Vickylynne Atherton - A natural born sales leader
I am Vickylynne Atherton, founder of Artemis. I am an extraordinarily successful Sales Specialist with over 20 years’ experience. I named by business after Artemis “The Hunter” as I am a natural born sales leader who now works with a broad selection of organisations to build sales strategies and assist with the generation of new business.
Vickylynne Atherton - Podcast
Guest Profile - Vickylynne Atherton
I am Vickylynne Atherton, founder of Artemis. I am an extraordinarily successful Sales Specialist with over 20 years’ experience. I named by business after Artemis “The Hunter” as I am a natural born sales leader who now works with a broad selection of organisations to build sales strategies and assist with the generation of new business. In addition, I also founded Athena Business Consultancy and thrive off supporting other businesses in refining their approach and achieving their goals.
Vickylynne Atherton - Links
Vickylynne Atherton - Contact Details
Telephone number: 07548780753
Tony Radford 0:01
Hello, everybody and welcome to another episode of the Small Business Heroes podcast. Today I'm delighted to say I have with me Vickylynne Atherton from Artemis Sales, that's Artemis-sales.co.uk
Vickylynne how are you today?
Vickylynne Atherton 0:18
As you can hear my voice Tony i'm a little bit croaky. But otherwise, I'm doing pretty well. How are you?
Tony Radford 0:27
Yeah, I'm pretty good. Like a lot of people, I seem to have a bit of a bug at the moment. But I've, I've, you know, that's all in the past. Why don't you just tell us about your business.
Vickylynne Atherton 0:36
So the reason that Artemis came about was because the last full time position that I had was at a company called Ruckus Networks, who are a leading global wireless vendor.
And I'd wanted to secure a position with them for many years. And I was just absolutely delighted that I'd achieved my goal. And for me, it was kind of I'd landed finally my dream job. And I had absolutely no idea at the time that it would lead to what I now know, is my real dream job, and that is Artemis.
But how this came about was at Rucus, I was working with a variety of small to medium technology businesses, and worked very closely with their sales teams to support them in winning additional business. And it became apparent to me over that time that you know, while some of these companies had very well established sales teams, and you know, some of us had challenges, they needed a lot help from a lot of support. And in any business, I think that you will find that there's a varying degree of capability. And also, sometimes internal resource within a sales team, you know, that they don't always have the capability to open doors, and identify new business opportunities. So whilst I didn't realize this at the time, Artemis for me, it wasn't a million miles away, it was kind of a bit of a subconscious plan.
And I genuinely didn't realize at the time that in providing the support that I did for these companies like this from a sales perspective, from a sales training perspective, this was really what I wanted to do. And it genuinely wasn't an easy decision for me to leave Rucus. But I made that decision that if I didn't do it, then I never would. And so, truthfully, I set up Artemis and I haven't looked back.
Since then I've been asked to work with companies to generate new sales opportunities, which then could essentially be fed into the sales team for them to develop themselves. But in some cases, I've also been asked to assess the sales team in terms of the skill set and provide some bespoke training to maybe refine, develop or refresh sales performance.
And one particular client that I work with, and I had a long standing kind of partnership where we've worked together for a year and a half. So I head up UK sales operations for them. Fantastic company in Bedford, a wireless company networking company called bit bomb, and I essentially manage the sales team, but I oversee the key management of accounts for them. So high profile accounts. I work closely with technology vendors, collaboration partners. And I suppose what I realized in the middle of last year was with Artemis, I found that my involvement with businesses is actually stretched beyond sales, training and consultancy.
And I was actually providing business consultancy, as well. And I think I've always had a strong business acumen. But I tried to keep the two propositions separate where I could and sticking to my Greek theme, I actually started Athena business consultancy in June of this year. And one thing that I've really enjoyed is that I've been supporting businesses and providing advice and guidance during COVID-19 and helping businesses to adapt in some ways to survive, but hopefully thrive during what has been a particularly difficult time for everybody.
Coaching and mentoring is such a huge part of Artemis and helping people to build the confidence, retain the confidence. And that's something that I find incredibly rewarding as I work closely with my clients to understand what they are pain points are and how jointly, we can create a plan of how I can support them in achieving their goals. That's the reason that I set the business up, and it was predominantly to understand the gaps between the current skill set within a sales teams how to backfill that with training and mentoring, because if we're honest, not every sales team has got an abundance of new business hunters. And I think that largely comes down to confidence and fear because so many people that I engaged with do actually have that ability.
So what I wanted to do was to set out and displace the myth that sales is scary. And I'll remove the fear of looking to generate that new business and develop successful account managers who maybe have that desire to hunt, but just don't have the confidence or the know how to move forward.
And I firmly believe that if you've got a strong value proposition, and you promote that correctly, understand your target market, and what your competitive advantages and possession, position that correctly, then the rest becomes a very natural process.
And what I teach salespeople to do is, strip it all back, sell with integrity, have core values and do what is in the best interest of your client or your customer. Sales is really quite simple. I'm not saying that there's not a lot of skill behind it. But the process is - you are matching a solution to a problem, or a need. It's really essentially about building a relationship on trust, demonstrating credibility, and showing that you've got a genuine interest in some of these business and, more importantly, the objectives of that business, what they're trying to achieve.
And I can honestly say hand on heart only after 23 or 24, or maybe 25 years, nobody has ever bought from me in the past, because I've been aggressive, pushy, used smarmy sales tactic on them. People have really bought from me, because I've taken them on a journey. I've helped them to find the right solution that matched their requirements, from a technical perspective, from a commercial perspective, and I genuinely had an interest in them and their concerns in that business.
Tony Radford 7:36
It sounds like you've worked primarily with professional salespeople. Would that be fair to say? Or have you helped people that aren't professional salespeople, but do have a large sales element in the job?
Vickylynne Atherton 7:47
Do you know Tony, it's interesting, because at certain times over the last 12 months, I've actually said, when a company has been looking to recruit a sales person, I said, 'Don't always look for the people who've got experience in this field'. I think that if you've got the right attitude, and you've got the right outlook, and you have that tenacity and that hunger within you, then it's not always about 'I've had X number of years in sales'. It's about that individual and what they can bring to the party, what they can contribute to your business. And I think sometimes salespeople get into bad habits over a number of years. So it's interesting that you've mentioned that because it's something that I discussed quite a lot.
Tony Radford 8:28
It's a bit of a cliche, but what what about the phrase salesman, salesman are not born, they're made. Do you think that's true?
Vickylynne Atherton 8:37
Imagine a five year old version of yourself, Tony, I don't think anybody has said When I grow up, I want to be a salesperson. It's something that you've fallen into or been sucked into, at some point.
It's incredibly addictive on it. You know, I know so many different salespeople, so many different personas. It's just I don't think they're born. I don't think that they're made. I think that it's about people liking people, it's about people communicate to people. And I think that a certain amount is kind of it is nature versus nurture, because you can refine and develop a skill. I think it needs to be within you. I think you need to have a desire to help people.
Tony Radford 9:19
For the kind of people that Small Business Heroes might be speaking to, and also my product My Proactive Business.com a lot of those people are actually they've been tipped out of PAYE, you know out of companies and they have come into some sort of freelance work or consulting work or something like that. And suddenly they're having to drum-up their own business and for a lot of people, especially, I mean, from the people I've spoken to, on this podcast, they're all extremely shocked that they spend such a small proportion of their week doing their thing and a larger proportion of the week looking for business or doing all the other things that come with you know, running your own show. In terms of your work, I mean, sales is, you know, a bit like sort of football really, you know what the score is - the score is in front of you, right? There's, you either sell stuff or you don't. But what would be, you know, some of the biggest challenges that you've had in the past.
Vickylynne Atherton 10:16
My job is not not an easy one, you know, clients hire me to fix a particular issue or problem within the business. And that means that something isn't working very well, or something is holding them back. And that's sometimes not an easy discussion to have. And it's not easy for business owners to talk about the things that aren't going well. Nobody wants to feel exposed.
And you know, at that stage, Tony, I hope that I come across as being, you know, a very honest and genuine person, because I am, and I can sit down with people and show them that it's a safe place. There's no judgement here, you know, but we can work together and use our, our skill set to solve the business issues. And I think in some ways, it's a bit like going to the doctor and saying, I'm not well, and he says, In what way you're not well, and you don't answer his question, you know, he needs to ask things like, you know, when did the problem start? What impact does that have on you? What does it stop you doing? What is the pain or discomfort that this causes?
And as a salesperson, I'll go back to this a million times, but the best tool at a sales-person's disposal is having an excellent question and technique and being able to extract so much information, but without turning the conversation into a Spanish Inquisition. And, you know, I get asked difficult questions, sometimes, you know, from my clients, and I say, things like, you know, What do you feel is the biggest challenge within your business at the moment? What impact does that have on you? How long have you known that this has been a problem? What steps have you taken yourself to rectify it? And what impact does that have on generating revenue for the business? What does the future of your business look like? Basically, if you don't make some changes, and these, Tony is just a few examples, but you can see that there's an awful lot of trust involved in what I do, you know, in order to get people to open up and be honest with me, and see that we can work together towards a joint goal. It's very natural for there to be an element of defensiveness, I suppose.
And you know, after my initial consultation with a lot of people, this just naturally fades away. And, you know, I can see that people are sort of, the boundaries have come down, that they've become excited about driving change within the business, and they can see how I can contribute to them achieving that. And, you know, I go back to this, again, by showing genuine interest in their business. By having that honesty, trust, building credibility, and having open conversations. It's just, that's the key. That's all it's about.
Tony Radford 13:10
Thinking way back, what would be one thing that you wish someone had told you when you started out,
Vickylynne Atherton 13:16
There's nothing that I feel that I missed out on in terms of that one, all important, golden nugget of advice, because I've had so much great advice and support. And I think my business is slightly different in that I'm selling my expertise, my time, and maybe if I had a more complex nature of my business, um, you know, then it would be a little bit different.
But I suppose if I was to kind of flip that on its head and say, Well, if I was going to give somebody advice, now who's thinking about setting up a business? Do you know what I'd say - 'Just do it'. write a business plan, make it achievable, but challenge yourself, be tenacious, but also be agile, if something isn't working, then change it. And remember to laugh at yourself. You know, it's a difficult process, but keep that belief in yourself as well. I think that's what I would say.
Tony Radford 14:20
Great. That's excellent advice. Thank you very much. Just a sort of smaller micro question if you like, if someone gave you 500 pounds to spend on your marketing, how would you spend it?
Vickylynne Atherton 14:32
What would I spend the money on? if we could function normally and meet normally at the moment? I probably look at some networking events, Tony and, you know, try make some new contacts because I think that is key because what I've said previously is that my network provided me with so much support, and also a lot of business.
And I think there's an old saying that's them. It's not what you know, it's who you know. I believe that that is absolutely true. And you know, I'm lucky that currently my, my diary is full with my current climens clients. And I'm investing a lot of time in that. So yeah, that's probably what I would do. But ideally a parachute.
Tony Radford 15:21
Right for so for those people with no shoes, then that would be quite a good way of spending it. What about business mentoring or support groups? You mentioned before about having a supportive network? You know, what's your experience of this? Would you recommend it?
Vickylynne Atherton 15:35
Absolutely. I, you know, I'm a consultant myself, I'm also a business mentor. And when I first launched Artemis, and all the intervals over the last couple of years, you know, I've had these people around me, I call them my trusted advisors, and they guided me. I've had some amazing advice. They've kind of opened up to me shared their experiences, and shared the stories of mistakes that they've made when things weren't going so well how to cope with the highs and lows of running your own business.
But I think one of the best nuggets of advice that I've had was 'go big or go home'. And I really like that it strikes a chord with me, because it makes me feel empowered in a kind of, you can do it kind of way. And that really drives me on.
And you know, when you starting out what you need to be high energy, you need to be brave. I think careful planning is still essential, because I am a planner, but you also need to lighten up, laugh at things, don't take yourself too seriously.
And I firmly believe that fear, in a lot of cases is what holds people back. And you need to have that agility to change direction. If things haven't worked out the way that you planned, you know, it's your business, you're running it, you're living and breathing it, change it, if it isn't working, walk away from things. As any good sales person will know, qualify and qualify out, you know, my phone rings multiple times a week with somebody wants my opinion on something.
Or, you know, I made those same phone calls myself, what do you think about this? What do you think about that? What would you do in this situation? And I go back to my network, because, you know, this is one of the nice things that I've experienced, particularly since starting my own business are we keeping contacts and we support each other. These could be people that I've worked with in the past clients that I've had friends, family, whoever.
But there's a lot to be said for a friendly chat, brainstorming an idea out together, looking at a kind of sharing key contacts, making those warm introductions, which are documents that we've all created or collected over the years, to try and help each other. And just to give a bit of inspiration, I suppose as how to you approach something, I really firmly believe that our business relationships with our parents are as important as our relationships with our customers.
Tony Radford 18:27
Yeah, that's really great advice. And the thing I was thinking was for people that perhaps are, you know, just starting out, or, you know, like I said earlier, have come into self employment or freelancing or having a micro business is actually, you know, do the work that's necessary to actually create that network, as you know, starting with one person and two and three, but it sounds like something that you would you know, that you would actually need to spend time on and really think about not just be sort of very passive about it.
Vickylynne Atherton 18:59
Tony Radford 19:03
Can you give us one actionable sales tip I'm sure you can give us 500 - one for every pair of shoes.
Vickylynne Atherton 19:10
Well, Tony, there's so many things that I could share with you on this subject. But you know, my tip is actually really simple. And that is to listen. And people may not sort of get that from from this interview because I'm a chatterbox. But you need to put your client at the heart of everything that you do.
You need to be genuine and build a relationship, build the trust, forget your agenda, that's not important. You need to see everything as your costume word.
And you know, we've got two ears and one mouth. So I think it's important to use them in That ratio. And sometimes salespeople make the critical mistake of forgetting that you need to listen. But you also need to hear what isn't being said. And by that, I mean, picking up on some of these body language or picking upon a tone or whatever, you've got to think like your customer.
And you need to care about their business, care about the challenges, their goals or objectives. And if you follow this, and you truly do listen to your customer, your client, I don't think that anybody would go far wrong. When you're in a dialogue with a customer, they are the only person that matters, you know, stop talking, they're providing you with vital information that you can use to support them. And if you go in with your own agenda, and try and position a product or solution before you fully understand what their requirement is, where are the pain points, what is the impact of that? One, they're looking to make a change. What is the driver behind that? And why is that so important? Then, of course, if you miss that, you're going to encounter problems. But if you listen to your customer, and you put yourself in a great position to win.
Finally, one thing that I would add is, you know, don't be scared of making mistakes, everybody does them, embrace them, learn from them, that your battle scars, wear them with pride. And I think people shouldn't regret the mistakes that they made, they should regret the opportunities that they may be missed out on because of us what our test is about.
Tony Radford 21:52
Right. So yeah, that's really great, actually, all those points that you gave us there, and thank you very much for being such a great guest on our podcast. I really, really enjoyed listening to you actually. And, you know, you speak as somebody who's got a lot of experience, you're speaking from that experience in it, and it sort of shines through. So that's, that's great. Thank you. How can people get in touch with you?
Vickylynne Atherton 22:20
Well you know, if anybody would like to contact me, I'm more than happy for them to do so. My hands are quite full at the moment. But, you know, I'm happy to engage with potential new clients. I'm also offering a one hour free consultancy. So if any businesses are looking to look at ways of increasing sales to drive revenue, or a plan in a new or revised sales or marketing strategy for 2021, maybe even considering sales training to drive performance, you know, don't hesitate to reach out to me And likewise, any business owners or anyone who's thinking about starting their own business, I'm always happy to take a call from you. So get in contact.
Tony Radford 23:11
Okay. Should people contact you by email?
Vickylynne Atherton 23:16
Yes, by email by the website or by phone.
Tony Radford 23:23
What's your email address?
Vickylynne Atherton 23:26
That would be VLA@Artemis-sales.co.uk
Tony Radford 23:36
Are you willing to put your to give out your phone number as well?
Vickylynne Atherton 23:39
Of course. Yes. It's 07548780753
Tony Radford 23:49
It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thanks very much for being on the show.
Vickylynne Atherton 23:53
Thank you for the invite. I appreciate it.
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