Who's That Gal: Pia Heilmann of Threat Stack
Name: Pia Heilmann
Occupation: Director of Sales
Hometown: Don’t have one! (I moved every 2 years as a kid)
Currently Reading: Radical Candor by Kim Scott and Grit by Angela Duckworth
Fav summer destination: Any beach.
Tell us a little bit about Threat Stack, what do they do? How did you get involved in the company?
Threat Stack is a Series B cybersecurity SaaS startup based in Boston, MA.
We provide continuous security monitoring for public, private, and hybrid cloud infrastructures. The SaaS platform protects servers and the data they access from intrusion and data loss. It’s the first and only intrusion detection and auditing service purpose-built for cloud environments where network-based controls cannot be deployed.
I knew of Threat Stack through .406 Ventures, a VC firm that had invested in two of the other startups I worked with. After 3 years in the trenches with a Series A martech company, I was ready for my next career move to be into an industry that was considered a need-to-have. Threat Stack not only fit that bill but also offered attractive career growth with a fast-growing sales team.
How did you land in the field of sales? Was there any sort of “defining moment” when you realized sales was the right path for you?
In all honesty, sales is a field that I stumbled into. After years of listening to my father preach about the benefits of strategic thinking and tangible impact of marketing, the natural path for me felt like a career in marketing. But when it came down to it, the first job offer I received was one in sales, and I accepted solely because I would be consultatively selling software to the roles that I ultimately wanted to be in (marketing and PR). Thanks in part to trial-by-fire, beginner's luck, and good sales coaching, I outsold my first quota by over 500% and set a record within the company.
The "defining moment” came months later when I started to apply sales skills to my real life--navigating social and family situations with succinct language and targeted questioning (using the real-life equivalent of a strip-line in a relationship with an uncertain future is surprisingly effective). I had a realization that I could make an impact, both monetarily contributing to the growth of a company as well as communicating effectively in all facets of my life.
What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up every morning between 4:30-5am and either head out for a run or to my boxing gym. Getting a workout in first thing in the morning is a game-changer for me.
I’m in the office between 7:15-7:30 and try to knock out some of the tasks that I’m not able to get done when I’m in meetings/reactive mode--prepping for the day, responding to emails, prioritizing projects that I’m involved in and mapping out when and how to tackle them.
The day itself is split between internal meetings, reactive tasks, and participating in customer calls as a player/coach. As we scale out our sales team, a lot of my day is also dedicated towards recruiting and interviews.
I generally wrap up my day in the office around 5:30/6, and if I can fit in another workout after work, I try to. Lately, I’ve been pushing myself to be more social and network after work, so I try to grab dinner, coffee, or a drink with friends of ex-colleagues at least twice a week.
Just because I’m out of the office does not mean that I don’t keep working, though--I’m often on Slack or digging through Salesforce until bedtime around 10pm.
How do you make potential clients more at ease and not like they’re being sold to?
I don’t think this will be an earth-shattering answer, but the best thing to make potential clients feel more at ease is to treat them like humans. We all have our roles and responsibilities, but when it comes down to it, purchasing software from me is likely not going to be a defining moment in their life.
If you can pull yourself out of the actual sale and relate to someone on a personal level, you will be vastly more successful.
What advice would you give to someone that is just about to start their first career in sales?
Don’t get discouraged by the no’s--each no you receive will matter less as you accumulate more of them; and celebrate your wins, no matter how small.
You’ve worked with a lot of small businesses and startups - is there a reason you choose these over big biz?
Absolutely. I break it down into three things: impact, risk/reward, and masochism.
Impact: I love that in a small business or startup, regardless of your role, tenure or experience, you have the opportunity to make an immediate impact.
Risk/reward: I am young and unattached enough at this stage in my life that I am still comfortable taking risks, particularly when they could yield great reward. For me, that reward is not solely monetary but, more importantly, experiential.
Masochism: Startups are not for everyone--the future is uncertain and work pervades all aspects of your life. I thrive off of this, though.
How do you stay inspired?
Challenge inspires me.
What’s next for you and/or Threat Stack?
Threat Stack is growing quickly (threatstack.com/careers), and we’ll continue to tackle the cloud-security market. There’s still so much more to be done in this industry, and we see that in the news every day.
As for me, I hope to continue to contribute to Threat Stack’s success! Longer-term, I’d like to get a few more exits under my belt and then potentially get into the other side of this business--VC.