I read every word of Jill Konrath’s latest blog on her website Sell #LikeAGirl and I could feel the emotion taking over as I read it and re-read it.
Every word she wrote echoed the same sentiment I felt from over 20 years working in sales roles within corporate Australia.
Thank you for reminding me Jill. I sell #LikeAGirl because I am one. I did when I was 25 and I still do at 55, and it has served me well.
But it does remind me of what it took for me to become a woman in the world of corporate sales.
Internally, within the company I worked for, many moons ago, a sales trainee role was advertised.
THREE TIMES I applied, and on each occasion I was told point blank to forget it, that ‘I was too nice and I didn’t have what it took’.
After the third time I went to one of the older sales guys and said ‘I just don’t get it!’ He said to me,
‘Bernadette, you’ve got to kind of… be one of the boys, swear a little…drink a little… you know what I mean’.
So I grabbed hold of those words, marched down the long hallway between sales and management, walked unannounced into the Regional Managing Directors office and sat down opposite him. I told him in no uncertain terms in words that flowed so naturally (yet unnaturally) from my mouth, that I was ‘sick and f’in tired of being treated like a f’in idiot and I deserved that f’in role as much as the next person’.
He pushed his seat back, put his hands up and said, ‘You’ve got the job!’ Now, as humorous as that might appear today, it wasn’t then and it isn’t now.
Unfortunately, it was the beginning of a period of time where I was tested and bullied. I was given the crap territories, I had good territories taken from me, I was pushed to the limits as a single mum with a one year old baby by being made to come in early and leave late and told it wasn’t a good look that I didn’t stay back for drinks after 5pm. I was publicly ridiculed and ignored, and I definitely wasn’t privy to the secret bonuses or the clandestine perks. It was also a time where I compromised my values.
Thinking, as a woman in a males world, I had to be hard-nosed and 1000% results focused, and become someone I wasn’t in order to be successful caused a stack of internal conflict, because I didn’t work like that. I wasn’t a bloke. I felt I also needed to constantly prove myself and the words ‘you’re too nice and don’t have what it takes to be in sales’ would rear their heads more times than I liked.
The self sabotage of success happens to us all and we all have our own story and our own internal and external conflicts and if we are lucky, we have someone to reach out to and ask for help, but hey! How could I ask for help and to whom would I go? Seriously, it would mean I really didn’t have what it took and they would be right. In an all alpha male culture in the 80’s, there were no women around me to tell me it was OK to sell #likeagirl.
I would like to think times have changed and in some ways they have because businesses are moving towards a more values based operational foundation where purpose and meaning parallels with profits and money, but businesses are still made up of people and most of those people in leadership roles are still male – especially in the sales domain. And many of them are the same male salespeople from the 80’s!
I am not one to stand on a soapbox, burn my bra or carry placards round espousing gender diversity or the treatment of women being unfair, but I must admit that leaders who are not capable of recognising the value women bring to the table are crazy. I see it today with my clients in corporate sales roles. It’s still there…
I may be a speaker, coach, mentor and workshop facilitator but I am also a salesperson and a female salesperson and we bring serious commercial value. Just as Jill Konrath shares, I too lost a deal to do a workshop on value driven sales conversations only a few months back, and the words used to tell me that I was unsuccessful were, ‘we’re not sure how you would have gone with a team of men…’. The sad part about that is:
That’s probably not why I lost the deal and they didn’t have what it took to tell me the truth because possibly their thinking was #girlscan’thandlethetruth or
If it were true then why would I want to work for them? I couldn’t be bothered. I get results and it really was their loss! And so I walked away because I could, and not because I wasn’t capable of overcoming an objection with an ‘If I can…will you’ answer.
Selling like a girl is not that bad, guys! Buyers today want to work with salespeople who are the real deal, who are transparent enough to care, who won’t second guess or discount to get a quick result, who are vulnerable enough to get things wrong, who are caring enough to want to know the problems behind the real problems, who are OK with thinking that selling is a cool profession, who know how to teach and nurture and mentor and still be able to call the elephant in the room. Who’s teaching them the combined strategies plus these proven sell #LikeAGirl traits?
We can play the game with you. We simply choose to challenge your rules.
The next time you are faced with a woman selling to you, a woman buying from you, a woman applying for a role that might not be the norm, put your hand on your heart and seriously ask yourself, what is REALLY stopping you from saying yes to her.
In the meantime,
Be Bold and Brilliant!
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Image courtesy of greg westfall