Zahra Jivá, Director of Global Strategy at Pipedrive, talks to Gradual`s CMO Dmitry about her path in sales and the importance of training salespeople.
Being in sales wasn't my long-term goal.
I don’t think I was that one who woke up and said, “now let’s make sales.” Just to give a little more context on how sales chose me, I started doing sales roles when I was 16. It was primarily summer jobs. Sales selected me.
During summer in Portugal, students must decide if they want to enjoy the summer and take all three months off or work summer jobs. I needed the money, to be honest, and I decided, “Okay, let's do anything that fits what I'm good at.” So I started in a call center, and that's how sales entered my life.
Back then, my first sales job was selling credit cards so that I could buy a car and save up some money. I was ambitious, money-driven, and goal-driven. I thought, “Okay, doing sales long-term probably won't be my goal.”
I did a master's in communication and worked as a journalist for about three to four years. The experience had its ups and downs, but I'm super happy that sales chose me. I kind of had more fun making sales. I didn't have the feeling journalism was going to be it.
I have so many crazy stories of making calls and ensuring that I also achieved my targets because a specific goal drove me. Sales taught me how to handle problems, especially in a recession, which is applicable now that we are facing economic restraints again.
Sales is not an easy job.
Furthermore, sales gave me an understanding of what account executives face, so it's not just me helping them with problems. I gained knowledge on how to ensure the team stays happy and how we can ensure that we end up selling.
First things first – hear the team before training.
In my opinion, first of all, you need to gain trust. No matter the sessions you book or how you try to observe and coach your sales reps, I think that if you don't have your team’s trust–that what you're saying is based on your experience and knowledge–they will not feel comfortable with you.
They won't listen to you because they are not trusting what you are sharing. So I think the first step is listening to the team. If you're building that relationship, you get comfortable sharing, giving feedback, and making sure that they evolve, especially when discussing more senior roles.
Onboarding new sales reps is one of the critical factors.
For newcomers, you must have a good sales onboarding program and follow-up sales training sessions. Imagine you are training the person to be the best they can be and ensuring you follow up. How can you listen to calls more often than you will listen to senior account executives?
As a manager, I understand the critical points we should discuss on a call or avoid. Still, by listening to your colleagues, you'll learn a little bit more and make sure that you balance it out through coaching sessions and knowing what the team is doing. We have been facing hybrid work for the last two years. It kind of brought a distance between teams, so ensure that you get them together and that everyone understands the critical sales processes and points.
The sales onboarding material needs to have positive wording and move so that the new sales rep understands their goals and objectives as they evolve and learn. I think we always need to grow, no matter if our programs are good or not. We have two weeks in Pipedrive after the new sales rep joins when we have no involvement. In the department, we try to leave the new sales rep to learn and have time to follow up on the program and understand the business, the company, the values, and the product.
We assign a buddy to each new sales rep.
Our newcomers go through onboarding on a three-month ramp-up period. In the first week, we do part of sales onboarding in which they are together with a group of many other departments. Our company's specialists explain company values, how each department works, and how communication flows and also product knowledge.
Then after the first week, they come to each department. On the sales side, we have a specific plan during that week that consists mainly of showing the day-to-day sales, the tools we are using, coaching on the devices, best practices, and job-shadowing specific buddies.
We start testing demonstrations, and we do a lot of test demos with managers to ensure that once the sales rep meets with the customer, they feel more comfortable and understand better what questions they might hear. We assign a buddy to each new rep so that that person also has a reference to speak with when they have questions. After that week, we give a three-month ramp-up period.
We have had one-on-one meetings throughout these three months with the new reps. This way, we understand the pain points, procedure-wise, product-wise, and demo-wise, to ensure they are ready to follow up with customers. We see crucial metrics of monthly revenue they bring to customer engagement.
Throughout sales onboarding, we look at the whole pipeline.
- How are they engaging with customers?
- What are the methods that they are using to engage with customers?
We have approved cadences, but in sales, there's some understanding that phone calls aren’t always well perceived. Or maybe we are at a point where email is more effective than calls, so we also look at that metric.
Calls vs. demos vs. emails.
Then we follow up to understand the conversion rate, engagement rate, and monthly revenue each new sales rep brings. We continue coaching what can still be trained so that they are comfortable and ready in six months. They usually already achieve 100% of target attainment, which is fantastic. Mostly, though, we see it within three months.