Blazing the trail for women sales leaders in technology

25th June 2019 |   Nick de Cent

Monic van Aarle

Monic van Aarle: Balance between pressure of quarterly reporting and doing what is right for the customer.

Dutch ICT Woman of the Year, Monic van Aarle is a sales director working with a diverse range of SAP’s customers in the Netherlands.

Monic van Aarle has been working at SAP for 15 years and in sales for a total of 37 years – which stacks up to a significant amount of experience. Starting her career in marketing, she found herself stepping in as sales director after only a few months, which meant she had to learn how to sell as well – a real baptism by fire. Much of her knowledge was self-taught, although things changed when she joined SAP, which offers extensive training.

“One of the core values of SAP is personal development. I don’t know another company which is investing in development as much as SAP does. I think the most valuable part of my sales career has been at SAP,” she tells the Journal.

Down the years, van Aarle has seen plenty of changes but she attributes much of this to the culture of the company you happen to be working for at the time. One area where she has noticed a difference is in the need to find the balance, on the one hand, between the pressure of quarterly reporting and, on the other hand, doing what is right for the customer. “That is something that has changed over the years. We have to build that relationship, especially as we are going into the cloud business.”

Another issue is the need to seek out potential new customers and then to convince colleagues internally to get behind a sale. Two successful examples out of her past are (now a big customer) and TomTom.

Monic van Aarle’s role

Monic van Aarle is one of two sales directors on SAP’s management team in the Netherlands. She is responsible for looking after “general business” in the country.

“I do have the nicest role within SAP. Currently, I’m working with Bavaria Brewery to make them an intelligent brewery,” she explains. She also works with various hospitals and a major theme park, Efteling.

“We have a sales team which is more industry-related so they do have more knowledge about specific industries. Besides that we also have solution experts who do not focus on a specific industry but have the knowledge about the solution. One of the big changes of the last few years is that, in the past, we only were working with the CIO; now the range of stakeholders is becoming bigger and bigger.”

“General business is divided among three sales teams, depending on the size of the customer. ‘The Upper GB’ team comprises nine persons and a manager. Then we have also a commercial sales team in Barcelona; that is seven people and a manager. They serve the smaller companies within the Netherlands. It’s more like an e-commerce centre. We also have a team of three people serving the smallest companies. One other very important group of people are the partner business managers.”

Diversity in sales

Turning to the topic of gender equality, van Aarle’s experience is one that will be familiar to most women in tech sales. “I think I was the only woman, especially in a management position. So, yes, I really found a lot of difficulties with credibility internally as well as externally. I think I was lucky; the MD was my sponsor; he really believed in my competencies. “Also I had some mates – males – around me who really helped me in situations, so that I didn’t have to fight alone.”

“What I see now is that we have made a lot of progress. We have a lot of women within SAP. I have a feeling that the women are helping each other much more than in the past.”

Key takeaway

The Masters programme not only provides students with a qualification, it also gives them the tools to demonstrate the value they have gained from participating.

Asked whether she thinks diverse teams perform better, van Aarle responds: “I think that women in a team are very valuable, but it’s not as simple as that; it depends on who you are and what their competencies are.” And, of course, diversity is not just about gender. “I now have four working students in my team and everybody feels the energy. To be successful, teams should have a good spread.”

Masters programme

This year van Aarle will graduate with her Masters qualification. It’s a programme that she feels has served her well: “It’s so valuable because you’re taking time to think about things.” Moreover, it has helped accelerate her career.

“I made a promotion last year and I really think that it’s because of the Masters programme. I was not the favourite candidate, I know that, but I was able to combine the practical stuff with the theoretical background. Once I started my presentation, they extended my half-hour slot to one-and-a-half hours; at the end of it, I had the role.”

Founder of the International Journal of Sales Transformation | + posts

Nick de Cent is the founder and editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Sales Transformation. A business journalist for over 35 years, he has been covering sales since the mid-1980s and has been a strong advocate of enhancing its professional status. He has freelanced for the Financial Times and edited the Sales Performance supplement in The Times. He also writes and edits extensively on behalf of corporate clients, including a Big 3 management consultancy and a top four global executive search firm.