Trish Bertuzzi: 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 spoke with Boston native, Trish Bertuzzi, CEO of The Bridge Group and author of The Sales Development Playbook. Trish is famous for serving as a major leader and influencer in the sales industry. Her firm helps sales and marketing leaders make big decisions on strategy, productivity and performance, process, technology and tools. Trish and her team have helped over 380 companies build and optimize Inside Sales.
Welcome Trish Bertuzzi and thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you start by briefly introducing yourself? Where are you from? What do you enjoy doing outside of work, apart from leading The Bridge Group?
I am from Boston, MA, but right now, I am in my home in Naples, FL. As far as what I enjoy doing, I love my work. I enjoy golfing, gardening and I take care of bees. I’m on a mission to save the bees. So, I have a beehive. It didn’t survive the winter, it was just too cold. I’m going to revitalize my hive in April and look forward to that.
How did you get involved in the sales profession? Did you stumble across the profession or was this a predetermined act?
I was a late starter. I was 27 years old, working as a waitress at a place called Ken’s Steakhouse during the days of the “3 Martini Lunch” for executives. Every day I would wait on this CEO, VP of Sales and CFO from this really well-known technology company. Finally, one day the CEO said to me, “You are rude, obnoxious, arrogant and hungry and you should be in sales!” I said, “Give me a job then.” And he did. That’s when I started selling. This was a really long time ago. I just kept going. I went from one company to the next, ran and built groups. It was my destiny.
You mentioned being rude, obnoxious and arrogant. Are those required traits for a successful career in sales?
That was back then when you could get away with that stuff. Well, I am still all of those things. I’m still rude, I’m still obnoxious, I’m still arrogant and I’m still hungry for success. However, that doesn’t cut it in today’s selling environment. You have to be consultative, you have to add value, you have to actually care about helping your buyers build a better business. So, that was then, this is now.
That leads to our next question- B2B sales has changed a lot, what would you consider as being the main things that have changed about B2B sales?
In the olden days, around 8 years ago, the sellers had all of the information. For people to find a solution to their problem, they had to talk to a seller, because that’s who had all of the information they needed. Now, all of the information is out there. A lot of the time, buyers can find out everything about their problems, their solutions, the vendors that might supply solutions and how those vendors are rated. The seller no longer has the power they once had. Hopefully, what they do have at their fingertips, is knowledge. The knowledge is the nuance of how you help your buyer address a problem and you have to understand that that’s what they want from you. Your buyers want you to tell them something they don’t already know. That needs to be your focus and built into your sales process.
What would you say in the last 8 years, hasn’t changed about sales? Or even if you went further back, what seems to be in your view as a constant?
I think having a really well thought out process for engagement hasn’t changed. You always hear about the gunslingers, those people that just “figure it out”. They don’t have a formula, they intuitively understand the numbers that lead to success. I think that’s great for them, but not for the rest of us in the masses. I think having a well articulated and thought out sales strategy supported by compelling messaging and valuable content is continuously a critical success factor more than anything else.
We imagine when you first started off in the industry there weren’t that many women in high-tech sales at the time, or please correct us if we’re wrong-
You are not wrong. We were there, but we were telemarketing reps. We weren’t really in the sale ranks. When I think about selling, I don’t sell like a girl, I just sell like a really good salesperson. That’s not true for all women in sales. Sometimes women in sales are intimidated by their environment, their lack of support and the fact that they feel like a lone wolf. I think women often feel that way and that is a sales culture issue that is starting to change.. Women are good relationship builders and we know how to nurture our buyers and customers better intuitively. Just MHO.
Are there any advantages of being a woman, apart from the obvious, like selling to a man, but in general?
I actually think it’s harder to sell to a man if you’re a woman. There is still a huge “bro network” out there, even at the executive ranks. Because there’s a closed peer network at times, I think it’s harder for a woman to get into that. I noticed on LinkedIn today, an SDR director posted a list for books to read about sales development. All of the people that he referred to as experts, were men. A dozen men. Not one woman. I don’t want to be the only person out there constantly beating the drum for diversity. I don’t have to carry that banner alone, but I wanted to say to this person: seriously?! You don’t know any successful women or influential women, how can that even be?! I think that’s the kind of thing that women in sales are still combating with. I see it every day on LinkedIn. And it’s not like you can’t find out about women in sales or experts. I mean, there is even a fantastic orgn Women Sales Pros!
Do you feel there is something special about sales and high-tech that’s preventing from us seeing more female sales leader?
If you do the math, it almost makes sense because the percentage of women in sales is such a smaller percentage, and of course it’s a smaller percentage of women in sales leadership. So that’s data point #1. Data point #2, the women that are in sales leadership positions are exponentially more successful, and there’s data up the wazoo to back that up.
However, I think we have to be realistic about what goes on in our careers. I think it was Barbara Walters that said, “A woman can have it all, she just can’t have it all at the same time.” Here’s what we do: we go into the workforce and we launch our careers. Quite often, we either step out of the workforce completely to raise our families or we just step back a little bit to raise our families then, we go back in. There’s a gap there. And I’m not saying this is true of everyone, I’m not generalizing, but a lot of times it is. We have a catch-up process that we have to go through, because you have to earn the credibility, you have to build the network and you need to have the years of success to go into sales leadership. And sometimes, women are just a little bit behind the 8-ball, because we do step out. Once again, not everyone, but I think a significant percentage.
What do you believe the software industry as whole can do to promote this idea, and stop promoting these cliches that these experts have to be men, what could change? And what could the industry do?
Well, I think they can get on the bandwagon of diversity. I’ve seen some conferences do that. Max Altschuler of Sales Hacker, intentionally says “I’m going to have 40% women speakers at my conferences”, and he works his butt off to find the women experts to be on his panels and to stand on his stage. All conferences should have that requirement. There should be a significant portion of representation. You know who else just did that recently, Jason Lemkin over at SaaStr. SaaStr intentionally went after women to join the stage. Because, we need role models. We go to conferences and just see men with shaved heads. So, where are our role models? I think the conferences and the people that do this, are the ones that are going to help change the sales industry.
Who are your role models and why?
I’m a huge fan of Jill Konrath. She’s definitely my mentor. Without her, I never would have written a book. I’m part of a group I mentioned before, Women Sales Pros. I think we’re 35 people now. Everybody in the group is a woman who owns a company, sales training, sales coaching and sales consulting. I am madly in love with each and every woman in that group. I go to our events and I walk away inspired. I love the way these women are thinking about building their businesses and are passionate about changing the sales industry.
Oh my god, there are so many. Bridget Gleason is amazing. Amyra Rand is amazing. I think every single female we engage within our client portfolios are amazing. The more I engage with our clients and leadership teams the more impressed I am.
What advice would you have for a company that’s trying to build more of a diverse sales culture? What can a company do to create a more inclusive sales culture?
You have to think evolution not revolution. It starts at the very beginning. What does your physical layout look like? I walked into a sales organization once and everyone was whipping foosballs at each other, it was insanity and not female friendly. In your interview process, do you have women participating? I say to a lot of women, “Why don’t you take that job at that company, that’s a great company.” And they respond with, “No women in leadership.” It’s getting noticed.
What advice would you offer to other women to be successful in B2B sales?
What I always say to people is, “Lean in”. By that I mean, if you’re in a conference room, you notice, women always sit along the walls. Nope! Get there early and get a seat at the table. If you have an opinion, speak out. Have a voice in your organization and never say I’m sorry. Women are always like, “Oh, I’m sorry”. No, you’re not sorry. Just say how you feel.
What are the main ways that you recommend sales teams should be doing in order to increase their productivity and overall effectiveness?
Here’s a mistake I see people make, sales leaders are getting bombarded with technology vendors saying, “I’m going to make you more productive” “Buy this, buy that. Automate this, automate that.” I think what people need to do is really look at their message and their process, then ask, what parts of this do I need to automate?
SDRs get put under a microscope a lot. Instead of focusing so much on what your SDRs are contributing, how about we focus a little more on the deals that your sales reps are losing. We’re showing up and throwing up, we’re not customizing, we’re not doing any pre-call planning or research. We’re just grabbing whatever meeting the SDR set for us, hitting okay I’m on the conference call and there it is. AEs need to be scrutinized more than SDRs nowadays.
How can a sales organization or SDRs hold the AEs more accountable for their performance?
I think you need to look at conversion rates through all stages of the sales process. Then analyze it at the individual level. That’s when you’re going to find out who’s doing what, who’s doing well and who needs your help. We’re so metrics focused, but we don’t take the next step and take it to the rep level.
How do you see AI impacting the way sales teams work? Is it such a big deal? Does it change anything?
More information, and how we turn that information into knowledge is still going to be the human part. I can read the encyclopedia, but unless I know how to turn everything I learned in the encyclopedia into something beneficial it won’t do me any good. That’s what AI is going to do for us. It’s going to provide us with insights that we have to figure out how to use.
Do you think the skills or experience required is going to change? Will we see a different skill set in sales professionals or are the basics still going to be the same?
The basics are always going to be the same, the basics have always been the same. But, you have to evolve. You have to figure out how to take the tools in your toolbox and use them to your advantage. Sales is not static. Sales is one snapshot after another and you have to keep looking at those snapshots and turn them into a movie that tells you how to be the best salesperson you can be.
Is there anything the sales community should look out from you in 2018?
Hopefully, but I can’t talk about it. It’ll be a surprise.
Do you have any parting words of advice for us here at Cien?
Yes, even if you are not in sales, you still have to talk to those customers. If I were you, I’d be an SDR one day a month and just call people, see what they say, see how they respond, test your messaging, and grab some leads and follow up on them. The more you engage with your potential buyers, the more you’re going to learn. Because otherwise, you’re just sitting there, thinking or assuming. Be a SDR. Cross that line.
About Trish Bertuzzi
Trish Bertuzzi is the Best Selling Author of The Sales Development Playbook and founder of The Bridge Group, Inc. She and her team have worked with over 350+ B2B technology companies helping them to unleash the power of Inside Sales. They are on a mission to help companies build repeatable pipeline and accelerate growth using both traditional and account based strategies.