If you spend even ten minutes with Samantha McKenna, you might find that you’ve told her what you do, where you’re from and where you went on your last vacation. That’s because Sam is genuinely curious with a keen ability to connect with everyone she meets. I first got to know her at some of my earliest LMA events several years ago. Then we served on the Capital Chapter Board together, and now she’s a great friend.
Sam had her first exposure to competitive "sales" in sixth grade when her school was asked to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Knocking door-to-door and delivering a pitch were the start of her sales education. Today, she serves as Head of Sales, Enterprise for LinkedIn.
As a sales leader, she believes in a few core principles: 1) coach in the moment with radical candor; 2) elevate the bar beyond what we think we can achieve; 3) compassion and empathy are rare but key; 4) be able to sell the product your teams are selling; 5) grammar counts; 6) the sale isn't over once the deal is signed; and 6) do the small things that no one else thinks to do.
Who is she, otherwise? On her LinkedIn profile, Sam describes herself as:
Overly enthusiastic, most passionate about the customer experience, fulfilled by helping others succeed, strategic thinker, volunteer to support financial literacy, car-enthusiast, dog lover, Swiss Miss, die hard competitor, writer, Barefoot Contessa enthusiast, former Nickelodeon game show contestant, wanderlust’er, podcaster, extrovert, voracious reader, willing to walk through fire to make you laugh.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Sam to discuss all things leadership and how she’s been able to successfully navigate a sales career while managing large teams.
Q: How have you successfully grown your team?
A: In hiring, I’ve never caved to the pressure of hiring fast. My very first hire is someone many of you know – Katie O’Rourke of ON24 – and I went through over 100 resumes and nearly 30 interviews before finding her. I knew that hiring the wrong person would be costly to me and the company.
Q: What stands out to you when you are interviewing candidates?
A: I gravitate towards people who are naturally curious, who demonstrate EQ and an ability to build rapport. Here are a few practical suggestions:
- Don’t wait until the end of the interview to start asking your questions. Get involved in the conversation.
- Do your homework in advance. So much background is accessible via LinkedIn! (Where else?)
- Don’t hard close at the end with a question like, “Is there anything about me that makes you think I wouldn’t be an ideal candidate for this role?” Instead, end the conversation by saying you’re appreciative to be considered and look forward to continuing the conversation.
Q: How has LMA positively impacted your career path?
A: I think the value to me is different as a service provider, but LMA had a dramatic impact on my career. About a decade ago, as a sales rep, I decided to carve out a focus on law firms. Naturally I joined LMA and immediately got involved with Laurie Paul’s event committee, which led to a board seat for four years and now a decade of building relationships. LMA has advanced my sales career by allowing me to be more successful. It has offered me professional development and speaking opportunities and has significantly impacted the friendships I’ve built.
Q: What are a few things that you attribute to your career success?
A: Like many LMA’ers, I always knew that I wanted to be a leader. I knew that I could take the skill sets I had, fine tune them, and then scale those talents. One instrumental part to my early success was to make sure I did the job I was hired to do before I gave my time to other projects. If I’m hitting 80% of my sales quota but I’ve started a women’s group internally, I’m not getting promoted. I needed to hit 100%, and frankly more like 120%, and then prove that I can take on more.
Q: Would you say you have a sales process?
A: My sales process is exactly that – a process. If I don’t stay disciplined and organized, it’s a challenge to consistently succeed. I have two things I’ll always do as part of my process – ask questions and build a pipeline. On an initial call with prospects, all I care about is learning from them. I want to know why they took our call, what their challenges are, and their key initiatives over the next few years. From there, I’ll determine if our product is right for them or point them in the direction of someone else who might be able to help. Second, I don’t aggressively push clients to sign deals. Maintaining my relationships is essential. I never take my foot off the gas of building a pipeline and thus allowing myself to have two to three times the deals I need at any given time.
Profile by Jennifer Bonesteel, Manager – Regional Business Development, Littler