By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
Over 25 years in sales, Cherilynn Castleman (M.B.A., ’02) has become an internationally known sales expert, coach, and author. Earlier in her career, she read a quote by Ursula Barnes, former CEO of Xerox: “HR isn’t going to get you there,” Barnes says. “Communication and the Arts aren’t going to get you there.” Her point was, “the juice lies with people who are close to the produce and the money.” This message inspired Castleman to coach and train WoC (Women of Color) sales professionals to help them be “too good to be ignored.”
Finding a Calling
Growing up in Denver, Castleman worked for her father, a general contractor, where she developed a “good enough isn’t” work ethic. She then attended Occidental College on a full-ride academic scholarship. Her first jobs, as a family counselor for a community corrections program and a debt collection agent, were not where her true talents lay. She began to find her calling when selling life insurance to American servicemen in Germany; within a year she was leading the European district in sales.
Several years later she became financial planner for American Express Financial Services, where she designed an investment class for her clients. During this period, she passed the securities licensing exam, joined Toastmasters, and studied adult learning principles. Her sales were atop the leader board, and her classes not only filled but the evaluations were glowing.
She returned to the United States during the Gulf War. After working for American Express in Minnesota, she moved to Atlanta with her husband and wrote a business plan to “bring investment services to under-served niche markets.” A press release in Atlanta for her first local workshop, “She Means Business,” brought significant print and television exposure; over 300 women attended. Castleman achieved #1 in sales in the nation for the pilot project.
Reaching the Top
When she moved back to Denver, she first worked for National Jewish Medical and Research Center, becoming director and spearheading domestic and international initiatives. Revenues increased approximately 2000% over a three-year span. While she pursued the MBA, CSU recruited Castleman as director of marketing/business development for CSU Continuing Education (now CSU Global). During her tenure, their programs grew an average of 33% annually for three years.
In 2004, she was recruited to Skila, a Sela2 Company in New Jersey, where she led a global client team. In 2007, she accepted a position at Advanced Health Media as vice president/general manager and was responsible for increasing annual account sales by 53%, from $40.4 million to $62.5 million. In 2015 she was hired by Inovalon, which provides cloud-based tools to support data-driven health care. During this time, she became widely sought as a speaker.
Writing for Success
Castleman has two daughters, Trier-Lynn Bryant and Jálynn Castleman-Smith. Jálynn worked with her mother on the book she published in 2021, What’s in the C.A.R.D.S.? 5 Post-Pandemic Sales Strategies. Castleman says her daughter, “who has been correcting my grammar since grade school,” not only encouraged her to write the book but made her “stories come alive.” The book’s focus is on the importance of relationships, which are “the key to sales mastery.” Shortly after it was available, the book hit 71 on Amazon’s Women in Business category.
Looking back on her time in the Executive MBA program, this stalwart Ram says, “CSU was so important to the advancement of my career. When I was struggling to learn how to be a leader and to have financial fluency, what I had learned at CSU gave me those tools.” As we move toward a post-pandemic world, Castleman reminds readers, “we all have inner brilliance” and should “dig deep and draw on our inner reserves. In her book, Castleman reminds us, “we keep knocking until we find an open window.”