#BreakingIntoTechSales – From Business Leader to Tech Sales

Robin Whitaker, NA Business Architect Executive Advisory & Architecture at SAP

Success Leaves Clues

Robin Whitaker, NA Business Architect Executive Advisory & Architecture at SAP, is an inspirational, dynamic, elegant and articulate sales leader.

Robin started her career path on the business side and not software as many do.  Robin worked hard to master her knowledge of corporate industry and is valued for her ability to help businesses transform.

From Business Leader to Tech Sales Leader

Transitioning into sales for me was easy because I understood the perspective of the customer. You have many customers in sales.  Your internal customer can be a member of the internal team that you’re supporting; specifically, the person responsible for the account.  And of course, you have your external customer which is the entity you are trying to sell your products and/or services.  I think it’s especially important when you move into a sales role that you always keep your customer and the customer’s customers in mind as you develop your strategy. Customer line of sight ensures your strategy will be impactful which brings credibility for you.  This way, your customer knows that you not only know them, but you know what’s important to them.  That’s how you build the relationship that is pivotal to your success.

I was introduced to SAP as a Sr. Business Analyst, responsible for driving best commercial business practices for logistics and transportation. The customer was the US Army Materiel Command.  They recognized that they were struggling with logistics in theater. This was an initiative that was sparked by Al Gore called the “Wholesale Logistics Modernization Program”. I was brought on board to introduce the US Army to best commercial practices. I modeled their current business processes by documenting what they were doing and how. Then I provided them with a forward-looking business model and a roadmap to where they wanted to be. Back then, we called it Business Process Re-Engineering and Analysis. It represented process improvements for the customer.

Once we re-engineered the customer’s business model, then the question was, “What software would be needed to meet the new and improved business model?” And at that time, SAP was one of the software companies that had been selected. That’s how I was introduced to SAP. With my career progression, each role catapulted me to the next role. And what I liked about it was that each stretch was a split. I had deep expertise for 75% of the role, but I had to stretch my skillset another 25% as a growth and development opportunity.  Don’t feel that you must know everything about a role you are pursuing.  Look at it as a development opportunity. There are certain aspects of the role where you’ll be great, you bring significant value, but you also need to grow and develop in your career path as well.

Because you are worth it”

Best Career Advice

I would say the best career advice I’ve ever received was from my Mom. When I started my career back in the early 70’s, the environment was not what it is today. I had to overcome many challenges and basically her advice to me was to stay laser-focused on my life goals and my purpose, and not allow anything or anyone else to disrupt that focus. Whatever my central target was, whatever my reasons for doing what I’m doing, keep my eye on the prize and never feel that there’s anything that I can’t accomplish.  As a lesson learned, if I could go back, I would have completed my formal education sooner. That said, every step you take in life leads you to your next adventure.  And I am happy where I am today, so I don’t really have any regrets. When you change, that means everything else changes. Embrace the change with no regrets.

How to Grow into a Tech Role

  1. Expand your network: To succeed once you’re in the new role, one of the first things that I would do is introduce myself to as many people as possible. Choose those who are knowledgeable about the job area that’s new for you.  They become your mentors and coaches. Develop an enablement plan to learn the portion of the role that you don’t know. Part of that enablement plan comprises surrounding yourself with the experts in that field.
  2. Understand what you don’t know: Have a conversation with your new manager, “What’s your enablement plan? What kind of training do you offer to new employees?” It could be through certifications. It could be going back to school; I went back to school to learn about tech. Expose yourself to as much knowledge as you possibly can about the role and the portion of the role that’s somewhat new for you.  Be patient, growth takes time if its purposeful.  Also, don’t beat yourself up.  Understand that no matter how capable, how qualified, how credible somebody sounds, nobody knows everything. Know who you’re talking to and be able to adapt your conversation to those individuals.  You’ll get there if you’re diligent.  Don’t give up!
  3. Find the right fit: Do your own research. If you’re trying to break into the tech industry, you may have the sales skills, but you might not have the product or industry skills. Get smart in what the industry is doing, know the trends; but most importantly recognize that when you’re moving into a software organization, there are a variety of roles: technical, business and administrative roles. Think about where your strengths are and start yourself on a path where you can excel.

Final Words…

I would also tell women, be patient and know your worth. The number of women in sales that look like us may not be as plentiful as I would like it to be, but it’s not what it was when I first joined the organization. So, obviously we are an organization that’s moving in the right direction. We have different resources such as the SAP Black Employee Network.  Stay connected to the network.  It’s a haven, a safe place where you can be yourself and network with others who have a alliance with you. Keep striving and you will reach your goals. To all my Sista’s In Sales: “Remember who you are and that you have an audience of one to please in life! Always be your true and best self!”

So you want to get a job in tech sales? Excellent!

Join us as the panelist of Tech Sales Professionals explain how to go about getting a tech sales job, even if you lack experience.  This event is a panel discussion that will detail how women of color can market themselves for tech sales positions when their sales experience is not in the tech field. Attendees will also learn the different areas of SAP that showcase the various sales roles across the company.

– Cherilynn
Chief Learning Officer, SIS

Cherilynn Castleman, Global Sales Keynote Speaker/Trainer/Executive Coach, has been a sales executive for 20+ years. With her natural talent for teaching and a drive to sell, Cherilynn uses her skills to coach and train other executives and sales professionals. Author of What’s In the CARDS? 5 Post Pandemic Sales Strategies.

Sistas in Sales, LLC (SIS) is a community for women of color sales professionals to network, advance their careers and most importantly, find sisterhood – offering events, thriving Slack community with companies hiring now, and career coaching services. Learn more about Sistas In Sales membership here, connect with us on LinkedInInstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

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