Wisdom from Lanette Richardson’s Amazing Sales & Business Career
Hi UWS achievers! Well, you’re in for a treat. Our very own Lanette Richardson (UWS Board Member & Founder, Enterprise Account Executive at Lucid Software Inc., and… recently NAMED IN TOP 5 BEST WOMEN IN SOFTWARE & TECHNOLOGY SALES- will find out if named #1 this week at a Chicago awards ceremony) has generously reflected on her extremely successful business and sales career to help guide the rest of us in ours. Her thoughts & experiences have taught, confirmed, and reminded me of many key ideas, e.g. what appears a career setback or big risk now might appear a springboard later- the perspectives and results at all times being mostly up to the individual. My experience is mentorship and candor of the sorts Lanette shares are rare, so thank you so much, Lanette, and best of luck in Chicago this week!
Q: How would you share the story of your successful career in Sales to-date?
A: I actually started out in the Print and Design world. I worked for a couple of companies because it was an easy job to get while going to school. There was such turmoil in all the companies I worked at that I thought If I owned this business, I would do things differently. I finally decided to do exactly that and started my own business, which quickly grew. We were soon named in the top 100 Print Businesses in North America, several years in a row. The industry started to shift and change, and I decided it was time to sell the business.
At that point I knew that the best part of being in business was working with the customers and I naturally gravitated right into sales. I have worked in many different types of companies selling many different types of products- some were much more fun than others. I decided that I really wanted to get into Technology Sales. That industry was changing the world and I wanted to be part of that. I have a passion for cool technology and combine that with a passion for sales. That paves the way for the best career I could choose.
I realized selling is really like building your own business. You have a product that most people don’t know anything about and you need to educate them on why they can’t live without this product- that a little while ago they didn’t even know existed. I really enjoy working with software companies that have a great product and are young enough that they need to understand how to get it to market but established enough that most of the bugs are worked out. It’s very exciting to me to be part of something big.
I have sold to some of the biggest companies in the world, both in the US and Internationally. I have been able to close the largest deals in company history and break through barriers of highest achieved sales to set new records and helped raise the bar. Over the years I have been in a Presidents Club 7 times enjoying some pretty lavish trips and the companies always invite my Husband. I like to think about that as our annual get away. I have been named the Best Sales Woman Inside Sales for North America 2015, and I am currently named one of the top 5 Best Software and Technology Sales Women in North America. Category Winners and an overall winner will be announced at a Black-Tie event in Chicago on June 20th.
I also like to “Pay it forward.” That’s where Utah Women in Sales came into play. I am one of the original UWS founders, and it’s an organization established to empower all the wonderful women that are in sales of any type here in Utah. We also want men to be included so we can work to build bridges and ways that we can better support each other.
Q: From your story, which are the external events and personal choices you made in response you feel most contributed to your success?
A: Overall, I would have to say that some of the toughest and scariest decisions I had to make ended up being the game changers. Selling my business was not a sudden decision- I could see the industry changing and I could see the opportunities dying in that industry. I was making a good living and my business was totally supporting my family and lifestyle. It was all I knew. When you sell a business, you also have “Non-compete” agreements in place, so I knew this was a moment when I was burning the ships in every sense. There was no turning back. The future was exciting and scary all at the same time. It was one of the best and biggest decisions I had to make.
Another big, scary decision came when I decided I wanted to go into Software and Technology sales. I had a successful career and had been making a great income, but since I had seen the decline of one industry in my career, I didn’t want to be part of that again. Software was changing the world and it was so exciting that I knew I had to be part of that.
When you have never had Software sales experience, you can’t get an interview, period. All the skill and success I had could not get anyone to even consider me. I was determined, and I looked around the industry to see who I knew in Software and in a high enough position that they could help. One of my previous customers that I knew very well was currently the VP of Sales at a local tech company, so I reached out to him and asked him to give me a chance. I said, “you know I can do this- I won’t let you down.” He got me the interview.
Things went really well until I met with the Founder and CEO of the company who basically told me I was not their target candidate who was 26-year-old-male-recently-graduated-from-college-go-getter type. I was an older female who just didn’t seem to be a fit to him at all. He literally asked me what I could possibly have done in my life that was hard. I walked out of that interview and said to myself – that’s too bad but there is no way he wants me on their sales team. I called my VP friend and said, “thanks, but I am 100% sure he doesn’t want anything to do with me.” Then I heard the most amazing words…followed by the most insulting words. First, he said he wanted me on his team badly, he knew I had the grit to make it big, and he was “cashing in all his chips” to get me. Yay!! That was followed by a big, “BUT our CEO will only let you start if you start at the lowest entry level as a BDR,” and the pay was less than I got in my first job out of high school. OUCH.
That was a huge decision for me to make. I wanted to just say, “forget it, this is ridiculous.” But my calm-headed husband said, “think of this as going back to college for a really short time. Give it a year, and if you don’t get anywhere just quit and go back to doing what you do. This may be your only chance to get into software, and you are passionate about that, so you need to do this even though it’s humiliating and quite frankly, is very insulting.” He was right, so I did it.
Even the morning of my first day I almost turned around to go back home, but I dug in and said to myself, “just do it.” It paid off- in the shortest timeframe ever I was promoted to closer. Within the first 3 months I sold more than anyone had sold in that division in the history of the company, and then I out sold that 3 more times. I was promoted again, and landed in the job I actually wanted, and became one of the top sales reps in the entire company year after year.
Fast forward 7 years- here I am named one of the top 5 best women in America in Software and Technology sales, heading to Chicago this week for the Awards Ceremony to find out who is the top Woman in sales in North America. I would say that difficult decision has paid off.
Q: From your story, which are the external events and personal choices you made in response you feel most unnecessarily delayed or minimized success you believe you could have attained in addition?
A: I would have to say the thing that holds me back most is my own self-doubt. I question my abilities a lot and back away from opportunities I should go after. As you can see, there are a lot of external factors I’ve had to battle through, but often the biggest battle is my internal insecurities. I am always getting better at being more confident, but that internal battle that has made me miss some amazing opportunities and leaves me kicking myself for not trying in the end.
Q: For people, particularly women, just beginning their Sales careers or struggling somewhere along the way, what ideas and skills have you learned/do you value you'd share to encourage and otherwise help?
A: As I just mentioned, self-doubt and insecurities are what have stopped me the most. They come from me comparing myself to what I perceive everyone else to be like. I think we all get this “Facebook” view on how everyone else lives and what their skills and abilities are. That is just simply not true. The truth is each of us have special skills and abilities. We need to look at what makes us happy and what abilities we have that we can use to contribute to others’ lives. Those are your super powers, and if we can harness those abilities we are as good as the best-of-the-best. I can share some of what I feel are my personal abilities and how I use them. I hope this helps others see that what they think they need, they already have. It’s not always these powerful polished super sales skills- those come as you work with people, but the personal abilities you will always have will be the strong foundation you can build from.
When it comes to working with people and helping them improve their lives or their jobs, I get pretty passionate about that. For me, there is nothing like the feeling I get when I know you helped someone fix a problem that they had, and the bigger the problem, the bigger the solution. It’s very exciting. I really enjoy listening to people, understanding what their needs are, and then matching it to some solutions I have to offer. I’d say the difference between a successful sales person and an average sales person is her ability to identify a need, ask questions that will invoke the right conversation about that need, and ask “why” enough times that you can really get to the root of the problem. At that point, you should be able to align yourself with one or more ways that your product can bring real solutions to a customer. When a sales rep has true interest in a customer’s needs and can honestly offer solutions that truly fit (not just a way to sell more product), she just moved from Average to Successful.
One of the most important things to me is the product I am putting my name behind. I am pretty picky on what I will sell. If I believe in a product, and I believe it will make a difference, then I am 100% on board and can’t wait to let everyone know.
I have sold all kinds of products. It’s not really what you sell that matters, it’s what you believe in and whether you believe it will make a difference to someone else.
There are all kinds of sales methodologies, and of course different products are sold to different people, but at the end of the day, no matter what you are selling, you are changing someone’s life for the better and I am all about that.
Q: As a follow-up to the last question, which specific resources and actions would you recommend to help others avoid mistakes and accelerate/improve their Sales skills and careers?
A: Find a good mentor- someone who has accomplished what you want to do. It can be someone at the next level, or several levels up, but listen to and learn from them. They have made the mistakes, perfected the skills, and are generally very happy to help when asked.
Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something and, especially, don’t listen to your own doubts. If you find something you really want to do, commit yourself and stay the course. Don’t doubt and don’t quit.
Learn all you can every day. Learn something new and ask for feedback from those who can give you credible feedback.
Learn from your mistakes- don’t harbor them.
Never be afraid of not knowing everything and be open to find people who can help you in the areas where you need help.