Amyra Rand: Women in Sales Talk Productivity
In this series, we delve into the personal and professional dimension of female thought leaders from the world of high tech sales to explore their views on productivity and sales effectiveness.
Cien welcomes Amyra Rand to its Women in Sales Talk Productivity Series. Amyra is the VP of Sales and Head of Strategic Partnerships at Criteria Corp, a pre-employment testing company. She is well known in the HR software industry. She was VP of sales at Kareo, Sr. Director of Emerging Enterprise Sales at HireRight and Director of Operational Excellence at Sage. Amyra is a chapter VP of the American Association for Inside Sales Professionals, received her MBA from Pepperdine University and received a B.A. from UC Irvine, where she studied criminology.
We have to ask, how did you go from studying criminology to a successful career in sales?
I was on a panel with four other women for the Inside Sales Professionals (AAISP) conference and we discussed this same question. All four of us said, “You know what, this is not where I planned to be.” I had a plan to do something else, and I just fell into sales. I wanted to go into the FBI and over the course of events, a friend of mine says to me, “Hey Amyra, come work for this company in sales and at the end of it, you’ll be able to sell ice cubes to Eskimos.” I said, “Alright, I’ll give it a shot”. Low and behold, many years later, I am still in sales.
I was altruistic in college. I wanted to fight white-collar criminals. I wanted to help small business owners that were getting taken advantage of by white-collar criminals or people who were skimming off the top. Same thing as the Average Joe citizen. When I went into sales, not much changed. I was still helping the small and mid-size businesses. I was still helping people do better at their jobs, helping them improve their processes. And for my team, I was able to help them more than anything.
I don’t think of myself as a salesperson. It just happens to be the case that I’m helping people with the things that I’m selling. I can’t sell if I don’t believe in the product.
Do think that there’s a misconception about women in sales?
Until we have more women in sales, I think it is relevant to talk about. 12% of sales leaders are female today, and there’s something wrong with that. There’s no reason that number shouldn’t be higher. So, there’s a problem there. There’s a reason why women aren’t going into sales. It’s even at the front-line level, but once you get into management, not only does the pay differential increase, the number of women in those positions decreases. Until that goes away, we need to keep having the conversation.
If you were to ask me when I was in college if I wanted to go into sales, I would say, “No way”. There are masculine traits that are closely associated with sales roles. You read job descriptions that say, “aggressive, hungry, killer”. All of these words do not resonate with a female or anyone with “typical feminine traits”. I think of myself as a consultant. I take care of my clients, I nurture them, I work closely with them to find a solution that works for all of us. I build relationships and develop them. There are some areas where I have to use my left hand. For example, in negotiation. There are times when you have to have difficult conversations. If we can get women to see sales in a different light, we can get more to apply and get some more female leaders out there.
I’ve also been very fortunate. I’ve had some great mentors and great champions in the business that helped me get to where I am. By default you have a lot of male mentors, because most leaders in organizations are male, especially in the tech space. I’ve had mentors on both sides of the house.
Is there a particular female sales leader or influencer that you admire?
Probably too many list – but one that comes to mind immediately is Lisa Hudson (Marketo‘s VP of Global Partner Services). I worked with Lisa at Sage Software back in the early 2000’s. I admired her, because she was exceptionally smart. I remember, the questions she would ask at the board room table were so pointed and thoughtful; but at the same time, she was so kind, warm, nurturing and super smart. Everybody loved her, but she was still a powerful force in the organization. I realized those two things weren’t mutually exclusive. She is still one of my mentors. She is true to her brand as a woman, and that’s what I have modeled my leadership style after. I want to be able to be true to myself and not be something I wasn’t in a leadership perspective.
Are there any advantages or disadvantages about being a women in sales?
Once people start seeing the traits that are typically feminine as strengths as opposed to weaknesses, then I’m hopeful it will look different. For example, when we start to see the ability to show vulnerability as a way to build relationships on the team and not a sign of weakness, then we will have made progress.
One of the disadvantages today is getting rid of those stereotypes. For every positive attribute you can have, there’s a negative side to it and vice versa. We need to start seeing some of those things on both sides of the coin.
What advice would you offer to a young woman who is contemplating or trying to get into sales as a career, who may not have as much experience or knowledge as you do?
You can be amazing at this. You may think that you can’t even imagine yourself in sales, but you have the foundation to be an awesome salesperson. We bring so much to the table, like relationship building skills and listening skills. We listen like no other, we like to hear things, we like to solve problems. Then, we celebrate them when we solve them. That “emotionalness” of women, it’s so beautiful in the sales process and it gives us long lasting relationships with our customers that go beyond just the job that we have. Also, to any women considering going into sales, you don’t have to check all of the boxes, just take a chance to grow into it.
You mentioned the importance of listening in sales. As AI evolves, do you see its importance increasing overtime, or do you see the future of sales requiring other skills?
Is AI going to replace sales? Is AI going to take our jobs? No. Under no circumstances. AI is going to do all of the stuff that isn’t the value add. AI is not the thing that brings the two human beings together. There are things that AI can do for us at the surface level that will make salespeople’s lives easier; from interpreting data off the website, identifying the right leads you should be talking to, identifying those people that are on your website and getting information from them based off of their digital body language and then proposing different solutions for them. But at the end of the day, people buy from people. And I don’t think that’s ever going to change. AI will take us part of the way there and help us open a lot more doors.
Has the transformation of sales already occurred in your opinion?
That transformation occurred a while ago. Our customers and prospects are more educated than ever on the products we are selling because of the access to information on the internet. A good salesperson yesterday delivered product information, a good sales person today delivers insights. Also, you can’t sell the same way to every prospect. Each one has a unique story to tell, so let them tell it. The sales people that are kicking butt out there are the ones who are really listening to their customers and delivering insights on how to solve their challenges. I’m saying listening a lot, but I really feel that it’s the golden ticket.
Listening seems to be an underrated value, but what we see a lot at Cien, is “How can I increase my sales team’s productivity and effectiveness?” What are your thoughts on sales effectiveness?
The first step of any sales is to get a conversation going. There are certain things that need to be done to get to this stage such as searching their website, finding out where people have been, getting updates on what’s going on with their business. There’s a lot of manual work that goes into it. Specifically with an sales development rep, for example. They do a lot of research before they reach out to somebody and they customize emails based on that research. However, nobody buys from an email, an email just opens the door for you. Technology that can help me get to the conversation faster, is one that I want to use. That’s where business gets done, in the conversation.
How would you recommend a sales team measure an SDR’s performance?
Connections. It’s not necessarily the number of dials, but the number of connects you make. It starts with call activities, but then every time you bounce down the funnel you iterate on the metrics that you’re looking at. That’s where the quality comes in. I think technology is great, it complements the conversation. But once we get the conversation, how do we optimize the interaction? We try to focus on the basics, and pick 3-4 metrics that are important to us.
When it comes to sales leadership, where do you feel sales leaders often fall short?
I’ve always built teams. Part of building teams is you have to get scrappy and if you’re not willing to get your hands dirty, you’re not going to be successful. At the end of the day, the results fall onto me. Not partnering with marketing is also a fatal mistake. I’ve been lucky to work with some of the best marketing leaders out there. There will always be tension between sales and marketing, but when it’s healthy and both teams treat the other like their customer – it can lead to sales rep success, your success, and the company’s success.
If you weren’t in sales, what would you be doing professionally?
I would be a teacher. I love seeing my team members grow and being the best version of themselves. I want them to accomplish their dreams.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
I can’t wait to hear more about Cien. As long as people understand that this is not intended to replace sales by any means, apps like Cien are really there to help make our jobs better, make us better at what we do and help us get closer to those conversations that we want to have every day.
About Amyra Rand
Amyra Rand is a seasoned sales leader known for building and managing world class sales teams that deliver results, and more importantly, an outstanding customer experience. She has spent over 15 years in leadership roles in the software industry helping organizations of all sizes increase efficiencies and grow their businesses. She is currently the Vice President of Sales & Strategic Partnerships at Criteria Corp, helping small and mid-sized business find top talent in their candidate pool through the use of aptitude, personality and skills tests.