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What It’s Really Like to Work in Sales at The Muse

Lauren Adams, a senior account executive at The Muse
Lauren Adams, a senior account executive at The Muse.

Name: Lauren Adams
Title: Senior Account Executive
How long she’s been at The Muse: almost 2 years

Tell us about your career journey: How did you end up working in sales?

After living in Barcelona and working as an English teacher and bartender for two years, I came back to the U.S. a bit clueless about how to proceed in my career—but I did know one thing: I wanted to enjoy the place I spent the majority of my week. A college friend was loving her sales role at a major publisher, and after some investigating, it seemed like a solid fit. Several interviews later I was offered a role as a sales coordinator, and I learned quickly that the sales grind suited my skills and personality. From there I became an analyst, then a sales planner, and finally an account executive. The various roles leading up to AE helped me internalize the pre- and post-sales processes, which I believe only helps me excel in my current role.

What attracted you to work at The Muse? How did you know it would be a good fit?

Years ago, when I was in the job market, The Muse appeared at the top of my search when looking up interview questions and how to prepare. I was instantly hooked! I loved the tone, approachability, and mix of tactical, bite-sized advice columns with the larger thought-leadership pieces around things that matter to me (and to today’s workforce), like gender equity, for example.

It should be noted that my current employment at The Muse was not a straight and narrow path: I applied years prior and didn’t get the job. I decided to try again, and here I am! I think being a fan from the start is a good indicator of fit within a company, and that’s certainly proven true in my experience here so far.

What are you responsible for as a salesperson at The Muse?

Put simply: bringing in revenue. Sales certainly isn’t rocket science, but there are so many moving pieces involved in the eventual close of a deal that many people probably don’t realize, including prospecting, presentations, building rapport, following up, creating decks, utilizing resources to create a compelling case, managing various stakeholders, differentiating yourself from competitors, earning trust, understanding an organization’s hierarchy and decision-making processes, negotiating (both externally and internally), and managing terms and timelines. It’s at times a grueling cycle, but the satisfaction you feel after closing a deal—not to mention the potential commission—make it all worth it.

What does a normal day in your job look like?

We typically start with a team huddle, where we go around one by one and answer a conversation-provoking prompt given by a management leader. Some recent examples include “Describe a recent lost deal and what you learned,” “What are you committing to bring in revenue-wise this month?” and “Describe anything you’ve done outside of the norm that drove an unexpected result.” It’s an interactive process that gets us fueled for the day ahead.

My territory is California, which is three hours behind New York, so I’ll spend my morning prepping for any presentations I have that day. These calls range from introductions to demos to partnership recommendations, which reflect our three-step sales process. The reality is that there often tends to be many more steps in the process, although three is generally the goal. I usually have between three to five of these presentations a day, which means preparation is key.

Of course, our team finds time to have fun, too. Pre-COVID-19, that looked like breakfast runs together, the occasional afternoon beer, and DJing in the office. In the current climate, things look a little different, but the good vibes still abound: virtual happy hours, team huddles sometimes focused on trivial topics, intermittent spiffs to spur friendly competition, and book clubs. And endless banter on Slack also adds a lot of laughter and joy to my day.

What is the sales department structure at The Muse?

Our sales department is divided in two: Mid-Market, which handles organizations up to 5,000 employees, and Enterprise, which manages companies with more than 5,000 employees. I’m a Senior Account Executive on our Mid-Market team, and while our deals tend to close at smaller values than Enterprise, they typically involve a faster sales cycle—so it’s an exhilarating chase where you have the opportunity to feel success frequently.

As AEs, we’re all allocated Sales Development Representative (SDR) support from one or two individuals. I can’t say enough about this team and how integral their work is to my (and my team’s) success. Being an SDR requires endurance, tenacity, and a hunter mentality—and the SDR engine here at The Muse is a well-oiled machine that consistently produces incredible results. (Kevin, Nicolette, and Meghan, if you’re reading this, massive shout-outs to each of you!)

What skills are essential to succeeding as a salesperson at The Muse?

Effort, hunger, focus, and coachability.

Effort: You can be the savviest salesperson in the world, but the moment you rest on your laurels or expect success to simply fall in your lap, you rob yourself of the opportunity to meet or exceed goal. I’ve never been part of an organization that invests so deeply in employee development. We have everything we need here to succeed: weekly trainings, tools and tech to perform our roles efficiently, and SDR support as a pillar of our progress. Of course, applying these learnings, mastering the systems and tools, internalizing the coaching, and utilizing SDR support to the best of your ability require effort on a consistent basis. I think my experience at other organizations that didn’t have this thoughtful setup leaves me super appreciative of all we’re granted here, and makes putting in the effort all that more natural.

Hunger: I think salespeople have very different motivators—whether it’s money, autonomy, being part of a mission-driven organization, or the classic competitiveness or desire to win, you learn what your driver is. It’s essential to have that front and center in everything you do, so that when the inevitable challenging months or quarters arise, you can stay centered on your why, and use that hunger to fuel you.

Focus: I recently read that the average person has something like 50,000 thoughts a day. Combine that with competing priorities (see my typical day above!), personal distractions, the infinite ways to get sidetracked online—and focus can be an elusive beast that’s hard to wrangle. My solution? Music. Or on occasion, Noisli, which is a site that has tons of options for soothing background noise. I’m all for working smarter and not harder—and if that means wearing headphones and buckling down into my world so I can be productive and actually have a life outside of work at the end of the day, it’s all worth it to me.

Coachability: Whether you’re a recent college grad or have decades of experience under your belt, we can all learn every single day. Remaining open minded and humble to accept constructive feedback from management and peers alike is critical to succeeding as a salesperson here. In order to remain competitive, we must evolve, and that requires being coachable and committing to act on that feedback.

What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?

Closing out Q3 and exceeding goal, as well as teeing up a strong Q4. Q4 is historically the largest revenue-generating time for us: Clients are finding last minute “use-it-or-lose-it” budget, as well as planning 2020 strategy and how to allocate funds, which translates to a lot of momentum and opportunities for salespeople to capitalize on. The prospect of exceeding goal again, bringing in amazing new logos to partnership, and cashing in on an amazing commission check is incredibly motivating and exciting, professionally speaking.

What achievement in your current role are you most proud of?

It’s a tie. First, achieving 184% to goal in my first quarter off ramp, which included the biggest Mid-Market deal ever closed. And two, bringing in brands with incredible missions. The first is pretty self-explanatory, but the second deserves some color. I’ve secured partnership with a company whose mission is “to feed the planet without destroying it,” and another that is redefining how to plan, deliver, and pay for fertility care. Others I’m proud of partnering with include a firm that delivers care to improve chronic pain without drugs or surgery, and another whose software protects students online and even has a suicide-prevention tool built just for schools.

The Muse may not be saving the world, but knowing that our work directly impacts these companies’ most important asset—their people—makes it wildly fulfilling and something I’m proud to be a part of.

What customer relationship management (CRM) tool do you use? Are there any other tools or services that your team uses on a regular basis?

We’ve got an amazing toolkit here. In terms of software, we use Outreach for prospecting and bulk outreach management, Salesforce for customer relationship management, DocuSign for sending contracts, Zoom as our meeting host for video-based presentations, and Chorus to capture insights from our calls and generate feedback on areas of improvement.

Other tools include LinkedIn for prospecting and networking, Owler to research company competitors, Crunchbase to stay informed on company funding rounds and annual revenue, Hunter to find email addresses in seconds, and TechCrunch’s daily newsletter for updates on breaking tech news, opinions, and analysis on tech companies.

It may seem like a lot, but they’re not challenging to learn. Plus, each one serves a super specific purpose, so we’re armed with the necessary tools to do our best work.

How is your compensation structured?

It’s a combination of base + uncapped commission; most AEs can expect a 50/50 or a 60/40 split between the two when looking for a new sales job at The Muse. There’s no additional bonus structure. In terms of how commission is structured, it’s uncapped (woo!), tied to attainment of a quarterly revenue target, with the opportunity to earn accelerators as you exceed quota, and there are kickers on multi-year deals.

How is your success measured and recognized?

Plain and simple, it’s measured by amount sold as it relates to your attainment to goal, and the black and white nature of it makes it easy to always know where you stand. That said, The Muse definitely appreciates high deal volume and high average deal size as well, and they aren’t shy about recognizing that. In fact, they’re exceptionally good here about recognizing a job well done. The moment a deal closes, the entire organization receives an email with the sales rep and deal value—at which point a flurry of Slack messages typically appear in our “Revenue Team” channel, sending congrats (plus a ton of emojis and gifs) to the sales rep. These short-lived glory moments might seem trivial, but I can attest that it’s really inspiring to have that spotlight moment and feel appreciated.

Reflektive is a tool we use for public shout-outs that the company can see on screens around the office; it’s not uncommon to get a thoughtful shout-out from a manager after closing a challenging or large-sized deal. More formally, if performance on a certain deal or during a quarter at large was particularly stellar, there’s a good chance it will be recognized at our bi-weekly All Hands meeting.

What are the steps for career progression within the sales team at The Muse?

The Muse maintains crystal-clear expectations for career progression within the sales team. For example, I started in January, and by March we had a fully baked presentation around expectations for progression, long before I was even thinking about what my next step here would be. 

A typical path, from the most junior to most senior, looks something like this: Associate Account Executive to Account Executive to Senior Account Executive or Team Lead to Sales Manager to Senior Sales Manager. All promotions to the next level typically involve consistent performance of around 90% to goal rolling over a nine- to 12-month period.

What do you value most about The Muse’s company culture? What sets it apart from other places you’ve worked?

That it practices what it preaches, especially as it pertains to its commitment to diversity and inclusion. As the most trusted and beloved place for candidates to research companies and careers, and a beacon of modern career advice, there was a lot to live up to in terms of my expectations—all of which were exceeded nearly immediately upon starting work here. I love that hard work is recognized and rewarded. I adore that it doesn’t feel cliquey, and that diversity and individuality is celebrated.

Regarding the specific subculture of the sales team, I feel that we are hardworking and playful, and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Past experiences have proven homogenous and isolating at times, whereas here at The Muse, I have never felt so at home so quickly.

What advice do you have for people applying for sales jobs at The Muse?

Be authentically you, and really want to be here.