#LevelUp Your Sales Career: Finding and Leveraging Your Sales Superpower

Like many people, Joy Dempsey fell into sales. After studying English at Oxford University and an early career as a police officer, Joy transitioned to sales development.

Joy was motivated to become a police officer because she wanted to make a difference in her community. As a police officer, people sometimes saw the uniform and not Joy. Not the empathetic, kind, and driven woman that she is. However, Joy’s empathy, one of her sales superpowers, has been critical for her success in sales.

“I had zero sales experience going in and I really didn’t know much about it as an industry. In my experience, people from sales don’t come to career fairs and say ‘come and get into sales.’ Sales sometimes slips under the radar. Making the leap feeling quite uninformed was difficult, but I’m so glad that I did it because I found a career that I absolutely adore.”

Currently, Joy is a Manager of Sales Development at Dataminr. Joy attributes her success to believing in herself, having the support of good leaders, and acting with conviction, empathy, and confidence.

I asked Joy, what skills do you need to level up in order to become a sales development manager?

“You are absolutely good enough. More than that, you are better than good enough…”

Be Yourself

Maybe it’s silly, but I worried so much about my hair coming into a sales role. I’m just so conscious that my hair is so big. And then with the pandemic this past year, people have had two schools of thought about what working online has done for equality. In a video conference, everyone is just a face and you take up the same amount of space on the screen. As a result, I’ve started to believe myself that my hair is professional, ‘I’ve come to feel comfortable in the fact that natural Black hair is professional too’. This is my natural hair, washed and clean, and this is what it looks like. One of my pieces of advice is don’t change what you look like in order to fit in.

‘One of my pieces of advice is your work, (not your hair!), is the measure of whether or not you fit in – energy spent worrying about what people think of your hair can be better spent doing the job’ “I want to say: you are absolutely good enough. More than that, you are better than good enough. And if you work hard, you deserve to be in the room that you’re in. Even if you don’t look like anyone else, you deserve to be there.”

I think what successful SDRs do well is show that they are enthusiastic. As a hiring manager, I don’t prioritize experience. I prioritize enthusiasm and an ability to communicate. And another thing is just honesty and integrity. Just being honest about who you are, because when you’re working in sales development, you’re trying to connect with other people. And you can’t do that successfully if you’re pretending to be something that you’re not. Just be authentic.


I wanted to be a manager because I really love competition, hitting targets, and being successful. But I realized when I was an SDR, I needed that element of helping others to really feel fulfilled. So, I thought, this mentality around competition and achievement could really work well in a management position. I will say that being an SDR and managing a team of SDRs takes a lot of different skills: coaching people, supporting people, and letting them try out those things. And it’s hard because you shift from doing one role to doing a very different role at times. You don’t just want to be that manager that’s always right. Being an SDR is about being creative and standing out. And it’s not just about replicating exactly what your manager has done in the past.

The pandemic has really taught us that a multi-tiered approach to prospecting is always the best way. SDRs may have relied heavily on mobile phone numbers to contact people before the pandemic. Now, they have to pivot to email or to LinkedIn. And so just having a presence across all the platforms is the best way to be successful in sales development.

About Joy

Joy is training for her first triathlon in July 2021 and her experience summarizes her keys to career success: “I have an incredible triathlon coach who she is all about getting women of color into swimming, because I didn’t realize until I got into a pool that being a black woman in a pool is something that people don’t see every day. I had to seek out a swimming cap that would fit my hair, just one of the barriers to entry. When a sport focuses on you as the usual person participating in that sport, you don’t have to worry about barriers to entry. It’s really nice to have a triathlon coach that understands.”

Whether you are looking to level-up your skills, your career, or your network, Kelley has shown us a successful approach – believe in yourself and take a leap.  You may find yourself in an exciting new industry or company. Watch the #LevelUp Your Sales Career panel discussion here to #levelup your sales career with help and insight from savvy, global sales thought leaders.

– Cherilynn
Chief Learning Officer, SIS

Cherilynn Castleman, Global Sales Keynote Speaker/Trainer/Executive Coach, has been a sales executive for 20+ years. With her natural talent for teaching and a drive to sell, Cherilynn uses her skills to coach and train other executives and sales professionals. Author of What’s In the CARDS? 5 Post Pandemic Sales Strategies.

Sistas in Sales, LLC (SIS) is a community for women of color sales professionals to network, advance their careers and most importantly, find sisterhood – offering events, thriving Slack community with companies hiring now, and career coaching services. Learn more about Sistas In Sales membership here, connect with us on LinkedInInstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

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