How did you choose to get into sales?
It was not my first career choice. I actually like marketing a lot. My bachelor degree was in marketing and when I look back, I got a GPA of 4.0 in marketing. I like the idea of creating something and then making people want to buy the product or service. I got into sales when I joined Microsoft. At that time, I was the sales leader for the SMB market in my first year. With SMB, it is all mixed because you are dealing with scale and velocity, so it’s a mix of marketing and sales. And also, you are dealing with partners. If you’re going to reach a large group of people, you need to make sure the sales part, the marketing part, and the partner part, all comes together to run that SMB engine. After that, I left Microsoft, and became the Country Director for DELL Indonesia. And that’s when I went into hardcore sales because it was very strong in terms of enterprise customers. I learned a lot of what I know today from that time – the details, cadence, talking to direct customers, making sure that we meet or exceed expectations. And from there on, as they say, the rest is history. I took on many country leader roles, and in every role, the top accounts of a country becomes the grand prize, or the top focus accounts of the country leader. In addition to those top accounts, you’re supposed to do everything else. And that’s how I started my journey into sales.
You’ve worked with all the big names like Microsoft, DELL, HP, SAP, IBM and now with Google. What prompted these moves and changes to climb higher?
If you look at all the different companies, they are actually strong leaders in different parts of IT. You’ll see the hardware part and even in hardware there is the consumer market and the enterprise market. Then after which, I got into software, which included everything from direct customers to SMB to Enterprise software. And then we talk about big machines like AS400. I also got to know about services and how to drive a service business. So, all those different components of IT is what I was looking for. I’ve also done different roles in my career like country leadership and regional leadership. I’ve done SMB, enterprise roles, customer segments, and public sector as well. I’ve done different types of products and services like hardware, software, services and cloud. I would say it’s all the things that I wanted to do. So step by step, I accumulated all that knowledge.
There are a lot of women in sales. What will motivate them to explore more roles like you?
A lot of women are afraid. They feel scared and they feel they are not good enough. Sheryl Sandberg in her book talks about how when a job role opens up, the men, even if they are only 50% qualified, will say that they can do it. But a women, will need to be 200% sure, before she puts her hand up. This is correct and it is an interesting bit of psychology that we experience. So, women are afraid that they cannot do it. It is a glass half full, glass half empty thinking. When women say I’m not good enough, I always say ‘so what?’. If you don’t know, then go learn and master it. Women need to be fearless in how they want to drive their career ambitions. They need to think about the company and what they really want and use that as a driver to chase that passion.
Integrity, Resilience and Collaboration when executed with consistency and fairness will build trust and create a safety net. Even the worst performing teams will perform well in these circumstances, and I have done it again and again.
In your experience, how can women build the backbone to be fearless?
It’s a mindset. I believe that human beings have the ability to change their destiny. The best way to predict the future is to create it. So, first of all you must be courageous to chase the dream that you want to achieve. It doesn’t matter whether you want a professional career working in the corporate world or you want to start your own business, or you want to become an author, or be a housewife. Everybody has their own ambition. To be fearless you have to be clear on what you want to achieve. After that everything becomes easier, not because there are no challenges, but because you already have a mindset. If you have the mindset to achieve the goal then come rain, shine, big holes or even big rocks, you will push through and achieve what you want to achieve.
One of those unseen big rocks is all these beliefs and biases that men hold about women. What are your thoughts on this?
In Asia there is this perception that women should be like this or should be like that. So, first and foremost, we need to speak up. We need to tell people this is right, or this is not right. And don’t be afraid to point out perceptions. When the male population tells me I shouldn’t be doing something. I wonder that even my parents don’t say that to me, so who are they to say that to me. So it’s up to us. But at the same time, watch and be very respectful about voicing your opinions. And be very upfront about what you want. Sometimes we get it sometimes we don’t. You have to work hard for it.
I also believe that when you say something out loud, it become part of you and the universe will bring it back to you. Similarly, when you have negative thoughts, the negativity will come back to you. So let us put up positive thoughts, collect good karma and lend a helping hand whether it is male or female. Let us also extend our network within the country, outside the country, within your industry, outside your industry, etc. Make sure that we’re able to voice out to create new connections and to help pay it forward. And that will all come back to help us in the end.
They say women have more empathy and they are able to build better teams. Tell me about your experience building high performance teams.
The first thing what I do when starting my career in a new company is to listen. We understand the company, understand how things are done, but most importantly, we listen to the people. I can get feedback from the previous managers, but I don’t make my judgment based on them. I will listen but I will make my own judgment after understanding from the ground up. I will understand the challenges, the opportunities, the good, bad and the ugly. We must listen not to reply, but we must listen to understand. So that is something I do with the teams that I have built.
Let me also talk about the three key values that I hold. First one is Integrity. Second, is Resilience. Third one is Collaboration. Let me elaborate why these three are important to me. Talking about integrity – finding integrity in sales in Indonesia, is difficult. There is a lot of temptation for people. But we need to make sure that we do business in the right way. What is integrity? It is doing the right things when no one is looking. It doesn’t matter about the law, it’s about you and God. So you need to do the right thing. So having integrity is number one. I don’t care whether the salesperson is outstanding or can do more by a million. But if the person is not honest, then they are bad.
Number two is resilience. In any situation, the most important thing is that when we fall, how do you come back up? I don’t believe it when people say that someone or something is very smooth sailing. It is a fairy tale. There is no such thing. A true soldier is all about how they come back up again after they fall. In sales also, you go talk to the first customer, they say no we have another cloud provider, then you go to the second customer, and they say, they don’t believe in cloud. But with the third one, you might begin to form an authentic relationship and engagement. So don’t be afraid of failure. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.
The third one is collaboration. We do not work alone, we need to network, we need to work with other people inside the company and in different departments. We have to work with people outside the company and across the region. So the collaboration part is important. And that’s why we’re able to build bigger things because we build as one team now. You must do all this with consistency and fairness. People are sensitive to fairness. If you treat somebody as a golden child and show preference, then people will doubt your leadership. So, if you are able to do these 3 things with consistency and fairness, you will build trust and a safety net. And even the worst performing team will become high performing teams. And I’ve done it again and again.
There is a propensity for sales teams to indulge in ‘Hopecasting’, where they say everything will happen, but nothing does. How do you burst the balloon of ‘Hopecasting’?
I have a slogan – trust is good, but checking is better. You use qualifiers and you test it again and again. Do an internal check and then talk to the customer as well to see if everybody is aligned. I usually do a triangular check between the internal person, the customer and also the partner (if there is a partner). So, when my salesperson says that the deal is done, I will check with the customer. And there will be different stakeholders in the customer’s organisation, and I will check with them too. And then the third check is with the partner. So if the salesperson says next month and the customer says next year, then there is no alignment on what and when is the end result. That’s when you know it’s not real. So, you check the status of the deal, and you try to mitigate and clear the hurdles. It’s important to connect the information every time. If you don’t test the assumptions on what people tell you, they will take you for granted. If you tell them that you checked with the customer, then they know that they cannot lie anymore.
There is a saying that leaders are magnets for talent. What has been your experience in attracting good people into the team?
Having the right reputation and the right branding is key to attract the right talent if you do not know the people. But if you have been in different companies, a number of them will actually follow you. Once they have a good engagement with you, they work very well under you, they perform and they make money under you, they will follow you. Several times people have followed me from SAP and from IBM. But being consistent and upkeeping the values is important. When I joined Google, I recruited people from SAP, IBM and from Oracle. I also recruited people I have never worked with before from other places. But I do not treat them differently once they come into Google Cloud. I don’t want to create kingdoms of ‘your’ people or ‘my’ people. I don’t care for that. Together, we are only one team. If we make sure of that then we can build a team which is high performing, cohesive, and collaborative. The other thing I also make sure of is that across functions – the pre-sales team, the sales team, the support team, the partners – they all work as one.
You are a leader, you are busy, there is so much happening. How and when do you learn?
First of all, we must understand that learning is part of our life. Just like eating or exercising is a part of our daily life and not something that is outside, learning should also become part of our daily life. Similar to how we allocate time to have meals, we should allocate time to learn. Instead of feeding our stomach, we are feeding our brains. So, every day I set aside time to read. I have a book on my bedside, and I read a couple pages every day as best as I can. Sometimes it’s fiction, sometimes it’s non-fiction, depending on what is the flavour of the day. I am currently reading Atomic Habits. The author talks about 1% improvement every day and that is what I try to do. I try to do some exercise and do my prayers, and make sure that I improve every day.
On the other hand, in IT, you need to learn things every single day, like the latest cloud technology with data analytics, machine learning, or security. Those are the things that we learn and articulate to our customers and partners. I love the push to learn new things. In my view, if you don’t learn something new in one month or three months, then you are already stuck and behind the times. There are countless companies who did not learn new things and were not open minded about new technology. Take Blackberry or Nokia – they did not survive. So it’s not about who has the best product, it’s about who is the fastest.
In your experience, how can people make customer meetings more memorable for them?
There are two things. For the first meeting you can leverage your previous relationships in getting the meeting. You can introduce yourself and ask them how they are and then talk about the product or service. For the second meeting, you must bring enough content so that the person will say – Wow! you told me something that I didn’t know before meeting you. And now because I met you, I learned something good today that I can explore, which will help my job and my company. So, getting the first meeting is the easy part. But to get the second meeting or get the return ticket, you need content. So, in order to have content, we need to learn, and that can allow us to continue the relationship of solving the customer’s problems and having the continuous discussion with them.
You mentioned that you read, exercise and pray. What advice would you give other salespeople who are only working and not taking time for themselves?
There is lots of advice available for salespeople, but I think it is discipline and planning. If you don’t have both, then you will go all over the place. Identify what is important to you. If you only want to work, then that is up to you. But if you want to be remembered by your company, your family and your children, then you need to prioritise them. With Covid, people are rethinking their priorities in life. So with planning and discipline you can include many things into the daily schedule. Without planning, things go haywire as you don’t know what comes next and then you become reactive. You are at the mercy of the environment. You should be able to control the environment through planning.
How did you discover your life purpose?
One of the key tenets of Buddhism is to contribute to world peace and right from when I was young, I truly believed that we could use technology to bring people together. Technology can be a double-edged sword, but I felt that it can help with communication. From my early days, despite not having a degree in IT, I believed technology was my purpose. Even when I got job offers in other areas like Banking, I did not feel like that was my calling. There are ups and downs but I’m happy with what I have achieved and I’m excited to see what I’m going to achieve.