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Leadership

Women in Sales Month: A Call To Action

October is ‘Women in Sales Month.’ I didn’t know that existed until recently, but I love sales, so I had to write about it, naturally. Truthfully, I love sales in a slightly annoying “is she for real” kind of way.

But, I wasn’t always this passionate.

Like most sellers and sales leaders I meet, I stumbled into my first sales job, calling myself an “accidental” salesperson. We did mock calls as part of the interview process for my first sales job, and after one of the mock calls, they said, “let’s try it again with a stronger value proposition.” My response was, “what is a value proposition?”

I’m not quite sure what they saw in me or how I managed to convince them that I was a fast enough learner, but I somehow managed to land that first sales job, and I can say with confidence that it changed the trajectory of my life.

I struggled at first. I talked too fast. I knew very little about business. I was nervous every time I picked up the phone, and most definitely lacked the kind of killer instinct that sales leaders frequently search for. I accidentally overheard my first boss tell a colleague that I wouldn’t get the promotion they were talking about because “she doesn’t like sales enough.”

Those words fuel me to this day, because over time, I realized not only how good I was at the art and science of selling, but probably more importantly, how much I loved it. I also realized pretty early on that I had a natural ability to lead others. I was good at culture, building teams, and helping other people uncover their love for selling. I’ve been leading sales teams ever since.

I have plenty left to learn and plenty of big goals I’m still working towards as a revenue leader, but the career I’ve built over the last 13 years has already been more than I would have dreamed possible when I floundered through that first sales interview all those years ago. There’s no doubt in my mind that’s why I’ve become such a proponent figure for young people looking for jobs in sales, and more specifically for the promise and possibility that sales holds for young women as they navigate their careers.

To me, sales is all about the ability to accomplish more than you ever dreamed possible. It is a field that honors hard work and offers the promise of advancement and dollars the are directly tied to results. Sales provides an opportunity to work with insanely talented individuals. The sum of a team is always bigger and better than the individual parts, but the individual still has a chance to compete and win.

Sales holds the potential of being the great equalizer, and I am privileged to have had the opportunity to build a career doing it.  

Don’t get me wrong—we still have massive challenges in gender parity in the profession at all levels. We have far too few women climbing the ranks as sales leaders and too many sales teams that still look and feel like a boy’s club. We still have a wage gap between men and women, largely because men tend to ask for money quicker and more often than women do.

I could go on and on about the challenges we face, and I could certainly talk more about how deeply it angers me when a friend tells me a story of being talked down to, brushed aside, taken advantage of, or passed over for a role or a promotion because they are a woman. And yes – those things still happen. There is work to be done. Lots of work to be done.

But do you want to know what inspires me? The women I interact with each and every day.

I’m inspired by the female SDRs, AEs, and sales leaders that I meet and the groundbreaking work each of them is doing.

I’m inspired by the late-night text I got a few weeks ago from a gal that I used to manage, telling me that the relatively new team she’s managing finished last quarter in the #1 spot (looking at you, Taylor Russell).

I’m inspired by the email exchange I had just this week with another young woman that I’ve had the privilege of leading. We exchanged ideas as she prepped for her first QBR as a newly promoted sales director, and I heard all about her plans and aspirations for that new team. (I see you, Danielle Pata.)

I’m inspired by the gal on my current team that ended Q3 in the top spot, crushing quota amid a global pandemic and proving to herself and to me that she’s got what it takes to win and win big. (Kudos to you, Alex Mauri.)

I’m inspired by the host of female friends and former colleagues that are climbing the ranks, working the big deals, taking down those promotions, negotiating raises, and inspiring the next generation of female sellers. There are too many to mention, but they give me hope that the best is yet to come.

So as we kick off ‘Women in Sales Month’ this month, here’s my call to action for you all:

If you’re a young woman early in your career wondering whether sales just might be for you, take a chance. Get outside of your comfort zone. Follow a few sales leaders on LinkedIn. Start reading and learning about sales, and more specifically, SaaS sales in tech. Then, identify at least five sales roles that interest you and throw your hat in the ring. I can promise you this—no matter what you end up doing 10 years from now, you will never regret spending a year or two in B2B sales. The foundation it will lay for the rest of your career is unmatched.

If you’re a female seller at any stage of your career, remind yourself what you’re capable of. Challenge yourself to dream big and ask for more. Plow through that imposture syndrome that we all have and put up your hand for that next promotion that you aren’t quite sure you’re ready for. Be brave and go for it. You might just be amazed at what you can accomplish.

If you’re a male in sales, look for ways to be an advocate. Take the time to recognize just how privileged you are and find ways to champion those that don’t look like you, talk like you, or think like you. Get involved in creating a more diverse and equitable workplace for all of us.

Last but not least, my fellow leaders, hiring managers, and executives: We have work to do. Start by taking a good, hard look at the team that you run. Are women equally represented? What about minorities and people of color? If the answer is no, then you have a responsibility to do better. Let’s create the kinds of teams that our daughters and granddaughters will one day fight to be part of.

And let’s refuse to settle for anything less.

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