At the British Excellence in Sales and Marketing Awards (BESMA) in March 2013, OpenSymmetry couldn’t help but be impressed by the wealth of female talent being recognised. They decided to get to know some of these accomplished sales leaders better.
Clare Barrow is the outbound sales adviser for Virgin Media. At the prestigious BESMA awards earlier this year, Clare was runner-up in the New Sales Professional of the Year category .
Tell us a little about your role and career to date.
I’ve worked with Virgin Media for 13 years now, in a number of sectors; I moved to our Outbound department in 2011. Day to day I mainly focus on communicating with our existing customers (in our unique friendly Virgin style!), to find out which of our products or promotions are right for them. It’s about making sure our customers always have the best package, and that it suits their specific needs.
How and why did you get into a sales career?
I was drawn to sales because I’m a people person: I love networking and getting to know different people. I really do believe that this is critical to a successful sales career. Not only that, it certainly makes my working day more fun.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
It may sound cheesy, but the most satisfying thing is knowing that I have a happy customer. Ensuring that our customers access the right products and giving them a positive experience with Virgin Media is a huge source of satisfaction for me. Of course, having met my goals, it’s also great to see my family enjoying the spoils of my hard work.
What motivates you to get up and succeed each day?
Being able to enjoy the financial rewards of a successful sales career with the people I love is best motivator. I also love being able to offer customers choice and quality in the products they use – something I have total confidence in.
What has been the most challenging aspect of a sales role in your experience?
Not getting rusty and staying on top of my game is a challenge in itself – particularly when you’re a top seller. Being consistent and staying the course takes constant commitment and drive, but is hugely rewarding when you see the returns.
What do you think are the most important skills required to succeed in sales?
There’s a whole host of ‘must-have’ skills for a good salesperson. I’d say that you need tenacity, empathy, strength of character and a competitive edge - to name a few. What really sets great salespeople apart is also the ability to stay calm in a crisis, and having patience and excellent conversational skills. There’s no doubt that I love a good natter, and I have the other qualities in abundance I think. This is the combination that I’ve relied on to help me to build customer relationships.
Why is sales a great career for a woman?
In my experience, it’s ability that counts and not gender. Women have a lot to juggle; that takes patience, a quality that certainly benefits them in the job. I think sales can be great for women who want a successful career without having to compromise on the family life. We also bring a new perspective that benefits every member of the sales team.
On that note, do you manage to maintain a balance between work and home?
As I have a young family, this balance between professional and personal life is especially important to me, and I think I’m lucky enough to have found it with my career.
My professional role gives me weekends with my family, as well as bank holidays. I’m always home to be able to eat with my two sons and put them to bed, which is great. It’s good to keep your competitive edge in check!
Regardless of gender, do you think the recession has affected recruitment to sales roles in your sector?
On the contrary, at Virgin Media we have been recruiting consistently over the past 2-3 years. We even have a talent referral scheme that encourages staff to recommend new sales people. We’re always on the look out for fresh sales talent.
Have you perceived any major changes in the industry since you started?
Yes! And in the case of Virgin Media, changes for the better. Technological advances have allowed us to offer so much more to the public. For instance, we provided free WiFi on the London Underground during the 2012 Olympics and continued to offer it free for our customers afterwards. It was a big undertaking – but really worth the effort. Mobile technology has changed both how and what we sell.
How far do you think that company culture has contributed to your success?
My environment at work has certainly helped and encouraged me to succeed. It counts for so much to be recognised and well rewarded for hitting targets and achieving overall objectives. And the little things also make a big difference: like being able to leave work slightly early to be with the family on a special occasion, or a holiday in the sun. That 'feel good' factor makes me want to go that bit further for Virgin Media.
Finally, what words of wisdom would you offer to other women considering a sales career?
Do It! It has so much to offer if you’re driven. Helping people to buy what they need and enhancing their lifestyle is a great feeling. There’s a real sense of self-directed achievement when customers are happy and your commission is in the bank. It’s challenging out there, but the job is also rewarding and can be a lot of fun too.
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.