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Return to Work: Offering the Maximum Flexible Options

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In this episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast, we have Gianna Scorsone, GM/Head of North America at Aircall, where she lives out her dream to scale the channel program and to empower diverse employees and leaders. Join us for a rich conversation about answering to your employees and hearing their need for flexible return-to-work options.

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If you missed episode #185, check it out here: The Key Is Personalization at Scale w/Appy Choudhary

What You’ll Learn

  • Servant leadership means listening to your people
  • Culture changes with every person who joins the team
  • How to provide compete return-to-work flexibility
  • Revising policies to support mental health

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. About Gianna Scorsone & Aircall [2:00]
  2. Gianna’s origin story in sales [4:50]
  3. How Aircall tackles the return to work [11:15]
  4. Supporting mental health with flexible policies [16:40]
  5. Building a culture that drives business outcomes [20:30]
  6. Paying it forward [24:20]
  7. Sam’s Corner [27:30]

About Gianna Scorsone & Aircall [2:00]

Sam Jacobs: Welcome to The Sales Hacker Podcast. Today on the show we’ve got Gianna Scorsone: general manager and the head of North America for Aircall.

Before we get there, we want to thank our sponsors. We’ve got three for the show. The first is Outreach, a long time sponsor of the podcast. They are excited to announce their new annual series, the Unleash Summit Series. This year’s theme is The Rise of Revenue Innovators. Get more details and save your spot at summit.outreach.io.

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Gianna empowers employees while overseeing departments that cover the customer journey spectrum, from lead generation to partnerships and integrations. Since joining Aircall, she has scaled their channel program, made a number of key hires and has grown the leadership team from within, for six female and people of color promotions. She’s also a sponsor of Aircall’s LGBTQI+ ERG Queer Call.

Gianna Scorsone: Aircall is a cloud-based soft phone system. It’s used by people who are customer-facing, wanting insight cards and visibility into past conversations — things to deliver great customer service.

Sam Jacobs: How long have you been at the company?

Gianna Scorsone: One year and one week.

Sam Jacobs: Congratulations on your one year anniversary. What are your responsibilities?

Gianna Scorsone: Following the customer journey from acquisition all the way through, keeping them happy: lead gen and demand gen teams, your traditional SDR BDRs, but also more indirect routes. That’s where we have the IDC team, (IT distribution channel). I’m also in charge of the partnerships team, which aligns with our core integration partners, direct channel (partners within the integration ecosystem) and AEs. Then, of course, setting up our customers for success, the onboarding team and the customer success team, who also drive revenue.

Gianna’s origin story in sales [4:50]

Gianna Scoresone: My first sales role was when I was six years old. My brother, sister and I had a metal soldering kit. We used to melt coins into little sculptures and trinkets.

We hacked some space at the street fair, trying to sell our trinkets. My siblings gave up after a few minutes but I was determined to sell. I sold one, and I stuck with it. I really worked on this one engaged customer, and I got her to throw down. I’ll never forget that thrill. It was my first sale and I was absolutely hooked.

Out of college, I was a marketing major and went into retail sales. What prepared me to be where I am today was working at a flagship store on Fifth Avenue.

I loved every minute of being on the floor: the energy, the buzz. It was exciting to learn how to speak to every customer at once. Time doesn’t permit speaking to every single person. You had to learn the techniques of using your voice, enthusiasm, understanding how to upsell in a way that made it feel very personal, but at scale. That translates into leading an SDR or a BDR team. All of my employees were college kids who weren’t making commissions. They were making an hourly minimum wage.

I had to tap into their intrinsic motivation and communicate a common goal, all so they could understand the importance and value of their contribution. You motivate a sales team by going beyond the dollars to learning, growing and helping them understand the responsibility they have to the people around them. Having one top performer doesn’t get you the scale that you need.

Sam Jacobs: How did you transition from Express through into software sales? Were there additional steps in between?

Gianna Scorsone: I took a year off to travel. Upon return, I sent my resume out to every single person I knew. It landed in the hands of Michael Kirven, who’s a mentor to this day. He co-founded Blue Wolf: a Salesforce consulting firm and premier partner. We did incredibly well, fast growth year over year.

I stayed on through the acquisition of one of our business lines, for a few months, enjoying the startup and buildup mode. I then started consulting and coaching, set to have a more relaxed life, and then I got a call from a recruiter about Aircall.

How Aircall tackles the return to work [11:15]

Gianna Scorsone: You have to be hybrid in-office and fully remote all at the same time because it’s rare for an organization to be solely one of those things.

How do you make people feel safe? How do you care for mental wellness in the process? What was comfortable for someone yesterday may not be comfortable for them today. It’s really about asking those questions, checking in with people and sending out frequent surveys.

Make sure people understand that they can change their mind right now. We have reopened our New York City office, required vaccines for the office and people don’t wear masks here. If they travel, people frequently get COVID tests to make sure that we’re checking in, despite vaccines, so that breakthrough cases don’t spill over. This has been really successful for us.

People can work three days a week in the office, two days a week from home. We’re all in the office on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays because we want that collaboration that being in-office provides. It’s also about routine: knowing your exact schedule so that you’re mentally prepared because you know when you’re going to be at home.

Everything we offer to in-house folk, remote folk also get. Everyone feels comfortable to be fully remote if they want to. If half our Zoom participants are in-office and the other half are remote, everyone opens their computer to join Zoom.

Sam Jacobs: How is Aircall approaching people who don’t want to be vaccinated?

Gianna Scorsone: They have their fully remote option and they’re fully remote. We’re getting training facilitators to do a remote version so that people don’t miss out. We need to make sure that we’re being inclusive and allow people to feel comfortable with their personal choices.

Supporting mental health with flexible policies [16:40]

Gianna Scorsone: HR did a phenomenal job getting our managers together, teaching them how to check in with their employees: the type of questions to ask; behaviors or the body language to look out for. Encourage people to take some time off when you see them sick, a little bit drained or not doing the best that they can.

Because we have an open vacation policy, sometimes people don’t take vacation. I’m a huge advocate of making sure that people take time because of mental wellness: that release that everyone needs. We track how much time people take to make sure that they are taking it.

Sam Jacobs: Let’s say you’re tracking to below quota and you want a vacation. It becomes clear that you’re going to miss the number. That’s one scenario and the other might be that October’s just a super busy time. Do you give guidance? Is there a consciousness over providing feedback?

Gianna Scorsone: With the first scenario that you gave, I would probably guide their leader to ask, “Do you want success? What does success mean to you? How do you feel this will translate to your overall success here and building your career?” It’s more a choice around whether vacation will help or hurt. That’s very personal and contextualized. Maybe someone felt fatigued and burnt out, and that’s why they weren’t performing well. Vacation allows them to come back, guns blazing, and crush quota the next month. Maybe they’re just a bottom performer and don’t care — that’s really a story of whether or not they should be on the team.

The second scenario that you mentioned was peak season. I do give guidance around that. On top of peak time, or shortened months like December, there’s also making sure that we have enough coverage. It’s looking to see how many other people are on vacation at the same time. Distribution is really important.

Building a culture that drives business outcomes [20:30]

Gianna Scorsone: It starts with hiring. Hire great people, even if you think they might be too senior in a startup environment. You’re going to need them very soon, so hire great people with intrinsic motivation who are team players. I have a no-ego and no-asshole policy on my team. I won’t stand for it. It’s distracting and it stunts the business.

It’s also important to think about process and culture. How do you build both? Empower your team to do it. Think about how much diversity and how many levels you have building the process and culture. I’m responsible for making sure that we uphold our company values. The people drive the culture, which is iterative. It represents the population that you have at the time, and should always evolve as a result of it.

I’m a people-first leader, numbers second. How I treat our team is how they’ll treat the customers. My role as a leader is not to report into the CEO or the board. My team is my boss.

Paying it forward [24:20]

Sam Jacobs: Who are some people that you think we should know about?

Gianna Scorsone: Eric Berridge, the other co-founder of Blue Wolf, now an EVP over at Salesforce. I really learned from him how to really focus on vision, disseminating it to motivate a team. He built a Salesforce practice like I’ve never seen before.

He continued to innovate and empower the leaders around him to create the mold of what a consulting firm should look like in the agile world.

Sam’s Corner [27:30]

Sam Jacobs: What a great conversation with Gianna Scorsone. I think a lot of it stood out. One of the important things was the emphasis and the focus on her boss being the people that work for her: her teammates; the people that report to her. Gianna’s definition of servant leadership means listening to her teammates, figuring out what they need and want, then making modifications.

The other thing that she said, which was really interesting, was that culture is the collected actions and beliefs of the people that work for you today. It is not what it used to be. It’s always evolving based on the people who work with you at that moment. It’s challenging to constantly find a new dynamic, given everything that’s happening around returning to work. Aircall has been really thoughtful about complete flexibility: they achieved it by asking the employees what they wanted.

I don’t think there’s one easy answer, but I think a lot of companies are tackling this challenge with innovation. And that’s one of the things that Aircall is doing.

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Otherwise, my friends, I will talk to you next time.

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