Fireside Friday with Gretchen Keefner
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
Gretchen: As Director of Global Accounts for Bullhorn, I help a small group of the largest staffing firms in the world leverage technology to grow their business. In my sales career, I have had success in key individual contributor roles, leadership roles and building roles, launching businesses into new markets and verticals. My path has taken many different turns which is part of what I have enjoyed most about a career in sales.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Gretchen: My biggest accomplishment continues to be the success of others that I have been able to influence, whether it be an employee, mentee, or customer. When I think about specific wins, two of the largest in my career were win-back deals. No deal is ever lost for good, and there is something so gratifying about bringing a customer back and giving them an amazing experience.
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
Gretchen: "As a salesperson, communication is your craft. It's all you have." As with any profession, to be great, you must practice. This means putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, doing the role play exercises and seeking candid feedback. If you do this, you will gain a competitive edge.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
Gretchen: The biggest challenge for all sales reps today is cutting through the noise. Buyers are bombarded with information, from hundreds of sources, every day. The successful sales rep knows how to beat this by being very specific in their communication with the prospect or customer, speaking to what is most important to him/her. This takes homework, but the ROI is worth it.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a mentor when it comes to sales, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Gretchen: Yes. It is important for me to get feedback from several mentors who know me in different ways. My most influential mentor has shown me that the best way to earn trust and build credibility is to be an expert in your space. If you are the resource that your prospect or customer turns to first, the revenue will follow.
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
Gretchen: I still go back and re-read parts of Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams. No matter how sales methodology continues to evolve, asking others and yourself the right questions will lead to success. I recently finished reading Radical Candor by Kim Scott. Though positioned as a leadership book, the principles apply to any relationship, both personal and professional.
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related books, articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Gretchen: The Sales Assembly blog, of course! I also refer often to Ramp, the InsightSquared Blog, and if you are in the Recruiting or Staffing space, the Recruitment Innovation Exchange is a great resource.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
Gretchen: Understand that every 'no' you get is getting you closer to a 'yes.' Practice your craft and actively seek feedback. Just keep going. Not only will things get better, they will get great. Building a successful career in sales will give you incredible freedom, big earning potential and an opportunity to impact people and businesses in a meaningful way.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
Gretchen: I think smart companies are figuring out how to add in specialized layers like Sales Development or Junior Account Managers to allow their top salespeople to spend more time in quality business conversations with the right people.
Sales Assembly: What has surprised you most in your sales career?
Gretchen: The biggest, most pleasant surprise has been the extent to which customers will let you in and invite you to become a part of their organization if they trust and respect you. This is by far the most rewarding part of my job.