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How to build a career in sales: From Boston to San Francisco

There are several characteristics and variables that make a great seller. When I asked Seismic Regional Vice President of Strategic Account Sales Chris Chandler, his response was simple. “The best sellers I’ve been around are thoughtful, have a presence, they’re creative, and have lots of grit—but, most of all—the best sellers I know are just plain smart.” 

These qualities clearly stood out in my conversation with Chris, but based on our conversation, I’d add a couple more. In order to build a successful career in sales, you also need to have goals, a strategy to pursue them, and a work ethic to see them to fruition—all qualities that Chris possesses.

He’s been at Seismic for nearly 7 years, but was drawn to selling software well before then. “While I was in business school, I found that tech was very interesting to me. I had goals of being a leader in a start-up or tech company, and I figured I better learn how to sell if I was ever going to get there” he said. 

That was the beginning of his journey. After earning his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of New Hampshire, he returned home to Boston, Massachusetts, where he started his career in sales.

“I went home to Boston and narrowed my focus to the top two most reputable technology companies for sales programs in the Boston area. I worked to figure out how to get my first job, and I pursued an entry-level sales role because I knew I needed  to learn how to sell.”

After a couple of years in that role, he joined Seismic. He had previously worked in an outside sales closing role, but when he joined Seismic the only available role was a Business Development Representative (BDR) position. He had heard about Seismic through word-of-mouth and accepted the offer because of the reputation of the company’s sales organization and strong leadership team.

I was willing to take a risk

He initially lost some of the responsibility he held in his previous role, but that was short-lived. Within a few months, there was an opening for an outside sales role. He accepted that role and, not long after (no really…I mean seconds after), he needed to make a big decision about the new role. 

“I was at lunch with Ed [Calnan] (Seismic CRO and co-founder) on a Friday afternoon and he mentioned that they needed a new Sales Rep, but the role wouldn’t be in Boston. It would be in the United Kingdom, the Mid-Atlantic, or San Francisco.” Ed asked Chris if he wanted to take some time to think about it. He replied “No, I don’t want to think about it. Because If I stop and think about it, then I won’t go.”

The following Monday the company announced that he was moving to San Francisco. He noted that he was “willing to take a risk, grow, and figure it out.”

Honing his craft

In San Francisco, he focused primarily on the world’s largest enterprise tech companies and, as the company began to segment and verticalize, his focus became even more targeted on big tech.

The marketer in me wanted to understand how content influenced his interactions with buyers. He shared a story that he says has stuck with him. 

He had met with a tech company during a sales engagement and the SVP noted that “Deliverables matter. What you put in front of a prospect matters, because it speaks for you when you’re not around—so what you leave behind really does need to be flawless.” Chris added that he and the best sellers he’s been around use content to tell buyers a story. “I obsess over content and things that I send or put in front of customers—my whole team does.”

He quoted Albert Einstein and Mark Twain when describing the importance of sharing brief, digestible content, noting brevity as a sales superpower that takes practice to learn.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Albert Einstein

“When it comes to sales, deliverables matter,” he added. “The best sellers I’ve been around do the exact same thing.”

Building a successful career

His attention to detail worked out.

Before moving to San Francisco, he researched companies with the largest Salesforce deployment. He made it his goal to help close the company’s first million-dollar deal by targeting Salesforce’s biggest customers. 

It ultimately turned out to be Seismic’s first multi-million dollar deal. “It took us a while, but we were finally able to do that,” he said.  “I remember sending out the deal notification—the whole company had touched that deal, and I was so exhausted by the end that I remember falling asleep immediately after sending the email.”

In his time at Seismic, Chris has gone from BDR to Sales Rep, and now Regional Vice President of Sales, West Coast, a role he assumed in 2020.

When I asked how he was able to build his career in sales, his response was simple. “You have to know the answers to the questions before you ask them, and you need to guide buyers down the path of realization. If we do enough homework, we can ask a series of questions to help buyers understand the scale of their business challenge on their own.”

To close our conversation, I wanted to know how he’d adjusted to remote work and digital-first selling. He mentioned that he enjoyed getting more time in his own neighborhood, and less time at SFO airport. But, what really struck me was his passion for the art of in-person selling. 

“I do miss preparation for a meeting—having a plan, getting into the room, executing, feeling good about it, and having defined next steps. It’s a feeling and I miss that part of it. There’s an excitement in the build-up, delivery, and execution.”

Seismic is always looking for its next great hire. If you’d like to learn more about opportunities in sales or another department, visit our careers page.

Tony Smith
Tony Smith
Sr. Content Strategist
Tony Smith is a Senior Content Strategist at Seismic where he creates blog and thought leadership content. He has 12 years of experience as a marketing and communications professional, and is passionate about using storytelling to help customers solve their business challenges.