Sheila Fung, Tech Sales Instructor at Uvaro, joins us to share her sales journey. What do jiu-jitsu and sales have in common? How do you stay true to who you are when selling? How to make the conversation around females choosing sales as a career more accessible? Stay tuned!
Sheila Fung, Tech Sales Instructor at Uvaro On What Jiu-Jitsu And Sales Have In Common. Make The Conversation Around Females Choosing Sales As A Career More Accessible.
In today’s episode, I’m interviewing Sheila Fung she’s an instructor Uvaro. But she’s also an educator, a martial artist, an entrepreneur, and she got into sales in the middle of some very disruptive personal changes. And I think you’re really gonna enjoy this interview. Stay tuned. She’s coming up shortly.
Joseph Fung: Hi everyone, I’m Joseph Fung, and today I have the great pleasure of speaking to my sister and colleague Sheila Fung, who is an Instructor, A Sales Instructor at Uvaro. Sheila, thank you for joining us.
Sheila Fung: Thank you. I’m really happy to be here, Joseph.
Joseph Fung: I’m so looking forward to this, not just because I get to put you in the hot seat. But also, because your story is such an interesting one, and when we talk about interesting journeys and launching careers, you have Uvaro. I know I’ve said this publicly before, but I don’t think I’ve said it on the podcast yet. Your journey really was the inspiration to launch Uvaro, so I mean, the opportunity to interview you for this podcast is such a delight. Thank you. Thank you for being available.
Sheila Fung: Thanks, Joseph!
Joseph Fung: Why don’t we start things off to get people some orientation? Where you’re calling in from where’d you go to school, you know where about in the world are you?
Sheila Fung: Okay, I’m based in Vancouver right now. I’m working remotely with the team to remove our own Kitchener. I went to school for my undergrad at McMaster, actually in Hamilton, Ontario. Yeah, and I studied communications and comparative literature, and that’s sort of my starting point in terms of education.
Joseph Fung: Know clearly when you’re studying literature and communication, so the next thing you do is you open a martial arts school, right.
Sheila Fung: Sure, it’s a natural progression. I actually started before the dojo and the fitness business from school. I moved into crisis intervention and writing for Ontario nature, both causes that were very near and dear to my heart at the time. I think I was in a place where I was choosing what I wanted to based on who I could help the most. And I loved that transition from there into fitness through a series of serendipitous events, and that’s actually what started me on the entrepreneurial journey if you want to think about the timeline.
Joseph Fung: So I loved that comment you said that focusing on things that let you help people the most. And we often speak about helping people giving value in sales but for you. I get you to know conservatory work the crisis intervention work. I think these are really obvious opportunities to help your work with red tiger martial arts and spark fitness. How did that realize the idea of helping people?
Sheila Fung: I like that question because when you look at it on paper, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to jump from one right into the other, but I think I should even take it back to the way for me to get through the undergraduate process. A sale was in the background there I worked a lot of sort of telemarketing and call center jobs to pay for a lot of that. And so I did see it at that point as sales allowed me to do those things, and while I was studying, I was doing the crisis intervention and the nature conservancy stuff. Because of that need to help and sales was really the avenue to do that.
So when I moved into the entrepreneurial area, sales again was underpinning, allowing me to do this thing I was really passionate about. And the difference between crisis intervention and personal training and martial art instruction. I saw it as still an avenue to change lives but in a way that wasn’t bleeding the life out of me is the nicest way to put it. I found the crisis intervention very draining. There was no closure with any of the cases I was working with. It was very much a Paestum off in the moment and then legally I was not allowed to follow through. So personal training and martial arts instruction I saw in two different lines fitness was very much about helping people get control of their bodies their metabolism oftentimes their lives because those things so often seem to tie together.
And the martial arts aspect I saw as an extension of that but in a skill-based area. Especially when it comes to physical movement and self-defense a lot of the people that I was working with either had a history of trauma coming in a fear of trauma or had just never been taught to move their bodies and I really enjoy being part of the process of teaching someone what they can do. And it’s a different scale for everybody but if you go from not understanding how to move let alone how to protect yourself and then go through the process of following through on all the little movements to be repeated and polished. And then eventually get to a point where you feel confident enough to defend yourself it’s a very it’s inspirational journey to be a part of.
Joseph Fung: You clearly identify with the customers of your clients so well. I know we speak about the ideal customer profile person as in our classes, and you’ve already spoken about how your sales work was a thread through your entrepreneurial journey. I’m curious about the two companies you’re at, so red tiger martial arts Park Fitness was the same customer profile the same ICP. Yeah, how did you think about that?
Sheila Fung: Very different ICP connected though.
Joseph Fung: Okay
Sheila Fung: Yeah, so the target with the martial arts school was a combination of adults and children, but the primary student base was children. And then spark fitness grew out of that when we recognized that the parents sitting there watching their children in the class were there they were captive so of course, why not attach a gym to the side. So that was a pretty logical Progression.
Joseph Fung: There you go, so that’s almost like two different persons although if the parents are paying for the kids, it’s gonna be the same value at the end, I suppose.
Sheila Fung: When it comes right down to it, Yeah.
Joseph Fung: Fair okay, so we’re getting a little bit more about your journey. You got this entrepreneurial journey, but we’re still not in your sales role. You know I’d like to touch base on that you spoke about how sales was an opportunity to find stability, and I know you went through some really tough changes maybe you can share a little bit about that help our audience understand you know what that time of life was like.
Sheila Fung: Sure I mentioned that the entrepreneurial journey for me was based on passion. And martial arts and fitness were things that I was very passionate about so for me the opportunity to grow a couple of businesses that allowed me to pursue that to share while also bringing my children with me to work was the ideal scenario. And after doing that for five-six years, I started to think about expansion and financial stability and growing and so I sold a franchise of the gym and started looking into opening other locations and extending my reach that way. And it was all toward achieving that sort of next level of stability.
And then in that process also my marriage started to fall apart and as that was happening it really highlighted to me that well I had been prioritizing growing the businesses and having the children with me being physically tied to locations was not sustainable. And not sustainable in a way that was great for the kids. Because as much as they loved being at the dojo with me we were bouncing. I’d be working really long days they’d be bouncing around between school and all of their other activities and it was a lot.
And then when multiple locations came into play it was this realization that they couldn’t be on the road all the time and if I’m a mom my own I need something that is a lot more predictable and a lot less chaotic right. So sales was the obvious next step because that whole passion that whole lifestyle business had been driven by a sales process and so moving into something that allowed me to focus on it at scale was just a logical next step remotely without the only way.
Joseph Fung: You’ve moved into the sales role in a year you’re working with us now you spoke earlier about how martial arts and fitness were such a passion? you know having left those businesses behind, and now you know in the sales rule do you still get the opportunity to train to practice to realize those passions.
Sheila Fung: So I was resistant to leaving the businesses I was passionate about because of that but that fear that I would not get to train anymore I would not get to do the things I love. And at the beginning, I actually had more time to train than I ever did basically living at a dojo which was a bit of an eye-opener as to what living in the business was doing to me, so I do, and the difference now is that anytime I step on the mats it’s entirely for my benefit. And that is completely 180 degrees different from how it used to be stepping on to teach versus stepping on to train. It’s a big difference.
Joseph Fung: I must feel very rewarding.
Sheila Fung: It does. It really does. I’m enjoying that.
Joseph Fung: So I know that we recently engaged in a conversation on LinkedIn where John, who we both know, built a connection between sales and sports. And I know that your training has some strong analogies and sales we’re gonna come back to that, but I’d like to talk about the sales experience a little bit if that’s okay. I love how early on you mentioned that sales were a thread through your work in terms of helping people. Selling technology is very different from selling personal care or well-being or growth. I’d love to take a look at those comparisons first off. What surprised you most about selling technology?
Sheila Fung: I liked how you framed it that way because they are very different, but the thing that surprised me most was actually how similar. They are the first thing ever I would do with a client coming in for the fitness or martial arts business is figure out where they were coming from and identify what their major pain points were. That is discovery. So it’s been a bit of an eye-opener just how much overlap there is because to do to sell fitness and lifestyle well, you have to be able to get to the root of the problem.
Because people coming in who’ve already got a handle on that stuff it’s just let’s try this new thing for a short time but to create a long-lasting connection with your client and something that’s going to be not just in there for a month but there for years. And I’ve had client relationships that have spanned decades you have to be able to get into the problem into the pain and really understand what makes them tick to provide the right solution for them. Because no one solution fits all and I think there’s a fair bit of overlap there with technology because you’re selling solutions to complex problems and they’re adaptable.
Joseph Fung: So there’s a great example there of you know those strong similarities what struck you was the difference?
Sheila Fung: Hmm, the consultative nature of the process and technology. There are other people there are other stakeholders so well the pain and discovery are comparable there’s more to think about, there’s more to factor in. So the biggest difference and I think the hardest part is taking those skills and recontextualizing them in a way that factors in a huge amount of nuance that really has to be discovered in the early stages.
Joseph Fung: I think the idea of discovery is a pretty common thread through both of those comments. Nope, thinking a little bit about your work, you know one of the things that you start said at the beginning was that you really value the idea of helping people. And I know we speak about helping and giving value in sales I’d love to hear how do you know how do you realize that deep personal value in your day-to-day work selling b2b software? How do you stay true to yourself in those actions?
Sheila Fung: That’s a really good question and I think I know I mentioned being resistant to the career change and it was sort of and sparked by necessity. I’ve been astounded at just how much value I’m getting out of this process and in the early stages of the transition, most of the value was in the sort of brain spark that happens. When you’re really rapidly learning the use of new tools and new solutions and getting a feel for the ecosystem that you’re stepping into and then learning has always been a thing I’ve loved to do. So that was the first step and then once I started again handle on things realizing that I could really help people because the solution that I was selling was a kite and it makes such a big difference in terms of revenue which is huge for a business it’s like the key.
So that was a great feeling and feeling like I was really doing a good thing there. But then with the transition to Uvaro, I can’t believe how comparable the transformation is for a student coming in at the front end of the course to how they come out at the back end to what people were going through in the process of sort of getting control of their bodies and their ability to move and their own sense of capability? There’s so much overlap I don’t even know where to start with that.
Joseph Fung: I love your comment about overlap. It reminds me of one of the stories are you chaired earlier. I know we’re recording this just before Mother’s Day, and I’ve got this recollection of you sharing a comment about, you know, your first Mother’s Day and martial arts. Can you remind me and share this with the audience? I remember enjoying that a lot.
Sheila Fung: Yeah it, yeah Mother’s Day is coming up my kids are planning 1 million craft. My first Mother’s Day I actually spent it at a jujitsu competition a tournament in Oregon, and I jumped down with my eight-month-old baby, and I spent the day the first part coaching a couple of competitors that I had also competed with a baby strapped to the front. And then wow when my division came up it was literally hand off to a team member run out to the mats tried to choke my opponents run back to hold the baby in between rounds and back and forth. And it was actually my first competition back since having her but competitions pretty high and my list of fun things to do for a weekend. So best mother’s day ever.
Joseph Fung: So how’d your place do you did you do well?
Sheila Fung: I did. I took second in the division, and I typically am not pleased with that at all, but my…
Joseph Fung: I just had a kid and that’s a big deal.
Sheila Fung: Yeah.
Joseph Fung: Okay, so we’ve already determined I mentioned earlier we’re chatting on LinkedIn about sports and sales, and we talked about some parallels between jiu-jitsu and sales there has to be something more than just armbars. So you know what sticks out to you what’s the connection between jiu-jitsu and sales in your mind?
Sheila Fung: Yeah, so there are two routes that are really important with jiu-jitsu and sales crossovers. The first obvious one which I mentioned on Jon’s thread is the nature of chess and the need to read an opponent’s movements and put pressure where you need it to produce the reaction that you want so that you can then do what you’re actually trying to do. It’s a lot of push-pull response.
Joseph Fung: We’re talking about sales or jiu-jitsu.
Sheila Fung: Right, in jiu-jitsu.
Joseph Fung: Okay.
Sheila Fung: Where there are processes of reading what people’s tendency is how they communicate or in this case spar and then being able to think a few steps ahead? And to create the reaction that you want. And then it’s not as simple as pushing against them it’s directing their energy so if they’re pushing towards you deflecting to the side so that you’re using their effort they’re moving themselves where you want them to be. Then the other avenue that’s really important in terms of Crossovers. Jiu-jitsu is the best ego killer; I think that.
Joseph Fung: So more than sales?
Sheila Fung: More so than sales
Joseph Fung: Wow
Sheila Fung: And getting used to being physically crushed in order to learn is so important because you even if you win and you jiu-jitsu match you come out of it feeling like you got wrecked it. There’s so much physical effort, and it’s fighting.
Joseph Fung: That’s fair. I’ve had sales deals like that.
Sheila Fung: Yes
Joseph Fung: Yeah
Sheila Fung: If you want to get better at it, you have to do that you have to put yourself in that position, and you have to be willing to try the thing you’re not sure if it’s gonna work in order to make it work. And that means accepting that you might lose all right and sales are the same way if you are just doing the same patterns that aren’t working over and over again because they’re comfortable you are never going to grow. And I know that that is sometimes the hardest thing as a human being to accept that growth requires failure, but I think jiu-jitsu encapsulates that you fail so many times until you start progressing and it would sales you’re doing the same thing.
Joseph Fung: Now we’ve touched on a bunch of things that you have one more area I’d like to touch on before I let you go. One of the things that stick up to me. When I look at jiu-jitsu when I look at sales tech sales moreover. Is there also both industries and areas that are highly competitive and very male-dominated as a woman who’s been in both who sees the parallels? I’d love to hear your observations on here why that might be and what are the things that we could do to encourage women to pursue careers and I mean sales is where I’m primarily focused but perhaps the lessons apply to both
Sheila Fung: Yeah, that’s a big there’s a lot of a lot to unpack there. In terms of why they’re male-dominated. I’m gonna say that as the physical component aside, there is a competitive aspect. And it’s a competition that in the physical like in the arenas of jujitsu and martial arts it makes sense for it to be a still a male dominant even though the competition is divided by gender, it’s divided by weight range, it’s divided by skillset, there is still a predominantly male voice and that that’s changing. It’s starting to open up the more reading and writing that goes into it, but it is hard to find footing. As a female in the sport not just because of typical size and strength differences but the socialized mentality and then just the way you get treated on the mats is a little bit different as a female versus male.
And I’m gonna say that there are some comparisons there in sales as well just traditionally louder voices traditionally, male dominance struck male-dominated structures in terms of reporting structures ways of learning even the analogies you know if we’re using obviously male-dominant analogies to teach things all the time, of course, it’s going to be harder to make your voice be heard in that setting. But in terms of making it easier for women to participate or helping I should say women find their footing just reminding yourself to behave the way an ally would in both cases. And it doesn’t mean prioritizing a female voice but making room for it and then also thinking about things like the choices of analogies. It makes sense in this context to be talking about the martial arts crossovers. But if when you’re teaching sales training you’re only analogies are sport based right maybe open that up a little bit makes space for other stories in there as well.
Joseph Fung: All of those examples clearly the education in education through your answers there.
Sheila Fung: Yeah, and it makes a really big difference just having heard other narratives and understanding that there needs to be space made for other narratives I think goes a long way to help with that.
Joseph Fung: This has been great. I’ve already kept you longer than I promised I would. Do you have time for our rapid-fire questions before we wrap up?
Sheila Fung: Absolutely
Joseph Fung: Okay, great, these come quick and fast, so I love to hear your answers tools. What’s your favorite sales tool?
Sheila Fung: Kitte, but I’m biased.
Joseph Fung: Totally fair, I’m glad you stuck to the party line outside of work, though. What’s your favorite movie?
Sheila Fung: Boondocks Saints.
Joseph Fung: Oh, nice
Sheila Fung: Don’t judge me.
Joseph Fung: I’m, but it’s all good. What a great choice. When you were a kid what did you want to grow up to be?
Sheila Fung: Either a race car driver, a firefighter, or a Pilot
Joseph Fung: Those are great choices, and I can’t complain about those either.
Sheila Fung: Right
Joseph Fung: I know Sheila. This has been such a great conversation. Thank you for joining me to take the time and for opening up and sharing your journey. It’s a real inspiration, and I’m very grateful.
Sheila Fung: Thanks, Joseph. It’s been a pleasure.
Joseph Fung: I’m looking forward to our next conversation. I hope you have an incredible day, and I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day as well.
Sheila Fung: Thank you.