From an early age, Jan Van Leuven knew that he wanted to build a career in sales. “My father’s dream for me was to become an engineer like him, but I had other ambitions.” That’s why Jan chose university studies in economics, with a broad curriculum that touched on different aspects of business. After successful long-term engagements at companies such as Dun & Bradstreet, CertiPost and Vasco (OneSpan), Jan joined TrustBuilder in April 2018, where he currently holds the function of Chief Revenue Officer, overseeing all sales and presales activities. We discussed with Jan what a sales job at TrustBuilder is like and why more account executives need to join TrustBuilder.
If I look at your LinkedIn profile, I notice that you have a tendency to work at innovative companies, and that you also have a good connection with the financial sector.
Jan: When I studied in Leuven, I had the plan to work in the banking world, and when I grad
uated, I took on a traineeship at the National Bank of Belgium. Later, at Vasco, I was responsible for sales to the financial industry, and banking and insurance is again one of my focus areas here at TrustBuilder. So, indeed, I have an affinity with financial services.
On the other hand, I also like innovation and what technology can mean to organizations, and I even considered doing an extra Master in IT after graduating. IT is not a goal in itself but it makes organizations more efficient and delivers better customer experience. You could say that technology is the ‘fil rouge’ in my career. Dun & Bradstreet was very much focused on financial data, credit ratings & risk scores based on algorithms, etc. That was very interesting, and D&B was quite innovative. Even in the ‘90s, they already offered an online application for customers to consult information, they had integrations with ERP systems… CertiPost was a pioneer when it comes to electronic communication, secure electronic mailboxes, registered mail & e-invoicing. It was exciting to be at the forefront of innovation. And, with TrustBuilder, we are again at the cutting edge of technology.
Being in sales is more than just selling
What’s so attractive in a commercial function?
Jan: It may seem that being in sales is focusing just on selling. But the function is much broader than that. Sales touches a lot of different domains. You have different contacts in many departments at a customer. And you help find the right solution for an acute challenge organizations have. It’s very satisfying to find that ideal solution for customers.
Selling is not a one-man show, you work together with an entire team and manage that team. You interact with presales engineers, consultants, Marketing… We are also the eyes and ears of our R&D team. We capture what goes on in the market and help the product manager translate requirements into new features or products. Working with business partners is another aspect of the job, creating a work environment can be rewarding both for an implementation or technology partner and ourselves.
Over the years, the sales process has changed. These days, more people get involved at the side of the customer, customers like to work with their own Terms & Conditions… Procurement is more involved, and so is legal. That’s actually a good thing, it shows that the procurement process has become more professional.
What are the most important qualities a salesperson needs?
Jan: The most important quality is being able to listen to a prospect. You need to ask the right questions to qualify the customer, but you also need to ask the right questions to find the right solution to the customer’s challenges. For qualification purposes, you need to know who the real decision-makers are, who influences the decision, who holds the budget, how important a project is to the customer… All too often, salespeople make assumptions rather than asking all these questions, and propose an offer prematurely. I tend to wait as long as possible in actually writing the proposal. The better a proposal matches the requirements of a customer, the easier it is to win the contract.
In enterprise IT, many people are involved in the sales journey: IT management, IT operations, the security team, architects, procurement, legal... They have different backgrounds and different motivations. You have to understand what makes these people tick, why they are hesitating, and you have to understand the signals they are sending. Emotional intelligence is a very important quality for a salesperson.
Trust is another quality. You have to gain trust with the customer and not do anything to damage that trust relationship. Customers need to know they can rely on you, for better or for worse.
Why TrustBuilder is a great place to work for a salesperson
We are currently recruiting account executives. Why should they come work at TrustBuilder?
Jan: One of the big advantages at TrustBuilder is that you see the impact of your actions, and you can help steer our company. People who join us, will become part of a young and dynamic team. We are offering them an opportunity to conquer the market. The most rewarding thing at TrustBuilder is to help grow the company and be recognized for your contribution. People who are motivated and work hard, see the impact they have on our organization and the evolution of our company. That is much more rewarding at a company like TrustBuilder than at a large multinational.
At TrustBuilder, we cherish a culture of `Commit, Collaborate and Celebrate’. Committed team players can help us become even more successful.
Successes and setbacks
When are you satisfied with a job well done?
Jan: Seeing the result of what I am doing, is very important to me. Closing a deal gives me a warm feeling. I invest a lot of energy in nurturing my network. I like to build long-term relationships with customers, and with my employers. In a career of 30 years, TrustBuilder is only the fourth company I work for. Building long-term relationships always pays off. Sometimes it takes years before maintaining your network leads to a deal, but it’s worth investing time in that.
Success is never guaranteed, of course. How do you cope with disappointment?
Jan: That’s right, sometimes you have to deal with setbacks. But even when a customer decides not to work with you, you need to continue the relationship. Even then, you have to continue asking questions, if only to learn where something went wrong and what you can do differently next time round. Never give up. In one of the projects that I am most proud of, I managed to turn around a negative decision by continuing to invest in the relationship.
Jan’s agenda for 2022
What are your priorities for 2022?
Jan: There are multiple priorities. As a Chief Revenue Officer, I am responsible for delivering on our revenue targets. That involves keeping our existing customers satisfied. In all modesty, I think we have done a great job there these last few years, building trust with them. We must look at new opportunities at these customers, by maintaining multi-level contacts within their organization. One of the things we are focusing on this year, is helping these customers make their move to the cloud.
At the same time, we are, of course, looking to acquire new customers. We go about that methodically, adding extra industries besides our core verticals of financial services and HR services. That’s why we are hiring extra manpower in the sales department. We are also adding new implementation partners and are looking at setting up an indirect sales channel.
Much time and energy will also go into working together with our sister company inWebo Technologies, leveraging their customer base, and integrating their offering into the TrustBuilder portfolio.
We have a lot on our plate this year. So, it’s really the best of times for new account executives to join us and enjoy the excitement at TrustBuilder.
Are you interested in working at TrustBuilder? Check out our vacancies.