How to Have a Successful Sales Career: Follow Your Curiosity
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How to Have a Successful Sales Career: Follow Your Curiosity

"Adopt a startup mindset" and other well-earned pieces of advice and insights for those considering a career in sales from Director of Sales Development Olivia Puckrin.

While in college, Director of Sales Development Olivia Puckrin thought high school teaching might be right up her alley. Until she did some. The structure of following a curriculum wasn’t for her. She thought that perhaps becoming a college professor would be more flexible. So, she pursued a master’s degree in biology. Olivia enjoyed the research and looking at the fragile dynamics of ecosystems, such as those of the North Atlantic cod fisheries. But, as it turned out, she wasn’t keen on statistics and writing papers.

To get a fresh perspective, Olivia decided to travel using the money she’d saved from her graduate school scholarship.

“I traveled for a year and in that time I got into sales. When I arrived in Australia, it was super expensive. I needed a job fast and that was the quickest job I could get. I pounded the pavement six days a week trying to get people to switch their energy bill provider. That experience helped me get into Salesforce.”

Olivia’s been with Salesforce for six years, starting as a Sales Development Representative (SDR) and moving through several other roles to become a Director.

My philosophy is: Master the role you’re in, work hard, and keep your eyes open for other opportunities. I knew I liked sales, but I didn’t know if I wanted to be a salesperson forever. The SDR role was an awesome training ground.”

The lure of management — helping others succeed

As a business development representative (BDR) in healthcare and life sciences, Olivia started to appreciate the flexibility of the Salesforce platform.

“I had no idea how to sell CRM to a hospital, but once I figured that out, I dove in. I loved the impact that our platform could have in healthcare and the unique use cases — such as using Salesforce to track healthcare for the homeless population in Baltimore.”

At the time, there weren’t many resources for Salesforce SDRs in healthcare, so Olivia created them. For example, she made “cheat sheets” and diagrams that outlined the departments one might work within a hospital and distributed them to everyone who could use them.

She worked closely with a world famous hospital in Baltimore and demonstrated her commitment and passion for healthcare. When Olivia was ready to move up to account executive (AE), she was enthusiastically welcomed.

Along the way, she learned how much she enjoyed seeing her colleagues succeed.

“I like creating enablement resources and helping newbies ramp up. I realized I was much more excited when my colleagues started closing deals than when I did. That’s how I knew I wanted to move into management. It reignited my passion for teaching and coaching.”

She spent two years in SDR management learning all she could about what happens behind the scenes of a deal and becoming a good people coach. Her effort paid off when she was tapped for a director position.

Opportunities abound for the authentic, curious, and caring

Having covered quite a bit of career ground in a short time, Olivia has some well-earned advice and insights for those considering a career in sales.

Be yourself

First and foremost, be yourself throughout the interview process.

“Most companies have a lot of candidates for open positions. This will help you stand out from the crowd. Don’t just tell interviewers what you think they want to hear.”

Follow your curiosity

Try things that scare you.

“You don’t have to have a sales background if you’re relentlessly curious and caring. You can be taught sales techniques, but curiosity, internal motivation, and competitiveness can’t be coached. Two of my best hires were a former nutritionist and a tree planter.”

Adopt a startup mindset

Salesforce operates like a startup, especially in areas where it’s growing.

“There’s a tremendous amount of excitement. You have the opportunity to wear many hats and shape the culture. At the same time, you benefit from being supported by a large, successful company.”

Avoid pressure sales

Try to solve customers’ problems and treat the interaction as the opportunity to lend a hand.

“Take a consultative approach and develop a project plan with every deal. Get the customer’s buy-in early, so they understand how you can help them. You often touch people’s lives in unexpected ways.”

There’s never been a better time to “Think Salesforce” for career opportunities

Tech companies and the talent they need to succeed create technology hubs all over the world. And Salesforce leads the charge. So, if you’re interested in learning more about Salesforce and its plans for the future, watch the webinar, Get Your Grit On: How the Bold Succeed in Sales. Or, if you’re already convinced, you can apply for a role today!