This is our interview with Gauri Chawla, Head of Global Business Development & Alliances at Showpad. You can follow Showpad at @showpad.
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
Gauri: I’ve sold directly to B2B enterprise customers, as well as run North American sales teams. I’ve also led multiple indirect sales teams via alliances and channels. In all my work though, I have always partnered closely with internal sales teams and customers to provide solutions that create trusting relationships.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Gauri: I’m tempted to say my first $10 million deal as an enterprise seller – it was with an automaker in 2008, right around when the recession hit. But I think my biggest accomplishment is growing a 20-person sales team that not only went above and beyond its targets, but also truly enjoyed what it did and acted as a trusted partner for a large software vendor in the retail and financial services spaces.
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
Gauri: The best sales advice I ever received was from a former boss, a global leader at Oracle. It’s simple but so powerful, and something that’s all too easy to forget: In order to succeed, you have to put yourself in the shoes of your customer and build trust.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
Gauri: Balancing the needs of their customers with hitting their numbers is always one of the biggest challenges for sales reps. The key is for reps to be strategic in how they build pipeline and ensure their forecasting is accurate. At the same time, they need to be honest and open with their managers about the reality of deals and what support they need to succeed.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a mentor when it comes to sales, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Gauri: Yes, I’ve had a couple at different stages in my career. Each taught me the importance of support, for both a successful team and individual contributions. Quarterbacking a sales team is about more than just managing – it means being a coach, a player, a friend and a boss. You have to figure out how to support your players in the ways they need and double down to see them soar.
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
Gauri: The Transparency Sale: How Unexpected Honesty and Understanding the Buying Brain Can Transform Your Results and The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life. are both favorites.
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Gauri: We actually rounded up some of the best sales enablement podcasts around on the Showpad blog earlier this year. Some of those are definitely must-listens for me on my commute. “Masters of Scale” with Reid Hoffman and the “HBR IdeaCast” are also very much worth checking out.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
Gauri: Learn and listen. Learn from your colleagues, and listen to your customers. Nothing is beneath you, and you need to do whatever you can to get better. At the same time, know the value you bring. Self-mastery is key to success, and in order to achieve it and not be deterred by others, you need to believe in your own value in addition to the value of what you’re selling.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
Gauri: We’ve been talking about solution selling for a long time now, but customers today are smarter and more sophisticated than ever before. They know what they’re going to buy before they even engage with you. To differentiate yourself and grow a relationship, you have to not only understand their problems today and demonstrate how you’ll solve them, but also determine how to expand into their tech stacks and help them stay ahead of their competitors in the future. That builds trust and loyalty. Every business has its own ecosystem. You have to understand your customer’s ecosystem to provide the best solution.
Sales Assembly: With all the noise in the B2B market, how can sellers differentiate themselves?
Gauri: The best buyer experience wins – no question. That means sellers have to provide the most personalized, relevant and engaging experience possible. You can’t just count on a killer pitch or presentation anymore. It has to be a conversation, one that builds trust among buyers and gets them excited. Training, practice and understanding your audience are all key, but in today’s market, the right tools make all the difference. If you want to stand out, make sure you’re equipped with the sales enablement tools you need to succeed.