My 5 Top Tips for Growing a Career in Sales and Overcoming Obstacles in a Male-Dominated Field

Sponsored by GAF

Kamilah Crooms

Photo courtesy of Kamilah Crooms.

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May 18, 2024 at 4:41PM UTC

“Earlier in my career, I was trying to do everything right and play it safe,” shares Kamilah Crooms, a Commercial Technical Sales Rep at GAF for their Coatings division covering Central Florida. However, her view changed after a friend and colleague at GAF, Samantha Tengi, a Coatings Account Manager, told her, “You know your stuff. My advice to you is to go out there and don't be afraid to fail.” 

“That changed everything for me,” says Crooms. Now, she uses her inner confidence and her desire to learn as key traits to succeed as a woman in sales. Further, according to Crooms, the  ability to use your influence is key! “You're a woman, and that’s what’s missing in these areas,” Crooms says.

This is particularly true for Crooms and her colleagues. Crooms works in roofing — a male-dominated field — with women estimated to make up just about .5% of the entire roofing workforce in America! Crooms and her company, GAF, are working to change this statistic and empower more women to not only confidently enter this field — but to excel in it.

Photo courtesy of Kamilah Crooms.

“When you see how much you impact sales, careers and people, you’ll begin to embrace your power and influence,” remarks Crooms. Trusting in yourself is the secret to success in this field. For Crooms, she notes that, “the more that I accept myself, the more I’m comfortable with myself. And, the more I accept the amazing benefits of being a Woman of Color, the more I’m accepted and the more others gravitate toward me. They can always sense that.” 

We spoke with Crooms about her career as a Woman of Color in a male-dominated field. She offered advice to other women interested in joining the sales field and shared how GAF is helping her and her colleagues succeed.

An inside look at being a woman in a more technical sales role.

Crooms’ Technical Sales Representative (TSR) role involves servicing the complete line of GAF Liquid Applied Systems (HydroStop and United Coatings). As part of this, her responsibilities include (but are not limited to) managing, tracking and distributing significant projects to increase sales opportunities for her customer base within the Central Florida market. To do so, she needs to have a deep understanding of the technical details of roofs and the roofing industry as a whole.  “We go into depth,” Crooms explains. “We have to know the codes for each city, and we’re more technical. We manage architects, builders, property owners and contractors, so we have to really get our hands in and assist our customers.” All-in-all, she and her fellow sales team members serve as a “one-stop-shop,” for customers, shares Crooms. 

Working in this particular traditionally male-dominated sales field is not without its challenges, however. “I do believe it's harder for women to make it in sales, and, more specifically, it can be tougher for Women of Color because, unfortunately, there’s still a stigma that makes it harder for us to advance in our careers in this field,” Crooms says. “I still get those looks as I walk into a room when I go into the field — no one really looks like me. As an “African American woman in this position, I’m representing my company in a way that aligns with GAF’s focus on improving diversity, equity and inclusion,” she states.

While there are still challenges, Crooms also emphasizes how being at GAF has helped her overcome the obstacles in this field. “There’s been no shortage of support during my entire 17 years here,” she tells us. “GAF gets it, and they really support women. I’m looking for a mentor, and I’ll be a mentor to someone coming in after me.”

Learning from others and sharing knowledge is so important in this field. Crooms recalls hearing her mother’s stories about being the only Woman of Color during her entire career. As a result, “I’m able to learn from her experience and pull from her wisdom,” states Crooms. “I can't control that I’m a woman and I can't control that I’m Black, but I can teach you how it feels to walk in my shoes and how to handle yourself in a broken system.”

Advice for growing a career in sales.

So, how can you succeed in sales and overcome the inherent challenges? Crooms shares the following advice:

  1. Find a mentor! Try to find key people you can go to. Be vulnerable. Let your pride down, and face the fact that you don't know everything and may need to ask ‘stupid questions’ to get your job done. It’s okay to ask for help and not have all the answers.”

  2. “You’re going to learn a lot about yourself. It’s important to really dissect what's in your head vs. what's really happening. Really take the time to learn your strengths, without focusing too much on your weaknesses.”

  3. “You’ve got to have the basics, whether it's sales or roofing. There’s a lot of pressure so you have to be dialed in and really know your stuff. You have to be willing to constantly educate yourself.”

  4. And, know that, “If you have the answer, nothing else matters. When I get the job done, they accept me. What I look like doesn't matter.”

  5. Finally, find a company that supports you. At GAF, they provide forums for women to discuss their obstacles and support one another. For example, the company hosts a Women in Sales Summit (WinS) that brings sales women together to have honest conversations about their challenges, share ideas to overcome them, provide industry-leading education and build a network of colleagues. And this is one of many reasons women should consider joining GAF.

Why you should grow your career at GAF.

“GAF is in a really good place right now,” shares Crooms. The company is working hard to aid their employees in their careers. For Crooms, she explains that GAF has “supported me in so many ways. GAF has allowed me to make decisions, voice my opinions and path my career.”

Photos courtesy of Kamilah Crooms.

Further, GAF has enabled her to follow her own advice in growing a career in sales by empowering employees to find mentors. “I’ve had a mentor in every position that I've held here,” notes Crooms. “They’re proactive and sincere, and you can feel it. They want me to win and succeed here — and I am!” And Crooms is far from alone in feeling this way.

Crystal Heitmeier, a district sales manager for Siplast, a Standard Industries sister company to GAF, emphasizes how impressed she is with how committed GAF is in helping employees achieve their career goals. "I talked about the potential of getting my MBA through the company, and GAF's representatives said that if that's what I want, they would support me,” recalls Heitmeier. “It's very uplifting."

If you’d like to join this supportive and proactive GAF team, now’s the time — they’re hiring! 

Click the following link to browse open job opportunities.

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