From Selling Cars to Defending SDRs: How Nikki Ivey Advocates for More Inclusive Sales Cultures
Some of the most impactful careers follow unexpected paths. Just ask head of growth development at Cultured Perspective, a Black-owned consultancy firm, and a co-founder of SDR Defenders (now a part of Pavilion) Nikki Ivey.
Before landing her current roles, Ivey was working long days selling cars to customers on a dealer lot. One day, after locking down a sale, a customer asked Nikki if she’d be interested in selling B2B software. Nikki didn’t know that was a possibility, but she showed up for the interview, impressed the team, and landed a job at Outbound Engine — a nudge that would put her on the path toward a whole new career.
Though she was new to the industry, she immediately noticed something different about her new team — diversity, support, inclusion, and a vision of what a supportive SDR culture could look like.
“It was the ideal experience for people to have coming into the profession,” Nikki told Brandon Barton on a Best of 2021 Pavilion podcast episode. “There was psychological safety. […] And you know, and like I said, this culture of training where everybody was involved.”
The job at Outbound didn’t just give Nikki the skills she needed to succeed in sales. It also inspired her to fight for an industry culture that was as diverse, inclusive, and accessible as her experience had been.
Creating supporting SDR cultures
When Nikki saw scores of SDRs being laid off at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she rallied behind them. Nikki was secure in her job at Culture Perspective, but her own experience gave her empathy for SDRs who had been the backbone of so many companies but were suddenly lost and struggling. And Nikki knew that the traditional channels of support weren’t doing them any favors.
“You had this group of sales folks who were looking to get back into work,” Nikki says, “but they were seeing a lot of really — I’m gonna say it — bad advice on LinkedIn.”
So Nikki posted her thoughts on what SDRs were up against and how to address their concerns — and it struck a chord. A colleague named Josh Roth saw her post and messaged her to collaborate. Fellow Pavilion members Kyle Coleman, Thomas Boccard III, and Nisha Parikh joined the cause — and SDR Defenders was born.
Taking a page from her experience at Outbound, Nikki and her team at SDR Defenders had a mission of helping organizations create supportive SDR cultures, as well as mentoring individual SDRs to achieve their goals and dreams. In 2021, Pavilion brought the SDR Defenders team on board to support the creation of our Analyst Community, a tier for those in the first five years of their careers.
When she’s not busy working with Pavilion to build out supportive programs for SDRs,, Nikki is forging a climate of diversity, access and inclusion in the broader startup and sales community. For Nikki, success in sales doesn’t look like merely closing deals. It means creating sales leadership that reflects and speaks to the diversity of the sales community.
“What I remember from when I first started as a salesperson is that when it came to who was touted as having expertise, none of them looked like me,” Nikki says. “So you can implicitly get this idea that expertise comes from a certain archetype.”
Sales through a lens of inclusion
Through her work at Cultured Perspective, Nikki is changing those archetypes by fostering a culture where people like her have access to the industry and the support they need to grow and succeed.
“It’s really exciting, especially because we’re dealing with a lot of new salespeople coming into the industry who are introduced [to sales] through this lens of inclusion.”
To learn more about Nikki’s work and get some hot tips on how to make better connections on LinkedIn, check out her interview.
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