A career in sales can be full of excitement and benefits. There’s the freedom, flexibility and unlimited earning potential, along with plenty of professional growth and the ability to build transferable skills. After all, a successful salesperson is not just a seller, but also a relationship builder, negotiator and problem solver.
Ten women share what they love about working in sales, their tips to succeeding and how their employers are empowering women in the workplace.
Why did you choose a career in sales?
Sharon Neeves, Market Sales Manager (Food & Pharma) at Air Liquide UK: I love the variety of people I meet and interact with. No one person is the same.
Denise Laurel, Customer Success Manager at Tyro Payments: I genuinely enjoy getting to know other people and figuring out what makes them tick.
What qualities are needed in a successful salesperson?
Stephanie Lam, Business Development Manager at WORK180: Resilience – especially at the beginning, there will be a lot of grunt work and 'no'. Empathy – sales exists to connect people to solutions. Curiosity – you need to deeply understand the needs of others.
Emma Tringas, Business Fleet Manager NSW/ACT at Toyota Australia: Firstly, you need to know the product, the customer and what you’re trying to achieve. To do this, you need to have great negotiation and time management skills, and most importantly be a good listener.
What are some of the unique challenges you've come across as a woman in sales?
Sharon from Air Liquide UK: People don't always expect a woman to be working in an industrial gas sales role. But, it hasn’t been a problem. It's about what you can bring to the negotiation and relationship, not what you look like.
Katie Maxwell, Head of Enterprise Partner Success at Uber Eats ANZ: Over the course of my career, a challenge I’ve faced is a gender imbalance within positions of power. But things changed when I started at Uber Australia – currently 67% of our leadership team is female.
What are some strengths and experiences unique to women that give you a competitive edge in being a successful salesperson?
Sharon from Air Liquide UK: Women tend to be more intuitive in assessing how a person is feeling or noticing a change in their behaviour, which is important in sales.
Stephanie from WORK180: Studies show women are more likely to show collaborative, empathetic and long-term focused behaviours within the workplace. These are all key ingredients to building strong relationships with the people we sell to.
How do you effectively build trust with your customers?
Sharon from Air Liquide UK: No matter how awkward the situation, I always make sure the customer knows the facts and how they might be impacted. They might not be happy to begin with, but when the dust settles they all appreciate the honesty.
Rachel Baluyot, Senior Account Manager at Nearmap: I build a relationship with my customers on a personal level, so they’re comfortable opening up to me. I also keep in regular contact, so my customers know I’m always thinking about them.
How do you optimise your presence at events?
Seema Jassal, Enterprise Account Executive at Okta: I promote my presence via social channels, review delegate lists and develop a target list of people to speak to. Events aren’t a place for the shy, so I remember to pack plenty of business cards and a good dose of quiet confidence.
Katie from Uber Eats ANZ: I dedicate time to speaking with people I haven’t met before as it’s very tempting at networking events to only speak with people you know.
How do you identify and reach your decision makers?
Denise from Tyro Payments: Curiosity in sales is the best tool in your kit. Being curious leads to asking questions. Questions help you determine who you need to speak to and what potential road blockers exist.
Emma from Toyota Australia: By taking the time to understand the business and how each division contributes. Once you have been able to determine this, you can evaluate who would be best to speak to about any propositions you have.
Laura Affat, Account Director at Splunk: Do your homework, read company reports and the news, and use tools like LinkedIn's Sales Navigator.
How do you deal with rejection throughout the sales process?
Gill Barnes, NZ Country Manager at ITW Construction Asia Pacific: Firstly, never take it personally. It’s critical to understand why the rejection took place – was there something missed during the research/analysis/solution process? Then take onboard those learnings.
Rachel from Nearmap: Always have opportunities in the pipeline you can fall back on, understand that your product is not suitable for everyone and move on.
How do you balance what can be a competitive career with working in a team environment?
Laura from Splunk: I learnt early on that teams achieve more, so being collaborative and understanding the wifm (what’s in it for me, for all participants) can make bigger, better outcomes.
Rachel from Nearmap: Competition is healthy but you can’t forget you’re working in a team. You can always build yourself up by learning from the people around you.
Emma from Toyota Australia: Personally, I feel working in a team is the most rewarding part of any role I have been in.
How do you balance a high pressure role, with other commitments?
Gill from ITW Construction Asia Pacific: Know your priorities, be mindful of distractions, don’t take on too much and delegate.
Amelie Thibault, Head of Online Sales Account Management at Uber Eats ANZ: By focusing on needle-moving activities only, and avoid spending time on secondary initiatives.
What advice would you give to other women who are hoping to develop – or advance – a career in sales?
Stephanie from WORK180: Sell something you absolutely believe in. I'm inspired to go to work and that drives my performance.
Gill from ITW Construction Asia Pacific: Know your strengths and how they complement working in sales, identify any areas for improvement and build a plan to develop.
Katie from Uber Eats ANZ: Don’t be afraid to make bold bets, whether that’s on yourself as you seek new opportunities in your career, or within a specific deal/partnership that you’re working on.
What makes a workplace a great place to work for a salesperson?
Gill from ITW Construction Asia Pacific: A ‘one team’ culture, total company engagement and alignment, and a focus on customer centricity.
Seema from Okta: A company commitment to innovation and customer success. This makes every sale easier knowing that the customer will genuinely be using the best technology.
Amelie from Uber Eats ANZ: When you’re surrounded by highly motivated professionals who demonstrate a positive and constructive mindset.
What resources or communities would you recommend to other women in sales?
Stephanie Lam from WORK180: The WORK180 careers blog and Professional Women's Network on Facebook.
Laura from Splunk: I have maintained alumni connections and ICT associations, such as AISA. And in recent years I’ve supported women-specific associations such as Vic ICT for Women, Mentor(she), AWSN, the LBDGroup and Business in Heels.
Does your employer empower women in the workplace?
Laura from Splunk: Splunk ANZ supports its women with numerous policies, such as flexible working hours, 18 weeks paid parental leave for primary carers and no minimum waiting period on parental leave. There are also career development and mentoring programs, a generous family planning offering, women networking groups and unconscious bias training.
Amelie from Uber Eats ANZ: Uber definitely empowers women in the workplace. One example is that we recruit a high number of women into management and leadership roles.
Does your employer have mentor programs for women in sales?
Denise from Tyro Payments: Tyro has a Women’s Mentorship Program, with mentors ranging from executive committee members to senior management, and include both male and female leaders.
Seema from Okta: We have a range of employee resource groups, including Women at Okta (wokta), in which we have the opportunity to knowledge share, attend events together, network and give back to the communities we care about together.
Emma from Toyota Australia: They do. I'm fortunate to have an employer that‘s actively engaged in supporting and encouraging women to build their careers, giving us confidence we have equal opportunity to be successful within the business.
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About the author
To help women find a workplace that will work for them, we prescreen employers on their gender pay gap data, parental leave policies, flexible working, and more. Find your next role on the WORK180 job board.