Authenticity is your Biggest Differentiator

I lead the local chapter for the Enterprise Sales Forum in Singapore. Our chapter has seen its audience grow since January 2018 from an audience of 17 to now almost 90. We have had some of the most interesting and thought-provoking sessions for salespeople in the B2B community. One of the things I love about these sessions is the sharing of experiences. It invigorates you when you have had a tough week and need a pick-me-up. It feels good to gather something of immense value after investing just 2 hours of your personal time in these sessions.

Each year in October,  the Enterprise Sales Forum celebrates women in sales. I am so proud to play a significant role in this forum. I remember the first ‘Honoring Women in Sales’ event last year. My opening line was, “I have been selling since I was 11!”.

Ever since I can remember,  I have loved connecting with people. I still remember vividly a trip to Desaru on a bus, with my family. I must have been 10. I sat next to an elegant lady, Mrs.Williams – almost 40 years my senior. It was a long drive back to Singapore and we talked most of the way back.  She worked at the Asia Pacific Breweries at that time and I remember taking her number down. I kept in touch with her for many years after.  I didn’t think anything about this ongoing interaction with Mrs. Williams, but she frequently spoke with me despite our age difference. As I look back, it was this innate capacity for connection and being accessible My father was enamored by this. Perhaps this was one of the reasons why, many years later, he asked me to join him in his business. He knew that I was this ‘Human Connector’.

I started selling at age 11. My first foray into sales was in selling a product called ‘Fimo’,  a ‘bakeable’ clay. My uncle had hired me to promote this clay for him. I loved it – Yes, selling each $15 box was a delight. But more than anything, it was the human connection that resonated the most.

As I progressed in my age as well as my career, I realized it was this … this bond that I created with my fellow humans; Being open and honest with people about what I could or could not do. Reaching out to people who knew more than me, so I could learn. I showed my vulnerability and I was okay with that.  I was being authentic.

I had some pretty momentous experiences in my career. One that has left an indelible mark was when I was Country Manager at the then Image Bank. I was tasked to sell a product that no one was able to sell – footage. It was considered a dud. No one in the company in Singapore knew how to sell it. This was in the late 90’s. The agencies did not want to pay for footage. They wanted to shoot their commercials using their own footage. As daunting as the task seemed, I asked the Executive Creative Director of an international ad agency for a meeting. I was well-aware of the accounts he personally handled. I took with me a ‘VHS’ of all the potential shots he could use for his clients. The objective was to get him to think about using footage for his next commercial. I wasn’t sure of the outcome. I was young and scared, and honestly thought I’d be shown the door. But I followed my instinct. I told him that utilizing stock footage would cost a fraction of shooting an entire commercial yet offer him greater possibilities from a creative perspective. I left his office feeling relieved. I wasn’t shown the door!

I received a call from him the next day saying that he wanted to produce three 15-second commercials. Not one, but three commercials! Because I was genuine, I had secured a coup. It was a turning point for me and the Image Bank then as the industry began realizing the potential of using footage for the scripts they wrote. The positives: the agency’s bottom line, the creative wand and the client’s brand exposure. Everyone won.

Later, when I was asked to run Getty images in South East Asia, I led the business with the same openness and authenticity that helped me succeed. In fact, I was the only female on the Senior Sales Management Team  for APAC. As I led my teams in the region, I always reminded them about ‘putting themselves in the client shoes’. Why would a client want to work with you? A client’s trust in you starts deepening when they see that you are genuinely committed to their success.  

So why am I writing this? I love selling; I love the human connection and I am celebrating women who similarly succeeded  on the 24th of October. 

No pun intended as I work with ValueSelling Associates but, Value Selling is what I do even though I never always articulated it that way. For me it has always been about my client, for their success means success for me, for everyone concerned. I love the saying, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’ How do we rise together?  

If you have the time, please join me on 24th October at the VMware office in Singapore together with a panel of powerful women who successfully chartered similar courses, led the way and leveraged that ‘human connection’ to greater heights as we honor women in sales.

Being authentic truly is the greatest differentiator!

– Reeta Sabnani
Chief Inspiration Officer, Infinye Incorporated