Unlocking Cross-Functional Solutions to Sell More and Sell Better: Insight from Def Method’s Jennifer Imamura
When Jennifer Imamura joined software consultancy Def Method as Director of Business Development last year, the first thing on her agenda wasn't building a sales pipeline.
It was meeting people.
Meeting everyone, in fact.
"I met with every single person at Def Method," says Jennifer, who adds that the agenda for those conversations with her new coworkers included their passions, what kinds of projects they wanted to work on, and what their goals were. "Getting to know people like that lets them—and me—show some vulnerability. And it builds trust. It allows people to understand that I'm in this for you."
Being able to connect well with people is one of Jennifer's superpowers, and knowing how to connect those people to projects and strategic initiatives is another. Together, they allow her to develop cross-functional solutions—that is, to solve client problems with a combination of engineering, product management, and design resources.
We sat down with Jennifer to hear more about her career path into sales (including why she initially swore sales wasn't for her), as well as the advice she has for engineering and sales teams looking to collaborate in order to serve clients, build pipelines, and find solutions.
"Do the right thing"
Jennifer grew up in doctors' offices.
Not because she was sick, but because her mom worked as a manager of several private practice physician's offices in Beverly Hills. Jennifer's first job was filing charts, and she worked as a receptionist and in the back office of doctors' offices throughout high school, undergrad, and her MBA program.
Then her boss, the head physician at the private practice she was managing, told her she needed to leave.
"He gave me the best advice. He said, 'You have to keep moving. You've worked your butt off to get this MBA, go get a corporate job and move up in this world,'" she recalls.
Jennifer took his advice and took a role in the back office of a multinational corporation, even though it required taking a pay cut at first. She made up for it with regular promotions and transfers, moving to operations and then strategy and eventually sales.
"Ironically, I never wanted to go into sales or business development," says Jennifer. "I didn't want to have to get in front of people. But my boss at that organization said that I had the charisma, the energy, what it takes...and even though he was right, it was important for me to take those steps of learning how a business operates, because that's what set me up for greater success as a sales leader."
And now, after years of sales success—at that corporation, then at a Chicago-based software development shop, and now at Def Method—Jennifer still manages her career with the values she learned in those doctors' offices.
"Physicians are supposed to do the right thing for their patients. I learned very early on that you've got to do the right thing for your client, and that stuck with me," she says.
Redefining What Success Looks Like by Developing a New Approach
Doing the right thing for her client is sometimes at odds with closing the biggest deal possible. Jennifer still sticks with the former.
"Having integrity in business, and a good moral compass, speaks volumes. Salespeople looking for the big win and the big payout are usually miserable," she says. "If a client sees that I'm actually working a good deal for them and their company, they're going to come back."
Her commitment to actually solving client problems in a way that looks out for their bottom line is what helped Jennifer see the value in cross-functional solutions.
Here's how she explains them: "They're complex offerings that include different departments or teams from my side, making sure we work together to create the optimal service for our client. While including the different teams on their side, too."
In action, that might look like working with a client who wants a custom app built. They know they need engineering, because they have a great product vision. But if they don't have a plan and roadmap for how to actually build it, they may need product management resources, too. And if they want it to look good? Well, Jennifer would bring in her design team to make it visually appealing.
"Cross-functional selling is much more efficient and effective than just selling the shiny box or saying, 'Hmm, Mr. Client, you need all of this and you need all of that because it's the deluxe package,'" says Jennifer. "It's more thorough, it's more thoughtful, and from my perspective, it's the right thing to do."
Three Common Challenges—And Three Ways to Address Them
Selling cross-functionally requires getting a lot of people in the same boat rowing in the same direction, and that's not always easy. Jennifer shared some of the common pitfalls to this kind of collaboration, as well as advice for overcoming them:
- Finding alignment with other teams or departments. It can be hard to get on the same page with people whose goals or metrics for success are different than yours. What has worked for Jennifer is creating opportunities for teams to interact more regularly and share their goals, including a biweekly internal meeting with her engineers to check on their job satisfaction and morale.
- Trusting your team. "I have to trust my team to be able to help me build the solution. If I don't trust them, if I don't believe that they are experts also, it can't happen," says Jennifer. Her initial meeting circuit helped build that foundation, and regular check-ins help push it farther. "Every day I have to see these people. I want them to go and start their day with, 'Yes, this is a good project, I'm happy to do this,' not 'Ugh, I'm ready to rip it off,'" she says.
- Knowing the product and service. You can't sell what you don't understand, and custom software solutions can be especially difficult to understand. "It's not a box, or a bundle, or 'choose option A, B, or C,'" says Jennifer. "You start from scratch in every single conversation. You have to really listen, pay attention, and do the research." Jennifer got caught up by reading books on project management, taking classes on coding and project methodologies, and using Def Method's generous learning and development budget and time allowance to attend webinars and conferences to keep pushing her understanding.
Working through those challenges is more than worth it, says Jennifer. "Being able to work with people from different teams, people who think differently, it helps me sell better. It helps me see from their perspective the value in what we're doing."
💎 How to build trust in your team? Watch the video to the end to find out!
📼 How should you work to build trust in your team? Play this video to get three top tips that will help you. You'll hear from Veronica Setzke, Senior Director of People Ops at Pax8, who shares tips and tricks she learned through years of coaching.
📼 How to build trust with peers in your team? Tip #1: Relationships. There's no better way to start forming relationships than having regular one-on-ones. It doesn't have to just be with your supervisor. It can be with your coworkers. It can be with those people that you collaborate regularly with. And it's really important in these one-on-ones that we're spending time listening. Take the time to be present and listen. Also, spend time together not working. Have lunch together. Go for coffee. Take a five-minute walk around the building and just have a conversation. Relations are a key element to trust!
📼 How to build trust? Open yourself in your team Tip #2: Vulnerability. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Ask for feedback, whether it's feedback about a project, a process, or even maybe a leadership behavior that you're trying to master. This allows those on your team and those around you to see you as willing to be vulnerable. Trust and vulnerability go hand in hand. It doesn't mean that you’re weak, but rather that you’re open. It allows your team to understand that it's a safe place for them to also be vulnerable.
How To Share To Build Trust In Your Team - Tip #3: Clear Is Kind
Keep the team informed and say as much as you can about what you know. There are times that we hold information that could be shared. We could share that information that impacts others' work and have them have the opportunity to use that to do better. If you've learned something that could help your colleague make a better decision, share that! Try to ensure that your communication with others is clear. When you make the effort to be clear about your intentions, your work, and your roadblocks, it opens others up to do the same.
📨 Are you interested in joining Pax8? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Veronica Setzke
She works as a People professional because she sincerely believes that people want to be excellent, and it is her role to help move the obstacles to their achieving success. She believes the employees deserve a culture that values their work and will respond to such a culture by creating amazing results. If you are interested in a career at Pax8, you can connect with Veronica on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Pax8
The company simplifies the way organizations buy, sell, and manage cloud solutions, empowering its partners to achieve more with cloud technology. At Pax8, they know that they are only as great as their people. They realize that every individual has unique personal and professional aspirations, which is why they strive to offer a complete and competitive Total Rewards offering for their members and family.
💎Want to implement change in your team or organization? Watch the video to the end to do it successfully.
📼 To implement change you need to follow certain steps. Play this video to get three top tips on how to do it the best possible way. You'll hear from Kyle Lisboa, Support Operations Manager at Esri, who shares her experience with you!
📼Why implement change? Tip #1: Identify the reason. Think about the business reason for the change. If you understand why change is needed, it helps you explain it to others. Avoid making change for change's sake and implement solutions that solve problems.
📼Plan to implement change! Tip #2: Develop a plan. Create a detailed plan to help implement the change. If you create steps and timelines, this will guide the process. It also helps others understand how you are progressing towards the implementation and what the next steps are.
To Implement Change You Need Others - Tip #3: Seek Feedback
Gather feedback from those affected before, during, and after any changes are implemented. Allowing others to provide their feedback helps to create an inclusive atmosphere where everyone feels part of the solution.
📨 Are you interested in joining Esri? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Kyle Lisboa
Kyle is an experienced Strategic Operations Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. She’s skilled in Arcgis Products, Databases, Management, Geography, and Cartography. If you are interested in a career at Esri, you can connect with her on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Esri
At Esri, they build cutting-edge geographic information system (GIS) technology that customers use to solve the world’s most complex challenges: slowing climate change, stamping out disease, designing a better city, fighting crime, and much more. Their ArcGIS software is helping communities around the globe respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by monitoring the surge, managing testing sites, aiding essential workers in finding childcare, mapping food and essentials, and keeping residents informed and safe.
Nearly 80% of workers want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion, per a CNBC survey.
But how do prospective employees — and, for that matter, current ones — know whether an organization takes diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) seriously?
Metrics can help.
What are DEI metrics?
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging metrics are measurements of how a company is doing against its stated DEIB goals. They help track progress, light up problems, synthesize momentum over time, prioritize investment, and allow a company and its employees to have accountability over DEIB intentions.
How can DEI metrics help my overall DEI strategy?
Creating a DEIB strategy is the first step in making your workplace more equitable. But having DEI metrics is a vital second step in ensuring that progress happens.
DEI metrics help a company actualize their strategy, live out their values, meet employee expectations, and make the workplace more fair for all employees.
10 examples of DEI metrics
1. Hiring: the diversity of your candidate pipeline.
How diverse is your applicant pool? Have your candidates self-identify and track what representation looks like in your candidate system.
2. Representation: the demographics of your current employees.
Many companies put pressure on their new hires to make up for gaps in their existing employee population — so make sure you’re benchmarking against data on what your current workforce is made up of.
3. Representation: the demographics of your leadership team.
People need to see that there is a path for success for people who look like them at your organization. What does the makeup of your board look like? Your directors? Your managers? And what does the promotion pipeline look like into those roles?
4. Representation: the demographics of your suppliers.
The money that you spend can significantly impact communities around you — so you should be measuring whether you’re doing that in a way that challenges bias and champions equitable treatment.
5. HR systems: pay equity.
Do all employees, regardless of gender or race, make the same amount of money if they’re doing the same job? If not, what’s your gender / race pay gap and how quickly are you closing it?
6. Employee experience: HR issues.
It’s important to track wins when it comes to DEIB, but it’s also vital to track times when your organization falls short. How many HR / People issues related to DEIB, including allegations of unfair treatment or bias, has your organization dealt with in the past year? What was the result of them? How quickly did issues get resolved? These metrics are key to know.
7. Employee experience: satisfaction with DEI progress.
When you send out employee satisfaction surveys, make sure you include questions on how employees perceive your current progress on DEI goals. They’re the ones most impacted by your strategy — and their opinion matters.
8. Employee engagement: participation in communication platforms.
How often do employees participate in Slack? What about by-channel participation? Looking at data on who talks to who and when can help highlight issues with inclusion or culture. Some companies are using AI-enabled text analysis tools to look for signs of frustration or for problematic language.
9. Employee participation: ERG membership.
Employee resource groups can be hugely helpful in creating community around different identities, interests, and demographics. They can also provide guidance on how to actualize your organization’s DEIB goals. (Which is part of the reason you should pay ERG leaders for their efforts, but that’s a topic for a different blog.)
10. Brand reputation: customer perception.
We’ve talked about key groups for whom DEIB metrics matter — prospective employees, current employees, leadership — but they matter to your customers, too. Whether you add a DEIB component to your existing NPS process, conduct 1:1 customer interviews, or get feedback some other way, it’s important to see whether your customer base is seeing progress on your DEIB goals, too.
Have you ever been so exhausted that you quit your job?
You may have been experiencing burnout.
Burnout is characterized by overwhelming exhaustion, detachment from your work, and a sense of ineffectiveness.
And while anyone can experience burnout, if you have ADHD, you may be more susceptible to it.
Before you get to the point where quitting feels like your only option, there are steps you can take to set healthy boundaries and start feeling more like yourself again. Read on to learn how you can recognize burnout in yourself, and what to do if you’re experiencing it!
How Does ADHD Burnout Feel?
There are some clear signs that you’re burning out, but ADHD can make the descent to burnout harder to detect. These warning signs include:
- Lack of motivation - not wanting to do the things you need to do or the things you love.
- Exhaustion - feeling overly tired both mentally and physically.
- Irritability and mental fatigue - feeling short-tempered, mean, or like you snap easily.
- Physical discomfort - body aches, low energy levels, and general pain.
- Negative outlook - the tendency to find something wrong with nearly everything.
- Emotional dysregulation - feeling weepy, sad, or unable to smile or connect with others.
Generally, burnout starts with taking on too much. Exhaustion creeps in, and you feel like every day is working against you because you are constantly overwhelmed. You may start to feel like the entire world is spinning out of control, or like no matter what you do you can’t keep up (or catch up).
If this resonates with you, you might be on the road to ADHD burnout.
Why People with ADHD Can Be More Susceptible to Burnout
So why does ADHD make some folks more susceptible to burnout? There are a few common ADHD traits that often result in behaviors correlated with burnout (taking on too much, working too long, etc.):
- Hyperfocus - ADHD is not exclusively about attention deficits. In fact, hyperfocus is the opposite – a deep, intense concentration to the point of being oblivious to your surroundings. Per WebMD, hyperfocus is a state of highly-focused attention that lasts for an extended period of time. You concentrate on something so hard that you lose track of everything else going on around you. When hyperfocus sets in at work, it can be hard to unplug or be aware of the people and environment around you.
- Time Tracking - Losing track of time is one thing, but if you find yourself losing track of hours without realizing it, that could be related to burnout. People with ADHD perceive time not as a sequence of events the way others usually do, but as a diffuse collection of events viscerally connected to the people, activities, and emotions that fill them.
- Difficulty Prioritizing - Do you take on too much and then struggle to prioritize it? When someone asks for help, does everything often go to the wayside so you can jump in? Or maybe the daunting anticipation of the tasks ahead prevents you from starting. Per ADDitude, ADHD impacts your temporal processing abilities, which can affect executive functioning.
Combating ADHD Burnout
If you think you may be suffering from ADHD burnout, there are a few ways to take back control. Here are three tips for combating ADHD burnout:
Reserve Your Yeses - Pump the brakes when you recognize the early signs of ADHD burnout. Start reserving your yeses right away. Say no, and practice not apologizing. It is okay to say, "I have a lot on my plate right now and cannot take that on. Thanks for thinking of me." Saying no is nothing to apologize for, and it should be celebrated! You are working to protect your energy above all else.
Practice Over-Estimating - If you think you could knock something out in a day, give yourself a week. Overestimate on time and allow yourself the grace to have a little more time than usual to complete projects. Slowing down when starting a new job or role will help you produce high-quality work and prevent ADHD burnout.
Drop the Mask - Be honest with your employer and friends. Let them know that although you seem to keep up internally, you struggle. Identifying ADHD burnout from the outside can be extremely difficult. Your honesty and transparency will position you to determine if your environment is supportive and inclusive.
How to Support Colleagues Dealing with ADHD Burnout
The experiences above may not resonate with you personally, but perhaps you’ve noticed other people you work with describe or experience them.
If you’re a manager, there are several ways you can support colleagues with ADHD (as well as neurodivergent employees more generally) to help prevent burnout. Ask for clarity on when they have felt the most supported at work. Discovery questions like, “how did you feel at that time?” or “how was the pace of that project?” can help you to understand their actual capacity.Download this free guide if you’re looking for more ways to support your neurodivergent coworkers. Work with your DEIB and HR team to develop new neurodivergent inclusivity standards to help you stay ahead of the ADHD burnout cycle.