What does the career path and day in the life look like for a sales manager at SmartBear?
We interviewed Thomas Salah to find out!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Gloucester, MA, a small fishing community located 45 minutes north of Boston.
What did you parents do for work? What was your very first job?
My parents owned and operated a restaurant for 25 years of my life. I think I washed my first dish at 10 years old. I was in the kitchen cooking with my Dad at 12, and I was waiting tables by 14. My grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins all worked at the restaurant – it was a family affair.
Where did you go to college? What did you study?
I graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in economics. My goal was to attend a NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) school and continue playing hockey. NESCAC schools offer a top-tier liberal arts education combined with highly competitive athletics. Wesleyan felt like the right fit for me from the other NESCAC schools I looked at, and I have no regrets in my decision. The classes were very challenging, we had the best hockey season in program history during my time, and I met people from all areas of the world with different perspectives that made me who I am today.
What was your first job out of college?
As senior year winded down, many of my friends were interviewing for finance and investment banking roles, but I knew that wasn’t for me. I am a people person, and I knew I didn’t have the patience or interest in living behind a spreadsheet and crunching numbers all day. I connected with people in my network across several different industries and liked the idea of technology sales. A family friend had been selling software at PTC for 15 years and helped me to get a job as an Inside Sales Representative (PTC’s word for Business/Sales Development Rep). This was six years ago, and I have been selling software ever since.
What are the details of your current role at SmartBear as a Sales Manager?
I manage a team of six-quota carrying representatives for one of our top product lines. As a sales manager, my focus is teaching my team sales strategies from the initial discovery through close to help each rep reach their goals. While I am involved in all deals that reps need assistance with, I pride myself on coaching and developing my reps rather than writing an email or taking a call for them. I really love working with my team to understand the “why” a particular result occurred to scale that approach if the result was positive and adjust the approach if the result was negative. All sales reps will tell you their goal is to hit their number, and I am responsible for helping them do that at SmartBear, but I believe my true value is helping my team develop the skills that are going to result in them always hitting their number and enjoying long-term success.
Your career path has consistently been on track for a promotion every 1-2 years. What has attributed to your success?
This is no mystery - work hard, be accountable, and never settle for less. I’ve always had these core values at the top of mind. As in sports, if you put in the effort and stay focused on consistently delivering on your goals, then coaches/managers/leaders will continue to trust you with more responsibility and give you a chance in big-time situations. I’ve always wanted to have the ball in my hands when the game is on the line or a deal teed-up that gets the company across the revenue target. I see those high-pressure situations as an opportunity to prove my worth, and all I can ask for is the opportunity. What I do with that opportunity, well, that’s on me.
What is your most proud accomplishment at SmartBear?
Without question - rolling out “Personal Development” sessions. Each rep on my team has a 30-minute recurring meeting on my calendar to discuss the topic of their choice in an open discussion format. Topics include written and verbal communication, objection handling, adding and selling value, creating urgency, negotiating, and many others. My intention in rolling out “Personal Development” was to offer each of my reps the opportunity to focus their attention on a specific skill that they would like to improve on and separate from the day-to-day grind of sales, separate from the forecast, the calling, and emailing. I want my reps to look back on their time at SmartBear working for me as being the most impactful years of their career. I hope to be a mentor for them for years to come.
Day in the Life
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
What time do you get into the office?
I get into the office between 8:30-9. My team covers the West Coast territory, so work starts a little later than most.
Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?
I get up every morning at 6, gym from 6:30-8 and then head to the office. I have a good idea of what the day is going to consist of from reviewing my calendar the previous night and listing out my highest priority tasks.
My highest priority task daily is reviewing my pipeline and identifying the key opportunities that are going to get me to my goals and ask myself, “What can I do today to progress this opportunity?" I then look to start knocking down other high priority tasks before the rest of my team arrives, and the day starts moving along quickly. I have meetings to attend daily, but I strive to be at my desk at all other times.
When I am not in meetings or on customer calls, I spend time reviewing our activity metrics, adding value to my team, and teaching. Around 6 o’clock daily, when the day is winding down, I spend time finishing any outstanding tasks and set my plan for the next day. I also like to spend some time before I leave catching up on the news for the day on Twitter.
I get home around 8:30, which is also when my fiancé gets home, and we sit down for dinner. Dinner usually consists of whatever we meal prepped on Sunday. Rinse and repeat.
Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?
As much as I try to shut down, I really have a hard time doing so especially when I almost always have my phone in my hand. It’s nearly impossible for me to ignore my Outlook inbox, but I do try to limit myself to only responding to customer emails and discussions impacting revenue. The other topics can wait until the morning.
Any productivity hacks?
In a fast-paced technology company like SmartBear, it is very easy to get distracted. I work on staying organized and focusing on results, but if there is one issue I have, it’s thinking that I can do everything.
Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?
My Dad. While he has never had a corporate job, he has been managing people for much of his life running a restaurant, and he provides unique perspectives on how to overcome challenging situations. He is even-keeled and soft-spoken, so whether the day was good or bad, he usually knows what to say to bring my expectations and feelings back in line, if needed. He always taught me never to get too high or too low and keep grinding. I talk to him several times a week about sports, business, and just about everything else.
Image courtesy of Thomas Salah and SmartBear.