No two working weeks are ever the same for Viva Energy’s Karina Skourletos. Her responsibilities as a Key Account Manager are quite varied, but she is generally involved in strategy development, project work and interacting with customers right across Australia.
From internship to account management
Following a successful internship, Viva Energy offered Karina a role in March 2015 as a Graduate Commercial Analyst. She moved into her current role, as a Key Account Manager for Aviation Lubricants, in April 2016.
“It’s a multifaceted, largely customer-facing role, which I really love,” Karina says. “I sell oil, fluids, greases and solvents to about 60 customers, including large commercial airlines, chartered airlines, maintenance and repair organisations, resellers and flight schools.”
When Viva Energy first offered her the role, Karina worried that she might not be the right fit. “I have no technical background,” she says. “I did a double degree in arts and law at university. But I soon learned that my role is a sales role, and we have an amazing technical team to provide that technical support when I need it.”
A role with sales appeal
Three factors ultimately drew Karina to the Key Account Manager role:
1. Stakeholder management
Being able to manage multiple stakeholders is a transferable skill you can use in a range of roles. In Karina’s position, this means understanding the market sector she works in and getting to know her customers and their businesses intimately. Then it’s about figuring out how she can grow business and how her customers can grow – with her and Viva Energy.
2. An environment that fosters development and growth
“As a salesperson, I’ve been able to develop both my technical and sales skills, which has been really important,” Karina says. “It’s an area of development I wouldn’t have gotten working elsewhere.”
3. Strategy development
“This was my first real foray into developing strategy,” says Karina. “I had to change the way I thought and learn a new skill, and that’s really changed the way I think on a daily basis.”
The shift in mindset was initially a challenge, but it proved to be worthwhile. “I used to be a very black-and-white person – perhaps that came from my training in law. But now it’s more about revisiting the strategy – what’s working, what’s not. It’s more test and learn. Let’s try to think of really agile and innovative ways to help our prospects and our customers where we can.”
Advice for aspiring account managers
So, what’s Karina’s advice to those considering a career in sales within the oil and energy industry? Don’t let it intimidate you. “Quite the opposite,” she says. “It’s a really interesting, very diverse industry. Don’t think that just because you don’t have a technical background that it’s not an industry that’s open to you. Instead, you should look at it and say, ‘Yes! This is really different. It’s really cool.’”
After all, the industry is the backbone of Australia. “Oil and gas, in some way, supply the great manufacturing plants in this country. We supply trucks, airlines, road trains and big mining companies,” says Karina. “We’re so integrated into this country, and to be part of an organisation and an industry that has a very rich history is very exciting.”