An interview with Fabiola Da Silva, an Account Executive at Attest and a wonderful coaching client of ours. Covering all things sales, why she chose this career path, the benefits and challenges of being an SDR and what sales coaching has done for her career success. We also discuss the pre-judgements that exist about getting into Sales and the benefits that come with working in the Tech Sales world.
How did you get into Sales?
I’m from Venezuela but my dad was living in the UK at the time, so I moved here in 2016 before finishing uni given my country’s very particular and dangerous situation. I started working at an English language school in South West London as a receptionist, and about 2 months after starting, I was asked to go to Spain on an opportunity to discuss our courses at an international recruitment fair with agents (my first ever contact with anything B2B sales related, if you can call it that way). So I said ‘why not! I’ll definitely take that’. Somehow that was the first step into any kind of sales role as I had to sell the partnership with the school I was representing.
Did you apply directly through Attest for the SDR role?
I applied for Attest through a website called workinstartups.com. I knew I wanted to work for a start-up and I knew I wanted a company that understood my ideas and was willing to take those on board as well as my opinion.
You have clearly done very well in the SDR role as you are now thriving as an Account Executive! For anyone considering going into the SDR role, what is the best part about being an SDR?
What I loved the most (and continue to love) is the ability that you have to get some time into people’s diaries. Important people who are ridiculously busy, securing time with them and getting them interested completely out of the blue, I think of that as like a superpower.
I always thought of the SDR role as an opportunity to learn a skill set that would help me for the rest of my life. It will help me if I ever want to have my own business, because I know how to prospect and how to get my message across to the right people.
As I want to continue in sales and further my sales career, it will always be useful to have that outbounding experience. Even if we’ve never spoken in the past, I know how to build a compelling message to a prospect and speak to them in their language, I think that’s really powerful. A lot of people would love to have that confidence to pick up the phone and say ‘This is why we should talk.
The ability to sell, to create a compelling message, to understand who your target audience is and what a value prop is. Those are skills that are useful across the board in many different careers.
I’m just super grateful to have it now, it’s such a good thing to be able to do. Even in your personal life you become less afraid to jump in and speak to other people. I’ve definitely seen people who are naturally introverted become more extroverted after doing the SDR role because you have to put yourself out of your comfort zone again and again.
Another thing I really love about it is being so comfortable with rejection. Rejection is something that everyone struggles with. Really, who doesn’t? But, it makes you way more tolerant to it. You understand that after a couple of rejections you’re going to get a yes. I think it makes you a very resilient person.
Do you think rejection is the biggest challenge? If not, what would you say is the biggest challenge in the SDR role?
The first one is managing your time. It is a highly demanding role. It requires you to do lots of activity all the time. And if you don’t manage your time well, then it can become very stressful and you can start to feel like you’re behind all the time.
If you’re not looking forward to something with all the hard work you’ve put in, like a promotion or your commission to buy something you’ve been working on saving for, then it’s very difficult to keep going because you don’t have that end goal motivation to go for it. The SDR role is like a marathon, it’s not a sprint journey. You have to focus on putting consistency in your results every single day. That’s a challenge. It’s not easy to be consistent 100% of the time. I’d say certainly that was my biggest challenge when I was an SDR.
As John always says, with the SDR role you need to ‘learn to love the process’. You have to embrace the role whilst keeping your goal in mind.
So what’s your favourite thing about working in the Tech industry?
- I knew I wanted to be a part of an industry (and company) that had an agile approach to growth. The Tech sector is very fast paced and highly collaborative. Everyone in the tech sector works to become more specialised, more driven, more agile. This agility means that you can work out very quickly if something isn’t working for the product in the market.
- The way in which software has made people’s lives easier is very attractive to me. I find that fascinating because it is entirely created by humans. Facilitated by computers, but made by humans. Being able to find a compelling reason for somebody to use something like that, being able to link that to a critical business need and then helping solve that, making their lives easier, saving them money. I particularly find that very interesting.
- You get to connect to the brightest minds in whatever city you are in! You get to learn from the best. You get to improve yourself every day because the community and the challenges you’re exposed to allow you to do so. It encourages it through all the resources available online for free and the ones your company makes available for you.
Would you say those advantages carry over and are the same as the advantages that working in Sales brings?
I think there’s a bit of a difference. I love problem solving, and that’s the element I love about working in Sales. I try to think about the fact that there is a pain point in the organisation you are speaking to. If you are able to discover it, and really drill into that pain point to the utmost detail, then you are going to be able to put the right people in the room to help solve that problem.
Sales really feels like a bit of project management, a bit of stakeholder management. It feels like a bit of everything rather than just ‘this is what I have, buy it’. I love it. [I also like the fact that you get to speak to different people every day… Internal facing roles only speak to people in the organisation. I speak to external people from around the globe, all the time.] So, I absolutely love it. If you’re someone who enjoys speaking to other people, learning about their lives, learning about their companies then sales is a really good career to be in.
Speaking about Account Management, you’ve recently been promoted to the Account Executive role, what would you say your career highlights are so far?
We signed up a large enterprise client because I outbounded them. As well as our largest mid-market contract client to date. When I got promoted to the senior SDR role I hit my target every month for 6 months in a row. One of the months I did 130% of my target which was very high given my target was already 150% of a normal SDR’s target. I just joined the AE team two months ago. I’ve closed two deals and hit my targets for this quarter. It makes me feel very grateful for all the help and training I’ve received.
Attest has really given me the platform to flourish as a salesperson. They’ve given me all the tools, coaching and training, anything you would need to set yourself up for success. That and the fact that I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my team, and John. John has been instrumental, I still work with him on a regular basis. I’m an AE and I still have coaching with John every week, because John is incredible. He really helps me understand very deeply my conversations with my prospects. He helps me go really in depth into the ‘why’, which is sometimes really easy to say when you’re external to someone’s conversations but it’s difficult to understand when you’re doing it all the time. Having access to coaching has really been instrumental for me. I don’t think I would have been able to do it without working with John.
I feel like you’ve had so many career highlights! That’s great that you’ve had that support. One of our values is ‘Everybody needs a coach’. Even when you know what you’re doing, sometimes you forget to ask yourself the questions.
Do you have any advice for someone who’s about to get into sales?
My advice is that it is not as scary as people think it is. It is not the stereotypical ‘I have to do 300 cold calls a day and be miserable while people don’t pick up the phone’. It is not like that. There are lots of pre-judgements about getting into sales. Especially the SDR role which can be very fast-paced and demand lots from you.
If you feel like you enjoy talking to customers, prospects, people in general, feel like you’re quite good at communicating value and enjoy transmitting a message to somebody and trying to understand if that message resonates with them, then there is no better role to start your career in than an SDR role. Even if you don’t want to continue in sales, it is a great role to jump into marketing from, for example, or any other client facing areas like client experience or customer success. I would highly recommend people try the SDR role. I love it and feel like I couldn’t have chosen a better career.
Any advice that is specifically for women getting into Sales?
Yes, we need more women in sales and we have to keep fighting for it. At the beginning when I joined my team, I was the only woman, the rest of the team were men. I also came from a team which was 60/40 women to men in my previous company. So I was like ‘wow, I’m coming into this classic, guys-only sales world!’ But I learned so much from them and really loved my time with them learning lots of British slang and banter that I, honestly, knew nothing of. Then, when we started getting more women joining the SDR team, it was really cool to see and understand the different styles between people and it made me understand how much of your personality gets reflected in the work you do in sales, as well as appreciating the fact we had that diversity in styles and backgrounds within the team.
If you feel like the organisation you are applying to is just full of men and that scares you or you don’t feel that comfortable with it, there are plenty of organisations who are looking to fill sales roles with female candidates, so I would encourage people to look for ones that are doing that. Just send your CV, personalise your application and go with a strong message about why you think you’re the absolute best candidate for that role, and how you’re planning to significantly contribute to the company’s growth.
In what areas do you think you’ve most improved since you began your coaching sessions with ExP?
Objection handling and a bit of opportunity management now that I’m an AE. Goal-setting which in my opinion is crucial. Dividing my objectives into micro goals is the most important thing John and I have worked on as it has been what has pushed me to achieve and overachieve on goals.
The pitch: How to frame and communicate value. Also, how to frame a conversation. Understanding that it has a beginning and it has an end, it’s not just saying ‘Do you have 5 minutes so that I can tell you about my product?’ No, it’s being structured in the way you speak to people. Always being curious about the other person. Not giving up. Understanding that if you are very focused on your goal, things will happen. Not limiting yourself to the external. You can’t control the outcome but you can control the process and that’s also something that I’ve learnt by working with him over the past 14 months.
Interview by, JT