Sales Hustle is now Sales Transformation
Jan. 24, 2022

#233 S2 Episode 102 - The Path From SDR To Marketing with Zoë Hartsfield

This episode of the Sales Transformation Podcast with Collin Mitchell features Zoë Hartsfield, Community Manager at Spekit and owner of neat copy. Zoë details her concrete steps in getting her foot in the door in sales and making the career move to marketing afterwards.

She shares how getting clear on what you don't want to do, then on what you actually want to do are the first steps in making a successful career shift. Zoë also emphasizes that proactively working towards the role you want and making friends along the way accelerate your transition, ultimately building you up for success.

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  • Objection handling: A critical skill in sales and leveling up careers
  • Growing into an entrepreneur and embracing marketing
  • Seek additional help from knowledgeable sources
  • Career next step: Get clarity, make friends, and be proactive   


Zoë: "Learning how to really listen, how to read people, how to have a conversation and not just talk at people was really important for me to figure out."

Zoë: "Six months before you even want to make a move, I met with the VP of marketing and said hey, this is where I want to go. What do I need to do to be the obvious choice six months from now for a role like this?"

Zoë: "When you're proactive about where you want to go and you're actively trying to upskill and you're actively trying to do the job in the role that you want to have, you get a lot more success a lot faster."

Learn more about Zoë in the links below:

Learn more about Collin in the link below: 

Also, you can join our community by checking out If you're a sales professional looking to take your career to greater heights, please visit us at and set a call with Collin and Chris.

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[00:00:00] In the world of sales, you either sink or swim or breakthrough to the next level. My name's Colin Mitchell. And this is sales transformation, a new kind of sales show designed to bring you through the epic life-changing moments of elite sellers. So you can experience your own sales transformation.

[00:00:24] All right. Welcome to another episode of sales transformation. I'm very excited today. I've got Zoe Hartsfield with me. Uh, we're going to be digging into her journey and talking about unconventional paths in sales and where they might, uh, lead you, uh, Zoe, a heads up community and brand over at it, and also has her own, um, side hustle that she does as well, which we'll dig into that as well.

[00:00:49] So Zoe, thanks so much for coming on the show. Yeah, thanks for having me. I am doing well. I have no legitimate complaints. We actually just announced our series B for $45 million at speck it this morning. So I'm feeling really pumped about. Yeah. Nice. I'm sure that, uh, uh, wow. I'm surprised you made time for us today to come on your show.

[00:01:09] I'm sure things are a little crazy. Oh, yeah, it's the best kind of crazy. And honestly, it's a nice little, like 30 minute break from the chaos, but excited to jump back into it. We were at this. Yeah. Yeah. All right. So let's, let's jump right in here. Just take us back. Like, where did your sales journey start?

[00:01:27] I'm sure you could make an argument that like my sales journey started back in retail when I was forced to pitch company credit cards, but I think it, it really, really started when I got my first job as an SDR at a SAS company called BombBomb here in Colorado Springs. That was. Two and a half fish, maybe three years ago.

[00:01:47] And, um, just no, no traditional sales experience. I have no idea why they hired me, but, uh, it was, it was great and a great way to get my feet wet, sort of the, the opening to SAS for me. And it's, it's really what set me on the path to where I am. Okay. So tell me about that first sales job, first SAS sales job with not much sales experience.

[00:02:11] What were some of the challenges that you had to overcome? So I think really learning how to do objection, handling in a way that didn't feel pushy. I think there's a bunch of. Sales training you could take. Um, and, and it works for some people and it doesn't work for other people. Like I had to learn really quickly that I had to find my own style for the way that I like to communicate with people.

[00:02:34] And the easiest way for me to do that was just to be myself and have real conversations. So it was a great test for me to learn how to think on my feet, trust my gut instincts. Um, I started with inbound, which. Just, I mean, now I'm like, oh God, that was cake. Uh, and then moved to an outbound role in the mid-market space, which was an awesome experience.

[00:02:58] I actually, as much as I'll never make a cold call again, if I can avoid it, uh, that experience was invaluable to me as a marketer, as somebody who owns their own little side before. Like learning how to start conversations out of thin air is a skill I will take with me through the remainder of my career.

[00:03:16] So it was definitely challenging at first, um, learning how to just talk to strangers all day every day and try and convince them that they had a problem. And I had a solution. It's an invaluable skill to have. Yeah. All right. So I want to dig into a couple of things that you mentioned here. First thing being, um, objection, handling, right?

[00:03:36] Like finding a way that felt good to you to deal with objections. Like I even like just, I don't even, I personally don't even like to call them objections. Right. I like to go into this, like, they're just questions, right. Questions. Um, but there's a lot of people who, you know, want those silver bullet answers.

[00:03:51] Like, oh, if you know prospect says this, here's what we say. Here's the playbook. Here's these rebuttals, here's all these things. Use to overcome these objections, right. To persuade prospects, into booking the meeting. Right. So I'm curious, you know, if like the traditional way of dealing with objections didn't feel right to you, how did you find a way that did feel right?

[00:04:11] Yeah. So I mean that, and traditional is sort of a loose term. Everybody does this differently, but I had a trainer at that company at that time who kind of walked us through. So I'm like very structured, like use Ark use feel, felt found, like it just felt very manufactured. It felt very inauthentic. And so when I learned to just listen to people, oh, you know, like, I don't think I can afford that right now.

[00:04:38] Like saying yeah, totally understand. X dollars is no small amount. Like let's dig into, you know, what you're doing right now, the ROI you're seeing from what you already have, like, let's say. Dig into this because objections are, yeah. To your point. They're just questions. Sometimes they're just put off.

[00:04:57] Sometimes they're totally legit. I've had people object and be like, Hey, this won't work for me right now because I don't, I use a different CRM and this doesn't integrate. And like there's no amount of like, feel, felt found, or art that I can do to make my tool integrate with yours. So like cool. Like let's shake hands, part ways as friends.

[00:05:16] And I think. When I was trained, there was an element of like, don't take no for an answer. Try and overcome the objection three times before you hang up the phone. And sometimes, sometimes an objection is like a real, just like, Hey, it's a not right now thing. And that's okay. So learning how to really listen, how to read people, how to have a conversation and not just talk at people was really important for me to figure.

[00:05:40] Yeah. T tons of great things in that, right. Is I think that the big thing is that's tough for a lot of sellers is they're like, oh, I've got a, I've got a prospect on the phone. I've got their attention. We're having a conversation. Like they don't stop for a second to realize that maybe they're legitimately not interested with a good reason and no matter what you say, there's no chance you're going to convince them otherwise.

[00:06:04] And you're actually ruining any possible chance of doing business together in the future. Because you're not listening to what they're saying. Oh yeah. I mean, I remember during the pandemic, there was a moment where, you know, you'd call people and they'd be like, stop calling me. I just lost my job. Or like, like we, we have no budget.

[00:06:24] We just filed for chapter 11. And I remember being on a coaching call and my manager was like, oh, you should've pushed harder. I was like, they're filing for bankruptcy. Like I can't put any harder for this. So. Uh, I think it's like this deal. They're not going to pay their bill who knows, like, and like, you know, there's more context to that conversation, but there, there's just an element of, if you're human and you show up with empathy, you'll get a lot farther.

[00:06:53] And I think you'll get to the root of the answer a lot. Instead of, you know what, let me schedule a meeting with my AAE that you're not going to show up to because you're truly not interested in. You just want to get me off the phone kind of a thing. So I think, um, I was by no means like a master cold caller.

[00:07:12] In fact, I would say. Kind of mediocre at cold calling. Um, but I think like cold emailing, video messaging, DM, starting conversations. Like if I could get a conversation a little bit warm before I hopped on the phone, that was my sweet spot. And, uh, yeah, just like valuable lessons learned from talking to a lot of stress.

[00:07:32] Yeah. Yeah. Um, all right. So I mean, yeah. Having some empathy and like, not just dismissing what they're saying and speaking at them is huge. Right? Like trying to understand why they're saying what they're saying, and sometimes they need more information to know, or sometimes they're legitimately just not interested.

[00:07:49] So now I'm curious to know what the transition was from working inbound to going outbound. You, you, you mentioned, you know, cold calling, not your particular favorite thing to do, but essential skill. Um, so how, what was that transition like from working inbound to going outbound and then, yeah, so I was inbound SMB, and that was cake and I was at the top of the board and I knew I didn't want to be an AAE, but I thought maybe, maybe someday I'll be in leadership.

[00:08:19] And I talked to my boss about it and he was just like, you know, Zoe, like, I think you're ready for the next thing, but the next thing. Outbound mid-market BDR for you. Like that's the promotion I have available. That's where I want you to go next. And I was like, Ooh, I really don't want to make cold calls.

[00:08:34] He's like, I know you don't, but I really believe this will be good for your career. And I'm so glad he pushed me to do it because it was, um, and so I moved to an outbound BDR, uh, me and my AAE generated the most pipeline and I believe the most close one business. For that year. I was only in that role for 10 months before I got promoted into a marketing role.

[00:08:55] But in that 10 months, we, uh, we hit some, hit some big goals, which was pretty awesome. And I found in that outbound role, writing my own sales copy, creating my own sequences to things. I really, really love starting conversations with strangers, especially in writing. And I wanted to know, could I do. At a greater scale.

[00:09:18] And so marketing seemed like more the direction I wanted to go that a closing role. It also is like ultimately how I started my side business. So I ended up doing some consulting, writing sales and marketing sequences for other small SAS companies. And I was like, wow, people will pay me to do this. Like that's, that's so crazy.

[00:09:39] And so. I still do that from time to time. And I do like marketing and sales copy, uh, for smaller tech companies and consultants, but in general, really that BDR skill is what got me into marketing. And I still think like a BDR still use some of those skills. Like if I'm reaching out to someone to get my CEO on a podcast, I'm doing that.

[00:10:02] Like I would a BDR selling a product, like there's the same core, uh, functions. Fees. That really helped me with my role today. So I'm really grateful for that. Yeah. Wow. Okay. So let's dig into a little bit there, right? So your ha you were a little reluctant to take that outbound BDR position, but you and your age is totally crushed it.

[00:10:24] And so do you think a lot of it had to do with just having that autonomy to like write your own sequences, write your own messaging. Or what are some other things do you think helped re help you guys achieve success? So, for one, I had the best AAE, uh, you know, both objectively and totally subjectively at the same time.

[00:10:43] Um, he was awesome. His name's Dan. And he taught me a lot. So he would let me sit in on his demos and he would tell me afterwards and be like, Hey, this is why this was like a really good prospect or like, this is why this wasn't a good demo. And you probably could have figured that out in your discovery call last week.

[00:10:59] So like, why don't you try this next time? So he provided a ton of coaching to me. Um, my team lead Devin bridges was phenomenal. She's now the director of business development reprise, I believe. Um, but she. Taught me everything I know about like cold calling, emailing. She, I used to get really bad cold call anxiety.

[00:11:18] So she would practice cold calling with me like 20 minutes every single day before I like got on a call blitz just because she wanted to be helpful. And like, that's the reason she's crushing it as a leader right now, you know? Um, I would also say I sought a lot of resources outside of my organization, so, perfect example.

[00:11:36] First week I got promoted into the outbound role. I hit up my now friend Morgan. Uh, and just send him a DM cold. And I was like, you owe me nothing. You don't really know me, but like, I'm about to embark on outbound and like, can I just pick your brain for 15 minutes? Like I promise I'll come with good questions.

[00:11:53] And he was like, yeah, sure. So we did, and he gave me a ton of helpful tips. I followed a lot of, uh, sales, like thought leaders and. I think just investing in my own success outside of what my team was able to provide me. Not that they didn't provide me with anything, they gave me resources, but to that point everybody's different.

[00:12:12] So investing in the resources that are going to help you get better and making sure that you have access to that information as easily as possible is really what's going to separate the good from the great reps who are like continually enabling them. Yeah, I love that because not only did you have good support internally, but you still took ownership of, you know, crushing it in that role by still seeking outside resources and getting additional help.

[00:12:41] Um, which is huge. So many reps don't do that. Um, I mean, some reps aren't even fortunate to have. That type of, you know, uh, support from an AA, like you mentioned, and that type of support where if I'm a team lead, that's willing to like, do cold calling for 20 minutes before your blitz with you. Like, you know, some would think that that was enough, but you still took it upon yourself to go outside and like get more support and absolutely crush it in that role.

[00:13:05] So I love that. Yeah. I mean, I would say like, if I were naturally more gifted, Maybe I wouldn't have needed the extra help, but like I'm not. So I think it's just a matter of knowing yourself, knowing your strengths and weaknesses and saying like, I've got bigger deficits here. So I need to seek out more help and resources.

[00:13:24] Like if, if you want to be at the top of the board, you'll do what it takes to get there. And that was, that was what I had to do in order to be. Yeah. All right. So now from here, most people in sales would think, Hey, that's logical step from here is go into a closing role. Right. But you didn't do that. I didn't, I didn't, I really didn't want to either, like, when it was brought up to me, I was like, oh please.

[00:13:49] No, like, I don't want to do, and this is, I respect. The heck out of any closer, like that job is hard, especially like if you're a full cycle AAE and you're doing everything from start to finish, like sales is, sales is a tough job and it's a craft. And I respect people who are very good at it. I just, at the company that I was at sales was very transactional and I didn't want to like have a demo with a person and then hand them off to see us and never speak to them again.

[00:14:18] I didn't want to have this like middle piece of the puzzle. And like that relationship then ends for me, whether we close one or close lost. And so. It was more interesting to move into marketing and like more of a community-based thing, like continuous relationships. I then moved into partnerships, which is like long long-term relationships.

[00:14:40] And now working in like community and brand partnerships. Not only do I get to have relationships with these people, but I, don't not like responsible with really selling them anything, which is like the beautiful part of it. Can we just create, can we create some win-win scenarios together? Both of us are seeing benefits, whether it's monetary or brand or, or what have you.

[00:15:00] And we don't have to exchange dollars necessarily, but like, can we find some creative ways to partner together? And that is just the most fun. So talk to me about, you know, maybe somebody who's in a similar position that you were thinking like, you know, do I go to a closing role? What other opportunities is there that I should consider?

[00:15:20] Um, what would make that? What, what do you, what would you tell them that, you know, maybe. A similar path that you took my be a good fit for them. Yeah. I'm actually writing a piece on this right now. I would say step one is get really clear on what you hate doing. That was like the easiest thing for me when I was staring at the whole wide world in front of me as an inbound, STR trying to think of what I wanted to do next.

[00:15:44] I knew I didn't want to be an eight. And that was all I knew. And I would go to my manager and be like, I don't know what I'm supposed to do next. And he's like, well, get really clear on what you don't want to do. And let's just like, eliminate those things first. Let's narrow down the list. So that is where I started.

[00:15:58] If you don't know what you want to do, figure out what you don't want to do. Cause you probably know the things that you hate. So for me, it was. I don't want to cold call. Okay. That eliminates a lot of sales roles. Like, you know, I don't, I don't want to do, or at least I don't want to do a hundred dials a day, I think was what I, what I really wanted.

[00:16:14] And so like, just getting clear on what you don't want to do and then try and identify two or three things that you love. I loved training new reps. I loved writing sales copy and like testing and seeing what worked and what didn't. And. Like posting on social media and having leads then come to me because they had like an awareness of the brand.

[00:16:36] So it pretty naturally led me to marketing. Once I figured out a couple of those key things that I liked doing. So. If you're a rep and you're staring at like the whole wide world in front of you, first of all, is key to the kingdom. Don't don't think that like you have to stay in sales. It's just like a great foot in the door to any tech company.

[00:16:57] But like those STR skills are going to translate to a CSM role. They're going to translate to a closing role. They're going to translate. Uh, entry-level marketing role because if you're writing your own copy, then you understand how to write. You understand how to communicate. So, and like, I know STRs, who've gone into product and who've gone into CS.

[00:17:14] So first things first figure out what you don't want to do, then figure out what you do want to do. And then I would go make buddy. In those departments, like six months before you even want to make a move. I met with the VP of marketing and said, Hey, this is like, where I want to go. What do I need to do to be the obvious choice, six months from now for a role like this.

[00:17:34] And he was like, interesting, let me get back to you. And then he sent me a list of things to work on and he sent me articles and he would ask my opinions on things and I would work on campaigns and got to be involved in certain projects. And so when that role opened up. The VP DME and said, Hey, I'm opening this rack.

[00:17:51] I would like you to apply today. And I was like, great. So it was just a very natural thing, but because I did all of that work in advance. So no, you don't want to do no. What you want to do, then go make friends in that department and figure out what skills you need so that you were the obvious choice when that opportunity.

[00:18:10] I love how you approach that. And I'm assuming by the way that, uh, the VP of marketing there responded not very many people were doing that. I think that maybe at that company or at that time, yeah. I mean, like there's a lot of people who I would say like, let life happen to them. And I used to be that way.

[00:18:28] I used to kind of just like one of my first promotions I ever got came to me because. I was working in retail and my manager was about to go out on maternity leave and she was like, I need you to like step up and, and assistant manage the store. And I remember being really perplexed by that. And I was like, why?

[00:18:47] Like, why me, blah, blah, blah. It's it's easy to kind of get into that, like imposter syndrome. And then I got another promotion. I was like, wow, like, this is really interesting. But then in my next job, nobody promoted me to anything. And I was like, why is nobody coming and asking me if I should like be this next thing?

[00:19:05] Like, I was good at my job. But I figured out that like, when you're proactive about where you want to go and you're actively trying to upskill and you're actively trying to do the job and the role that you want to have, uh, you get a lot more success, a lot faster. If people can't read minds, you know, like no one knows exactly what you want to do or what your goals are, unless you tell them.

[00:19:26] And people are often really receptive and willing to help you and guide you and tell you, Hey. I think that's an interesting goal. Um, you are terrible at XYZ. You probably want to skill up on those three things before you take on that role or you want to be a leader. That's amazing. How do your peers see you right now?

[00:19:43] Do you think if you were to step in a role that they would respect, you know, you should probably work on like some of your communication skills and like these are conversations that I've had with managers. Um, and I really respect that. They gave me that candor and, and helped me develop those skills so that I could move into the roles that I wanted.

[00:20:01] Yeah, I love that. I mean, people you're right. People are willing to help, but you got to ask if most people just have a hard time asking for help. Both internally or even outside of their org. Right. And you did both to help you in advance in your career. So talk to me a little bit about, I'm curious two things about the new, the new role, um, you know, what you're doing over there.

[00:20:25] Um, and then I want to learn a little bit more about, you know, what you do on the side as well. Yeah, of course. So, um, I do community marketing it, spec it, and I roll up to our head. Uh, marketing and brand or events and brand, her name is L she's amazing. And, um, man, this team is just so interesting. We just raised our series B and announced this morning as we're recording this, uh, which was very exciting, basically speaking.

[00:20:52] Is real-time enablement. So when I was a rep back in my back in my day, uh, we paid a lot of money to a consulting firm to do like an overhaul of our sales process and read his playbooks and do all this sales training, like, like hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to kind of redo the orgs way of doing.

[00:21:10] And I can tell you that within two months, not a single rep had like adopted that process or was using any of that information. And it was hard to find, they gave us this playbook that was like 127 page PDF. So it slack my manager to say like, ah, how was I supposed to fill out this Salesforce field again?

[00:21:29] He's like, did you reference the playbook? And I'm like, no, damn like, Search this PDF, where is it? You know, can you point me in the right direction please? And that was so frustrating to me, but imagine if you were a rep and you were like, oh, what was that thing again? And you could literally just turn like search and a Chrome extension, and that information was conjured to you.

[00:21:51] Like that's. Becca is you don't have to leave the tools. There's no context switching. The information is brought to you where you need it when you need it. And I wish I had that back in my rep days. So, uh, it's really exciting to be a part of sort of the training and enablement revolution and changing the way that people learn at work.

[00:22:09] I feel a sense of pride in knowing that we are helping people do their. Better because when you do your job better, you get those opportunities for promotion. When you do your job better, you make more money. That stuff is life-changing and that's just very exciting and fulfilling for me. So really, really love the team and the product.

[00:22:27] And, uh, our CEO, Melanie is just a baller and I love working for. Awesome. It sounds, it sounds amazing. I'm curious what specifically kind of are things that you're working on over there as far as, you know, uh, leading, you know, community and branding. Yeah. So we are early days. Um, but it's, it's gonna look a lot, like creating user generated content flight.

[00:22:51] So can we get our customers who already show us a ton of love to spread that love publicly on places like social? Can we then turn that into micro content? Can we then turn that into more reviews? Can we turn that into referrals? Can we turn that into an engine that sort of self perpetuates? So that's one thing that I'm working on.

[00:23:12] We're also partnering with a lot of like thought leaders and industry leaders. Space to do more content that is really helpful and impactful. You know, it's, it's easy to write a quippy article or posts like a funny LinkedIn post, but are we making people better at their jobs? Are we helping them be better in their way?

[00:23:34] Are we making them feel something? If the answer is no to all three, then it's probably not content worth posting. So we're really kind of trying to overhaul, uh, that engine. They were already like specking. It was already doing good content, but can we just like amplify that and elevate the voices of the thought leaders within spec?

[00:23:52] It, can I help with that? So I feel very lucky because honestly not to say that my job is easy, but they they've set a really good. Runway and springboard for me. And I just get to kind of take it that last mile and hopefully bring more of it to the masses. So really, really thankful for the team and the projects that I get to work on because, uh, it's going to be fun one.

[00:24:13] Awesome. And then tell me about neat. Yeah. Neat copy. So. It's everything from a sales and marketing copies. So I, I write newsletters. I write sales sequences, sales, cadences, I've even known, I've been known to write call scripts, but it's definitely not the thing that I enjoy the most more so like email, video scripts, that kind of thing.

[00:24:35] Um, and then I also do ghostwriting on social for, um, leaders. Exactly. It's that's like, I don't advertise it as much because it is ghost writing. And like, I'm not really able to talk about who I write for, but it is my favorite thing to do. So it's just been really fun to get, to like, use my writing on the side and exercise that creative muscle and really like, In new industries and for leaders, like I've done stuff for like medical tech and I've done stuff for, uh, insurance tech and things that I've never actually sold.

[00:25:12] I've mostly worked for like revenue tech and enablement tech, but, um, it's been a good time and yeah, it's been fun to build that. Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on today. Really appreciate it. Learning a little bit more about your story. What's the, what is the best place for people to get into your, uh, LinkedIn?

[00:25:29] I mean, I have a Twitter, but I don't know how to use it. So I would say follow me, follow me on, uh, LinkedIn or connect with me. Shoot me a message. I'm fairly responsive hand. Um, I'm I'm posting content there pretty regularly, both about my like adventures. And kind of what it's like being in a new role. So if you, if you ever want tips on how to be an SCR and move into something else, that's a lot of what I write about.

[00:25:55] Awesome. We will drop your link there in the show notes for everyone. And if you enjoyed today's episode, please write us a review, share the show with your friends, and I'm always listening for your feedback. You can go to sales,, drop me a voice DM, and I will get back to you. Hey, you stopped.

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