A week in the life of an Ignys sales manager
Learn about life in a fast growing electronics design and software development consultancy.
Then stick around to read the good, bad and the ugly pros and cons of working in sales. For in-depth insights and refreshingly honest advice on choosing a sales career.
Who is Poppy Sinclair?
Poppy Sinclair is our creative woman-in-tech who leads our customer communications. She loves hosting discovery calls with new prospects. Her refreshingly honest advice and tech insights for product development teams helps them to move forward. This generates future success in their electronics design and embedded software projects. In total we offer 16 services for electronic product development.
So, what is it like being a sales manager of a fast growing tech company?
How do you start each day to make it productive?
I develop my plan for the day, prioritising items by looking at timelines and the best impact for our customers and my team. Effective communication is beyond important so after I have set up my plan I respond to emails and our slack instant messaging channels to make sure everyone is up to date. We use different channels for customers, my immediate team and the whole company (such as our #wins and #rants channels). This means everyone gets the most effective form of communication, whilst not being drowned in the ‘noise’ from every channel.
Poppy with Richard and Stephen from the Management Team having a socially distanced meeting in the park
What does your typical day look like?
Communication and performance
My main actions include speaking with prospects and customers, networking with people within our industry including suppliers and partners such as TBAT (who help people with grants and more). Other examples include Raspberry Pi for whom we are a design partner and CEMs who help people to manufacture their electronic products. I discuss projects with ongoing customers and check our performance through my KPI dashboard to make sure everything is on track.
There are several different types of meetings I have with customers. From booking that first meeting through to closing out a project and seeing how we can work together in the long term.
Here is a flavour of the different styles of meetings I host.
Poppy and Asking Better Questions joining us on a collaborative video on product strategy
These are a great way to have a candid chat about a new project. The meeting focuses on their ultimate goals, plans and needs. I help them assess if Ignys is the right fit and answer their questions on realistic timescales and our availability for start dates. Since we use virtual meetings we can help businesses to design a product remotely. This means I can be on a call to someone on the other side of the world! You can enjoy a discovery meeting yourself and find out what it’s like if you have an electronic product development project. Just contact me and we can set up a slot.
A throwback short of Poppy with our MD Richard (Centre) and 3 of our engineers Dan, John and Steven.
By the end of the discovery call it is clear if the prospect is right to move onto the next stage in terms of budget and deadlines. At this stage we set up a meeting with the prospect and our engineering team. This allows our engineers to ask more in-depth questions about the project. Allowing the engineers to dive into the details means the project starts off the right way, with clarity from all sides. Most importantly, the prospect gets the chance to meet the engineers who will work on the project. Having this communication bond is very important.
Triage: Showing customers what to expect
I write proposals so customers know what to expect from the project. This is vital for allowing prospects to discuss with their team if their investment in Ignys will result in the correct ROI. We set end goals in place to help us win together with their team.
You’ll receive price ranges instead of a fixed price for product development on most occasions. To provide a more accurate reflection of how product development and costs can vary. I check our CRM is up to date and help navigate people through our pipeline. This makes sure everyone is always guided through the process.
Customer regular update meetings
Our customers have a multitude of channels to reach us on, from dropping us a line on our instant messaging chat, emails or team meetings. Sometimes I host these updates but often the main engineer on the project will chair the meeting, keeping the customer informed of any developments.
I help make sure there are no sticking points between Sales and Engineering so my team and customers get the information they need, when they need it.
The team in June 2021
Meetings with a purpose
At Ignys we are strong believers in meetings with a purpose. It’s very easy to waste valuable time that could be spent on a customer project with an aimless meeting.
Weekly round ups
We run a weekly management meeting with a strict agenda, which starts with 5-minute speed rounds on key topics such as KPIs, 90 day goals and customer updates. This helps us keep each other informed on our respective departments (Sales, Engineering, Marketing and the business as a whole). We can then address any new topics that arise.
The virtual Christmas Party
Company wide coffee meet ups
We have fortnightly company-wide virtual meetings to share exciting project updates and new employee schemes. Most importantly, we drink coffee together and catch up! I work with our engineering manager 3 times a week to check proposals and update our CRM.
Sales and Marketing collaboration
I collaborate with our other woman-in-tech Hannah Ingram who heads up our marketing department. We work together on blog content and discuss sales and marketing collaborations such as preparing for trade shows or creating literature.
Having clear communication between sales and marketing is very important as it is easy to attract the wrong sort of customers. The last thing we want to do is to waste someone’s time because we can’t help them. Equally if I don’t tell Hannah great stories from customers then we miss opportunities to showcase customer successes and testimonials.
Our Marketing wizard Hannah Ingram
On one day each week I turn communication off, ensuring each customer has a channel with our engineers. I have a day working on processes, proposal templates and working out CRM workflows. My boss, MD Richard Fletcher, trusts me enough to work all day without checking in, this is a nice feeling. This focus helps me pinpoint how to make our department even better.
I achieve more by doing this as a full day than I would in a few weeks if it was spread out. This means I can work ON this business on this day and IN the business during the other four. I can also work on my 90-day goals, we set these together as a management team so we can encourage each other.
What’s in a Friday afternoon
It’s always great to finish the week off with some departmental development. I like to work on some CPD, as you can never stop learning. Checking out industry news and blogs is always insightful.
This way I can make sure I’m aware of what’s going on in the world and how we as a company can support people through it.
For example, during the pandemic we rang customers weekly at the start. We did this because we knew everyone was in a void and unsure of their next steps. These days the hot topic is chip shortages. Customers get candid feedback from us as well aspotential clients to make sure they plan ahead. We don’t want them getting caught out by components going out of stock or risking costly redesigns. I also look at what’s trending on LinkedIn and keep an eye on what are our competitors are doing.
Where you’ll find me outside of work
Every day I walk my dog (or Bear!) after work. Most weekends you’ll find me in the Peak District climbing up a hill and enjoying the view!
What do you like most about working at Ignys?
The variety of the projects we work on is my favourite thing. Some sales jobs can be monotonous, selling the same thing over and over. At Ignys the ideas we hear about are endless. From electronic design or embedded software development projects from anywhere in the world.
Automotive, smart homes, healthcare, we never know what it’s going to be. I get to interact with everyone from inventors who have got a tech idea and have never done this before. Right up to directors of house-hold names. Leading to rich conversations with people from different backgrounds. Many conversations are not just about the product itself. This really helps me learn more about the state of the world.
I get a lot of autonomy in the role with a culture of growth and training. In fact my team will often push me to try new things to help me grow as a person and further evolve how my department works. Therefore, there is never a dull moment. It’s very fast paced and a lot of responsibility but ultimately really fun and rewarding.
My job role is very different from when I started as a sales engineer and receiving sales training alongside my promotion to sales manager has been really useful.
Innovation with a Heart
Finally, our Innovation with a Heart message is also important to me. We have turned down at least 2 lucrative projects this year because they could harm people. Sometimes it’s the potential for the technology to be used to cause harm to people, animals or the environment. Other times it happens where we make it clear that there are safety concerns with the trajectory of the project and there is no appetite from the inventor to deal with this. This is why compliance is such an important part of product development.
How has Covid affected your job?
The biggest difference was not having to travel as much, which has made things more effective time wise. I can speak to so many more people and have better conversations. In a past I often used up a whole day in the car for one meeting for someone who might not make it past the first stage. I can record the meeting with their permission which means I am not scribbling notes whilst they are talking. It also means anyone from my team can be involved in the meeting if that’s useful to the customer, I can slack team members if a question gets asked.
On the days I work from home I can talk animatedly on a call. Without worrying about speaking too loudly and distracting my team. What’s more its far better for the environment and we are much closer to being paperless as a company. It will be interesting to see if things go back to face-to-face visits in the future in the world of sales. My view is there will be a place for it with customers but for pre-qualification, virtual meetings work great for both sides.
The Ignys team back in 2020. Meet The Team
How has the team grown since you joined?
I joined the team in September 2019 when there were just 5 of us, at the time we worked in a very cosy set-up so it was great to expand into our lovely spacious office in early March 2020. We were then ahead of the game so when Boris announced lockdown we were all set up at home with the technology we needed so there was no break in service and we could support customers from the start through that difficult time.
As we have grown it has been fun to welcome new team members bringing fresh talents and personality traits to the team. Sometimes I assist with first stage interviews, as we recruit on values as much as competency.
Throughout the pandemic we maintained our intimacy as a team with bi-weekly coffee meetings, these days we can be a bit more adventurous, such as our picnic in the park meeting, and more regular company meet ups in the pipeline when it’s safe to do so.
A quote from Stephen Lynch in our 4 year blog.
What was joining Ignys like?
Nowadays newcomers get to walk the office in their first week and get to know us, we often do a team introduction in our fortnightly company-wide Teams chat, so our new team members meet everyone. They spend at least a week teaming up with another engineer to learn about our processes and projects. By this point they are desperate to start designing and we smoothly move them onto a project in their area of expertise, be that electronics design or software development. We also have new starters at different levels, from graduates to seniors, so we have many training programmes to make sure everyone gets the chance to learn regardless of experience.
Elias Jesus, electronics engineer, joins the team July 2021. About Us
Are there any job vacancies right now?
We are growing so fast that our vacancies change frequently. Our careers page is a great place to start which lists job descriptions and shares some of the benefits of working with us.
How did you get into sales Poppy?
By accident. As a design technology teacher I wanted to leave to work more on the design side of things. I am lucky that I ended up with a job which compliments my love of design as well as my passion for sales. I really enjoy working out what people want, interacting with them through their journey with Ignys from start to finish, seeing their project progress and seeing their great ideas come to life!
Most people I know in sales fell into this career or side stepped into it. They then realise they have a taste for it. They love the interactions and the reward of closing a sale or seeing a project succeed.
What would you say to someone considering a career in sales?
The pros and cons of a sales careers . Skills you need to have to work in sales
The power to connect
Sales, in general, has an unfortunate reputation of dishonest people who will charm you until they have bought from you and then ditch you, leaving you with an unsuitable product or service.
You need to be aware of this trust barrier and have ways to break it down.
You need to be resilient. For example, I work in an industry that is predominantly male which means I need to show confidence when talking about engineering. I have the knowledge but showcasing that in the right way is important.
Our embedded electronics engineer, Nicholas Shattock
With sales or marketing there is often a technical team behind what you are selling. For example I have a lot of experience answering questions about engineering but I don’t have the degree, PhD or 15+ years’ experience, for example, in electronics design or software development. This means I need to trust my team and they need to trust me.
Understanding the psychological side of successful sales with internal issues such as Imposter Syndrome or handling targets is hugely important. Luckily, I find psychology fascinating!
My view is anyone can sell but being able to do it consistently and with different types of people is a skill you need to continuously develop. You need to be comfortable talking to technical directors of huge businesses. Can you retain the relevant knowledge from your team and can you field unexpected or confrontational questions? Can you handle complaints? You need to understand how personality types work such as the DISC structure and how to approach and talk to these different types of people. Do they want you to do all the talking or do they just want evidence-based reasons to invest in your consultancy? The answer is never the same from person to person.
Having the confidence to walk into a room with a board of directors, who are extremely knowledgeable, with the confidence and knowledge that you are in charge takes time and practice.
Being highly organised helps a lot. Many organisations have structure, stakeholders and approval processes, does your proposal or quotation speak to the FD as well as the head of engineering? Is it difficult to read or your process too long? If you forget to coordinate effectively whilst dealing with other admin paperwork you will lose lucrative projects regardless of how great your team or product is.
Committed and Passionate
It’s important to be hard working and you need to enjoy it! So make sure you pick a sector that interests you and talking to people is something you truly love, because you will be doing a lot of it!
Often you are persuading them to hand over a large sum of money, how do you make them feel comfortable enough to do that whilst always maintaining honesty and transparency? For example, I have advised potential customers not to work with us yet because they need extra funding, or we don’t have the right industry experience. Even if that means we lose out on several days work with them or even months!
It takes guts to walk away from a potential sale because a few months down the line neither of you will be happy even if that means you don’t hit target as quickly as you would like.
You must have a ‘win together’ mentality, many sales teams will compete against each other. This creates a toxic environment so always try and find ways to work together as a team, that way everyone gets to be more effective.
Before you start a career in sales
3 disadvantages to a sales career
A lot of sales places can be very brutal in terms of performance, if you don’t do well or an order gets cancelled you could lose commission even if the lost sale is not your fault. If you don’t hit target for one month you could lose your job easily. You have got to be thick skinned and find ways to grow your personal brand even if the place you first choose is not nurturing. At Ignys we’ve moved away from a commission-based model as we find we get far stronger results by hiring passionate people and focusing them on mutual wins, without encouraging aggressive sales tactics which can work to the detriment of other departments or the long-term success of the business.
Make sure you check the fine print in your contract to check what performance levels are expected. Also make sure you can afford to live off your base salary if you don’t hit the high numbers of commission straight away. Sales can be a great career for salary expectations, but your base level can be low, so if you are planning a mortgage or a loan it will be harder to prove average earnings if they fluctuate every month.
Unsociable working hours
The hours can be unsociable and there may be lot of travel involved. If you are an external sales manager then expect to travel a lot, this can affect your home life so you will need to prepare yourself and your family for this and find ways to create a healthy work life balance and avoid burnout.
Red flags in sales job
Read the small print:
- Working every weekend – If that’s not right for you
- OTE salary £-£K – Be careful the % of people who manage that amount may be very low
- Top sellers will be given the best leads or buy leads so be aware of these underhand tactics.
- Target area – Some areas of the country will be less successful than others for your sector, make sure you don’t get given the area that can’t perform or is furthest away from where you live. Check there isn’t a pattern of them hiring and firing for a certain underperforming region of the country.
- Sometimes it’s worth reaching out to ex-employees, whilst this doesn’t always tell a whole story you can often get candid pros and cons feedback on LinkedIn this way.
3 great advantages to a sales career plus a top tip
Dan Szlamp Design Engineer at Ignys Ltd
Being in sales often means you are the most connected department in the company as you have to speak with the quality teams, other sales members, engineers, marketing and more. You get to collaborate and swap ideas. In the right environment there can be a great team spirit and you often get to go to networking events or trade shows. People drawn to sales are the type of people who like to have a chat and make good relationships quickly and aren’t scared to pick up the phone. 80% of that chat will be about them and their challenges.
A top tip
Be genuinely interested, people can see through fake conversations or feigning interest. Not everyone wants to buy off a friend. People buy off people who you trust to do a good job and communicate effectively with you. This means you need to sell yourself and your team. If you don’t have the right bond with your team you won’t trust them and you will communicate this mistrust to the potential customer and scare them off.
Salary and progression
In the right job you can generate great commission or work towards a promotion with a terrific base salary. You can often progress from an internal salesperson to an external one. Make sure the travel involved doesn’t concern you. You can also play the role of mentor to other team members.
There is nothing more rewarding than hitting an ambitious sales target, helping your company hit a high turnover or seeing a project through to the end with successful results.
Ask Poppy a question
If you have questions for Poppy about a sales career, discovery calls or Ignys drop her a note here
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