple come to us that had very similar sales mechanisms, maybe not the exact same technology, but the same message and the same government initiative or similar government initiatives that they had spoken to.
The first solution portfolio that we constructed was around customer experience. My first leadership role within Carahsoft was figure out that line card, talk to those technology vendors and figure out how we can come up with some joint sales and marketing strategies and events that are around a solution portfolio as opposed to just the product. That was my first leadership role at Carahsoft. We’ve replicated it a few times and it’s been fun.
Gina Stracuzzi: I love stories where it’s almost like you built a role for yourself. Really, those are the best roles, when you want to do something and you can show them how to do it and, “By the way, I’ll take the lead,” just like back at the pool. It’s great. We’ll stick with you, and then we’ll go back over to Lacey for this next question. I want to switch gears and talk a little bit about the lessons you’ve learned throughout the pandemic and how those lessons have affected you and your team, and then also what kind of lessons you have or what kind of advice you have for women in sales, given what you’ve learned.
Tiffany Goddard: I think from a pandemic perspective, the lesson that we all always knew but I think really was honed in on is that communication is key in leadership. I think we went on lockdown on say a Monday, and I think on Tuesday we were like, “Okay, we have to do daily meetings with our teams. We have to do Zoom meetings. We have to do video meetings. We have to ensure that we’re constantly communicating with our teams.” It’s on anything. Whereas to the culture before was, if you have a question, you can just walk by my desk and quickly, “Hey, I just have a quick question.” Now we have to utilize technology to make sure that we’re communicating. Ensuring that communication is upkept and kept in the forefront of our minds every single day.
I think most of my teams do morning coffee breaks, that’s what we call them. The idea is we sit there and we sip our coffee together and we go through our plan for the day, our forecasts, questions or issues that we had the last day that we didn’t get resolved. I think that’s the lesson from an overall pandemic perspective. Then dovetailing into that, my advice for women coming up in sales or coming up in leadership is speak up. That goes with the communication. Speak up to your managers, speak up to people that maybe work for you.
10 years ago, when I got into this leadership position, I don’t think I was as comfortable speaking up maybe as I am now, so I prepared. Before every meeting I had, I prepared talking points, or questions that I had, or clarifications I needed, or ideas I wanted to present. Now maybe I don’t prepare as much, but there’s still a preparation element to it. Because with the preparation, you become comfortable in allowing yourself to speak up. I think that that’s a really important piece of advice for sales leaders or women in sales in general, is speak up as much as you can and as often as you want.
Gina Stracuzzi: Lacey will attest that’s something that comes up in the forum again and again, is speak up and make your aspirations, your needs, your thoughts, all of it, knowledge that people have and can act upon. But I really like your advice of preparing for those opportunities. Like, “What’s on your mind? What would be the outcome you wanted if you spoke up? What are the points you need to get across?” That is excellent advice. Lacey, how about you? What are the lessons that you’ve learned along the way and what advice might you have for other women?
Lacey Wean: For me, I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a leader is to be authentic. I think sometimes we focus a little too much on having to appear to be perfect or saying everything in the perfect way. But you realize that people respect authenticity more than just perfection. It allows them to better relate to you. They want to talk to you, they want to be around the people that they can actually relate to and have something in common with. I think just shifting that focus away, especially as you’re speaking up during a meeting or something that makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable, but being authentic is going to go a lot farther than having to say something in the exact perfect way. It goes farther with your coworkers, with your employees, with your customers.
Then more specific to the pandemic, but I think along the lines of that, is I’ve really learned how important it’s to be empathetic towards other people. I don’t know that I’ve always been maybe the most sensitive or empathetic person, but along the lines of just relating to other people, it’s taking a step back to try to learn what they’re going through and understand what they’re going through and knowing that different scenarios impact people differently and everyone has their own way of dealing with things. I think taking that into consideration and just being supportive, and understanding, and empathetic helps go a long way with your coworkers and with the people that you may manage or the partners that you may work with.
Then into specific advice that I have for women in sales or in sales leadership, it’s really just making yourself known and making yourself known outside of your direct team. Saying yes anytime there’s an opportunity to collaborate on a project or collaborate with someone who’s maybe not on your direct team, or other leaders in the company, I think is really important. Knowing who your mentors are and who your biggest supporters are, and just being honest and open with them about your goals and what you’re looking to accomplish so they can help guide you in the right direction and keep you in mind for future projects they may hear of that come up that relate to your interest.
Gina Stracuzzi: The volunteering or offering to jump in on something that’s out of your direct line is a great way too to both get to know the company in a more holistic way, but also see what else might interest you. Because eventually you might want to make a change, and if you know about other paths within the company and they know about you, then you have a better chance of making that move. Those are both excellent pieces of advice.
Let’s talk a little bit about the Great Resignation that we’re hearing about. It’s a reality and it is impacting companies in unprecedented ways. But if we couple that too with the fact that competition for great salespeople and great sales managers has always been really hardcore, what is that like now? Have you lost people at the company or in your direct line, and what are you doing to address that so that it doesn’t get any worse than it might be already?
Tiffany Goddard: We have lost a couple of people. I always say, I think the key to retention is talking to your people. Again, kind of going back to the communication aspect. There’s 75 people on my sales team, so I don’t talk to every single person every single day, but I try to make it a point to do quarterly reviews or annual reviews with people. It’s not a solely, “Hey, let me talk to you about your stats and your sales.” It’s obviously part of it, but I love talking about, “What’s your favorite thing to do? If you could change something, what would you change?” Because I think when you gain the feedback and you actually implement some of their ideas, or you find out what they like to do, and you can gear them toward a path more that way, you’re more likely to retain your people.
I think when we’re talking about specifically women in leadership and kind of advice to companies about retaining or recruiting women in leadership, it’s they have to have an example. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many male counterparts of mine or executives that I do collaborations with, or I do mind melds with, and I value that so much. But having some sort of women leadership as an example, or someone to look up to, or an art of the possible, that that’s a possibility at the company, I think is key for retaining and recruiting women specifically in the workplace.
Gina Stracuzzi: Making people feel heard and seen is so critical, which is something that we hear quite often, that that’s one of the reasons people leave, is they don’t feel heard or seen. Lacey, how about you? What is your take on this?
Lacey Wean: I totally agree with Tiffany’s thoughts on that, communication is really the most important piece there. But along those same lines, and just to add a little bit to that, I think really understanding what motivates your team and the best way to communicate with them, Gina, I’m sure you know this, but my biggest takeaway from the forum, one of the sessions I participated in earlier this year around learning about the different communication styles and how to communicate with people based on their personalities, and communicating with people in the way that they want to be communicated with, and having a more effective approach that way.
I think that was really one of my biggest takeaways, and something I’ve learned this year that I’ve tried to apply to my day-to-day when meeting with my team in a group setting, or doing individual monthly meetings with them. Shifting the gears a little bit on how I communicated with someone before versus how I communicate with them now. I think the biggest takeaway from that for me was just asking them questions and asking the right questions to really understand what they care about. “Hey, what do you like about your job? What do you find to be most challenging about this project you’re working on?” Just to really get them to open up and see that, “Hey, I care about what you’re doing and I’m here to help you and help you reach your goals as well.” I think having those conversations, having those conversations frequently, and asking the right questions and asking questions in the way that people want to be communicated with was really important.
Gina Stracuzzi: Do you all find, because this is something that I’ve heard mentioned many times from the women that go through the forum, is that they feel like their path within a company is not clear. They don’t know what their opportunities are if they want to move up. There’s no clear path that they can discern. Do you hear people talk about that and how do you help the people that work for you? Because I know that Carahsoft is such a respected company and people really love working there. You must have some kind of magic stew that’s working. That doesn’t mean that you will definitely sidestep people leaving for bigger money, but it does seem to be one of those things that people discuss. They want to know that there is a path up or forward. Do you come across that, Tiffany?
Tiffany Goddard: I would say at Carahsoft, what we do a really good job of is doing regular sync-ups with your manager, or your mentor, or your coach. You always have the opportunity to talk about your path, or your passion, or what you want to do, or do you want to move up? I think that the opportunity is just so ample. Personally for me, anytime I’ve wanted to change, or to take on more, or to pivot slightly, I’ve always felt that my mentor, and the management team, to be honest, as a whole is just really approachable. They’ll really work with you on your path and defining that and allowing you to move up or have whatever opportunity within the company that you envision yourself to have. Even if you’re not ready that day, “Here are the steps or here’s the growth that needs to happen with you to make that a possibility.”
I think that that’s really important to make sure that communication is there and that the management team is super approachable, and that’s what I found at Carahsoft. But I think that that’s the common denominator of why I’ve always felt successful and why I always try to enable my team to have a path and have a growth path.
Gina Stracuzzi: Lacey, do you have any thoughts on that?
Lacey Wean: At Carahsoft, again, along the lines of what Tiffany said there, I think the company and the management team has been very open about opportunities that are available to move into leadership roles. We do have those conversations regularly. However, I know that with other companies, that’s maybe not the case. I’ve got a lot of friends who are in sales and in totally different industries than what I am in, or different types of companies, and have heard them talk about it many times that they didn’t know what opportunities are available. I think it’s important for companies and management teams to be open about that and to have those conversations regularly.
Then on the other hand, I’ve also talked to a lot of people who, friends who have come to me and they’re like, “I’m really interested in a promotion,” or, “I’m interested in a leadership role,” and, “Hey, how did you get to where you are? What should I do?” Usually my first question, I’m like, “Well, have you asked about it? Did you ask anyone?” Usually the answer I get is no. A lot of people just don’t ask. My advice there would be just don’t be afraid to ask and be open with your mentors and your managers or coaches, and let them help you get to where you want to be. Again, being open with them helps keep you in mind for opportunities as they come up.
Gina Stracuzzi: It’s such a true phenomenon that we keep our aspirations, our ambitions to ourselves all too often, rather than letting someone know that can help that this is what we’d like to do. It sounds like you all have internal programs where you have a mentor and possibly even coaches, which is really phenomenal, because not every company does. I think the mentors and the coaches and professional development opportunities, those are all pieces that help companies retain top talent. Hats off to Carahsoft, because it sounds like you got a little bit of magic sauce going on there, which is good to hear.
We like to close the program with asking our guests for one piece of actionable advice that they can give listeners. It could be something to do, or something to consider, or a journal entry that gets you thinking about what you’re going to do next. Whatever piece of advice you have, we would love to hear it. Things that can help their careers as they move forward. Tiffany, would you like to go first?
Tiffany Goddard: I’ll say that I probably didn’t think about this until a few years ago. If I would have heard this earlier, it would have really helped me. It goes along with something that you just talked about, Gina, but seek mentors. I always encourage people because mentors are a powerful thing to have. They can help you with career advice. They can help you through professional transitions. They can help you get some insider advice into promotions that you want or that are available. I think mentors are such a powerful thing. You could have one or two or build an army of mentors. They don’t have to be someone that you meet with once a month for coffee. Schedules are crazy, especially if it’s someone in senior leadership.
Maybe it is someone that you meet once a month for coffee, I think that every mentor-mentee relationship is different, but someone that you can reach out to that you trust that can give you advice and that you can maybe perhaps lend some value to when you can as well, is really important. Then once you’re in a position where you can mentor somebody else, be a mentor and be a guide. I think that having an army of mentors is my phrase of saying it, but I think it’s so wildly important, and something that, admittingly, I was lacking a little bit in my early career. I wasn’t thinking about it that way. Super important.
Gina Stracuzzi: Couldn’t agree more. Lacey, how about you?
Lacey Wean: Goes along with what I mentioned earlier about just making yourself known outside of your direct team. But I think an actionable piece of advice, just say yes to the next opportunity that’s presented to you. Sometimes it means getting out of your comfort zone a little bit. If it’s something that maybe scares you a little bit, like speaking up in a meeting, or sharing a new idea that you have, or doing a presentation or public speaking, saying yes to just putting yourself in a different scenario even though it might be scary, it’s only going to help you grow as a leader.
Gina Stracuzzi: That is a wonderful final word. I can’t thank you enough, ladies. It’s been wonderful getting to know you and getting to know about the work you do and a little bit more about Carahsoft. I hope you’ll stay in touch and keep us posted on what you’re achieving in your careers. Everyone, thank you very much. We will see you again next week, Christmas week, and we’ll go on from there. Have a wonderful rest of your week and we’ll see you all again next time. Thank you, ladies.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo