Have you ever considered opera singing as good prep for sales?
Or that salespeople have big potential for careers in management?
In prep for next week’s inaugural SalesJam sales training event
in Durham, we asked three speakers to tell us a bit more about themselves, their careers and what they love about sales. Learn more
by attending next week's event.
Lindsey Boggs, a social selling expert and consultant.
EE: Share a bit about your background in sales.
I majored in opera in college but didn’t want to do it anymore. My parents gave me my bills and said, “good luck to you.” I wanted a job with benefits and something stable.
I lived in Dallas and my first job out of college was working at FedEx as an executive assistant to a VP. That role taught me how to speak to people with titles. So going into sales, I was not afraid to call on VP or C-level execs because I knew they put pants on the same way I did.
When I joined Bronto in 2011, I did really well very fast because I wasn’t using traditional ways of prospecting. I used LinkedIn when it was looked at as a jobs tool. I looked for mutual connections instead of cold calling—that's now common practice.
EE: You eventually earned the title “social selling pioneer” from LinkedIn and others. How has that influenced your career?
I was performing well and teaching others how to use LinkedIn to prospect and got recruited by an Indy company called SmarterHQ—I was hired to train and develop an outbound sales team that prospected exclusively on retailers. I broke a ton of records at that company with prospecting via LinkedIn and ultimately wrote an article in 2015 that went viral on LinkedIn about how every 10 messages I send on LinkedIn, I get five responses, a 50 percent return.
LinkedIn asked me to speak at its annual conference in October last year and introduced me as the No. 1 Social Seller (where I got to throw free throws with Shaq. I got both in by accident—a highlight of my career so far!). From that point on, I just got this instant recognition within the world of social selling and LinkedIn, and capitalized and decided to do it full time, helping companies (like Raleigh-based eTailInsights) prospect better.
EE: What do you love about sales?
I love meeting people. And I love the hunt of getting somebody to connect with me.
EE: Fun fact?
I sung on Air Force One with President George W. Bush and did two European tours singing. There’s a strong correlation between opera and sales. Sales is a stage. As sales people, we’re always on stage, so that really transferred well.
EE: How did you get into sales in the first place?
I was living in Taiwan in Taipei with my wife and we wanted to come back to America in 2011. It’s hard when you’re an ex-pat to repatriate to your country of origin—you have no skill set and there was a recession at the time.
I was looking for a profession where I could move quickly up through whatever ranks as long as I worked harder than everyone else, and one where I could make a decent wage. Sales was something I was interested in trying out. And a big thing for me was to work for a small company or a tech startup—and I learned if there is anything that tech startups need, it’s salespeople. That was one of the rings that really helped shift my focus to that field.
EE: First sales job? What did you learn?
An associate sales executive at ShareFile. I learned it’s a lot more grueling than I expected and required a lot more focus and effort and intelligence. It also was a lot less sketchy—I had concerns about sales from an ethical standpoint—but I found that it didn’t have to be that way.
EE: What’s a proud moment in your career?
In sales management at ShareFile then Citrix, I was assigned to two reps that were really struggling to hit numbers and on PIPs and they were on their way out. And I was able to really work with them, coach them and help them along and now one is a successful sales person at Bronto and just contacted me for a reference and another is still doing really well at Citrix in senior sales then operational roles.
That is the kind of stuff I got excited about. You don't go to school to get into sales—it’s not the path I thought I would do when I was 18 going to college. But being able to be in the position to work with people, coach them to develop a career for themselves and help them push limits and develop as individuals, that gets me going.
EE: Fun fact?
I’m fluent in conversational Mandarin Chinese and have yet to find a useful way to use that skill here in the Triangle.
Robert Hartsfield, director of sales at Avalara
EE: When did you decide on sales as a career?
I knew in the second grade. I knew it right then. When you start doing show and tell, talking about summer trips and seashells and cool things you brought back. I knew I wanted to be in some role where I was either pitching something or selling an idea.
That progressed into my first lemonade stand in third grade. I lived in a new community and saw a need when construction workers were going back and forth to grab soda from stores. Lemonade is cheaper and away we went. I had four different stands in four cul de sacs and rode my 10—speed bike to check on the different stands.
EE: What did that look like after college? And how did your career progress?
My first job was as a buyer for Dayton-Hudson and Marshall Fields department stores but my first actual sales role was at Pack Expo, which was acquired by BDMetrics. What we did there was sell to trade shows—connect attendees and exhibitors via our portal and sell ad space. I was there eight years in the DC area before I was recruited to run an inside sales team at Consensus Technology.
Then I went to Netsertive and worked with Brendan to put together the team there in a house in Cary.
One sales guy was leaving to go to Bronto and said, “Come with me.” Bronto had a strong reputation and I spent four years there and eventually took over the team.
Then Avalara gave me the chance to build my own team, to put together a process and culture and set up a framework for how the company can go. To do that with a great support system in my hometown where I grew up is once in a lifetime.
EE: How did you separate yourself from the rest of the employees over time?
If my quota is to sell $10k/month, I’d back it out to see how to sell $20k/month. I never took number they gave me, I always gave myself another number.
EE: What do you like most about sales?
Sales is the most frustrating job you can ever have, but I can’t imagine doing anything different. This is what I get up to do. I was sick all weekend but I was eager to get back. You have to have that passion.
EE: What’s the key to being a sales leader?
To be in a leadership position, you really have to want to help others. I love putting together folks that really want to be great in sales and saying to them, ‘Listen, you are here today, but let’s put a plan in place to get you to point B.’ I love to watch them get big.
EE: Fun fact?
I always get mistaken for Darius Rucker, everywhere I go. And I can’t sing a lick.
SalesJam is a half-day sales training event going down Thursday, August 25 in Durham. Buy tickets here.