If sales teams don’t embrace sales technologies that fuel their purpose, they won’t be successful in the long-term; Helena Gamvros, Head of Digital Sales South East Asia & Greater China Region at Outbrain comments on the importance of adopting the right tools to enhance customer touchpoints in this QnA:
Hi Helena, welcome to SalesTechStar! We’d love to hear about your journey in tech and your biggest sales leadership takeaways!
Thanks for having me SalesTechStar. I started my career in Sydney (my hometown!) cutting my teeth in social content, before moving to London to work on the McDonald’s and Sony Electronics digital accounts and then on to Chicago to become a digital team lead first on McDonald’s and then the BP digital media account post Oil Spill.
I now reside here in Singapore leading the Outbrain South East Asia and Greater China Region sales team, covering eight diverse markets. I am so grateful for having worked across four continents because it’s helped me develop a strong Emotional Intelligence (EQ) that I find crucial for communicating effectively across different cultures and adapting to different work styles, as well operating within ‘the new normal’.
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Empathy and active listening skills are more important than ever, not only for managing a sales team, but also for any client interaction, both in person and on Zoom.
We’d love to hear more about your role at Outbrain and a typical day at work, how has that changed from pre-Covid days to now in the new normal? Also, given yours and your team’s experience working through this pandemic in 2020; what key best practices would you share?
I’m the proud mum of a toddler, so working from home has meant a double-edged sword! But overall, I believe it has been very positive due to the normalization of flexible working and what this means in the long term for working mums.
A typical day at work starts with bike riding my daughter to day-care, grabbing a coffee from my favourite Singapore coffee shop Common Man, and kicking off our daily sales team 9am Zoom stand-up. This stand-up is crucial to setting the tone of the day. Whilst the meeting is commercially focused, it’s first and foremost people focused.
- Regular daily communication: I feel more connected with our sales team than ever before, due to our daily stand-up, but also because of an open Slack channel where we constantly communicate with each other and the wider APAC team.
- Value-Based Selling: We identified early on that client’s pains and priorities have shifted, so our teams’ sales style has shifted towards being value-based. There are a lot of different ways Outbrain can help clients from localized data to creative support, so we dig deep to connect and help solve problems.
- Positive Reinforcement: I believe positive reinforcement is very important right now – celebrating the wins small and large to lift each other up.
What are some of the technologies (sales / marketing technologies) that have helped you drive results over the years through your time in sales; can you also throw light on some specific tools that enabled better results during the Covid-19 downtime?
Pre-Covid days Salesforce Sales Cloud was a vital sales tool, however since Covid, our use of the platform has accelerated. Salesforce excellence has absolutely been vital to achieving growth during this period because it’s enabled sales focus and data quality – both competitive advantages. The Salesforce integrations with Tableau and Yesware are also used widely by the team. Tableau means we now have a daily dashboard of useful reports from weekly meeting summary, to average deal sizes and monthly trends. Yesware empowers our team with client information but also allows for sales teams to do things like organize their own marketing campaigns and communicate with clients at the right time.
It goes without saying that Zoom, Slack and LinkedIn Sales Navigator have also become vital to our day-to-day sales operation as well.
As global businesses adjust and adapt more to the new normal; what are some of the top go-to market and growth strategies that you feel B2B sales and marketing teams need to now focus more on to ensure business success despite the global slowdown?
- Sales and Marketing Technologies: Whilst I am a firm believer of strategy first, then technology, if sales teams do not embrace sales technologies, they will not be able to stay competitive.
- Digital Touchpoints: Sales is about more than just sales touchpoints. McKinsey recently conducted a survey across 11 countries and found that B2B tech companies saw digital interactions were two to three times more important to consumers than sales interactions. As a result, now is an important time more than ever to invest in content such as webinars and thought leadership.
- It’s time to move up the funnel: Whilst it’s tempting during an economic downturn to simply focus on the lower funnel, brands will lose in the long-run. Adapting to be relevant and investing in content to make a meaningful connection is vital to stand out from the pack.
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How according to you will sales and marketing teams need to upskill / reskill (including those at leadership levels) in the new normal; to meet changing business needs? What are some of the biggest areas you see teams still struggle with today during this downtime?
I think that understanding how to collaborate from afar has been one of the biggest challenges for managers. It’s about replacing old behaviours with new ones and reframing productivity. Products like Salesforce Sales Cloud have been critical for this.
Sales teams have had to learn how to sell virtually, and I don’t think anyone is an expert in this yet. We’ve all had to learn how to read non-verbal cues and experiment with the best way to connect with a blank screen (this is for when a client opts out of putting their camera on, which happens more often than you would think!)
Can you talk about some innovative ways in which tech sales and marketing teams in B2B / B2C have gone against the tide during this downtime, to build brand presence and growth – examples you’ve come across that have really stood out?
Financial Services is a large category for Outbrain here in South East Asia, with clients including DBS, Standard Chartered and Citibank. We have seen this category pivot towards focusing on domestic usage campaigns which has been really interesting. It’s become all about winning in the e-commerce and dining space so that customers can still get a benefit from their credit card.
Moving further up the funnel, brands like Hitachi and Salesforce have invested in powerful Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns and have partnered with Outbrain to help amplify messaging like ‘Hitachi Social Innovation Powering Good’ and ‘Business As Anything But Usual’.
A few top tips you’d share with new sales reps and sales executives moving up the ladder in the time of a pandemic?
- Write it down! Make sure your hard work is recorded in Salesforce including meetings, new leads, lead nurturing, opportunities and of course, conversion. Further to this, data cleanliness so that you have an accurate sales footprint and ownership of your territory.
- Focus Your Efforts: Now is not the time to spend on the wrong prospects. Work with your Manager on a sales plan and fish where the fishes are.
- Always Be Learning: Microlearning is a trend very much of the New Normal and I encourage sales reps to embrace the incredible amount of free education we have at our fingertips. I’m personally a huge fan of LinkedIn Learning courses.
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A parting thought on your biggest leadership goof-up and the learning that came from it!
As an Australian, I’m used to using a lot of Aussie slang in my informal day-to-day communication with the team. I’ve had to really tone this down as my multi-cultural team had no idea what I was talking about! While I’ve taken this down a notch, I’ve also had some team members simply start to adopt some of the terms themselves as they find it funny. Hey, if it makes us laugh, why not! We all need a laugh right now…
Outbrain sits at the core of the most well-known media & publishing companies’ tech stacks empowering them to compete with the walled gardens on audience acquisition, engagement, and retention. Their feed is powered by native advertising and they work with emerging and global brands to help them connect to over 1 billion people on the open web and obtain better Return on Ad Spend than traditional offline/online channels.
Helena Gamvros is the Head of Digital Sales South East Asia & Greater China Region at Outbrain.
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