Tell us a bit about yourself and your career in sales so far?
I’ve worked in the IT sector for 17 years now, I started back at Telstra where I was fortunate to start my career in managed services. I had a fabulous manager and mentor who took me under his wing to introduce me to the sector. I then moved to Mincom (now ABB) and this is where I found my true passion for the technology sector as I was experiencing first hand through sales of what solutions, either hardware or software, were capable of in transforming organisations.
I have progressed my career into sales leadership over the years staying close to my love of technology and seeing this evolve has made for an exciting journey. The visibility and insights of different types of software and hardware capabilities has been an amazing experience. I started my career with on-premise solutions so to see the transition to SaaS and then building go-to-market strategies, sales teams and sales enablement along the way has been rewarding as you are at the forefront of change.
What was your first role in leadership? How did you find the transition – did you face any major challenges?
Transitioning from a sales rep into a leadership position certainly isn’t straightforward. It is a whole mindset shift to start thinking about a team rather than just yourself. In reality, sales representatives work autonomously, focussed on their metric and their activity to reach their individual goals and targets. Leading sales teams is a shift to how you coach to achieve their individual goals and targets and in turn be helping achieve organisational strategies. So that is definitely one of the challenges, that mind shift to transition to a team perspective.
Another challenge is of course the learning curve of how to coach and understanding what teams need. I have always felt coaching is a two way street. It should never be one way. It is an opportunity for both sides to obtain feedback and learn, as we are a team together. Stakeholder management is key here as critical information comes from all areas of the business so building relationships across the business really helps.
Coaching is one of the key areas of motivation for me, in not only doing it but also continually learning about it myself.
What do you find is the hardest part about managing a team?
I think one of the hardest things is management of time, because we just don’t have enough of it and also coaching the team to manage their time carefully. Sweating over the small stuff and getting caught up in distractions and noise is a huge time drain so you have to stay focussed on the end goal. This is an everyday task.
I also think balancing the right amount of communication across the team has been difficult at times. I am constantly asking myself have I done enough, have I been clear, do they understand, so I am conscious of getting feedback to ensure I am. Everyone receives messages differently and incorporating the different communication styles is important.
As a sales leader I can imagine you have a lot of tasks and team members that need your attention – how do you manage your time and work life balance?
For me I get out with family and girlfriends, doing activities that take you out of your head and to have some fun. I have beautiful nieces that I spend time with who keep me grounded, as kids always do. I have a wonderful group of girlfriends who are not only peers within a business sense but also great socially. Keeping active and embracing every situation is really important.
The group of women within my network talk about work life balance and the issues around it. We talk about having psychological safety, we talk about looking after ourselves and supporting each other with so many competing demands. We are proactive in creating events where this is the priority. It’s important to have those times where it is just about you, it’s not about your team or your work. You do have to be proactive in this space though, it doesn’t just happen.
We’ve just opened up a survey about women in sales leadership positions – from the responses so far we’ve noticed approx. 62% of respondents said that the balance of females to males in the sales leadership roles at the company is less than 30%. What do you think about this stat? What sort of initiatives do you think will help more women into leadership roles?
This stat is disappointing and I would really hope to think there is an increase over time. Companies need to continue to give women the opportunity. It’s all about opening minds up and showing it is something that women can do and aspire too and be fabulous at. We bring a whole different level of thought to leadership, a different set of eye’s.
I am a strong believer of “you can’t be what you can’t see”. Initiatives like what Salient are doing with running APAC Women in Tech Sales Community is fantastic as you are highlighting the need for this topic to be prioritised.
In encouraging more women into the technology sector, I champion that you don’t need a technical degree to have a successful career. There are so many roles within the industry where you can add amazing value and sales is definitely one of them. Initiatives like mentoring programs and networking events for women in sales would certainly help with being seen.
With all your experience and the learnings across your career to date. What advice would you have given to yourself as you started out in your sales career?
Don’t stress that you don’t know everything – however be open to continuous learning and adapting, as with technology it is constantly changing. When I first started in sales we didn’t have the huge amount of information that is on the internet now and all the methodologies and processes in place. We had to learn by watching a colleague, learning from mistakes or if you had a manager that spent the time with you to learn. You have to be open to adapt all the time. So the advice that I would give to myself is to keep learning, no one knows everything. Reach out and create some mentors that can help you along the journey.
You mentioned having a fabulous mentor in your first role in tech – what do you think you should look for in a mentor?
Someone who will take the time to listen. Close the door, take away distractions and listen. A lot of the time I find my team already has the answers, they just need someone to confirm “you’re on the right track”.
Find a champion for ‘your’ success, just like you find a champion within your sales opportunity. A mentor that allows a psychologically safe environment, enabling the ability to talk through anything without judgement, there are no silly questions, no silly ideas.
Are there any particular female leaders or entrepreneurs that have inspired you?
Who has inspired me? Female leaders who have not backed down and fought for what is right, like Christine Holgate. Female leaders that take on the challenge knowing they will make mistakes, knowing they don’t have all the answers but doing it anyway. Having that courage to push boundaries particularly in industries like technology where female inclusivity is low and lastly, maintaining a voice when it feels like it isn’t being heard.