Sue Barrett and Barrett Consulting did a survey about women in sales, here are some insights from our Sell Like A Woman participants.....

Some reasons why they entered sales

I left school at an early age (15) to support my family after a family tragedy occurred when my father passed away. My Mother became very ill and bedridden. As well as numerous debts, there was also a baby, my young brother, to care for. So really out of necessity, not planning. My first sales experience was going door to door looking for an apprenticeship and selling myself. I offered to work for free for 1 week as a guarantee that I was the right person. From that early stage, I asked to be paid commission for as much as possible because I could see I could earn more if I worked harder. Later in corporate life, commissions enabled me to control my own destiny. Even as a manager, I would request remuneration based on the results I could achieve indirectly through other sales people…[Stephanie]

I first started selling when I was ten years old, helping my parents sell their hand-made jewellery at craft markets. I begged them to let me help them sell, I loved it! At first I simply enjoyed selling products I believed in and got a sense of accomplishment when I make a good sale. I also loved the reflection I got from customers. As I grew older I began to see it as a way of becoming self employed, I never wanted to work for someone else... [Qi]

women in sales

I entered without a long term plan because it was easy, fun and I was good at it. After some time at University I wanted to be free and flexible and not locked into a clear direction. I was high energy, overly confident and had no fear of hearing no. I worked for one business in Sydney on commission only, with a telephone, a copy of the yellow pages and a sheet of paper to tick of the number of cold calls made. Working on 100% commission made me very determined and resilient. It was tough but invaluable. After I then moved into a large national sales team with Sensis selling yellow pages I felt unstoppable! In the first year I was the top National telesales saleperson, earning terrific money, with an overseas 5 star incentive trip, a career path into field sales beckoning and huge job satisfaction. I was in! [Lisa]

Bluntly, in IBM where I started my career, sales was seen as the most important function and certainly was the highest paid area! It was the obvious choice for me. [Kate]

I identified my strengths - communication, public speaking, debating, meeting people. I then sought a profession that complemented these. [Tonya]

My manager at the time suggested that my people skills were wasted while working as a scientist and that I should consider sales. Which, just quietly, I thought was a dirty word at the time. But I investigated sales, and there has been no regret, no turning back. Best thing I could have done! [Dina]

It was a career where I would be rewarded for the hard work that I did. Not work that someone else did. The more I put in the more I could get out. [Liz]

Dealing with some of the challenges

At times I feel women need to prove themselves a little more with some people who are a little sceptical of their knowledge and skills but thankfully this attitude seems to be dying. [Danielle]

Biggest barriers were being taken seriously as a business woman. Because I sold very differently than my male colleagues there was an expectation that I'd sell they way they did. I've learned not to play the gender card. The biggest thing I learned was that "Treat others how you want to be treated" is absolute rubbish when it comes to sales. It should be rewritten to read "Treat others how they would like to be treated". I learned to be flexible and adapt my approach. It is now second nature, an unconscious competency I possess. [Debra]

When I first started in my industry, I was one of only a handful of women, and every man was twice my age. In our industry, most of the networking opportunities involve alcohol and I was always an easy target. So, I spent less time at industry events, and spent more time socialising with my clients over dinners (which did not require alcohol), and attending my clients social events, which led to stronger relationships, and the more sales I put through, the more the lenders would come to me, on my terms. I learned that you can just be yourself and people will respect you, though sometimes it may take a while. I have learnt not to compromise on who I am. [Kelly]

One of the great joys of hitting 40 was gaining some freedom from judging myself by what I thought others were thinking of me. I stopped trying to be Superwoman. My objective is to be personally happy. I think I am a better sales person as a result - I follow my instincts a little more often and trust my judgement more (and I am not as exhausted!).[Trudy]