By Alice Katwan, Vice Presidents of Sales, Western Division, Genesys
From Kitchen Faucets to Silicon Valley:
5 Reasons I Love Being in Sales
I grew up in San Francisco’s Sunset district. In high school, I sold drapes and blinds at Montgomery Wards. Even though I worked only part time, I was the top salesperson. During my years at San Francisco State University, I worked at C/S Bath, a bathroom and kitchen design company, selling to interior designers, contractors and people remodeling homes. Again, even though I was only part time, I was the top salesperson every month. Fast forward 20 years: I’m still selling and loving it.
Believe it or not, selling cutting-edge technology is not that different from selling window treatments and kitchen faucets. Here are five key lessons I learned about sales back in school that are as true today as they were then.
They’re also why a sales career is perfect for anyone, whether working parent or triathlon in training, who wants to have a career where you have the power to succeed while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
1. Your input directly correlates with your output. This realization sent me on my career path. I was the only part-time employee and worked 15 hours a week; yet I was the top performer. It doesn’t matter whether you work 50 hours a week or 30. What matters is how smart and hard you work.
2. The numbers say it all. You’re not judged subjectively. I have always liked being able to measure my own performance and know where I stand at all times. Because I exceeded my monthly sales targets, I could focus on school, instead of wondering whether I was doing a good job and worrying about job security.
3. You’re as good as your network and reputation. People buy from people they know and trust. If you take the time to build relationships and provide exceptional customer service, it doesn’t matter what you’re selling. At the end of the day, your customers know that you’ll be there for them and do whatever it takes to solve any problems that come up.
4. Loyal customers will seek you out. Designers and contractors would schedule appointments during my work hours or wait in the showroom to see me—even though other full-time salespeople were available. My customers knew that I would take the time to understand what they were looking for, provide them with good options and place their order promptly and accurately.
5. Follow-up matters. A successful client relationship doesn’t end when you collect your commission. I’d follow up to make sure orders arrived in time to meet customers’ remodel milestones and address any post-sale issues.
If you’re considering going into sales, consider these benefits as you weigh your options. There is a direct correlation between results and working hard and smart. This means you can succeed at work and have time to enjoy your life outside of work. I love what I do, and I love my family. Because I’m in sales, I can enjoy both.
Alice Katwan leads the Genesys North American West Commercial and Operational activities, which accounts for half of the company’s North American revenue. Her team of 25—made up of an equal number of women and men, unheard of in high-tech sales—has achieved record revenue growth. Alice has worked in enterprise sales for nearly 20 years. Alice sits on the Board of Directors of The CLUB Silicon Valley and was selected for the CLUB Incubator leadership program in 2015.