Celine Maher, director of EMEA sales development at New Relic, explains the kind of skills you need to excel in the world of sales.
As we discussed in recent weeks, there are certain roles in the tech world that don’t get as much attention as software developers but are just as essential to the running of an enterprise. Sales is one of those areas.
Far from requiring the hard skills of computer science roles, sales roles may suit those who are more people-oriented and empathetic. We chatted to Celine Maher, director of EMEA sales development at New Relic, about how you can best prepare for a sales role in a fast-paced tech company.
What first stirred your interest in a career in sales?
I studied buyer behaviour in university, and from that moment on I was hooked. It sparked an overwhelming interest in why people do what they do, and so I naturally was drawn to both sales and to people management.
I’ve worked in a number of sales leadership roles and have grown to be acutely aware of the varying dynamics and skills required across all aspects of the sales cycle. In particular, I’m really interested in what drives customer interests and the discovery elements of the sales cycle, so specialising in this area made a lot of sense.
In my current role as director of sales development at New Relic, I have the opportunity to feed a longstanding passion of mine and mentor early-career individuals to find their passions in sales.
What education and/or other jobs led you to the role you now have?
My educational background is predominantly in business and marketing, so moving into a role in customer-facing communications felt natural.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked in a number of roles where I have led end-to-end teams across an array of sales skills, from transactional to field, but I’ve always kept a keen interest in the demand management space.
My role with New Relic is unique because I’m able to focus on partnering with our EMEA customers, gain a deep understanding of their initiatives and priorities, and help them drive their digital businesses. I see the real impact our business is making on our customers every day.
What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path, and how did you deal with them?
In looking for new career opportunities, I tend to prioritise company culture and business ethics. It’s always been very important to me to work for organisations that align closely with my personal beliefs and that create a culture that I want to be a part of.
Finding those organisations has been a challenge for me. My approach over the years has been to identify companies that I really believe in, where their business ethics are clear and their culture is compelling. To be a part of an organisation that echoes what’s important to you is a uniquely satisfying position to be in, and it ultimately impacts your complete commitment to that role and that organisation.
New Relic is a values-driven business and we prioritise bringing our authentic selves to work. I can openly talk about the things I’m passionate about, find meaningful ways to contribute to the company outside of my day-to-day job, express my opinions and feel supported by my team.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
Each of my mentors has shaped the leader that I am today. Lending their experience and imparting their knowledge on me has afforded me an opportunity to expand my thinking.
One person in particular that had a big impact on me is Ronan O’Neill, who now leads customer service and customer retention organisation for Three. As an individual, Ronan was focused, progressive and extremely people-oriented. His mentorship taught me to test the boundaries, always challenge the status quo, and to cultivate a team that embraces change and welcomes a challenge.
As a result, I now tend to focus my career and energies on building successful operations from the bottom up, and supporting my team as best I can.
What do you enjoy about your job?
Without a doubt, it’s the team environment. I love to feel like I’m part of something that’s bigger than me, bigger even than us. It’s what drives me to be better and do better.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?
As a progressive thinker, I’m constantly thinking about ways to bring about change and innovation. In my career, I’ve found that I’m really passionate about building out and scaling operations in a way that keeps them at the cutting edge.
I’m an individual that not only embraces change but I love to create it. Being part of the New Relic team and the sales development organisation couldn’t be a better fit for this very reason. We’re experiencing some amazing momentum in the market, and the organisation is faced with the exciting challenge of scaling across EMEA.
How did New Relic support you on your career path?
As a relatively new member of the New Relic team, most of my career path conversations are in their infancy. We have programmes in place, though, that ensure employees and their managers are connecting twice a year on career ambitions, performance and strategy. We’re encouraged to create goals and track against them.
I’m working on these plans with my direct reports and really look forward to building out my own. At a broader scale, however, I’m acutely aware of the support that I’ve received from all areas of the business as I look to grow and shape the sales development organisation in EMEA.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in sales, or just starting out in one?
Sales is a dynamic field that offers varying opportunities to people with different strengths and interests. In my role, I’ve found that there are some predominant factors that make salespeople successful: a love of the customer, a fascination with their motivations and a drive to form meaningful relationships.
My advice for people considering a career in sales development is to spend some time to better understand your strengths and discover what you love to do most. If someone is just starting out, I would always suggest researching careers in sales to understand what traits are inherent in the role, how that plays to your strengths, and what your development or career path would look like before embarking on that challenge.
Seek out mentors or advisers in this area, and draw upon their experiences to better understand what that specific role entails. Be clear and focused on what or where you want your final destination to be, then make plans to get yourself there.