SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with Jean Tali, Executive Vice President of Sales at CaliberMind

Jean Tali, Executive Vice President of Sales at CaliberMind talks about the state of B2B sales and what needs urgent change in typical SaaS sales processes:


Hi Jean, tell us about yourself and your B2B tech journey…what about B2B technology sales piques your interest most?

I have been in high-tech B2B sales for over 30 years, time and technology have flown by! I wish I could say that my career path was well planned out, but it wasn’t. I graduated from college with a degree in English Literature and had planned to go to law school and become a litigator, and then waffled. So, what does a non- technical girl, with an English Literature degree, living in Silicon Valley do to make a living? Panic first, then focus and start hustling. I have always enjoyed helping people, tackling challenges, and improving things.

Friends and family encouraged me to get into high-tech sales. I landed my first high-tech job selling endoscopic cameras and software to doctors and dentists, by agreeing to work on commission only to help alleviate the risk and reservations that the company had about hiring someone that had no prior tech or sales experience. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

There was no Google or Wikipedia and I had to quickly immerse myself into all things video and fiber optic by reading tech manuals, engineering publications, and soliciting time with some of the engineers who were kind enough to sit down and teach me about some of the fundamentals. It was tough and there were times when I doubted myself, questioned what I had signed up for, and whether I would be successful; but I stuck with it and my hard work paid off and evolved into more opportunities. Since then, I’ve had many opportunities to grow and take on challenging roles at a variety of tech companies over the years.

Some small, early-stage startups, and rocket ship growth companies like Coupa Software and Marketo, and then some very large tech companies like Microsoft and Dell. B2B technology sales provides a continuous opportunity to learn about a customer’s business and unique challenges, and to creatively explore and align potential value and solutions that could dramatically improve and transform businesses. That process, and of course, the relationships that are developed along the way, are really rewarding.

What do you feel today’s Sales Leaders (CROs / EVPs) need to do more of to drive better sales processes, alignment and results in a more cohesive manner?

Accept that there is no finish line, and that tech and market conditions will evolve and change. Be willing to routinely challenge yourself to sit a spell and physically go through a “day in the life of” various roles in your organization and cross-functional teams, and encourage other leaders to do the same.

Take this “ride along” look at current process(es) and technology through their lens, and then do the same with your buyer or customer’s lens. How many screens, tools, clicks, emails, Slack messages, calls, meetings, support tickets, or time does this take and is it worth doing? Sales leaders are under enormous pressure and pulled in a lot of different directions so it’s easy to fall into “set it and forget it” mode. We assume that the strategy, process, or technology that we implemented months ago is working but these exercises often uncover gaps, evolving market conditions, single points of failure, opportunities, and critical frontline feedback that may get buried or deprioritized. Best of all, these exercises set the tone, raise awareness, and inspire teams to push themselves, spot improvement opportunities, and not be satisfied with the status quo. Trading notes with fellow cross-functional leaders inevitably reveals common challenges, cultivating empathy that in turn drives greater communication, alignment and across teams and departments. Driving strong sales results is about being able to execute at the lowest common denominator consistently amidst an ever-changing tech landscape. Getting everyone aligned around that principle and the need to constantly evolve, starts with leaders who set the example and routinely challenge themselves to the process.

Read More: SalesTechStar Interview with Manisha Raisinghani, Founder of SiftHub

What would you say are the biggest challenges in today’s B2B sales process and what would you say sales teams and sales leaders need to do to fix it?

There are many challenges in B2B sales right now, but some of the biggest fall in the area of identifying and understanding buyer journeys, and then aligning processes and resources to best support them at scale. Organizations are constrained by legacy, siloed technology and lots of tech-debt that prevents them from getting the full buyer journey picture, and hampers their ability to act on it, and lowers their chances to win the business. B2B buyers are adopting more B2C type behavior in their research and exploration, but still ultimately make a B2B group (or committee) buy decision.

B2B organizations have adopted ABX, but the challenge is that much of the technology that we use today in B2B marketing and sales does not effectively support this shift. Sales leaders need to continue to look for opportunities to incorporate customer journey and insights for their sellers, (and into their process), but without boiling the ocean. Technology is going to evolve to support this shift in B2B, but in the meantime, adopting an agile approach is more likely to lead to near term wins and learnings, and less heartache down the road.

How in your view should B2B tech brands rethink how they shape, build and hire for their sales teams? Given today’s market dynamics: what skills, structures and such other factors work best in your view?

B2B tech companies have seen their share of challenges over the past year, which has served as an opportunity for many to rethink how they do everything. In today’s economic climate, B2B sales are harder than ever. Success requires a special kind of tenacity, fortitude, grit, determination, hustle, work ethic, creativity, curiosity, entrepreneurship, challenger bend, and problem solving. The experience of weathering a similar storm is always a plus in today’s conditions, but these core characteristics are critical right now.

When driving a brand from mid to larger scale growth, (when trying to scale) what sales strategies and practices would best?

Successfully growing from smallish/mid to larger scale is dependent on efficiently continuing and maintaining the repeatable (rinse, wash, repeat) motion without heroics, and at a lower cost, while diversifying the efforts to expand into new verticals or markets. If not completed already, adopting a core sales methodology whether that be solution selling, Challenger, or MEDDIC that’s applied end to end will be key.

Read More: Unlocking the Secret to Emails that Convert

Before we wrap up, a little insight into how you feel every modern seller should structure their day to enhance their sales productivity?

Every business is different. What’s required to be successful in one business may not translate well to another, so I’m reluctant to make a blanket statement. However, every top seller that I have known over my career has this in common: they plan their work and they work their plan religiously. They work their numbers bottoms up, and quickly figure out what things need to happen immediately, consistently, and then over time, and they adapt the plan as they learn.


CaliberMind is a B2B Go-To-Market Data Platform that helps you spot market trends first.

Jean Tali is Executive Vice President of Sales at CaliberMind

Also catch: Episode 200 Of The SalesStar Podcast: B2B buying and selling habits with Raul Murguia, Sr Dir of Integrated Marketing for LinkedIn Sales Solutions

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