Sales is an incredible career. And, like many people, I landed in it quite by accident.

I studied public relations and advertising in college, and was especially interested in advertising. Mine was a great plan — until I discovered I wasn’t actually very creative. With my communications degree, I thought my options were limited. I did some PR internships and really enjoyed them. However, I couldn’t find a paid position, so I took a sales job. I thought to myself, “Hey, this is kind of the same thing as PR, except for when people say yes, I get paid for that.” From there, I never looked back.

Women often overlook the opportunity of sales for a variety of reasons, but there’s one that stands out: the stereotype. Too often, we think of salespeople as pushy and aggressive. For better or worse, that image is out there, but it’s not reflective of what the ideal salesperson is today. Salespeople need to be great connectors and fantastic listeners in order to solve problems. They also need a great deal of empathy. Guess what? Those are the innate qualities women are known for, which can set them up for a successful sales career.

Women often shy away from sales because they think it’s a nonstop rat race. It doesn’t have to be. If my sales reps are hitting their goals and numbers, I don’t care what they do all day. I don’t care if they leave to go pick your kids up from school. I don’t care if they take a day off to go to a track meet. Working all of the time doesn’t have to be the case as long as you’ve found a good company and management that’s a great fit for you. And, to be honest, sales can be one of the most lucrative careers out there. That doesn’t hurt.
Entering sales can be daunting — especially when at first glance so many of the programs and sales books are heavily dominated by men. But if you take a closer look, there are many amazing women in sales writing business books, hosting podcasts, participating in LinkedIn and Facebook communities, and more. Going out and finding the right outlets and inspiration for you is an incredible experience. You really feel a sisterhood in your training and as you expand your knowledge.

Something I think everyone — both male and female — should do, regardless of their career or industry, is schedule an “informational interview.” This means taking the time to talk to someone with a job or career path you might want to have. Reach out to those people and ask for 15 minutes of their time to hear their story. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate, like going for lunch or coffee. Just 15 minutes on the phone can be enough.

Often we’re afraid of rejection and reaching out to someone we may not know. And, of course, there’s the discomfort of actually asking for help. But the benefits far outweigh these fears. Along the way you never know who you might meet and what opportunities and doors may open that you weren’t even looking for at the time.

Finding and building a relationship with a mentor can be difficult, especially when you’re completely new to the sales field. When I first started out, I joined a female-based networking organization to find some mentors in my area, Kansas City. There is a lot of wonderful virtual support, but I love having local, one-to-one personal connections. If this type of group doesn’t exist in your community, then create it — because you will attract all sorts of like-minded women.

Also, keep in mind that finding a mentor should happen organically. I’ve never actually sat down with someone and said, “Hey, would you mentor me?” But I have sat down with people and enjoyed who they were and what they were trying to accomplish. Then I just asked for permission to have another conversation sometime. Keep it informal in the beginning. Further down the road, it can become a more formal mentor relationship. By then, you both know you’re the right fit for each other, too.

Working all of the time doesn’t have to be the case as long as you’ve found a good company and management that’s a great fit for you.”

Ryann Dowdy | Director of Sales, iFocus Marketing
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