I do some sales meetings with usually IT people and facility directors in local schools, etc. I usually go with just my boss, who is a older man. The people we meet with tend to address him, though I will chime in and take over at any opportunity I have - I have been on quite a few of these meetings and am as assertive as I can politely be. My boss tends to get off topic and be repetitive and forget to mention some of our key sales points, and sometimes the conversation may wander without me being able to get these points in.

The problem may be any combination of my boss taking over my opportunities, or those that we meet with addressing him instead of me.

As a young woman, how can I appear more professional and assertive during a meeting?


3 Answers 3


I think you have two issues here. First, your boss isn't letting you do your job. Second, the folks you're pitching to may not recognize your skills / qualifications / authority / whatever.

I think the first feeds the second, and so it should be addressed first. Take the above question to your boss. If he's a good, experienced mentor, he should understand and help. You could spin it slightly and say something like, 'Hey, I'd really like to get as good as you at these sales meetings; what if I lead the pitch and you provide feedback after on how I can do better?' This will feed his ego, stroke his grey beard, and generally encourage him to want to help you. He may not even realize he's dominating.

The second one is easier if the first one goes down. If you're leading the pitch and providing the information and so on, it's easier to show your stuff. It also helps if you're talking the clients' language. I'm not making assumptions there, but as a tech person I can tell you "my people" will often dismiss anyone who doesn't immediately show Alpha Nerd in the room, and unfortunately there's often some gender bias there as well.

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    erm... yeah, I didn't even consider that to mean anything other than letting him know you acknowledge his experience. Sorry!
    – Paul
    Jun 24, 2016 at 3:49

While I completely agree with @Paul's answer, you may also require a little adjustment in how you interact in these meetings.

As a small, quietly spoken woman in the technical side of IT where most of the time I'm the only woman in the room, I have learned that sometimes it's necessary to be slightly more assertive than is polite. One trick I use is rather than waiting for the speaker to leave a pause, nod and start speaking just as they finish and keep saying what you intended to say. If you pause that point, it can give a cue that you weren't comfortable with what you were going to say, and the more assertive participants will again take control of the discussion.

So simply put, you sometimes need to make a gap, rather than wait for it! You may find your boss is actually doing this if you listen closely :)

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    Good advice, I do feel like I've gotten to this point already though. I'm definitely normally shy though, and don't always have the courage to butt in, but I'm working on it!
    – user48249
    Jun 23, 2016 at 4:12
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    Oh don't worry, I'm also really shy, and it took some practice to be able to do this. It comes down to having the confidence in yourself that you know what you are talking about, and that you are the best person to respond! :)
    – Jane S
    Jun 23, 2016 at 4:15
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    Self-confidence is pretty much the cure.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 23, 2016 at 7:14

I had similar issues when I first became a sales engineer (also working with schools). I was the baby-faced early 20s techy kid with the balding, assertive, sales guy.

You're already doing a lot of the right things. But the best thing to do is have a conversation after each meeting. How did it go? What worked? What didn't work? What do we want to work on next time? Those "off-topic, repetitive wanderings" may be completely intentional. Those sales points may have been intentionally skipped because he assessed the room and felt they were unnecessary. (When you've won the deal, stop selling)

I would oftentimes question the sales rep's direction during the meeting, and he would have a variety of rationale for it that I'd never thought of. That sparked opportunities for learning on my part. Often, I might have counterpoints or thoughts of missed opportunities/strategies that we could incorporate into future meetings.

If nothing else, it helped us understand each other. I could start to predict where he was going to take a meeting based on those conversations, and he could see where I was trying to redirect a conversation to when I would step in. You should be a team, and communication is key to a successful team.