From the Sales Trenches: Q&A with Emily Jensen


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This continues our series of front-line sales interviews, featuring quota-carrying sales reps as well as their managers and leaders (see previous interviews here, here and here). Emily Jensen is Director of Sales for PayScale, where she manages a fast-growing team of inside sales professionals selling a compensation platform to HR professionals.

How (and why) did you get into sales?

Before I worked at PayScale, I actually imagined myself in a different profession for the rest of my life. But once I got into what I thought I wanted to do, I realized it was way off from what I really wanted to do. I didn’t feel like I was changing or helping anyone.

PayScale was (and is) an amazing fit for me. I remember walking in the door, and immediately felt like this was the type of place I wanted to be. It was energetic, fast-moving, and a small enough team that I knew I could make a difference. The people I was working for at that point in my career, early during my time at PayScale, were fantastic.

As someone new to sales then, what motivated you and how did you learn?

A lot of salespeople are motivated by the financial reward, but for me it’s always been about making sure I’m helping people solve problems. I have a non-profit background, and to me I think non-profit work and sales are pretty close. They’re both about helping people solve problems they couldn’t on their own.

Because I didn’t have habits entrenched from other sales roles, I was really eager to learn and hungry to learn. Basically, I modeled what I was doing – the structure of my day, my conversations with prospects, etc. – from others around me who were doing really well. I shadowed great reps to understand what they were doing and how they were doing it.

One thing that motivated me a lot, was that it wasn’t just solving problems on the phone but also helping people internally with challenges they were facing every day. Those are the stepping stones that led me to be interested in management, and where I am today. Someone helped me before, so I’m helping others now.

How did you decide to go to management?

I knew I’d still have a lot of exposure with customers at PayScale, even as a manager. I’d still get to solve problems, and do so more effectively for more people on my team. I felt I would have a broader impact, and could touch more customers and reps in a management role. I think there’s something to be said for those who are focused on staying in an individual role, that’s fantastic. It’s just not who I am.

So now you’re managing new sales managers. How are you coaching them to make the transition from successful rep to manager?

The best way I can coach them is to communicate how and where I was unsuccessful in the process and transition into becoming a leader. Everyone makes mistakes, and for me I try to be honest about where I made mistakes so that maybe other new managers can avoid stumbling in the same areas.

The most important thing for me was having a support structure among the rest of the management team. Mentors are crucial all the time, but especially in the beginning when I was first making the transition to manager, and occasionally having awkward conversations with former peers I’m now managing. Advice from other managers across the organization, even those who weren’t in sales, was invaluable. I don’t think I would be here without that.

It’s all about building a support structure from people you trust and respect. They help you focus on something you can try to be every day.

What do you think has made you successful as a manager and leader now?

Really, it’s been the same things that made me successful as a sales rep. Eagerness to learn, and hungry to be better every day. People that come in and tell others what to do, I don’t think that really works well. You have to understand why people are doing things they’re doing and work with them to make it more successful.

When I was a new manager, the latter was super important to embody everyday. My reps saw me as a partner in the process. I’ve tried both approaches, but sometimes you have to fail at one approach before you figure out which is going to work.

It’s been interesting to watch our new managers go through a similar process. It’s a lot about learning how to follow your instincts. You can’t be too concerned about figuring out what kind of manager you want to be, instead you just have to learn how to trust your instincts and adapt where you need to.

What new strategies are you now employing as a “manager of managers”, for those managers and for your entire sales team now?

I’m still doing lots of training with the two teams as a whole. My boss instilled that constant training is so important – the second you stop learning and pushing yourself to improve is when you should stop doing it.

“Earn the right” statements are really important, for example. Prospects need to trust the person they’re working with. How are you the expert in this process and how to do you communicate that to prospects? We used workout videos, for example, to demonstrate how you “earn the right”. It was funny, it kept the reps engaged, and it showed them how it works.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


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