At the British Excellence in Sales and Marketing Awards (BESMA) in March 2013, OpenSymmetry couldn’t help but notice the wealth of female talent that was being recognised, and decided to get to know of these sales leaders a bit better.
Selina Johal is the Territory Manager for LiNA Medical UK, where she now covers the south east of England. Selina won the Student of the Year category at the prestigious BESMA awards earlier this year, which she describes as “the cherry on top of this life changing year after graduating”.
Please tell us a little about your role and career to date.
As the territory manager for a medical device company called LiNA Medical UK, I cover sales in the south east of England. I got the job straight after I graduated from the University of Leeds, and have been working here for about 18 months.
Since starting out I’ve moved to London, got on the property ladder, broken my company’s record for the fastest sale, achieved sales person of the quarter (within 6 months of joining) and completed a diploma in sales and marketing. To also be awarded a BESMA for student of the year rounded it all off in a fantastic way!
How and why did you get into a sales career?
I studied for a degree in Biological Sciences, and after graduating considered a few different career paths. Medical Sales stood out to me as I’m definitely a people-person and have a competitive edge. Medical Sales meant I could use what I’d learnt at university in a dynamic, interesting and rewarding environment. Selling allows me to constantly meet new people and to fulfil my potential.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
I love travelling to different places, meeting new people and exceeding my targets. What I find most rewarding though is when I identify solutions for hospitals, which really offer them a great product and significant cost saving. This creates win-win-win situations for the procurement departments and the clinical teams and my company.
What motivates you to get up and succeed each day?
Potential for success and growth definitely motivate me, and I’m always aiming higher. After spending time doing some charity work I’m grateful for the opportunities we have in the UK. I want to take full advantage of these opportunities so I can be in a good place to offer the same to others who aren’t as lucky.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your sales role?
The most challenging part of a sales role is simply getting through the front door. Once you’re in front of the customer you know they’re already interested enough to offer you their time, which is half the battle in a busy environment. As long as I’m asking the right questions, listening to what the customer wants and understanding what they need, things usually roll from there.
When I’m selling a certain product at a hospital I’m always on the lookout for where my next potential sale will come from and ensuring I’m drumming up interest from the right people. The NHS is particularly complex, and I have found that every Trust has a different way of doing things.
What are the skills you need to succeed in sales?
Being a good listener is extremely important. You also need to be organised and have communication skills and confidence. You have to be adaptable too – and work with people in a way that suits them
Regardless of gender, how can you prove yourself in the recruitment process, even during the recession?
Hiring may have slowed during the recession, but if anything this makes good salespeople more essential than ever. If you have sales experience, or even just training, you can show an employer you’re going to be an asset to the company by demonstrating the right attitude, knowledge of the market and competitive landscape. This all helps break into the sector.
What attributes do you think women bring to such a male dominated environment?
Times have changed. I think men and women both are suited to sales careers. And regardless of gender, everyone has their own strengths and style of selling. It's definitely refreshing to see the sales environment becoming more mixed. Women have more opportunities than ever to develop their skills and build the confidence needed to sell. Men are also more receptive, which has allowed this change to take place.
Have you perceived any major changes in your industry since you entered it?
Yes, definitely. The medical device industry is extremely fast paced and the products are constantly evolving. In just a couple of years, I’ve seen industry developments as simple as new products right up to completely new competitor companies. This makes it really important to keep abreast of the current market. The way customers buy also changes.
Do you think that the sales environment has given you the freedom to succeed?
As long as I have confidence and self-belief, then I think the success of my career is in my control. I am willing to put in the commitment and hard work to make things happen, and I hope I’ll continue to succeed in sales, regardless of external factors. That said, I’m lucky that sales is an industry that gives me this flexibility to thrive.
How do you manage to maintain a good balance between work and home?
Sales is not 9-5 job! It can be difficult, of course, but I think I have found a good balance between work and home. For me the key is to set realistic goals and to reward myself when things go right. This encourages me to put the work in when I should, so that I can enjoy myself more when it pays off. However it is important not to get to too down when things don’t go according to plan - it's part of the job and why you should always have a plan B.
Finally, what words of wisdom would you offer to other women considering a sales career?
Enjoy it... Sales is satisfying, exciting, stimulating, and if you have a competitive and ambitious edge, it really will bring out the best in you. Secondly, make sure you know your product, know your company and, most importantly, know your customer.
OpenSymmetry is a global sales performance management (SPM) consulting firm which delivers both strategic and technical services. OpenSymmetry has helped transform its customers’ sales performance solutions, delivering over 700 projects globally. OpenSymmetry has offices in London, Austin, Sydney, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, and Chennai. Clients range from SMB to Fortune 500 companies, and specialise in the Communications, Financial, Health/Life Sciences, and IT/Distribution industries.
For more information, please visit www.opensymmetry.com
OpenSymmetry sponsored the New Sales Professional of the Year category at this year’s BESMAs.