It’s hard to make any generalisations when it comes to the differences between the sexes – everyone’s experience is unique and should be valued. That being said, we believe that women bring excellent skills to sales roles, particularly when it comes to social selling – using news, blogs, social media, company information and the people you know to find customers, listen to their evolving needs, relate to their challenges and engage them in conversations that lead to successful commercial outcomes. As we look at the impressive list of finalists in the Women in Sales Awards we highlight the importance of recognising women in Sales.
Women as Social Sellers
Social sellers need to take a softer approach to sales, shifting from competition to collaboration, and using all the information available to tailor their approach to the individual. What’s more, buyers are expecting this personalised approach. Sellers must speak directly to the buyer’s needs and challenges to form a consensus, and this is an area where women tend to excel.
Women in Senior Management Roles
One of the key issues is the lack of women in major senior management roles with the number of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies seemingly stuck at around 3%. Afi Ofori, MD of Zars Media, suggests one reason for this is the lack of women in revenue generating roles. She told us: “Research involving the largest US corporations revealed that 62% of women are in job positions that provide service and assistance but which don’t directly generate revenue. These roles very rarely lead to major jobs in senior management. In contrast, 65% of men on executive committees previously held line jobs associated with revenue creation.”
Afi highlights the importance of encouraging diversity in the workplace and on boards as a way of making companies stronger in the modern business environment and one key way to do this is to encourage women to enter traditionally male-dominated fields such as Sales.
The Best Part of Sales
However overall the feedback from sales leaders we spoke to was pretty positive. They all thought that sales was, to use Anneke Seley’s brilliant phrase, a “colour and gender blind profession”.
As Lori Richardson, told us: “Sales is an admirable profession and I was almost always judged by my numbers – as long as I sold things, I had my company’s support.” A feeling echoed by Barbara Giamanco: “I didn’t care what the guys thought, because quota attainment is a great equalizer” and Brynne Tillman: “The bottom line is truly the bottom line, if you produced you were respected.”
Problems of Perception
However, all of our thought leaders thought that there are issues around perceptions of and by women in sales that need addressing.
“In my opinion, many women, especially after they have some work experience, lack the confidence to go into sales because of the perceived risk of a commission plan based comp package,” Anneke told us. But she also thought women shouldn’t be concerned with commission plans or view them as risky because, in reality, they were likely to exceed targets.
Barbara suggests that “women often view sales as a sleazy profession and thus don’t enter into selling as a career.” However, she continues on to say: “I think that is a mistake. My sales career has presented me with many great opportunities. I also love that no two days are the same. Flexibility, a variety of people to work with, something new to learn every day, great money… what’s not to love?”
There also seemed to be a slight male bias in technology sales. Lori told us that: “In technology sales, it was quite an old boys’ network. Fortunately my skills and deals closed proved my abilities and once you’re proven, most people happily support you.”
This perception was shared by Barbara who said that “some of the guys thought their technology knowledge was superior to mine. It wasn’t.”
The Women in Sales Awards
Afi Ofori created the Women in Sales Awards to bring a greater awareness of the need for gender diversity in sales and in executive leadership teams, as well as help grow the pipeline of female sales talent and to eventually pave the way for more women to gain board positions.
She told us ‘The other reason I created the awards is that sales sometimes gets a bad reputation and my dream is that, through these awards, people will come to recognise how important a career in sales is and respect the skills required to be a great salesperson. Sales is an art. The ability to understand a client’s needs and deliver what they require is one that only the talented few ever truly master.’
Our Anastasiia Nedava is a Finalist for the Best Software Sales as part of the Women in Sales Awards being announced on the 3 December at The Savoy, London. See the full list of finalists and learn more about the awards here.