During my time in the sales world, an unfortunate trend I’ve noticed is that sales can sometimes feel very much like an isolating “boy’s club.” In reality, this shouldn’t be too surprising, since this continues to be the norm in many industries — but that doesn’t make it right.
Not being a member of the “boy’s club” myself, I’ve often found that I needed to fight twice as hard to have a voice — even though I’ve experienced plenty of great sales success over the years (as have a host of other women).
I 100% know that women can crush it in sales, but the real challenge is getting more of us involved in the sales trenches and leadership ranks. Because when that happens, the scales are balanced and that’s where some of the best sales magic transpires. See, men and women are very different animals with strengths and weaknesses that can truly balance the other out. Polarizing a sales organization one way or the other just seems antiquated to me.
Gender-Based Bias On The Sales Floor
Now, I’m not trying to make any arguments that “men are evil” or anything ridiculous like that. Sure, there are some unsavory fellows out there, but I’ve worked with more men than women over the course of my career, many who have truly shown the utmost respect for me, my opinions, and my work. Others who have guided me, mentored me, uplifted me, and set the example for everything I aspire to be.
Still, there’s no denying that there are a few trends that make it harder for women to break into and more importantly remain in the sales world — and not all of them come from a bad place. In fact, many of these biases are the result of unconscious thoughts and behaviors that both men and women experience, such as confirmatory and similarity bias.
Confirmatory bias means that our preconceived notions about a person will affect the way we view their work. For example, a male manager might believe that women are less assertive — and as a result, during performance reviews, he tends to forget the time his female sales rep broke into and closed that particularly difficult sale that no one else could manage.
Similarity bias, on the other hand, refers to our tendency to want to mentor people who we feel are similar to ourselves (in personality, life experiences, etc). With mostly men still in sales leadership roles, however, this other hidden bias means that those most likely to be mentored are other men — unintentionally shutting women out or turning them off in the first place.
It can often be hard to recognize these biases in ourselves and others. Overcoming them is essential, though. Because women, just like men, have exactly what is needed for success in sales. The best place to start you ask? The sales hiring process of course.
Our EQ Is Stronger Where It Counts
I’ve written before on some of the qualities women have that make us great salespeople, but they bear repeating, simply because they can make such a difference in continually achieving great sales results.
Listening to your sales leads and customers to better understand their pain points is an essential part of the sales process, and as science has consistently found, women are better listeners than men. After all, there’s a big difference between being quiet while a customer is talking and actually listening.
Even when female salespeople talk more often during a call than our male counterparts typically do, we still close at a higher rate because we are more focused during the times when we’re not speaking — and as a result, the things we say are more in tune with what the customer needs to hear.
That ability to truly focus on what a customer is saying allows us to better adapt our sales messaging to create meaningful conversations to move the needle. It ensures that our words and actions show genuine care and that we can find a solution that really works to help solve the problem our customer has.
Most importantly, though, it allows us to tap into our natural empathy, which helps us form an emotional connection with a sales prospect. Emotions have consistently been found to greatly influence (and sometimes completely determine) our decision-making process. This empathy — as well as our more nurturing and compassionate attitudes — helps us hone in when a sales prospect expresses something related to an emotional need.
Subsequently, we’re in a great position to help them understand how a product or service will fill that emotional pain point. This emotional connection is what can ultimately make all the difference.
Why Women Thrive In Sales Leadership
With a strong EQ leading to improved sales results, you’d better believe that these same attributes also help us women thrive in sales leadership!
Just check out these findings from the Harvard Business Review, which analyzed thousands of business leaders using a list of key competencies: “At every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts — and the higher the level, the wider that gap grows.”
This wasn’t just in being able to listen well and provide a compassionate attitude, either. We even ranked better in categories most people associate with men, such as “taking initiative and driving for results.”
You’d better believe that applies just as much to women in sales leadership roles.
The thing is, today’s sales teams need much more than someone who demands that they reach a certain quota. They need coaches — people who mentor and motivate, who block and tackle for them and fight for their best interests. They need leaders who empower them to take ownership of their work and strive to achieve better results than ever before.
While there are still not enough women in the sales leadership ranks, more and more people are starting to recognize that our attributes make us perfectly suited for “the demands of modern leadership.”
Women have all of the tools to be successful salespeople. But we also have the ability to take our experiences and expertise and use them to improve performance for the sales organization as a whole. Research has found that companies with women in leadership perform 15 percent better than those with only men.
The advantages of bringing women into sales leadership are ripe for the picking. We just need to take those next steps so that those leadership opportunities are available for everyone.
Summing It Up
Ladies AND gentleman, I want to hear what you think. How have women made an impact on your sales team? What do you think can be done to eliminate the “boy’s club” mentality and encourage more women to become sales leaders? What are you doing to entice women to get into sales in the first place?
I’m excited to get your input and so looking forward to the road ahead for women in sales and sales leadership!
Note: I originally featured this posting on the Avenue Talent Partners Blog