Jessica McDonald joined the Salesforce Ohana in 2014. Four years on, she’s rocketed her way from a junior sales role to SMB Account Executive – Financial Services. She shares what it takes to be a great Account Executive, why more women should consider a career in technology sales and how Salesforce enables you to bring your best self to work every day.
I grew up in Manly on the northern beaches of Sydney, where I still live, and did a Bachelor of Economics and Finance at the University of Sydney. After graduating in 2012, I pretty much fell into sales.
I interviewed with a recruitment company for a finance role but instead of putting me forward to their client they actually hired me themselves. By the end of the week, I was working as a recruitment consultant.
If I’m honest, I didn’t really enjoy working in recruitment. However, I stayed in the role for 18 months and it was definitely an enriching learning experience as it taught me resilience, hard work, and that a career in sales has its peaks and troughs.
When a friend recommended Salesforce as a great place to work and referred me for a junior sales role, I jumped at the opportunity.
I work best when there’s a lot of activity and energy around me, and I could see that Salesforce had a high-energy sales culture. Plus, everyone looked happy! That convinced me I wanted to be on board.
I worked for 10 months as a Sales Development Representative, 12 months as a Business Development Representative, then 12 months as an ESB Account Executive and I’ve been in my current role for 18 months. All four roles have been great fun and incredible learning opportunities.
Overall, I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity to work at such a fun company, in a business that regularly acquires other businesses and where the research and product development is focused on technology such as artificial intelligence (AI). I love being part of the Salesforce team and because of that I work really hard. I believe that’s why I’ve progressed so quickly.
I think my strengths lay in being diligent and resilient – I respond well in tough times.
I'm also very good at managing clients and internal expectations. When I say I’ll deliver on something, I deliver on it. Even if I don't know the answer, I’ll be honest and say I don’t know, but I’ll find out – and I always do.
You can always bring in technical experts, but if you don't do what you say you're going to do then you’ve lost all trust.
To be a great Account Executive, I believe you need three things: to be resilient, curious and not afraid of hard work.
Times can be tough in sales, so you need resilience; you need to keep up the work rate through those tough times because eventually good times will come. I’m a big believer that if you work hard enough you can forge your own luck.
You also need to be curious about the businesses you’re speaking to. If you're not curious and you’re just asking scripted questions, it’s obvious you don't really care. Whereas if you show the customer that you want to learn about their business and can empathise with them, they’ll open up and share information, creating the foundation for a better relationship. It also gives you more information and leverage when the time comes to sell to them.
I work in a male-dominated field, but I also sell into a male-dominated industry: financial services. The vast majority of my clients are men.
Honestly, this doesn’t bother me as I have a lot of confidence in my knowledge and attitude. When I walk into a room, I’m confident in my product knowledge. Regardless of gender, I’m always eager to learn, push myself and be the best Account Executive I can be.
Some people have a preconception that selling technology is too technical. But this isn’t the case. I see that my job is to learn about companies, and their business models and processes.
I’m tested and challenged all the time! Particularly when it comes to losing sales. I win a lot of deals, but I also lose deals. As tough as they are, it’s these moments that are great learning opportunities, ultimately making you a better individual and employee.
When I first started in SMB, the average sales ramp-up time (the time it takes for a salesperson to reach full productivity after hiring) is four months, but it took me a good eight months. It was tough at the time, but in hindsight it was the best thing because it prompted much self-reflection and I dramatically changed my sales process as a result. I’m now much more successful because of that experience.
I’m a big believer in getting your job done between the hours of 8:30am and 5:30pm. I’m very productive with my time during the day, so that I can leave at 5:30pm and switch off as much as possible. Obviously there’s exceptions but that’s the aim.
Working at Salesforce, you’re part of a very safe, open community. ‘Community’ being the keyword. We’re very transparent, collaborative and happy to challenge the norm. If you want to test your way of thinking or approach, you can definitely go for it and learn from the experience. And you can do this because there’s such a strong support network around you that really encourages you to be your best, each and every day.
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