Career Progression Employee Development

Paving the way for women in sales

Kate Cooper-Griffiths didn’t have a big plan for her future. Like many 20-somethings, she was distracted by her love of cars, wine and her new mobile phone after graduating. Little did she know that loving cars would turn into a rewarding career.

“We need to encourage and empower women to gain the confidence and skills to go for a promotion. I don’t want to be the only woman in the room”

Just before the turn of the millennium, Kate started as a Management Trainee in a London branch of what was then a fast-growing car rental company, established in the UK for only six years.

“From day one I knew Enterprise was the right fit for me. It was more than just cars. I was learning how to run a business and sell to customers. I was excited to see where this journey could take me,” says the newly appointed Head of Sales for the North West England & North Wales.

Kate’s career path hasn’t been a straight line. After moving from branch operations and spending several years in implementation, she craved a new challenge and set her heart on sales.

A role came up for a Business Rental Sales Executive. It ticked every box, except for one: it was a grade lower than her current position. She faced a tough decision whether to take the plunge and go in a new direction, knowing that it would be a demotion.

In a bold move, she went for the job. “I saw it as a longer-term play, a step down now could lead to many doors opening down the line,” she recalls.

“After all, when you work in a job you love, you give it your all to succeed.”

Once she had made the switch, Kate learned quickly and soon excelled in her new job. She embraced the sales environment and quickly climbed the ranks to lead teams while consistently growing sales.

“Every role along the way has taught me something,” she says. “They’ve shaped me into the leader I am today.”

She says that everyone can achieve their career goals without each move being a promotion. Placing greater importance on her passion than her rank paid off.

At first, Kate realised she didn’t fit the stereotype of a salesperson. She was nervous in sales calls, didn’t shout the loudest in every room or relish the opportunity to deliver a presentation.

As it happened, being earnest was helping Kate to secure huge wins and strategic partnerships.

“Before a big presentation, I explain to my audience that I want this presentation to be a conversation – and that I’m not your typical salesperson. It shows them that I value their business and it starts a relationship built on trust.”

Kate harnessed the power of her differences and channelled them into her greatest strengths.

With experience, she has grown in confidence and discovered what helps her to perform at her best. A technique she often uses to feel prepared before tricky situations is roleplay scenarios, something she picked up on the MT program.

Kate says: “Venturing outside of your comfort zone is where great things happen, and you become a better person in the process.”

Often being the only woman in meetings, Kate is now turning her attention to supporting other women to achieve their ambitions.

“Every role along the way has taught me something. They’ve shaped me into the leader I am today.”

She launched the Women in Sales mentor program across the UK and Ireland to improve female representation in leadership positions.

“We need to encourage and empower women to gain the confidence and skills to go for a promotion. I don’t want to be the only woman in the room.”

The programme pairs women in sales with a more senior mentor to provide guidance on achieving their goals. It also hosts networking and quarterly events that cover subjects like interview training, CV writing, and information about the sales department and its career opportunities.

“I think that a lot of women have self-doubt when it comes to taking the next step in their careers, and I’m no different,” Kate admits. “I almost didn’t apply for this role, but I owed it to the women in my mentor program to set an example and go for it!”

Today, Kate is achieving her ambitions and supporting other women to achieve theirs. She is relishing her new challenges of leading the corporate, dealership and bodyshop businesses in the region and being a role model to women who are pursuing sales careers at Enterprise.

She is inspiring other women to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities and find their own paths to success. Her story is a reminder that hard work, self-confidence and taking risks can lead to a remarkable career journey that can pave the way for others.

by Poppy Faithfull

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