Getting Ahead

Why Having Patience and a Thick Skin Can Help You Succeed in Sales, According to This Account Executive

person with a beard and glasses against a grey background
Michael Sautter, a mid-market account executive at Sumo Logic.
| Courtesy of Sumo Logic

Michael Sautter studied writing and public speaking in college, and at first he thought he’d pursue a career in public relations or marketing. “But,” he says, “it didn’t take long for me to realize my talents were more about selling a vision.”

The turning point that launched his sales career came when he saw his friend working at a “hip new startup with MacBooks while I was working for a VA hospital,” he says. “It didn’t take much convincing to see what the private sector had to offer in terms of career growth and trajectory.”

Sautter took a sales role in the tech industry, and today he is a mid-market account executive at the software company Sumo Logic. “I joined the Denver location when we had a small WeWork office,” he says. “Almost four years later, Sumo Logic Denver has grown into the company’s second headquarters.”

Here, Sautter shares the challenges he has overcome, how Sumo Logic champions learning and development, and what it takes to succeed in sales.

What led you to your job at Sumo Logic, and what has kept you at the company?

My now-fiancé was in the elevator at a WeWork in Denver and saw a flier for a Sumo Logic meet-and-greet happy hour. Since I came from a startup and had a sales development focus, she recommended I stop by and network a bit.

The company has great leadership and everyone is aligned on the company vision, which are a few areas to which I can contribute my longevity at Sumo Logic. One of our longtime sales leaders has been a mentor that not only championed the Denver headquarters, but also helped build up its presence to where it is today.

What are you responsible for in your role?

I’m responsible for outbound prospecting, new logo acquisition, customer management, order management, marketing, and project management.

You’ve been promoted six times since joining Sumo Logic’s sales organization. How does the company help nurture and develop talent?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked under great leadership both as a sales development rep and in a customer-facing direct selling role. I think my career growth within the company can be attributed to two things:

Sumo Logic has a sales development team program to nurture people into direct selling, marketing, or sales engineering fields. It was a great first experience at Sumo Logic and really put me on the path to develop my selling skills.

Sumo Logic also encourages a learning culture across go-to-market. We have weekly sales motion reviews at both the mid-market and enterprise levels, an in-house competitive team, industry trend discussions, product release overviews, and outbound sales campaigns. There’s a wealth of knowledge available to ensure the success of the individual. Sumo encourages sellers to have a unified story and live the learning culture

What is the biggest challenge of working in sales, and how have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge, especially in tech sales, would have to be the learning curve coming into a brand-new industry. Many times I felt self-doubt, since Sumo Logic is a very technical platform to understand and pitch. So I had to really learn the technology and the story.

You also have to understand that people need to be motivated to do anything—they buy from other people to save time and money. Nothing is worse than getting too far in the sales cycle only to find out they had no reason to buy in the first place. Do your best to uncover that as early as possible and ask the tough questions up front. Just like your average buyer, you, too, need to protect your time and effort.

What do you like best about working in sales?

Whether working leads, answering customer inquiries, keeping up with industry trends, product releases, or strategizing with colleagues, no two days are the same.

What have been the keys to your personal success at Sumo Logic?

I would also say confidence, muscle memory, and a killer support team. “It takes a village” is the most common phrase you’ll hear at Sumo Logic, and it’s true. Have the courage to ask for help. There are entire teams dedicated to helping go-to-market functions—whether partners, product teams, marketing, or sales leadership, we’re all stakeholders here. And we’re all motivated to build together. Tap into this resource and utilize every asset available.

What can salespeople do to stand out to clients?

Prospecting can be the least exciting but most fruitful part of the job. Sure, anyone can sequence prospective clients or send canned messages according to the persona(s), but how do you stand out to the masses? It's hard to get someone's attention and even harder to keep it.

Standout in your messaging. Keep it interesting, timely, and valuable. Learn a prospective client's interests and hobbies. I stick behind the notion that people buy from people. We're all people at the end of the day, and as a salesperson, you just need to be one, too.

What else does it take to succeed in sales?

As a whole, thick skin and patience. You have to focus on things you can control and block out things you can’t. This will keep you grounded, and keep you from falling into self doubt. A hunter mentality is something you’ll often see on sales job requirements. I’m a firm believer that if you can generate your own deals, you’ll be successful no matter where you go.