August Woman to Watch

Roxanne Vickerman

What were your initial thoughts when moving into sales?

I’ve been drawn to working in creative and innovative fast-paced environments since my early 20s, and I was especially motivated by building connections with customers and earning well. I realised early on that being in a selling role worked to my strengths. From a genuine interest in solving business challenges to driving new revenue through innovative solutions — selling is where I’m in the zone.

My first sales role was back in 2008 in Auckland. In my final semester of university, I reached out to a publication I loved and landed a Junior Sales Executive role selling advertising solutions across the magazine and digital properties. I’ll never forget my name in print with the rest of the advertising and publishing team; it was such an exciting time! Sales has been, and continues to be, a deliberate choice and one that allows me to build a rewarding career and evolve with the market landscape — from publishing sales, to selling influencer campaigns, and eventually landing in the tech sector selling various SaaS solutions in the UK, US and APAC — I don’t know how many other career pathways can offer such diverse opportunities that constantly evolve (across sector, solution and region).

How can women be allies to the LGBTQIA+ community in the workplace?

Great question! 

Women (but also people generally) that identify with any sexuality, and from any background, can be allies to the LGBTQIA+ community in so many ways. The first step is understanding what struggles this community faces and empower yourself with this information. Often the answers are in your own network — start with friends and family first before trying to understand colleagues’ experiences (unless it’s approached respectfully, of course). 

There’s people reading this who have kids, or might go on to have kids, or who will become aunts and uncles, or will go on to be in senior positions of power and influence in their current or future organisations —  the impact anyone can have on those around you is significant. From the books you choose to read to your kids, the gifts you buy, the charities and the initiatives you support in the workplace, to the engagement you show on topics and discussions that impact minority groups — the list goes on, everyone can have an impact and often it’s in the small, everyday acts, that makes the biggest difference. Even just acknowledging cultural events like Pride Month in your household is also a good start.

I know that visibility is also a privilege, and often people feel like they need to remain invisible or keep their personal life private, and that’s typically rooted in past negative experiences and fear of those experiences and discrimination repeating. This is why Diversity + Inclusion in the workplace is so important, even life-saving for some, because as allies, you’re helping to normalise differences and create safe environments for everyone. This acceptance can make a genuine difference to people from LGBTQIA+ communities, improving the quality of their work experience, their mental health and self-confidence. The power of acceptance is real.

Other low-lift initiatives where allies can encourage more representation in the workplace:

  • Using pronouns as a cultural norm at the start of presentations or meetings to foster inclusivity and acceptance
  • Join Employee Resource Groups, and if there isn’t one, start one with other allies
  • Educate yourself about the history of LGBTQIA+ rights (films like Milk with Sean Penn, or the Queer Eye series are fun and engaging ways to learn more)
  • Don’t underestimate the power of acceptance and not passing judgement on others
  • If you hear or see workplace bullying or snide remarks, call it out
  • If you’re a hiring manager, be conscious of the questions you ask in the Hiring Process, i.e. don’t assume the person you’re interviewing is heterosexual

Remembering that representation matters no matter what your sexuality is — it gives hope, it inspires, it includes and it celebrates those who for decades have needed to be invisible.

What would be your advice for women looking to be positive role models in the sales space? What are some strengths that you think women can bring to sales roles?

Being a positive role model in the workplace starts with setting an example for others of what good looks like. Women aren’t typically lone rangers in the workplace — they’re inclusive, collaborative and show empathy towards others — leaning into that, and what one naturally possesses, sets you apart as a role model. Also, I can’t stress enough how impactful it is for women to support other women in the workplace, we need that a lot more! 

In thinking about strengths that women bring to sales roles, well, the list is long. Firstly, soft skills like patience, emotional intelligence, and kindness are typically attributes that female sellers over-index on, and these skills are front and centre components for what best-in-class sales looks like. Working with new and existing customers today is about human connection, of understanding, of empathy, of active listening — and those who can apply those attributes will stand apart — regardless of gender.

A higher percentage of women tend to go down the customer success or account management route. Is there anything that you think companies can do to help support women wanting to enter the new business sales journey?

Absolutely! I can’t stop thinking about this idea of nurturing someone’s potential (which is really the responsibility of leadership) or making a hiring decision based on the future potential of a person. Discussions need to be happening that equips women with the information, and importantly, the opportunity. For example, if a woman is thriving in an account management role, there should be nothing stopping her or her manager from suggesting she transitions into sales. For one, she’ll earn more money, and two, she’ll have the ability to bring in deals that are less likely to churn because she’s been through the pain of dealing with customers who were sold something that wasn’t the right fit. 

Having experience in both account management and service-oriented roles are secret weapons for anyone considering making the jump across to sales — and it would serve companies well to first look in their own talent pool before bringing in outside talent.

Culture plays an important part here, too. Women are alienated by seeing the company reward over-the-top bravado, and celebrate aggressive tactics to win deals at any cost, so minimising the celebration of negative attributes needs to happen. I have found in my own experience that a lot of women gravitate towards customer service roles because they don’t feel they could be the one leading the charge or they think sales leans on mythical skills where you need the ‘gift of the gab’. All perceptions based on legacy skills and door-knocking sales. Instead, companies today need people who can solve problems and build trust with other organisations, and it’s up to leadership teams to identify these skill-sets and create the space to have these conversations with women, or other minorities in the workplace.

With so much experience in sales and across so many SaaS solutions, what advice would you give to women just starting out in their sales career?

Don’t underestimate yourself. Trust your gut instincts and listen to your intuition. If you have the customer at the heart of what you’re doing, and you have good intentions with how you’re solving their pain points, then you’ll win every time.

For those who are in university or other industries and overwhelmed with how to get into sales, my advice is to make a list of companies that you would like to work for and reach out to them. Don’t be put off by entry level roles (like Sales Development Representative) because that is where you will learn most of the technical skills that will carry you through your sales career. Using CRMs like Salesforce, and other tools like Salesloft, ZoomInfo, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, etc, will be skills you need as an AE. No matter where you start in sales, it’s a career path that thrives on entrepreneurialism, positive attitude and a growth mindset — and you’ll shine no matter where you start if you untap these attributes. 

What have you been reading or watching lately?

Recently my wife and I watched Jennifer Lopez’s documentary, Halftime, on Netflix. It was incredibly inspiring — the grit, resilience and sheer hard work that J Lo has put in over the many decades of her career is mind blowing. I’ve also begun reading How To Be A Stoic: Using Ancient Philosphy To Live A Modern Life by Massimo Pigluicci which has been a fascinating journey of understanding stoic thought and values developed since Ancient Greece era. I’ll take inspiration from anywhere!


Connect with Roxy on LinkedIn.