The sales world just lost one of its wisest women, and I’ve just lost one of my best friends.

I wasn’t sure what the answer would be when I made the call. I’d always wanted to visit St. Petersburg, Russia. I was speaking in London in May of 2016, and I figured it would be a hop, skip, and a jump from there. At the very least, it would be much closer than flying from California. I was prepared to make the trip alone, until I remembered that Barbara Giamanco would also be at the London conference. I knew Barb as a fellow member of Women Sales Pros. I knew she shared my love of travel, and because she was unmarried, she could make her own decision without checking with anyone.

I made the call. It took Barb about a minute to say yes. At that point, we only knew each other professionally, but I liked her and was confident she’d be a good travel buddy. We planned the trip ourselves—from getting visas (very complicated) to planning activities for our short visit. We divided up our research, made our decisions, and booked two tours.

I knew already that our trip would be a blast, and I suspected that we would become fast friends. I was correct on both points, which is why it hurt so much to lose her last month. Please stay with me, as I relive our trip. It’s one of the ways I’m remembering Barb.

On Our Way

I stopped in my tracks when I saw that all she had was a carry-on for a 10-day trip. I was lugging a 27-inch suitcase, plus a carry-on. I figured she wasn’t a shopper, and I was right about that.

We landed in St. Petersburg the afternoon of Saturday, May 14, and spent time walking around the city. The weather was exquisite the entire time. Sunday was the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour. All the locals were out and about, walking in the parks, praying at church, and eating at sidewalk restaurants.

(Church of the Spilled Blood)

On Monday, we toured Catherine’s Palace, and on Tuesday, May 17, we visited The Hermitage. We learned a lot from our guide about life in Russia. He didn’t pull any punches about the lack of freedom of speech.

(Joanne and Barb at the St. Petersburg canal)

Wednesday, I visited the Choral Synagogue. It wasn’t bombed during the war, because the Germans couldn’t tell it was a synagogue from the air.  We flew back to London that afternoon to get early flights home the next morning.

I figured Barb and I would get along, even though I knew that when you travel with someone, eat three meals a day with that person, and share everyday experiences, you come away either hating the person or becoming close friends. I’m so glad it was the latter with Barb. That trip was a bond for us. We talked often after that and had long, long phone calls.

Barb was a public persona and yet, a very private person. I felt privileged that she was comfortable sharing her personal thoughts with me. We listened to each other, bounced ideas around, discussed frustrations, talked about future business plans, and checked in just to find out how the other was doing. I will miss those phone calls more than I can say, but I’ll always have our memories of Russia.

The Trailblazer

Barb was a connector. She never focused on herself. She put people together without being asked. She was the first to say “I’d like to introduce you to…”.” Barb didn’t wait around. She was proactive, direct, and never shy about sharing her points of view. She had vision and purpose. We should all be more like Barb.

Barb was a go-getter and a trailblazer for saleswomen. It was just like Barb to identify a huge gap and take action to fill it. For example, to address the lack of women in sales leadership, she created her podcast, “Conversations with Women in Sales,” for which she interviewed a variety of women leaders and sales professionals across a spectrum of ages and cultures.  She treated every woman as her guest and made them feel comfortable and engaged. (If you haven’t listened to Barb’s podcasts, now would be a good time.)

Barb knew the impact her podcasts had on saleswomen of all ages and backgrounds. She took her passion one step further and created an eBook called Opening the Doors to Sales Opportunities. It features interviews with five women: Alli Rizacos, Caryn Kopp, Kristina McMillan, Mandy Bynum, and me. Barb never asked any of us for help with this project. She took it upon herself to create this resource for women in sales, but she continued to let us know about the huge number of people who downloaded the book and whose sales lives we impacted. Download the eBook now to find out what I mean.

Gone but Never Forgotten

Timing is everything, and the irony hasn’t escaped me that Barb passed away on May 17, 2020—four years to the day after our visit to The Hermitage. She is gone. The phone calls and emails have stopped, but Barb’s legacy will linger.

I believe that people live on in the acts of goodness they performed, and in the hearts and minds of those who loved them. Barb will live on when we talk about her and write about her, and as we continue her passion for helping women in sales.

To learn more about this incredible woman and the sales wisdom she shared with the world for decades, you can read this touching obituary from our mutual friend and colleague, Deb Calvert. You can also listen to Barb’s Conversations with Women in Sales podcast, including my episode of her podcast, or download her eBook.