Sam Coleman, Head of Sales at Zip Business New Zealand
The thought of working in sales often elicits a negative image for a lot of people, however a working in sales for a tech company can be hugely rewarding. Sam is a great testament to the exciting career that can be carved out in sales as well as more broadly working for a growing high-growth tech company. He shares some sage advice for people trying to figure out what path they might take next. Thanks for sharing, Sam.
Firstly, how would you explain to a five year old what it is you do?
I provide small businesses money to become bigger businesses.
And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?
We provide businesses access to cash flow credit to enable them to grow with no funding restrictions.
“That sales roles don't exist outside of the second-hand car yard.”
What are some of the common misconceptions about working in Sales?
- That sales roles don't exist outside of the second hand car yard.
- Sales people will promise anything in order to get a deal done.
- Salespeople are born not made.
Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?
I knew I wanted to do something that involved technology as I was always pulling old computers apart and was fascinated about how it all worked but I never really got a good steer on that and was good at maths, so naturally I went down the finance and accounting path. I don’t think it was until I actually started in the workforce as to the power of what those two things combined could be as a career.
“..to do this and work for such an energised, scaling company was a true game-changer and I wouldn’t take a job that didn’t have that going-forward.”
Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at Zip?
When I left University with a finance degree, I actually wanted to work in sales and not necessarily at a bank. I stumbled into an opportunity when speaking with a family friend, which was described to me as a 360 sales role with the need of financial understanding to be successful.
So I ran with it and started as an intern for a Australasian asset finance company, where I spent the next five years learning how to be a good credit analyst, create and increase sales volumes through different channels as well as being an account manager to all new business that I brought on.
I then decided to pack my bag and venture over to the UK, where I really had no clue as to what I would end up doing and even if I would try and find something career building or end up at a ski resort as a lifty.
I was recruited by a small Fintech player out of the blue who was starting to ripple the waters with providing peer-to-peer commercial lending solutions for small to medium sized businesses. I didn’t know what I was in for or the steep learning curve that followed, however from there I was hooked.
I loved the interaction of listening to our clients needs and building new technology to service those needs and add an experience that they have traditionally never received from their banks. Being able to do this and work for such an energised, scaling company was a true game changer and I wouldn’t take a job that didn’t have that going-forward.
That brings me to Zip Business (formerly Spotcap). When I moved back home to NZ, I needed to find a place with that same vibe. NZ I think is probably four years behind the UK and Australian alternative finance market - particularly in the Fintech space, so it was always going to be a challenge. I stumbled across Zip by chance and it ticked all the boxes and an opportunity to take the reins of their direction in NZ, so leapt at it and here we are!
“It was hard to navigate a marketplace full of jobs, which you couldn’t really get a good hold of pre-interview or even pre-application.”
Can you share some more insight into what that transition was like?
It was hard to navigate a marketplace full of jobs, which you couldn’t really get a good hold of pre-interview or even pre-application. It was even harder to determine if that job would actually be something I would be passionate about.
Back in the beginning of my career, although I thought I was doing something I liked, it was actually quite far away from my passion and a role that really got me ticking.
Transitioning was more or less a bit of a fluke from dropping some directors LinkedIn messages but as soon as I got in, I didn’t muck around and tried to get involved with everything that moved in the business and get a true sense of how the machine works together. It required an open mind, being able to wear many hats and the ability to adapt - fast.
What is it specifically that you like about working Zip Business relative to your past jobs?
It was that they believed in me first and foremost and were willing to back any ideas I had. Once I got proper insight as to where the Zip NZ and Australia businesses had come from and the direction they wanted to take, it felt like I could make a material impact and help them accomplish their goals and mine personally too.
Whereas prior to that I was just a cog in the machine in a business that had a very well embedded culture and style of doing business. There was no thrill of the chase and no element of trial and error to it. Everything was formulated and targets increased at 5% pa. It was boring.
“Reach out to people you think you would like to be one day. You may not know them, you may not know exactly what they do but seek a coffee or a phone call to learn from their experiences.”
Do you have any advice for people considering tech as a career path and how they might get there quicker?
Reach out to people you think you would like to be one day. You may not know them, you may not know exactly what they do but seek a coffee or a phone call to learn from their experiences and ask them questions about their work. You will be surprised at the amount of people willing to help.
Lastly, Zip Business continues to evolve. What kind of candidates do you think Zip Business is looking for in terms of experience, attitude and character?
At Zip we have an extremely diverse team with people who have come from all walks of life and all around the world. Many of the people working in roles may not have been an expert in that area but have brought a ‘can do’ attitude and are willing to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into whatever challenges we face as a company.
We look for people who have strong personal integrity and believe they can make a material impact with joining us. They may not be the loudest or brightest person in the room but we applaud those who strive to improve on themselves through working with us.