My journey into sales and, eventually into sales enablement, was really the road less traveled, to borrow a phrase from Robert Frost. Sales was always seemed a bit suspicious to me. My father had his own engineering firm but I never heard him talk about customers. He thought people needed something from him so he was the most important person in the process. That was my introduction into business.

I was introduced to sales and marketing while I was studying economics at the university. Soon after, I was running a company with a partner that provided software solutions to automotive suppliers. I needed to succeed in sales – our business depended on it. And I did everything – sell and implement the solutions and work with customers throughout the entire process.

Survival was all about leveraging competence because I really had no sales training. I could make sense of things and explain it to people in their context. That was the element that worked and made it successful, but I had no clue about what I was doing sales-wise. Unconscious competence…

A Unique Sales Journey

After five years, I needed a change and got into consulting, which is a great role if you’re interested in sales. Consulting is actually selling yourself and your team, and I discovered when I worked with clients it was easy to get other projects within that account.

Eventually, I went to work for one of my clients, T-Systems. This is where I discovered sales enablement.

A New Calling

Initially, my role at T-Systems was in strategy implementation. It was a perfect job because it provided lessons in understanding big organizations because I had to work with productions, sales and marketing. My last project in this role was leading a reorganization of the sales force, bringing me back into sales again.

During this time, I started to educate myself on sales enablement to better understand how we can help our sales force. I discovered we actually didn’t do a lot of enablement work and, if we did, it wasn’t structured at all. This is where my passion for sales enablement was born.

So I started a sales enablement program with a very small team with an executive sponsor in portfolio management. At first, we were not aligned with sales at all and I didn’t think we had a chance to make much of an impact unless changes were made. After more than one year of addressing a more holistic enablement approach, I could move with my team to global sales operations. The new sales operations leader loved our holistic and strategic approach. We connected content and training, worked backwards from the customer’s journey and connected that to sales methodologies and processes. Finally we focused on enabling our sales managers. And that made all the difference!

Three Things I learned on My Sales Journey

I’ve learned a lot of lessons during my time in sales and sales enablement. Here are three tips for women (and men) to succeed in a sales career:

  1. Think from push to pull. You can no longer push what you want to sell. You have to remember the customer’s needs and wants and that customers make buying decisions at the end of the day.
  2. Have passion for what you do and compassion for the customers. Look to serve your customers and help them make the best decision for them. That would not only help your customer, but it would benefit you and your organization in the long run if you had a servant attitude.
  3. Understand what you do. Sales Enablement is no longer about point solutions and how to fix the next quarter. Enablement has to be a dynamic, strategic approach and the vehicle to drive the necessary sales transformations.

Check out Miller Heiman Group’s Sales Ready offerings to give a boost to your sales career.

About the Author: Tamara Schenk is the Research Director for CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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