Becoming a Salesperson: An Interview with Reza Motevalli

When it comes to sales, there is a myriad of theories on what it takes to be a good Customer Success Manager. A few believe selling is simply finding as many people who want what you have to offer. Others think selling is an art you are born with or one that you need to develop. 

Nobody can deny that being an effective Customer Success Manager requires a set of professional and social skills that not everyone can claim to have. 

In this blog post, we talk to our Customer Success Manager, Reza Motavelli. Reza’s path has been quite special. Read on to find out more about his story and what he believes are key factors to selling translation services.  

How do you become a Customer Success Manager?

Well, my path was definitely not the most straightforward. I finished my bachelor’s degree in Law and during my early twenties, I worked as a legal consultant for an oil and gas company in Teheran (Iran). But I always wanted to continue my education and so I moved to Ireland, where I got a Masters of Law at the University of Limerick. 

I lived in Ireland for almost 6 years, from 2004 until 2010. During that time, Ireland was seriously affected by the economic crisis, so I decided to reallocate in London. There I found a job at a software company called HotelREZ, where I had my first experience with sales.

During the first nine months at HotelREZ I closed 60 contracts 400% more than the target which was set at 15. This was an eye-opener for me: I realized I was quite good at relating to customers and helping them achieve their goals.

What brought you to Barcelona?

I have been around quite a lot: Iran, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Belgium. I finally decided to move to Barcelona last year. I was always fascinated by the city, the food, and Spanish culture. 

How did you end up in the translation industry?

I wasn’t specifically looking for a job in the translation industry, but rather a new customer-facing position. So even if switching from one industry to another is always a big change, the basics of my work remain quite similar. 

The funny thing is I had a rather simplistic impression of translation. I thought it was a straightforward process and was not aware of how many steps are involved to get a translation delivered. I am thrilled by the size of the industry, how technology-intensive it is and the number of companies that depend on us to help run their international operations.

What do you believe is the key to selling translation services?

On a company level, I believe is about understanding your market position and developing a competitive service offering. It is very important to promote your messages effectively. 

From a Customer Success Manager’s perspective, it is quite different. I think the key to successful relationships is about carefully listening to your customers and asking as many open questions as possible. If you listen attentively, you will understand their challenges, how their business works and what they are looking for it could be fast turn-around times, quality or simply great service. 

But it is always easier said than done and each customer has a different starting point: Some already have translations providers while others don’t. When they already have a partner you need to study your competition in detail (both pricing and service offer).   

What’s the difference between doing business in the translation with other industries?

In translation, the sales cycle is very long and companies usually have providers already. It is more about convincing why someone needs to switch to you and that is usually very complicated.

Sometimes, people just don’t take you seriously. You send a pricing proposal and you never get to hear from the prospect again. But I guess this shows how competitive the translation industry is. Between lines, I deduce somebody else presented a better offer or that switching provider is not an option right now.

What’s your secret weapon for engaging with customers?

There isn’t one silver bullet, and my strategy varies depending on how I approach the customer, whether it is via emails, phone calls or face-to-face. It usually takes longer to engage customers via email and there is a growing trend of people not really answering phone calls.

Face-to-face (or live online meetings) is my favorite way of engaging because it builds trust. I have the time to introduce myself and the company properly, and I can also mention reference work we have done for other companies that keeps my customers listening actively!  

But getting a face-to-face meeting requires quite some effort: between 6 to 7 attempts. So you need to persevere and be really dedicated in order to get your 30 minutes of fame!

What are the challenges your customers are facing?

As a general rule of thumb, I would say the most frequent one is turnaround times. We work with several customers in the automotive industry and time to market is a key factor for all of them. Then some companies struggle with integrations between systems, others with file formats and some others find it hard to manage terminology as a corporate asset. But that’s why they have decided to partner with us. It is our responsibility to turn their challenges into solutions.

How do you help them? 

I am always trying to identify areas for improvement for each of our clients but deploying new workflows or processes isn’t always straightforward, especially with big manufacturing firms. Even if your contact person understands the reason behind your proposal, they still need to sell that idea to other colleagues on their end. A big deal of my job is about recognizing problems early enough before they become too big.

What languages can you speak?

I speak many middle-eastern languages: Farsi, Turkish and Azerbaijani. I also have a great command of Arabic in terms or reading and listening, though I am not a fluent speaker.  And I can also speak English, very basic Italian, and I am now working on my Spanish!

What three traits define you?

Adventurous, because I like to move a lot. Professionally, I am quite serious. Mischievous — it is my hidden side, the one I don’t often show, but it is always there!  

When you’re not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I am a very social person. I like to attend events, parties and go out for dinner with friends. I also have a passion for food and trying different cuisines. Japanese is actually my favorite! 

But it also very important to keep the right balance between work, social life, and health. I am quite a fitness fan. I do cycling, hiking and hit the gym on a regular basis.

Lightning-round questions

  • Daan or dusk? Dusk
  • Comedy or drama? Comedy
  • Favorite color? Yellow
  • TV shows or movies? TV shows
  • British or American English? British
  • Tapas or pasta? Tapas
  • For vacation: sea or mountains? Sea
  • Who inspires you? My Dad

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