November 2019 - March 2020

Career Tip: How to Become a Sales Professional

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Sabine Breitling works as Account Manager Cloud at Oracle – one of the leading companies for enterprise software aside from SAP. erp4students talked with her about lateral entry options for jobs and further education programs.

Mrs. Breitling, you have a very interesting résumé. You finished a business management training in the former GDR, worked in an agency for communication and marketing, and today you are Sales Director at one of the leading software companies. What do you think is the main factor of your professional success?

S. Breitling: I always aimed at being independent and never wanted to settle for one specific job. Instead, I always did what I enjoyed and what I was qualified for. My first job in the Republic of Germany was at a leasing company. I got it because I was trained in stenography. After that I changed to the communication and marketing sector where I worked in an agency for direct marketing and supervised Lufthansa as a customer. This was challenging and very exciting. After a while, however, I wanted to use and broaden my skills in a different area. That’s when I changed to a communication agency in the early 2000’s where I worked (amongst others) for a fruit and vegetable farmer called The Greenery. I was responsible for the brand and image of this Dutch customer whose reputation had suffered severely due to a food scandal in the 80s.This job allowed me to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the farming industry which was of great use to me – not only professionally.

How did you get into sales then? This seems to be quite a step from public relations and marketing. 

S. Breitling: That is true because you communicate on a different more personal level. While working on The Greenery I also assisted the Sales Director who was responsible for the big retailors such as ALDI, REWE and EDEKA. That’s where I discovered my love for sales. I was able to prove my organisational skills by developing concepts together with service providers and pitching them for clients. I enjoyed talking to people and give them an understanding of something I was convinced of. This is what I still do today and what sales is all about. You cannot learn something like that at a university. Rather, you need to discover a fire inside of you for this occupation and do it with love.

You also thought about working as a freelancer in your field. What stopped you from doing that?

S. Breitling: I had already placed an ad for my services when Crossgate approached me. Crossgate was an IT start-up company specialised on cloud-based SaaS products (Software-as-a-Service). One product for example were EDI-News (“electronic data interchange”) which the customers could use on demand. In contrast to an on premise solution, the advantages here were flexibility, cost and time saving. Another example was e-invoicing. The world’s leading chemical company as well as a large automobile manufacturer were our first customers to implement our services. In 2011 SAP bought Crossgate and that’s how I got there.

At SAP, however, you chose the non-profit sector which is a totally different key subject and nothing one usually connects with SAP. What exactly was your task in this area?

S. Breitling: After working with industry clients for a long time, I wanted to try something new. That’s how I got into NP. Our customers were churches, welfare institutions, NGOs like Welthungerhilfe, Caritas or the Salvation Army. NGOs like these likewise need to administer funds they are given by the state or through donations. And that’s where enterprise software comes into play – for example developed by SAP. NGOs don’t need to generate big revenues, however, they need to administer every cent in order to invest their funds properly.Through this task, I came to know and appreciate NGOs on a whole different level. The human factor is the focus of all their efforts and I met many very special people through this task. Combining sales and social engagement made me very happy. 

Are you still in touch with any of your former clients?

S. Breitling: With some of them, yes. Uwe Ufer for example. He is chairman of Diakonie (diaconia) Michaelshoven in Cologne. You need to cultivate private contacts like those – it’s important. The Diakonie, by the way, was one of the first NGO clients to implement S4/HANA. After that project other welfare institutions followed.

Now with your new employer you stayed in sales but with yet another focus. What made you go for this new challenge?

S. Breitling: When Oracle’s offer came, I new right away that I wanted to see if I was up for the challenge. My main objective is to sell cloud-based solutions. Cloud solutions are the future. They are innovative, agile, fast, secure and cheap. The advantages are obvious: automatic updates, modern business processes and quick implementation – just to name a few. What I like about this job is to acquire new clients and develop workshops for them. In those workshops we come across our customers’ needs and together work on solutions for their problems. Being in touch with our clients, on the phone or face-to-face, is what I like the most about my job. What is most important in this area is to make the product feasible for the client although it’s nothing he or her can touch. It’s software and not, let’s say, a shoe. We sell solutions. And in order to do that I need to be convinced that our solution actually helps the customer. Only then will they believe me. And only then I did my job right.

What advice do you want to give our readers for their careers?

S. Breitling: Stay curious and stay open for new chances. Take seminars and other opportunities to develop new skills. Possibly you’ll suddenly find yourself in another area that you never thought of before and that turns out to be a lot of fun for you.

Lateral entries are always possible and you can actually do and achieve anything you really want. It is a big difference whether you do your job because you have to or because you are really passionate about it. That’s why you shouldn’t go for a job only because the salary is good. Also, the whole team can benefit from someone who brings in a new perspective. Oh, and acquire practical skills so that you not only impress through your theoretical knowledge. What I mean is, visit events where you can get in touch with companies such as career fairs; do internships. The latter being really important because you will gather practical experience which will make your life a lot easier for when you take your first job after graduation. This, by the way, helps everybody: you, your colleagues and the company you will work for. There is no right or wrong way. There is just your way. Feel free to step aside once in a while and make sure you do what you really love. Last but not least: don not stick to something that is already lost and do not worry too much about your future. Just stay open to new opportunities. And when they come, take them. Fear does not act as a good advisor.

Thank you very much, Mrs. Breitling, for these exciting insights into your career. We wish you all the best for your personal future.

 

An Article by Gohar Zatrjan 



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