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Sales Academy Success Story: How Shadowing and Hands-on Learning Helped one AE Sign the Largest Family-Operated Food Distributor in North America

At SAP, we aspire to have an adaptable and multi-generational workforce uniquely positioned to partner and innovate with SAP customers. A key component of achieving this goal is SAP’s Sales Academy in Silicon Valley, California.

Tara Erb is one of over 1,000 Academy graduates to date, and she is currently a Senior Account Executive based in Santa Monica, CA working in SAP’s Customer Experience line of business. Tara originally joined SAP in August of 2014, graduated from the Academy in May of 2015, and officially joined the CX Sales Team in July of 2015.

When asked how she achieved success at SAP, Tara credits her mentors, experiences at the Sales Academy like giving mock presentations, and everyone on her team. Tara also feels extremely fortunate to have been aligned with her mentor, Andrea, during her time in the academy. She said, “Andrea provided me with extensive shadowing opportunities in terms of internal and external meetings and helped me gain exposure in the many areas of SAP to ultimately identify my passion to pursue Customer Experience.” Once Tara received her own accounts, she felt confident and prepared thanks to Andrea.

“I think that the ability to shadow and learn through hands-on experiences before having my own set of accounts was hugely valuable.”

With her own territory, Tara was determined to “hit the ground running”, especially with Gordon Food Service (GFS), the largest family-operated food distribution company in North America. While GFS has similar values to SAP and tries to provide the best customer experience possible, historically they have developed their own software and didn’t have experience with SAP. Consequently, part of the initial challenge for Tara and her team was that the adoption and implementation of SAP software, platforms, or applications would require an enormous change management effort for GFS. Tara and her team were able to close a deal with GFS in December of 2018 and achieved Winner’s Circle status after a year-long sales cycle and a massive collaborative effort.

 One of Tara’s first steps was engaging with the company to prove SAP could meet their requirements. She engaged SAP Presales and Services to prove that SAP Sales Cloud could handle the volume of orders in the speed GFS required to meet their customer needs. Showing that SAP could meet GFS’ requirements proved a massive effort as orders sometimes needed to be routed and delivered on the same day they were placed. Tara recalled, “It really required massive collaboration across pre-sales, solution engineers, architects, our product organization, and with SAP Services.”

Tara and the team had daily calls with GFS for several months, and although the sales cycle required different people to play a variety of different roles, Tara ultimately gained the team’s respect by demonstrating immense dedication and persistence as she served as a primary contact throughout the sales cycle. “I was focused on leading the team to take steps forward each day and remain positive throughout many obstacles and challenges,” Tara described. As a result, the VAT team knew they could rely on Tara to be the coordinator and leader in terms of communication and orchestration.

After countless workshops, demos, customer reference calls, and other outreach, GFS finally gained the confidence they needed to invest in SAP Sales Cloud for the most crucial application for their business – field sales order entry.

When asked how the team finally broke through, Tara mentioned, “The key word that comes to mind about this deal was ‘trust’. It took at a lot of different people over a long period of time to build that trust, but it was well worth it.” Tara also credits careful listening and open transparent conversations with GFS, which led her team to understand the company needed capabilities beyond the standard out of the box solution.

Tara remembered, “We were able to get our product organization to enable a capability on the next quarterly release, which demonstrated to the customer our commitment to co-innovate moving forward. Ultimately, we learned when building trust, action speaks louder than words and demonstrating that the customer’s ability to influence the product roadmap showed SAP’s commitment to our customer’s and the long-term partnership of co-innovation.”

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