Kate Bushell recently joined WORK180 as our Head of Sales. She’s passionate, energetic, believes “the world is your oyster” and is excited about using her 15 years’ sales experience to drive transformation supporting WORK180’s Endorsed Employers.
Curiosity Caught the Saleswoman
Kate is an extroverted people-person who is “naturally really curious.”
Her sales career began with an industry placement in recruitment during her Business Degree. “Recruitment is classified as a sales role, but really you’re getting to listen to peoples’ stories, career histories and trying to place them in appropriate positions.”
This match between career opportunities and Kate’s natural interest in people saw her spend ten years in recruitment after university, moving through industries, into leadership and travelling the world. “In a global company the opportunities are endless.”
In subsequent sales positions in Superannuation and now WORK180, Kate brings her curiosity and says the stereotypical pushy salesperson is a thing of the past. Good salespeople are passionate about understanding their customer and creating solutions that help them reach their organisational goals. The role of a sales person is changing because customers expect more; you need to be an expert in your field, develop trust, and be able to challenge your customers to understand their needs.
I want more women to be open to considering sales. I don't want it to be seen as dirty or sleazy, it's such an awesome industry to be part of! It's really rewarding, you get to be your own boss and work flexibly at times that suit you, so it actually really works for working mums too!
The Drive to Succeed
People who are successful in sales are often competitive high-achievers, driven to beat targets. You need the natural curiosity Kate has, because sales is about understanding your customers, having an interest in their business and what they’re trying to achieve then offering innovative solutions and ideas to help them, adding value at all interactions.
“Without curiosity people won’t trust you, and people buy from people they like.”
Kate warns you need to have a bit of a thick skin because it’s inevitable that you will get knock backs, but, “it’s never personal if someone chooses not to do business with you. It’s about the situation not who you are and resilience to that is important.”
A growth mindset is crucial to keep up with the pace of change, “lean into that with an open mind, as opposed to being fixed. It will allow you to thrive on challenge and see setbacks as learning opportunities which is important in this career.”
“We’re driven to perform! That is why we’re in sales, because we like achieving numbers.”
That pressure and drive can lead to the biggest challenge Kate sees for salespeople – burnout.
“If you’re a naturally high achiever, you can be your own worst enemy.”
Kate suggests, “find one thing per week that you do for yourself, like an hour for a coffee on your own, reading a book or going for a massage” to switch off and look after yourself.
Listen to yourself and your body, recognising when you’re nearing your limit. Kate finds she gets more impatient and makes silly mistakes. If you’re nearing burnout, “be vulnerable and talk to your leader. It’s ok to say, ‘I’m feeling the pressure right now and I need to back off.”
There can be a tension in sales between meeting stretch targets and not hitting burn-out, so Kate suggests, “You have to do what works for you. Work at home, have someone who will keep you in check and know when you’re hitting that wall – a husband, friend, family member.”
Personally, Kate has taken more mental health days since having children because she is more exhausted trying to juggle the work and family load. It’s more accepted now that mental health is as important as physical health, and she’s honest with her team and leaders. “It’s the working mother juggle, and it’s not specific to sales!”
That Working Mother Juggle
After her first child was born Kate decided to move away from recruitment and spent four years leading a relationship management team at QSuper. “It played to my people-strengths and was still leadership but was a bit less intense. It was great to test myself in a new industry having done recruitment for my entire career.”
In recruitment flexibility wasn’t supported, but companies now accept working flexibly doesn’t discount someone from having a good career. QSuper recently became a WORK180 Endorsed Employer due to their progressive flexible work options. Kate worked from home on Fridays, left early for school pick up on Mondays and retained full pay, based on the understanding she would complete the work at times that suited her. “I was very efficient with my time, worked during my commute and always got everything done.”
As a working parent your boundaries around work hours might start blur to enable you to have more time with the children. You might find you hold firm about doing school pick up but hop online after the kids are in bed to enable that.
“If an employer’s flexible with me then I’ll give more because I genuinely value flexibility. You feel more committed to delivering for them.”
When Work and Passion Align
Kate is passionate about gender equality and did work at QSuper to address the superannuation gap, helping women increase their financial literacy and independence. With almost a third of their customers being women, Kate challenged QSuper by asking, “what are we doing for our female members? We need to be educating women, because education is power.”
At WORK180 she is combining her passions for equality, sales and curiosity. “I like what WORK180 are doing in really changing the dial for employers making them places women can thrive. An organisation changes a policy every three weeks due to WORK180’s support – that’s seriously changing the world!”
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About the author
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