Career Spotlight: Stuttering and the world of Sales
March 8, 2022
We often get questions from clients about what careers are “best suited” for someone who stutters. Our answer is always the same: Any career you want! In fact, name any profession, and we can probably find someone who stutters working in that field. (Including, now, President of the United States.) Oftentimes, they’re right here in our AIS family, as either current clients or alumni of our programs.
To illustrate this point—that people who stutter can find success in any professional field—we’ll use this space to occasionally highlight careers that some of our past clients have pursued.
Today we’ll take a look at Sales. From cold calls and business lunches to presentations and pitches, a career in sales requires a TON of effective, persuasive communication.
Tim M. is an Account Executive for Dell Financial Services, a subsidiary of Dell Technologies. He recently sat down in our office in Minneapolis, MN, to talk about how his speech has impacted his experience on the job.
What made you want to pursue a career in sales?
I’ve always liked the constant interaction with people. And the idea that I can somewhat control my own income. Also, subconsciously I think I always pursued a career in sales because I knew it was a job often associated with a fluent speaker. I was a bartender in college, and I think I have always picked jobs “for fluent speakers.” The psychology behind that I guess is interesting, but I think it had more to do with challenging myself and trying to be in control than it did with me trying to be something I am not.
Did you ever worry that your stutter would be an issue in that field?
I used to worry all the time—and still do worry about it on given days. However, going through consistent speech therapy and learning the power of self-disclosure has done wonders for my self-confidence. It has made my stutter an ancillary trait, instead of a core trait of who I am.
How much talking do you do on a daily basis?
I talk all day, and stuttering does not impact my day to day responsibilities. I have learned that you "choose your hard”: talking on the phone can be hard, but not generating opportunities and closing deals is hard, too. You pick your outcome. Letting your stutter impact your success is much worse than simply having a stutter.One upside of the variability of stuttering is: If you're having a tough day, it will be different tomorrow. I'll tell myself that when I'm struggling, and it helps me to keep showing up and keep going.
How have your managers—and even more important, your clients—responded to your stuttering?
I self-disclose very frequently now, but I used to be embarrassed about it. Self-disclosing has been a life changer for me in a very positive way. My managers and clients respond to it just fine, especially once it is out in the open. Because you have left nothing to question. Managers, colleagues, and clients typically have no response to my stutter once it's out in the open. If anything, they have a deeper respect and level of trust in me. If I can take one of my biggest insecurities and bring it out to forefront, I think it tells people a lot about the kind of person I am.
What’s your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment is a culmination of where I am at in life right now, especially over the last two years. I recently got engaged, bought a house, and started a job at Dell. I think I owe a lot of that to the way I view myself and the way I’ve responded to the "adversity" of stuttering that I have no control over. One of the most eye-opening things for me was being able to view my stutter as simply a part of who I am—and not something that controls who I am. Making that shift took practice and a lot of deeper reflection.
What has been your biggest challenge as someone who stutters in this field?
The biggest challenge, I think, is that sometimes you worry too much about fluency and not the content of what you are saying. The biggest help to me in that respect has been to self-disclose right away, and then just focus on what you want to say. I will often send an email prior to a meeting disclosing my stutter. This takes the pressure off and helps me focus on content.
Any advice for someone who stutters considering a career in sales?
Just be true to yourself and don't try to hide or overcompensate. People see through that.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY, Atlanta, GA, and Los Angeles, CA, and services are also available online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.