“Be Human” + Other Advice from Europe’s Women in Sales Awards Finalists

Europe’s Women in Sales Awards create awareness, encourage gender diversity as a way to strengthen organizations, and grow the pipeline of sales talent by celebrating the achievements of women in sales roles. The sales function is critical to a company’s success but when only 39% of salespeople in the tech industry are women, and only 21% are VPs, we know we have work to do.

After an initial application, extensive questionnaire, and day-long pitch event, our very own Jahrina Burke, Gwen Okagbare, and Asoka Stahlhofen, were selected as finalists for the 2018 Europe Women in Sales Awards for their growth and leadership in this male-dominated field.

First things, first. What are your roles and how long have you been in sales? Jahrina Burke: I’m a senior sales development representative and I’ve been in sales for 6.5 years, with 2.5 at Okta.Gwen Okagbare: I’m an enterprise sales development representative for the UK and Ireland. I’ve been in sales for two years, and 1.5 years with Okta.Asoka Stahlhofen: I’m a business development representative focused on the UK and Germany and I’ve been in sales and at Okta for one year now.

How did you get into sales?Jahrina: Straight after University I fell into my first Sales role working for reed.co.uk, ironically searching their site for a job.Gwen: When finishing college, like every young person, you begin to explore different avenues. My previous role was a sales associate role at a small boutique store. I was very good at instantly connecting with people which ultimately made them buy more items of clothing. From that moment I was intrigued to understand what exactly the sales role entails and start my career in sales. I really enjoy the ups and downs of sales -- it teaches you to always have that balance and perspective outside of work as well.Asoka: I was the office manager at the previous company and was looking for a new challenge. This led me to start exploring different roles within the company so I began shadowing different departments. After a couple of months, I decided I wanted to join the sales team!

Tell us about your success in sales at Okta. Why were you selected for this award?Jahrina: I am continuously thinking of innovative ways to create and roll out strategic outbound campaign strategies. I am very passionate to work with different teams within the business to overachieve my personal goals and Okta’s overall company objectives. I also enable the team sharing product knowledge and best practices but also provide guidance to the team to ensure that they are spending their time correctly. I am constantly driven to try new things and be better. This has allowed me to successfully work with many of our EMEA customers.Gwen: I first joined Okta as an intern. My role was to support marketing during a busy period. I moved into a business development representative role where I quickly was proficient in dealing with inbound leads coming from marketing activities. Initially, I was calling and adding contacts into our CRM system. I realised that my skills were dealing with prospects and speaking to them about Okta, booking meetings for the sales team. I really enjoyed the competitiveness of having a quota and smashing the number month after month. Within less than a year at Okta, I was been promoted to sales development representative working with two enterprise sales representatives.Asoka: I joined Okta as a business development representative to support the German and UK market. I focused heavily on providing feedback and coming up with creative ideas to target the German market. I am competitive so am always thinking of new ways to succeed -- I enjoy working hard and smart to be a top performer and consistently hit my numbers. And the prizes from SPIFFs don’t hurt either!

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a woman in sales? Jahrina: Being taken seriously and recognized for my worth.Gwen: My biggest challenge has also being underestimated. Often times I’m ignored by people I am trying to target at events purely because I am a woman and they assume I am not knowledgeable.Asoka: When you are a woman in sales, you have to prove yourself more than your male counterpart.

What advice can you give to others in sales?Jahrina: Be yourself! Do not try to be anyone else as you will always be caught out.Gwen: Just like anything in life, you will have to work extremely hard to get the results you want. Sales is a numbers game that can play on your confidence and emotions. You have to be balanced and calm, yet eager and energetic. But most importantly, be honest with yourself, your peers and managers.Asoka: Work for a company where you believe in their product and values. Company culture is also important and makes work more fun - we spend too many hours at work to not enjoy it.

Any “aha!” moments during your career that you can share?Jahrina: If you don't know something be honest about that. Do not lie to win the deal or relationship.Gwen: One of my eureka moments was when I discovered how many more prospects responded to emails when I highlighted meeting date and time as well as some important text I wanted them to not miss!Asoka: Be human. Be a resource. Educate, don’t be “sales-y”.

Describe Okta’s sales team culture.Gwen: Okta has lively teams in every business unit which is important to me. You’d never feel left out or alone; it’s a very inclusive team. Everyone is willing to help one another. I enjoy both the people and the product I sell, which is a rare find.Asoka: Everyone is incredibly smart which is very rewarding to be around. Particularly in the EMEA office, there are many nationalities and cultures.

Interested in starting your career in sales and joining this award-winning team? We’re hiring!