An interview with Serge Schlotthauer, Sales Director at SoSafe, a German “human” cybersecurity company

(note: this interview is part of a new series where we profile sales reps and sales leaders across industries. If you’d like to be considered for an interview, click here).

Tell us a little about yourself 

I’m 34 years old, and from Cologne, Germany. I lead a team of Enterprise AEs at SoSafe Cybersecurity Awareness, which is one of Germany's fastest growing scale-ups (370 employees). I’ve been in the SaaS Sales game for the last six years.

You started your sales career as an SDR at Salesforce. How did you land the job? When did you decide that sales would be your career?

After graduating from business school I started my career at a nonprofit organization, but soon realized that my personality and ambition was better suited for a sales career. Actually, the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator personality test really helped me realize that (turns out I’m an "ESTP"). The side hustles I enjoyed most as a student were always customer-facing, so I was already familiar with the concept of earning a commission based on performance.

So I trusted my intuition and wanted to join "the best SaaS sales school" out there. Everybody recommended Salesforce, so I applied for an entry level SDR role in Dublin (EMEA HQ). It’s hard to say how I landed it, but I was super motivated and "hungry," plus well-prepared. I think that's what a hiring manager wants to see, especially from an SDR with no previous sales experience. It was definitely one of my best career choices.

How is selling in Germany (or Europe) different from selling in the United States?

Two things come to mind:

1. Culture. We don't "waste" much time with small talk and get down to the business part of things quicker. Personal details are usually not shared openly and it takes more meetings to build rapport and trust. We are notorious for being more direct, which can be a good thing in sales: A "yes" is more likely to be a real yes and not just somebody being polite. 

2. GDPR. German Data Protection Officers take their job (and GDPR) very seriously - while this is generally a good thing, sometimes it feels irrational and almost like an "obsession." This can be a pain in the ass during negotiations, especially when you’re using subcontractors that have a legal entity in the US (e.g. AWS). The same goes for legal negotiations. My highlight was a prospect that literally wanted me to write in the license agreement, that "one year consists of 12 consecutive months." Combine that with selling to the government and you’re in for a real treat... ;) 

What does a typical work day look like for you? Walk us through it. 

As a first line manager, I’m the link between my team (currently six Enterprise AEs) and upper management (VP Sales & CRO) – but also to other departments like Sales Enablement, Marketing, Sales Development, CSM, RevOps, and Product. After jumpstarting the day with lots of coffee and (sometimes) a gym workout, I usually start work by catching up on Teams & E-Mails. Typically, my calendar is pretty packed with 1 on 1’s, team meetings, customer calls, syncs with other departments, plus the occasional hiring interview. I try to spend a lot of time with my team, helping out in more complex proposals, negotiations, and also join discovery and demo calls for coaching purposes. Last but not least I have to be prepared for our weekly forecast call – typically by doing constant deal reviews and reminding reps to update their Salesforce. ;) 

What's the one thing you’ve found that helps you be successful in sales? 

Normally, I would say things like "focus on deep discovery, never stop prospecting, embrace the grind and always ask for micro-commitments."

Instead, I want to highlight a skill that often gets overlooked in our profession, but is super important to deliver constantly without losing your edge: learning how to manage stress.

Ambitious targets, constant performance pressure, full transparency, annoying prospects and (nowadays) even the possibility of being laid off when you don't hit quota. Sales is stressful and burnout is real. There’s nothing we can do about that – only learn how to cope with it. 

I try to make a conscious effort to recover from all the stresses that my job brings. That means blocking time in my calendar to really unwind (and stick to it!). For me, these things include “mini-retreats” (without wifi), not working after a certain time or on weekends, using PTO to fully disconnect and recharge, spending quality time with friends and family, and hobbies and meditation. Everybody needs to find his or her own way there – just do what helps you to unwind after work so you can be your best self again tomorrow!

What are your long term career goals? Early retirement or future CRO? 

Both of course! :) I am planning to retire before turning 67 (which is the current legal retirement age in Germany). If finances allow, I wouldn't mind settling down a bit earlier. To get there, working myself up to CRO is definitely a possibility. Becoming a founder myself is also something that I find very intriguing. For now I am enjoying the ride – let's see where the road takes me! 

What is your favorite sales movie?

I must admit I haven’t seen too many sales movies, so I will go with the classic: “Glengarry Glen Ross” from 1992. Alec Baldwin summed up our profession pretty well: “Only ONE thing counts in this life: Get them to sign on the line which is dotted!” :) 

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