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Rakhi Voria Podcasts

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11 of The Best Podcast Episodes for Rakhi Voria. A collection of podcasts episodes with or about Rakhi Voria, often where they are interviewed.

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11 of The Best Podcast Episodes for Rakhi Voria. A collection of podcasts episodes with or about Rakhi Voria, often where they are interviewed.

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Advancing Women in Sales with Rakhi Voria

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Rakhi Voria talks about advancing women in sales.

Sep 11 2020 · 38mins
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How Sales Leaders can Attract and Work with Millennials in a Remote Selling Environment, With Rakhi Voria

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It is estimated that today millennials (those born between about 1980 and 2000) comprise half of the American workforce, and by 2025, will be 75% of the global workforce. For sales leaders, that means working with sales reps who have particular interests and values, sometimes different to the leader’s own generation.

My guest in this episode of the Modern Selling Podcast is Rakhi Voria, Director, IBM Global Digital Sales Development. Rakhi has a strong passion for advancing women in sales and millennials in business and regularly shares her thoughts on these topics by speaking at conferences and writing publications in Forbes as a member of the Forbes Business Development Council.

At IBM, Rakhi Voria manages the team responsible for the strategy, implementation, and revenue of the Digital Sales Development (DSD) function globally. Within the DSD sales force, there are ~350 Digital Development Representatives and Business Development Representatives responsible for driving client engagement, deal progression, and closure of select deals.

Rakhi previously worked at Microsoft and most recently served as the Chief of Staff to the Corporate Vice President of WW Inside Sales, where she played a key role in building a new digital sales force for Microsoft, growing the team to 2,000 digital sellers globally and the business to over $5B in under 3 years.

She currently serves as Executive Co-Chair of Women@IBM NYC, which is focused on attracting, retaining, and advancing women.

Join our conversation as Rakhi shares some advice for sales leaders and executives who want to attract and work with millennials, especially in the current remote selling environment.

How to Attract Millennials to your Sales Organization

Many companies are trying to attract millennial talent based on some preconceived notions such as they like environments with free snacks and nap pods. But many studies show that is very low in their list of priorities.

According to Rakhi, the top three things millennials value most in the workplace are:

1. Diversity in the workplace

Millennials care a lot about people, even more than the work itself. An IBM report showed that what they look for in a job is the opportunity to work with a diverse group of people, from backgrounds, age, perspectives, industry hires, interns.

2. Variety and experiences in their careers

Millennials are called “the job-hopping generation” for a reason. They want to differentiate their experiences and take on horizontal challenges, while still growing vertically. For example, they like to work in marketing, sales, finance and not necessarily follow a linear career path.

For millennials, new experiences are very important, as is the ability to travel. Companies that can provide those experiences will attract many millennials.

How can sales leaders invest in rotational programs or opportunities to give millennials the chance to build different skill sets across different functions?

Variety in experience doesn’t mean you have to give employees a different job, just added responsibilities according to their skills or interests. For example, at Vengreso, our Sales Coordinator is also an accomplished YouTuber, who uses his video production skills to create sales enablement content and training videos for the sales team.

3. Flexibility 

The Deloitte Millennial Survey shows that 75% of millennials actually want the ability to work from home or somewhere other than their office.

In fact, they care more about workplace flexibility than getting promoted.

Millennials feel they are more productive when they work from home and a place that is more comfortable than an office cubicle.

However, flexibility goes beyond the where you work and includes the how and the when. For instance, the ability to take a couple of hours off during the afternoon and not having to be tied to a desk is very important.

In our experience at Vengreso, sales leaders can successfully manage a remote selling team if they create the right culture and leverage the available tools.

A study by ManPower Group on Millennial Careers discovered that flexibility is in the top five priorities of millennials when looking for a job. Here are the top five:

Career Advice for Millennials

Rakhi offers two tips for millennials who are trying to navigate the career journey. 

1. Be open to possibilities

The first tip is to expand their vision and not narrowly focus on one career path.

“I see so many people who are thinking this is the next job that I want and they choose a specific job and they put all of their sights on it,” Rakhi says. “And it closes them off to so many other possibilities. When you're that early in your career, you probably don't know what you really want to do.”

Instead, it is better to set goals not on a particular job but on the skills they want to have. As a sales leader with millennials in your team, you can coach them to gain experience in sales while keeping an open mind about their future.

2. Leverage your unique skills

Being young and sometimes inexperienced can be hard when starting a career in sales or in any industry. Selling to clients that are older and more experienced than them, can feel intimidating for millennial sales reps.

Rakhi says that early in her career she had imposter syndrome. “I was sitting at tables with people who had far more experience than me, many of which were men. I was young, I was female, I was diverse. And I basically said, ‘I am a millennial so maybe I can push some of these people to think a little bit differently to invent new processes to innovate, to push the needle.’ I've been doing that here at IBM as well as a newbie.”

Young sales professionals should have the courage to challenge their sales manager, sales leader and even the CEO of the company to innovate and think differently, as well as their peers.

Listen to the episode as Rakhi shares her formula for networking within IBM to make herself known within the company at different levels.

How to Train Millennial Sellers

Millennials are also known as the technology generation, and because of that, their attention span is much shorter than the span of previous generations.

That’s why as a sales leader, anytime you're coaching millennials, you must tell them what they need to know up front, including how they're going to be measured.

Sales leadership must communicate:

  • What are the top X number of things they need to take away from the training.
  • What are the outcomes expected from them.
  • How they are going to be evaluated.

“We are an ambitious generation,” Rakhi says. “We want to make sure that we're doing what we're supposed to be doing. And so to know upfront what some of those things are is really helpful.”

Provide Feedback

A second suggestion for sales leadership is to provide praise and coaching and feedback along the way.

Millennials want frequent specific, strategic feedback. They want to know how they are doing in comparison to their peers and specific feedback they can actually use to develop and grow in the sales career.

It is then the responsibility of the leader or the sales manager to provide feedback on a regular basis.

Virtual Sales Training

And the final suggestion is to use technology to deliver the training. According to Gallup's research on how millennials want to live and work, 85% of millennials access the Internet from their phones, which is more than all other generations.

“If we can't offer training that can be accessed from anywhere,” Rakhi says, “if you could only do it when you're on premises, your organization is not great for millennials. If you can't do it on your phone. That's not great.”

Women in Sales and Sales Leadership

Rakhi is passionate about promoting women in sales. She fell into sales by accident when she got a job at Microsoft and felt she had to help more women get into sales.

Here are some statistics that show how women are misrepresented in sales:

  • The percentage of women in sales has only increased 3% in the last decade, from 36% to 39%.
  • Women only hold 19% of leadership roles in sales.

CEOs and recruiters must be focused and intentional in finding candidates and filling sales positions not only with women, but Black and Latino women.

Rakhi says most job descriptions for sales roles are worded in such a way that discourage women and minorities from applying, perpetuating the sales profession as a white male dominated field. For example, she has seen sales job posts that list a “competitive sports background” as a desired skill. And unfortunately, women tend not to apply for positions where they don’t fit 100% of the requirements (versus men, who apply when they meet 60% of the requirements).

So, how can companies increase the number of women in sales?

  • Leadership has to treat it like any other business objective with KPIs, goals and measurement systems.
  • Human Resources has to recruit from non-traditional sources, such as the military or retail stores. This process takes more time and may mean sacrificing hiring goal deadlines.
  • Create a culture where women can thrive and succeed, where there are mentors and career development programs. 

If you are a sales leader in charge of attracting and training millennials, you can’t miss this episode of the Modern Selling Podcast with Rakhi Voria.

Outline of This Episode
  • [2:58] About Rakhi: Sales leader in tech companies and advancing women in business and sales.
  • [7:55] Attracting millennials to your company.
  • [20:10] Tips for millennials who want to advance their careers.
  • [26:57] Networking within your company as a newbie.
  • [29:30] How to train millennial sellers.
  • [33:44] Women in sales and sales leadership.
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Aug 27 2020 · 59mins
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#040: Why Rakhi Voria is Passionate About Retaining Women in Sales

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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

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rakhivoria/

https://twitter.com/rakhivoria

Women in sales documentary feature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHAnPbQJSHQ

Jul 04 2020 · 20mins
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237: Hear How IBM Sales Development Leader Rakhi Voria is Helping Women in Sales Take Their Careers to New Heights

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Read the complete transcript on the Sales Game Changers Podcast website.

RAKHI'S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: "Map out your short- and long-term goals and think about what you need to get there. I have acquired experience in sales, business development, financing and sales strategy and now my organization actually technically sits underneath marketing. I'm getting all of these different experiences and I encourage people to think about what you want your long term goal to be and how you want to fill your tool belt."

Rakhi Voria is the Director of Global Digital Sales Development at IBM.

Prior to coming to IBM, she was at Microsoft.

She is Forbes contributor and is passionate about advancing women in sales. Learn more about the IES Women in Sales Leadership Forum.

May 28 2020 · 37mins
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[E219] Diversity in Sales with Rakhi Voria – Part 4 of 4

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Final segment with the amazing Rakhi Voria.  We go back to the topic of diversity (which is more than just race or gender), and the true business danger of only hiring one type of person for your teams.

She is in the long list of guests here on the podcast that once again brings up confidence, grit, perseverance, and empathy to win in sales. She also shares the value of getting back in the trenches as a sales leader.

Download The Power of Authentic Persuasion ebook

Enroll in the Authentic Persuasion Online Course

Get help with your sales team

Connect with Jason on LinkedIn

Connect with Rakhi on LinkedIn

Rakhi’s Bio

As the Director of IBM Global Digital Sales Development, Rakhi Voria manages a team that is responsible for the strategy, implementation, and revenue of the Digital Sales Development (DSD) function globally. Within the DSD sales force, there are ~350 Digital Development Representatives and Business Development Representatives responsible for driving client engagement, deal progression, and closure of select deals. Rakhi previously worked at Microsoft and most recently served as the Chief of Staff to the Corporate Vice President of WW Inside Sales, where she played a key role in building a new digital sales force for Microsoft, growing the team to 2,000 digital sellers globally and the business to over $5B in under 3 years.

Rakhi has a strong passion for advancing women in sales and millennials in business and regularly shares her thoughts on these topics by speaking at conferences and writing publications in Forbes as a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. She currently serves as Executive Co-Chair of Women@IBM NYC, which is focused on attracting, retaining, and advancing women. At Microsoft, she was Co-Chair of the Women@Microsoft Board, a network of over 20,000 women across 15 regional chapters globally.

Rakhi has been featured in Geekwire, The Seattle Times, Vizaca, Career Contessa, Be Leaderly, and other publications and was named a Top Sales Woman to Watch in 2019. She earned her M.Sc. from the University of Oxford and her B.A. from Colorado College. Rakhi is based in New York City.

Rakhi’s Links:

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rakhivoria/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rakhivoria

Forbes articles: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/people/rakhivoria/#48e2218175a1

Women in sales documentary feature:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHAnPbQJSHQ

Learn more about RakhiShow less

E219 – Transcript

Jason: Hello and welcome to the final part of my conversation with Rakhi Voria. If you haven’t checked out episodes one, two and three of this mini series of our conversation. This is  one continuous conversation that we had talking about sales, digital diversity, kind of what it takes to be successful in sales. All of it. This final part, we’re going to wrap it up here and here we go. Part four.

Rakhi: Some people literally to this day even say we’d love for people with competitive sports backgrounds as an example. And right off the bat that probably might actually really make some women not be interested in a sales organization or if they see the word Hunter on the job description. It’s just a very aggressive word. So I think it’s really important to be super intentional, as simple as the job descriptions.

Jason: And since you brought up recruiting, it’s interesting because I had made some notes   before we were going to talk and we’re going to talk about diversity, which we have, and there’s the common diversity kind of approaches for what you want to have within your organization. And we talked about having a diverse background or diverse group of people with sex men and women in the organization at all levels. And then there’s obviously ethnicity, there’s race, nationality, and kind of bringing all these perspectives. Okay. I think one of the most important things which you’ve just touched on is experience as well and it’s having a very diverse workforce and group all parts of the org chart which are diverse with experiences, right? So you come from Microsoft and now you’re at IBM. This person that you just hired was that Starbucks. This other one was working at the mall.

Jason: This other person is maybe competitive sports or in the military, cause I’ve worked with lots of people in the military as well and I think that’s valuable. I think it could be dangerous for organizations when they’re focused on one type of person and that’s very singular and they want this certain background or experience and they’re missing out. You said this very early on in our conversation is the world is changing, the world is more diverse, and so you may like your certain, you know, let’s say an organization likes its certain archetype of what they think a salesperson should be, but then your customers are changing and the people are calling are changing, right? It’s not just, and I’m going to say it, it’s not just white males calling other white males that organizations to sell them stuff, right? Maybe white males calling like yourself, Indian American women to talk about this solution. It’s like, okay, so being diverse and being okay with that. I mean, I think that’d be experiences. I think that’s huge.

Rakhi: Yeah, and I mean diversity spans across so many things. It’s obviously gender, it’s race, but I always encourage people to look at age as well. I mean when we look at some of the customers that we’re selling to, it might very well be a 25 year old CEO and so I think it’s just so important to have sellers who really reflect your customer base and can engage with them in a way that is a little bit more natural than maybe somebody who has been in the industry for a long time. I think it’s really valuable to have both perspectives and I think as long as you have the right investments and enablement in training, you can really teach anyone to do anything as long as they have some of those fundamental skills that we talked about around being able to communicate and listen and all of those important things. The rest of it, you know, I mean I would just sort of throw out whatever traditional notions you have about what to do good seller entails and really be open minded. It might mean some short term trade-offs. You might not get somebody who is selling on day one, but maybe they will be selling on day 31 after a month of the right training and enablement and they might be a better long term fit and solution for your company.

Jason: And depending on what you’re selling, the biggest kind of attribute I used to look for when I was hiring people, especially when dealing directly to consumers, but even business to business is I always looked for potential candidates to come on the team who had some life experiences and some hardships. So it wasn’t that everything was difficult in their life or something catastrophic or terrible had happened. But what I found was to be effective in sales, it’s listening, it’s empathy, you know, it’s understanding the other person, might be going through something you’re selling even if it’s business, a business, right? Talking to that, let’s say VP of marketing about your software solution that’s going to help. Like you still have to understand they’re a person, they have a job, they have a life, they have problems, but you know, they’ve got all these things going on. And I’ve had some really amazing salespeople work for me that were young in age, early twenties but had been through so much stuff in their life that they brought that experience, that empathy, and they just, it was amazing. Right? And I think that’s something that’s missed and hard to kind of recruit for or put on a job description, his life experiences. But I think that’s valuable as well.

Rakhi: I completely agree. I mean, I think people who have persevered in the face of some level of adversity really end up having a good career in sales. I mean, I personally, I think that’s what helped me in some ways. I grew up with a single mom. My dad left when I was very young and she was just amazing. And I saw that women can do everything. And I had two older sisters who helped raise me. And I think that that taught me a lot of things. I grew up at a young age. It taught me to make the best out of what I have, leveraging whatever resources, connections, experiences that I had. And it also taught me to be willing to ask for help because you can’t do it on your own. And I saw that growing up. And I think honestly, part of my story was why the recruiter at Microsoft eventually sort of encouraged me to look at sales because she did even mention you have a strong track record of success. You’ve persevered across a lot of different hardships in situations that you might have been faced with at a young age. And so you have a level of grit that is required to be successful in sales.

Jason: And I think that’s something that a lot of people overlook, whether it’s, well, they get into sales, especially, you know, this conversation about women in sales and their effectiveness and what holds them back. And a lot of them, I think that they’re, cause they’re not a killer, they shouldn’t be in it. But having grit going through things, whether it’s sales or any other profession or career, don’t discount what you’ve been through. I know for myself, I used to beat myself up a lot because my path was very windy. I didn’t go to school for something that I then graduated college and then went into and I had that career for 20 years. Right. Like using that letter, like a kind of, you look at my path, it’s very windy, it’s all over the place. But then what that taught me was a lot of life experiences, a lot of various perspectives on the world. I’ve been handed a lot of grit for sure. And then that’s made me successful now and I think a lot of people feel that same way. It’s like, well, I can’t like go into our recruiting thing. I just work in retail. I can’t do this. But can you bring that experience? Like what have you been through as a person and then apply that to anything in your life and be successful.

Rakhi: Yeah, I mean I think you need grit for every profession, but you really need it when, and when you have a customer who’s maybe telling you no five times in a row or that you’re offering is too expensive or not as good as the competition or whatever it might be.

Jason: Right. I mean that’s the life of sales, which is why you know, a lot of people don’t want to do it or can’t stay in it. And I think going back to something you said a little bit ago about looking at it long term, it’s first determining self-awareness is sales for you. Like once you get into it or you’re looking in the sales is sales for you, is it something you want to do? Self-awareness, like what are your strengths? What can you bring to those conversations? Like you were talking about what it takes to be successful in digital sales and sales in general. I mean a lot of that is self-awareness and bringing that to those conversations. Once you make that decision. What I always tell people, I was like, once you realize sales is for you, just lock in a goal and a timeline of how long you’re going to give it to like figure it out and then be successful and really give it its due because you’re going to get hit in the face a lot and you’re going to fall down a lot. And not just when you’re new, but just constantly. And so you have to have something pushing you and some reason you’re doing it and why you’re going to stay in it long term, right? Whether it’s a year or two years, but just don’t stop too soon.

Rakhi: For sure. Because I think all of those things that make sales really hard actually make it a great profession and a great training ground for you to build a variety of skills. So, I mean we’ve talked a lot about those already. The confidence, grit, perseverance, I mean, yeah. A better way to develop all of those things and by having to build trust with a stranger. But I also tell people all the time that you’re gonna really learn a lot of tangible hard skills. Like how to position, influence, negotiate effectively. You have to be knowledgeable, have answers. And the reality is we’re always, always selling whether, we like to say it out loud or not. I mean, when we’re interviewing for a job we are selling. When we’re convincing someone to go on a date with us, we’re selling.

Jason: Or convincing the person that we’re with to go to a certain movie versus you know, not going to a movie. I mean that’s, you know, I end every episode and I will when we finish this, I mean everything in like the sales. No matter what. Whether you like it or not.

Rakhi: Exactly. So learning how to sell, learning how to sell well, I mean it’s a great thing for everybody to have in their back pocket. And as you said, it’s important to think about how long you want to do anything for. For me, actually I took my sales role and went in a bit of a different direction. It’s actually been a long time since I’ve been in a direct sales role frankly. They started in a direct sales role. I was in front of customers. I loved that. But then I quickly pivoted and went to a more corporate role. I was Microsoft financing America’s business development leader. And so basically my job was to make it so that our financing sellers had what they needed to be successful, whether it was putting an offer in motion or a sales play or making sure they had the right training.

Rakhi: So it was my way to sort of get a little bit away from direct sales, but still deeply engage with sellers and supporting them. Having been a seller myself. And then as you said, I went and helped Microsoft build their digital sales team as the chief of staff to the corporate vice president over there. We hired 2000 people and under three years and now I’m at IBM helping to manage a large sales organization but also evolve it. And so I really encourage people to realize that there isn’t a linear path in sales. You don’t have to start as a seller, then go into management, then be a VP of sales. It is such a transferable and marketable skill and I think you can do really anything with it.

Jason: Final question. Do you ever miss selling and or have you thought recently since IBM putting the headset back on and uh, doing some direct sales?

Rakhi: I do miss it and I realized that actually when I was on my recent Asia tour, so I had a chance to go to Seoul, Korea recently and meet with some of our customers who are exploring different opportunities and it just reminded me how much I missed it actually. So I do get to do a little bit of that here and there. I mean it’s not as frequent as I would probably like to, but anytime I go to one of my sales centers and spend time with the teams, I try to meet with a business partner as well as a customer. So I mean I definitely do see myself maybe at some point going back into that world a little bit more directly. I’ve never had a, I guess, true enterprise sales experience. A lot of it has typically been on the corporate side or commercial space or small, medium size. And so I think maybe it’d be fun to be like a managing director for a large customer or something at some point. Who knows?

Jason: And like you said, you’d never know your path in life and there’s no linear direct exact path you’re going to go. So who knows.

Rakhi: Exactly. Good to be able to find it.

Jason: Thanks for being on the show so that people can find you, I’m going to put the links in the show notes that you’ve given me, but for people listening right now where some good places for them to find you, follow you, see the kind of initiatives you’re working on.

Rakhi: Well, I would say LinkedIn and Twitter are the best ways to connect with me. Also, you can follow me on my Forbes business development council page where you can see the articles I’ve written on some of the topics that we discussed today. So really forward to engaging with this audience and happy to chat anytime on all things sales. 

Jason: Well Rakhi, thank you for being on the show. It has been amazing and I appreciate just interacting with people like yourself that are almost on an opposite end of the spectrum of sales. Yet sales is still sales. So I appreciate everything that, uh, you’re doing to help with that in the world of sales and making it a better place.

Rakhi: Thank you. Same to you.

Jason: And for everyone listening, make sure to go to cutterconsultinggroup.com/podcast where you can listen to these episodes, see the transcripts, and see all of her show notes and links. And as always, keep in mind that everything in life is sales and people remember the experience you give them.

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Apr 30 2020 · 13mins
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[E218] Diversity in Sales with Rakhi Voria – Part 3 of 4

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More of the conversation with Rakhi Voria from IBM. 

Topics we cover:

  • Removing barriers from your prospects to buy
  • Making changes to your sales process
  • Splitting up your sales team into roles

Download The Power of Authentic Persuasion ebook

Enroll in the Authentic Persuasion Online Course

Get help with your sales team

Connect with Jason on LinkedIn

Connect with Rakhi on LinkedIn

Rakhi’s Bio

As the Director of IBM Global Digital Sales Development, Rakhi Voria manages a team that is responsible for the strategy, implementation, and revenue of the Digital Sales Development (DSD) function globally. Within the DSD sales force, there are ~350 Digital Development Representatives and Business Development Representatives responsible for driving client engagement, deal progression, and closure of select deals. Rakhi previously worked at Microsoft and most recently served as the Chief of Staff to the Corporate Vice President of WW Inside Sales, where she played a key role in building a new digital sales force for Microsoft, growing the team to 2,000 digital sellers globally and the business to over $5B in under 3 years.

Rakhi has a strong passion for advancing women in sales and millennials in business and regularly shares her thoughts on these topics by speaking at conferences and writing publications in Forbes as a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. She currently serves as Executive Co-Chair of Women@IBM NYC, which is focused on attracting, retaining, and advancing women. At Microsoft, she was Co-Chair of the Women@Microsoft Board, a network of over 20,000 women across 15 regional chapters globally.

Rakhi has been featured in Geekwire, The Seattle Times, Vizaca, Career Contessa, Be Leaderly, and other publications and was named a Top Sales Woman to Watch in 2019. She earned her M.Sc. from the University of Oxford and her B.A. from Colorado College. Rakhi is based in New York City.

Rakhi’s Links:

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rakhivoria/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rakhivoria

Forbes articles: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/people/rakhivoria/#48e2218175a1

Women in sales documentary feature:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHAnPbQJSHQ

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E218 – Transcript

Jason: Alright. Welcome back to the sales experience podcast. Welcome to part three of my conversation with Rakhi Voria. She is an amazing, powerful global digital sales leader. Please make sure to follow her online, interact with her if you feel that you know the stuff that she’s providing. It makes sense for you. She’s all about diversity and then also effective, honest, great sales experience as we touch on when talking about the sales experience. If you haven’t made sure to listen to parts one and two, here you go. Here’s part three of my conversation with Rakhi.

Rakhi: We would really want to help customers achieve their own business outcomes, but we want to do it in a way that is as seamless as possible for them to engage with us. And I think the more barriers that we can remove in terms of getting out the information to them as quickly as possible, tailoring the conversation to them as much as possible, showing them as many references, use cases that are actually relevant to the industry that they’re in. I think that’s really what it means to support a customer.

Jason: That’s great. And, uh, I think all of that is very valuable and it’s so fascinating. As I’m listening to you talk, there were so many vital things in there. So if you listen to that, make sure to replay that over and over again because I agree with everything you’ve said there. No need to recap any of that now for your role, let’s say IBM specific where you’re at now, what kind of initiatives or things have you kind of either put in place or helped mold or change in the digital sales role to kind of achieve that vision of that sales experience on your end?

Rakhi: Well, I joined IBM about a year ago, so I just came up on my one year anniversary and we’ve made a lot of changes over the past year. I mean, I think during my first six months I spent a lot of time learning and listening and doing my big world tour and having a chance to really sit with our sellers, our managers side by side with them, understanding what’s working, what’s not, which tools are best, which ones are falling short, where do they need help? And I encourage anyone who’s listening who is maybe moving to a new company or a new role to really invest in that time. I think for me, I struggled with that a little bit because on the one hand I wanted to be viewed as somebody who genuinely did want to learn and to understand how the business worked. On the other hand, I think especially coming externally, there is this pressure to make some changes pretty quickly and people are sort of wondering, okay, well what are you going to put your stamp on in this organization?

Rakhi: We’re expecting some level of change and transformation and I just encourage people to really be thoughtful in those changes. I mean, if things are working, just because you’re new doesn’t mean you have to change things. Maybe you change one thing instead of five. For me, I would say that there were several things that were working quite well actually. I think the team has made a lot of strides over the past few years. Several metrics were doing really well, but I did see an opportunity to just sort of streamline some of the activities that our sellers were doing. So I think as I had described, the team was really the first line of contact that IBM had with a customer. It was a mix of inbound, outbound, a lot of different plays, sellers across all different business units, all different geographies. And I think one of the challenges was, we had asked our teams to do too many things. 

Rakhi: We are trying to be everything to everyone. And when you do that, it’s really hard to scale versus when you’re really focused on something in particular. So we had some of the most sharp sellers I’ve ever seen. I mean, they’re so well trained, they’re so fabulous, but we almost need to help, help them get certain roadblocks out of their way in order to be able to succeed. So there’s a few changes that we implemented just recently, so I’ll have to see if it all works so far. But one of the things is we actually split inbound and outbound. So when I first came into the role, we spent a lot of time doing some industry analysis, looking at how IBM digital development functions sort of compared to the industry across a variety of dimensions. So workload skills, organizational design, compensation models, etc.

Rakhi: And one of the things that really caught my eye was how many people in the industry have split inbound and outbound? There’s an article from 2019 by Topo that was the benchmark report. They said that 59% of the industry has already moved to this model. It seems to yield better results when you help sellers build confidence in skill. Inbound sellers can become more product savvy. Outbound sellers can truly learn how to prospect and work on white space and upsell and cross sell and everything. So we decided to deploy that model actually. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do it everywhere just because of critical mass and language and geo complexities. But that’s one of the things that we did. And then a couple of other changes that we made is we’ve actually made it so that the sellers have more of an opportunity to progress and close deals themselves.

Rakhi: Prior to this change, they were more of the lead generation team and creating a lot of opportunities, sometimes passing themselves, oftentimes passing to somebody else for closure, although they would stay kind of in lock step with those opportunity owners. But now we’ve really sort of expanded their ability to actually progress, reheat, nurture deals because again, they’re the first line of contact with the customer. And so ideally you would want to be with that customer throughout that cycle versus having too many handoffs and just making it as easy as possible for them to interact with as few people as possible to get them what they need. So yeah, we’re very excited about those changes and really looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.

Jason: Well, and I think those are interesting changes and amazing and I appreciate the fact that even as a large organization and wanting to make those changes, because usually with bigger organizations, it’s a big ship that’s slow to turn. And I appreciate the fact that you’re getting in there and whoever’s supporting you is putting some of those initiatives in place. I totally agree with you about having that first point of contact being the one who kind of takes more and more of the relationship. Obviously if it’s like a just an inbound who’s then forwarding it onto more of the seller salesperson, that’s one thing, but I know from my experience for ever, typically the person that the customer, the prospect talks to first if they want to keep moving forward in the conversations, it’s because they trust that person. They like that person. They have a rapport with that initial contact.

Jason: And it’s actually sometimes really hard to replicate that down the chain even with handoffs because that person has stuck with them. I know a long time ago I was in a business with a partner of mine. If he got a phone call first and then I tried to take over that rest of that sale and transaction, they would either always ask for him and want to talk to him or it would just feel weird and it was vice versa. It was amazing how like that first person that they talked to was the person that kind of, I wouldn’t say bonded with but like trusted because they were willing to talk more.

Rakhi: Yeah, and I think that’s a very natural thing for a prospect to want to do.

Jason: Yeah, and then the other part that I appreciate, and obviously I got people who are listening to this of all size organizations, a lot of them are small and they can’t justify it, but I support that same method of the inbound versus the outbound sales teams. Partially because it’s two different personalities that are going to be successful at those. There are people who can do both, right? Like I’m sure you could do both. I can do both. I know a lot of sales professionals who could do both even within the same day and back to back conversations, but really the value in my experience tell me yours is that when you separate inbound and outbound, then it allows people to just focus on those conversations and that approach and those relationships which are completely different. And like you’re saying is being more focused instead of kind of broad but being more narrow with your sellers and salespeople. More of a sniper than a shotgun. Just trying to be everything to everybody but just like, okay, how do you do this one thing and do it really well and then as a machine, how do we feed you with as many of those opportunities as possible so you can just do what you do best in this moment?

Rakhi: I agree. I mean I think inbound and outbound are very, very different sales motions and require a different profile and that’s exactly why we made this change and in addition to really being able to focus sellers and help them really build that competence of skill that we talked about, I think it also then gives you the opportunity to really improve and optimize the actual activities that they’re doing. So I mean splitting inbound and outbound was the first step of what has been and will continue to be a journey for us as we kind of evolve the organization. But now what we’re really doing is looking at, okay, what are all of the things that an inbound rep did? What are all of the things that an outbound rep did? What are the things we could stop doing? What are the things that are working that we want to double down on? Where do they maybe need more support or messaging or scripts, or what is it within that actual process of the activities that they’re doing that might not be working or that has the opportunity to get better. And then actually investing in those channels too.

Jason: Right. And I think when you do that, which I’m sure you’ve found that there’s some stuff that you’re just cutting out that are unnecessary, but then, like you said, doubling down on the things that do work and how do you do more of it than how do you support that with systems, with processes, with technology so that they can do it. It’s so interesting how many times I’ve seen an organization in the past where they have somebody trying to do both. They’re doing outbound, they’re doing cold calls, they’re power dialing there, doing mass email. They’re doing whatever on the outbound business development, SDR, BDR, even if it’s for themselves as a sales executive, they’re in this hunting kind of attack mode and then you serve up an inbound lead where somebody started this conversation maybe online and then they’re the ones reaching out. You want to serve them and meet them where they are and you have this Hunter killer who’s just still in this hunting mode, get on the phone or interact with somebody who’s just like ready to get help and just wants to be kind of nurtured and, and understood and ask questions but just literally destroy that conversation cause they’re moving at a completely different pace then what was necessary for that inbound.

Rakhi: Yup. For sure.

Jason: Yeah. I’ve seen a lot of money being spent on leads that are wasted by not having them split. And again, if you’re listening to this, the sooner you can or the better you can split those into different groups, the outbound, the inbound and then you might even find, you know, within those subcategories, right. The outbound for the opening and the outbound for like the actual moving the conversations. And those are two different groups of people sometimes. So in terms of digital, again, your life has been spent digital as far as your careers at Microsoft and IBM. Mine has not. So I’m just fascinated with you in the digital sales realm, what does it take or what kind of salespeople are successful in that? There’s obviously the common things in sales, and you even mentioned it earlier when we were talking about women in sales and success in sales in general, but what does it take for someone to be successful in digital sales? Like what kind of attributes do you see for that or activities?

Rakhi: You know, honestly, I think it is really the same as what you would expect for face to face. I mean, you obviously need to be a good listener. You need to be somebody who is asking a lot of questions. You need to be professional regardless of if you’re home on your video or in person, you need to be an effective communicator. Just because you’re not sitting physically in front of a customer doesn’t mean you’re only talking to them via email. I mean you’re often probably talking to them on the phone, on video, etc. So I think all of those things that make a face to face seller successful are absolutely critical for digital sales as well. That being said, I think there are things that really set digital sellers apart. For example, um, really being well versed in the art of social selling. So really being able to leverage things like LinkedIn sales navigator and being trained in social selling.

Rakhi: I know a lot of companies now invest in that to make sure that every single rep really knows how to prospect with people well, whether it’s on LinkedIn or via email or not. Some of those blanket things that you had mentioned that you get a lot of earlier. And I do myself and I mean I think nowadays like sellers are getting so, so creative in the way that they do that and they’re using Twitter and Instagram and all of these things and the lines are really blurring between your professional life as a seller and your personal life as a human being. And I think that’s a good thing. I mean, I actually have a seller of mine in Canada and she is really obsessed with the show, the bachelor, and she has this Twitter account, thousands and thousands of followers. Where, she tweets about the bachelor on Monday nights when it plays.

Rakhi: And she’s actually engaged several customers through that. Customers who like the bachelor and she makes a lot of jokes about comparisons between the show as well as IBM solutions. And she makes jokes about it and she’s like, well, you know, you need to get IBM security or systems or whatever. And I don’t know how she came up with this creativity, but I love it. And I just think obviously you want to coach your sellers to be representatives of your company. To be professional in every endeavor, your brand. But I think we are sometimes almost too afraid of just showing our whole self. And that’s really what customers want to see nowadays. They want to see that you’re a real person and that you get it. So I think all of those things are really important. But then when it comes to actually recruiting, I would also love to offer a few tips on that because I think unfortunately so many sales teams really recruit from a lot of traditional sources.

Rakhi: And I have found that some of my best hires are from really non traditional places like the military as an example, I found people who have come from the military to be very relentless, focused. They have a sense of comradery, teaming and just sportsmanship. And I think all of those things are actually really great for sales. Retail could be a great place, even if you’re an enterprise tech company. I’ve actually had situations where I’ve recruited people from like a local Starbucks as an example just because they’re that good. So I think you have to really widen the talent pool, keep an eye out any and everywhere, especially if you want to recruit diverse people who might not naturally consider roles in sales and just really create an environment that fosters inclusiveness so that they want to join your organization. And that takes a lot of effort, unfortunately, but it’s well worth it.

Rakhi: So I think things like even really going through your job descriptions and red lining them and making sure that you’re using the right verbiage to attract the right candidate. A lot of people post a lot of things around requiring certain sales experience or some people, literally to this day, even say we’d love for people with competitive sports backgrounds as an example. And right off the bat, that probably might actually really make some women not be interested in a sales organization or if they see the word Hunter on the job description. It’s just a very aggressive word. So I think it’s really important to be super intentional, as simple as the job descriptions.

Jason: Alright. That’s it for part three. Thanks again for listening to this. Make sure to come back tomorrow for the final part of the conversation. As always, keep in mind that everything in life is sales. People remember the experience you gave them.

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Apr 29 2020 · 15mins
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[E217] Diversity in Sales with Rakhi Voria – Part 2 of 4

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Part 2 of the conversation with Rakhi Voria, from IBM.

We continue to talk about the impact of digital sales (which is really anything other than face to face) and how that fits in with each sales process, and LifeTime Value of customers. 

We also talk about meeting your customers where they want to be as a way to trust you.

Download The Power of Authentic Persuasion ebook

Enroll in the Authentic Persuasion Online Course

Get help with your sales team

Connect with Jason on LinkedIn

Connect with Rakhi on LinkedIn

Rakhi’s Bio

As the Director of IBM Global Digital Sales Development, Rakhi Voria manages a team that is responsible for the strategy, implementation, and revenue of the Digital Sales Development (DSD) function globally. Within the DSD sales force, there are ~350 Digital Development Representatives and Business Development Representatives responsible for driving client engagement, deal progression, and closure of select deals. Rakhi previously worked at Microsoft and most recently served as the Chief of Staff to the Corporate Vice President of WW Inside Sales, where she played a key role in building a new digital sales force for Microsoft, growing the team to 2,000 digital sellers globally and the business to over $5B in under 3 years.

Rakhi has a strong passion for advancing women in sales and millennials in business and regularly shares her thoughts on these topics by speaking at conferences and writing publications in Forbes as a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. She currently serves as Executive Co-Chair of Women@IBM NYC, which is focused on attracting, retaining, and advancing women. At Microsoft, she was Co-Chair of the Women@Microsoft Board, a network of over 20,000 women across 15 regional chapters globally.

Rakhi has been featured in Geekwire, The Seattle Times, Vizaca, Career Contessa, Be Leaderly, and other publications and was named a Top Sales Woman to Watch in 2019. She earned her M.Sc. from the University of Oxford and her B.A. from Colorado College. Rakhi is based in New York City.

Rakhi’s Links:

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rakhivoria/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rakhivoria

Forbes articles: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/people/rakhivoria/#48e2218175a1

Women in sales documentary feature:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHAnPbQJSHQ

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E217 – Transcript

Jason: Alright. Welcome to part two of my conversation with Rakhi Voria. Make sure that you subscribe. You can catch all these episodes. This is a four part series, so listen to all of them together. Here you go. Part two of my conversation with Rakhi.

Rakhi Voria: So I think there’s a lot of different ways that you can go to market. It goes to the type of company that you are, the type of companies that you’re trying to recruit to and also just trying different methods that work depending on what that audience looks like.

Jason: And I know for me in my beginning stages of my sales career, I don’t know if this was like it for you, but when I first started it was face to face sales. So I was in the mortgage business. The guy I worked for, he said okay when the phone rings, set an appointment as quickly as possible, meet them face to face and do that because it’s all about face to face, building, rapport, building trust, having a relationship and then you can move it to phone calls after that. And then I remember years later doing a phone-only-based sales thing and that was like a radical shift for me because I didn’t think that was possible based on how I was raised, where it’s face to face and reading body language and then shifting to this phone only. And I think that’s a valid point that you’re saying is, see that the world’s evolving and then also understand where your customers are at and that the old way of doing it might not be as necessary, right?

Jason: Like there’s people who literally right now are buying cars digitally better than being spit out by a vending machine type of setup, right? Where literally there’s just a vending machine stack of cars. This is in the U S and then cars are just getting popped out and then you go pick up your car and that’s it. Right? Versus the old model of this battle on a car lot with salespeople. So I think that’s a great reminder of kind of being adaptable and shifting. And if, obviously if IBM and Microsoft, some big beasts can do it, then most people if you want to, you can adjust.

Rakhi: Sure. And I think the reality is even if you’re a face to face seller, you’re probably segmenting your customers already. I saw a lot of people doing that in my sales roles, including myself. I mean even when I was a face to face seller, you can’t always touch every single customer. A lot of people adopt 80 20 type of rule. 80% of your customers you’re probably going to engage with via digital methods, 20% maybe some of the top tier opportunities. You’re going to have to focus on doing more of that in person, face to face. So even people who are face to face I think are faced with some of those challenges and tradeoffs that they have to make because the reality is your portfolio is probably getting bigger and bigger and you’re going to have to prioritize.

Jason: So for prioritizing. It’s interesting because obviously there’re the easy people who are responsive that you want to talk to better interacting well, like the easy people that you enjoy talking to, but then there’s the ones that make sense. What are some tips that you think as far as prioritizing for a salesperson for that 80 20 or how they break that down or somebody unaware of who that is for them? They’re doing it intuitively, but they actually don’t have a framework around that. What do you suggest for people to do?

Rakhi: That’s a tough question. It truly depends on what your business goals are at any given time. So I think that’s why it’s so important to work with your manager or to understand what are your targets, what are you being goaled against, et cetera. So for some people it might be as simple as revenue, and so you obviously want to get as much revenue as quickly as possible and you’re going to gravitate to some of those largest opportunities. For other people, like companies like mine, you might have different metrics and KPIs around new customer acquisition as an example or customer success types of things where you’re trying to actually expand a company’s footprint versus actually targeting someone who could be a new client for the company. So I think in general it’s really important to understand what your personal business goals are for your division, for your organization so that you can prioritize accordingly.

Rakhi: But I mean at the end of the day, I think revenue tends to be King for most sales then that’s the reality of it. I would encourage people to think about things from a longer term perspective. One of the challenges that I see with sellers who are obviously motivated by targets and attainment and everything rightfully so, is sometimes they’re unfortunately more focused on the short term game. And the reality is, I mean there’s so much data out there that obviously shows that one purchase leads to two leads to three leads to four, etc. And so it’s important to harness customers as quickly as possible. But at the same time I think it’s also being okay with managers coaching sellers to maybe take the brakes off a little bit. Take your time, really build kind of a left to right 360 view offering for a customer because if you actually ended up taking that time you might end up with a larger deal and something that’s a lot more strategic for your company.

Jason: And selling to that person in the proper way for them, not just for you, not just for your pressure, not just your quotas and numbers and goals cause you can really I wouldn’t say destroy, I mean that’s possible but you can really like harm or cause a deal to either not be as good or not happen now because of that pressure. If somebody’s thinking short term, they’re thinking, okay I need to meet these numbers or I need to make this commission or I have this kind of inherent incentive that’s going on or this pressure from my managers. It can make people make poor decisions in the short term like you’re saying, which I think is a great reminder versus long term. Right. Long Term is about referrals. It’s about more farming versus hunting, not just hunting as in killing, but like hunting is how do I eat today? Farming is what do I plant so that in a year from now or in six months from now, like literally I’m just pulling fruit off of trees instead of having to run around in the wild and hopefully find something.

Rakhi: For sure. And I think it matters even more for people who are typically in business development, sales development types of roles. So the organization that I’m responsible for is the digital sales development organization as you mentioned. And the sellers within my organization are often the first line of contact that a customer will typically ever have with IBM. And they’re catching a lot of the inbound responses that are coming through our digital channels and their prospecting. And because of that, they’re really the custodian of the IBM experience and we get to shape whether or not a customer chooses us versus another solution. So with that becomes an even more significant amount of responsibility to ensure that we’re engaging with the right touch at the right time. As I had mentioned and now it matters more than ever because digital seems to be one of the only ways that we can engage given the environment

Jason: And then the long term thinking is interesting and when you talk about it, right? Like I think a lot about referrals and what you’re talking about is true as well, which is one sale leads to another, not just referrals but with that same client. And I think one of the important things obviously from business owners and managers too, help sales reps think long term is the lifetime value of those clients. What that’s worth long term instead of just worrying about, okay, what can I get today? Like what is somebody worth? And not just like monetarily but when it’s set up right and the relationships because somebody is thinking too short term like you’re saying and their first interactions or the conversation or the pressure or they’re pushing someone to buy, then that person might not stay with the company very long or might not have a great experience. And that could be actually worse than getting the sale. Like not even getting the sale in the first place. Sometimes you can bring people on board in the wrong ways that will actually hurt you as a company.

Rakhi: For sure.

Jason: So let’s talk about your global experience, which I think is fascinating cause I don’t have that. So I have experience working with some companies consulting wise internationally, but not selling like you do. How do you see that? Because I have people listening to this podcast all over the world. What variations you see the way maybe it’s done in America versus other countries, whether it’s digital or things like that. Is there things that you see that vary, there’s some things that you know pretty much consistent from your experience?

Rakhi: Yes. I mean being in a global role has really taught me a lot. Basically I’ve had a chance to see how different cultures do business, how we’re able to conduct business in different places and I really encourage people if they have the opportunity at some point in their career, especially in a sales organization to try to get a global role. Because I think as much as you want to drive global consistency, standardization across tools, processes, playbooks, etc, when you actually go into the geographies and have a chance to spend time with your sellers, your managers, your customers, even you really see that there is a lot of variants and rightfully so. So we have to really be thoughtful about what are the things that we need to truly mandate across the globe to ensure that we have some level of consistency, but where do we want to localize our offerings, our go to market, the way we engage with customers so that we can actually approach them in a way that makes sense for them.

Rakhi: So I’d say that there are a lot of different things that we see, especially in Asia. There’s some interesting things. For example, in China, a lot of people do business over we chat, so it’s basically their version of kind of WhatsApp. And a lot of my sellers engage with each other on WeChat. I have a manager who every day sends trainings, tips and tricks, etc, on the WeChat group, for our inside sales team at IBM. I see people texting their clients on WeChat as well. So that’s obviously very different than what you might see in another geography. One thing I found was interesting as I had a chance to meet my team in Bangalore a couple of months ago, and they were saying that basically the culture of doing business in India is typically on the third time that you engage with a customer, they typically want to meet you even if you’re a digital seller.

Rakhi: And a lot of that is because there tends to be some false advertising in India where people are pretending to be other companies or maybe they’re a business partner or something like that. And so there’s all kinds of challenges. So I think because of that mentality, there are certain customers who just don’t feel as comfortable moving forward and having deeper discussions unless they’ve actually face to face, perhaps met the representative or the seller from your organization. And so for those reasons, we have to really be thoughtful and think about, well, where can we afford to maybe put a person face to face versus where do we want to continue to have a digital conversation? And really just sort of making sure that you’re understanding the climate and culture of every place. Because the reality is, even though I’m Indian, I spent my whole life living and working and growing up in the United States. And so I have to really rely on my local teams and managers to educate me on how to do business there.

Jason: Right. And if you guys had built a process that says like, no face to face meetings, digital means digital, that’s it. Then you’d have this segment in India where you probably lose a lot of opportunities in business because you’re trying to do it one way instead of meeting the local needs of people. And I think it’s interesting too, when you balance that where, you know, a lot of times sales reps have this idea of they need to do like, I gotta do this, or I gotta send emails. That’s how I close deals. Balancing that as a leader and a manager of, okay, so when is sending emails or meeting someone face to face necessary to get the deal done? Or just the sales reps excuse for the way they do it instead of moving deals forward.

Rakhi: Right.

Jason: So let’s talk about the sales experience. So obviously that’s the name of my show, it’s the sales experience podcast and we’ll talk about big enterprise sales because that’s what you’ve been doing for so long and are familiar with. And digital sales. What does a great sales experience look like?

Rakhi: Wow, that’s a great question. I would say that a great sales experience looks like helping a customer achieve their business outcomes, whether or not it’s what we wanted to sell them. So I think there’s so many times here where we go into conversations and we think, Oh, this person came and talked to us about X, Y, Z. And so we naturally want to sell them a certain offering or whatever. And then the more you unpeel and have conversations with their line of business owners and the CTO and the CIO and sometimes even HR and other resources that you might not naturally connect with, the more you realize that there’s actually more of a holistic discussion that needs happen. And that might end in closing of a sale, which ideally like that’s what my favorite sales experience would look like, but it might lead to something else.

Rakhi:

I mean it might lead to them introducing us to another company where we could help at my open up an opportunity where we’ve helped a certain division and then they open up the doors for a different division that you want to support. So I would say that ultimately, I mean ideally we would really want to help customers achieve their own business outcomes, but we want to do it in a way that is as seamless as possible for them to engage with us. And I think the more barriers that we can remove in terms of getting out the information to them as quickly as possible, tailoring the conversation to them as much as possible, showing them as many references, use cases that are actually relevant to the industry that they’re in. I think that’s really what it means to support a customer.

Jason: Alright. That’s it for part two. Again, make sure to subscribe. You can go to the cutterconsultinggroup.com and find the transcripts and all of Rakhi’s links. As always, keep in mind that everything in life is sales people. Remember the experience, you get them.

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Apr 28 2020 · 13mins
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[E216] Diversity in Sales with Rakhi Voria – Part 1 of 4

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Rakhi Voria, the current Director of IBM Global Digital Sales Development, has gone from selling lemonade as a kid to global sales leader and champion for diversity. 

In this series we talk about diversity in the world of sales, to building out global digital sales teams and processes.

Some gems:
“There’s actually a lot of statistics out there that say that women are better at sales than men.”

“I think the traditional notions of what makes a person successful has really changed.”

“We have to get really, really crystal clear about what we’re selling, who we’re selling to, what their needs are, where they are in the industry.”

Download The Power of Authentic Persuasion ebook

Enroll in the Authentic Persuasion Online Course

Get help with your sales team

Connect with Jason on LinkedIn

Connect with Rakhi on LinkedIn

Rakhi’s Bio

As the Director of IBM Global Digital Sales Development, Rakhi Voria manages a team that is responsible for the strategy, implementation, and revenue of the Digital Sales Development (DSD) function globally. Within the DSD sales force, there are ~350 Digital Development Representatives and Business Development Representatives responsible for driving client engagement, deal progression, and closure of select deals. Rakhi previously worked at Microsoft and most recently served as the Chief of Staff to the Corporate Vice President of WW Inside Sales, where she played a key role in building a new digital sales force for Microsoft, growing the team to 2,000 digital sellers globally and the business to over $5B in under 3 years.

Rakhi has a strong passion for advancing women in sales and millennials in business and regularly shares her thoughts on these topics by speaking at conferences and writing publications in Forbes as a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. She currently serves as Executive Co-Chair of Women@IBM NYC, which is focused on attracting, retaining, and advancing women. At Microsoft, she was Co-Chair of the Women@Microsoft Board, a network of over 20,000 women across 15 regional chapters globally.

Rakhi has been featured in Geekwire, The Seattle Times, Vizaca, Career Contessa, Be Leaderly, and other publications and was named a Top Sales Woman to Watch in 2019. She earned her M.Sc. from the University of Oxford and her B.A. from Colorado College. Rakhi is based in New York City.

Rakhi’s Links:

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rakhivoria/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rakhivoria

Forbes articles: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/people/rakhivoria/#48e2218175a1

Women in sales documentary feature:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHAnPbQJSHQ

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E216 – Transcript

Jason: Hi, welcome to the sales experience podcast. On today’s episode I have Rakhi Voria. She is currently the director of IBM global digital sales development, which is a mouthful. She’s previously helped build digital sales at Microsoft to a team of over 2000 digital sellers globally. She’s also a member of Forbes Business Development Council, Executive Co-chair of Women at IBM and YC, which she also had a similar role at Microsoft in the past. Rakhi, welcome to the sales experience podcast.

Rakhi: Thank you. Jason’s pleasure to be here.

Jason: So here you are having developed yourself as a kid from selling lemonade to a global sales leader and there’s so many topics that I want to talk about and just see where this conversation is going to go because you have had such a diverse kind of background and different path than I know for myself, I’m inside sales, telephone sales person, mostly consumer. Here you are focused mostly on digital sales, business, kind of big brand names, Microsoft, IBM and then also doing it on a global scale. And so let’s first start with the topic of diversity in sales and kind of what that means to you and what you’re focused on and how you think that helps with success in sales.

Rakhi: Sure. Well, I am usually passionate about having diversity in sales and particularly getting more women into sales and I think part of it is because of my own personal story. I myself fell into sales. I was not targeting a sales role when I applied to work at Microsoft straight out of graduate school, I applied for a marketing position and it was the recruiter actually who put me in the queue for sales and she said, you know, I think you listen intently. You communicate effectively, you have a consistent track record of success. All of those things are really important when it comes to sales, and I think I had this visceral reaction at the time. I sorta said, Oh my gosh, I would never go into sales. It’s so masculine, so competitive. I don’t have the personality for it. I’m not aggressive enough. But the recruiter was right.

Rakhi: I actually ended up loving my first sales role. It was a licensing sales specialist and I was actually really good at it. And so I think for so many different reasons, a lot of women tend to hold themselves back from sales positions. And I think a lot of people who might not necessarily fit certain characteristics of what a seller should “look like”. But I think it’s now more important than ever for so many different reasons. I mean, first of all, when you think about your customer base, the reality is we want to be able to emulate what our customers look like and our customers want to feel like they can engage with us and that we have empathy for them. And I think when it comes to women in sales in particular, there are a lot of reasons why women should go into sales.

Rakhi: First of all, women are really good at it. And so there’s actually a lot of statistics out there that say that women are better at sales than men. In fact, there’s also a lot of studies out there about how diversity is better for the bottom line. They say that companies with a higher number of diverse board directors have 42% higher return on sales compared to companies without that diversity on their board. So I think there’s a lot out there in terms of it just being better for the bottom line, but there’s also a lot out there on how it’s just the right thing to do.

Jason: Yeah, and it’s so fascinating that you talk about how women can be better at sales because in my experience, the top sales reps on most teams are women and not just because they have the killer thing, which is what I want to talk to you about as well. Right? It’s not that classic killer sales kind of approach, but just because when they get it and they can ask questions and they can listen and then move people forward. I think one of the biggest advantages that women have from all the successful ones I’ve seen in sales is that there’s no movies about women ripping people off in sales, which I’ve mentioned many times on the show in the past and I think that’s valuable where the stereotype is, if I, for example, if I’m calling somebody and it’s a sales type of interaction where I’m trying to sell to somebody, there’s going to be some level of guard that’s going to be up because they’re gonna think I’m out to sell them something for my own game. And when a woman calls somebody or is talking to someone about sales, it just generally the wall is down and it feels more like somebody who’s trying to help without those kinds of barriers.

Rakhi: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think women have characteristics and skills that make them a very natural fit for sales. Like the ability to build trust or nurture relationships and listen and provide recommendations and all of the things that you just described.

Jason: Yeah. And then what’s interesting is that I know, you know, and this is probably what happened to you when you were not getting into our resisting it, when you wanted to go for the marketing role, is that thinking that to be successful in sales, you have to be this killer or you have to be this natural born salesperson or this person who’s going to manipulate or lie or push people to do things that they don’t want to do. When in fact, I mean, I think we’re both in alignment with this is that’s actually not what it takes to be successful. Long term, short term. Yes, you can do some shady stuff, but long term, no. And what the world needs is the opposite of those classic sales kinds of approaches.

Rakhi: That’s true. And I think even today, there’s still some times, unfortunately just a bad reputation that sales gets, I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book To Sell is Human by Dan Pink, but he asked individuals to describe what they think of when they hear the word sales. And the main adjectives were pushy, annoying, manipulative, dishonest. So I think those are words that no woman or man frankly wants to be associated with. And clearly there’s still a bias when it comes to sales, regardless of gender, frankly.

Jason: Yeah. Well, and that’s really the basis of my podcast, this show is to make that transition, help people realize like they can be successful in sales, which is why the stuff that you’re doing on a global ambassador standpoint, I think it’s so important because the more we can shift the way sales is done and how people view themselves as a salesperson know, the more we can eventually shift that perception of sales.

Rakhi: Absolutely.

Jason: So let’s talk about that, aspects of salespeople need to be a killer versus not. I mean, you’ve done some interviews and I’ve seen some videos where you’ve talked about that. Expand on that more in what you’re seeing kind of in digital sales or sales in general? You know.

Rakhi: Yeah, I mean I think the traditional notion of sales in general has really changed. And even the way that we sell and go to market has really changed. Customers have really shifted their desire to engage with companies from in person to digital engagement. We’ve seen a lot of data in the industry about that. A lot of teams that are building inside and digital skills, skills and organizations and everything to be able to, essentially meet customers where they are and help them with the right touch at the right time with the right insights and their digital journey. But I would say, I mean I think the traditional notions of what makes a person successful has really changed. It is the ability to show empathy, to listen, to be able to really understand what a company needs before actually essentially sharing what your offering is. And that’s too often what I think we see just too much of its people sort of going in with a mission.

Rakhi: We all have targets. I get it. I personally have a target, but the reality is it’s more about going to market with a conversation about your overall solutions versus one specific thing. That’s something we’ve thought a lot about at IBM, frankly. We actually recently have made some changes to the way that we sell and we think about things more from a conversation’s perspective versus a specific offering because so many of our different offerings actually come together as one. And so we’ve been training our sellers quite a bit on how to have those cross conversation discussions with people in a way that really asks them about what they need and how we can position our things to them versus being so aggressive and using that killer mentality that you described

Jason: And with your product and with a lot of things that I know with the companies I work with, what they have to sell is something complex, right? That’s why there’s some interaction and it’s not just an order that can be placed online. Yes, there’s digital sales that happen in all things. There’s an option for that, but a lot of times there needs to be some kind of conversation, some kind of discovery, some kind of solution-based prescription and diagnosis if you will. And I think that’s really where the value of salespeople comes in is not giving information or spewing out, like you said, where they start out talking about themselves, like the classic sales process. Especially if you’ve ever been to a trade show or walked up to a booth or gotten a phone call from somebody and they’re just spitting out monologues of information and telling you how great they are instead, asking questions and using discovery and trying to figure out what the solution is and then seeing the whole kind of catalog or buffet like you’re saying, of what else is in the solutions. What else can help that person with the goal of helping them, not selling them just this widget, but helping them get to a better place.

Rakhi: Yeah, and today I think things are still too vague. We have to get really, really crystal clear about what we’re selling, who we’re selling to, what their needs are, where they are in the industry. I think the best thing that salespeople can do is come up with customer references that are relevant. I can’t tell you how many times I have people who are trying to sell to me and they tell me something about something that’s in a completely different industry or a tiny startup. And I have to remind them while I work at a really big enterprise tech company, our needs are different, our desires are different. We have a lot of challenges that may be a small, a little bit more agile company, it might not have. And so I think the more we can really cater our messaging and tailoring it to the specific person that we’re talking to, even at an individual level, the better off we’ll be.

Jason: Which makes total sense. And I think that’s a valuable tip for anyone listening is be careful who you’re selling. I mean, I get that all the time on LinkedIn messages where people are just shotgunning messages to me and offering to help me grow my business without any idea of what I do or what I need or what I want. And I can imagine that same thing. I mean, you work at IBM, it’s a big company. If you know, I’m telling you some kind of easy solution or expecting you to make even a quick answer, quick buying decision, then it’s just not gonna work.

Rakhi: Absolutely.

Jason: So when you’re talking about there’s the process, it’s interesting because when I hear you talking about it, like I said, I’ve always been an inside sales, telephone sales person and leader. You’re on the digital side, right? But you also mentioned both is having that conversation, the digital, the phone, some kind of interaction, whether it’s online, but I think the valuable part that you said, which I appreciate and I’m always doing my part to not just focus on, just tell them everything’s gotta be telephone sales, right? It’s about a holistic solution. But really that point that you made about meeting people where they’re at or where they want to be in their buying journey, what are some of the things that you’ve developed with that? Or what would you suggest for a company or sales leaders in developing that? Let’s say if they’re starting out with one thing that they’ve only do face to face or they only do phone sales and not just all digital, but just a whole package of that selling journey.

Rakhi: Sure. I think it really does vary across industries and across size of companies, so it’s important for every single person who’s listening to really think about what will work best for you. For me, I mean I’ll share my experience. Having worked at two very large technology companies, both Microsoft and now IBM, I think we have both still to this day. There’s a certain level of client who does require more onsite experience services and really hand holding and understanding and feeling the technology and having resources who are on premises regularly trying to help them adopt their technology, use their technology, trying to make connections between where maybe the second purchase might be if they’ve already invested in one thing, how do we make it even better or bigger for them? Whereas we have several other companies, whether it’s small or large or whatever it might be, who truly do prefer engaging via digital methods, whether that’s over the phone or on video conference or whatever it might be.

Rakhi: So part of it is just really having to understand your client base and depending on what their needs are, their size are, you can really have to think about just sort of what is the best way to get to them. I’ve experienced some very, very large enterprise customers who they themselves don’t necessarily care about having face to face engagement anymore. And so I think the world has really changed. There’s a lot of data on this. There was a study that came out a year ago by insidesales.com that said, even the number of account executives who are field sellers, the amount of time that they spend selling remotely has actually increased by 89% over the past four years, which means that even field sellers are actually now engaging with their customers more and more over the phone. They’re typically working out of their home offices like you and I are right now. So I think there’s a lot of different ways that you can go to market. It goes to the type of company that you are, the type of companies that you’re trying to recruit to, and also just trying different methods that work depending on what that audience looks like.

Jason: That’s it for part one of my conversation with Rakhi Voria. Please make sure to go to cutterconsultinggroup.com check out the show notes. Also, her links prior to the final part of the fourth part of this series. As always, keep in mind that everything in life is sales and people remember the experience you give them.

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Apr 27 2020 · 13mins
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Rakhi Voria /// Be Yourself and Believe In Yourself /// E029

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Rakhi Voria joins us today!  She is Chief of Staff to Microsoft CVP of Inside Sales, Co-Chair of Women@Microsoft and part of the Forbes Business Development Council.  Passionate about advancing Millennials and women in business.

Oct 18 2018 · 1hr 17mins
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S2 Ep. 15 - Rakhi Voria, Don’t Leave Your Passions at Home

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As the Chief of Staff to Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Inside Sales, Rakhi Voria is responsible for leading business initiatives as part of the Inside Sales transformation. She has a passion for people and has been active in company-wide people initiatives, and currently has a “side hustle” as serving as Co-Chair of the Women@Microsoft Global Board as well as the US Chapter, a 2,000-person organization designed to help women grow their professional skills and expand career options. He other side hustle is as a member of the Forbes Business Development Council and contributes monthly articles to Forbes.

Listen in as we discuss her story of becoming an “intrapreneur” as she works on her passion project WITHIN her organization as well as her other side hustle writing for Forbes. Rakhi explains how contributing to her overarching passion for empowering women is the driver for her success and the thread that weaves them all together.

We dive into how to best prioritize by paying attention to your best and worst days, saying “no” to find balance, and breaking things down into bite sized pieces. We discuss how to avoid over engineering things, the importance of developing your elevator pitch and knowing your non-negotiables.

If you want to get in touch with Rakhi, find her on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/rakhivoria, or Twitter https://twitter.com/rakhivoria, and on Forbes www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/people/rakhivoria/

Jun 07 2018 · 30mins
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