This year the challenge of International Women’s Day, today, March 8, is to be bold for change #BeBoldForChange. The Association for Professional Sales asked senior women in sales what they would like to have said to their younger selves, to inspire them to be bold and reach for even greater achievements.
Denise Bryant, former UK Sales Director, Arrow ECS
'My advice to my 21 year old self starting out as an IT saleswoman in 1983 is just as valid today to a woman starting out in sales today.
I saw a recent quote on a poster that resonated with me: “What someone else thinks of you, is none of your business”.
I wish I had been more aware at 21, that there will always be someone who lets it be known that they could do your job better than you are doing; that they could have made a sale larger or more profitable; could have developed a customer relationship more strongly; or have led a team more effectively. This opinion-sharing happens all the time, but is even more prevalent when it is a female leader who is being assessed.
I know of lots of examples where women sales leaders have felt isolated and undermined by the constant critical gaze she can find herself in. It takes a strong woman to ignore the backchat and to gain momentum and win regardless. I am extremely honoured to know many such women.
My advice? To the women who are unsure of how to handle the day ahead, smile and ignore the background noise.
Know you are better than those who proffer opinions about your effectiveness. After all, if they really were more able to perform in your role than you – then the role would be theirs, not yours.
Far more importantly, to the women who hear this opinion-sharing about a fellow female colleague, defend them – please! This sort of backchat aimed at women sales leaders is destructive and may be aimed at you tomorrow.'
Anne Blackie, Head of Bids & Client Care, Grant Thornton
'I’ve been incredibly lucky in my career to work with some fantastic, inspiring women leaders (including the current CEO of Grant Thornton) who have been great role models in terms of what women can achieve. Often the only thing holding us back is our fear that we are not good enough, something men seem more able to deal with.
So, trust your judgement, take yourself out of your comfort zone, dust yourself down when things don’t go quite the way you wanted and try again.
In particular, I would offer the following advice to women starting out in sales:
- Work hard but have fun as well
- Trust your gut – it’s normally right
- Remember it’s OK to make mistakes, they will be your greatest teacher
- Be the leader you want to have
- Take risks to grow, achieve your goals, stretch yourself and your team
- Don’t stress too much. Things have a habit of sorting themselves out.'
The Association of Professional Sales is the leading community for sales people. They are a not-for-profit organisation, reinvesting in our profession to build standards, trust and education.