March Woman to Watch

Sophie Pereira

What were your initial thoughts moving into a sales role?

In terms of my career, I’ve technically been in sales for about 10 years, as a recruitment consultant. As well as hiring, recruitment has a sales element too. Moving into tech sales was definitely a big jump, and I was nervous having not worked in the start-up space previously. I had been to SuccessFactor events and recalled rows of tech vendors and everyone’s you know kind of gung ho. I remembered thinking it was going to be fast paced with constant changes and thinking how am I going to keep up. But on the other hand, I’ve always been a bit of a tech geek and thought you have to jump into it, give it a go and it has worked out really well.

How do you think your background in recruitment has set you up for your sales career in HR tech?

I think in the broader sense I have an understanding of the challenges that a talent acquisition team faces both as a collective and then also what the individual would be working on as well. Also, I had an understanding of the lingo, their metrics in terms of what they use to determine success and further what they’re trying to target in their roles as talent acquisition. A lot of my current role is about selling directly to NTA leaders and it’s helpful to know what might be going on for them and how to speak to them to get their attention as I know most of their pain points from being on the opposite side.

What are some of the key strengths that you think women can bring to sales and what do you personally love about sales?

This is a very generalised response but women naturally have empathy and can be better listeners. In sales you need a fine balance of both, you don’t want to be constantly listening and empathising you have to be able to negotiate and turn it around. Also, just being a woman in tech sales is already a differentiator. 

As for things that I like about sales, coming back to being a bit of a tech geek, I think it’s really easy if you genuinely back the product that you’re trying to sell and you believe that it is worthwhile. It means you can get excited about it, and this translates to the buyer. I think it would be hard in a sales role to sell something that you don’t believe in. For me it’s like coming to work in a role that just comes quite naturally, and it doesn’t actually feel like a lot of work or effort most of the time.

A higher percentage of women tend to go down the customer success or account management route. Is there anything that you think companies can do to help support women wanting to enter the new business sales journey?

Personally, my role certainly changed when I started working with my current director Sarah Mulvenna. As much as I get along with my male counterparts and my male director, I love having a strong female leader to work with. When she joined the business last year it made a world of difference and having someone empathise with your situation, who is happy to sit there and sort of be a sounding board and being not only there in a professional sense but also on a personal level. And again, nothing to do with my male counterparts but they’re just not often as available in that sense. So, to support women in these roles, businesses can make sure that they have a female in a leadership position.

Being based in Melbourne and having spent so much time in lockdown, how do you think that this has impacted your selling skills, are there any skills you have worked on in particular during this time?

Xref is headquartered in Sydney, and I am a full time remote worker regardless and I have been working from home constantly. I am fortunate enough that they fly us to see the team occasionally for meetings in Sydney which is really good as I have never worked fully from home in the past. I have actually adapted and started listening to a lot of podcasts which feels like you’ve almost got a team there with you. There is a podcast called ‘Sales Gravy’ which I absolutely love. Since I don’t have a team around me to pick me up or that banter throughout the day, if I find that I am lacking motivation then I will put on Sales Gravy, go for a walk and come back with all these little gold nuggets and ideas to try to implement them.

I actually got some really good advice off that podcast about selling via video conferencing. It was a female sales leader and she was essentially saying that when you’re on zoom with someone it is basically all about welcoming them like you would welcome a family member or friend or anyone that you’re really excited to see come onto the call because you need to make that energy a lot more obvious. So, get there early, set up everything ready to go and then when they come be really appreciative that they are there, and you are really excited to see them. Ask them some personal questions and just talk to them like a human one on one rather than one of those robotic video calls.

After just holding the SDR event, we have had a lot of new members in the group, the majority of which are new to tech sales or sales in general. Do you have any advice for women starting out in their tech sales career?

In the tech setting you rely so much on the tech itself, be gentle with yourself for the first few months. Every tech is completely different and new with all their technical elements, layers and infrastructure. I’m still learning a year and a half later so give yourself time and understand that it will take quite a while for you to feel competent in tech.

Also, rely on your teammates and make sure that you are getting to know those internal stakeholders, everyone who looks after your integrations for example, procurement or your legal counsel and understanding what they need from you as a sales representative.

These relationships are crucial when it comes time to get into the sales process, your final stages and the procurement paperwork to be done. So, you need to understand what they need from you and also how they like to work. 

Those are the two biggest things, but you also need to have drive because a lot of people aren’t going to spoon feed you! You need to source the information you need to take initiative, find the contacts and get to know them!!

Final question, what have you been reading or watching recently?

I’m not sure how people feel about it, but I love biographies. They have stories but also have meaning, inspiration and motivation, you get the best of both worlds! I have a couple that I can recommend that I have read recently. The first is ‘Will’ by Will Smith, which was co-written by Mark Manson (the psychologist and kind of self help guru). The next is Matthew McConaughey’s biography, ‘Greenlights’ which is a cracker of a book. And finally, Happy Sexy Millionaire, which is about Steven Bartlet, who runs the CEO diaries podcast.