Leveraging AI for Sales Success: Practical Strategies & Tools

Leveraging AI for Sales Success: Practical Strategies & Tools

AI and natural language models are experiencing exponential growth, disrupting nearly every industry worldwide. This rapid advancement in technology has immense potential to revolutionize sales departments and individual sales professionals’ daily work. AI can give saleswomen a competitive edge, streamline processes, and enhance productivity. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the sales industry, offering powerful tools and strategies to enhance efficiency, personalize customer interactions, and drive better outcomes. Understanding and leveraging AI for sales can significantly impact success, making it a critical component of modern strategies. Understanding AI for Sales AI in sales involves using machine learning algorithms and data analysis to optimize various aspects of the sales process. This technology can streamline tasks, provide valuable customer insights, and predict future sales trends, ultimately driving increased efficiency and effectiveness. The benefits of AI for sales include improved lead generation, enhanced customer personalization, and accurate sales forecasting. Practical Strategies for Leveraging AI for Sales Strategy 1: AI for Lead Generation AI can identify and prioritize leads more effectively than traditional methods. By analyzing vast amounts of data, AI tools can pinpoint potential customers who are most likely to convert, saving time and resources. Popular tools for AI-driven lead generation include Microsoft Co-Pilot, Salesforce Einstein, HubSpot, Apollo.io and Marketo. These tools utilize predictive analytics to score leads, ensuring sales teams focus on the most promising opportunities. Strategy 2: AI for Sales Forecasting Accurate sales forecasting is essential for planning and strategy. AI can predict sales trends and outcomes by analyzing historical data and market conditions. Tools like Aviso, Clari, and Anaplan provide predictive insights that help sales leaders make informed decisions, allocate resources efficiently, and set realistic targets. Strategy 3: AI for Customer Insights and Personalization Personalizing customer interactions is crucial for building strong relationships and driving sales. AI can analyze customer behavior and preferences, allowing sales teams to tailor their pitches and communications.  Top AI Tools for Sales Leaders CRM Systems with AI Capabilities AI-enhanced Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems offer numerous benefits, including automated data entry, lead scoring, and personalized communication. Examples include Salesforce Einstein and Zoho CRM, which integrate AI to provide actionable insights and streamline sales processes. AI-Powered Sales Assistants AI-powered sales assistants can automate repetitive tasks, allowing sales professionals to focus on high-value activities. Tools like Clara and Conversica handle tasks such as scheduling meetings and following up with leads, improving efficiency and productivity. AI for Sales Analytics Data-driven decision-making is critical for sales success. AI tools like Gong.io and Chorus.ai analyze sales calls and interactions, providing insights into customer sentiments, objections, and preferences. These insights help sales teams refine their strategies and improve their performance. Implementing AI for Sales Success Integrating AI tools into existing sales workflows involves several steps. First, identify the areas where AI can have the most significant impact, such as lead generation or sales forecasting. Next, select the appropriate tools and ensure that the sales team receives adequate training and support. Finally, measure the impact of AI on sales performance to refine and optimize its use continually. Building a strong AI-driven sales strategy can transform the sales process, driving better outcomes and increasing efficiency. By understanding and leveraging AI for sales, professionals can stay ahead of the competition and achieve greater success. Learn much more about how to use AI at the 7th Annual SIS Summit, coming up in September. Buy your ticket while they’re still available!

Navigating Career Challenges: Building Resilience in Sales

In the fast-paced world of sales, resilience is essential. Sales professionals, especially women of color, often face unique career challenges that test perseverance and determination. With the right strategies, these obstacles can become opportunities for growth and success.

Sell into the C-Suite: The Secret to a Masterful Value Story

In the summer of 1996, I was on sabbatical in Guatemala with my family. We lived like locals, sharing a cramped four-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a Guatemalan family of twelve. Both my daughters attended the neighborhood school and made friends with the kids on our block. Before the sabbatical, our family only spoke English, so imagine my surprise when both my girls became confident Spanish speakers in a matter of weeks! My oldest, at eleven, could hold entire conversations in the language while my youngest, age three, became fluent. Their immersion in the local community allowed them to pick up Spanish with ease, clearly communicating with friends and learning alongside their peers in class. My daughters’ language immersion experience perfectly illustrates the secret to creating a masterful value story. To maximize your impact, you have to immerse yourself in the customer’s world and learn their language. Become a student of your client, their company, and their industry. Research your clients’ words and numbers so you can think and speak like them. Quantitative Analysis Tips For quantitative analysis tips, check out my blog post The Most Important Client Document You’ve Never Read and register for the  Sistas In Sales Upcoming Sales Mastery Webinar: Becoming An Empathic Seller Using Financial Insights.  For your qualitative analysis, search for themes, patterns, or movements, and identify the Pain, Opportunities, and Problems (POP). Find what POPs! Here are easy three steps to start your journey into your client’s world: By immersing yourself in the customer’s world and understanding their perspective, you will learn to analyze and think like them. With this information, you can tailor and develop a killer value story. A powerful value story changes everything; it gives you the confidence to talk to anyone about what you do and sell into the C-suite. Here’s to selling Mastery. -Cherilynn Head of Education and Growth, Sistas In Sales Cherilynn Castleman, Sales Trainer/Executive Coach, has been a sales executive for 20+ years, a natural talent for teaching and a drive to sell, Cherilynn uses her skills to coach and train other sales professionals.

How Soft Skills Can Make You a Better Sales Engineer

Alyson Schreider, Sales Engineering Manager at SalsifyThis interview was edited for length and clarity One look at Alyson Schreider’s resume is all you need to know that she is a talented woman with a wealth of experience. As a Sales Engineer at Salsify, Alyson leads a team of driven individuals dedicated to making the ecommerce experience more efficient and user friendly, for brand manufacturers and their customers. Prior to stepping into this leadership role, Alyson worked as a Sales Engineer for six years and has since developed a knack for meeting the needs of her clients, team, and leadership with courage, vulnerability, and spunk. You might be wondering – how did Alyson manage to create such a successful career in a role that is largely dominated by men, in an already male dominated industry? To answer this question, we must look back to a professional experience Alyson had that was unlike any other experience in her career. Some of the skills that Alyson has relied on to succeed as a Sales Engineer include the ability to temper expectations, being honest about one’s limitations, and being determined enough to get better. These skills enabled her to excel at leadership and build a meaningful and impactful career. When asked how she developed these skills and her advice for other women interested in a Sales Engineer role, Alyson pointed to a life changing experience that shaped her into the professional she is today. “I learned these skills when I worked in public safety with police officers because there were actually life and death situations – in 911 dispatch, you have to make sure all the systems are working at all times and so I got really good at providing and managing expectations in some pretty stressful situations.” This ability to assess and manage expectations while clearly and honestly relaying information proved to be a powerful skill – not only in her job in public safety, but also throughout her entire career. But it wasn’t just this ability that helped shape her into the dynamic professional she is today. “I realized that the more I communicate and the more I’m honest about what I am doing or what I can or can’t do, the more people meet you where you are. Then, I’m able to find out what I need to know quickly.” Alyson learned early on in an unexpected professional experience, what was needed to be an effective sales engineer: tempering expectations, communicating clearly, and resolving to learn that which is unknown at the moment. This story proves two things – first, it shows that skills can be learned in any environment and used in any role. Second, it shows that having the courage and vulnerability to admit what you do and do not know while resolving to learn and grow, will make you far more successful as a Sales Engineer than you might initially think. Alyson further corroborated these two points when asked to share her insight on how one can successfully transition into a pre-sales role and what skills are needed to do so.  “I think the desire to dig in and work hard, be curious with customers, be empathetic, and ask questions will help you understand what you need.” Alyson went on to encourage those that are interested in applying for a Sales Engineer role not to be discouraged by the technical side of the job as she continued to highlight the value that soft skills bring to the role. “Being willing to build and create relationships with customers is really important. Technical aptitude depends on what we’re looking for at the time – sometimes we want someone really technical and sometimes we don’t. Other times, we want someone that’s great at building relationships, becoming the trusted advisor to a customer and willingness to learn the technical side. The key is to go for it – don’t be afraid to fail.” While Alyson’s experience in public safety helped prepare her for her job as a Sales Engineer today, it wasn’t the only influence on her career. When asked what enabled her to effectively do her job, Alyson shared the following insight: “All of the different work I’ve done with customers and being around and understanding different types of personalities and how to communicate with them really helped me. You have to understand that you can’t just go in with the same approach with every single person.” Alyson managed to pull skills from various client facing professional experiences to empower her to succeed in her current role, and it’s something we can all learn to do as well. Finding The Right Fit Finding transferable skills to help Alyson excel in her role was paramount to her success, but it isn’t the full picture. Without the support and empowerment of her company, Alyson might not have had the opportunity to put those skills she developed over the years to good use. “I had previously worked at a company that was very team oriented and collaborative…it was very fun and dynamic…it was really a great place to work…it was a family type environment so I was looking for something similar, and a product that I could really get behind…so when I joined, that’s exactly what Salsify ended up being. I wanted a team where everyone was helpful to each other.” Alyson went on to share how the support at Salsify gave her the opportunity to grow and go for opportunities she might otherwise not have access to without the support of her leadership “…I had been thinking I wanted to be a manager, and I told my leadership [about this before there was an opening] and they shared that there would be an opening within a month” “They’re very encouraging of [helping you] try something else. There’s movement whether it’s upward or laterally based on what you want to do.” Even without formal experience as a Sales Engineer, that shouldn’t deter women from exploring pre-sales as a career option, as there are

A Step-by-Step Resume Guide for Aspiring Sales Stars

Entering the competitive world of sales can be a daunting prospect, especially for recent college graduates. If you’re just stepping into this field, you know that making a strong first impression is crucial. That’s where your resume comes in – it’s not just a document listing your experiences; it’s a powerful tool to showcase your potential, ambition, and the unique value you bring to the table. To help you navigate this journey, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on crafting a resume that not only stands out but also opens doors to rewarding sales careers. Understanding What Employers Look ForSales employers are on the lookout for candidates who can demonstrate exceptional communication skills, resilience, adaptability, and a results-oriented mindset. These qualities should be the backbone of your resume, shaping how you present your experiences and skills. Structuring Your Resume for SuccessA well-structured resume makes a significant difference. Start with a clear heading and contact information, including a professional email address and a link to your polished LinkedIn profile. Follow this with a compelling summary statement that encapsulates your sales potential and eagerness to grow in the field. Education is more than just your degree; it’s a chance to highlight relevant coursework, projects, and extracurricular activities that have prepared you for a sales role. When it comes to experience, remember that every part-time job, internship, and volunteer opportunity has taught you valuable skills that are transferable to sales. Don’t forget to include any relevant skills and certifications that can give you an edge. Highlighting Your Unique ValueAs a woman of color, you bring unique experiences and perspectives that are incredibly valuable in sales. Use your resume to articulate these strengths, and don’t shy away from quantifying your achievements. Whether it’s leading a successful project in a student organization or initiating a community event, these experiences showcase your leadership and impact. Tailoring Your Resume for the Sales IndustryCustomization is key. Tailor your resume for each sales job application, incorporating keywords from the job description into your work experience and professional & skills summaries. This shows employers that you’re not only attentive but also highly interested in the role. Avoiding Common PitfallsEven the most impressive experiences can be overshadowed by simple mistakes like typos, generic statements, and overly lengthy resumes. Ensuring your resume is error-free and concise is as crucial as the information it contains. Seeking feedback from mentors or peers can provide invaluable insights and help polish your document to perfection. Utilizing Resources and NetworkingIn your journey to crafting the perfect sales resume, you’re not alone. Our “Ultimate Sales Success Toolkit” is an essential resource designed to guide you through this process. From understanding sales terminology to negotiating your worth and revamping your resume, this toolkit is your companion in achieving resume mastery. Moreover, attending the Aspiring Sellers Summit can supercharge your journey. This event is not just about learning from the best in the industry; it’s about connecting with a community that supports and uplifts each other. It’s an opportunity to showcase your ambition and dedication to prospective employers who are eager to meet talented individuals like you. ConclusionCrafting a standout resume is your first step towards a fulfilling career in sales. It’s about more than listing your experiences; it’s about telling your story in a way that resonates with employers and highlights your potential. Remember, your resume is a reflection of your ambition, skills, and the unique value you bring to any sales team. As you embark on this journey, don’t forget to leverage the tools and resources available to you. Are you ready to take the next step in your sales career and start crafting a resume that opens doors to new opportunities? Download the “Ultimate Sales Success Toolkit” and consider attending the Aspiring Sellers Summit to enhance your skills, network, and chances of landing your dream sales job. Your journey to sales success starts here!

How to Ace Your First Sales Interview with Confidence

Entering the sales profession unfolds an exhilarating world of opportunities and challenges, especially for women of color who are making their mark in this dynamic field. Whether you’re embarking on your career fresh out of college or shifting from another profession, your first sales interview is a pivotal moment. This blog post is dedicated to guiding you through the preparations for this crucial step, enriched by resources such as the “Your Ultimate Sales Success Toolkit” and the Aspiring Sellers Summit to boost your readiness. Understanding What Sales Interviewers SeekInterviewers in the sales domain are on the lookout for candidates who showcase excellent communication skills, adaptability, resilience, and a results-driven mindset. These attributes signal your capability not just to sell but to flourish in the competitive sales landscape—a space where women of color have demonstrated significant growth and success. Researching the Company and IndustryA deep dive into your prospective employer’s mission, products, services, and sales strategies, coupled with an understanding of the latest industry trends, sets you apart from other candidates. This level of research shows you’re not just seeking any job, but a role where you can make a real impact. Tailoring Your Resume and PitchBefore you start tailoring your resume, consider delving into the “Your Ultimate Sales Success Toolkit.” It features a Resume Revamp Guide specifically designed to accentuate your sales-relevant skills and experiences, ensuring your application captures attention. Crafting a personal narrative that highlights your unique journey as a woman of color in the sales arena can make your application resonate more deeply, spotlighting your resilience and the diverse perspectives you bring to any sales team. Practicing Common Sales Interview QuestionsGetting comfortable with typical sales interview questions and honing your responses can prepare you to effectively showcase your problem-solving capabilities and strategic approach to sales challenges. It’s about highlighting not only your ability to meet sales targets but also your innovative strategies for overcoming obstacles and driving results. Demonstrating Your Sales MindsetThe sales profession demands resilience and a growth mindset—qualities that women of color in sales possess abundantly. Demonstrating your dedication to continuous learning, adaptation, and excellence in sales will underline your suitability for the role and your potential for growth within the company. Leveraging the Ultimate Sales Success ToolkitIf you haven’t yet explored the “Your Ultimate Sales Success Toolkit,” now is the time. This invaluable resource is essential for interview preparation, offering insights into essential sales terms, negotiation strategies, and more. We strongly recommend downloading this toolkit as a foundational step in your comprehensive preparation, equipping you with the knowledge and strategies necessary to excel in your sales interview. Elevate Your Interview Success at the Aspiring Sellers SummitThe Aspiring Sellers Summit is a premier opportunity for women of color to enhance their interview prowess and engage directly with sales industry leaders and hiring managers in a supportive environment. This summit is your chance to transform interview preparation into tangible success, providing a platform to demonstrate your ambition and skills within the sales realm. Preparing for your first sales interview is about more than rehearsing responses; it’s about showcasing the unique journey, potential, and diverse perspectives you, as a woman of color, bring to the sales profession. Engaging with the “Your Ultimate Sales Success Toolkit” and participating in the Aspiring Sellers Summit are proactive steps not just toward acing your first interview but also toward laying the groundwork for a thriving career in sales. Embrace this moment as your launchpad to a rewarding sales career. Download the “Your Ultimate Sales Success Toolkit” today and consider registering for the Aspiring Sellers Summit to seize the opportunities that lie ahead. Your journey to sales mastery begins now, supported by resources and a community eager to see you succeed.

Navigating Your First Sales Job Offer

Congratulations! You’ve aced the interviews, dazzled the hiring managers, and now you’re on the brink of landing your first sales job. But before you pop the champagne, there’s one crucial step standing between you and your dream role: negotiating the job offer.

How Soft Skills Can Make You a Better Sales Engineer

Alyson Schreider, Sales Engineering Manager at SalsifyThis interview was edited for length and clarity One look at Alyson Schreider’s resume is all you need to know that she is a talented woman with a wealth of experience. As a Sales Engineer at Salsify, Alyson leads a team of driven individuals dedicated to making the ecommerce experience more efficient and user friendly, for brand manufacturers and their customers. Prior to stepping into this leadership role, Alyson worked as a Sales Engineer for six years and has since developed a knack for meeting the needs of her clients, team, and leadership with courage, vulnerability, and spunk. You might be wondering – how did Alyson manage to create such a successful career in a role that is largely dominated by men, in an already male dominated industry? To answer this question, we must look back to a professional experience Alyson had that was unlike any other experience in her career. Some of the skills that Alyson has relied on to succeed as a Sales Engineer include the ability to temper expectations, being honest about one’s limitations, and being determined enough to get better. These skills enabled her to excel at leadership and build a meaningful and impactful career. When asked how she developed these skills and her advice for other women interested in a Sales Engineer role, Alyson pointed to a life changing experience that shaped her into the professional she is today. “I learned these skills when I worked in public safety with police officers because there were actually life and death situations – in 911 dispatch, you have to make sure all the systems are working at all times and so I got really good at providing and managing expectations in some pretty stressful situations.” This ability to assess and manage expectations while clearly and honestly relaying information proved to be a powerful skill – not only in her job in public safety, but also throughout her entire career. But it wasn’t just this ability that helped shape her into the dynamic professional she is today. “I realized that the more I communicate and the more I’m honest about what I am doing or what I can or can’t do, the more people meet you where you are. Then, I’m able to find out what I need to know quickly.” Alyson learned early on in an unexpected professional experience, what was needed to be an effective sales engineer: tempering expectations, communicating clearly, and resolving to learn that which is unknown at the moment. This story proves two things – first, it shows that skills can be learned in any environment and used in any role. Second, it shows that having the courage and vulnerability to admit what you do and do not know while resolving to learn and grow, will make you far more successful as a Sales Engineer than you might initially think. Alyson further corroborated these two points when asked to share her insight on how one can successfully transition into a pre-sales role and what skills are needed to do so.  “I think the desire to dig in and work hard, be curious with customers, be empathetic, and ask questions will help you understand what you need.” Alyson went on to encourage those that are interested in applying for a Sales Engineer role not to be discouraged by the technical side of the job as she continued to highlight the value that soft skills bring to the role. “Being willing to build and create relationships with customers is really important. Technical aptitude depends on what we’re looking for at the time – sometimes we want someone really technical and sometimes we don’t. Other times, we want someone that’s great at building relationships, becoming the trusted advisor to a customer and willingness to learn the technical side. The key is to go for it – don’t be afraid to fail.” While Alyson’s experience in public safety helped prepare her for her job as a Sales Engineer today, it wasn’t the only influence on her career. When asked what enabled her to effectively do her job, Alyson shared the following insight: “All of the different work I’ve done with customers and being around and understanding different types of personalities and how to communicate with them really helped me. You have to understand that you can’t just go in with the same approach with every single person.” Alyson managed to pull skills from various client facing professional experiences to empower her to succeed in her current role, and it’s something we can all learn to do as well. Finding The Right Fit Finding transferable skills to help Alyson excel in her role was paramount to her success, but it isn’t the full picture. Without the support and empowerment of her company, Alyson might not have had the opportunity to put those skills she developed over the years to good use. “I had previously worked at a company that was very team oriented and collaborative…it was very fun and dynamic…it was really a great place to work…it was a family type environment so I was looking for something similar, and a product that I could really get behind…so when I joined, that’s exactly what Salsify ended up being. I wanted a team where everyone was helpful to each other.” Alyson went on to share how the support at Salsify gave her the opportunity to grow and go for opportunities she might otherwise not have access to without the support of her leadership “…I had been thinking I wanted to be a manager, and I told my leadership [about this before there was an opening] and they shared that there would be an opening within a month” “They’re very encouraging of [helping you] try something else. There’s movement whether it’s upward or laterally based on what you want to do.” Even without formal experience as a Sales Engineer, that shouldn’t deter women from exploring pre-sales as a career option, as there are

#SeeingIsBelieving: “Don’t ever feel like you can’t do it!”

Jennifer (Bambara) Majlessi is an Account Executive at Salesforce. She shares: her journey, how she’s pursuing what she loves most,  the pros and cons of startups, and how she’s learned ruthless prioritization. Jennifer feels strongly that sales is going through a bit of a renaissance period and that relationships matter more than ever before. Read on for Jennifer’s advice on success in sales. Jennifer initially had a love for finance and we explored why she decided to transition to sales. I’m a MidCommercial Account Executive, with a specialization in High Tech at Salesforce. I’ve been in this role since March 2020, almost two years now. I studied finance at Lehigh University and graduated post-recession during a turbulent time. I vividly remember entering my core curriculum at the start of my junior year, during the onset of the recession, and my professors said, “If you don’t absolutely love finance, now is the time to switch majors.” I loved numbers and my mom was a trader on Wall Street, so she was big into math as well. But I’m very personable, so  sitting in front of Excel spreadsheets, not talking to anyone all day, didn’t feel quite like it fit. I needed a balance of both worlds and sure enough numbers + social = sales. Upon graduation, I took on a sales role at a leading global provider of mission-critical data and insights to help companies accelerate revenue and manage risk. This was an impactful role during a recession as companies looked to protect themselves in order to survive. I began as an intern, cutting my teeth on cold calling, obtaining guidance from great leadership, and absorbing everything I could from successful account executives around me. I knew I had proven myself when I got the opportunity to take on a million-dollar book of business while a coworker was out on temporary leave. This allowed me to flex both my social and math skills which I loved. At this point, I was either headed into investment banking or into sales, and it was then that I realized the relationship building side of sales offered me more fulfillment. From there, I took on a role with the new customer acquisition team and set out to establish, manage, and grow my own relationships and book of business. You made a leap to a startup; how did that happen and what did you learn from that experience? Once you get the bug for building, it’s only natural that you consider the startup world. I wanted to know more about what was happening around me and about my customers. I wanted insight into the full customer journey, from how they are marketed to, to their influence on and use of our products. That was when I decided to join a startup specializing in point-of-sale systems that is now powered by Lightspeed. There were about 90 people at that point: few were women, fewer were in sales, and even fewer were women from underrepresented groups. The culture was welcoming and promoted friendly competition. The sale itself was very fast-paced and transactional, and our SaaS platform was powering SMBs to take back main street. We were helping them get back to what they loved about running their business, while providing better insights and faster sales captures. It was awesome to be a part of the digital transformation, migrating entrepreneurs from cash registers to iPads and completely changing the way they ran their business. After being promoted into a senior individual contributor (IC) role, I had my sights set on leadership. I still enjoyed interacting with our customers and wanted to remain close, so I took on a hybrid role (player/coach) which allowed me to lead from within, managing and selling throughout. This allowed me to gain credibility as a leader, being in the thick of it with them. It  also allowed me to liaise between sales and product/marketing to inform our product roadmap, GTM strategy and shared valued perspective of our customers. Salesforce is quite the departure from the startup world, what was it that attracted you to Salesforce? Throughout all my sales roles, the one constant was Sales Cloud and working on the Salesforce platform. Best in class indeed, and it powered all of my sales efforts as an IC and a leader. In every business review, I was asked about my growth goals and they always included learning more about the power of Salesforce. I wanted to build my own reports and truly geeked out on the product. I thought, “I’ve always been passionate about this product. Why don’t I make it my job to learn more about it and share its value with others?” So, I transitioned back into the corporate world as an IC to learn the product and refine my skills, planning to keep leadership top of mind. Salesforce also felt like the right culture. They care about the community and their employees. Our work here is a true team effort. There is no room for a lone wolf because we win and lose as a team, together. I want to contribute and see my contributions, but I also want our collective success. In terms of learning, I wanted to hone my skills as a sales professional and knew I would be learning from, and among, the best. Thinking ahead about my future and career, I saw endless opportunities and a path to growth. Honestly, the pace of this organization feels like a startup, but carries the reputation and resources of an established brand. That’s something I didn’t want to lose, I love agility. We joke about the ever-changing product names and speed with which new products launch, but it is truly impressive. That’s the kind of energy and speed I loved in a startup – that energy with the expertise, resources and collaboration that come with defining a solution as a team, felt like the best way to support our end users. And Salesforce encourages you to bring your whole self

Bringing Your Authentic Self to Work

Merrie Williamson  Corporate Vice President of Azure Infrastructure, Digital Applications and IoT at Microsoft About Merrie Merrie Williamson is the Corporate Vice President of Azure Infrastructure, Azure IoT and the newly launched Digital and Application Innovation solution area in the Microsoft Customer and Partner Solutions business group. She is responsible for Microsoft’s global commercial sales, strategy and execution for the core multi-billion dollar Azure business. As Microsoft and their customers continue to transform with digital solutions, the requirements for an ever more agile sales models with deeper investments in technical breath and customer compassion are required. Merrie joined Microsoft in 2019 as an executive leader with deep roots in building cloud technologies and driving global cultural transformation. Before joining Microsoft Merrie worked in the technology sector for over 20 years. She directed strategic investments in products from technical inception to launch, typically in a cutting-edge area for the business, bringing together organizations, corporate partnerships, and leading sales teams to deliver revenue. With a background in Manufacturing Engineering, Merrie is ardent is passionate about finding solutions for the under-representation of women and underrepresented people in STEM and sales.  Merrie is also passionate about service and community. She has served on two not-for-profit boards in the Seattle area. Starting in the early 2000s, with Seattle MESA (STEM pipeline for Seattle underrepresented schools) and then on the board of the Seattle YMCA (Homeless youth, special needs foster care, low-income childcare, and health and wellness) where she volunteered for 10 years, including as chairwoman. More recently, Merrie had the opportunity to serve for over two years on a private board for Urban Airship, a start-up technology company in Portland. She shares her community service mindset with her husband Derek, who has served for over 25 years in the Seattle Fire Department and is currently an Assistant Chief. Her life is shared by her wonderful children Evan and Sophie. Together they are sporty and musical. Merrie is a voracious reader, amateur soccer coach and player, and unsuccessful gardener. In recent days, Merrie has used her platform on social media to speak out about the Black Lives Matter movement, hoping to address this as a human rights challenge by building a shared understanding and steps to inspire action. Connect with Merrie on LinkedIn. The Interview: We began by asking Merrie to tell us a little bit about herself.  “I am a black woman in sales. Back in my college years, I knew I wanted to do deeply technical problem solving types of things with my life…I thought I was a brilliant product person who built the best things on the planet and sales was just this easy cheesy job that people like me don’t go into – but it’s hard and] it’s something I wish more people understood.” Merrie studied engineering in undergrad and continued on with this focus for her Masters Degree. After finishing up school, Merrie joined the workforce as a Technical Program Manager at Intel.  While working at Intel, Merrie grew both as an engineer as well as a leader. “I learned a lot about the world of technology and high tech and how to develop myself as an engineer. I learned how to marry my authentic view of the world into my management experiences and eventually senior leadership positions.” Before joining Microsoft, Merrie worked in the technology sector for over 20 years. She directed strategic investments in products from technical inception to launch, typically in a cutting-edge area for the business, bringing together organizations and building corporate partnerships. Merrie made a career pivot while at Intel when she stepped into the role as Global Senior Director for the Datacenter Sales & Marketing Team. While in this position, Merrie helped grow their traditional sales organization from a hundreds-of-millions sales pipeline, to a multi-billion dollar sales pipeline.  “Where I am now [in sales is focused on] how do I help provide that empathy bridge between the product teams that I work with…while designing and partnering and coaching our sellers all over the world doing cloud sales – and how do I maintain the speed and the growth that the company requires to meet our shareholder and external commitments. I’m still on my own learning curve in sales.” Over the course of her career, Merrie has managed to evolve and grow with each new opportunity presented to her. She has maintained a presence in her community through serving on various boards and she has also raised two children all the while climbing the corporate ladder. When asked how she continued to evolve as a woman in leadership, she shared the following insights: “As I look back over the first 10 years [of my career], my evolution was almost survival. I was focused on how to show up and manage myself as one of very few women, and also perform at the highest level I can perform. I think my next evolution was focused on how do I then turn into the woman manager that I want to be that’s authentic to me?” “My  third evolution, now as a Senior Leader, an executive, has kind of unleashed the courage for me. I feel like I’m at a position now where I’m still learning and listening but it’s all about being an amplifier of things that people may not want to address full steam, whether that’s business…or culture, and community, and the world, and hard things.”  With so many accomplishments, Merrie has learned firsthand the importance of evolving oneself to meet the new demands each new role requires. She has mastered the art of looking within, while simultaneously assessing her environment to determine which skills and resources she needs to tap into to catapult herself into a new evolved person.  In her personal evolution, Merrie acknowledges how critical workplace culture is on one’s professional development.  When asked to describe the workplace culture at Microsoft and what sets it apart, Merrie pulled back the curtain and provided insight into the beliefs that have reverberated throughout the entire company.