What happens when you can’t build relationships with your target market? How do you form a connection with your potential clients during a pandemic? Direct in-person meetings have always been the best way to build customer relationships. Trust is more easily established when you meet at a conference or networking event, follow up, and then have a one-to-one meeting. Phone calls and emails are just not the same.
Enter: Chelsey N. Izegbu, a former Data and AI Account Executive at IBM. Chelsey is an experienced brand specialist with a demonstrated history of working in information technology and services. Aside from leading business planning and sales management, Chelsey has a superpower consistent with the rest of the next generation of young sellers — leveraging social media. The emerging group of young salespeople have not only mastered the art of fostering authentic connections online, but they’ve also applied those skills to virtual selling. I asked Chelsey about what led her to tech sales, what advice she would give to Gen Z sellers, and finally, we explored a situation in which her social media savviness helped close a deal.
Did you always plan on going into sales?
Oh I definitely thought I was going into law. I saw a career for myself as a lawyer. I studied Econ with hopes of preparing for law school post undergrad. I knew for sure that I wanted to do something in either public policy or the nonprofit space. In my junior year, I obtained a minor in business analytics. It was right after I interned with IBM. And I said, you know what? Technology is interesting. So, let me see if I can potentially partner this with my economics degree to help me stand out. That’s when I started dabbling in the analytics space and realized that I’m not actually focused on law anymore. I’m open to seeing what else is out there in technology as well.
What was your biggest challenge starting off?
The biggest challenge going into sales was stepping out of my comfort zone and trusting myself with the sale. Entering into sales can be intimidating. We started out within our training class doing cold calls with experienced sellers. And I realized, Oh my goodness, I have no idea what I’m doing. But, of course, that’s what training is for—we go through that extensive process to prepare for the real-life situation. I think when you’re growing into the role, you start to become more aware of the type of seller that you are. And I think that’s powerful because everyone sells differently once you understand the foundation of selling. Sales is competitive, so it’s important to trust yourself and your ability to cross the finish line. And that’s when the confidence piece comes into play.
What is the best career advice you’ve been given?
Early in my first year at IBM, I was putting my best foot forward, of course. What I needed to learn was the difference between putting my best foot forward and trying my best. Essentially, don’t be so hard on yourself or so critical of your work. If you did your best, celebrate that and know where to find that line. The second piece of advice is to pick your battles wisely. Be intentional about which battles are worth fighting and which ones are better left alone.
What advice would you give to Gen Z and millennial sellers?
Keep an open mind and an open heart and everything else will follow. Have a plan and dreams, but keep an open mind to new opportunities, listen to criticism, keep learning, and keep expanding your network. Be willing to invest time to do your due diligence- do the research needed to best determine your client’s needs.
What should sales managers know about young sellers?
What’s important to Gen Z and millennial sellers is to understand work-life balance. We are looking for something that is fulfilling. Find ways to make the work we are doing more than a transaction. Sometimes managers get caught up in quotas and goals—remember to help your next gen sellers understand why the work they are doing is impactful. Find a way to help them connect the dots. Essentially, be open to understanding the upcoming generation of sellers. Play to their strengths, position them accordingly, and that will lead to success for your team and your company.
Do you have any words for young people who haven’t previously considered sales?
Anyone can be a successful seller. Everyone is a seller. Be open, keep selling, strengthen your sales skills, step out of your comfort zone, and trust yourself.
Using digital nativeness as an asset
With one particular governmental client, Chelsey found that discovery calls had been unsuccessful and there seemed to be a disconnect. They shared some of the solutions available, but still were not connecting. Chelsey stepped up her game by leveraging her superpower, her ability to navigate social media. First, she started following the Deputy secretary for one of the Veterans Administration departments. Chelsey read her LinkedIn profile, looked at posts, and followed her interests. The potential client posted and shared articles frequently. She discovered that the agency posted “we are highlighting the Cloud Journey…” at the VA. Chelsey discovered client issues that were never vocalized during several client calls.
She watched as the Cloud Journey patterns and posts developed over a few weeks. She also discovered that the agency had a strong interest in data mining. Armed with clues to a new approach, Chelsey was able to craft a message that aligned with the agency’s critical need and connect with a key stakeholder. She received a positive response and commitment to meet with decision makers, and moved the sales process forward. By paying attention to the social media cues and connecting many ‘small’ details, she was able to open a door and ultimately close the deal.
For more insight on how the next generation is changing the sales landscape and how hiring sellers can benefit your organization, be sure to read my previous blog post, For Innovative Sales Strategies, Look to Gen Z, and How to Develop Gen Z Sales Talent.
Cherilynn Castleman, Global Sales Keynote Speaker/Trainer/Executive Coach, has been a sales executive for 20+ years. With her natural talent for teaching and a drive to sell, Cherilynn uses her skills to coach and train other executives and sales professionals. Author of What’s In the CARDS? 5 Post Pandemic Sales Strategies
Blog originally posted on LinkedIn’s Modern Selling – May 5, 2021