When I started out as a sales representative selling computer software and hardware solutions, I noticed that I was often one of just a few women on the team. At first, I didn’t think much about the gender imbalance. I was hired for my first tech sales job by a VP of Sales who was a woman. My first sales manager was a woman too. I simply thought a lot of women didn’t pursue a career in sales. That was true then. It is also true now. But that isn’t the whole story. Today there is also an imbalance because companies often don’t put enough effort into balancing the scales, especially in the sales leadership ranks.
Times are Changing
In recent years, companies like Salesforce, Microsoft, TechTarget, ServiceTitan, SalesLoft, AlphaSense, TINYpulse and many others have made it a priority to create more diverse and inclusive sales organizations. They recognize the many business benefits that diverse sales teams deliver. And research backs them up. In Gaining the Talent Advantage: Gender Diversity in Sales, a CEB/Gartner Global study, they reported that higher-levels of gender diverse sales teams not only outperformed revenue goals, but deals were much more profitable. Diverse teams also deliver a better customer experience because will work with people they can relate too. From a recruiting perspective, more women on your sales teams will encourage other women to apply for sales roles at your company, and they will be more likely to accept an offer if women are well represented.
Why Women Should Consider a Career in Sales
For me, flexibility and earning power were two big bonuses to a career in sales. And unlike in years past, not all sales positions require that you work from a central office. Roles in business development or inside sales don’t always require that you work from a central office to get the job done. If you take on a position in field sales, you are often able to juggle your schedule, so you can attend family events that you might miss working a 9-5 job.
How to Attract More Women into Sales Roles
Put more emphasis on recruiting women. That’s number one. Next, tailor the benefits message to incorporate those things that will be important to women. Think beyond the usual recruitment places you tend to use, and that will expand your ability to reach more women who are potentials for sales roles.
Use LinkedIn. A quick search on LinkedIn can reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of potential candidates. Granted, your job requirements may narrow the pool, for example you need reps to live in a specific geographic location. And if you having trouble finding the right candidates locally, perhaps this is an opportunity to assess whether or not the right candidate could work remotely and be just as successful in achieving their objectives.
Consider women in B2C sales roles who could make the transition to B2B selling. A company looking to hire a rep to support their retail vertical could benefit by bringing someone on board who has experience in B2C retail. They already understand the retail world and would require less training to get up to speed.
Don’t overlook women in marketing or finance roles who may be open to making a switch if they only knew what that might entail. On my podcast, I’ve interviewed women who started in finance, marketing or engineering and later made the switch to sales without looking back.
Review and Rework Job Descriptions
Appeal to women’s desire to be collaborative in working with customers to solve problems. Review the language used in your recruitment messaging and in job ads when seeking to hire women in sales. Words like aggressive, crusher, killer or hunter turn women off and creates an impression that selling is a cut-throat business. I’ve been in sales for two plus decades, and never once did I need to be “cut-throat” to succeed in achieving quota goals.
Adapt Your Benefits Offering
When it comes to benefits, the package that companies offer is key to recruitment and retention but too often we see benefits offered that are more attractive to men than women. A good example of a company who creatively reworked their benefits package is SalesLoft, who puts a high priority on diversity and inclusion. Their package now includes perks for new moms and dads like diapers for a year and home meal delivery to reduce stress when their newborn comes home.
Balance the Leadership Ranks
DiscoverOrg did a survey on gender diversity and found that only 31% of women were in individual contributor roles and 26% of women were in middle management or frontline sales manager roles. They also found that when it comes to executive management, such as a VP of Sales, only 12.8% of those roles are held by women. A female Chief Revenue Officer? You won’t find many.
If women join your sales team and aspire to move into management, they may become frustrated and leave if they see few women being advanced into the management ranks. If women are expressing interest in moving into management, be sure you are providing training and coaching to help them get there.
To Sum It Up
As I’ve noted in this article, companies benefit quite a bit whey they place more emphasis in balancing the gender gap in their sales organizations. Is it time for your company to ramp up your efforts?