As part of the Guidance from Grads series we sat down with Jenna Binley. Jenna is a Masters of Management graduate who decided to take the leap into software sales working as a Business Development Representative here at Gradguide.
Thanks for sitting down with us, Jenna. Really looking forward to hearing a bit about your story moving into tech sales. How did you prepare for the interview process?
After completing the Gradguide programme, I was in a good position to know what to do next. I completed some of the free online courses you can do such as the Hubspot Outbound Sales Certificate to familiarise myself with the industry.
I had weekly catch ups with my amazing mentor Amy, where we did mock interview scenarios. She took me through the day in the life of a BDR, helped me learn the lingo and the language needed to hit the ground running.
Working with a mentor a few years ahead of me on the career ladder meant I had clear expectations of what my role would look like and what I was getting into. It was so helpful to be able to ask Amy anything I was unsure of in the interview process.
And what does your day-to-day as a BDR look like?
As a Business Development Representative (or BDR for short), my role is to help win business for Gradguide by acquiring new customers. Every day I research and reach out to companies that I think could be a Gradguide hiring partner to set up calls with them to understand their business goals and objectives.
My main focus as a BDR is to generate qualified leads. A qualified lead is someone willing to learn more about the solution your company offers. If you work in business development in any other technology companies such as Wayflyer, Intercom or Spendesk, you would be doing something similar. Before joining Gradguide, I didn’t know what a BDR, an SDR (Sales Development Representative) or an AE (Account Executive) was.
How did you find yourself moving into a career in sales?
For my undergraduate degree, I studied Politics and Sociology at UCD and graduated in September 2020. My post-college travel plans were interrupted by the pandemic so in September 2020, I began studying a Masters in Management at the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. In January 2021, I started my “job hunt” and decided I was interested in the technology industry. A friend recommended Gradguide to me, and it was exactly what I needed to learn about the opportunities for entry-level roles in technology companies. However, in sales, you don't need a degree or a specific background!
What skills have you found that to be most important to be successful in the role?
- Strong Organisational Skills
Being structured and organised is an invaluable skill to be efficient in your sales process. It’s important to carry out research and preparation before discovery calls. Just like how you would prepare for an interview or an exam, preparation is key before going on a call with a prospective customer.
- Active Listening
It’s so important in sales that you can dig deeper and clarify the customer's needs and pain points. Since starting as a BDR, I have had the opportunity to develop this skill and get better at asking questions and engaging with the person you’re trying to sell to.
- Being proactive
Reaching out to common connections and moving quickly in chasing potential leads are my favourite aspects of the job. I really enjoy building relationships with people and chasing leads. It's also very rewarding when you move quickly to chase a lead and the results come in. For example, seeing that a prospect’s company just raised money and you've reached out at the right time.
I’ve got the chance to talk to really interesting people at some amazing companies who have then joined as a Gradguide hiring partner. For example, I worked with the Director of EMEA Sales for ActiveCampaign, Matt Haywood on establishing a partnership to help them get their company in front of the graduates looking to start their career in tech.
Being this early in my career, it’s been great to get exposure to senior executives like Matt, who I’ve been able to learn from while also honing my confidence on calls.
How have you found working in a tech startup?
It’s different in every startup, but in Gradguide, each department in the company has an internal meeting every morning called a “stand up” where our team meets and runs through what we’ll do that day.
After this, my day normally consists of outbounding, discovery calls, CRM admin, recapping notes that I’ve taken on call, demonstration calls, team training sessions, and 1:1s with team members.
I also lean into other projects that might need help, such as reaching out to graduates, making TikToks or collaborating with the marketing team on new ideas for campaigns.
In a startup, you definitely have to have an appetite for risk and be open to wearing multiple hats. Each part of the business is starting from scratch, so you can often get pulled into helping in other parts of the company.
I love this as it keeps the job exciting and allows me to gain experience outside of business development in areas such as marketing and the hiring process. However, this requires adaptability as change happens quickly in startup life.
How do you stay up-to-date on the latest news in the BDR community?
The community channel on Slack and the Gradguide platform allows me to reach out to other BDR’s if I have career-related questions or queries. Our on-demand mentor feature contains so many golden nuggets of advice for BDRs; I still refer to the content all the time to improve my sales process.
I also follow some brilliant thought leaders on LinkedIn who share best practices for business development such as Charlotte Johnson and Kyle Coleman. As well as that, I have a subscription with Gong who send regular emails on sales best practices.
I really enjoy reading articles from The Currency, TechCrunch, Morning Brew, Sifted and following Irish news outlets. Charlie Taylor is an Irish Times journalist who covers business and technology updates which makes it easy to keep up to speed with the latest news in tech and startups.
What is your favouring thing about working in sales?
- There’s always an incentive to get better.
If you’re a driven person who likes to have a goal to work towards, having targets can be a really good way of maintaining your focus at work and act as a helpful reminder of what you're there to do. I’m the type of person who thrives in structure, and I find the structure in a target environment great to help me stay on track.
- Build Resilience
An essential skill to have in your professional and personal life is resilience. In sales, you come up against lots of pushback, objections and rejections. Therefore, gaining resilience when a call or deal doesn’t go as you’d like will equip you with the strength to get back on the horse and not let small things get you down.
This is easier said than done but in my short time working in sales I have found that my own personal grit and resilience has improved immensely. As a salesperson, you have to learn from setbacks and how to bounce back from them. You’ll have your good weeks and your bad weeks and you just have to get on with it.
- Improved Time Management
As the saying goes “either you run the day or the day runs you.” In my role I have learned some invaluable time management techniques such as: taking control of my calendar using time blocking, the Eisenhower Urgent/Important Framework, to do lists and colour coding your Google calendar.
This has vastly improved my efficiency in work and had positive knock-on effects in my personal life too. Knowing where to spend the world's most valuable asset (time) can be hard but a job like sales forces you to get a good system in place that works for you and once you find what works for you, it's very rewarding.
Any parting words for our readers?
If working with people, being an active listener and telling stories is something you’re interested in doing in your career, I couldn’t recommend sales more. The skills that you learn are really varied and wide making them easily transferrable to other career paths as well. If you’re unsure about what you want to do with your career, I would definitely recommend signing up for Gradguide.
If anyone reading this wants to learn more, please reach out to me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without listening to others that have paved the way before me!