Director of Global Digital Sales Development at IBM, Rakhi Voria manages a team that is responsible for helping companies digitally transform their sales organizations. Rakhi previously helped Microsoft build a 2,000 person worldwide inside sales team. She is passionate about advancing women in sales and currently serves as Exec Co-Chair of the Women IBM NYC group.
Talking about the global pandemic Rakhi said you must lead with empathy. Customers and companies will be dealing with their own challenges, so you must shift your offering to help them during these difficult times and changing how you interact with customers.
Rakhi said her team had experience difficulties getting hold of customers and have shifted between email and asynchronous messaging, social media, and social selling techniques along with the phone to make contact. You must allow the customer to reach out to you, on their own terms. Nowadays, people are more open not to receive an instant response to messages and asynchronous messaging is working well, as soon as a service colleague logs on, they respond to the enquiry.
The IBM digital sales development organization is typically the first line of communication the customer has with IBM and the front end of the sales cycle. The team catch a lot of the inbound responses coming in through digital channels and doing the outbound prospecting to our white space customers. ‘We are the custodian of the IBM experience, said Rakhi, we get to shape whether a customer chooses IBM now or in the future. We consistently skill-up our reps with consistent tools, processes, playbooks to make sure they get up to speed as quickly as possible. IBM has a robust onboarding program and typically like to have customers on the phone by day 6, it is an opportunity to practice and learn with mentor and manager to support learning. IBM take an 80/20 approach with 80% of everything IBM do from a training perspective is global and the 20% localized depending on the go-to-market strategy. IBM global sales school that every seller goes through.’
Rakhi has had many formal and informal mentors, like your board of directors. Rakhi advises others to think about what you want to achieve in the short and long term, and do you have the people in your network to support you? You do not need mentors to be senior to you, Rakhi said there is a lot of beauty and value in having cross-generational relationships, they really help you to think differently and call you out when you are regimented about specific areas.
You cannot be it if you cannot see it. Sales have the second biggest gender equity gap across all business functions. Today, there is gender bias in sales that still exist, only 1 in 5 VP of sales are women. Women in sales have barely increased in the last decade, so there are some genuine issues that women in sales experience in what is a male-dominated industry.
Rakhi said she fell into sales because it was a recruiter at Microsoft that put her in the queue for it and she says she too had the stereotypical view of sales and fast forward Rakhi has had many sales roles. A big piece is other women role models in sales, said Rakhi, these women have paved the way for her and helped us to navigate a challenging environment. The reality is that even if a company is male-dominated, the customers are truly diverse. Many decision-makers are women, and many are 25-year-old CEOs, so you need a sales organization to emulate what the world looks like today.
Rakhi is passionate about retaining and attracting women in sales, end to end and has written about in Forbes. There are many different directions you can go in, said Rakhi.
One of the benefits of working through the pandemic is flexibility; sales is such a marketable and transferable skill. However, women are disproportionately affected being laid off and furlough at a higher pace, not just in tech but across the board. Sales can be lucrative and allow you to flex with your schedule. Flex Job listed account executive as the number one job with flexibility.
Listen to Rakhi talk about her amazing Mother and how she shaped who Rakhi is today. Also, in her Forbes article: Leadership Lessons from My Mother https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/2020/04/29/leadership-lessons-from-my-mother
Women in sales documentary feature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHAnPbQJSHQ