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Successful sales leaders make for ideal investors in female-led startups

Rebecca Bormann is an extremely accomplished IT Business Development professional, passionate about connecting with people and helping organizations grow and serve their customers by embracing technology and continuous improvement.

Rebecca began her career in tech at Verizon Telecommunications almost 20 years ago. She is currently the Managing Director of Sales and Services at Bell Techlogix, an Indianapolis-based leading national IT Managed Services firm. Over the past five years, Rebecca has led efforts and won several multi-year, multimillion-dollar contracts while at Bell Techlogix for Digital Workplace and Transformational Infrastructure solutions. She likes playing BIG! Some of the large government and enterprise level deals that she has closed include: City of Indianapolis – Marion County, Indianapolis Public Schools, Noridian Healthcare Solutions, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), Heartland Food Product Group, Aprimo, BraunAbility and Rexnord Corporation.

Rebecca is committed to being an active member of the STEM in Indiana. Since 2017, Rebecca has served on the all-volunteer Board of Directors of Women & Hi Tech. She is actively engaged in several other organizations that work to support and promote women in business including: The Startup Ladies, The Brandon Foundation, Pass The Torch for Women, and Boss Babe Network.

Tell us about the BEST sales meeting you've ever had.

It's sales meetings, slide decks are often thrown out the window. Rather we dive deep into the client's vision, core values, goals, and understanding the "why behind the what." For years, organizations have been talking about their digital transformation, their journey to the cloud, and the digital user experience. While these are industry terms, every individual and organization defines them differently based on their businesses' needs. In my experience, it's these big picture, authentic, and transparent discussions that reveal opportunities to embrace technology to create impactful enterprise solutions that advance the business and move organizations forward.

In these discussions, I find that relationships transform from vendor-client relationships into collaborative partnerships, and that's where impactful transformation happens.

I also had a memorable sales meeting where Bell Techlogix was selected out of 10 RFP participants as the City of Indianapolis – Marion County's new IT Infrastructure partner and awarded a 5-year $30.5 million agreement.

You've closed some very big deals throughout your career. What are some tips you would give to women rising in tech sales?

Here are my tips to women rising in tech sales:

  1. Authenticity and Transparency are essential in all relationships.

  2. The Why is more important than the What.

  3. Practice Conscious Listening.

  4. Adopt an Abundance Mindset – there is always more than enough.

  5. Network, Network, Network

  6. Know your tech – be an expert in the type of tech you are selling and surround yourself with other industry experts.

  7. Know your target client – most technology solutions are not one-size-fits-all.

  8. Build your personal and professional Board of Directors.

  9. Be courageous. Ask for help when you need it.

  10. Network, Network, Network (Yes, it's on the list twice. 😊)

  11. Own your seat at the table – you've done the work to get there!

Bell Techlogix at Women & Hi Tech, Ignite Your Superpowers

What do you do when you get a hard "no" after a well-researched and perfectly pitched solicitation?

After a hard "no," I admit to taking a few minutes to lick my wounds. As part of my commitment to being a conscious leader, I believe it's essential to "feel all your feelings." That may mean quiet time to reflect, a yoga session, a round of golf, a conversation with an advisor, mentor, or friend, or all of the above.

After a brief time grieving the loss, I host a post-mortem both personally and with my team to identify opportunities for improvement in their pursuit, solution, presentation, and any overlooked signs that may have indicated earlier this was not a good match. I believe all experiences are an opportunity to learn, grow and expand outside of our comfort zones.

Then it's onward and upward.

Wiley just published a report citing that there has been a mass exodus of women from the tech industry because of a lack of diversity. What do the men in charge of tech companies need to do differently to attract and retain female talent?

To attract and retain female talent, I recommend that the men in charge make room at the table for women, including diverse women from the top down. Organizations need to create and live cultures of inclusion and belonging where diversity of gender, background, race, sexual orientation, thought, perspective, experiences, etc., are wanted and appreciated. Inclusivity and equity for all must be core values to the individual leaders and employees and the organization's vision, mission, and beliefs.

Practically, I say if the men in charge of tech companies want to attract female talent, they should go where the women are. I suggest supporting and getting involved, beyond writing a check, with organizations like Women & Hi Tech, The Startup Ladies, Pass The Torch for Women, Dress for Success, Black Girls Code, Executive Women in Finance, Indianapolis Professional Association, and NAWBO.

I also believe an opportunity to attract more female talent to tech starts with inspiring the next generation of girls to take an interest in tech at an early age. It's so important to show our K -12 girls what is possible in tech and STEM and fill them with the confidence that they have what it takes and are very much wanted and needed in tech.

I invite the men in charge of tech companies to help bring tech education and learning opportunities to our K-12 girls. Help in all the ways you can. Join school boards, create curriculum change, advocate for tech and STEM education, help fund, start, share your expertise, and volunteer at non-traditional K-12 schools like Every Girl Can STEM, the Rooted School, and Purdue Polytechnic High Schools. Launch internship programs for high school girls at your tech companies. Fund all-girl coding and robotics teams. Volunteer to lead an all-girl coding or robotics team. Volunteer and donate to organizations like Girls Inc.'s Eureka program and the Girls Scouts of Central Indiana, which offers over 50 STEM badges.

At age 40, you're already investing in female-led startups. Why do you think it's so important to invest in women founders?

Beyond it is the right thing to do, I believe increasing investing in women founders is crucial. The book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez helps illustrate why investing in female founders and including women in places where decisions are made is not just essential but a life and death matter.

Researchers have known for decades that women are more likely to be killed or injured in a car crash, yet nothing is has been done about it. A study from NHTSA shows that a female driver or front passenger wearing her seat belt is 17% more likely than a male to be killed when a crash occurs. Why, might you ask? Crash test dummies used by the government, automotive, and insurance industries for testing and safety ratings represent the average adult man. There are ZERO crash test dummies modeled after the average adult female.

As we continue to rely more on technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, funding women founders, especially in tech and STEM, and including diverse thought, perspectives and experiences are vital in creating solutions where machines will be making decisions for humans. Such as autonomous vehicles and robotics used in hospital operating rooms across the country.

Women & Hi Tech Multicultural Celebration

As a startup investor, what are the key criteria you consider when deciding who/what to invest in?

The first investing criterion for me is passion. She must be passionate about the business, the founder, and the proposed impact the organization will have with its product or solution. I also have key considerations for the organization's scalability, the ingenuity of the product or solution, and how the startup aligns with her personal preferences and areas of expertise and knowledge. I also have essential decision-making criteria for a proven product or solution, the market demand and size ( the bigger, the better for market size), a solid go-to-market strategy, and the risk and potential return on the investment.

You have been involved with Women & Hi Tech for years and just completed your year as Chair. How has that organization help you grow as a leader?

Being a part of the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors and having the opportunity to serve as the organization's President from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, provided tremendous growth opportunities for me. The 20+year-old nonprofit organization that exists to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all, serves almost 2,000 members in the Indiana STEM community and is led by an all-volunteer working Board of Directors. Serving as the Board President amid the COVID-19 pandemic presented many unforeseen challenges and needs, which provided the opportunity for collaboration, creative thinking, and problem-solving to continue to serve Women & Hi Tech's members, sponsors, partners, and friends.

Serving on the Women & Hi Tech Board has also helped me grow as a leader by teaching me to trust in my vision and use my voice. I had the vision in 2019 to make some changes to Women & Hi Tech's Signature Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala (LLAs) and led an initiative to create video vignettes of each LLA recipient sharing their passions for STEM and DEI. This effort was a major contributing factor that allowed Women & Hi Tech to quickly pivot in 2020 and host the historically in-person LLA event, virtually for the first time. Women & Hi Tech and their 400 virtual guests celebrated Indiana women in STEM during the 2020 LLAs, honoring 13 award recipients, including the new male allies and equity and inclusion champions awards.

Women & Hi Tech also awarded over $55,000 (the largest amount in its history) in scholarships and grants to 17 ladies across Indiana pursuing STEM.

What advice would you give women who are rising in any STEM field?

My advice to women who are rising in a STEM field is to get involved. Connect with others in your field or STEM in general, get involved in local and national STEM and/or professional women's organizations, build your network and community.

You do not have to do it alone. Raise your hand. There are innumerous community and nonprofit organizations, professional women, and male allies who are ready and willing to help you throughout your career.

How have The Startup Ladies helped you in your tech journey?

I love being a part of The Startup Ladies and have found the community invaluable on my tech journey. From learning about investment strategies and managing risks to being connected to a community of experts in the entrepreneurial, legal, investing, and accounting fields to guide and provide counsel on investing opportunities, I have increased my business acumen and network being an investing member of The Startup Ladies. I highly recommend The Startup Ladies for those new to investing and seasoned investors looking for exceptional opportunities to support women and diverse founders.

What's next for you?

I count myself fortunate to have a work home at Bell Techlogix that I enjoy and continue to have opportunities to grow and learn with the organization. Bell Techlogix remains focused on serving its employees, clients, and growing it's IT Managed Services portfolio. I continue to develop new business relationships and am excited to be working on some new marketing and branding initiatives for Bell Techlogix that will be revealed later this year.

In addition to my professional responsibilities, I continue to champion many community engagement and equity and inclusion initiatives for Bell Techlogix. For example, I was a founding member of the Bell Techlogix Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging committee, formed in May of 2020, which works to advance equity and inclusion within their organization. One of the committee's first initiatives approved and implemented Juneteenth as a corporate holiday, beginning this year.

For Women & Hi Tech, I have a few more initiatives to see through while serving as the Past President on the Board of Directors. I will continue focusing on advancing partnerships with other nonprofits, such as SIM Indy, Pass The Torch For Women, and The Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, to collaboratively advance Women & Hi Tech's mission. I also serve on the Women & Hi Tech, DE&I, Finance, K-12, Fall Retreat, and 2022 LLA committees.

Learn more about Bell Techlogix and Women & Hi Tech.


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