At First, Some Doubted I Could Sell

David Walling

My career with IBM did not begin in sales. I started in the back office. We managed the operation and ensured compliance. Soft-spoken, introspective and bright individuals comfortable with the details worked here. Not the typical personality of a sales leader. Almost immediately I felt I was in the wrong job. I believed my impact would be more significant in sales. The company discouraged moves from the back office into sales. I decided to build my reputation and then make my request. It felt smart to secure support and enthusiasm within the sales organization.  When the time came, management agreed. They expressed a blend of skepticism and possibility. My sales career launched in this light.

As a VP of Sales in two startups, the bigger picture, challenges, and intangibles draw me in. I show up listening to understand before acting. Creativity and problem solving bring meaning to me. Sensing the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ sets an orientation for my action and results.

I lived outside the box at IBM. Big clients wanted to buy research technology. I recruited and led a large, cross-functional team to design and launch the company process. By linking strategic customer goals and rewards to disk drives, revenue and profits grew. As the sales executive, our team recast a declining business into the undisputed market leader.