Encouraging more women to get into STEM has been a hot topic recently, but one profession that we don’t hear as much about is getting more women into sales. Females are as equally underrepresented in this field as in STEM, due to a number of reasons. Beth Williams, is a successful Senior Account Manager at ANS working within the Higher Education sector, we sat down to talk about tech sales getting a woman’s touch.
How did you get into sales, Beth?
When I graduated from university I must have applied for over 30 jobs and I was getting nowhere – one even rejected me due to a personality test. Ouch. I started looking for more unusual ways to get onto a graduate scheme and began contacting different businesses in different ways. I thought, why not try sales, I already had some commercial and recruitment experience and soon I landed at ANS.
Why do you think that there aren’t many women in IT sales?
I think some young women have this perception that IT sales can be quite boring and dull, but it’s far from that. I’m fairly academic and I like to be challenged, that’s why sales works for me because it’s so fast-paced and exciting. My job requires me to have some technical knowledge and when you look at the types of digital solutions we sell now, it’s easy to see why we need a deep understanding of what we are selling and the business impact they have.
It's no secret that IT sales has always been a male-dominated industry, what has your experience been of that?
Yes, it's a male dominated industry in so far as the majority of my colleagues are male, but there are still certainly lots of, and the number is only increasing, women. Both men and women make great sales people and the team at ANS all get on so well. There is a fantastic sense of humour amongst the team and I don’t feel being male or female dictates your ability to do well at the job.
You said that sales really works for you, why is that?
It’s not easy, it can be long hours and requires persistence, patience and a willingness to learn. It’s far from a 9 to 5, especially when you’ve got a deal coming in, but if you’ve got something about you and you’re willing to work hard you can have a great career. The main thing working in sales teaches you is resilience. It’s tough, especially at the start. I persevered through the early stages and learnt how to cold call. I never gave up and found my own style of calling that worked for me and it's now a corner stone of successfully bringing on board new customers.
You don’t have to shoehorn yourself into the stereotypical salesperson; I concentrated on being enthusiastic and caring about my customer’s requirements which really helped me. You have to push yourself, it’s all got to come from you. I found the best way to improve was to constantly ask my peers and managers for advice. My advice would be to learn different techniques of selling and find a style that suits your personality.
What’s the best thing about working in IT sales?
Whilst it’s not the only motivator for me, the money you have the potential to earn allows me to work towards some of my life goals such as buying a house or giving back to my parents. I love to travel so I always try and save up for holidays and seeing new places.
Plus, I'm never bored at work. I get to work on some really exciting projects with my customers in which I get to be really creative. Technology is moving so quickly these days that there is always something new to learn. As an Account Manager I get to be a part of strategic and transformational projects which get to the heart of customer’s needs. Although cold calling is a part of the job, once your career progresses, it becomes as much about building and maintaining business relationships as speaking to someone for the first time.
I have to say my customers are one of the best parts of my job. Aston University was one of the first Higher Education customers that I brought on board with us at ANS. They came to one of our CIO Roundtables and from there our relationship has blossomed. Initially we engaged in an assessment with the university and then we developed a Cloud project with them. Some of our meetings are really relaxed and informal, I have brought along our Head of Digital Services to some meetings and I even came up with a really interesting feature to add to their project which they loved (and adopted).
What else has helped you to be successful in your career?
I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by a great group of friends. We all have high-demanding (but rewarding) jobs and work hard, so we can appreciate what it’s like for one another. All my friends are independent, they have travelled on their own and they earn their own money without relying on others. I think it’s really important to surround yourself with like-minded people who want to celebrate your success and see you do well.
What advice have you got for any women looking to kickstart a career in IT sales?
Sales is exciting and can be very rewarding, but you’ve got to have something about you if you are going to do well. Persistence, resilience and pushing yourself out your comfort zone will pay off. Now I have been in the role a few years, I love going to work and I'm grateful for the colleagues and customers I get to work with every day and the really cool, exciting projects we are doing together. So best piece of advice is enjoy what you do because no amount of money can keep you in a role if you don’t enjoy it.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Beth. Let’s hope more we can encourage more women to start an exciting and rewarding career in such a dynamic field.
If you are a woman with experience in sales and you like to be challenged, have a browse of our current oppotunities here.
Posted by Kate Auchterlonie