After hearing “you should be in sales” one too many times, Elli Rigolfi finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. Turns out everyone was right. Rigolfi found a natural fit in the sales development world, and went on to source $1 million for the employee engagement app company SocialChorus.
We got a chance to pick Rigolfi’s brain about what she does, what inspires her, and of course, women in sales.
Q: How many years have you been in sales?
A: Just over two years.
Q: Can you please describe the “aha” moment when you decided you wanted to be in sales?
A: My “aha” came for me once I understood that sales is like giving directions. It’s the strangest thing, but I get asked for directions constantly. When I say “constantly” I mean 3-5 times each week.
It was my senior year at Arizona when I was stopped on campus by a father/daughter duo who were touring the school. After we exchanged pleasantries, I asked a few other questions about where they were headed and then proceeded to outline a plan for where they needed to go. The conversation was ending when the girl’s father asked what my plans were for after college. I said I was not entirely sure just yet, but being from the Bay Area I was sure I was going to head back there. He very simply said to me, “You should be in sales,” I laughed, as this was something you hear or you don’t – and I had definitely heard before. “You’re approachable, helpful and trustworthy,” he said. This “aha” moment only really occurred to me once I was stopped for direction by someone else minutes later!
This “aha” moment only really occurred to me once I was stopped for direction by someone else minutes later!
Q: What can you tell us about the single biggest sale you ever closed ($, sales cycle, company/ industry, etc.)
A: The nature of Sales Development does not mean you’re necessarily closing the biggest sales. What it does mean for us is that you are closing a commitment for more of their precious time after you already interrupted them with your 20-second cold call. Arguably harder than any first call is getting your prospect’s attention. Once you’ve done that, then hopefully your colleague in sales can keep it. The ability to succinctly communicate what your company or product does in a pitch isn’t easy, and at any small start-up, your pitch should always be evolving and improving. So for me, cold calling Executive Leadership and closing conversations with the biggest companies in the world including Shell, Boeing, UnitedHealh Group, United Airlines, and Nestle is what I am proud to have contributed to SocialChorus.
Q: Which women in sales do you admire most?
Nicole Alvino, our co-founder, is quite an amazing saleswoman. She is warm, sharp as a tack, and commands some serious attention when in a room with our Fortune 10 customers. I love her piece on Balance vs. Peace for women, as she has three little boys, a heavy travel schedule, and still finds time to mentor each of us at SocialChorus.
Q: If you could go back and give your early career-minded self advice about a career in sales, what would that be?
Trust your gut. Thankfully, I learned that one early in my career, working for a smaller company I knew I should have left but did not. But naturally people who trust their gut have strong intuition and I think that’s important to find in yourself.
Q: What advantages do you think women have in sales over men?
A: The intuition I just mentioned is the classic answer. I think a huge advantage for women is that they far more observant than men. Is it not always your mom that could tell something was wrong no matter how hard you tried to hide it? Women can channel that more than men simply because of their skill to peel back the layers and find out or see what is really going on.
Q: What advice would you give to men about working with women in sales?
A: Work on your poker face. Men are very easy to read!
Thanks Elli! (And remind me never to play a round of poker with you).
Let us know what you think of Elli’s story, and click here to subscribe to “Women In Sales – The XX Factor” series.
Other Women In Sales Interviews:
- Women in Sales with Gabrielle Smith
- Women in Sales with Kiasa Eriksen of Pushpay
- Women in Sales with Sarah Fricke of CEB
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