By Agata Nowakowska, Area Sales VP UK, Skillsoft EMEA
There are few jobs more maligned than that of the salesman.
Images of fast-talking, oily fellows in cheap suits automatically spring to mind, as well as adjectives like untrustworthy or intimidating.
Furthermore, this shady character is always imagined as male, and yet I’ve worked in sales for over 20 years, and I’m neither male nor would you ever find me in a cheap suit. I don’t consider myself pushy, dishonest or fast with words either. Instead, what I see in sales is the opportunity to go out there, prove I can demonstrate the value of a product, all while achieving career satisfaction. And since I’m just a little competitive, it’s an outlet for this aspect of my personality to thrive.
I began my sales career working in a variety of industries, switching to concentrate on technology before joining Skillsoft in 2001. Initially, I worked in channel sales and in a short time qualified for my first President’s Club, a reward given to those salespeople considered the most successful, which includes an all-expenses-paid holiday in another country. Today, I’m Area Sales Vice President UK, for Skillsoft, the global leader in eLearning with a team of 25 salespeople reporting to me.
Apart from the buzz of a sale, the other big attraction to a career in sales is it offers huge potential for opportunity, personal development, and advancement. I took advantage of this and in 2005 I became a manager for the first time. For the next 11 years, I served as a channel leader overseeing a team of six salespeople and channel partners working in Europe, Middle East, and Africa.
Don’t be disheartened
The data out there tends to portray sales as a very male-dominated industry. Amy Palmer, sales team leader at durhamlane, a leading sales transformation specialist company, noted, “Unfortunately, I feel women still think that a sales job would be more suited to a man and that men would more likely have the skills.” I encourage women not to be deterred from what can be an incredibly rewarding and financially lucrative career. And sometimes the numbers tell a different story. Here at Skillsoft our sales team is about 50:50 female to male and I’m proof that my gender was not used against me when it came to leadership roles. I continue to be inspired by all the female sales professionals delivering great results year after year.
Making it work
A career in sales is hard; it asks a lot of you both mentally and physically, but if you have what it takes, and are competitive, the rewards are bountiful. I would recommend, especially if you want to progress to leadership levels, that you avail of either the learning opportunities at your company or pursue it independently. Using Women in Leadership programmes was particularly instrumental in helping me prepare and succeed as a manager.
I’ve loved my years in sales and never had an experience that demonstrated any bias against women salespeople. If you are thinking of sales as a career, I say do not be swayed by reports of sexism and, instead, embrace the challenge and go for it.
About the author
Agata Nowakowska is Area Vice President Sales EMEA at Skillsoft and in this role she has the opportunity to speak with hundreds learning and development professionals about the trends we are seeing, their challenges and opportunities around Europe, Middle East and Africa about their challenges and opportunities each year.
Agata joined Skillsoft 15+ years ago, and she spent that time exclusively building and supporting the Skillsoft channel partners’ network in EMEA, and working with Skillsoft’s valued customers throughout the region. Born in Poland, and based in The Netherlands for 20+ years, Agata brings the international mindset to her extensive experience which is much appreciated in the Skillsoft EMEA Channel community.
Agata is a past speaker at the Skillsoft CAFÉ (Customer Advisory Forum Events) conferences, Skillsoft Perspectives conferences as well as various events organised by SkillSoft and Skillsoft partners and other institutions in Europe, Middle East and Africa.