It was the first job that I got right out of college. I didn’t really choose it, it chose me. I put my resume out there and someone found me. That was my first restoration job, at 22 years old. I’ll be honest I had no idea what restoration was, I didn’t even know what a contractor was. Fresh out of college, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was given a credit card, a company car, and told “go make friends.” And at 22 you’re like “that sounds like the job for me!”
Being an outgoing person helped me when I first got into the industry. My first employer wanted someone that wasn’t afraid to be able to go out and be able to talk to people, make friends, and be aggressive. I wasn’t afraid to get out there and knock on doors, do cold calling, and get in front of people.
Looking back, I have learned a lot along the way. An important part of that was doing my own research, making sure I took sales training courses to understand what my business partners expect from me. The courses helped me to learn people’s thought process and why they would choose to do business with me over someone else. I learned from my mistakes too. If I made one, I would say “okay, why didn’t I get that deal, why didn’t I make that sale?” and try to improve.
When I first started, I decided if I’m going to be good at this, I need to dig in and figure out how I’m going to be good. The only way you are going to get good is to teach yourself, learn from others, and surround yourself with people who know more than you know.
For a woman in our industry, it was very difficult in the beginning. Especially as a 22-year-old. There was a stigma of “oh, this cute little 22-year-old is walking into my office, she doesn’t know a thing but I’m going to take the meeting anyway because she’s cute.” Then when you walk in and you know your stuff and can talk the talk, you can see the shift happen. They understand “she’s smart, she’s educated, she knows what she’s talking about and I’m going to listen to and respect her.”
You always have to break that glass ceiling. I think businesses are getting past that a little bit now but it’s still there to an extent. Being a woman in this industry has probably lit even more of a fire underneath me to be successful because I don’t want to be a stereotype. I want to be a force to be reckoned with. I think that’s happened over the years.
Sales in general is stressful, it’s not easy. For me, it doesn’t come naturally, I really had to work hard at it. People buy from people that they like, that’s obvious, but that will only get you so far. You have to know the technicalities of our industry. When you are dealing with a CEO or high-level executive, they need to know that they can be confident in you and that you’re taking care of them. To be confident is to be knowledgeable.
The people I work with, when they tell you they have 5-10 minutes for a meeting, they really mean that they have 5-10 minutes. You have to go in with an agenda and know the answers to what they will ask or be able to find them. Their time is valuable, you need to respect it and get straight to the point.
Obviously, the people you surround yourself with, the people that you work with are important. That’s a great part of my career. Also learning things along the way; I’m a driven person, if I’m not being challenged, I’m bored. And this is a challenging job, everything is new all the time. And I love the flexibility of being able to make my own schedule, have meetings, be able to make adjustments and be out and about.
Being knowledgeable when you go into a meeting, I think that changes the stereotype immediately. You’re not just taking someone out to happy hour, you’re educated and of value to their business. Some of our clients might not even know why they need our services. I’m educating my partners before they even become partners. That takes people aback sometimes. They get that understanding of why they need a restoration company on contract or on retainer. Me being able to educate them is a sign that I know what I’m talking about and I understand my clients’ needs.
I use the word partner a lot instead of client. The reason why is that they are true partners. We work with each other in catastrophic events and disasters. Every event is different. When you have that partnership, you can work through it, it’s not the client just telling me what they want or me telling the client what I want it’s the two of use communicating with each other. You’re not afraid to ask questions back and forth to each other. You’re combining your efforts to be the most successful you can on every single project that you do.
As a mother, you always want to do the best you can in your career. Now I have this whole new arm of my life and I want to be the best for them as well. It may even drive me more to be successful. Not that I wasn’t driven before but I was driven for myself. Now I’m driven to be successful for my daughter because I want her to see what a strong, successful woman is. I want her to see that growing up. You can be a successful mother and you can be a successful businesswoman. I want her to know she’s capable, smart, and strong. As a woman, you have to be all of those things. The way to do that is to continue to invest in yourself, learn on your own, and surround yourself by people who are smarter than you.
I’ve been very blessed. I’ve been able to learn from every mentor and boss I’ve had. My best bosses are those that built my confidence. They told me “you can do this I hired you for a reason, if you make a mistake you learn from it.” I have a really great mentor right now, she’s very high up at a Fortune 500 company. She’s strong, she listens to her employees, and she listens to me as a mentee. I’ve learned from my best bosses, that trust them, and I learn from them and the reason I learn from them is that they push me because they knew I could do it.
As a woman, confidence is huge, especially in sales in a male dominated industry. Having strong role models builds that confidence because they will tell you when you’re wrong but in an encouraging way. There’s been several along the way who have shaped me into who I am by building my confidence and believing in me.
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