Women in Sales: Starting Your Career
July 11, 2014
The road to sales can be a winding one, especially for female professionals like me who are fresh additions to the post-college workforce. Had you asked me two years ago where I would find myself after graduating from Harvard, I would have told you in full confidence that I would be well on my way to a career in law. Today, I am proudly a woman in sales, wielding my relationships with clients - instead of the law - to make a positive impact on businesses and clients with LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. So what inspired me to go from law to sales? Read on to gather insight from my professional leap and LinkedIn’s unique sales culture that could be applied to any young professional’s experience in sales and beyond.
Know Your Values
Success as a young professional in sales or in business comes from firm foundation and values. You don’t have to be an expert in the role you take on but you should have a clear idea of what drives you on the basic level. This ensures that any skills and experiences you build on have an authentic foundation at their root. I knew early on in my college career that I enjoyed assisting others in overcoming difficulties. This inherent desire to help others translated into a major in psychology and, eventually, led me to think that practicing law could positively impact people at a larger scale. However, I recognized roadblocks in the law’s innate system of loopholes and precedent that muddied my resolve and steered me away from that path. Realizing that law may be not be the right career for me, I asked myself, “What other path could my interests align with?” The search for authenticity is a common thread in our professional lives (especially for those of us who went to liberal arts schools). To find your True North, ask yourself:
- What is it that I want in a different role?
- How can I take my skills and experiences and apply them elsewhere?
- What company can reinforce my values and invest in my professional development?
As a company, LinkedIn operates with the value of “Members First” and boasts of a sales culture rooted in collaboration. Thus, when I was given the opportunity to join LinkedIn’s rotational program, I jumped at the chance to try on a variety of hats because I knew my values aligned with the company’s culture. LinkedIn’s Sales organization is a natural extension of these values, allowing salespeople like myself to take on the role of consultants for our clients and placing emphasis on making a positive impact on their businesses with the help of our solutions. When I am on the phone with clients, I am not thinking of how to close a deal, but, instead of the relationship that can be fostered through our partnership. The next time you are on a sales call or trying to evangelize your idea or project, ask yourself, “How can I make a difference instead of trying to sell myself?” When you approach the sales process as a relationship to be nourished through collaboration, listening, and problem solving, the end result will always translate into a more positive experience for the client and long lasting partnership for you.
Three Tips to Get Ahead in Your Career
Recently, LinkedIn Sales Solutions launched a campaign called “Trends of Women in Sales,” uncovering some surprising disparities in the representation of female leaders in the sales workforce. As a millennial sales professional and a woman, I think there are some inherent advantages that females should leverage in order to draw the most of the experience in sales and build a solid foundation for the rest of their careers. Regardless of where you are in your professional journey, here are some words of advice:
1) Build relationships with women that inspire you
I’ve been fortunate to have fantastic role models in my life, both men and women, who have invested in my professional development and shaped my career. I have always kept an eye out for women paving the way for those like me, either just starting out or with ample potential to do more. Aligning yourself with women who inspire you either in their achievements or with the ease that they accomplish huge feats is an excellent idea, no matter if you are an intern or a vice president. Try to do this in the most organic way possible but invest your time in getting to know the women who inspire you. Build meaningful relationships with them that allow them to become a part of your personal development. Allowing inspiring professionals to be stakeholders in your career path will sow the seeds for your long term success.
2) Don’t get intimidated
As a Sales Development Specialist, I spend most of my time talking to Vice Presidents of healthcare and financial services companies -- not the easiest thing to do when you’re in your first post-college job! When the going gets rough, I take a breath and remind myself that, when it comes to my sales domain, I hold the higher ground by virtue of talking to other players and competitors in their industry. Rather than get intimidated, be assertive and hold your ground. Draw confidence from your skills and experiences and use that to drive the conversation with customers and prospects. After all, if they were open enough to have a conversation with you, then you probably have a nugget or two of knowledge up your sleeve to blow them away.
3) Position yourself as part of a team
I have yet to be proven wrong on this one. When it comes to sales or any other work experience, having the support of a team will undoubtedly set you up for success much better than if you were to go at it alone. In sales, especially, the wrongful notion of “individual contributor” has steered too many professionals toward untimely setbacks. After all, with the strength of the team, you uncover the lessons from hundreds of phone calls, objections and successes that you may never get the chance to experience yourself. Understand your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses, grow from those better than you, be a resource for those who can further develop, and add your own experiences to the team’s collective knowledge. In the end, both you and the team will reap the successes together and will make that much bigger of an impact on your organization and company.