Women know how to build relationships that matter.
You may have already heard about the Google software engineer who wrote a 10-page memo explaining why women are incapable of doing a man’s job in Silicon Valley—namely that we’re neurotic and lack professional drive.
I was appalled that anyone could have such venomous thoughts, let alone put them in writing. Just when women in tech believe they’ve made strides, the bubble is burst. The engineer was fired for violating the Google Code of Conduct, but there are undoubtedly plenty more who agree with him—whether they know it or simply possess unconscious biases against women engineers.
Women in sales also know a thing or two about unconscious biases. On average, women in account based selling outperform men in quota attainment and generating sales leads. Yet, men tend to get paid more and promoted more.
Two years ago, I wrote many articles about women in tech and women in sales. Those posts got more comments than any I’ve ever written. I also began speaking on the topic: “Big Deals and High Heels: Why Women are Naturals at Selling.” Since then, many others have taken up the baton and promoted the advantages, as well as the challenges, of women in sales. I’ve decided to republish two of these articles this month—with a few updates. Once again, we need to shine the spotlight on saleswomen.
Here’s the (slightly edited) original post:
Top salespeople build strong, ongoing, trusting relationships. We’re not braggers. We ask insightful questions, listen purposefully, and make connections—which gives women in sales a strong advantage.
Women know how to build strong relationships. Our brains are hardwired differently than men’s. Our tendency is to nurture, connect, and collaborate. We must silence the voice that tells us the only way to reach the top of the leaderboard is to model men’s behaviors—whether that voice comes from others or our own self-conscious.
In fact, salesmen routinely tell me (unsolicited) that the best salespeople they know are women. Why? Because women:
- Are quick to earn the trust and respect of clients
- Have tremendous intuition and don’t second-guess our feelings
- See the larger picture and “peel the onion” to uncover the core problems
Men certainly know how to build relationships, but women take a different approach. We don’t always get straight to the point. We take our time and ensure we understand the point before offering solutions. We take calculated risks, because we recognize there’s a bigger agenda and insist on considering the long-term implications of any decision. We know the best solution doesn’t always mean going from point A to point B in a straight line.
All these skills serve women well in account based selling.
Women in Sales: Check Your Math
Smart sales leaders know women excel at generating sales leads. In fact, studies show women in sales outperform their male counterparts in quota attainment and leadership effectiveness. Yet, men receive higher commission rates than saleswomen, and women receive lower total variable and base pay.
The math doesn’t add up. After all the social progress in the past 50 years—not to mention all the research proving women make great salespeople and great leaders—why are many employers still undervaluing our contributions? And what can we do about it?
How Women Can Stack the Deck in Their Favor
Gender discrimination isn’t nearly as overt as it was years ago. It’s now unconscious bias, and it’s even more virulent. Women are often totally overlooked, which is partly our fault. It’s up to women in sales to speak up and take responsibility for our careers.
Ready to change your sales future? Here’s how to start:
1. Make sure your voice is heard. Your ideas and insights are just as valid as your male colleagues’. Yet, every woman I’ve spoken with shares this story: “I’m at a meeting, and I offer a perfect solution to the problem being discussed. No one comments. Then 10 minutes later, a man says almost the same thing, and everyone thinks it’s a terrific idea.”
One of my colleagues, a partner in a national CPA firm, has her response ready whenever this scenario occurs. She immediately says, “I’m so glad you liked my idea.” That shuts people up fast, while putting her in a position of leadership and strength.
2. Ask for advice from others —men or women. Adopt what you can easily incorporate into your sales process, while remaining true to your authenticity. Asking for help is not a weakness. Think about it this way. If someone you know well and respect asked for your help, would you give it? Of course. And your respect for that person would be enhanced. The profession of sales is a learning journey. Successful salespeople ask for and receive help all the time. Why shouldn’t you?
A great way to ask for help is to find a mentor. Be sure to ask. No one can read your mind. Find someone you trust and admire, and start building a mentoring relationship.
3. Step out of your comfort zone. There’s a saying in American baseball that you’ll never get to second unless you take your foot off first. Sure, you might get tagged out, but the chances are greater that you’ll be safe at second. If you’re not consistently trying new approaches and techniques, stretching and strengthening your capabilities, you’ll never score those big deals.
4. Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. Even if most of your colleagues show up in jeans and flip-flops, smart women in sales dress for success. You don’t have to wear a suit and high heels every day, but consider what you need to do to step it up. If you want to advance in your career, you’d better not look and sound like everyone else. You might be the best thinker and innovator, but if you look grubby, you’ll never get face time with clients … or with people more senior than you.
5. Make time for yourself and people you care about. Don’t let the corporate world gobble up all your energy and dull your creativity. To be successful in sales, you’ll need plenty of both.
Successful sales organizations leverage the strengths of both men and women. Smart sales leaders want diverse teams who bring different skills, experiences, and perspectives to the table. Women are just plain naturals at selling. We know that. Now it’s time to tap into our innate strengths, build confidence, and get out of our own way.
Want to help your women in sales overaccocome unconscious bias and build their self-confidence? Hire Joanne to deliver her dynamic presentation, “Big Deals and High Heels: Why Women Are Naturals at Selling.”
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