Kim Duke: The Sales Diva
Kim Duke had a successful career in
advertising sales for two of Canada’s
largest television networks. Outside of
work, she began speaking at women’s
business events, where she caught the
entrepreneurial bug. When she spoke
with women, she discovered that while
she finds sales easy, most women don’t.
There was a clear market, and Sales
Divas Inc. was born.
“My main focus was going to be
on women entrepreneurs and women
who sell,” she says. And even though
some people told her this niche was too
small, Duke was convinced she was on
the right track—she knew female entrepreneurs were one of North America’s
fastest growing markets.
“Women, in general, are very afraid
of selling,” she says. “They’re afraid of
coming across as too pushy or manip-
ulative. My mission in life is to help
them realize you don’t have to be those
things to be successful.”
She chose a unique niche—and a
unique message. “I’m a sales trainer who
thinks that cold calling is an archaic style
of selling,” she explains. “I’ve taken a lot
of heat over that over the years.”
But it was also a way to stand out
from the crowd.
Once Duke established her market, it was
time to name the company and develop
the brand’s personality and look.
A casual brainstorming session over
wine with friends led her to the name
Sales Divas Inc. She received words of
caution: Male-led companies might not
want to work with you, colleagues told
her. But Duke was comfortable with that.
“I take a stand for my brand,” she
says. “I wanted the name to tell you what
I am. Divas know what they’re doing.”
She wanted the brand to reflect a
polished, professional one-stop shop for
women in sales—plus, she wanted to
make the experience fun for her clients.
To drive that home,
she chose purple as
her main branding
color and writes all
from business cards to
in a spirited, conversational tone that
reaches out to women.
She trains clients,
for example, at the
Sales Camp. Her
books are specifically
designed to fit into a
woman’s purse. She
doesn’t use a normal
business card holder,
but instead a purple
box with a tassel.
And her envelopes
are made of sparkly
she adds, is designed to catch people
off-guard. She begins with, “I’d love
to take your call, but I’m out making
money right now.”
Duke sees to it that anything rep-
resenting her brand is consistent. It’s
about “savvy and sassy sales advice.”
“Some brands are incredibly boring,”
Duke says. “That can never be said of
me. I am not Duke and Associates.”
Savvy and sassy also shine through
when she speaks at conferences or
coaches clients directly. She tells the
tough truth, she says.
“If someone wants a coach who’s
going to pussyfoot around, then I’m not
the right fit,” she says.
And if a prospect isn’t the right fit,
Duke doesn’t force it. When a potential
client from a large corporation called
and said he wasn’t comfortable with
her company name and didn’t like her
purple Web site, she referred him to
someone who was a better match.
“I dig my stilettos in,” she says. “If
they think [Sales Divas] is fluff, I’m not
going to do a big sell job to convince
She encourages speakers to think
through the kinds of clients they want,
and then use their brands as a filter.
That way, you don’t end up in front of
an audience that’s the wrong fit.
Duke has thousands of newsletter subscribers from 54 countries, and she works
with clients around the world. She’s
doubled her sales every year since she
started her business in 2001, and she’s
received media attention from major networks in the United States and Canada.
“That doesn’t happen when you’re
vanilla,” she says. When speakers
develop their brand, she says, many focus
too much on being something for everyone and end up with a diluted product.
Here’s the payoff: As a speaker,
Duke says clients don’t challenge her
rate, which she relates directly to her