Women in Sales in 2017
What do you think of when you hear “sales person?” The term generally triggers the picture of a stereotypical pushy car salesman in a suit and tie. In most people’s mind, the image is a ‘salesman’, and not 'women in sales.'
Let’s look at this from a Linkedin perspective: Go to your Linkedin and do a “people search” for VP of Sales. The first page of results might not be very surprising. How many men are there? How many women? When I searched, only one of the first ten results for VP of Sales is a woman…you heard that right, only one! Case in point, women are continually under-represented in sales organizations, even though there is always a need for strong performers in sales. We need more women in sales!
Want the Good or Bad News First?
Let's start with the good news. Times are changing for women in the workforce. Women now make up about half of the US workforce and 51.5% of management and professional positions. Now the bad news.…according to recent Linkedin statistics:
- The percentage of women in sales has only increased 3% in the last decade, from 36% to 39%.
- That percentage decreases the more senior the role. Women only hold 19% of leadership roles in sales.
The sales world remains a boy’s club.
Sales organizations need to work to hire more women and help them move into higher leadership positions. The presence of more women in sales roles will not only narrow the gender gap but transform the sales industry.
Let’s face it, sales is historically a male dominated industry. The sales industry champions stereotypically male characteristics of aggressiveness and competitiveness. Job descriptions are filled with terms like ‘sports-minded,’ ‘relentless,’ ‘hungry’ and so on. However, women are stereotypically perceived as “soft,” “passive”, “weak and overly pushy”, “high-strung”, or “needy”. Whether consciously or not, employers might discriminate against prospective female sales candidates, believing men have more opportunities to make sales on a social level. This outdated perspective suggests stereotypes such as men are more willing and able to bond and meet with clients outside of the office, like at a bar or on the golf course. while women are unable to participate due to various familial responsibilities. Fortunately, top businesses are now hiring based on a candidate’s skills and knowledge, but some male leaders still hire with their ‘boy’s club’ in mind.
How is Hiring More Women in Sales Beneficial to an Organization?
Gender diversity changes the sales game by bringing new perspectives and skills to the business which drives companies to outperform their less diverse competitors.
- Women hit their quotas at a slightly higher rate compared to men. According to Gartner Inc., women’s average quota attainment is 70%, while men’s is 67%. However, a huge gender-equity gap in all parts of sales remains for women in sales. Total variable pay, base pay, and average commission rates are higher for men on all levels.
- A substantial female presence on your sales team increases marketability and usability by appealing to half of the population, helping build a better product.
- Gender diversity results in a more successful business. According to a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have higher financial returns.
- Women create more diverse teams. Gartner Inc. found that on average, female-led sales teams are 50% female while male-led teams are only 25% female. Investing in women results in an overall increase in company diversity.
A gender diverse sales force is not only the right thing to do, but the smart move for organizations.
Simply put, the data suggests having women in sales leads to a higher likelihood of quota attainment and outperforming competitors. And that’s just good business. With sales constantly evolving, embracing different perspectives, approaches, and skills can only advance the company. There is no better time to bring more gender diversity to your sales team!
How do you Attract and Attain Female Leadership in Sales?
While many companies are working to hire more women and create diverse teams, there is still much work to be done. It takes breaking down subconscious biases and discussing hiring goals throughout the company to make the difference. Here are some suggestions for investing in hiring and retaining female sales leaders:
- State your goals clearly. Share your intentions for building a more diverse organization with your entire team. Explain your reasoning behind hiring more women and make sure they share your vision.
- Strategically source new sales talent using unconventional search tactics. While advice and recommendations from the existing team is helpful, it can lead to hiring candidates that are too similar to the team members already there. This might take accepting a slightly longer time-metric for the interview process, but it will pay off in the long run.
- Use gender neutral terminology in the hiring process to avoid turning people off from working for you. Instead of terms like “aggressive,” “hungry,” and “athlete,” use “team player,” “energetic,” and “dynamic.” All candidates will be motivated to be a high-performer through gender neutral phrases.
- Cultivate an accepting and friendly office environment. The office should send the right messages to all employees and promote a space to network, learn, and socialize.
- Present women in leadership roles. In recent psychology studies, the presence of successful female role models empowered women in leadership tasks and eliminated the gender performance gap. This allows female candidates to visualize themselves in a successful role in your company.
Tips for Women in Sales: Ready to Change the Sales Game?
It’s time for us to take our careers into our own hands. Here are some tips on how to accelerate your success:
- Don’t forget you have the skills to succeed as a woman in sales. While sales is conventionally seen as a career naturally inclined for men with their aggressive and strong-willed mentality, you also have the drive and skill-set to flourish in sales. Women can be just as aggressive and competitive as their male co-workers while also channeling their natural strengths such as empathy, intuitiveness, and listening.
- Listen to your clients and understand their needs, a skill for any sales person. Saleswomen let customers tell them what they need and then solve their problems.
- Brand yourself in the way you want to be branded. Even if you are not in the sales industry, we “sell” ourselves everyday. Be proud of what you have accomplished and how you have helped your customers.
- Relationships, relationships, relationships. While dedication and self-motivation are key, relationship building and networking are beyond important to your success in sales. Find mentors to further your career development and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
Remember, qualified women are everywhere and it’s time for your organization to embrace female talent through its hiring process and leadership. Women in sales have tangible benefits to sales organizations, a reality that can no longer be ignored!