[Interview] Working at Apogee with Laura Bradley
As Apogee’s Director of Inside Sales, Laura Bradley is not only passionate about providing practical workplace solutions to the world of modern business – she puts time aside to mentor young businesspeople along their own career journeys, too.
“I don’t think the word ‘mentor’ was really in my vocabulary until about a year ago,” says Laura. “I was offered a mentor here at Apogee, and I get a lot from the conversations I have with her. She’s at a board director position, so it’s great for me to just chew the fat with her, throw ideas around, ask her questions… just learn from her years of expertise. I love that, and I think that’s what got me interested in wanting to help others more formally.”
Starting with Apogee in 2018, it only took two years for Laura to become Director of Inside Sales – and since then, she has been keen to act as a mentor herself. Offering her mentor services to lucky Lincoln University graduates and winners of the Women in Sales Awards, Laura also attained an ILM certification in Effective Coaching and Mentoring as recently as March 2022.
“I think when you’re a leader of any department, you’re always mentoring without realising… It’s a very important part of any leaders job within your own team, and also outside your team, as you will become a better manager and leader for it.”
‘Coaching reflection sessions’ have become a fixture amongst the management for Apogee’s Regional Sales; who meet Laura in monthly Zoom calls to discuss and reflect upon any coaching sessions they have conducted in between meetings.
“They’re going really well! It’s become an open forum where managers can dip in and suggest ideas to other managers, to open up about their skillsets with coaching, and what we think we need to learn more about. Reflecting on your approach after a session is key to being a good coach.”
As Inside Sales Director, Laura manages two separate teams – Telesales, and Lead Generation. While the telesales team is responsible for managing the accounts of clients with limited quarterly budgets; the Lead Generation team’s role is to build relationships with new businesses not yet aware of the services Apogee provide.
“Lead Generation are the people who are constantly calling out, all day, every day; as well as e-mailing and trying to contact people through LinkedIn, just trying to get through to business decision makers to book appointments for our sales account executives out in the field. It’s a very hard job,” says Laura. “They’re all brilliant at what they do, but it’s a very tiring role, probably one of the hardest in the world of sales… and I think a lot of salespeople would agree with that.”
It goes without saying that lead generation would take on a new level of difficulty during the events of 2020.
“Everything was so unknown in 2020, so you can imagine how difficult it was to get through to any decision makers, or anyone who even wanted to meet with us when they were so unsure about the future of their businesses. It was completely understandable, but it meant huge impacts felt across my department. It’s been challenging, and it was such a shame to lose what we had in our pipeline… but we love a challenge, and here we are building it back up again.”
“Had we not had the support of the senior leadership team, like many other businesses, we may not have been here,” Laura adds. “But we were well-supported during that time, and it just goes to show that if you support a team through trying times, those people will pay you back in dividends when those times are passed, which is what we’re seeing now.”
A recent development is Apogee’s implementation of a hybrid working model – which, according to Laura, while not suited to the lead generation team, works incredibly well for the telesales team.
“When the telesales team are in the office and it’s a buzzy atmosphere and there’s people on the phones constantly, that’s a great time for them for them to be on the phone themselves. But because they’re salespeople as well, there’s a lot of admin tasks for them to do, which could be quite difficult to do in a loud office; so they get that nice mix where they can be at home to concentrate on those elements of the role that they need quiet for.”
“Whereas with the lead generation team, not a lot’s changed for them. We know that the role can be done from home, but it’s just not done as effectively, and I think they’d all agree. When your motivation to do a particular role is helped and aided by people around you doing it, I think you need to be office-based.”
Whilst Laura was always in the office before 2020, nowadays she likes to mix it up – generally working from home for one or two days a week.
“In the early days, it was very difficult, because our children were at home too. I was fortunate at the time, because my partner was furloughed, so he took over most of the learning and keeping them in check… but it didn’t stop them from walking into my office during a Zoom call and announcing that they wanted their slide out! (laughs). But during that time, we’d all go out as a family for a walk at lunchtime, and it was some of the best times of my life. Even though we were going through something awful, I remember some of those times really quite fondly, because we got all that time with our children that we wouldn’t have had ordinarily.
“For me, Carl Day was just phenomenal. He trusted us enough that he knew we would always get our work done, and if that meant we started a little earlier in the day, or we worked a little later, if we got the job done, it didn’t matter. He gave us the trust.”
So, should businesses adopt a hybrid working model? According to Laura, it all depends on the role.
“We’ve seen it in the credit control department, in logistics, in the telesales team… with hybrid working, you don’t see any major drop-off in activity, output, or motivation levels. If anything, motivation levels can be higher in certain roles, by giving people that flexibility. As long as the job gets done with good quality, then I think other businesses should. It’s all about showing your people that you trust them, and I think that goes a long way.”