Cloudflare TV

Recruiting Corner: How to Launch your Sales Career at Cloudflare

Presented by Lee Sam, Jasmina Vanvooren, Phillip Björkman
Originally aired on 

How to launch your Sales career at Cloudflare.


Transcript (Beta)

Thanks everyone for tuning in to the EMEA Recruiting Corner. I'm your host Lee Sam and today I'm joined by a couple of guests from our sales team.

So before we kick off it'll be great to just do a quick introduction.

So Jasmina why don't you introduce yourself, tell us a bit about yourself.

Yeah great thanks Lee. So yes I'm Jasmina, I joined Cloudflare about three years ago, two and a half years ago and I joined as a BDR in the London office and then about a year in January I started as an account executive.

I cover the Benelux market so that would be Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

And Phil? Yeah so thanks Lee for having us on and thank you for anybody tuning in.

So yeah my name is Phillip, I'm an account executive in the Nordics and just like Jasmina I joined Cloudflare just under three years ago as a business development representative as well.

And yeah it's been an incredible three years so far and yeah I look forward to discussing this a little bit further with you.

Fantastic thanks both. So the reason why I thought it would be great to have the two of you kind of on this segment is we obviously do a quite a lot of BDR hiring at Cloudflare and also AE hiring as well and I think it I thought it would be great given that you have both made that transition from joining as a BDR to an AE it would be great to share your experiences and your observations you know with anybody who's watching as to you know what your experience is like as a BDR you know and how you feel that role equips you to make that transition to an AE.

So first question, it would be great to kind of get a feel for you know what you guys were doing before you joined Cloudflare.

Jasmina can you remember what you were doing at the time you interviewed with us, where were you working?

Yeah I can remember very vividly.

So I, just to give you some background, I moved from Belgium from a town called Antwerp.

I moved in 2015 to London to progress my career. I feel like London is a great place to sort of quickly jump up ladders if you're you know very proactive and career driven.

So I moved to London and started as a Microsoft recruitment consultant and so I never really had experience in the technology field but I knew I wanted to sort of do the recruitment piece and I was looking for something that could, where I could learn and something that would actually help me with a long-term career and when you look at the markets and you look at just how the world is evolving, technology is the best place to be in right.

We're constantly relying on technology now even more than ever. I didn't know that at the time when I was looking for a more technical role.

So recruitment was very sales driven and whilst also talking to many many consultants, talking about Microsoft projects, so you sort of get the feel of what it takes to have a greenfield project, what it takes to give services to people and that brought me into thinking okay I really enjoy this position but where else can I go from here?

You know as a recruitment consultant it's quite limiting in sort of what you do and I knew that I wanted to go back into like a more sales position especially in running projects you know from beginning to end it's just amazing.

So I then looked for Cloudflare and I think Cloudflare was one of those really fast-growing companies but still sort of had that startup vibe to it in the beginning and that's where sort of my journey started.

So I think you actually joined maybe a few weeks before I did.

I think yeah we joined because I joined in June of 2018 and you started when?

I also didn't so I joined probably like May so it's like beginning of the summer.

Yeah I think we were probably just about like two or three orientation classes apart.

Yeah I remember because we were bouncing ideas off of each other.

So Philip what about you? Can you remember what you were doing before you joined Cloudflare?

Yeah so before joining Cloudflare I was actually studying here in London doing my undergraduate degree.

So Cloudflare and being a business development representative was my first job anywhere or first job full-time.

I was studying like a course in information management which is basically a combination of business management and computer science and you'd expect that you would have learned something about how the Internet works on that course but surprisingly enough I didn't.

I learned a lot about how databases worked and how you know a database is sort of structured and how information flows through it but never really understood sort of how the Internet worked when you click on a website or click on a web application.

What actually happens to that request?

Where does it go? That was actually something that I learned at Cloudflare so that was how do you say basically from a blank page to knowing what I know today about that and joined Cloudflare because a friend of mine who I studied with at university joined the company about five six months before and you know strongly recommended that I that I at least you know read into it, take a look, apply and sort of see what happens to see if I'd be interested in it so that's sort of where my background came from.

Okay can you remember what your interview process was like back then?

Yeah I think if I remember correctly it started with a phone interview with I don't know if I can name the person but you know did a phone interview with someone based in San Francisco and it was sort of a 30 -minute introduction in terms of what I was doing, what I was interested in, sort of a initial exploratory phone call and then I think the second stage was on-site five interviews back-to-back and I still remember it was in one of our old offices.

I had made the mistake of wearing a suit to a Silicon Valley you know tech startup or high growth company so that was sort of an interesting day for me in the office and then I think there were another you know two rounds afterwards of interviews with different people in the US.

I think the thing that set the interview process apart were those on-sites and sort of meeting the people that you'd be working with on on a day-to-day basis and that is actually what sold me you know into actually joining Cloudflare that was sort of the cherry on top.

Yeah and can you remember what your interview process was like Jasmina?

Yeah of course I think mine was Phil and I joined sort of in the same year or not too far apart from each other so the interview process looked very similar where it was a phone interview I think with the manager at the time, he probably still is a manager now, and then what happened I was doing a couple of interviews so for me it was quite easy to sort of relate and compare them and the first thing I noticed as well about Cloudflare is sort of that having that initial conversation with people that will actually be in your team.

So yes there were five back-to-back interviews you know 30 slots but what it set apart is they were all so significantly different.

You had different team members who were specialized or had like a special characteristic about them so a couple of questions about like culture and really trying to get to know the person who was sitting in front of you rather than just looking at the CV and looking at that experience.

So you have five different people asking you different questions and making sure that we are the right fit for each other on different levels.

So I really enjoyed that I don't think they just look at a CV and look at what is in front of them but really can see like a long-term goal and that was so much different than other companies I was interviewing for.

Can you remember if anyone asked you the interview question why Cloudflare?

Yeah I think everybody sort of does right and I think it's a very natural question it's a question that I ask when I interview people for to be the IRL or enrolled in Cloudflare because Cloudflare is a very special place and you need people to want to work for Cloudflare as a company and I think everybody will agree with that as well.

Yeah I think it's a question that we as a company love asking candidates but as we are kind of growing as a company and we're trying to improve our interview process we are starting to ask hiring managers to brief their interview panel beforehand so that candidates don't get asked why Cloudflare five six times.

They might probably still get asked at least twice by two different people but hopefully we're improving now that so that people don't get asked that several times but yeah it is we do and you guys probably know you both probably noticed this in your interview process that we do look for people who really you know kind of believe in what we do and we really want to be here which is probably why you were asked that question so many times so that's definitely true.

So looking back at like your first three months as a BDR, Philip can you remember what that was like for you?

Was there anything that stuck in your mind that you can remember?

Yeah I mean the whole process, how do you say, is stuck in my mind and it's an experience that I will remember forever both on the support side but also because it was for me it was a completely new experience.

I had never done sort of this kind of software sales ever before so it was both exciting, challenging and I remember thinking even in the first week I was a little bit nervous sort of thinking how am I going to do this you This is your first job right out of uni right?

Exactly, first job right out of uni and so yeah I mean that was the sort of initial reaction but then I mean the team was extremely supportive and if I can sort of give a tip to any sort of candidate who's interested in applying for a BDR role like Cloudflare or a business development role anywhere is you can never ask enough questions as long as you ask them nicely and how do you say you pay that favor out when it's you know when you're in the position to do so because I think I asked you know one of our one of my colleagues who I'm on very good terms with but you know just asking a lot of questions during the day just to you know make sure that I understood not only the internal processes in terms of how things are done from a sales perspective at Cloudflare but also the intricacies regarding the technology because it can be quite overwhelming because we're not just selling one product or two products you know we're selling you know I think it's tens or if not hundreds of different products that are sort of bundled up in the service that we offer so sort of understanding that and being able to pitch that on a call in an email was sort of a key challenge but you have the support here at Cloudflare which was very much appreciated.

Yeah and that's actually you touched on something really interesting there because we do have a really broad range of products and I actually sometimes marvel at how you know BDRs and AEs are able to not only remember all our products but understand them all you know what they do and what the value proposition is to customers.

Yasmina, how do you actually go about you know being able to discuss all those products with customers?

That's a good question.

I think well you have to first understand what the customer's needs are right so it really depends because like Philip mentioned and you mentioned as well as we have such a wide range of products and of course the whole base of our products comes from our network so that's quite an easy conversation to have and then you really have to decipher a little bit what the customer wants, what they do and what they want to achieve and then that's the point where you start.

I think the conversation is then quite fluent and we have our own knowledge so you constantly have to read up about it.

We have a really good team, we have great communication within our company that you have to utilize because if you're not constantly reading up on things you will sort of not always know the latest because Cloudflare is constantly evolving their products and their services so definitely reading up on everything but also it's okay if you don't know something and that's where you go to your colleagues and that's where you go to your team members who from a technical point of view for example have a better explanation than what I can do.

So from my point of view is keeping a holistic overview, what can we do, what is new on the market and what is upcoming with Cloudflare but also understanding that once you hit your knowledge and your limits that is okay and then you have a full team to fall back on to help you.

So to answer your question, get to know the customer, get to know their needs and make sure that you have a wide range of a sort of holistic view of Cloudflare.

Can you remember what your first few months were like as a BDR?

As a BDR, yeah I do, I do. It was very, it was amazing.

I think you get pulled in, they don't expect you to know everything from the first moment but what really stood out to me was how welcoming everybody was from the different teams because when I first started we were in a more crossover I guess at that time.

So we had a solutions engineer sitting with us, we had a couple of the solutions engineers that would actually proactively sit with us on a table to make sure that we understood or that we could ask the question when it needed to be asked and that was so different from any position I've had before and I've had two or three before Cloudflare.

So that was very different from the learning perspective.

I think just absorbing as much as you can and being very proactive, reaching out to people and Cloudflare is definitely a place where you actually do that.

Was it overwhelming at all, kind of you know having to, you know, being in a company where the technology is all very new and having to learn all those products, was that overwhelming at all for you?

It was overwhelming in a sense that I can sort of see how it's overwhelming especially with me not having that technical background so I really have to dig deep and learn and be very proactive about it.

I think the part where your team supports you was very helpful and understanding that everybody's sort of in the same boat and yes there's always going to be someone smarter than you in a different subject and that is okay as well.

It is just using each other and yeah so it's using each other to share knowledge and then understanding that it does take a long time to understand everything and that's okay.

Obviously you know with my earlier conversation with Philip he mentioned that this was his first job straight out of uni but before you joined Cloudflare you were working for a recruitment agency.

Do you think, you know, looking back do you think any of the experience you gained working as a recruitment consultant helped you in your first few months at Cloudflare at all?

Yeah, tremendously.

I think if you look at a position anywhere I think the first three months are definitely crucial, you know, crucial to get to know the company, crucial to get to know the company's values but also asking questions and I think that's what Phil mentioned as well before.

It's pretty normal to have a bunch of questions so do just ask them and I think from being a recruiter, just being on that job, I think speaking to a lot of project managers, speaking to a lot of consultants is asking questions on a constant basis.

So for me, I was never afraid to ask questions.

I'm quite curious by nature but I'm also promoted to do that here at Cloudflare and motivated to do that because no questions are really too much.

So I think asking the questions, not being afraid. Yeah, good point. So Philip, obviously you're now an AE.

What kind of area do you cover, what geography? Yes, I cover Scandinavia or Nordics is sort of the internal term.

So that's Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.

And Cloudflare does have a data center where we're able to provide all our services and solutions in each of those countries.

So that is exciting as well, Iceland included.

Nice. And when did you realize that you wanted to make a move from a BBR to an AE?

Yeah, I mean that's an interesting question.

I would say at the beginning in the first six months of being a business development representative, it wasn't sort of top of mind.

It wasn't sort of something that I initially thought about and sort of had the urge to do.

But that's because at Cloudflare the way it's set up is the first sort of three to six months you start in the inbound team and you're dealing with inbound leads and marketing generated leads which are a little bit warmer.

And after those... Just to clarify, those are leads where the company has entered their contact details on the website saying they want to learn more about Cloudflare, right?

Correct. And then, how do you say, and then you make a switch after three to six months once you've learned a little bit about the process and the technology, you move to the outbound team where you're reaching out cold to different individuals or organizations who can benefit from the services that we have to offer.

And this is obviously a lot harder because you're trying to start a conversation from zero to getting their interest and their buy -in.

And I think it's when I joined that team and was doing things more on the outbound front, that is sort of where, how do you say, my attention sort of moved on to the account executive role.

Especially when you're presenting to organizations and individuals in terms of how Cloudflare can add value.

I wanted to see it through in terms of not just sort of have a conversation starter and get someone interested, but I wanted to see the technology actually helping that business or that organization.

And so, applying and going for the account executive role as the next step was natural, but also something that I wanted to do to sort of see through that sales cycle and see through the technology actually having an impact at the end.

And you mentioned that you've been kind of presenting Cloudflare solution to these prospects.

Who's on the other end of this presentation?

Is this like C-level people or is it just the kind of architects?

Who's on the other end of this presentation? So, I think if I take a step back, as long as there's a website, a web application, and a need for better performance and better security, Cloudflare is a good fit for any organization that has that.

So, it can be a small company with 20 employees that are running like an online business, an e -commerce platform selling something, or it can be a large conglomerate selling cosmetics and whatever else.

Then in terms of who you're speaking to in the different individuals, it can be on the C-level, but it can also be developers or DevOps individuals who are using Cloudflare on a day-to-day basis.

I think it really depends on where you are through or in the sales cycle, because you obviously need sort of the C-level or management buy-in in order for the product to actually be purchased.

But you also need to be talking to your champion who is going to be using the technology on a daily basis and also making that recommendation to the C-level.

We think it's a good idea to implement Cloudflare because we can achieve better performance, ensure 100% uptime guarantee, and just manage web infrastructure a lot more easily.

So, I'd say you can speak to anyone across the spectrum, but it will depend where you are in the sales cycle.

Yasmina, can you remember what your first few months were like as an AE after you made that switch, that transition?

I can remember, yes. I think it's very different than what we're experiencing now.

This little box that we live in that we're talking over now, I think has increased, but very differently in the first three months as an account executive.

Luckily, the switch and transition was made easy by our sales enablement team that we have in Cloudflare that were also based out of London.

That communication was really good. They put in a lot of training sessions, one-on-one but also in group.

So, that was quite easy for us to just follow and follow those really good guidelines and a blueprint that was set out.

I was quite lucky because Phil joined before me as an account executive, and he was very successful and willing to help and look at what the challenge is going to be and then prepare for that.

So, it was a lot of the training sessions, a lot of how to present Cloudflare in a more granular level.

So, I learned a lot of new things in terms of what it actually means to the customer, what services help which applications.

So, I think on a more technical level understanding Cloudflare, but then also learning the internal processes as well, which you have a great sales enablement team to do that.

Yeah, and the sales enablement team their role is to basically help you guys do your job even better, right, by training you on products and things like that.

Is that right? Absolutely, yeah. So, there's training sessions set out, best practice.

We have a lot of account executives that have been very successful and that's what the trainings are based on.

And then, additionally to that, yes, they are there to set you up for success in different levels, but you can also ask your own questions, right?

So, if you're struggling with something a bit more or you want to get a better understanding of something, you can also just proactively reach out and they'll put in a one-on-one training session.

Good, I can see how that could be really, really helpful. So, Yasmina, what advice would you give to someone who was maybe thinking about becoming a BDR at Cloudflare?

I think becoming a business development manager, especially at Cloudflare, the advice that I would give is, before you apply, right, is to understand Cloudflare and where it sits in the market.

I'm not saying that you have to understand the whole product, but make sure that you do your research and understand sort of the market in it, right?

Depending on sort of your background, because you might come out of school or there's a different position that you've been in.

You might have been in finance and looking to be more customer -facing.

So, it really depends on what your background is and where you want to go.

I think if you're looking at a business development position, you're looking to become customer-facing.

So, you've got to have a really good interest and motivation to want to speak to customer and wanting to listen and understand people's needs.

So, I would definitely see if you are that sort of person that can do that.

Because you can be, it's very, how do you say that, gratituding?

I don't think that's the right word, but it's great to speak to people and being able to help them.

So, you definitely have to be wanting to speak to people. Particular to Cloudflare, wanting to learn, being curious and always being very proactive.

There's many tools for you to learn from, but you do have to ask for it as well.

So, definitely someone very proactive, wanting to learn and do your preparation.

That's the three things that I would say are very important. Yeah, and you actually made two really important points.

One being about doing your research.

I think that's something that we can't stress that enough. And on the other segments I've done with other members of the BDR team and also with other recruitment colleagues, that same recommendation always comes out first.

Do your research, do your homework.

Because that's a massive part of getting through our interview process.

Even if you don't have the relevant experience in a particular role, you making the effort to really understand the company in our space can almost make up for that lack of experience, I feel.

Yasmina, can you remember how much time you actually invested in that kind of research and into Cloudflare?

It's very hard to pinpoint a time on it, I think, continuously. So, from the first moment that I saw Cloudflare as something that could fit for me and even prior to that, it's looking into who is Cloudflare, why do they exist and who are they helping and who are they touching in terms of the market and but also customers.

It's understanding the value Cloudflare can bring. So, it's hard to say like a particular amount of time, but I still do my research.

I still, a big part of my job and continuously as a BDR and previous to becoming a BDR has been 50 % of the time you're constantly doing research or constantly learning.

So, a lot of time, I would say.

Yeah, all right. Phil, I think we've got like maybe about 30-45 seconds left.

Do you want to give your top recommendation for somebody looking to become a BDR?

Yeah, two top tips and this is also, you know, to prepare for interviews, but I think also to maybe answer the question, do I want to join Cloudflare, is read our blog, but also look at Cloudflare's case studies.

Yasmina, Philip, thank you so much for joining us today and for everybody who's tuned in, I hope you found the segment useful.

If you'd like to know more, do feel free to reach out to any of us on LinkedIn.

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