Technological change has been a constant through Jane Brown’s career, and at every step of the way she’s been pioneering, building teams, creating customer-centric products and service offerings, and bringing them to market.
Today she’s a Salesforce star – a recent promotion from an individual contributor on the enterprise sales team to Regional Vice President Sales, leapfrogging a level, is recognition of her incredible talent and drive.
But when Jane first began selling digital products for a bank in Northern England, it was early days of digital solutions in her field – users had to log in over a dial-up modem. Jane believed in the digital products’ value to customers and to the market so , despite a lack of technical knowledge, she helped the development team build the tool then volunteered to travel the length and breadth of the UK to sell and implement it.
“I was often the one to put my hand up for things,” she recalls. “I said I’d be happy to move to London, to develop and sell new products. They asked, ‘Do you know what you’re getting yourself in for?’ – I didn’t but I was determined to make it a success!”
Jane worked in bank branches, head office and special projects, in Scotland, Ireland and throughout England.
“I also travelled overseas and worked my way up the ranks within banking,” she says.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, of course, but the challenges along the way taught Jane to be resilient.
“A lot of the issues I faced were around understanding technical networks (not my sweet spot!) and implementation challenges that existed with the customers I was working with” she says.
“Solving these technical challenges was about building an amazing internal and external support ecosystem, a skill I have leveraged throughout my career. I learnt so much in my early days in sales.”
What lessons from that part of your career did you bring to Salesforce?
The knowledge that success isn’t about being an expert at everything – it’s about having an amazing team.
A few times I’ve been able to grow amazing account teams who were totally customer obsessed, drawing on product experts, technical experts and pre-sales experts. We all rallied together around the customer and our account strategy.
How did you end up at Salesforce in Australia?
I moved to Australia in October 2011 when my husband took a role here, and my plan was to be a beach bum for a while, but that didn’t happen!
I had a large network of banking connections and someone reached out to say, ‘Salesforce wants to meet you’. I said, ‘Sales-who?’ – I didn’t know who Salesforce was! Just three months after arriving here, my beach holiday was over and I was a Client Director working with Salesforce’s financial services customers.
How has working at Salesforce changed since then?
It was very different back in 2012! We were in a serviced office where we were sharing desks and sharing space. We were growing very quickly, but we only had one or two products, and we were selling into a market that didn’t know what ‘cloud’ or Salesforce was.
After almost four years, I felt a bit stale. I’d been working on one account, I’d increased its value more than 500% and I felt like I’d achieved what I came here for – I needed some new excitement.
I moved to a start-up, but my strong alignment to our company values saw me return before long.
After that, I looked around Salesforce and saw one account that I thought would be a challenge I’d enjoy. I made some very bold statements about how much we could grow that account and the scope of work I thought we could do with that customer, and built a high-calibre, high-performing, high-fun team.
We created an amazing culture within that team, and made those bold statements a reality, delivering in 2019 the largest deal Salesforce has ever signed in APAC. All the individual contributors in my team exceeded their targets, so it wasn’t about me – it was an extraordinary team of motivated individuals.
What have been the main challenges of moving from sales team member to sales leader in your new role as RVP Sales?
It’s only been a few months, but one challenge has been for my team – I was once a colleague and now they report to me. So some of the challenges are around shifting our mindsets, but it hasn’t been too hard because leadership is in my DNA. Plus, I’ve walked in their shoes over several decades, so I hope I am able to really understand their challenges and experiences, and provide them with support.
Salesforce also provides excellent resources and support to build management and leadership skills, including Trails on our learning platform Trailhead and mentorship opportunities – the business has some great leaders who are very generous with their time and advice.
In my time here, I have been supported and mentored by Polly Sumner our APAC executive sponsor, who is based in the US. The best advice she gave me was that my success was in my own hands, and to be bold and creative in asking for what I needed to succeed. This was really important in building and driving a high-performing team.
You mentioned leadership is in your DNA. What sort of leader to you aspire to be?
Apart from being very competitive and delivering results, I’d like to be thought of as a leader who creates a great team culture aligned around our customers. Every success I’ve had in my career has come from building and leading a great team, and pulling together with them to achieve our common goals.
What else are you proud of having done in your time at Salesforce?
Our VTO (Volunteer Time Off) and giving back programs are a real source of pride. A friend of mine lost her 18-year-old son to brain cancer about six years ago, and started a foundation called The Robert Connor Dawes Foundation.
About 50 people from our Melbourne office participated in the foundation’s annual charity fun run in September this year – either running or volunteering. Since starting to support RCD 3 years ago we have raised about $40,000 for this fabulous initiative. I would like to do more to give back and support our VTO programs.
I have also raised two daughters – Holly is 19 and Ella is 15. So I’m a mum, but my guilty pleasure is being a massive thrill seeker. I love bungee jumping, jumping out of planes, and taking on any sort of challenge!
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