People > Process: An Interview with Shannon Katschilo, Strategic Sales Director at Medallia

By: Teresa Weirich

May 2, 2018

In our series, People > Processes, we’ve been highlighting sales professionals and leaders who lead with integrity and who always go above and beyond for their prospective customers. The reason we’re so passionate about highlighting these superstars? We’re on a mission to bust the mindset that those in sales are in it for their own personal gain. What we’ve had the privilege of learning is that these sales professionals care deeply about solving problems and providing solutions, and they’ll do anything to ensure customer success. Recently, we’ve had the privilege of profiling the likes of Adam Weber, VP of Sales at Emplify, Courtney Shaffer-Lovold, Global Strategic Account Manager at Emarsys, and Jonathan Sherman, SAE at Pluralsight. We hope you’ll read the entire series to see firsthand how these sales professionals lead with heart and soul.

Our next People > Processes article features Shannon Katschilo, Strategic Sales Director at Medallia, which is an enterprise customer experience management company. Shannon, based just outside of Toronto, works with many of Canada’s largest enterprise companies. And while Shannon has become very successful in her new business sales role, she didn’t originally have her eyes set on sales. Shannon went to school unsure of her eventual path and through co-op experiences, she had the opportunity to work with startups and immediately fell in love with the culture and recognized that she enjoyed working with customers and supporting their business goals. Shortly after University, Shannon started her career in client success and liked the idea that her compensation was directly tied to her performance and work ethic, rather than rank or tenure.

Within just 5 years, Shannon had earned her way to present to many boardrooms and supporting C-level executives about how they could drive culture and engagement. Shannon realized this wasn’t something that many young professionals had the opportunity to do, so she began leaning into other areas of growth potential. When she began receiving feedback from clients that she would make a terrific new business sales professional, she took notice and began to get to work on sharpening her public speaking and negotiation skills, which she believes are paramount to success in sales. In the following interview, Shannon gets real about how difficult enterprise sales is, but also shares how rewarding it can be—and provides some great tips for how to excel as a sales professional.

Use Creativity and Authenticity In The Sales Process

Shannon loves to roll up her sleeves and get creative with her prospect meetings—in fact, she shared that it’s the best part of her job. As a sales professional, Shannon owns her own book of business and she uses the tools throughout the sales process to let her creativity and passion for customer success shine through in touchpoints like marketing campaigns, proposals, and most importantly, presentations. Shannon is a big believer in tailoring every single presentation she gives to the prospect. She uses their colors, their logo, their industry in her examples, and she even brings in quotes from the CEO and stats from the latest annual report. While it make take her hours and hours to do, it’s that level of creativity that sets her apart—she wants her prospects to see their culture brought to life whenever she’s in a meeting. While Shannon shared that it’s hard work, she believes it’s always worth the effort.

Instead of just cold calling and emailing her prospects, Shannon again uses her creativity to get their attention and simultaneously add value. Last holiday season, for example, Shannon visited her prospects and did a ‘drop off campaign’ in which she gave agendas for the new year, a handwritten note, and a book. While Shannon didn’t include a meeting ask, the value that she shared with her not-even-clients paid dividends because they saw firsthand that she was invested in the partnership.

“I own my own book of business, which is why I get so creative—it truly is the most fun I have with this job”, said Shannon.

Show Your Prospects That They’re Priority #1

When we asked Shannon how she wants her prospects to perceive her, she shared that enterprise sales can be downright hard as there can be tense times, such as the negotiation process. Shannon admitted that as a sales professional, she’s not going to be loved or even liked at every aspect of the sales process, which is a lesson she had to learn early on.

Shannon shared, “I want my prospects to know that I always do my best to put them first. Trust, transparency and integrity is everything to me. While things may get tense, I want them to know that I’m always working in their best interest and that as their trusted advisor, I’m doing what’s right for their success.”

Shannon also stays close to her customers, even after the sales process is over. She’s big on maintaining great relationships and explained that there’s a ripple effect involved: they can be advocates for other prospects, for instance. But most importantly, Shannon stays close so that she can continue to help and advise.

Two Questions to Ask Every Prospect

Shannon always asks her prospects the same two questions, which she believes are fundamental for setting the sales process up for success. The questions include:

  • How do you like to communicate? Shannon asks what her prospect’s preferred communication is: email, phone, or even texting. While it’s a simple question, it can mean the difference between a smooth and successful sales process, and one that goes dark. Shannon has found that some individuals simply don’t like talking on the phone, and by making a small adjustment, she receives better, fast answers via email or text.
  • Where do you want to go? Shannon always wants to know whether her prospects are looking to advance in their careers as she’s found that oftentimes, she can help catapult them to where they want to go by helping them find success with Medallia’s platform. Regardless of their answer, it’s an important question for Shannon to ask so she can consider outcomes for her stakeholders.

“People Buy With Emotion and BackFill With Logic”

One of Shannon’s good friends and mentor, Sarah-Beth Anders, shared this quote that has become ingrained in her sales process: “People buy with emotion and backfill with logic.”

To Shannon, the quote is meaningful as especially in today’s day and ago, the tech landscape is extremely competitive. Buyers can learn a lot about a product before they even set up a meeting. That’s why Shannon and her sales professional peers have to work on logic—such as competitive positioning and differentiators—but must also bring emotion into the equation by understanding the prospect’s prioritization, preferences, and even their disposition.

Shannon’s Advice: Constantly Work to Refine Skills

When we asked Shannon for advice, she instantly responded that sales professionals of all levels need to take time to learn fundamental skills and continually refine them. Shannon has personally experienced the benefit of working on her public speaking skills, negotiations, and many other tactics that have helped propel her career. She recommends finding mentors, practicing continually, and even taking courses.

“It doesn’t matter what level of success I get to—I am constantly asking for advice from my tribe. It truly takes an entire village and an ecosystem to be successful, so rather than focus just on building external relationships with prospects and customers, it’s important to take the time to build relationships internally, too. I simply wouldn’t be where I am today without the people that I’ve surrounded myself with,” said Shannon.

  • Teresa Weirich's Headshot
    Teresa Weirich

Ready to Learn More?

For more information on best practices of great sales leaders, check out the Costello resources below. If you’d like to see Costello in action, request a personalized demo of our real-time sales playbook software.

Related Posts: