Sofia’s story: I love being a salesperson

Career story

“When will you return to your field?” This was the question that I’d hear after working as a salesperson for IBM, a global supplier of IT services, for a year in Dublin, Ireland. That moment really made me think about what kind of professional identity I actually have.

I started working as a cashier in a grocery store when I turned 15, and I continued working in sales alongside my university studies. I studied social sciences, with a major in political science. At the end of my studies, I became a part-time entrepreneur and worked as a Tupperware consultant and Team Lead. In fact, the only work I've done in my field of study was my term on the board of the Student Union of Tampere University, as well as my stint as a specialist for the Employment and Economic Development Office in Pirkanmaa, where I worked for three years. When I thought about my own professional identity, I realised that my entire career had been in sales – except for my studies. 

I'm not sure where my enthusiasm for sales came from in the first place. Maybe it was my father’s side job as a gravestone seller alongside his career as a parish sacristan, or when I serve customers in shops. I feel that the customer service experience has helped me become a better employee, and the skills I’ve learned when interacting with people have shaped my identity. When you work with customers, you never know what to expect, but you can’t beat the joy of finding the right solution. When I worked at a grocery store, I could give people meal recommendations or direct them to the right products. Interacting with challenging customers has taught me determination, and I’ve also learned to keep my nerves in check to ensure that my customers leave with a satisfied smile on their face.

Currently, I work as a Sales Lead for Solita in the sales and development of Lifecycle Services. During my studies at Tampere University, I had a few friends who worked at Solita as software developers. I remember being disappointed that I would never be hired by this very intriguing company that even had a fashionably pink logo at the time. After a few years of IT sales in Ireland and Finland, I decided that it was time for a change, and I got a job interview with Solita through a recommendation.

At Solita, I’ve been able to further enhance my sales skills while also engaging in new tasks within the company. In the end, my master’s degree in social sciences was not an obstacle to being employed at Solita – quite the opposite. Solita employs many people from different fields, not just software developers and technical experts.

Today, I’m proud to say that I’m a salesperson, even though the sales profession still has a poor reputation. However, I’ve noticed how sales have changed over the course of my career. The previous culture of how sales are made is undergoing a sea of change, with sales-related tricks and gimmicks becoming a thing of the past. Social media has been a boon to the industry, as people are more ready to share any poor experiences they may have had. Overall, the sales industry is gradually dropping habits or techniques that won’t drive it forward. In addition, the stakeholders are becoming increasingly diverse, which means fewer alcohol-fuelled backroom deals. This diversification creates more room for new kinds of personalities and approaches to sales, which will help improve the sales industry’s reputation. Today, making a sale means finding solutions to business problems together with your customers, which is a more rewarding experience for both buyers and sellers.

For me, the significance of my work comes from my belief in what I do. Here are some of my tips and tricks for working in sales.

  • Show your enthusiasm. Over the years, I’ve been told multiple times by different people that my positive attitude towards the goods or services I was selling made a difference in the final outcome. 
  • Be prepared to help. Never think that a request or task is someone else’s job, and always make sure that things are really handled. Once the situation is resolved, you will also have retained the trust of the customer who asked for your assistance in the first place. 
  • Setbacks are part of the game. When a tender for a public procurement goes wrong because you didn’t correctly calculate the years of experience your team has, or when it seems that you're not seeing any results for your efforts, your next success will wash all those bad memories away.
  • For over two decades, I’ve always kept this quote from Juha Vuorinen in mind: “All people make the same promises. The difference is in their work ethic.” Even though I’ve switched between different tasks, employers, and customers, I still like to think about this nugget of wisdom from time to time.

Sofia Lauri