Back From Literature to Lead Generation – Stepping into the Tech Sales industry
“You’re nice, but that’s all you have to you. We need sassy girls.”
I was sat opposite my interviewer at a graduate assessment centre for tech sales roles when this statement was said to me. It struck a chord, and I could feel my self-doubt fill me like a pit in my stomach. I was shocked that not only was this said to me, but this was said by a woman. As a graduate with not much experience to the working world, I thought this was the norm and my more introverted characteristics were not welcome. As they say, what does not kill you makes you stronger and I saw this an opportunity to speak openly about this topic and to break the barriers and false standards of women in tech sales.
The media certainly does not help to undermine the salesperson persona – testosterone fuelled, aggressive and pushy, who will not take no for an answer. The dog-eat-dog world epitomised in The Wolf of Wall Street for example, illustrates this view undoubtedly and it is this persona that is understandably very off putting, yet not the truth behind the sales industry. Mix this in with the technology industry, you would have found 12-year-old me grimacing at the school STEM careers fair. No thank you sir.
When I was younger, I was not interested in STEM subjects. I enjoyed more of the creative, storytelling side and found my love for Art and English and I wanted to keep an open mind to career opportunities, yet I was taught that to go into specific industries you had to study its subject. Looking back now, it is not entirely the truth and the lack of awareness at school made me feel I had to choose something related to the career I wanted and to stick with it.
It is easy to look at the skills gained whilst studying English as ‘soft’, but there is a much wider picture to these skills and how transferable they are to the world of tech sales. The ability to articulate key information clearly when speaking about the technical side of the product or service and the storytelling side became the foundation to adding a personal touch to a potential customer. By unravelling the stories of similar challenges other organisations faced and how we helped tackle them made my outreach a lot more relatable. Active listening also enables me to decipher their tone and language, allowing me to empathise with the prospect and mirror their persona. These are just a few examples of how those ‘softer’ skills provide the bedrock for the sales industry. And it is not just me who believes this; Lauren Bailey, Founder and President of Factor 8 and #GirlsClub expressed how “Women are natural sellers. Our numbers may be few, but our results are mighty. Gone are the days that selling means pushing. Selling is serving at its heart and listening its lifeblood!”
Technology careers are not restricted to being a software developer or a CIO, yet it is still the conclusion we jump to when we think of that industry and it was how I felt throughout most of my education. And likewise, it is easy to think those who go into sales must be pushy or ‘sassy,’ when the skills gained from a humanities degree are invaluable to the world of technology sales.
When reflecting on that situation, it makes me think how this was the catalyst to having open discussions around these topics in my workplace; to voice these experiences, to break down these false standards and drive more inclusivity. You do not need to be sassy in tech sales, being yourself is more important.