How a successful sales woman can overcome her fears
I have been bullied quite a few times during my career in sales. For a long time, I wondered if I was the problem as it was what my bullies kept telling me.
“You really think you are something you’re are not” – Abusive phone call from ex colleague at 2 in the morning.
“You cry more than my 3-year-old” – One of my managers.
“Tomorrow you WILL go into that client and don’t bother coming back without the contract signed” – Another of my lovely managers.
I have always wondered what it was that caused the bullying.
Was it me?
Was it them?
Was it the business?
Was it because that‘s part of the sales culture?
Was it because I was a woman being successful in a man’s world?
[easy-tweet tweet=”When they go low, we go high – Michelle Obama” user=”@SucceedatSellin” hashtags=”#IWD2018 #SuccessQuote #WomeninSales”]
Was it me?
A few years ago, I was bullied by a very manipulative female colleague. You can read the whole thing here, but I have often looked back at that situation to consider if I caused her to behave like that. I also wonder if in some way the “you cry like my 3 year old” boss saw that same vulnerability in me too.
Did I let myself become a victim?
I was always taught to turn the other cheek if approached by a bully. Though after talking the matter through with friends many say they fought back at their bullies, physically in the playground and mentally later in life. They attribute this to less bullying in later life.
Should I have done that too?
No. That just isn’t me. I know I am not doing anything consciously to attract bullies. The bully will always seek out those they know who are unlikely to fight back. I am not a fan of conflict so will always try to avoid it by negotiating with reasoning.
Sometimes in our lives we are strong and sometimes we aren’t. In reflection the times when I was bullied were probably when I was going through a low spot in another part of my life. It made me weaker, but I refuse to believe that I willingly caused myself to be bullied.
Was it them ?
Well of course it was I hear you say!
What I mean is did they know that what they were doing was bullying. Unbelievably, during research into my bullies I found out that the ex-female colleague who ultimately caused me two years off sick with work related stress, is now a counsellor and psychotherapist.
When I first saw what she doing, I felt quite sick. This woman caused a lot of problems. Not just for me, but my colleagues and undoubtedly cost the company a lot of money. She now appears to have people paying for her help and advice, which at first glance appears just wrong.
Then it occurred to me that perhaps what I thought was bullying was actually her practicing to be a counsellor and trying out her psychotherapy techniques on us. Perhaps she thought that she was helping the boss to improve the mental well-being of the team. She must obviously believe she was doing the right thing, otherwise she surely wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing the long-lasting damage she has caused.
Whether she now believes she acted in good faith or not, I really don’t know. Either way she obviously has had her own demons to deal with and I like to think she didn’t do it intentionally. Maybe it’s as a result of a bad experience she has suffered at some point.
Like my mother-in law used to say, “I can forgive, but I won’t forget.”
Was it the business?
I have this theory about companies and it starts with the people at the top. The way they go about doing business is always reflected throughout the whole company. I spent many hours cold calling industrial estate and the companies I did the best business with, always without fail had the nicest and most helpful receptionists.
The crying like a 3-year-old boss was obviously not very good at communicating what he wanted from his team. He behaved a bit like his 3-year-old, having tantrums when people didn’t deliver the results he needed. Did that company let us both down by not managing him better?
However, I have worked for some excellent companies and lucky to have had some really good bosses too. I remember one time when I slowly realised that I had wasted hours preparing a report in completely the wrong format to what my boss actually wanted. Then just as I started to get that sinking feeling he turned round to me and said…
“I’m sorry Susan that is my fault for not explaining myself correctly to you.”
By saying that one tiny sentence to me, he had not only earned my respect, but after that I would always bust a gut to over deliver for him in any way I could.
With all the best will in the world, most companies do try their hardest to manage staff in a way that doesn’t allow anyone to feel they are being bullied. The odd bad apple will appear in many companies, so my gut tells me not to point the finger at the employer.
Was it because that is the just the sales culture?
So, for the first 10 years in sales I just hit target and I wasn’t bullied. Just hitting target is good though. In sales that is all you have to do. Hit target.
As a sales person selling B2B, I have always been aware of this black cloud hovering above me, that could drop its load as soon I missed target. Three months of non-performance and in sales you are often out on your ear.
Sounds harsh, but you really do know where you stand in a sales job. It’s not about being judged on woolly competencies such as how you communicate with colleagues, or how effective your report writing skills are.
Being in sales is about hitting your target.
Selling successfully is about smashing your target.
However, in reality selling without stress is a fine balance of just hitting target and being seen to be the best. If you don’t hit target, you run the risk of being sacked. If you consistently smash your target, then don’t be surprised if your colleagues start turning into green eyed monsters. Never mind if the product is good or not, sales people are expected to sell and if they don’t sell, then the whole company suffers.
Was it because I was a woman being successful in a man’s world?
On reflection I really don’t think I have been bullied by anyone because I am a woman. There are many reasons why I was bullied, but I don’t believe my sex has anything to do with it.
However, one thing did stand out when I started researching for this post. I carried out a very unscientific survey of my acquaintances asking them to answer two questions if they had been bullied. They were given the option to share their answers in public, or to send me a private message.
Were you bullied by a man or a woman?
Were they a colleague or a boss?
The results were fairly even, but one thing clearly stood out.
Not one man told me they had been bullied.
Now I know many men who have been bullied, so why did none of them contact me. Do men see bullying differently to women? Well that is probably a question that could be answered by someone a lot more knowledgeable about bullying than me.
What I do know is that of the men that I have seen bullied, not one of them was by a woman. The only women I know who bullied a man is Jennifer Anniston’s character in Horrible Bosses. Now wouldn’t it be good if all the bullies we came across were on the big screen!
Sales Women are survivors
Despite a big improvement the odds are still stacked against successful sales women going through their careers without some kind of difficulty. However, we all know that women are strong and can survive a lot.
Going forward, I would like to see is more progress to lessen the burden they carry on their way to the top, so business and society can both benefit by more successful women.
I would also like to thank my bullies for making me who I am today. If it wasn’t for them I would still be just hitting target working for other people, instead of smashing big goals in my own businesses whilst still spending quality time with who I want, when I want to.
I would also like to thank my parents for their wisdom and my husband for his support. There is certainly no I in team, or in sales!
One of the biggest reasons I have consistently exceeded target is because I know the sales process. Not only do I know it, but I know how to apply it to any business too. If you want to be more successful at selling B2B then get my free training right here. It takes just a few minutes a day and when you implement the techniques I know you will achieve greater success. Why not use my experience to fast track your sales performance!
Your resilience and strength are a real inspiration Susan. It is a competitive world out there, and it can be hard to be a woman in all arenas in life. Putting yourself in a career where it is more challenging to be a woman, and rising to the top the way you have, overcoming the bullies and the difficulties you have experienced has taught you so much, and made you a strong leader in your field. I am sure other women in sales look up to you and take hope from your experiences. Thank you for sharing so openly and allowing others to benefit from your experiences
Thank you Esther for your support. It is hard to go through bad experiences, but one you come out the other side you realise how much stronger it makes you. Women go through a lot of tough situations and painful experiences, but I think this is what makes us so strong and powerful. This strength is what others fear as there is nothing more powerful than a confident, fearless woman!