#TakeTheLead: Three Tips to Advance Your Sales Career

Building your career during a period of economic recovery requires initiative and creativity. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Taneishia Fields, an Experian sales leader, about her career and the importance of taking the lead in building her success. She highlighted three key areas of focus that were critical to her career development: understanding critical business drivers, focusing on key leadership priorities and increasing her visibility.

Taneishia Fields’ educational achievements and college internships laid the foundation for early career success. She was recruited by IBM to join their Atlanta team immediately after graduating from college to sell infrastructure services – optimizing servers, storage, and data centers.

Over the course of ten years, Taneishia was promoted, relocated to Chicago, and expanded the complexity of her skillset through selling cloud and software solutions which enabled her to sell into larger accounts. While selling into these larger accounts, Taneishia discovered her sales superpowers – she realized she excelled at solving problems and connecting with clients.

Smooth Transition to Financial Services

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

While Taneishia was happy at IBM, she was eager to expand her experience, and joined Equifax to sell decision management solutions. She was intrigued by financial services tech solutions that affected everyday life – solutions that connected data with customers’ unique financial needs through predictive analytics, machine learning, and explainable artificial intelligence (AI). She dove deep into understanding the industry, product knowledge, and client needs. Two years later, a friend who was a successful Experian sales professional shared an open sales role with Taneishia, and she submitted an application. During the interview process, Taneishia was enthralled with the Experian recruitment team. She found them to be kind, approachable, and willing to help, and she admired and connected with the company’s leadership team. Additionally, Experian’s commitment to a culture of innovation, and diversity & inclusion captivated her. Here’s what Taneishia shared about her career journey

Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to advance their sales career?

A: No one is going to tap you on the shoulder. Don’t wait – you have to take the lead and take control of your career. I remember when I wanted to be promoted to a more senior role with greater responsibility. I asked questions, became more observant and perceptive, and I networked. I talked to my peers and colleagues up and across my chain of leadership.  When there were conferences, happy hours, or other events, I made sure to attend them. I sought out information and discovered three things: 1) critical business drivers – what was essential to the business that I needed to learn about; 2) key leadership priorities and areas of focus, and 3) visibility – the more leadership sees your face, the better positioned you are to be a part of the conversation which may include promotion.

Finally, here is a tip to expand your knowledge about a business area or product: find the smartest person in the company, the SME in that field, and set up a 30-minute informational interview. Ask them what excites them about what they are working on? Where do they see their product or solution 1-5 years in the future?

Learn more about taking the lead. Join us – we are here to #TAKETHELEAD!

Sistas In Sales & Experian are thrilled to invite you to a virtual experience for Black History Month. Join Sistas In Sales, the global leader for women of color in professional sales, and Experian, the world’s leading global information services company, on February 26th  from 1:30PM – 3:00PM for a two-part experience – learning, networking, and recruiting. Register Here

Q: In your experience, what does it take to be successful at Experian?

A: A competitive spirit. Experian is a competitive company and competitiveness breeds high performers. Additionally, you have to be open-minded and committed to continually learning both through corporate training initiatives and self-directed learning. Take the initiative, identify your knowledge gaps, and formulate learning goals, resources, and strategies. Keep your commitment to helping build trust with clients and leverage your critical thinking skills to drive strategy and execute. The sky’s the limit. Be too good to be ignored.

Q: How important is a tech background or a finance background to consider a sales position atExperian?

A: I didn’t have a finance background at all. I have the technical experience, but I think that Experian looks at the value you bring. During the interview process, I would focus on your dynamic skillset, knowledge, and your superpowers.  These may not align with the role you are applying for, but this approach will get you noticed. Sell yourself and the value you bring to the company not just the role.

Another quick tip: Have a 30/60/90-day ramp-up plan that clearly details how you would approach the position and close your skills and product knowledge gap to jumpstart your performance. A ramp-up plan shows that you’re serious, thoughtful, and you’re ready and willing to hit the ground running.  It sets you apart from other candidates.

Author’s note: Check out the 30/60/90-day plan. The First 90 Days, by Michael Watkins, is a tremendous 90-day survival guide that offers strategies for quickly getting up to speed in your new role.

Q: Being a successful sales professional takes a lot of focus and dedication. What makes your heart sing when you’re not at work?

A: I love to travel! Before the pandemic, I used to take a couple international trips per year. Some of my recent destinations have included Spain, Italy, Greece, Thailand, and my personal favorite: Bali. It’s such a spiritual and peaceful destination, and I found moments of tranquility visiting the shrines, beaches, ancient villages, and century old temples throughout the country. I’m also a foodie at heart and I love discovering new foods, recipes, and spices in my travels that I can incorporate into my cooking when I return home.

Q: When you look back on your career so far, is there anything you would’ve done differently? Is there anything you wish somebody would have told you early in your career?

A: I would’ve asked more questions. I think that when you’re younger, you’re afraid of asking dumb questions. I later realized how much I could have capitalized on this time period. When you’re new in your career, this is the time to reach out to as many people in leadership as possible and say, “Hey, I want to learn. This is my goal. What does it take? What do I need to do? Who do I need to talk to?” It’s a bit harder to play the newbie card when you have been in an industry for 15 years. I would tell my younger self to find a mentor, get clear on my long-term goals, and make a concise plan with milestones.

Q: What’s your best piece of career advice?

A: Always be prepared. Prepare for everything: your next role, meetings, or conferences. When you are called on, have something of value to say – that’s how you get noticed. That’s how you move to the next level. Be bold, leverage your knowledge and your skill set. Have a positive attitude and be willing to help solve problems.  Ultimately, when you have the opportunity to speak, your preparation will help you be clear, confident, and impactful; you will shine.

Taneishia concluded our conversation with an excellent tip for taking the lead when it comes to managing your career. So many of us dim our lights. I hope this article helps you remember how amazing you are and reminds you to let your light shine.

Remember your brilliance. Do something each day that reminds you what it feels like to take the lead and make a difference. Whether it’s helping a neighbor, reworking your business plan, or listening empathically and connecting to your next client, keep moving forward.

You are brilliant, and I believe in you.

Here’s to sales mastery,
– Cherilynn

Cherilynn Castleman, Global Sales Keynote Speaker, Trainer, and Executive Coach, has been a sales executive for 20+ years. With her natural talent for teaching and a drive to sell, Cherilynn uses her skills to coach and train other executives and sales professionals. Author of What’s In the CARDS? 5 Post Pandemic Sales Strategies.

Sistas in Sales, LLC (SIS) is a community for women of color sales professionals to network, advance their careers and most importantly, find sisterhood – offering events, thriving Slack community with companies hiring now, and career coaching services. Learn more about Sistas In Sales membership here, connect with us on LinkedInInstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

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