A few days ago, I visited the offices of Workable’s sales team in Athens. Located in a business district, Spaces, is a modern, eco-friendly coworking place that hosts various companies and offers private rooms for professional meetings. Outside the building, I met Chris, Fraser and Athina who were catching some rays right after their lunch break.
Chris Sebastiao and Fraser Murphy have been Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) for just over a year now and recently became team captains, while Athina Pitta – who joined Workable in 2017 also as an SDR – is currently managing the broader SDR team in Athens.
As they walked me through their new offices, they answered my questions about their daily work experience at a company recently named as one of the Best Workplaces in Greece.
Business development isn’t just about selling stuff to people
So, what is it exactly that you do in tech sales?
“I’d say it’s more Business Development, rather than actual sales,” Chris says. “We reach out to companies that could get value from our software, pique their interest and try to build relationships with them.”
“As I like to say,” Athina adds, “our team is the voice of Workable abroad.” The ultimate goal is to build brand awareness and to find good fits – companies that will use and benefit from Workable. “And this requires – and grows – your business sense.”
“Your job is to pique interest but, in the meantime, you learn lots of things.” Chris describes what he really likes about working in tech sales: “Before I hop on a call, I do my homework. I visit the company’s website and try to understand how their teams are structured, how they hire (or for what roles they hire) and what their current challenges might be. By researching many websites and careers pages on a daily basis, I can confidently say that I’ve now learned a lot about different industries and their pain points.”
And knowing a company, Chris notes, means having a strong understanding of that company’s needs and how Workable can fit into that.
“I know our product better, too,” says Chris, “so I can understand whether our software is a good solution for each company I’m talking to. And if it is, I can recommend solutions that apply specifically to them – it’s never generic selling; instead, I use a consulting approach and offer targeted advice. That’s why every call I make or every email that I send is different from the previous and the next one.”
“What I love about this job,” Fraser says, “is the discussions that I have. I get to the psychology of the people I talk to, I build up trust and, ultimately, I help them. That feeling that you actually help someone hire better is so rewarding. Especially in cases where they were negative at first but you managed to handle their objections and they ended up saying something like ‘Oh, this could actually be helpful!’”
“And you never know where these discussions will take you,” Chris agrees. I’m talking with CEOs, HR managers and recruiters from different places around the world and they’ll often have something interesting to share. Because every company has its own unique challenges. So, we’ll discuss how our software can help, but we’ll also talk about things like how office politics affect hiring or how employer branding is key to attracting good employees.”
No sales background? No problem
At that point, I couldn’t help but ask them; what do you need to work in tech sales? Is there a specific career path to follow?
“Well, I used to be an interior designer and I’m currently getting an MSc degree in Digital Marketing, so I guess you wouldn’t call that a traditional career path, right?” Chris smiles. “I’m always curious, I love to learn. And I like to transfer my knowledge to others. So, about a year and a half ago, I knew I wanted to step back a little bit and learn new things before I move forward with my career. That’s when I joined Workable’s sales team.”
The versatility of the team was a good fit for Chris’ own versatile background.
“The good thing about it is that it was – and still is – a new team, so it’s a learning experience for everyone,” says Chris. “We celebrate our wins and we share our failures, so that we can learn from each other. But we also come across with new challenges – and it’s up to us to figure out how we’ll tackle them. This is when your personality can really shine.“
Fraser’s journey to Workable originates from a small town in Scotland, where he lived most of his life, and includes a PhD in Biotechnology, several academic papers, a relocation to Greece and… (almost!) police troubles right outside the Workable offices.
“I have always been interested in combining science with business,” Fraser says. “But I was lacking experience in the business sector so I knew I had to do something about it. And tech sales in a multinational environment sounded perfect. So, now that I think about it, I can’t believe I almost missed my first day at work! As I love cycling, I decided to come to the office by bike. But I didn’t realize the effect of the Athens heat on my clothes until it was too late.”
Fraser laughs, showing his positive, can-do attitude right from the start.
“Luckily, I had an extra T-shirt with me but I didn’t want to change in the office, so I started looking around the building in the hope of finding a private spot. And I thought I found it, until two police officers stopped by, gave me a weird look, said something in Greek that I couldn’t understand and, finally, left me to get changed. Five minutes later I was covered head to toe in clean clothes and deodorant and ready to start my first day!”
For Athina, the transition to this role was not an afterthought. Being a business owner herself (Athina founded Glossopolis, an e-learning platform that helps travelers learn Greek and get discounts at local businesses), she knew that she wanted to be into tech sales. And she knew the importance of business development at a software company. So, she applied at Workable for the role of Sales Development Representative when this was a new department.
But how did she grow from being the first person of the 45-strong team she became the manager of in less than two years?
“It has to do with your mentality,” Athina explains. “For example, when I first saw the job ad, I noticed that it required native-level English skills, but I’m not native. I knew, though, that I can make up for it with my hard work. So I applied anyway and haven’t regretted it! Every day, I’m around smart people; whether they come from a different country or they’ve studied or worked on a totally different field, they bring something new to the table and that’s truly inspiring.”
It’s like I’m working abroad, while I still have all the benefits of living in Greece.
Even if you’re not as determined about your next career step, as Athina was, it’s worth giving it a shot. Chris offers his own perspective on that, highlighting the crucial intangible skills one can develop in an SDR role.
“The things you’ll learn and the soft skills you’ll grow are important assets no matter what you decide to do next,” Chris says. “For example, I’ve now realized how much I’ve developed my listening skills. Some calls with potential customers last only a few minutes, so in this time, I need to pick up every detail that could be helpful and use my critical thinking to understand what’s most important.”
It’s all about the people
Now that you’ve been here for a while, what would you say is your favorite part of the day?
“It has to be whenever we get some good results, whether it’s a new team member’s first deal or when we reach the team quotas,” Athina says. “I know the amount of work that’s brought these results. So, I’m proud of the team, because, one way or another, we’ve all contributed to this success. And, of course, the celebrations after a good month or quarter aren’t bad either!”
“If I have to choose my favorite part of the day, it’s probably the moment I leave the office!” Chris jokes. “In all seriousness, I’m happy when I leave the office knowing that I’ve done a good day’s work. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy lunchtime, too. It’s like I’m taking a break in the middle of the day to meet with friends.”
For Fraser, his favorite part of the day is not literally at work, “it’s my workout before I hit the office. The fact that I have the time and the energy to go to the gym in the morning, it’s a great motivator to start the day. And then, knowing that I’ll meet so many nice people here at Workable makes me walk in with a big smile on my face. I like the job, but it’s because of the people that I love the job. Being around positive, friendly and interesting people makes the work a bit easier and nicer, too.”
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