Someone Like Me: Jeremy Johnson says be the sponge

We all want to work for a company where we fit in. That’s why Elastic built a Source Code that encourages all to come as they are. In the Someone Like Me blog series we highlight Elasticians who have a unique story — one, perhaps, just as unique as yours.

In this edition we meet Jeremy Johnson, Sales Specialist at Elastic, who gives advice on how to be a successful sales representative at Elastic, and what sets a sales position at Elastic apart from anywhere else.

How long have you been with Elastic?

I’ve been here for just a little over two years. It seems like a lot longer!

Can you tell us a little bit about your role?

I started out at Elastic as a sales department representative (SDR) based out of our Chicago office. After a year I was promoted to being a search specialist. Now I oversee our out-of-the-box search solutions for Elastic Enterprise Search, which includes App Search, Site Search, and Workplace Search.

Jeremy Johnson in a gray suit

Who are the out-of the box solutions best for?

Well, it’s for anybody that's coming to Elasticsearch who needs search on their website, for an SaaS/mobile application, or for any internal application that requires search. It’s good for those who don't know how to build in Elasticsearch themselves, or don’t have the resources to do so. We call it the “Easy Button” for search.

Selling that kind of product sounds a bit more technical than a traditional sales role. How would you compare the two?

Yeah, the best way I can put it is to say the role is that of a sales engineer. My role is a little bit more attuned to the business side of things than a traditional engineering role, but also a bit more technical than your average sales role.

What does that mean in practice?

Well, a customer will reach out with questions about our solutions. I will work alongside the sales person, helping them run through demos with the customer and discuss how the solutions might fit within the customer’s environment. I still rely on my engineering team for really in-depth technical questions — I don’t have an engineering degree.

What did you do before Elastic?

I spent eight years in the IT headhunting space. I worked for Robert Half International which is, I believe, one of the largest IT resource consultancy agencies in the world. I also worked for Inside Global and Signature Consultants, both as Account Managers. Working for those companies exposed me to technology quite a bit. I was hiring a lot of Java and .NET developers and engineers that worked with a lot of the cloud technologies we use today. When I moved over to Elastic, I wanted to move into a more hybrid kind of role, marrying tech and sales. Coming into Elastic as an SDR I was able to do just that — and learn it all on a short runway.

Did you have a sense of how diverse Elastic was when you interviewed?

I interviewed with three people — three white men and one woman. Still, I got the sense in terms of speaking with them that they were genuine in how much they cared about the diversity of the team and of the organization. When I joined Elastic at the Chicago office, I saw that the people there were from all walks of life. So many different races and backgrounds. I saw that diversity was being emphasized on the management and leadership level, and it was being practiced.

I constantly brag about Elastic in terms of how diversified we are as a company. We have a variety of age groups, from just out of college to more senior. And because of these different perspectives we take our time a little more, we think less about volume and more about implementing strategies and focus on building awareness about what we’re doing rather than cold calling.

Was this different from previous employers?

All of the organizations I'd previously worked for were sales-based companies. They traditionally tried to recruit a certain stereotype, someone they believe would be a successful salesperson, which would either be, you know, a girl who's in a sorority or who was in X, Y, or Z club. Or, maybe a guy who was an athlete and in a fraternity — the competitive stereotype. This isn’t necessarily bad, but at the same time you don’t have a lot of diversity.

What I’ve learned at Elastic is that there are many different ways to look at a problem and solve it. At a lot of those previously mentioned sales organizations you’d have so many people employed, but all of them are incredibly like minded. With that, you don't really have a lot of perspectives outside of the norm. What truly makes Elastic special is having the diversity of opinions and ideas that really cultivates a great working environment.

Jeremy at our Global All Hands event

What makes a successful sales person at Elastic then?

The people I’ve seen rise quickly and do well are people who are sponges. Those people who, in any situation they’re sitting in, are learning and absorbing more information.

Elastic products might be very foreign to a new hire, and it’s important that they learn every single aspect of Elastic products. For me, I had to learn about the open source community when I joined. I had to understand why a developer would adopt a product, and learn the traditional sales motion going from open source to actually purchasing the product. There's a lot of nuances and you have a whole team at your disposal to learn from.

Do you have any advice for someone who is interviewing for an SDR role at Elastic?

An SDR is an entry level sales role, and what you’ll be doing there is … selling. But it is a little bit different. So what I would suggest is emphasizing discovery. Discovery is about learning about the customer — their pain points, their desires, everything.

When I went through the interview process I figured that the interviewer would ask me about Elasticsearch. So I went to our website and began doing research about the Elastic Stack — how it was composed of Elasticsearch, Kibana, Logstash, and Beats and how those things fit into the Elastic umbrella. I wanted to feel confident that I knew those products and that I could sell them to the people I was interviewing with. If you’re comfortable with selling Elasticsearch to someone that works at Elastic? You’ll very likely be successful. Discovery is a part of this.

Beyond the interview process, what else does it take to be successful at Elastic?

Culture is big here. And if you are a relatively abrasive person or very pushy person, you might not have the best time here because we are a very collaborative environment, and you're going to need to learn how to work with and interact with people in a respectful way.

But I think, more so than anything, you just have to be open to learning things and being open to saying I don't know, and taking feedback when needed. I think that there's a lot of things that you can do to set yourself up for success outside of just having the correct skill set. Because I can tell you right now, we've had so many people that have interviewed at Elastic that 100% fit what a successful entry level sales person is, but they didn't get the job. Maybe they came in acting a little bit pompous, or abrasive, or maybe they didn’t seem very interested in the interviewers or our company. It was really just about them.

If you can show that you’re a sponge ready to soak up everything that the company and the organization has to offer, and show that you’re a team player, you’ll do just fine.

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