What makes women stand out in sales roles? A Q&A with Kate Derrick

What makes women stand out in sales roles? A Q&A with Kate Derrick

Kate Derrick heads up the Direct Sales team for npower Business Solutions (nBS) which focuses on serving mid-market customers. She’s worked in sales and customer services roles all her career and has been with nBS since 2011.

Q: Why do you want to talk about women sales professionals?

A: Having worked in sales for approaching 20 years – and being responsible for recruiting, training and nurturing other salespeople – I often get asked, what makes a good salesperson? And in particular, what makes saleswomen different from men in sales?

Q: Why now?

A: It’s because I’ve once again been asked to be one of the judges for the annual Women in Sales Awards (WISA) – and the winners will be announced on 7 December (today) at a ceremony in London. So, the topic’s front of mind currently.

Q: Which category did you judge?

A: This year, I headed up the panel judging the Best in Field Sales category. In previous years, I’ve judged the Best Newcomer category.

Q: What can you tell us about WISA?

A: The Women in Sales Awards (WISA) is like the Oscars of sales. It was created to celebrate women’s achievements in what has traditionally been a male-dominated field and aims to encourage greater awareness of the need for gender diversity in sales. Each year, the awards attract high-calibre entrants from a huge range of sectors and different European countries. I came across WISA back in 2014, when I entered myself. I was thrilled to go on to win the Best in Field Sales category, which is the award I’ve been judging this year.

Q: What struck you about the finalists this year?

A: There was such a range of entrants with different approaches, and from different sectors and countries. But having interviewed all the finalists in the Best in Field Sales category, there are three key observations that I’d like to share.

Q: What is the first observation you’ve observed?

A: The skill of rapport-building. Each of us has a unique personality, but there are often some qualities that are more common in women. For example, women tend to be more natural chatters and are happy to talk to others about anything. This helps when it comes to building a good rapport. And this is really important when working with customers, or would-be customers, in a sales role, as you need to really understand what they want and need before suggesting the best solution.

Q: What comes next?

A: Confidence – women can often seem less confident than men. What I noticed from judging this year’s awards was that some of the finalists didn’t really sell themselves very well. It wasn’t unusual to hear “I was lucky because…”. Yet they all achieved great things through lots of hard work and graft – and actually not just because they’d been “lucky”. But this didn’t always come to the fore in our discussions. I’d like to encourage women to show more confidence in your abilities and not to be afraid of highlighting your own achievements.

Q: And finally?

A: Authenticity – what struck me this year was how many of the finalists were able to incorporate their core values into their jobs. For example, one lady talked about her strong moral code – and when asked how she found operating in the, at times, tough world of sales, she said she took her values of kindness, caring and humility into the workplace and didn’t view her colleagues as rivals, but rather the marketplace as her competitor. I found this very refreshing.

Q: Anything else to add?

A: I’d really like to wish all the Women in Sales finalists good luck at tonight’s awards – and all the best with your future careers. You all make the world of sales a better place, and being part of these awards helps to celebrate the fantastic contribution women are making to corporate success.

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