I got made redundant yesterday; here’s why I’m not angry.

So yeah, yesterday I went through something I’m sure a lot of people have been through; I got made redundant. I hate that phrasing, it makes it sound like I’m completely useless and irrelevant which I suppose to the company I worked for I kind of am now. I was going to write this post yesterday but I thought it would be best to give it a day for me to get my feelings on the matter in order before writing them down.

Now to start with I feel it’s important to mention that when they sat me down, my two (ex) bosses were very clear that the problem was within the company and not with me. The company are making some big internal changes and they let all of the new sales hires go. In fact I was made to feel very good about myself and they both said they would give me a glowing reference should I need one and they would help me get a new job if it was in their power. They also asked me to keep in touch and that they were sad to see me go, which I suppose sounds like the sort of thing you have to say when firing someone but as most of you reading this won’t know the people I’m talking about I will say that I felt it was genuine, at least genuine enough. During my short time there, I was given a lot of support for things that weren’t necessarily related to my job, they didn’t have to give me that and I’m very grateful.

When it got to the part of the conversation where it was my turn to talk, I thanked them both. As many problems as there were, it was a great first job to have and a great experience for me in the world of work. I learned a hell of a lot in that job. The other grads that came to work there at the same time as me all had degrees in business or related subjects whereas mine was in psychology, when I first started I felt that might be hindrance but actually it meant I picked up everything with fresh eyes and I kept up with the others well. At the start I had very little idea of how businesses were run and due to the nature of the job I now have a lot more insight into the way sales processes and marketing processes work in lots of different kinds of businesses. I also learned lots of little things, how to use a mac (I had literally never used one before I worked there). I got over my millenial fear of talking on the phone, even to people high up in companies.

Part of the reason I’m not angry is because I already had the inkling that sales wasn’t a job I wanted to be in long-term. Sales can be really fun and as I said, it was a great first job but I don’t think it’s for me in the long run. I am actually very excited to try something new and hopefully this experience will have set me up well for my next challenge. Obviously there’s a little more pressure on me now to find something quicker but maybe this will be the motivation I need.

I mentioned just now that there were problems in the job and to be perfectly honest I could write lots of articles detailing them but I don’t want to. I don’t feel it’s right to highlight the problems that I had, especially when it’s only been a day and I am still in shock and I am still feeling anxious as I don’t know my next steps. I feel it would be in bad taste to go through the problems, especially as some of them are personal and not necessarily professional. It’s not my place to say these things and, well, they’re not my problem anymore.

Having had this sprung on me I do feel a little shell shocked, I do feel a little betrayed, I do feel a little hurt. But I also feel excited, motivated and ready for whatever comes next. And I definitely don’t feel angry.

Tips for people thinking of working in sales

 

Sales is a really hard job and it’s not for everyone, even if you enjoy it you might not be any good at and visa versa, if you’re good at it you might not enjoy it. Here are a few things to think about before getting into sales.

  1. Fully understand your job role 

Before taking a job anywhere in anything really, not just sales, you should be fully informed and understand exactly what your role is. This means understanding your responsibilites, your targets and what is expected of you. You should have a good grasp on what your day-to-day life will be like. Speak to someone already in the role or in a similar one, ask them about their day-to-day and see what they have to say about the job. If this is your first job you won’t be used to spending eight hours a day doing one thing, make sure it’s something you want to do.

  1. Rejection will be a daily part of your life

You can’t please everybody. Even if your product is perfect for a prospect, it doesn’t mean they think so. Of course your job is to try and convince them otherwise but sometimes people just do not want to listen and they do not want your help. It’s okay, move on. There are other prospects who do want to listen and those are the ones you should be spending your time on.

  1. Talking to prospects can be really fun

No matter what kind of sales you might be thinkinig of doing I can guarantee you there will be a number of prospects that you just click with and you can have fun with. Take the piss a little bit, have a laugh with them, it may not seem like part of your job but building a good raport with a prospect is always a good thing and if you can do that just be naturally being you then that’s awesome.

  1. But not always

As many prospects as you have that you can joke around with, there will be others that you will not click with, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend your time on them and give them your full attention. There is a reason they want to speak to you and the fact they want to buy from you or that you have piqued thier interest alone means that they were worth your time.

  1. Every prospect is a fresh start

Dealing with being rejected can be hard but it can be easier if you see it as the next prospect being a whole new start. If, like me, you work mostly on the phone then one bad call can affect the next call and have a domino effect on all your calls that day. Each call or each prospect is brand new, you have the power to go into in a positive way and even if it doesn’t end well, there’s always more people to talk to and to sell to. You never know what the next call will be like.

  1. It’s okay not to know things

I work for a tech company but I’m not especially good with computers. When I first started at my job my mouse stopped working, it’s one of those fancy wireless apple ones that I had never used before (in fact I’d never used a mac before), I went and asked the tech guys what was wrong with my mouse and the answer was ‘well you need to charge it’. Prospects ask me questions I don’t know the answers to all the time and that’s okay, you just have to keep your cool and assure them that you will get back to them with an answer. Often they don’t really care about the answer anyway and are just testing you, really technical questions are often not a deciding factor on whether a prospect wants to buy or not, just them being curious or nosey. It may feel embarrassing the first time you don’t know the answer to something but being honest and professional will make you look a lot less stupid that just lying.

 

How to be a feminist when you’re selling to a sexist.

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Something I hold very close to my heart is my belief in true equality between men and women, I could probably write whole books on my beliefs in this area (and hopefully someday will) but for now I’d like to focus on a question that I don’t actually have an answer to; how does one remain feminist AND professional whilst a dealing with a sexist prospect? I do not have an answer to this, nobody really does because the way women navigate sexism in the workplace is an incredibly personal thing and changes for each of us. Also if there’s any men reading this and thinking this post isn’t for them, don’t be a twat, keep reading.

I personally am quite lucky, in my work place banter is encouraged. I know some women reading this may have just internally cringed at the word banter but it’s okay in this context and I’ll explain why. I mentioned in a previous post that I told my boss to fuck off on my first day but I didn’t mention why. One of my female colleagues had acheived something beyond her targets that day and my boss said ‘Well done, it took balls to do what you did and you’ve proved you have them!’. Everybody congratulated her and clapped and it was lovely. A few moment’s later I was asked to comment on my first day and I did and I added ‘but (bosses name) can fuck off if he thinks doing badass things requires a set of balls’. All the women around the table laughed and my boss agreed that balls were not a requirement for badassness. This puts me in an incredibly lucky situation among my peers in the office. There is a jokey atmosphere and although I may come across as preachy or annoying, I know that I can challenge everyday sexist terms and still remain secure in my job. Not everybody has it so easy and to those people I am sorry, I would love to be able to give you a quick step by step but I can’t, I don’t have a magic social equality wand (no matter how many times I wish for one).

A big part of my job involves speaking with people high up in companies, sales and marketing directors, managing directors and sometimes CEOs, these are prospects or sometimes clients, it is a very different situation challenging them. The company I work for, although we sell software, the name sounds unusual and when asking to speak to somebody on the phone, at least once a week I get someone alluding to my work perhaps being of a sexual nature or laughing at me. At least once a day I get a man (it’s always a man) calling me ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling’ or something along those lines in a condescending manner. Now this may not seem like a big deal but, like all of the parts of our society that undermine women, they add up to one big problem. Part of me wants to mention I sound young on the phone and this may have an impact but a bigger part of me wants to say that really, it shouldn’t. It is not my fault the way I sound, my voice is a part of me and no matter if I do sound young and I actually an adult woman who deserves to be spoken to in a respectful manner. And even if I was younger, a child certainly doesn’t deserve to be spoken to in that manner either.

If I was in a bar or on the street or even on the internet and I felt safe in doing so (which is a WHOLE different matter) I would have absolutely no problem telling a sexist man to fuck off and leave me alone, I don’t want him to impact my day and I certainly don’t want to continue to interact with him. But at work, when it’s somebody you’re trying to sell to, when this is someone who may become a client then I have to behave in a different manner. Telling a prospect to fuck off just isn’t something I can do, it will damage my career and damage the reputation of the company I represent. What I normally do is to remain as professional as possible, do not laugh, do not get flustered, simply continue to talk professionally and calmly with the knowledge that you know what you’re talking about. This is what I do but the question I’m stuck with is; is this enough?

Recently I have been going through some personal changes, I’ve been reading a lot of literature and I’ve been listening to some excellent feminist podcasts and I have come to some conclusions about myself that I’m not happy with. Whilst I have always been very comfortable in labelling myself a feminist and calling people out on some, quite frankly, bullshit behaviours, I’m not sure I’ve been doing enough for myself. If you know me then you know ‘sorry’ is the most common word I say. I apologise for taking up space, for being a person and this has to stop and it’s especially important as a woman in the workplace. A place that up until not very long ago was only for men. A place that is still so male dominated and male centric that ‘maleness’ is the norm. So what I’m trying to do is to challenge myself, stop apologising for who I am, do not let people get away with sexism. My answer to the previously posed question of ‘is this enough?’ is a vehement ‘no’.

BUT although it is not enough, there is still nothing I can do about it on my own. I can stand up to prospects, I can tell them they’re being sexist or tell them they’re making me uncomfortable but that will not change anything and will likely mean I do not hit my targets and then get fired. I will not let sexist men be the reason I don’t perform well at work. So it’s a catch 22, if I straight up call them out then I don’t do well thus proving the whole ‘women aren’t good at business’ stereotype, if I don’t do anything then they get away with it and nothing changes. So no, I do not have an answer for you really, this ‘how to’ was more of a ‘I don’t know’. But this I do know; if more men examined their behaviour towards women in the workplace then this wouldn’t be a problem.

Women need to examine themselves too though, stand up straight, do not laugh, do not become flustered. You have just as much right to speak, to succeed and to be badass as the men around you. You have that right but you also have a duty to yourself and other woman to stand up for that right. I know it sucks that we still have to fight for it, that it’s still harder for us, that we have to put up with stuff men don’t and that no matter how many times we explain to them, they will never actually understand what we mean but giving up is not an option I’m afraid.

I would apologise for the preachy nature of this post but I’m not sorry.

Sales and marketing: a fairytale.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess, (she wasn’t just beautiful, she was also smart and talented which is more important but that’s not the fairytale narrative).The princess lived in the land of sales, she had grown up with strict rules, she must reach out to people in order for the kingdom to be profitable. She knew she had to work hard to keep the kingdom afloat financially and she had been taught all the old ways of doing this. Passed down through the generations she had been given advice on how to talk to people, how to get them to listen and how to help. The princess had a problem though, she was tired, it was exhausting constantly finding people to help and not all of them even wanted her help. Even when she knew what she had to offer would be beneficial, some people still refused to listen. She knew there must be people who desperately needed her help and could make the kingdom rich but it was so difficult for her to find time to find them whilst still doing what she did best.

One day the princess came across a prince, he had been sent from a neighbouring kingdom known as the land of marketing, to tell the people of her own land about their wares. The princess was stunned, this prince was telling all her people to come to his land and give his land their money. Surely the people won’t listen to this, she thought, I have been talking to them individually as people and trying to understand their needs for years, they can’t possibly want what he’s offering. But she was wrong.

The prince returned every so often, spreading word about his kingdom and slowly the people began to trust him, they knew him or at least they felt like they did. When they wanted something they knew the prince and his people would be there for them and they liked being able to choose when to come to them. The princess grew jealous.

One day the prince spoke to the exhausted princess in surprise, “why are you so jealous of me princess? Your kingdom still prospers.”

“yes my prince, it does, but it’s barely enough, our kingdom prospers but slowly and we are exhausted, we must reach out to people and talk them round, you have people lining up to buy from you”

“you misunderstand” the prince replied, “yes people come to us, they know us, but we are also barely scraping by, we only just get enough people coming to us to make enough money to live! Yes, some people may decide to come us instead of you but when they get there it’s a mess! We’re so busy spreading our message we don’t have anyone to deal with their requests, I don’t know what to do”

The princess thought for a moment, she was surprised by the prince’s confession, she had assumed that because the kingdom’s messages were all over the land that they must be wealthy. She knew what she must do. “Prince, why don’t we work together? Our kingdoms should join, you can spread the message and we can help the people and continue reaching out. I can help you understand what the people need and want and you can help me by telling them we can provide it.”

The prince was overjoyed, he has always admired the princess’s way of doing things but had no idea how to go about it for himself. The two kingdoms were joined and the new kingdom prospered greatly. People came from far and wide as they had heard what was on offer and the princess made sure they got what they needed.¬† The prince and princess worked in harmony and they lived happily ever after.

The morals of this story.

  1. Sales and marketing have the same goal, they are both there ultimately to get more business in for the company.
  2. Sales people can help marketing people by telling them what the customers really want.
  3. Marketing people can help sales people by ensuring they are sending out the right messages as to what is actually on offer and by appealing to the right people with the right things and bringing in relevant business.
  4. Princes and princesses do not have to get married to live happily ever after.

Why working for a small business could be right for you (or not).

So for my first post on my new blog I thought I would write about my experices of working for a small business. I work for a little tech company in Manchester. The company is fairly new, about eight years old, and has around 25 employees. This piece will be on the pros and cons of working for a small business and why you might want to work in a place like this or decide it’s ultimately not for you.

You matter.

To use a worn out metaphor, a business is a machine, some of them are large and complicated and some smaller and more straight forward. In a small business, whatever part you play will be important to the running of that machine. While in a large business you may be able to fade into the background, in a smaller business your job will impact others around you and you will be able to see the results of your efforts. I happen to work in sales as part of a small team of five, and our weekly targets and achievements are displayed in front of everyone, we all work towards a monthly target together meaning each of our efforts matter on an indivdual level as well as part of the team.

Not only does your work matter in a small business but also your opinions. If you have an idea or a suggestion on something that might help you are much more likely to be heard when your CEO is someone you feel comfortable speaking to. Although at the moment I am not high up in the company, this does not mean my voicec is never heard and if this is important to you, you may want to consider working in this kind of environment.

There is however a flip side to this, if you have a bad day or week, it will matter. Everyone wants their hard work to be recognised, however they may feel differently when their flaws or failures are blatent to all their coworkers and there is no hiding behind anyone else in a small company, you own up to your mistakes and you must be willing to work to right them.

Your boss might be your friend

Now of course I can’t speak for everyone here but where I work my bosses are friendly. On my first day the CEO bought me a beer and I told him to fuck off. Separely of course, I would never tell anyone to fuck off for buying me beer but the point I’m making here is that there is a very relaxed atmosphere towards most things in my job. The structure where I work is that the CEO is ‘The Boss’ but I also have a manager who I answer to. There is basically no topic off limits between me and my manager, we discuss anything and everything. When my grandmother was first diagnosed with a serious illness she was one of the first people I went to and cried on.

The relationship between me and my manager works on mutual respect, she is there for me, not only as a manager but also as a friend. She trained me and taught me how to do my job and I still go to her for advice on certain prospects but she also made my transition into the office easier, I have a lot of respect for her as a person.

Where there may be difficulties though is that given the nature of our work relationship, the fact she is my friend can have implications in a professional sense. When certain problems arise you may not feel like going over your friend’s head to their boss. Or when they have to reprimand you or tell you that you’re doing something wrong, resentment may grow between you, stronger that it would if there wasn’t the friendship element there.

It’s a difficult line to tread and one I may not have fully worked out but be warned, if you end up working in this kind of environment, caring about your boss or coworkers as more than that can be really rewarding and amazing but it is not always a good thing.

There is opportunity

As I mentioned before, in a small business you matter and your voice can be heard. As well as this there may opportunity for growth in your career but also as a person. My role is primarily a sales role but this doesn’t mean I am chained to my responsibilities. There are other parts of the company I can have an input in, for example I just wrote my first blog post for the company website, I may post a link here once it’s put up. I also have opportunities to ask the developers anything I want to know to learn about the product we sell. I have opportunities to learn about all areas of the business and put what I learn into practice in my own role.

There are also opportunities to move across roles. Very few of the people working in my office have been in the same position for their entire time with the company, a smaller business may give you the chance to explore what you’re really good at within a business or what you may really enjoy.

Now I know there are many many more pros and cons of working for a small business but I will keep my first post of this blog relatively short for now. I may revisit this topic at a later date as predictably, I have many more thoughts on the matter.