February Woman to Watch

Veronica Fernandez

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far. What has been your career highlight so far?

I think everyone in sales has a very unusual background, which is similar to me. I am originally from Mexico and my background is in law and public policy. I moved to Australia to do a masters degree in international law and policy, once I finished and tried to find a job to stay here in Australia. I started networking on LinkedIn and then someone said, “Hey V I think you should give sales a go, you have the personality you would be really good.”

I know sales gets a really bad rep, and I was guilty of buying into that bad rep that comes with it. However, I decided after not having any luck in law why not give sales a go. A recruiter reached out to me about Aircall and the people I interviewed with really influenced my decision and made me want to work for them at this company. As someone not from Australia, I think I was more willing to take a more junior role like an SDR. I learnt so much about foundations and structure which has helped me ever since, I am grateful I was able to start at the bottom and have that satisfaction. 

Why did you decide to go into channel sales? Partner and channel sales is not as well known compared to roles like account executive, what advice would you give to other women considering it?

There are two parts to this, Aircall itself is a partnership organisation. Its biggest strength is that it integrates with other companies making partnerships such an integral part of the business model. The second part was talking to Frank and Fred (my direct manager now and the VP for APAC). Aircall is a big company worldwide but very lean here in Australia, I think I was employee number 25 here in Australia when I first started. Which means that we are a very close team and have the ability to turn around and ask everyone questions about channel sales. Another colleague at Aircall was really enjoying channel sales and he also had a BDR background so when the role opened I had already investigated it quite a bit to know that I was possibly interested in it. Frank and Fred, since I started, really grilled me on the importance of thinking about my career and where I wanted to go, so when it opened I just asked them what the day to day role is about. 

There were three things that I really connected with. The first was the hunting aspect of the role and meeting new people. At the same time, as a BDR I was getting a little frustrated that I didn’t get to enjoy the relationships and see it through to a longer term relationship. I manage Salesforce now and I have led into a more technical element as well which I really enjoy. 

Do you have any advice for when you are selling to a customer not in your native/first language, how do you build up confidence in cold calling?

For me, one thing I was told was to not have a script because you never know where the conversion might go. However I really think having that script is important to know how you are going to open the conversation, what are the three pain points that this person would experience, once I built this this was a game changer. Then you can take it from there with personality and you know what you’re doing but in starting it is super helpful as a safety net in case. 

I saw in one of your posts recently where you mentioned you have a mentor, what do you think are important things to look for in a mentor?

I think some people struggle to find a mentor, I don’t know if this is a recipe but I personally think there are two ways. The first is when you click with or admire someone, I really strive to reach out to that person, gather their thoughts. It’s so important to stay connected. You need to be vulnerable and share how you are feeling which helps to build that foundation for a mentorship. 

Also you don’t have to ask someone “Do you want to be my mentor”. But I think a mentor can be everyone in your life that guides you through your career, you can talk often and ask them for their advice and also set goals together. 

In Aircall there is a ‘Gender Equality Matters’ ERG, I put my hand up to be involved in their mentorship program and they paired me with someone in the US to meet the goals of my career. We catch up twice a month, but it is of course whatever works for the both of you. 

In the nomination, Jas mentioned you are consistent in overachieving on your target – how do you maintain your motivation and performance month over month, especially in the current economy?

It’s a hard one, hey. Firstly I try to go to the office a lot, being around the team and in the office environment motivates me. Working in the office, I know that I can get quicker responses and I work a lot better there. In hard economies you need to set yourself up for success and put yourself in a situation where you know you are productive and will help you succeed.

Secondly, in the beginning of my sales career as a SDR I was afraid to be open about tracking my metrics and figure out how to forecast to get the outcome I want. I was very vulnerable with our VP and would go to him and say I’m struggling with this and ask for help. I think as a newer hire sometimes you might feel scared to go and ask for this help because you don’t want them to question their decision. But then comes the end of month and it would be worse if you hadn’t asked. In these difficult economic times, you need to reach out to your manager and go senior and say “these are my activities every week, is there anything else I should be changing or putting more focus on?” I would ask for 5 minutes of their time weekly just to chat it through, because they want you to succeed and if they don’t know where you are struggling there is no way that they can guide you.

I also focus a lot on activity, I am a swimmer and I have been for a long time. I am quite a high energy person and I get stressed quite easily so I swim to release some energy and stress. One day I was really anxious about my target and then my partner said to me, “Ok V when you are preparing for a 10km swim what do you do? You follow the training and build up metres and on the day you just do it.” Everyday if you are consistent and focused on inputs, what is your meaningful activity and what does it look like? This is what you can take to your manager or VP and ask is this the right activity?

What have you been reading or watching lately?

Monday.com is one of our partners, they do this elevate event and in November last year I went and Ash Barty was there and they gave us her book, My Dream Time. I think it is particularly good in taking the mindset of sports back to work. She runs you through how she became self conscious of how she plate;d; in a game and realised her shifts in mood impacted her performance. Which I think is similar in sales, when you get stressed and start pushing deals through and it may not be the right time, I think this book is definitely worth the read. I also listen to a podcast called Parter Up. They have a conversation with the global VP of partnerships for HubSpot and she explains how she built the partnerships ecosystem from the ground up from $1 million to $300 million.