In this episode: Jordana Zeldin, Founder and Sales Coach at Spriing Training, joins us to share her excitement and energy for the sales profession! How do you find the connection between sales and the arts? How do you put things into perspective when things get tough? How do you give back to the sales community once you’ve learned lessons for yourself? All that and more up next!
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In this episode: Jordana Zeldin, Founder and Sales Coach at Spriing Training, shares her excitement and energy for the sales profession! How do you find the connection between sales and the arts? All that and more up next!
Joseph Fung: Today, we’re going to be speaking with a Sales Leader and a Sales Coach who has worked across industries from deep dives into arts to venture back tech, even into professional services. And she is one of the most enthusiastic sales champions you’re ever going to meet. You’re really going to enjoy this interview. Stay tuned.
Welcome to seller’s journey, the podcast, where we speak to great sales reps and leaders and share their real stories from start to sales success.
Joseph Fung: Hi, everyone, I’m Joseph Fung, and today I’m joined by Jordana Zeldin. Jordana, how are you doing?
Jordana Zeldin: Good, Joseph, how are you?
Joseph Fung: Really good. Thank you for joining us today.
Jordana Zeldin: Yeah. Thank you for having me. I’m a big fan of what you guys do.
Joseph Fung: I’m so glad that we’re getting a chance to chat because we love that the impact you’re having, the work you’ve done and getting a chance to share it in this podcast is such a delight. So thank you.
Jordana Zeldin: I’m excited.
Joseph Fung: So to help out our audience. Maybe you could start with the basics. Where are you calling it from?
Jordana Zeldin: So good question. I’m calling in from just outside of Hudson, New York. I live in this 1930s farmhouse and I’d been in the city for about 15 years. And after I had, my son decided it was time to get some trees and cows in our life. So I’m in the middle of nowhere.
Joseph Fung: And when we eat, when we introduce our guests, we often anchor and kind of the where they are, what they’re doing. And I understand from our last conversation, you’re kind of at a point where you’re deciding what’s next. Can you share a little bit about what you’ve been doing recently and how you’re seeing the future right now?
Jordana Zeldin: Absolutely. Absolutely. So actually, as of this week, I just moved on from a position as a Sales Coach at a really, really wonderful company, got training, sales training company called Sales Gym. And look, I mean, we were we were hit hard by Covid. And, you know, we had some amazing, amazing clients that we were working with and training engagements that just, you know, out of necessity, these companies needed to put them on pause. And as a result, we as a company and I know we’re not alone, we’re just not really able to weather the storm, at least in the in the kind of form that that we had been taking for so long. So the founding team, they’re going their separate ways. And as a result, I am now really a free agent trying to figure out, you know, exactly where I’m going to do my coaching, be it as part of another organization on an enablement team or even with a solo consultancy.
Joseph Fung: Well, thank you again for joining us. I wanted to start with that comment because although it’s the most recent so maybe you could say it’s the end of your journey for now. I think it’s an important one to start with, because as we often speak with sales leaders and sales professionals, they’re looking at new adventures. And I think our audience will be able to empathize with what you’re experiencing. And I think the calmness, the big picture view and the optimism that you express every time we chat is just so infectious. So thank you for sending such a great example and for sharing right now.
Jordana Zeldin: Yeah, absolutely. Look, I mean, uncertainty is going to be a part of any journey. And this just happens to be a moment that is rife with uncertainty across the board in so many industries. So I figure that if I could bring a human voice face to that, you know, give it some color and share my perspective going through that, that hopefully that could be, you know, valuable, inspirational, helpful for people who are listening.
Joseph Fung: This is great. So that’s a great segue into to dig me right into the story. So let’s start a little bit earlier. You studied not sales and you studied two vastly different geographies. So can you share a little bit about, you know, what and where did you study?
Jordana Zeldin: Yeah, so growing up in lower school, middle school, high school, I was convinced that I wanted to be an actor. And, you know, I was heavily involved in theater growing up. And then I decided to apply to my, at the time was my dream school year. NYU Tisch School of the Arts audition got in and spent the first year, you know, in their studio program training, you know, trained to be an actor, also a director. And, you know, realized pretty soon after I started that, though I loved the theater, that the life of an actor was just too hard that much. You know, that as much as I loved, you know, embodying these characters and telling these stories, just the practical day to day, I think, was more than I was really willing to commit. So I took a year off, move back home to Providence, Rhode Island, you know, worked at a movie theater, worked. I actually sold futons at a futon store, which I realize is really the genesis of my sales career. And then I decided that I was going to go to school in England and I had fallen in love with movies. I was working in a movie theater and found this interesting program called Film and American Studies at a university called the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, which is a very of, you know, really small city on the on the coast of England. And that’s that that’s where I that’s where I got my degree. And, you know, throughout school, I was back into directing theatre and started to hit my stride there and eventually decided to move back to New York City with the goal not of being an actor, but coming back as a theatre director. And so that’s what brought me back to the States. Yeah.
Joseph Fung: So I don’t have the vision, the direction. And you stayed true to the arts for many years. Art Bridge. Representation sources tell us a bit. How did you how deep did you go in the arts industry?
Jordana Zeldin: I went deep, although it’s funny, you know, I moved, segued from the performing arts into the fine arts, tripped and fell. And this is a whole, you know, story for another podcast into running a nonprofit arts organization in New York City that was really dedicated to providing direction and exposure, opportunities for emerging artists looking to get their work seen. So I ran that organization. I was mentoring young artists, you know, running professional development workshops, eventually opened up the organization’s gallery. I was curating their exhibitions and I loved the relationship that I developed with these artists, you know, learning about their work, spending time in their studios, that I decided to then go on to talk to artist representation, which is really almost like, you know, it’s like an agent for four visual artists. And I was helping to find exhibition opportunities for them, placing their work in prominent collections. And that that’s really the direction that I imagined I would continue going in until Artsy came along.
Joseph Fung: So that’s a great tip, because everything you’ve told me so far, I hear the story of someone who loves the arts, loves theater, loves fine arts, is building a network and more influence in this space. I mean, representing somebody as an as an agent, that this all paints a very different picture. Getting into tech and sales feels like a 90 degree turn. How did this happen?
Jordana Zeldin: You know, so, you know, it does and doesn’t when you had to learn about what artsy was and did and the stage that it was at in its development. So, you know, embracive, artsy and it still exists is know venture backed tech company with a mission to make all the worlds accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. And in really practical terms, for what I was doing as one of the first B2B sales hires, it was inviting galleries to showcase their artists and exhibitions on our platform so that they could be connected with a global network of collectors. And, you know, early on, the team was just looking for people who with domain expertise, who knew the art world, who felt at ease, you know, speaking with galleries, who could speak the language, who understood the concerns. And I mean, Joseph, I had no hard sales skills to speak up of, our whole team did, you know when we joined. But we were passionate about art and excited and enthused and curious kind people. And that was really the, you know, my inadvertent entry into B2B sales.
Joseph Fung: Ok, I love this because we hear this story, you know, all the time. Someone’s got a domain expertise. They know the buyer, they know the industry and they want to get in sales. And so they work with a company that that sells into that space or services it and yours is such a great story. But I love how you started off by saying you had no hard sales skills. So help us help us understand. What was that like, this team of, you know, optimistic, enthusiastic, kind of well-intentioned but maybe ill equipped professionals now selling your software company? What was that like?
Jordana Zeldin: You know? Well, this it’s funny. You know, this is not a unique story. You know, in my in my sales coaching work, I have learned just how many young sales organizations there are out there with super capable, intelligent, great people who just for whatever reason don’t know of or maybe they don’t have leadership who’s really actively teaching the sales tools. So, I mean, I was it was telling you before we started recording, I mean, there were just so many, you know, when I look back, kind of cringe worthy moments of, you know, getting a prospect on the phone. I just monologuing at them all the amazing thing that artsy does without ever really digging into their needs or even, you know, getting taking their temperatures, whether or not they were even mildly interested in what we had to offer, you know, so and it was funny, you know, early on, I remember thinking, like, these monologues, these feature jumping monologues, there’s got to be a better way. So I started looking online and I found the nineteen, I believe it’s early eighties sales home sale called spin selling. And I brought it to the team. There’s something so funny to me about bringing this like 80s sales book into this like hot upcoming glossy venture backed tech company. And we all just eat it up because that was the book that taught us, oh, like, you need to ask questions like you actually need to learn something about the person that you’re selling to before you start to sell. And that was really, I’d say, the beginning of developing something resembling hard sales skills. And then finally, you know, the company brought in a really seasoned head of sales about, I think was probably a year and a half, two years in who coached the hell out of us, put a really strong best practices in place and encouraged us to bring our personalities and ourselves into our calls with prospects. And that’s where we and I as a salesperson really started to sort.
Joseph Fung: So you hit on so many things that you’ve talked about, the leadership and the coaching, the authenticity, and bring yourselves to bringing that professionalism. So if you had to pick something, so if you imagine you have that opportunity to speak to someone in that exact same position, they have deep domain expertise that just joined a team. You know, they’ve been there for a few days and realize, oh, my goodness, they don’t know what it takes to solve. What would be your advice? Where should they start to kind of change or correct that situation?
Jordana Zeldin: You know, that is that is a really good question. And I think, you know what was available then. So we’re talking like six, seven years ago in terms of just pure access to sales knowledge, be it through LinkedIn or webinar or podcasts, that that’s what I would advise a young seller to really throw themselves into now. I didn’t even know where to. I don’t think that stuff, that kind of content, that kind of knowledge sharing was even happening then. So I’d say that, you know, to anyone who finds themselves at this moment, you know, in an organization where they’ve got big hopes and dreams and they’ve got a really exciting product, but, you know, the sales coaching kind of process, that infrastructure isn’t there, I would say, like start a LinkedIn account, start to follow some really kind of inspirational and in the no thinker’s download some podcasts, you know, search for the, you know, the top and trending. And most talked about sales books because I think that we’re in a moment right now, especially even amidst Covid, where people are just so open and human and willing to share and connect where there’s more knowledge available. Now, I think at least in the realm of sales than I’ve ever experienced in my professional life.
Joseph Fung: I love that tip. That’s so that’s so apt because there is just so much knowledge out there and separate from the fact that we’re actually recording a podcast. There’s a myriad of sources and there’s the suggestion overall you had some fantastic advancement at Artsy and you spoke about the coaching that you received. And you know, how we first met in our first conversations really do revolve around that coaching and the folks who have seen your profile on LinkedIn or you’re working with the Sales and Naval Society Girls Club. You mentioned Sales Gym, earlier. What inspires you to move out of selling inside the arts community, which on the surface looks like your passion to this mentorship and coaching, because it kind of feels like a little bit of a change. But you shared a bit of that again before we recorded. So maybe you can help our audience. How did that where that realization come from?
Jordana Zeldin: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. About a year and a half ago, I was asking myself a lot of questions about the direction that I wanted to my professional life to take. And, you know, I felt like I could live a life where my career was just a job and maybe that would be OK, you know, have a great family life, great friends, beautiful community of people. And I think, you know, that’s really where, you know, in the hierarchy of what’s important to me, those are the things that matter most. But I was also vaguely aware of the fact that, you know, a lot of people were doing what they were deeply passionate about and what made them feel thrive and kind of stayed in a state of flow. And as I was asking myself these questions, I picked up this book called Designing Your Life. And have you heard of this book Joseph?
Joseph Fung: No! This is new to me. Yeah. I am literally looking it up and I love learning that new books.
Jordana Zeldin: Yeah. You know, it’s a best it’s a bestselling book. But what was interesting is that it was written by two former Apple product designers who were essentially they built a class at the Stanford School. It was one of the most the most popular and will attend classes in the last 20 years. And it was built around a series of exercises that taught people to apply design thinking to thinking about how they wanted to build their life. Now, I want to just preface this, especially with all that’s going on, to say that having the time and the resources to even do this kind of thinking I recognize is a privilege and a luxury. So, you know, and I know that that not everyone is in a space where they can take a big pause and, you know, kind of do this internal work. But what I did is, you know, I started reading through this book, doing the exercises. And essentially what I was trying to do and what the book was encouraging was to make connections between the moments in your life that you have felt the thriviest. What was happening? What were you doing? Who were you with? What was your environment? And what’s funny is what bubbled up. And this was not what I expected. You know, what bubbled up is something that anyone who knows me would have said like. Yeah, of course. But what bubbled up was that, Oh, wait a minute. When I was directing theatre, I was trying to coach authentic, connected, grounded, you know, emotionally resonant performances out of actors. You know, when I was working with artists and running this arts organization and representing artists, I was helping them to find, you know, really find their way to, you know, to to shape their direction, to grow confidence in their voice. And then similarly, at artsy, you know, once I became, you know, the top performer on the team and felt like I really hit my stride and knew what I was doing, I almost instinctually turned towards similarly developing other people. And I felt a kind of fulfillment that I hadn’t necessarily felt from just pure sales and making all of those connections together. It was like this kind of radical aha moment where I was like, oh yes, coaching, of course. And then, you know, it was like, is it life coaching? Is it is it sales? But sales is just endlessly fascinating to me from an up the perspective of human influence, emotion, you know, emotional intelligence, relationships, human relationships, psychology. And that’s where I really decided to plant my flag, which is what brought me to Sales Gym, where I was coaching, you know, teams and individuals for the last year.
Joseph Fung: I love how well and how passionately you describe that journey. At Uvaro, we speak often to our students, our recruits about articulating and finding your way. And it sounds like you did exactly that and turned it into an amazing career in a role that’s so amazing.
Jordana Zeldin: It’s funny. I wasn’t even sure, like I said, that it would be it would be possible. And I remember thinking, all right, being here is put here to pollinate like what is my pollinating? And I honestly feel that it is it is coaching. So regardless of, you know, where I land, I’m going to I’m going to be doing that, you know, for paid unpaid, probably for the restaurant.
Joseph Fung: Ok, so. So we need. I need to ask you, you read this book, you’ve come up with this idea of your pollinating, your reason, all of that. How did you end up connecting with Sales Gym specifically? You’ve got this vision. How did you make it real?
Jordana Zeldin: Good. That’s a good question. So I started working with a career coach at the time who encouraged me to follow my curiosity irrespective of kind of biases or doubts. You know, we all have those voices in our head and we get curious about something, giving us a myriad of reasons of why we shouldn’t pursue, change or explore a certain path. But I found Sales Gym, on LinkedIn. They were posting for a sales coach and their approach, which is inspired by how athletes train this idea that you don’t just develop skills by reading a book about them or being told how to do them, which is how so many, you know, in our industry, so many sales skills are taught. It’s almost like lecture style will give you the goods and then go off and do it. But what Sales Gym, does is they break the entire sales cycle down into these bite sized pieces and the coaching sessions are less analytical and they’re really about getting you into practice, getting the stuff in your in your in your bones, finding a way to really articulate you verbally. We talk a lot about sales messaging there, you know, in a way where, you know, the essential skills that are needed to really move this sales conversation forward. At each stage of the process, trainees and coaches get to get to practice that. So they come out of their sessions with us feeling like, all right, I’ve done this, not now. I’m going to actually try to use this stuff in real conversations. And when I when I found out about that approach, I thought, man, like, this is exactly what I wish we had had at Artsy. And that’s what, you know, got me excited and encouraged me to really pursue and investigate what Sales Gym is all about. And the interview process was super interesting. You know, I had to, like, leave a voicemail on a random number saying why I was the best person for the job. And then once I got past that, I had to do this mock coaching session where I learned a Sales Gym skill and had to call into another number and actually coach in over 15 minutes. I’m like, help, you know, help this person get better at the skill. And it was only then after jumping through those hurdles that I actually got to talk to the team. And it was one of the best, most game teams that I’ve that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. So, you know, it’s a bittersweet moment for me, of course.
Joseph Fung: It’s bittersweet. It sounds like the right description. I love the way you’ve described it. And I think it’s so interesting that our connection, it came from one of our recruits who herself is so into physical and athleticism. She’s a national level competitor in powerlifting. And so seeing her journey, getting into sales and hearing that echoed in how you speak about the coaching and the practice is so appropriate, it’s almost poetic.
Jordana Zeldin: Wow. I didn’t actually didn’t know that about her, but it makes sense because of my headline. And it still says is it says, you know, bringing athlete style coaching to sales teams five to 5000 or something like that. So I could see why as an athlete herself, that might have jumped down. Yeah.
Joseph Fung: So this is this has been really good. I know I said I wouldn’t give you too long, but I’ve got a few more questions on it.
Jordana Zeldin: Yeah. Shoot.
Joseph Fung: You have been in this incredible journey deep into the arts, learning how to sell, succeeding in that, becoming a coach yourself. As you look back at all these accomplishments, what jumps out to you as a highlight? What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Jordana Zeldin: You know, I was thinking about that, you know, before we hopped on the call. And I think, you know, taking the time, as I shared with you, to be really deliberate about, you know, reflecting on what made me excited and thrive and fulfilled and then, you know, putting those pieces together and thinking, all right, like how can that activity express itself in my professional life? I think that of all of the things that I’ve done to date has is the thing that I’m most proud of. Because I think, Joseph, that when what you do, what you believe, what makes you feel good, what helps others, what your values are all aligned. I feel this kind of I mean, it sounds really grandiose, but like this power from that. And there’s something about living in that really aligned way, if you can get it, if you can find that thing. And I feel fortunate enough to have found it and I know that I wouldn’t have necessarily gotten to where I have had I not really just taken a beat to do the work to figure out what it is.
Joseph Fung: That’s so great. And maybe that answer is similar to how you might answer this next question. But if we’re casting our eyes forward and I love how you reference the book Designing Your Life, I pulled it up while we’re talking here in. The tagline there is how to build a well lived and joyful life that I live a well lived life. If we can forward, you know, 10 or 20 years and you’re looking back, what will you have done if you look back and say, hey, my life was well lived? What do you still aspire to accomplish?
Jordana Zeldin: Yeah, so. So this question, I think, really just taps into my values as a human, you know, in and outside of sales. And I think for me, if I can raise my son, who’s now a little over two and a half to be better than me, and by that I mean more generous, more empathetic, more sure of himself, more emotionally attuned, more, you know, someone who speaks out against injustice. I mean, really, for me, that will be the thing that I will be most proud of. And then behind that is like a great partner, a great wife, a friend. That’s they’re there for people. And I think, you know, what a sales leader that I really enjoy following is Kevin Dorsey. And he talks about, like, live better, sell better. And I think there’s a really important connection between, you know, the way that we choose. If, again, if we if we have the luxury of choice, you know, to live our lives and the satisfaction and joy that we can derive from our working life.
Joseph Fung: Absolutely love it. You have had such profound answers, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Good. I was sitting here thinking, oh, my goodness, she’s done so much and I need to read this book and figure out how I can have a similar impact personally.
Jordana Zeldin: You are doing the great things, you’re doing amazing things, Joseph.
Joseph Fung: OK. I’ve got a couple of rapid fire questions and then we can let you let you get back to all the impact you’re having.
Jordana Zeldin: OK.
Joseph Fung: Tools. We always get questions about tools. So what’s been your favorite sales tool?
Jordana Zeldin: Hands down LinkedIn for the network, for the knowledge, for the community, and then from a sales perspective, just for the ability of being able in some ways to if your prospects are actively posting and sharing to really get in their heads and then leverage that and use those connections that you’re able to make commonalities, ways of thinking to, you know, make your selling conversation even more resonant for them.
Joseph Fung: Oh, that’s good. Yeah, that’s very focused on the kind of the buyers of personas. But now let’s step out of selling motions, thinking about you outside of that work movies. What’s been your favorite movie?
Jordana Zeldin: Oh, man. I mean, this is going to be really obscure, but it’s a 1950s film by the Japanese film director Ozu, and it’s called Tokyo Story.
Joseph Fung: Oh…
Jordana Zeldin: Do you know it?
Joseph Fung: I don’t. You have to tell us why it’s your favorite.
Jordana Zeldin: It is it is just a profound kind of meditation on families, on the relationship between younger children and aging parents. And it is just it’s one of those movies. And in fact, in Europe, you know, where I went to school in England for film, it’s always battling Citizen Kane for, like, the number one movie of all time spot. And it’s just I mean, it’s slow. This is not an action packed film by any means, but it’s pure poetry to me. And I try to revisit at least once a year.
Joseph Fung: I have picked up another book and another movie. This is great. OK, that’s one for you.
Jordana Zeldin: I’m ready.
Joseph Fung: We started with where you went to school. But let’s cast our minds back even further. When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
Jordana Zeldin: Ok, so I’m going to turn this on its head a little bit. I mean, I want it to be a movie star, I think. But I took I took these like long multiple-choice fill in the bubble career tests, you know, that some of us do to identify the thing we should do. I took them two years in a row, so a year apart both times. Joseph, guess what I got?
Joseph Fung: I’m hoping it was a movie star, because that would be great.
Jordana Zeldin: No, it was it was funeral director.
Joseph Fung: Oh, my goodness.
Jordana Zeldin: Ok, I leave you. I leave you with that.
Joseph Fung: Wow. There you go. You know what? It’s good to understand that sometimes those things are not accurate.
Jordana Zeldin: But look, I mean, there’s a lot of empathy required, I imagine, to be a great funeral director. And I think empathy is one of the most important characteristics of a great salesperson. So maybe there’s a connection there.
Joseph Fung: There you go. Jordana, this has been such a delight. Thank you so much for joining us.
Jordana Zeldin: So, so glad to be here, Joseph. Thank you so much.
Joseph Fung: Looking forward to our next conversation and I hope that you find an incredible next step in your journey and hopefully we chat again soon.
Jordana Zeldin: Oh me too. Thanks so much.
Joseph Fung: Take care.