I’ve been with Vodafone for 11 years now. I studied chemistry and management at Imperial in London, although I wasn’t that great at the chemistry part!
The year I left university, 2003, was quite a tough year for graduates, but I found a job with an independent telecoms service provider in Battersea. It was an admin role supporting the account managers above me, and I quickly realised I’d rather be doing their job.
I was able to engineer a move over to telephone account management and sales and took to it like a duck to water, and I even won a free trip to Kenya as a reward for being the top seller in my team! But I wanted experience in a larger organisation and as I was already reselling Vodafone products it seemed a natural progression.
I started out as an account manager, looking after over 60 private customers in the London area. I was part of a really strong team and it was a great place to begin my career with the company. Then the recession hit, which led to a big internal restructure. I was retrained and moved over to a solution selling position. It turned out to be a great move for me – I was able to play more of an advisory role and I really enjoyed being able to have in-depth conversations with customers.
I’ve since had several promotions, all of them on merit. I had the chance to work in more strategic sales roles and I switched over to the retail channel, where I was trusted with managing corporate accounts including major high street brands.
It was at this point that I spotted an opportunity to move into management. The position saw me managing a mid-market sales team, looking after financial and professional services clients in London.
Around this time I left to go on maternity leave, which is when I had my little boy. Since coming back, I’ve been asked to head-up one of the public sector customer teams, which was the chance to do something slightly different once again.
“I’m now overseeing a team of eight. I’m responsible for developing relationships with our retained customers and making sure we hit our targets. It’s a lot of responsibility and quite demanding, but I love it!”
As a manager, I’m heavily involved coaching and developing my own salespeople. It’s quite different to when I first started. A lot of the employee training nowadays takes place online, which allows people the freedom to shape part of their own learning and development. Everyone in my team completes two really good courses to introduce them to the Vodafone way of selling. This gives them the tools they need to sell across the entire product portfolio. It means they understand what other teams are up to, and they can move easily between roles if they need to.
Mentoring is another important part of people’s development. I’ve had an amazing mentor throughout my time here. She was one of the top salespeople in London when I joined. We’ve kept in touch and she’s continued to take a keen interest in my career, despite stepping into management herself.
My role is pretty full-on, so it’s not always been easy being a mum as well. Thankfully, Vodafone has been super supportive throughout my maternity leave. I took 10 months on good pay, and I was also paid commission during that time, which is not something many sales organisations offer. They also allowed me to accrue and carry over holiday, which meant I got to spend a lot of time with my little boy during his first year and I was able to ease my way back into things working 4 days a week
Having a flexible work routine makes a huge difference. Our salespeople are all location independent, and as long as I have a laptop and an internet connection I’m able to do my job from pretty much anywhere. I live near to the office in Southwark, so I can easily nip home for any small emergencies.
This is a competitive place to work, make no mistake. We’re made to feel part of the wider Vodafone community, but that doesn’t stop us doing our best to beat the other teams around us!
We are part of a successful brand, so it’s up to us to make sure we are at the top of our game and that we stay one step ahead of our competitors in the telecoms space.
We have cut headcount from time-to-time, and that’s always challenging as a salesperson. It means there are lots of opportunities for career progression, but it can be difficult saying goodbye to people you’ve built strong relationships with. It definitely helps having a positive mindset in this job.
Then there are the day-to-day pressures of the role. Each team has their own objectives and priorities. You have to be prepared to fight for your customers and make things happen across the organisation to ensure their needs are being met.
It requires tenacity and good negotiation skills. But it makes things exciting – if the job was easy we wouldn’t need account managers or salespeople, would we?
Things rarely stay the same for long at Vodafone. I’ve witnessed a whole host of changes over the past few years, but in a good way. The great thing is that the company has always invested in me, and it’s meant that I’ve been able to grow with it.