Michelle Sellke, Rapid7

We’re thrilled to share another installment of In the Spotlight with Michelle Sellke. Let’s go!

What does “success” in sales looks like for you?
I used to be more short-sighted in the sales cycle, but I’ve learned to think for the long game. Up front I spend a lot of time getting deep with customers about their needs, their 3-5 year vision. I know about their business and how security fits into that. We talk about solutions so we can align with outcomes. That means when we get to the high-stress parts of the process like procurement, pricing, timeline, I remind customers of their goals for digital transformation or the commitments they made to their board. And that’s when I remind myself that I have earned the right to ask. I am a true partner with their best interests in mind. This helps me to be bold  – which is not how I would describe the 25-year-old Michelle.

You said that was when you had an AHA! Moment. Can you say more?
One of the last things an old boss “jokingly” said to me when I was struggling with a particular stakeholder was, “Just put on some heels, wear a tight dress and get it done.”  I now truly believe he didn’t know better, but I was speechless. And though I sheepishly laughed it off, I spent years replaying what I wished I had said. At that time, I wanted to get into sales, but I didn’t see myself as a confident, charismatic, strong person who could get a deal done. But this incident, and a few other defining moments, led to me take the leap into sales at Rapid7.

We talk about the intersection of competence and warmth in the SheSpeaks program. How does that manifest?
SheSpeaks clarified this description of what we want in our leaders. It’s not just competency. For example, some high-pressure situations require me to ask a lot of favors from executives, engineers, legal, and our financial teams to cross the finish line. I don’t want to be known as the person asking all the favors. I start by prioritizing my asks, but I always make sure to go back, after the dust has settled, to offer thanks and to share how their individual contributions made the difference in that particular sale. I know that next time they see Michelle Sellke coming for a favor, they trust that I am a team player, I value and honor their time and that their efforts won’t go unnoticed. That’s competence and warmth, and it makes a difference.

We also shared the rhetorical triangle in our SheSlays program. Did we understand correctly that you used it immediately after the program?
On my Uber ride back from the event!  I wanted to persuade a senior leader to include one of my clients in a beta program for the security plan. I framed the conversation using ethos, pathos and logos. I had all my facts (logos) ready, but she needed to hear about the pathos. I described the face of the client that I see on Zoom, how frustrated he is and how bringing him into this project would show commitment and progress on the work we are evolving and delivering. It worked!

Where are you today?
I show up as Michelle Sellke. I have been embraced by my Rapid7 community. I can be my passionate, articulate, quirky self.  I am a stronger communicator because I am not using a script, I’m not armed with memorized language or prepared to defend myself. I am bringing warmth, competence, skills, muscle, listening and trust to help my customers succeed.

What’s the benefit of being in a community of women?
What I appreciated in SheSpeaks and SheSlays was that regardless of backgrounds or comfort level with assertive communication, every woman got what she needed from the experience. From tactical tips and tricks, to using the rhetorical triangle to passionate gender equity action, I saw every woman take away immediate value. I am a raving fan of the work that SheSpeaks brings to an amazing group of emerging female leaders.