Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke to Erica Schultz, President of Field Operations at Confluent.
The world feels a little unsteady these days, which manifests differently in every employee. How are you supporting Confluent’s employees?
ERICA: We’ve done a few things as we’ve navigated this past year. We’ve spent some time with our leadership team on “Managing Inclusively,” and on coaching all leaders how to really check in with their team members. We’ve offered extra “re-charge days,” in addition to our existing vacation policy. We’ve launched ERGs for 6 under-represented groups and introduced lots of (optional) fun activities. The past year has presented many challenges, but through it all, I do believe we’ve grown more connected as a team and more authentic, vulnerable, and resilient as human beings.
As we kick off 2021, what are some of your top strategic priorities?
ERICA: At Confluent our #1 company value is “Earn Our Customers’ Love.” To us, customer success is not just a functional area, but a company sport. Everyone gets involved; it is our north star. So in 2021 we continue to make investments in customer success such as hiring and training more CSMs, creating Customer Advisory Boards, and adding technical architects — we will do everything we can to help our customers realize maximum value from our technology.
What do sales leaders need to be successful right now?
ERICA: Sales and GTM leaders are always well served by deeply understanding their customers’ journeys and the needs of the various stakeholders involved in a technology decision. How can you communicate with and engage each of those customer stakeholders in a way that best meets their needs? For developers, it may be a great self-service experience and technical documentation. For change agent CTOs, it may be forums with peers who are also leading bold change at their companies. Think persona-specific.
What will change for sales leaders post-COVID, and what’s here to stay?
ERICA: Digital is here to stay, both as a way to engage with your customers, as well as a key initiative that your customers are investing in. What role does your technology play in your customers’ digital transformation, and are you doubling down on your unique value prop to address that need?
What’s one thing sales leaders can do to foster teamwork and a sense of belonging?
As you create culture on your own team, think about the behaviors you reward. Sales is often hyper-focused on the outcomes and results, yet how you get there is just as important. If you want a collaborative and inclusive culture, consider how you’ll recognize and reward that. How do you call on all leaders in your organization to set that tone?
AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were some of those formative jobs for you?
ERICA: I was a competitive swimmer growing up, and in my late teens I coached a competitive swim team. I loved that job, even though when I did the math I made about $1/hour. But it was amazing to help those young swimmers learn how to set goals and work hard. It brought me such joy to see them realize new possibilities for themselves, in the pool and beyond. It’s what I love my role today – the ability to find and unlock potential in individuals, teams, businesses is so rewarding.
What’s your secret super power?
ERICA: Well, my 10 year old says I am excellent at ping pong, and my 8 year old says I have a big vocabulary. Can those count?