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Meet Sonia from Portugal

A passionate sales professional and a dedicated person, Sonia has it all.

“I love to interact with people and teamwork, but I’m also passionate about numbers, data analyses and social and human behavior.”

Sonia Melo

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

I studied Sociology and started working in a Pharmaceuticals company in Hospital and Pharmacy Sales. Besides being the responsible for hospital sales for some time, I had a very interesting passage in Customer Service department to help restructure the approach for both sales team and customers. This proved to be pivotal for my understanding of the main needs of internal and external stakeholders in the sales world. I then moved to the Mass Market part of the business and was part of the team that launched an Oral care brand in Portugal. I had a short assignment as a regional account (field) and then moved for a Key Account Manager position for National and International accounts, with a mixed function in Trade Marketing for customer category projects. 

I always had the dream to work in the food industry, so when the chance presented, I moved to Kraft Foods (later Mondelēz International) 18 years ago. Continued has a Key Account Manager, then Group Customer Business Manager for National Accounts Modern Trade, Head of Traditional Trade. Today I am Head of Sales Retail in Portugal and had a 7-month interim Managing Director assignment.

During the time I’ve joined the company we had the integration of United Biscuits in Iberia adding the Biscuits and Grocery business to our initial Chocolate, Cheese and Beverages portfolio; Then came LU and more Biscuits, and finally Cadbury, adding the Gum and Candy business. All these companies, new categories and new business have added tremendously to my personal growth as professional, and I have been very lucky to learn and live through it all. We had to reinvent the structure and the business approach so many times it became a regular and normal exercise. There was never a dull moment.   

Before discovering Sales, I wanted HR or Marketing. I’ve built my degree around those subjects, as I felt those were the subjects that appeal to me. I love to interact with people and teamwork, but I’m also passionate about numbers, data analyses and social and human behavior. Coming from a small country where a high number of Sales are made by local and national players, I soon found out that sales was the area where I could have more freedom to locally define strategies and plans to help the business move forward. All this whilst leveraging the power of our brands and categories, the ability to build effective trust-based relationships, not only within the Sales team, as with all the many areas in the company we work with, but also with our business partners.

Back when I started sales were often seen as a male dominated area, there were not many women in the function by then. I was the first woman within the local Key Account Management team Mass Market and for a long time the only woman within international accounts groups from various countries. But the company I worked for, and some very strong professional women in management, really encourage me and helped me realize that my profile was a perfect match for the job. I was very young, but that encouragement - and the fact that I love what I do - gave me the confidence I needed.

I’ve not been mobile most of my life, as my husband has a career also locally, and I wouldn’t move without my family.  That is a clear restrainer to grow. I made several lateral moves inside Sales: Traditional Trade vs Modern Trade, different customers, specific products and formats, different business and challenges, and different ways of work. These have been very important for boosting my development and growth, to try to compensate for my lack of mobility.