It can be intimidating for a woman in a male-dominated field, but to be the first and only saleswoman in a meeting room filled with your male cohorts, the challenge can feel even bigger.
Recalling her start in the automotive industry nine years ago, Jhanelle Wagstaffe says it was initially a nail-biting task to get male clients to purchase a vehicle from her.
“I will not lie, it was difficult. It was not easy convincing a male client to buy a car from you when you were just learning about cars yourself,” Wagstaffe told Flair.
Wagstaffe, 34, who moved out of the banking sector and worked her way up the professional ladder of the ATL Automotive Group – from sales representative in the Volkswagon department in Montego Bay to her transition to Honda in Kingston, and now to her position as senior sales manager, Volkswagon – said there were days she went home and cried because of self-doubt.
“There was a time I thought this was just getting way too hard. And I remember calling my manager who supervised me when I was just employed to ATL, and asking her how she handled it and how she survived in the environment. That was the turning point for me; she gave me some solid advice that I’ll cherish to this day,” she said. “Professional growth through the ranks … it’s never easy. Now, as the only female sales manager there, I’m reminded to put in the work and do it properly. Once you do that, you will never hear you are doing wrong. It’s normal to wonder if your opinion is as important as the males, especially when you’re listening to the male associates, so you work twice as hard. You have to be strong.”
Never in Wagstaffe’s wildest dreams did she envision that she would have worked in the automotive industry for more than three years. As a student of psychology and criminology, she had originally planned to spend a maximum of four years in car sales to acquire funds to fulfil her goals to become a forensic psychologist. But she could not ignore the pull of the auto world. Her father actually owned a fleet of trucks and tractors, and she surrounded herself with friends with a passion for motor cars and racing, and over the years, with continued training in sales and management, and increased knowledge, the auto industry didn’t look so daunting. A car became more than an engine and four wheels, and Wagstaffe began to see her purpose as a saleswoman.
Her advice to young women entering the industry: “Have a strong will for success and the drive to develop those around you. Having a strong sense of fairness and honesty has been some of the things that have helped me overcome the challenges of working in a male-dominated field.”
She adds, “Also, expand your knowledge… . There should never be a time where a client asks a technical question and a sales rep – male or female – isn’t capable of providing an answer.”