The internet is a wonderful thing. When we first decided to start our Women in Sales series we always knew the randomness of the internet would eventually catch up to us. We hoped we would find or others would find us with a desire to participate. This is how we met our newest participate, Bernadette McClelland. We met Bernadette after our very first post about Women in Sales – The XX Factor went live in March. She gave us a thumbs up and from there we connected and she agreed to participate.
If you do not know Bernadette, she is definitely a sales leader. Her agency is based out of Australia and focuses heavily on bridging the gap between sales and leadership with a focus on understanding the buyer. She is a highly sought after international keynote speaker who has worked with world renowned organizations like Shell, Vodafone, Toyota, and Panasonic.
Bernadette, thanks for sharing your time and story with us and welcome to The XX Factor!
Q: How many years have you been in sales?
A: Professionally 25+ but since I was born, I guess. Apart from skillfully removing the yolk of an egg, pasting cotton wool on the top of the egg shell, painting on a face and selling egg heads way before pet rocks became famous, I think my first words were ‘what is it?’ and I have continued to be curious, ask questions and help people unravel their challenges so they can create a more productive, profitable and purposeful environment ever since.
Q: Can you please describe the “aha” moment when you decided you wanted to be in sales?
A: I was an order entry clerk at Xerox back in the early 80’s where I processed the sales guys deals, and then was transferred to the sales floor where I was sales secretary typing their proposals, and then moved into the role of sales coordinator where I processed their commissions! Need I say more?!!
The adage ‘if they can earn this, then so can I’ surged to the front of my mind and after fighting the hard fight, management succumbed and I moved into the role of sales trainee and the rest, as they say, is history. (The hard fight by the way was applying for the role, not once but three times, only to be told ‘I didn’t have what it took as I was too nice’. It wouldn’t fly with me today just as it didn’t fly with me back then so there is a lot to say for tenacity and resilience and after many successes (and hiccups along the way) conversations with those same people today is full of such mutual respect.
Q: What can you tell us about the single biggest sale you ever closed ($, sales cycle, company/ industry, etc.)
A: It was a cold call, ie knocking on the door. It also took three changes in decision maker with my proposal always ‘just about there….’ before someone new came onto the decision making scene and my proposal had to be put up yet again.
Each time this happened a new competitor came along. However, with an initial sign off of over 45 copiers at the time and potential for even more, landing a brand new account for Xerox was also strategically powerful for them on a national scale. The client, Amecon, had just won one of the Defense Forces largest tenders historically for the building of frigates for Australia and New Zealand.
Personally, it was an extremely huge win for me in the era of 18% interest rates, plus to make it more complex – the last competitor left standing was my ex-husband!
Q: Which women in sales do you admire most?
A: I am so fortunate to have been invited 4 years ago by Jill Konrath into an elite group of women sales experts from across USA and Canada. WomenSalesPros, founded by Jill and now led by Lori Richardson of Score More Sales, supported heavily by women such as Trish Bertuzzi, Nancy Bleeke, Joanne Black and so many others, means that not only do I hang out with these 30 women in sales annually, but throughout the year we are there for each other – whether it be a quick skype call, an email, collaborating on webinars or being part of mastermind groups where we can ‘open kimono’ our issues and challenges – it’s priceless.
As someone who has chosen the path to educate and inspire sales people on sales leadership strategies and skills, it is not often we come across women who ‘get us’ and actually want to share in such a competitive space as well as share ideas that help us all.
Q: If you could go back and give your early career minded self advice about a career in sales, what would that be?
A: There are a few things I would tell myself…
- Find somebody to mentor you – somebody who gets the space you are in and relates to the issues you face both professionally and, by default, personally.
- Don’t put ANYBODY on pedestals. Our buyers are just as uncertain as us and many hide behind activities that are just downright rude or they are just not gutsy enough to be honest and say ‘No Cigar!’
- Continue to learn about human behavior, IN ADDITION to what is going on in the sales world around you.
- Realize you are not always the reason sales don’t eventuate.
- Trust yourself more.
Q: What advantages do you think women have in sales over men?
A: I think that women have great empathy, caring and long term relationship attributes men can learn from. I also believe that if some men gave women just half the chance to get in and roll their sleeves up, they would find the results would be there, plus more.
Women want results just as much as men… we may not ‘sell’ that up front in the way that men articulate, but women have a fantastic work ethic, have a do the right thing approach, great project management skills, and we also have a natural propensity to deliver the results that matter the most, wouldn’t you agree?
Q: What advice would you give to men about working with women in sales?
A: The same advice I give to women about working with men. We are wired differently but the same. I would say do some work around human psychology. It’s real, it’s not woo woo and it gets results and that’s what drives men at the end of the day, isn’t it?
Bernadette, thank you so much for sharing your stories with us; thoughtful and thought provoking as well as inspiring, and fun.
Whether you are in inside sales, field sales, or sales management be sure to check out Bernadette’s website for additional information: www.bernadettemcclelland.com. Also here is a link to one of her whitepapers “The 3 Trends That Matter The Most To Sales Organisations.” You can always follow her on Twitter: @b_mcclelland and you can follow us on Twitter: @rharris415 and @saasselling.