November Woman to Watch

Grace Ponting

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career in tech sales so far?

I started as a BDR a few years ago at a company called LogMeIn, focusing on generating new opportunities for enterprise reps in APAC. After about a year I was headhunted for a founding member role as a BDR at Harness which was super exciting. However, I joined the company 2 weeks before COVID hit, which meant they had to cut their SDR functions globally and only kept a few who were based in the States.

I was made redundant which was devastating but I guess a common theme across that time and the current state of the market. I then tossed up between taking an AE role or staying again as a BDR. In the end I went for a BDR role – I wanted a more technical challenge and ended up at New Relic. I thought given the remote time and I wanted to make the transition when I knew I had the support I would need to succeed. 

I was on a strong trajectory to get promoted to an AE role but was headhunted again for a role at Fullstory – my current company – as a founding member, Growth AE, looking after all SMB accounts across APAC. I joined in August last year and have been promoted to a Senior Growth AE. 

How did you find the experience of joining a launch team in APAC?

I love it! It’s been really exciting and I have learnt so much just diving in head first. I was the 6th hire here at Fullstory which obviously was a very lean team to begin with, a very fast paced environment which is something that I thrive in. You don’t have local support so there are a lot of late nights and early mornings to get in contact with the US, but when the work is meaningful and you believe in the product you’re selling I think you really enjoy working hard for it.

Fullstory is a fully remote company but since we started with such a small team here there is such a strong element of teamwork, everyone is there to help each other. I think seeing the organic growth of inbound leads and appetite in the market is so rewarding. I used to look after all of APAC but now just A/NZ because of the demand and expansion of the office to Singapore and soon Japan. It really shows how the market is digesting the product and generating the organic demand for creating more perfect digital experiences! 

A lot of people are a little apprehensive to join startups because of that risk and look at bigger, more structured or established companies. Is there anything you would say to people considering that risk and not sure whether or not to take the leap to a startup?

I think the risk is worth the reward, but of course it’s not for everyone. I am definitely someone who thrives under (structured) pressure and I’m also a big believer in seeking forgiveness not permission… My advice would be to just jump in head first. Understand that it’s ok to make mistakes, lean in to the inevitable teething and growing pains. I guess it comes back to really believing in the product you’re selling, if you can see the bigger picture in what the company is trying to achieve it really helps you to work through it, enjoy the ride!

In those first initial interviews with Fullstory how did you make that decision – when did you decide that you had that belief in the product and wanted to make the move?

Good question! For me it was a mix of things, I spoke to my mentor and friends in the industry and got their feedback on what he thought of the company and where they are heading. I did some research on the Founder and CEO, his beliefs and vision for the company. Someone I had worked with at New Relic had just moved across too as an SE so I spoke to them about where it fitted and why they decided to make the move. I also just looked at the current market and the effects of COVID. The natural shift to online and digital really resonated with what Fullstory has to offer and how relevant it will be in the long term. It was a mix of all these factors along with the funding and growth of the company itself. 

In the nomination, Matt mentioned your consistency and high performance – how do you manage this and constantly work towards and achieve your target? Do you have any advice for other salespeople struggling to meet theirs?

There are a number of things to incorporate in your day to day from a sales perspective. I think you need to be consistent each day, have a plan with what you want to achieve and manage your calendar. Everything from having enough pipeline coverage to reverse engineering your quota to engaging with a certain number of accounts per day, all that good stuff. Outside of that though, what I have learnt is that sales comes with highs and lows – there have been quarters that I’ve missed but it’s about embracing the situation and learning from it. Thinking about what I could’ve done differently to apply it to the next quarter and every quarter beyond that. It’s also important to give yourself a break, I was really down in the first quarter I didn’t hit which is also why you need the right people around you (mentor, your team, friends etc) to help you get back up after. Reset, restart, refocus! 

One other thing I personally love is staying across industry trends and upcoming companies – whose gotten recent rounds of funding, who’s going through a digital transformation etc. 

Matt also highlighted that you take an active role in helping to mentor people new to the team – what advice do you give them or anyone else starting out in sales? 

It’s ok to make mistakes, not hit your target or not fully understand something but hone in on it and learn from it. Be really honest about what you don’t know – what are your gaps and where can we help you? I think there is a whole perception around wanting to be the best or know everything (I’m guilty of this), but you need to take time to learn and grow. You can get so caught up in the act of not wanting to disappoint anyone (maybe who hired you or a mentor) or seem stupid but you often need to be vulnerable to succeed in the long run. 

Did you have any mentors when you started in the industry? How did you approach a leader or manager when looking for one or what did you look for in a mentor?

My mentor is one of my previous bosses – the moment I interviewed with him I realised he was someone I would learn from. I honestly just had a pretty open conversation with him about being my mentor – I think it’s pretty common these days to have a mentor, less taboo. In terms of what I was looking for, it boiled down to someone who had/has a successful career that I could learn from, someone who’s inspiring and someone who’s not afraid to give constructive feedback to ultimately better yourself. I think you genuinely need to get along with them as well in order to show your vulnerable side and open up, which I feel can sometimes be lacking when you get “paired” with a mentor. If you’re struggling to find someone outside of your current company, I’d recommend you immerse yourself in the WITS community or industry specific community.

What advice would you give to women who are thinking about getting into sales? 

My advice would be to build your confidence, surround yourself with inspiring people and just be yourself. There’s a certain preconception about what sales people should be like, often extroverted, talkative and outgoing and it can be easy to succumb to imposter syndrome, especially since the sales industry has been typically dominated by men. If these things don’t come naturally to you, as they don’t to me, it doesn’t mean you don’t belong in sales or you won’t be good at it. Prepare and practise for meetings and interviews, lean on a mentor and ultimately know your worth.

What have you been reading or watching lately?

At the moment I am reading a book called The Energy Bus (by Jon Gordon), the WeWork I work at was holding a blind date with a book – I picked the business genre and ended up with this one which I am loving so far.