One day while speaking with our good friend Steve Richard of VorsightBP on the concept of the perfect SDR to AE handoff for inside sales and field sales teams, we mentioned our series about Women in Sales – The XX Factor. Knowing Steve’s passion for sales and quality sales people we asked him if knew anyone that would be a good fit for our Women in Sales series. Steve was kind enough to introduce us to Jenna Cronin.
Jenna is newer in her sales career than many of the women we have already profiled. However as you read you will most likely come to the conclusion we have, which is that she is wise beyond her years. Jenna currently works for VorsightBP as a Sales Consultant. She’s personally made over 30,000 (not a typo) cold calls that yielded over 1,500 conversations!
If ever there is someone who could write a book about the top of the funnel it would most definitely be Jenna. In the meantime, Jenna, welcome to The XX Factor.
Q: How many years have you been in sales?
Q: Can you please describe the “aha” moment when you decided you wanted to be in sales?
A: It wasn’t so much an “aha” moment as an idea that I allowed to grow on me… begrudgingly I might add. My parents and grandparents were sales people and entrepreneurs. My father’s family had a milk farm and my mother’s family had a bakery. In fact, that’s how they met. Eventually they ended up opening a chocolate shop and that is where I spent my summers working and learning about running a business.
Like others who feel the need to “rebel” against their parents I wanted to break the mold, so I went off to college to study Architecture and then French Literature! Over time I grew a little frustrated about architecture and academics. I could not understand how people could get so caught up in the art, but did not understand difference between practical and beautiful. I often found myself in my architecture class reviews thinking: these renderings look breathtaking, but are they really functional? Would business people invest in them actually getting built?
Then came 2008. The “Great Recession” certainly weighed heavily on me as I am sure it did others. It was all hands on deck in the family business and I had student loans that needed to be addressed. Based on the work ethic instilled by my family I had to make some important decisions.
It was at this time that I realized I could no longer deny my roots and I adopted a philosophy called: “It’s great to have hobbies, but do the thing that makes you money.”
Embracing my sales mind was the best decision I’ve ever made and I have no regrets.
Q: What can you tell us about the single biggest sale you ever closed ($, sales cycle, company/ industry, etc.)
A: The single biggest sale I ever closed was surprising in a number of ways!
- The sales cycle was about three months (but it felt like it was at least double that).
- The company fell outside of the typical industries to which my clients belong (it was a roofing manufacturer).
- The company had never bought sales training or consulting service like ours before (which made creating a business case that much tougher).
Selling a service like sales training is a little more unique than other products and services. In many ways our clients are buying “hope”. We can share our clients’ experiences, our track record and the awards we’ve won, but the factor that makes our clients trust us is our ability to address that lingering question: “yes, but will it work for me?”
This particular deal confirmed for us the real value of planning, process, diligence, and how a little creativity can be more effective than relying on the instant credibility of direct experience.
A lot of time and energy was spent on helping the client feel confident in not only what they were purchasing, but the outcomes that they would realize. By the time it came to signing the deal it surprisingly fell right into place.
Q: Which women in sales do you admire most?
A: I’ve had the honor of working with a number of inspirational women in sales. Some of my favorites include:
Liz Cain – Sr. Director, WW Business Development of NetSuite – Liz is not only one of the most ambitious and driven people I’ve met, but I noticed right away that she connects will all levels of management/tenure and has her entire organization’s respect.
Georgie Donahue VP of Sirius Decisions – I admire Georgie’s ability to strike the balance between work and family. Her colleagues appreciate it too – the last time I was on site, her younger (male) colleagues were telling me stories about her dedication to work and motherhood as if she were a legend.
Jill Ulvestad Founding & Managing Partner of VorsightBP – No coach has had a larger impact on my career than Jill, both in leading by example and getting me to discover things about myself. She’s taught me that you don’t have to have a “shark” personality to become a world class seller and that it’s more powerful to embrace your own strengths, even if they don’t align with the stereotypes of a powerful business woman.
Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Clara Shih, CEO and Founder, Hearsay Social, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook; they’ve had an immeasurable impact on how I’ve reflected on my own career path and development.
Q: If you could go back and give your early career minded self, advice about a career in sales, what would that be?
A: I think this is always applicable but, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good! For example, in the process of proposal writing, connecting a client’s situation and challenges to our offerings is a delicate process. I would often agonize over creating a mind-blowingly insightful analysis when instead, asking the client for help with it would have saved me time and a lot of creative energy. Beyond that, it’s important to consider the complexity of the engagement when allocating time to different projects. Long story short: do not try to come out of the gate with a brilliant assessment on your own. It should be collaborative with the client.
Also, I would remind myself to speak up, knowing that every idea might not hit the mark. It’s better to say something or try something and have to tweak it rather than hold off until you’re sure it’s flawless.
Q: What advantages do you think women have in sales over men?
A: Having undoubtedly been the overlooked parties in the room at one time or another, I think women are more sensitive to the different (and perhaps more reserved) perspectives in a consensus-based decision.
In a sales meeting where the seller is seeking to understand the vision of a group of buyers, typically 1-2 buyers run the show. It’s critical to be equally observant of the people who are NOT participating as openly and be sure to engage them. Often these buyers that sit quietly and process things before speaking will share the most valuable insight!
Women also tend to express empathy more innately, which has been shown to be a key attribute of a good listener and consultative salesperson.
Q: What advice would you give to men about working with women in sales?A: There are a few things I would mention here.
- “Bringing in” actions are a great way to balance different perspectives, as long as you’re not putting anyone on the spot. If you know your colleague Mary has some great ideas that are relevant to a group discussion but she hasn’t shared them, a simple “Mary, what are your thoughts?” once in a while can go a long way.
- I would remind men that women tend to listen first and speak second. Silence does not equal agreement. Too often, conversations move so quickly that the real opinions surface after the discussion is over.
- If you invite us to conversation please be sure to let us join the conversation. I have been invited to meetings where folks thought I had something valuable to add. However as the conversation ensued, they couldn’t stop talking to let me get a word in edge wise. Stop to take a breath and maybe you’ll learn something!
Wow Jenna, this is amazing and tremendously insightful. Thank you for sharing! Oh, and when you write the book let us know, we are all very eager to learn more from you.
Connect with Jenna on LinkedIn: HERE
Follow us on Twitter: rharis415 and @saasselling