Article

The career path to national sales manager


WORK180Mar 5, 2020

There’s no typical day in sales, and that’s what Rebecca Yeates loves about it. She shares her career journey to National Business Manager – Key Independent Retail at Carlton United Breweries, and why women make fantastic salespeople.

Rebecca also loves the highs and lows, and the dynamism you find in a sales team. “They’re always made up of quite dynamic and driven people,” she says. “And it’s a really supportive network – when we're all winning it's such a high.”

With a team of 10 account managers, Rebecca spends much of her day coaching her team members, and helping them navigate customer opportunities and issues. Then there’s the daily sales reports, monitoring of trends and internal business alignment on things like pricing, and positioning.

“No two days are the same in sales, that’s for sure!”

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Sales wasn’t always the plan

From the get-go, Rebecca knew she wanted to work for big brands.

However, she originally thought that would be in marketing, having completed a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing and Human Resources) at Griffith University in Queensland. But she got her foot in the corporate door by landing a job as a sales rep for Unilever.

“I was working on the road in Queensland and loved it, getting that exposure to big brands and learning from the ground up how to sell into stores.”

Rebecca then moved to Sydney into a category management role with Unilever, before making the jump into marketing, as an Assistant Brand Manager.

“Having done a marketing major at uni, I really thought my passion was going to be for marketing. But when I got into that role, I missed sales,” she reveals.

“I'm a people person, and I like the people aspect of sales and building relationships.”

Taking jobs outside of sales

From there, Rebecca went in and out of sales and category management roles, also switching companies to Mondelez. She believes that experience has been hugely beneficial to her career, giving her the capability to now excel in senior sales roles.

“In category management, you’re the conduit between sales and marketing,” she explains.

“So when you get to be a National Sales Manager, you have a more rounded understanding of the business and product journey, and why you can’t rush something to market or do X, Y and Z with the customer.”

The qualities of a successful salesperson

The ability to think on your feet, make easy connections with people and be accepting of others, are all important traits if you’re to succeed in sales, says Rebecca.

Being passionate about the product and category is also extremely beneficial. Rebecca says she often finds herself checking out a brewery, gin distillery or winery on the weekend to better understand what’s happening in the liquor market.

Drive and good communication skills are also essential, as is resilience.

“You’ll have days or months where you haven't hit your target, or you've had tough conversations with customers, and you need to be able to bounce back from that and keep going.”

Rejection is a natural part of the sales process, and something that becomes easier over time, says Rebecca.

“In my early days in sales, I did take things personally. But after 20 years, I’ve grown accustomed to it. The customer has a job to do, and rejection is not about you personally. Now if something hasn’t gone to plan, I’ll sit back, analyse the situation and then focus on what’s next.”

Succeeding as a woman in sales

As much as liquor is a male-dominated sector, Rebecca doesn’t feel like she’s treated differently or excluded, even though golf and fishing trips are quite prominent.

“I actually think as a female you can add a whole new dynamic to conversations. We’re typically good listeners and can therefore add more depth to the discussion.”

Rebecca’s advice for other women wanting to pursue a career in sales is to have the confidence to just do it.

“Females can be amazing salespeople! We generally have high empathy, strong communication skills and are great at multitasking – this all gives you an edge in sales.”

Life at Carlton United Brewery

Rebecca started at Carlton United Brewery (CUB) in 2017 in a category management and trade marketing role.

“One of the things I love about CUB is that they don’t pigeonhole you into the one role, they let you try different things, and that allowed me to move into my current National Business Manager role.”

A role that’s been a learning curve for Rebecca. “I really didn't think I had much more to learn in sales, but this has been a really dynamic role.”

She also enjoys being in a company that’s investing in growth, with a number of acquisitions taking place in the three years she’s been at CUB. “They've really been on trend in buying craft breweries.”

There’s also a commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive environment at CUB. “We have the Amber League, which is a community for CUB women in leadership roles, providing professional development and networking opportunities.”

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Balancing work and life

With a six-year-old daughter, balance is extremely important to Rebecca.

“I had Stella when I was at Mondelez, and set the routine then of starting early and finishing early. I’ll only take a phone call if it’s urgent, but then if needed I’ll log on again after she’s gone to bed,” she says.

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“Starting at CUB, I was worried about setting the same ground rules because no-one knew me. But everyone has been really accepting of the routine. I’ve locked my diary from 4:30pm onwards and people abide by that.”

The key is to have your week planned out and schedule time for yourself, she says. “If you're not in control of your schedule, it can definitely get out of hand. I travel quite a bit for work, so time with my daughter is a priority.”

Hear Rebecca Yeates share more of her sales career secrets at the WORK180-hosted women in sales panel discussion on 17 March 2020. Find out more.


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WORK180

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