Name: Tonni Bennett
Company: Terminus (Atlanta, GA)
Title: Director of Sales
LR: How did you get into a sales leadership role?
TB: My career started in sales, but it was not my original plan. In college I was on the pre-law track, but when I decided not to go to law school right before graduation, I felt lost and panicked. A mentor of mine was a former VP for UPS and connected me with the inside sales office in my hometown, Greenville, SC. Initially I hated sales! I struggled with being assertive and feeling confident speaking with prospects because of my age.
After about a year I finally realized that prospects responded best when I was my authentic self. At first I tried to emulate my older, male colleagues. When I started being myself on the phone, owned my age and embraced how being a woman in sales gave me an edge, I started seeing success. Once I learned to bring my true self to work, I started having better conversations with people and my sales numbers drastically went up.
I got into Tech Sales when I moved to Atlanta and was lucky enough to land a job at Pardot as an AE. Once I got ramped up there I fell in love with sales. It gave me flexibility, confidence, and a way to quickly pay off my student loans.
Most recently Terminus has put their faith behind me as their Director of Sales. I feel honored and humbled to represent this incredible startup. This role kind of found me. It came right as I was hungry for a new challenge. I had success in sales positions at several startups and wanted to use what I’ve learned to grow something from the bottom, up.
LR: What advice do YOU have for more women getting into sales or sales leadership?
TB: I believe that women have an incredible advantage right now in tech sales. For one, we’re a minority which makes us stand out. I hope that this is not always the case, but right now it does give women an edge. Also, today’s buyer has changed so much. With the rise of social media and technology, buyers demand that companies engage with them in a more sincere, personalized, and human way. Women tend to have qualities that make us well-suited for this type of sales. We tend to be personable, relational and caring. My advice to women in any role, but especially sales, is to be true to yourself. Always be authentic. Own the things that make you unique. People want to buy from people they trust.
LR: Who has championed or mentored you so far?
TB: I’ve been lucky enough to have some incredible mentors. As a Sales rep, my VP Sales at Pardot, Derek Grant, was a huge mentor, as well as my direct sales manager Jordan Rackie. Both helped me to build confidence in myself and to hone specific sales skills that I didn’t have before joining this team. I also learned a lot from each of their leadership styles that I’ve carried with me. In my current role I lean a lot on these guys as well as the CRO I worked under at PeopleMatter, Rick Nichols. Rick has a ton of experience growing teams and companies and can provide a big picture perspective that I often can’t see myself. Now that I’m not on a sales team, I have to be more intentional about seeking out my mentors for help and advice. I find it valuable to bounce ideas off of them before making a big decision.
Lastly, my husband Landon has been a huge champion and sponsor for me. He’s the Director of Sales at another startup, so he really understands what I go through on a daily basis. He has challenged me to be better at what I do, to think differently and to push myself harder. He’s also a big reason why I have the job that I do today. He was my advocate.
LR: What do you aspire to do / be?
TB: If I’m being honest, I’m not 100% sure what I’d like to do when I grow up. Right now my focus is solely on growing a successful sales organization at Terminus. I’ve always been motivated and hungry to succeed, but don’t like to plan too far in advance because I want to be open to possibilities. Up to now, every opportunity I’ve had in my career has come my way naturally.
LR: What has your career in sales and leadership done for you so far?
TB: It’s given me confidence. Sales is a job that requires constant effort and work. When you’re successful in a sales role, you know that it came as a result of your direct efforts. It’s extremely rewarding to see the direct impact of your work. That confidence carries outside of work to everyday life.
My recent move to sales leadership has given me a different kind of rewarding feeling. It’s exciting to be a part of growing something special, and impacting the lives and careers of other people. I love that I have the ability to help others see success.
Lori Richardson (LR) is interviewing 100 women sales leaders before 2016 is over. Lori is President of WOMEN Salespros and CEO of Score More Sales.