What Salespeople can learn from Girlboss

Girlboss(Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen Girlboss yet on Netflix, I recommend that you stop reading this post and watch the show first. Yes, Girlboss was recently canceled after one season, but it’s still worth viewing. At this writing the program is still streaming on Netflix).

For those who haven’t seen Girlboss, here is a summary about the comedy program –

The show is roughly based on Sophia Amoruso’s autobiography GIRLBOSS.

(In fact, the producers want to make it clear upfront with this disclaimer – “What follows is a loose retelling of true events… Real loose.”)

The show depicts how Ms. Amoruso started her company Nasty Gal in 2006, which would become a California-based retailer specializing in young women’s fashion. She started her business while working as a security guard/host at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University. When not checking student IDs while sitting at the front desk, she worked on creating her company, which would eventually generate $23 million by 2011, according to Inc. Magazine

(Nasty Gal was purchased by the Boohoo Group earlier this year for $20 million).

Ms. Amoruso’s character’s name in the show is Sophia Marlowe (played by Britt Robertson). Ms. Marlowe is portrayed in this fictional account as a nasty gal herself. She likes to shoplift. She uses crass language. She has roller coaster relationships with her father (played by Dean Norris), friends and various colleagues in her life. In her early 20’s, she is trying to find herself while struggling to pay her rent and keep her car running. Interested in vintage clothing, she soon discovers her calling and starts earning a living by selling clothing on eBay. Eventually, she quits her security position and launches her online store for fame and fortune.

What can salespeople learn from Girlboss? Here are my takeaways –

1). Follow your passion – Ms. Marlowe adores vintage clothing. But she loves working for herself more and being her own boss. Selling vintage clothing online appears to be her ticket to financial freedom. Ignoring negative comments from others, she proceeds with her goal.

In sales, many of us have a passion for selling. But we all face a lot of negativity on a daily basis. We deal with a barrage of rejections from clients, cancelled appointments, unfair criticism from sales managers, and the list goes on.

What keeps us going is our passion to sell. But not just selling per se, but a love for the products and services that we offer our clients. To be successful, your passion has to come through. You have to love what you are selling as well as the industry you work in. If you don’t, then selling is just another job, and your clients and prospects will quickly see through your façade and drop you like a hot potato.

BTW, while you may think you can hide behind your façade in phone sales, many clients can pick up on the tone of your voice. They can tell if you are really excited about what you are doing, or if you are just going through the motions.

2). Read – Passion alone doesn’t help if you don’t read. Ms. Marlowe is smart enough to realize that. So she undertakes a self-study program by reading (and sometimes stealing) books on how to run a business.

Just because you have taken a few workshops or read some books about selling, doesn’t make you an expert. Learning how to sell, like any profession, requires a disciplined and ongoing training program. Don’t like to read that much? OK, then watch the hundreds of free videos on YouTube or other sites. Listen to audio book tapes. But always be learning.

team work3). You can’t do it alone – Annie, Ms. Marlowe’s best friend, has devoted a lot of time and energy helping Nasty Gal get off the ground. When Annie (played by Ellie Reed) asks to be hired as full-time paid employee, Ms. Marlowe turns her down flat. But eventually, Ms. Marlowe realizes she can’t run the business alone, and decides to hire Annie. She makes  her decision not just based on friendship (which is not always the best way to hire people), but because she knows that Annie has the skills to take her business to the next level. Annie has been working in a women’s fashion store, and was even given the green light for a managerial position. But Annie decides to forgo a safe job and take on a more risky one with a start-up. Through mutual respect and friendship, both these women are determined to succeed.

(With start-ups, your early hires shouldn’t always be those who offer technical or professional skills, but who share the same dream or vision you do).

Ms. Marlowe faces a similar dilemma when she tries to create her own website. While reading a book on website development, Ms. Marlowe struggles to learn all the coding she needs to master the set up her website. Soon, she begins to fear that she will not be able to launch her website on time to meet her financial obligations. However, Ms. Marlowe, admitting her shortcoming, grudgingly relents  to Annie’s advice and accepts her decision to hire a professional web designer.

You don’t need a good friend to tell you what you already know. Instead, you need one like Annie who tells you what you need to know to be successful.

Surround yourself with friends and allies who will support you.

While some romanticize about being a lone wolf salesperson (who are usually defined as salespeople who go it alone, and reject the advice from others), in reality, many of us can’t make it on our own. For example, we need help from marketing, production, shipping and others to be effective.

Selling is definitely a team effort. Never forget that.

4). Shit happens, so deal with it – Ms. Marlowe has to overcome a lot of obstacles along the way to launch her business. For example, fearing a bad review on eBay (which could hurt her business before she has a chance to expand), she literally drives like a madman and then runs to deliver a vintage wedding dress to a bride right before the wedding begins.

Haven’t we all had to go the extra mile sometimes to get a sale? Like coming to work earlier than usual to conduct an online tour for a client based in India, or shipping a product overnight at your expense to ensure it arrives on time.

In another scene, Ms. Marlowe’s competitors, jealous of her success and innovative ways of doing business, plot to take her down by having eBay deny her access. Undeterred, she not only launches her own website, and even finds a rental space to expand her business.

You will always have competitors. Ignore them. Just focus on doing the best job you can and your clients will follow you.

On a side note, I’m personally disappointed to see the show canceled. There are very few comedy or drama programs about the challenges of starting and running a business. While Girlboss is a fictionalized account of Ms. Amoruso’s efforts to launch Nasty Gal, the program and her book offers us lessons on how to be successful in sales.

To some critics, Ms. Marlowe comes across as brash, obnoxious, and narcissistic,  but it’s her persistence, resourcefulness, and street smarts that should be admired by anyone interested in starting a business or going into sales.

As Ms. Marlowe has demonstrated in Girlboss, starting a business isn’t for the fainthearted. And neither is it when pursuing a sales career.

To learn more about Girlboss, please check out these sites –

Girlboss Media
Girlboss, Netflix Official Site

Note: If you like this post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

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