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Podcast 111: Supporting Women In Sales with Natalie Severino
By Kelly Driscoll | August 8, 2019

We’re excited to have Natalie Severino, VP of Marketing at Chorus.ai join us this week to talk about women in sales. It’s a super hot topic right now and with good reason. Natalie shares her personal story of development, gaining leadership experience, and laying the foundation for the next generation of women in sales.

In this podcast, you’ll learn:

  • The importance of mentors for women in sales
  • Hiring more women in sales
  • Making sales a viable career option for college students

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Mentorship for Women in Sales

Natalie Severino: So I started my career at a little company. You might have heard of it, called Intuit. It was pre-IPO when I started. I spent 15 years there. And part of the reason why my tenure was so long is, as I mentioned, I was a marketer that was part of the sales department. And it’s actually interesting coming to today because the VP of sales that I worked for was a woman, which was not necessarily so common back then. But she’s a Badass, super smart, really strategic, really knows how to think through how to move relationships with customers. And I was fortunate because she really sponsored me throughout my tenure there.

She saw something in me and wanted to find a way to grow it. And I think it’s actually one of the topics that we’ve talked about in some of the meetups that there’s a big difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Mentorship is when I might give you some time, we’d go have coffee, we talk about what’s going on. A sponsor or somebody that’s gonna put their political capital on the line for you.

She guided my early career in such a profound way. She was actually thinking about what kind of experience did I have and what kind of experience was I lacking in order to be on the path to leadership and specifically went out of her way to develop rotational opportunities for me within the company to round out my skills and help me grow. So not only did I get to learn from a really strong woman, I learned how to be a good leader, how to make people feel invested in and really take that forward in my career.

Hiring More Women in Sales

John Barrows: There’s plenty of studies and you probably know them but I don’t know the statistics, but they focus on diversity in the workforce. And not just men and women, but people of color and all different variances. There’s plenty of stats that talk about how those teams that promote inclusion, if you will, of multiple different opinions coming from multiple different facets are far more successful in sales and business, everything else. So what are some of the things that you’ve done or you’ve seen done to help foster the inclusion environment, if you will?

Natalie Severino: You know, it was really interesting, hearkening back to my Intuit days. I actually went to a diversity training, and this was more than 10 years ago, it was actually talking about diversity is not race, gender, or sexual orientation. One of the most important ones is diversity of thought and experiences. Because if you actually want to create a culture about seeking the best thinking, the best ideas, seeking the best solutions to problems, if you surround yourself with people that think exactly the same way that you do nobody’s ever going to challenge you. Nobody’s ever going to push you to think differently or challenge your assumptions.

I’ve seen it go both ways. After kind of going through that, we specifically went down a path to look for people with diverse experiences in addition to whether it was cultural or educational or work experience, but to try and get that diversity onto the team.

Then on the flip side, I had an experience where I worked for somebody that only wanted to hire people had the same level of education as him. And it’s like, how is that ever gonna help us? I get that there’s respect because you went there and it’s a good program and smart people go there. And there may be benefits, but if everybody thinks exactly the same way, where are we going to get at the end of the day? I think the reality is, at least in the data that we’ve looked at through like some of our customer data is that women are outnumbered.

There’s far fewer of them, but they tend to have higher win rates and higher ACVs so they’re doing something right. And so what a part of my message would be is, if you’re not paying attention to how are they handling that objection or how are they approaching that discovery conversation. Or what are they doing in the negotiation that maybe is different from the way that you approach it, you’re probably missing out on something that could help you do better. I do think that there is a bit of a survival of the fittest with women in sales in some way. And so the ones that are killing it are killing it for a reason. And you should try and learn from everyone around you that’s successful.

Making Sales a Viable Career for Grads

John Barrows: Every woman I’ve ever had on my team has been extraordinarily successful and I do believe that the diversity of a team is what makes it great. And so I want to see if we can break some of the stereotypes about sales and the hard hitting sports analogies that everybody uses and turn it into an actual profession. Get rid of the narrative where you get an expensive education and enter sales to try and pay it off. That’s 80% of how salespeople end up being salespeople. It’s low barrier of entry. Let’s get into sales and see what I should do. Right?

Natalie Severino: Yeah. I was five of students one time, most of which were girls. The ones that I talked to, they were kind of top performers. And one of the consistent things that they said to me was, we believe that sales is a noble profession. We’re helping our customers solve problems. We’re not slick used-car salesman. And that’s what people think and we want to change the perception of what sales is. We want to do it the right way and we’re happy that we’re learning it in school. I’m like, damn, I can’t wait to hire you.

John Barrows: Right. Oh my God. I can’t imagine if, especially for the universities that actually make it a quota carrying thing where they actually have to sell. And it’s not just this theory sitting in a classroom talking about sales. I would hire that kid in a heartbeat, you know, come out of sales coming out of the university. Because usually you have to get that kid who doesn’t have the degree and teach them. I think the stats are still pretty crazy that 50 to 60% of the people actually get into sales, get out because they hate it. Don’t get the right training, it’s they don’t feel it’s for them. They don’t get supported by their organization.

And I think a massive portion of that 50 to 60% could be successful if given the right guidance and tools and structure around it. It’s funny to me that it’s the number one profession on the planet, but yet none of us are actually formally taught how to do it. You know, it drives every single thing that every business does, every decision they make, every hiring decision, every investment decision, every strategy. But yet we’re the least educated in what we do.

That’s a wrap. Join us next time!

If you made it this far, you’re the best. Thanks for reading and listening to this podcast. We hope you gained a ton of value from it and will listen in next week too.

If you have some feedback, connect with us on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to share the podcast on social media.

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