Last fall, our company, which is in a male dominated industry, hired our first female salesperson. She was a recent Marquette graduate with a marketing/communications degree. Our current staff of twenty male salesmen had a lot to say about this, “She will never make it.” “Our customers won't take her seriously.” "She's not going to stay; she just took this job to puff up her resume, after getting a year or two of experience she will leave.” "The company will never recoup their investment in her.” In our industry, it takes approximately two years for a new salesman to build their client base and support themselves on commission alone. To help with the transition the company typically pays them a salary in addition to commissions for the first two years.
This particular salesperson has now been with the company a little over 6 months. So far, she has not sold anything to speak of, but this is not unusual considering her territory and the current state of the economy. She has brought new marketing methods to her position; baking brownies for potential customers and even dropping off a pan or two of her homemade lasagna. For the most part, she’s been moving along status quo and the sales staff if not accepting her have stopped being adverse to her presence. They too, have enjoyed a brownie or two.
This past week all of our salespeople converged at one of our locations for our annual spring sales meetings. They attend three days of presentations given by upper management and vendors discussing everything from current marketing trends to the latest products and services. The salespeople spend evenings with their managers at local restaurants and bars where there is always plenty of food and drink. The first night, our female salesperson got a little tipsy and was too hung-over to attend the second day’s presentations. Now, there is an unwritten rule amongst our salesmen, if you drink on the company dime, you show up the next day even if you have the dry heaves. Her absence at first was overlooked probably because she is young and female. But then, low and behold, after spending the day ill in her room, she recovers just in time for dinner and another night of partying.
Drinking problems aside, this salesperson is no longer in college where she may have been able to get away with this behavior. Unprofessional actions such as this may be just the proof that our salesmen’s initial impressions were correct.