INTERVIEW

Veronica Tribolati, Founder, HelloGuest

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Veronica is an impressive lady. Heavily tattooed, straight-talking, and intensely charismatic, she has the type of gravitas that comes with surviving a bank trading floor for almost two decades and starting her own – highly successful – business from scratch.

I’d apologize for the swearing, but that’s part of the package in this case. I hope you enjoy this candid interview as much as I did.

You can read Veronica’s full biography here

 

Jamie: Veronica just to start out, what have you found most fulfilling about your career thus far? 

Veronica: Being my own boss, deciding what to do, and having a team that works really well with me. I’m not like a normal boss where you are the employee and I’m the boss. I really have a different approach because being in a corporation for 17 years, I hated it. I couldn’t stand it. What I didn’t like is number one, you are just a number and if you’re number two, they just look down on you because they are giving you money. At the end of the day, we all need to have money at the end of the month. But I don’t believe in squeezing people, and not being respectful. I prefer to have a balanced relationship where I ask you always, “What’s your opinion, what do you think?”

I love people thinking out of the box. I don’t believe in, “You do this. That’s your square, stay in your square.” Whenever I have an interview for a new member of the team, I always ask different questions. Your personality makes 99% of whatever kind of job you are doing and I think it is really important. Of course, you need to know the product. You need to know if I’m selling this mug, you need to know everything about the mug. But you need to be on the same side as the person in front of you. You need to listen. Do not start with your own scripted agenda because everyone is different. Do not have the same attitude with everyone because someone is shy, someone is introvert, and someone is not really like, “Yeah, I’m listening to you but I have another ten meetings with other companies that do the same.”

Listen first, and then try to understand what they want and also understand the way you are because if I’m too aggressive like I am like a Terminator, I’m like Fargo. But with someone like that, you can scare them, you don’t want to go “buy my mug,” it’s not like that. You need to listen and spend time to understand. Okay, what is he asking me? What does he need? Then you can say, yes, this mug is white, it is big, it is nice. Don’t be focused on the result. Follow the process, which sometimes can be frustrating because you are like, “Can we close the deal? I have another 25 meetings, I need to go.” But you know, you need to show empathy.

I think, when people meet me, I still don’t know why they trust me. What I do and what they like is that I’m very direct. I don’t do bullshit. I don’t just do the talk. Whatever I have to tell you, I’m going to tell you and I’m not cutting corners.

I’m not trying to sneak some information by you; the small print in the contract. I tell customers everything straight away. You need to be super clear because otherwise, it’s going to boomerang; it’s going to come back at you.

“Hey, you didn’t tell me that this mug can go in the washing machine. Now I don’t want this mug anymore. I’m going to leave you a bad review and I’m not going to use your services, I’m going to go to a competitor.” Your competitors are hungry for business. I am aiming for businesses well, but I prefer quality to quantity. The portfolio that I have built is quality-driven and not based on quantity. I don’t care if I have 1000 clients if they are all not happy about what I’ve given them. I’d prefer to have 50 clients, but have them be happy and give them what they want and what they need.

Jamie: Could you speak a little bit about the relationship between entrepreneurialism and sales? 

Veronica: Well, I think it’ the basis of everything. If you own your own business, you need to own the sales technique because you are selling yourself. Again, if you look at my website, there is a video, which I was forced to do. But funny enough, a lot of people see my face and then, you can decide, “I don’t like her” or “I like her.” When they call me, they are like, “Oh, I saw your video, it’s really clear” and I’m like, “Oh.” But it makes sense because you are buying the services of my company, so you’d want to know who is behind this company. When I decided on the strategy of my company against the big players, I decided I don’t want to be just a name with fifteen people to reach before me, and if you are lucky, you can reach the owner. I decided that I would be the only one who has the first meeting with the client, the first call, I go there, and they see me. This is my face. This is what I do. You buy me, or if you don’t like me, you can choose another one.

Basically, in my field, we all sell the same product. Of course, there are differences in working charge, commission, service, you name it, but the core is the same. You give me your property; I manage your property. It can be difficult for someone to say, “Here’s the key of my house, do whatever you want.” That’s why I think that it’s pointless for me to send someone else on my team. I think it’s important that they see me. They know me. You can hate me, you can love me. You can decide. I think the difference is – yes, the quality of the product which is absolutely important, but also who is selling the product, and who is owning the product. They need to trust you. They look at you and think “I don’t like you” or “Yes, I trust you.”


Again, I think it’s just a gut feeling, more than everything. Because within the first ten minutes, everything is decided. When I enter a flat, they look at me, they listen to me for five minutes and then they already know, yes or no. Then we talk about all sorts of things. But deep inside, you know if you like me or not, straightaway. It’s gut. It’s nothing else.

Jamie: Do you believe that there’s anything that the salesperson can do to increase their chances of being trusted in the first-ever meeting? 

Veronica: I think they need to work on their personality. I think that’s really important because again, you are selling a product, but there’s you before the product. So be genuine, always tell them everything. Of course, there are things that someone will not like. For example, if you don’t like my company, I need you to give me one month of notice and I need you to be aware that if you cancel bookings, you need to pay the cancellation fee. This is not nice. No one wants to pay. But if I don’t tell you, in six months, you’re going to come back to me and saying, “I want to stop doing business with you. Give me my key back.” Then I’m going to tell them, “Oh, yeah, but you have £350 of penalties.”

That’s not something that you can say just at the end. Say everything straight away, the bad and the good, and then let them decide.

Don’t be too pushy.

Take Foxtons for example, I wanted to sell my house. They are just mad. They call you five times a day, which is wrong because we all have busy lives. So what I say is, “I will give you time, make your decision, I will not call you back. If you have any questions, you have my number, you have my email, you have my WhatsApp, you’ll have everything, you call me. If you want to start, call me.” I only call just if we agreed that that I would, but I never call after that.

Jamie: You talked a couple of times about reviews and the use of video. How is the use of media is changing sales?

Veronica: Media is a tool. But it’s a tool that we need because we need exposure because we need to reach people. At my business mode, in my role, I didn’t want to make a cold call, “Hi, I’m Veronica, I’m the owner of this company, and would you like to give me your flat?” The approach needs to be different. They need to come to me because the attitude is different. If you apply this to the cold calling; if I call you, “Hey, do you need an Airbnb service?” You’re like, “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.” But if you need to come to me, you are more open, and this is a big turning point.

When I was an equity trader, I had to go and hunt clients and it was very difficult, of course, because you have Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs; you are just one number they could call. They were telling me, yeah, okay, “So Merrill Lynch gives me five percent commission. I’ll go with you if you give me three.” You know that in order to go back to them, you need to give a discount to get their business and in order to be aligned with the expectation. If you call me and you say, “I need you,” it’s completely different.

Jamie: What advice do you have for businesses to differentiate and commoditized their products?

Veronica: Quality. You need to have a good product for whatever you sell. So number one, you need to be bulletproof with your product because if you sell shit, people will not buy your shit. Product and then knowledge. You need to know everything about your product and whatever is involved with your product- rules, regulation, competition- everything. Because every question needs an answer. You can’t say, “Oh, I don’t know.” I mean, yes, if you don’t know something super specific, that’s acceptable, but if they ask you something specific related to your core business, you need to know everything. I would say quality, knowledge, and then again, it’s you. It’s you that makes a difference. It’s you.

Jamie: You mentioned that you often say, “I’m not going to call you, take your time, come back to me when you’re ready.” How does that change people’s behaviour? 

Veronica: They are more relaxed. They don’t feel the pressure. If I put pressure on you, you’re not going to be cool, because everything needs to be smooth. You don’t feel that you are being forced to make a decision. I often decide in a second, but not everyone is like that. So, in order to avoid the frustration of me saying, “Can you please decide? Just do it. Okay, yes or no, then I can move on.” This is wrong because they feel the pressure and they are like, “Why is she pressuring me? Because she needs me?” No, I don’t need you. I want you to come on board. But I’m not like, “You need to come aboard, tell me, why or why not, right now.” Everyone is different. Every situation is different.

I have people who have called me, and we have everything they want. Then they have vanished for three months. Something changed in their life, perhaps. We spoke to your girlfriend, then you moved on, then you changed jobs, then you broke up, whatever. You need to be ready in your own time. You have to respect the timetable of the people that are in front of you. It’s not your timetable. It’s their timetable. So they feel like, “Okay, she respects me. She’s not like, “Give me an answer, give me an answer, just give me an answer.’” When you come back after 6 months, I’ll say, “Hey, how are you? How’s your daughter?”

Always, also, when you listen to them, they are telling you something about their personal life- wife, job, holiday, kids, anything. You need to be a sponge. If you tell me that you have an eight-year-old daughter who likes football, next time, I’m going to say, “How is your daughter? How is her football?” Also, you can relate because once they talk, there’s always some kind of connection that can be anything. I don’t know. “I’m Italian.” “Oh, I have been on holiday to Rome.” That’s like a gift that they are giving you. It’s a hook. Take the hook. It’s really important to listen to them because they are telling you their story.  If you start out of selling mode, be more relationship-oriented; you have a person in front of you. You don’t have someone to milk. You have a person. So listen to them. “Have you been on a holiday? Oh, that’s so cool. I’m not from Rome. I’m from Venice, but baba, baba, baba, baba.” After one week, “Hey, I’ve been to Rome as well. The Weather was nice.” You name it. Just grab, grab, grab.

You need to be like a sponge. What’s this, what’s this. Don’t be a frozen salmon. Be human. You have a human in front of you, not just someone to milk money from.

Jamie: What is the biggest piece of advice that you give to aspiring salespeople?

Veronica: Work on yourself because that’s your most powerful tool. Because at the end of the day, when you have your product, you are going out in the field and it’s a jungle. It’s a jungle because you are one of many competitors. If you work on yourself and you are confident in your skills, you can deliver and people feel that you are confident. If you’re not confident, they can feel it. Again, it’s all about guts. When you talk, be nice. If you have a script like, “I need to do this, I need to do this,” you force yourself. No. Chill, relax, take 5 seconds.

Also, before starting to talk, always try to understand what they need and which info do you have. Because with me, first, they send me an email. Okay. It can be “please call” or can be a piece of paper like this explaining to you their life, their relationship, their kids, their neighbours, you name it. Work with what you have. If you don’t have anything you need to ask. You need to have something. Otherwise, you are like, “I don’t know anything about you. What do I know about you? Nothing.” When you have like an opening, boom! My nickname from my team was “The Hammer” because whenever I see something, I’m on it. That’s the attitude.

If you don’t like what you are doing, it will show After 17 years on the trading floor, I was fed up. The last four years, I was like, “I don’t like this anymore. I can’t do this anymore,” and it shows. It’s lack of enthusiasm. At the end of the day you need to do this. Every bloody morning, every bloody day.

Jamie:  If you had your career again, Yeah, what would you do differently?

Veronica: I would say that in the beginning, I was very fresh. I believed everything and everyone, and very often, when you are young and inexperienced, you have people who take advantage of your innocence. Here, now, now we are chilled. I’m wearing normal clothes. But when you meet someone, they’re going to look at you as a woman. So you basically have tits and legs. You don’t want them looking at your legs. The inexperience probably didn’t help me; “I’m a woman, so I can wear a white T-shirt.” Wrong. You can’t because you can see through a white T-shirt. So you are labeled. Because, unfortunately, a lot of men find it easy to label women. This is just for the woman in the salesforce. You need to be ready to face some kind of harassment, even in the workplace. You need to be ready.

Jamie: For women who are looking to get into a sales career in a male-dominated field like finance, what advice would you have for them? 

Veronica: Be yourself, but be careful, because you can be misinterpreted. I have been in this situation so many times. Because I’m like bubbly, outgoing and I don’t see myself like, “Oh, she’s a cool woman.” I don’t know what other people are thinking, so it’s always “My God, is he thinking about my tits or is he thinking about my product?” You really try to be – not cold, but careful – which is difficult. Because if you are like me; I’m Italian, I’m super bubbly. For me, we are all buddies. For me, it’s all like, “Yeah, cool, let’s hang out please,” and they think, “Oh, she’s telling me something,” when I’m not telling you anything. I’m just telling you, “I’m relaxed.” But sometimes you need to be stiff. Like, take this example, when I was waiting for you here the guy behind you tried to come and sit here and talk to me four times. Am I wearing anything that might be giving him messages?

Jamie: Would you mind telling me about a time when maybe something went wrong and you didn’t make a sale, but you learned something from it?

Veronica: In terms of sales, to be honest, I’ve never screwed up, because I am confident in what I’m saying and because I don’t lie. If someone decided that he doesn’t like me or my company, I don’t take it personally. It’s normal. Some people don’t like you because they don’t like the colour of your jacket or the colour of your hair or they don’t like my tattoos. The list can be endless. But I’ve never made big mistakes. Never. Maybe when I was young in finance. But now, never.

Jamie: Can you tell me about a really good sale you made recently, that shows off the skills and knowledge that you’ve gained?

Veronica:  Well, when I started five years ago with four flats in this building. Then eight months ago, I decided that London was not enough. I’m covering all of the UK now. So to do this big jump, it wasn’t easy as you can imagine.

I think when you are confident enough with what you’re doing; it’s automatic to think bigger. When you have your own business, you always need to think bigger because otherwise, you will be always selling just blue shoes for the rest of your life. But the market needs all colours, not just blue shoes. They need all sorts of things. Again, always think big.

Always have a small strategy, a medium strategy, and a big strategy. The small strategy is your core strategy. But then you need to think. “Once I’ve delivered this…” and give yourself a timeline. Let’s say that I did give myself at the beginning, six months to deliver. Then after six months, I said, “Okay, I can do this” and went big.

I open up a limited company, I hired people and I said, “Okay, let’s focus on the next two years.” I wanted to achieve a hundred properties in two years and then in 18 months, I was at 200 properties. So I said, “Okay then, let’s do it.” Always put the bar up, up, up. The sky is the limit, always. The more you have, the more you want; in terms of satisfaction. Because at the end of the day, it’s for your ego, not in a bad way, not like I’m a Wonder Woman. But at the end of the day, you think, well, I did this from zero. Now from zero, I’m at 10. Good. But then let’s move on to 15, then 20. Always think bigger.

[end]

If you are in the UK and looking for a shortlet apartment , let Veronica’s HelloGuest take care of that.

Connect with Veronica on LinkedIn

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