Who's That Gal: Sarah Finnie Robinson of WeSpire

Name: Sarah Finnie Robinson
Occupation: Founding Partner, WeSpire
Hometown: Boston
Age: 60
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Favorite dish to cook:  A freshly snipped salad from my garden with lots of add-ins, e.g. chopped veggies and seeds. Lemon-garlic vinaigrette is a must.

Tell us a little bit about your background. What inspired you to co-found WeSpire?

WeSpire’s Founder & CEO, Susan Hunt Stevens, so inspired me with her vision that I said Yes pretty much immediately. She was the one who had the platform solution in mind, but we agreed that there was a screaming need for a modern, convenient, social, and satisfying solution to making environmentally friendly decisions in everyday life.

She and I strongly bonded over the idea that sustainability needed a refreshing reset to include everyone, not merely the confirmed environmentalists. We were able to attract an incredibly talented and enthusiastic team of colleagues to help us tackle this challenge.

What does Wespire do? How does sales play a role in WeSpire’s work?

WeSpire provides forward thinking companies with a technology platform to design, run and measure the impact of their employee engagement initiatives. On WeSpire, employees from around the world participate in sustainability, social impact, wellbeing, and culture/diversity programs. These programs encourage employees to take actions that are good for them, good for the company, and good for the world we live in.

The results are quite significant once you’ve got employees engaged and active. The Sales process provides an opportunity to speak with many talented and committed leaders and organizations about their positive impact goals, allowing us to continue to scale our collective impact around the world and truly help make the world a better place.

Tell us about an average day in your shoes.

I stepped away from the day-to-day operations at the office on Earth Day, 2016. Today I am intently focused on solutions to Climate Change, which I believe is the BHAG for our generations. We have to solve this -- and we will. That said, it’s going to be a fascinating and sometimes harrowing journey from here to there. 

I continue to represent WeSpire at conferences and other events. I speak, advise, judge contests, and teach whenever I have the opportunity. Current projects include developing a Climate Change & Personal Resilience conference at Kripalu; and participating as a Climate Ready Boston Leader. I blog via HuffPost, Medium, and LinkedIn. My husband is a long-time leader in green investing, and so together we enjoy a full life both on and off the court!

How do you make potential clients more at ease and not like they’re being sold-to?

It’s always useful to take the time to really understand the other person’s needs: what problems are they trying to solve, what are their concerns, what drives them -- even, what words do they use? It starts with listening, and listening well, so you can respond effectively.

Just about everyone has a personal purpose that drives them. Figure out what that is! Maybe it’s their kids, maybe it’s golf, maybe it’s ending world hunger -- if you can, draw a clear connection from that to your product's value proposition so they get how you can help them reach and beat their goals.

Remember Einstein’s maxim: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Be in love with the problem you're trying to solve.

What advice would you give to someone that is just about to start their first career in sales?

Be in love with the problem you are trying to solve. Your passion will make the process so much easier and more effective: your buyer will sense your authentic enthusiasm, and you won’t burn out if you believe in your product and the company you work for.

Follow up promptly and politely: offer an interesting fact or news bit that is relevant to the conversation you just had. It’s your job to keep the relationship in play at this point, but make sure it’s genuine.

Never ever be late.

Stay upbeat. Do not whine or sulk on company time.

Always do your homework: especially, look for anything your buyer has written for public consumption. Even best-selling authors love it when people read their stuff; and often you’ll discover something useful in the process.

Get to know other people in your company. Especially, those who make the product. There’s no substitute for getting inside the inventor’s head.

You are also involved with Climate Reality and Climate Ready Boston and a few other organizations. How do these groups enhance what you do at WeSpire?

A majority of corporate employees understand that climate change is happening, and most of them want their company to lead on it. As WeSpire’s Founding Partner, it’s appropriate for me to be out front on climate awareness programs and to be involved in the massive global transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy. The company’s roots are in sustainability, and, specifically, in the components of behavior change that is currently transforming our economy -- around the world and locally, right down to our own homes and offices. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to steep myself in this essential complex challenge each and every day.

It’s safe to say you’re a busy person. What’s your go-to way to recharge and stay motivated?

My husband and I have a wonderful getaway spot on the coast of Rhode Island, and we designed it as a restorative retreat. Even 24 hours there usually does the trick. I love to have my family there, and friends; can often be found puttering around the garden, concocting something in the kitchen, romping around the neighborhood, or heading to a yoga class. 

What’s next for you and/or WeSpire?

While Susan continues to lead the WeSpire team toward exciting growth and new opportunities within the positive business space, I am thinking of writing a book about personal resilience. The entire WeSpire team looks forward to continuing to fight the good fight as we further progress on these important global issues.