Izabella, on growing her career in sales at Experian
Izabella, Head of Sales for Experian’s background checking services, shares her experiences across Experian and her path from junior sales to leading a business area.
What was your path to Experian?
I've been here since 2005, so a fair while. I graduated in Applied Psychology, but I didn't know what I wanted to do. I wanted to be involved with people, which is the main reason I wanted to do psychology. I started on a graduate scheme at Capital One, but even though I was doing well, the business environment just was not one I could see me developing a long-term career in. A Business Development Executive role came up in Experian; I was intrigued, I had heard some good things about Experian so applied and was successful.
What has your career journey been at Experian?
I started off in telesales, so it was phone based, small-value sales, and very measured with clear objectives and targets. I did well – got 110% of my target - and got promoted to a Business Development Manager, which meant I became field based. I achieved significantly above my target again and was nominated for a Sales Elite Award at our annual sales conference which resulted in me winning an AMAZING trip to Zambia. I was also selected to go on the Global Experian Business Network, a support course that allows you to develop your career, with access to the board of directors, stakeholders, mentoring and training investment. It was a very exciting couple of years!
I got promoted to a Senior Business Development Manager, where I worked across a range of verticals and moved out of my team. Again, I had a really good year.
I was coming up to 3.5 years, and I wasn’t sure what I want to do so I decided to join a purely new-business team in another area of Experian to give myself a new challenge. It was hard work, but it was a great job, and I had another great year.
At that point, I wanted to try something different. I'd done sales for a while, and I wanted to develop and get more involved in strategy – understanding how we could help customers rather than just providing them with a service. So I moved to another area of Experian. And that gave me exposure to a different type of sale. It was a much more consultative role: reviewing a solution, options of best practice, that sort of thing. I did that for about a year, and that role helped me decide that what I wanted to do long terms is move into sales management.
I moved into a sales management role in a team I’d worked in before, and my role quickly developed into managing the inside sales and telesales team – the area that I started in when I first joined Experian. So, I went back to where I was, but now I was managing the whole area…felt a bit weird but very exciting!
After 18 months into the role, I went on maternity leave. When I returned I was offered a role with more responsibility, working as part of a strategic initiative assigned across the business. It opened up lots of doors for me across the business units and management teams.
Then, typical me, I wanted to go into an area where I had more opportunity to grow. I spoke to HR. I’d naturally built a network across Experian, and I had coaching and a mentor in place, but I didn't understand where my job was going. I was thinking about leaving – I didn't want to, but I thought maybe I'd reached a peak here. Then a role came up in the Go-To-Market team, in a completely different area of the business, Background Checking. I got some support to make sure that I understood what the role was, and utilised my network and materials I had and was offered the role. It’s probably the best job I've had to date.
What do you like about your current role?
It's challenging. It gives me a lot of exposure, and I influence product, service, and solution. I have influence in road mapping the five-year strategy, as well as getting involved in new initiatives and strategies. I feel empowered to make changes.
The most important thing is that we have an amazing team with great people.
What new skills have you had to learn?
I’ve had to learn a lot of new skills. My CV compared to 18 months ago is so, so different. I've been able to do media training, interviewing for magazines, newspapers and social media, guest speaking etc. Recently I went to Costa Mesa in America for training with LinkedIn!
Also, Experian put me on the Ashorne Hill Leadership and Management development programme, so that's a level-5 accreditation for managers. Hard work when you are working full time and a mum but I did it, and it looks brilliant on my CV.
What does a typical day look like?
Today, I’ve been in a workshop with clients; so I'm still involved with clients and looking at their strategy and innovation. But then another day, I'll be in a mergers and acquisitions discussion, or a legal review, or sitting down on a steering committee to plan where we put investment. In other words, we've got so many fingers in so many pies that no day is the same. I do a lot of stuff that makes my job really, really, interesting!
You mentioned that you had maternity leave, then you came back, how does Experian support you being a working parent?
I think we have a great environment to support both men and women coming back from family leave. As a business, we have the right framework to be able to support people. I've got my own example and other people's examples, where they’ve come back from maternity leave and been empowered to crack on with their job and show that you can be both fantastic parents and successful in your career. I’ve never felt having baby is holding me back. I felt that I was able to do both. I was allowed the autonomy and allowed to be agile with my working. When my daughter was ill, I could make the decision to go home and be trusted to do my job still. I think both sides have a level of trust.
What are the key traits for a salesperson?
People I see do well are the ones that have a real drive and a great attitude – an underlying determination to succeed and not give up.
Not everybody can be a salesperson. I think people put sales on this massive pedestal where you get a car, you travel, you get commission. They are all the nice things, but you have to work damn hard to get that. It's hard being on the road at 5 am because you have a 9 am meeting. It's hard being away for four days a week because you've got meetings. It takes real character, and drive, determination and resilience to be able to deliver. However, the rewards are great, and people such as myself thrive in that environment.
One of the other things you need is an understanding how to deal with challenging situations. Sales isn’t that simple. You're often completing multiple job roles through the sales process and working with lots of different people in different job roles from procurement, to legal and compliance.
You need to be able to adapt to change. If it's not a product, it's a structure, or a change in client requirements, or a legislation change. Being able to adapt all the time is really key. But that's what makes the job exciting and that's why sales never gets boring.
What makes Experian stand out?
The key thing that differentiate us in the market (without sounding too cheesy) is our vision of putting the consumer first and making a difference.
Getting the numbers is one thing but how we get to our numbers is more important. We value how we operate and how our teams deliver those numbers is something we are all proud of. We make sure we treat consumers first and fairly, adhering to the rules in place and protecting our clients. We make sure we live and breathe what we talk about.
We empower people to lead by behaviours, and the results will speak for themselves.
What would want to tell people about working at Experian?
We have the environment to drive a career. We have portals, job vacancies, mentors and coaching – but people also need to own and manage their career. At Experian, you have the framework, all the tools, the right management team, business unit or structure. All you need to do is own it and make sure you're in the best place possible to do that job. If you put the effort in, you’ll be rewarded.
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