Transcript from REVstars interview with Stephanie Elsesser
Speaker: Stephanie Elsesser,
Head of Sales at Rigor
Interviewer: Aly Merritt, Head of Community at SalesLoft


[Intro, musical overlay]

Stephanie: Hi!

Aly Merritt: Hey! Good to see you.

Stephanie: Good to see you, too.

Aly Merritt: Thank you for coming out.

Stephanie: Yeah, thanks for having me. Stephanie Elsesser, head of sales at Rigor. And I’m responsible for my own book of business, as well as leading the sales team day to day.

Aly Merritt: Okay, how big is your team?

Stephanie: So we have six SDRs and four account executives.

Aly Merritt: How big was it when you started in that role?

Stephanie: So I was actually, when I started at the company, I was actually employee number three. I started as an intern.

Aly Merritt: Wait, so you’ve been there like eight years though now.

Stephanie: Seven years.

Aly Merritt: Seven years. Okay. So what brought you to the company initially? And what makes you stay there?

Stephanie: Yeah, so initially I thought I wanted to work for a tech company. I didn’t know that I wanted to be in sales right away, but the role that they had listed was a lead gen marketing intern, so I figured, apply the degree and a lot of my relevant work experience to what the job description was. And then it translated into being the first rep and being the first closing rep and then now running the team.

Aly Merritt: That’s a lot of firsts.

Stephanie: So yeah, it’s been really exciting to build something.

Aly Merritt: How big is the entire Rigor team now, the whole company?

Stephanie: So we’re 59.

Aly Merritt: Okay. So, and you were employee number three and so they’ve added like 50 employees since then. What’s been the biggest change for you?

Stephanie: The biggest change has been going from having no resources and having to do everything, really from scratch and by hand, to finally having some structure in place, having resources, feet on the street, even outside of Atlanta and really just building out a lot of the job roles that didn’t exist for the first couple of years.

Aly Merritt: Okay, what do you put your heart and soul into?

Stephanie: So Rigor is based out of Atlanta and I’m a huge proponent and just fan of Atlanta as a city. I love everything about it. I think it’s kind of like the best-kept secret. It’s a tree-lined city with lots of opportunity, huge booming technology scene, brand-new MLS Championship winning soccer team. And it’s just a very affordable, nice place to live and sort of build your career. And I love everything about it. So what I really like is traveling around and talking to folks about Rigor and they are so surprised that we’re based out of Atlanta always. They’re like, “Oh Atlanta, we don’t really hear many tech companies from Atlanta.” And it just really makes me, I’m like, “Wait, let me tell you everything. Let me tell you about SalesLoft and MailChimp and all the success stories that we’ve had!” They’re not as recognizable because they’re primarily B2B success stories, instead of B2C.

Aly Merritt: Behind the scenes.

Stephanie: Right, exactly. So I just get really excited about Atlanta and contributing to the community there and building the technology community there.

Aly Merritt: One of the other areas that we talked about is you do a ton of volunteering. You talked about how important it is to you to pay it forward.

Stephanie: Yes.

Aly Merritt: So tell me more about what drives that for you and then tell me more about how you inspire others to do more in that.

Stephanie: Yeah, so a couple areas in terms of volunteering. I live right near a farmer’s market that’s year-round and I’ve lately been volunteering with some of the farmers there at the stands. It’s all organic, sustainable, everything is local from Georgia. I love food and I really love that.

Aly Merritt: Me too.

Stephanie: Yeah, I love that the work that they do, it’s like so hard being a farmer. Whenever I have a hard day, I just am like, “This is nothing compared to growing food-

Aly Merritt: Back-breaking labor!

Stephanie: — and having no control over the weather or any other variable.” And so I volunteer every Saturday and I help them sell produce. So I’m slinging software during the week and then on the weekends slinging tomatoes and broccoli and whatever’s local and from Georgia. [laughs]

Stephanie: We do a lot of volunteering actually at Rigor. Every quarter we do a service day, we have a retreat and then we do a service day with a local, any local activity that’s sort of giving back to something that’s nonprofit.

Aly Merritt: How do you pick those?

Stephanie: So we vote on them, we actually come up with ideas and we do just a company vote, whether it’s animal shelter or the food banks that are local, kind of depends on the season. And then with my team, we try to do them monthly together as a team, kind of like as a team building event.

Aly Merritt: What has been one of your biggest obstacles in life and how did you overcome it?

Stephanie: I think in life probably being a woman that wants to be in the technology community and be in sales. It’s been a very much male-dominated driven industry for so long. And when I started at Rigor, I would go on site into meetings and I’d be the only woman in the room all the time. And it’s kind of like you got to really earn your spot and earn your place there and that’s fine. And I think being able to just have some ongoing success and get some wins under my belt has helped me overcome that or feel a lot more comfortable and confident about it.

Stephanie: But I just, I hope that I can help other women or other minorities join this industry. In this profession, there’s so much economic possibility and potential to make a lot of money and grow a company and it’s, I’m very grateful for it.

Aly Merritt: So you’re seven years in at Rigor. What is your ideal vision for the future? Let’s start with five years, because I know how fast things move in tech startup space. Five years is like 30 everywhere else. What is your vision of in five years where you may be?

Stephanie: For me? Yeah, I think I actually want to start a company. So I think that every good CEO is also good at sales and running the business side. And throughout my career at Rigor, I’ve met a lot of folks who are more technical, specialized and focused that I think I could work with. And I’m really interested in starting something and growing something in Atlanta and creating jobs in Atlanta. So I think that’s on my docket for sure.

Aly Merritt: What does a healthy inclusive environment look like to you?

Stephanie: Yeah, so I think in sales, whether we want to admit it or not, historically sales as a career has been optimized mostly for men, for straight white men really. And that’s because, if you look at the job descriptions, they’re very much tailored to, they’ve been tailored to men. And if we look at who’s hiring for these roles, they’ve been men and they haven’t been the most diverse group of men. Right? So I think something that we can do that’s a little bit more of a low hanging fruit is have more folks that come from more diverse backgrounds in leadership roles because then they’re the ones who are using their network and writing the job descriptions and creating the environments. Sales is a team sport. It’s very collaborative. That’s what makes it so fun too. It’s that, you could celebrate a win that everyone, they contributed to it, they touched it, they can talk about it, they can talk about the success, and that’s a blast. So, yeah.

Aly Merritt: I love that you just did the tagline for our conference. Perfect. This is super fun.

Stephanie: Yeah, it was awesome.

Aly Merritt: Thank you for doing this.

Stephanie: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Aly Merritt: Absolutely.