The Power Of Ignoring Advice - 13th July 2017

Diana Morales was interviewed by Paul Owen, our MD, for his forthcoming book: SECRET SKILL. HIDDEN CAREER. The myths you’re told and the scandal you’re not. 20 successful business leaders who started their careers in sales were interviewed for the book.

The Power Of Ignoring Advice

Diana Morales was told she’d lose a leg when she was 13. She didn’t. She was told she shouldn’t become an engineer; girls in Colombia ‘didn’t do that’. She qualified as an engineer. When she decided to leave her home town and her country to build a career in Europe, she was told not to do that. Nobody left. She did.

“I have always gone against expectations. Growing up in Colombia taught me to be tough – which is good – but it was also a society that put limits on people, particularly women. I didn’t accept those limits and it’s served me well.”

Diana is now Senior Account Executive at SAP, a global software company, having previously worked at other tech giants such as Xerox and Dell EMC. She’s been in the UK for more than 15 years and has built a happy life along with a successful career. In 2014, her work was recognised as she won Best Woman in IT Sales at the Women in Sales Awards. How did the young girl that shouldn’t become the lady that did?

“When I first came to Europe, it was to take my MBA in Wales. From there, I became a consultant so my early training was not sales but consultancy. I learnt to understand the problems of my clients, to build relationships with them. To do that well, you have to ask lots of questions and to listen carefully to the answers. Once I had the full picture, I would design a solution.”

So why the switch into sales?

“When I look back, it wasn’t really a switch. I was selling when consulting. Find needs. Understand problems. Uncover goals. Then find solutions. That’s consulting and it’s also sales! As a consultant, I would attend meetings with the sales team and they were the ones doing all the client interaction. From presenting to negotiating, I helped but they led the interactions and I enjoyed seeing them make the deals happen. I thought I’d like to do that! I spoke to my boss and he agreed to give me the chance. It was the best decision I ever made.”

It wasn’t always easy. Sales never is. That’s why you’re paid so well if you’re successful.

“I found it hard when I first switched. I thought I knew the answer to their problems and wanted to tell them straightaway. I had to be reminded to take my time. To listen first. I also had to use all my resilence. At least 80% of people say no to you and that doesn’t really happen when you’re consulting. Thankfully the toughness I’d learnt growing up in Columbia came back into play.”

Diana also faced a new challenge.

“I was a woman in her 20s dealing with men in their 40s and 50s. In addition, I was foreign! I’d make mistakes in my spoken English but, even more critically, I didn’t always follow the British etiquette as it was new to me. My natural style is to be direct and that wasn’t always appreciated. I had to learn about British culture quickly. In lots of different ways, I had to overcome the assumptions of my clients and prove myself. It was hard but I had the self-confidence to know I would work it out.

“Asking the right questions helped. It gave me the information I needed and took the pressure off. Next I had to overcome my fear around closing deals. It was a new concept to me because of my consultancy background but I realised that ‘closing’ was a misleading aim. I had to focus on understanding the client. Once I understood, it was much easier.”

Like all successful salespeople, Diana has given herself and her family a quality of life that she may not have imagined possible when she first moved to Europe from Colombia. But it’s not just about the money and the lifestyle for her.

“The most important thing for me was to prove myself, to show that I can achieve whatever I want. I was the first woman in my family to leave home, a daunting prospect at that time. Sales gives you the platform to create the life that you want. I had a picture of the successful life I would have. That picture was more powerful than the rejection.”

It’s a mentality that has served her brilliantly in sales and she’s enjoyed success, recognition and satisfaction. All her life, Diana has defied advice to try new things and to overcome adversity. From nearly losing a leg at 13 and suffering futher serious health problems at 18 to graduating as an engineer and then leaving Colombia to complete her MBA in Wales, she’s a survivor and a leader.

“Every leader is selling. Every CEO is a salesperson. We should all be proud to sell. If you do sales well, you can do any job you like. You have the ability to persuade people to do things and that’s valuable in any world and any job.”

The book “SECRET SKILL. HIDDEN CAREER. The myths you’re told and the scandal you’re not” will be available in September 2017 in both paperback and e-book formats.