Client Solutions Executive, Fhiona Lamb, tells us why sales can be a fantastic career opportunity for women.
Just like many of us who falls in a career that has zero relevance to what they studied at university, business development and recruitment was never on the cards for me, but rather an industry I accidentally fell into. I enjoyed it, I realised I was good at it and continued to pursue it.
With a Master Degree in Communications and Advertising, I started my career in Public Relations where I learnt the strategies and different methods to mould a story into a narrative that appeals to the right audiences. Having experienced both in-house and agency, I realised that it is all about understanding the problem and being able to communicate the solution in a genuine way. People respond well! It also doesn’t hurt that I’m naturally curious; both in a work environment and my personal life, I just want to know what’s going on in everyone’s lives at all times!
Fast forward a few years, I am now Client Solutions Executive at nVision Talent, a boutique IT Recruitment Consultancy Firm. I spend my days talking to Senior Executives, Founders and even Board members at technology companies to understand their growth plans, needs and problems when it comes to recruiting sales talent. My goal is to determine how I can add value to the recruitment process by identifying the best talent. I am also constantly in touch with IT sales professionals who are on the market for a new role.
The Misconception about Sales and Business Development
It may not come as a shock, but what I have realised over time is that in tech – and in general – most women tend to gravitate towards account manager and customer success roles, rather than that pure ‘hunting’ sales roles.
As a woman in sales myself, I reflected a lot and looked at the reasons behind this trend:
1) There are preconceptions and negative connotations about what it means to be in a sales profession. What still plays in our heads is the image of the stereotypical, annoying, car salesman who’s hungry to do whatever it takes to close the deal. But that’s not the case.
2) Historically and culturally, sales has always been a male-dominated environment and we all know the challenges that comes with.
3) Whilst being naturally skilful for sales (as I will dive into later), women also tend to be more self-conscious and often lack the confidence to throw themselves out there. Does it mean we are our worst enemies?
But the truth is that sales could be a wonderful career for women and a very successful one! According to this Harvard Business Review’s article, research shows that women salespeople often outperform men, with 86% female respondents achieving their quota, compared to the 78% of the male counterpart. Also, now more than ever, companies are making gender diversity an explicit goal opening up more opportunities for women.
Women are adept to sales
Women have a natural aptitude to sales. Here’s why:
- They are good listeners. Just like when your friend calls you to vent about her dating problems, women are naturally adept to listening carefully to the needs and understanding the situation better as a result. In sales, it is exactly the same and this ultimately leads to an easier sell.
- Most women have a higher Emotional Intelligence (EQ) meaning they are more likely to empathise, connect and collaborate in order to shape the right solution for a prospect. Sales is a people’s game, you need to be able to read body language, understand tonalities, as well as genuinely establish a connection to get that buy-in from the prospect.
- Relationship management is a strong capability amongst women. How many times has your partner organized and managed a family get together/event and it went smoothly? Women do it naturally so often in our daily lives. It is the same capability to develop and nurture relationships in a sales environment that will encourage loyalty and retention by helping customers realize ongoing value.
Make it happen
Whether or not you are looking for a career in sales, chances are you have already found yourself in the position of having to ‘sell’.
Perhaps you run your own business. Maybe you are currently on the job search and have to market yourself to prospective employers. Even being a stay-at-home mother, having to negotiate with your children to do their chores and homework before giving them a reward? Or, what about wanting to ask for a promotion and a raise?
It’s time to get salesy!
Here is some helpful advice I often coach my candidates with. Some tough lessons I learnt during my experience in business development and sales.
Prepare for rejection
This can be a hard one. Sales is renowned for being a cut-throat environment where 9 out of 10 times you will get rejected. Be aware of this and prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. View rejection as a learning opportunity: what can you do or say better next time? Write down how you would respond the next step time a rejection comes up. This leads to you being more resilient and persistent – two key characteristics in a successful salesperson! Do your homework and find out more about that person (not stalking!) so that you get their attention (“Oh you have kids? I will call you after you picked them up from school”).
Don’t take it personally
Still, in relation to my previous point, take the emotion out of the rejection. Be rational and recognise that it’s nothing to do with you as a person. Have you ever turned down a telemarketer? Case in point.
Curiosity + Confidence = Conversations (another word for sales, in my opinion). Meet people, find out what you have in common, develop a relationship and determine if you can be helpful.
Senior role paralysis
I am sure so many of you can relate. However, there is absolutely no reason to be intimidated or afraid by someone in a senior position. I often have to meet or chat to CEOs and VPs, and I constantly remind myself that behind a fancy role title, they are just another human being.
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. My mother always told me that if you don’t ask you don’t get. The worse they can say is no. And even then, you can handle a rejection, can’t you!?
Shake it off
Yes, do like Taylor Swift! When things don’t go as planned, shake it off. Literally. Shake or shimmy your shoulders, do a little dance around the room. You’ll feel silly for a second and smile, or laugh, or even both, but you would have forgotten about that rejection, so you can move on to the next conversation.
Have you ever put any of the above tips into practice? What’s your experience? I’m keen to hear your stories!