Aya Miyazaki is a Sales Manager at Pandora / SXM Media. She has been with the company for six years, starting as an Account Executive. She currently manages the SMB sales team’s west region. Prior to Pandora, she worked at CBS Radio in San Francisco, cluster selling for four radio stations.
Could you talk about your journey, and tell us how you articulates your value in order to move from a sales rep role to a manager’s role?
My journey is probably not uncommon amongst many women in sales. Throughout my sales career, I had always strived for growth. I always raised my hand and interviewed when a higher position opened up within my organization. I was devastated and frankly surprised, when I was turned down for a “senior” position on the team over two men who put up the same numbers I did in revenue. When I asked the hiring director for feedback on why, the response was “you care too much.” We all know that means too emotional, too sensitive, too passionate. But life works in mysterious ways, and I ended up getting recognition for having a phenomenal sales year. I was newly ingratiated to a manager who believed in me. That manager lifted me up, created a new role of “team lead” for me and was my biggest advocate to push me into management. He took my “caring too much” characteristics and turned them into strengths versus weaknesses. And it’s true – I do care, a lot. I care about my team professionally and personally. I’m sensitive to changes that I’m not fully on board with because this can derail business if not properly vetted. I’m certainly passionate about my job, which means I never settle for mediocre, or even just okay. When I look back, I’m grateful to have been promoted when I was because I had the right people by my side, who supported me, and saw my true strengths. Timing and patience IS important.
How has your perception changed in your transition from sales to management? Is there a difference in what mattered to you then, versus now?
This is something I’m still working on because I’m still very close to the sales process. You do have to change your mindset to macro versus micro. Before, The question was “how will this impact me?” – whereas now, it’s “how will this impact the organization?” What does this mean for the individual versus how does this decision benefit the company? There is a healthy balance and it’s never one or the other. I will say, it’s been exciting to get a peek behind the curtain of “bigger picture” thinking and strategizing. From there, seeing how those changes trickle down to help us solve our seller’s pain points is the most rewarding.
As a new sales manager, how did you foster a sense of togetherness and improve sales culture remotely?
What we miss when we’re remote are the casual chit chats in the kitchen or grabbing coffee to talk about things outside of work. Those brief moments are a small release from the stresses of the job. Working remotely, every call has to have a purpose in the form of a scheduled zoom call. What my team has done is scheduled “organic lunches”. This happens once a week where we just jump on zoom, have lunch, and discuss things outside of work. While it’s not a solution for water cooler chats or happy hours, it does allow us to keep up with each other’s lives. Remote work definitely posed challenges and has been an emotional rollercoaster during the pandemic. It was certainly a learning experience for me to not only manage the business aspect, but also the ups and downs of each member on my team during a very difficult year. To be mindful of burnout and stress, I followed the lead of many tech companies and allowed the team to take a mental health day each month. Empathy allowed us to maintain a bond and trust during the last year and a half.
How important is technology to empower a high performing sales team, and how do you ensure that your reps adopt the full value of technology to empower them?
Efficiency! Technology creates quicker, easier, processes for both seller and managers. If this means reps can get something done in 5 seconds that previously took 30 seconds, that’s more time and energy that can be put elsewhere. With that said, when there is too much technology, that can be overwhelming and create more work via improper usage or even lack of adoption altogether. The best way to get reps to adopt new software/tools is to use it together (management and seller) on an intimate level versus sitting through a training session. When sellers can go through the motions, and talk through what they are gaining from the tools, it sticks in their memory better.
What are the top 3 strategies that you would advise women to use, if they are looking to make a mark in the revenue world and build their brand?
First, who you surround yourself with is important. Find someone who will lift you up, who is well connected and respected, and who is someone you want to
model yourself after. That person will help lay the groundwork for you to excel in your career (and hopefully you will pay it forward).
Second, always raise your hand. Even if you feel like you aren’t qualified for a role,
you don’t have tenure, etc, raising your hand shows that you’re looking for growth and that you’re not settling. You likely won’t get the role your first time,
but ask for feedback and what you need to work on for the next time the opportunity arises.
Third, know your numbers. I am most impressed during one-on-one meetings or interviews, when reps can discuss forecasting, projections, historical spend,
and other sets of data. Being in the revenue org means your income is dependent on the dollars you bring in. Having a thorough understanding of your books will not only make you a stronger seller but a valuable manager.
Connect with Aya on LinkedIn