#StrongerTogether: Never Stop Innovating – Creativity and Empathy

As we continue to navigate our new normal, it’s important to find success in the little wins. I recently had the opportunity to chat with another Salesforce Trailblazer, Monique Zill, and learn about her career journey. Monique, a general commercial account executive, shared how she recently achieved a successful client outcome. She leveraged her empathy and insights to help a manufacturing client pivot to support its first remote sales team. To better understand Monique’s success, I wanted to learn about her career path and how her past experiences have enabled her to be successful, even during COVID-19.

Early Career 

A lifelong style enthusiast, Monique started her career as an assistant in fashion advertising sales for a major U.S.-based magazine. Her manager’s departure resulted in an opening, so Monique approached the publisher and applied for the position. Clients vouched for her knowledge and value, and as a result she was offered her first sales role as a fashion and beauty manager.

From her first sales role, Monique transitioned into a new position at a different magazine but found that she didn’t have the tools she needed to reach her full potential. “My success in my first sales role was the result of mastering our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system,” Monique said. “When I left my second role, it was really important that I worked for a company that had a CRM system in place because it made my job—especially a transition from a new role— much easier. My new position didn’t  include a CRM tool, so over the course of my year there, it was challenging to manage client relationships, tasks, and notes with simple spreadsheets.” Early in her career, Monique realized the importance of innovating and creating systems to maximize efficiency.

End User to Sales Professional

After her role was impacted by layoffs at the magazine’s parent company, Monique began to consider sales roles outside of the fashion industry. “It never occurred to me to work for a technology company, but the layoff created an opportunity I wasn’t expecting,” Monique said. “At the time, I was always rooted heavily in marketing and advertising, especially in the fashion and beauty realm, and I was nervous to leave my comfort zone.” Although a career shift into Software as a Service (SaaS) sales wasn’t originally in her plan, Monique realized she could leverage her experience as an end user and use her story to inspire clients. I found being an end user was really useful through my storytelling, so that’s how I landed at Salesforce.” Interested in exploring a role in SaaS sales? Learn more about sales careers at Salesforce.

COVID-19 Client Success

Even in these challenging times, Monique has found ways to help her clients be successful. One of her clients manufactures golf cart batteries and, like so many other companies during this pandemic, they experienced a drop in demand. Monique’s client was so accustomed to having its sales team in the office that the idea of a remote workforce came as a brand-new concept.

“Especially now when you’re in a sales role,” Monique shared, “it’s about listening to our clients more than ever and being empathetic in how you respond to them.” By leveraging her empathic listening, she learned three things: (1) that her client had to rethink their approach to prospecting to keep the sales team moving; (2) that it was necessary to reevaluate the spend, and that reevaluation determined that supporting the sales team was a critical spend for fiscal year 2020; and (3) that forecast transparency and management were critical to success. As a result, Monique was able to help her client pivot. She found a solution to invest in technology to help prepare for future global expansion by using historical data to predict future sales. As a part of her approach, Monique suggested bringing the chief information officer (CIO) to the table because Salesforce’s Manufacturing Cloud resonated with his focus on global transformations. The Salesforce Manufacturing cloud keeps account and operation teams on the same page for manufacturers and speaks to the kind of forecasting and needs of clients who live and breathe the manufacturing space.

Q&A with Monique: Making the Shift to Tech Sales

After learning about her career trajectory and success selling in the current climate, I asked Monique to tell me more about her shift into SaaS sales.

Cherilynn:What advice would you give to other women looking to make the shift into tech sales?

Monique: It sounds cliché, but you definitely need to believe you can do it, and nine times out of ten, you absolutely can.

In those moments when you feel like you can’t, reach out to your network.  Lean on others who are your mentors, your cheerleaders, because we all need a little pep talk now and again. Especially now during these times, you don’t need to  do it  alone, and no one expects you to be doing it alone.

For example, my manager Seanté Baker, RVP Commercial Sales and Manufacturing at Salesforce, is one  of my biggest career advocates. She frequently asks, “What do you need from me? How can I help you? How can I coach you? What’s the best way for us to work together moving forward?”

Recently I responded, “I think I need to get out of my Salesforce bubble,” meaning I need to network with other women and other companies. I need to be a part of a larger conversation. Seanté connected me with Sistas In Sales. If you’re looking to change industries, just believe in yourself and definitely ask for help because it’s there, and people really want to help you because they’ve all been there too.

Cherilynn:In your experience, what does it take to succeed in this space?

Monique: Salesforce has a learning environment. It doesn’t encourage you to fail. But if you do fail, do it quickly. You’re always going to learn something from it. Be persistent. It’s grit that gets you through day to day.”

Cherilynn:Any final advice or words of wisdom?

Monique:  Be your own advocate but don’t do it in a vacuum. Build genuine, respectful and productive relationships with the network around you. Ask for help when you need it and always be open to new opportunities.


Chief Learning Officer, SIS

Cherilynn Castleman, Sales 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.

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  LinkedIn, InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

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