November Woman to Watch

Kirsten Forrester

What were your initial thoughts when wanting to move into a sales position? Especially a role that focused on 100% new business.

Before I joined Qualtrics in a tech sales role, I was in an internal recruitment position, and I had reached a crossroads in terms of my career.

I was considering either staying within an internal HR function for one of the large banks or pivoting and going into a sales role. Which was obviously very different! While my role had been in recruitment, I hadn’t necessarily been doing any new business development. So, it was really a fork in the road in terms of it going to lead me one of two ways.

The reason I decided tech sales over staying in my comfort zone was that I wanted to get into a role where it was meritocratic and to be able to see more tangible rewards for the hard work I was doing. In the internal recruitment role, the workload was always there, and you could be achieving goals with measures around placement numbers or candidate satisfaction scores. But I felt there was never really an end goal or high reward for achieving those results.

I wanted a role where the results you got were a clear and tangible outcome of your hard work.

I would elaborate and say that it wasn’t easy, when I went out into the market looking for a sales role, I wasn’t the ‘ideal candidate’ that hiring managers were looking for because I didn’t have that direct sales experience and I certainly did not have the software sales exposure. I had to do a lot of persuading just to get businesses to even consider me. Fortunately, Qualtrics recognised the transferable skills and my eagerness to work in tech sales.

What moment in your career are you most proud of?

It would have to be achieving promotion last year because it marked the end of my first full year in my sales role. Achieving that promotion was absolutely confirmation for me that I had made the right move.

Whilst it was amazing to go to Bora Bora in my first year after I was awarded new starter of the year for the Asia Pacific Japan region, I hadn’t done a full 12 months at that point. It was the trip of a lifetime but for me it was the sustained success and promotion after my first full 12 months in the role that I felt most proud of.

What are some of the key strengths you think women can bring to sales?

I believe the key strength is being ourselves and being unapologetically female.

If we were to look at the natural tendencies and characteristics of females, we can often be described as more empathetic or less assertive and less aggressive than men. I don’t necessarily agree with this however, if you are perceived displaying those behaviours in sales then that is absolutely fine!

Being a ‘Woman in Sales’ does not mean that you need to be more aggressive or assertive, instead be unapologetically yourself and own your unique skills that allow you to excel in your role.

If you were a leader, how would you lead?

As a leader, it’s so important to understand the people that you’re leading. Once you understand their strengths & motivations as well as the areas they need more support in then that’s how you can have an impact as a leader. It’s not about defining a single standard of how to be successful and expecting each individual to conform because everyone has their own unique skills and traits.

We often see in sales environments that some people will progress into leadership roles because of their high sales performance, but we all know there can be a very big difference between high performers and good leaders.

If you’re leading you need to enjoy supporting and helping others and that will come through naturally before you’re even in a leadership role. For example, some individual contributors will naturally invest time in helping the people around them, they’ll offer advice and go above and beyond their normal day job to help others achieve success.

The best leaders I’ve seen have leadership qualities instilled within them and have always operated as a collective before even having the title.

What feedback have you received from buyers recently that has influenced how you sell?

I recently had some lovely feedback from a customer that my energy and enthusiasm is infectious. I took that as a real compliment as my interactions are always genuine. I want to get to know the customers I work with really well; it’s about building rapport and I don’t mean you need to get to know the name of each other’s dogs’. It’s about genuinely wanting to help them and if you’re sincere in that then you will build a level of trust so they will continue to work with you over time.

I need to believe in the value of what I’m selling and have the ability to show how it is actually going to add value to the organisations we work with. Obviously the role isn’t entirely altruistic as there is a financial reward, but if that’s your sole motivation, it’s a bit heartless. I also believe that’s when it will feel really like a chore as it’s all about the numbers and hitting targets.

If you’re fortunate enough to enjoy the process of selling, what you’re selling and who you’re selling to then all the rest of it just comes naturally.

What have you been reading or watching lately?

Unashamedly I am obsessed with Love Island. It is the only thing that I am watching, and this is the first year I have committed to watching and I never understood it but now I watch every new episode as it comes out.

I just finished reading a really popular book called ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’. Everyone I’ve spoken to has already read it so if you’re one of the few who haven’t then I definitely recommend it.