executive-461654_640Women do things a little differently than men. And that’s a good thing in sales.

Men still outnumber women in the upper echelons of sales. But that’s changing quickly.

Success in sales is about building and nurturing relationships. And women are natural networkers and conversationalists! Sometimes we’re hesitant to ask for help, but at the same time, we recognize the importance of finding (and being) mentors. We delight in enlisting multiple generations in our sales efforts. We recognize the importance of diversity and helping other women succeed.

We’re hardwired to be nurturers, connectors, and collaborators—all traits that make for great salespeople. So we don’t have to think or act like men to become rainmakers. In fact, many salesmen could take a lesson or two from women.

Successful sales organizations in the 21st century will facilitate teams that leverage the strengths of both men and women. Smart sales leaders know that, and they want diverse teams that bring different skills, experiences, and perspectives to the table.

Yet, many women still lack the confidence to leverage their natural talents. And it’s time for them to get out of their own way. #bigdealshighheels

Women in Sales Must Speak Their Minds

Picture a recent college grad—a painfully-shy, reserved young woman who never dreamed she’d have a successful sales career spanning more than 35 years. I was that girl. I believed salespeople were life-of-the-party types. I wasn’t that person. And I’m still not.

But I do love sales. Why? Because sales is about building relationships—not being the center of attention, but having engaging conversations and creating connections. And women are great at that.

Women in Sales play a critical role in every company’s sales culture—because we’re particularly good at relationship-building, and because we’re not afraid to challenge the status quo.

A Different Drum

Joseph Magnin, a now-defunct women’s specialty store in San Francisco, hired me right out of college into their management training program. (Not telling you the year.)

That’s where I learned one of my first—and most powerful—lessons about working differently in the business world. I wanted to rearrange a display of elegant gifts, so I asked some of the older employees what they thought of the idea. They all told me it had never been done before. So I shared the idea with my manager. When I told her everyone said it had never been done, she said, “That’s the best reason I know for doing it.”

I was 22 years old, and I have never forgotten what Carolyn told me. She probably had no clue what an impression she made on me.

Out with the Old

Since that time, I have continued to challenge traditional ways of thinking and working. I challenge tired prospecting techniques like cold calling, direct-mail campaigns, and advertising—and the expectation that these activities actually attract great clients.

I’ll put the same challenge to all women (and men) in sales. Always ask why you are selling the way you are selling. If your current sales plan is working, keep doing it. Otherwise, change it up.

There’s an old story about a little girl who watched her mother cut the ends off a ham before putting it in the roasting pan. When the girl asked why she did it this way, her mother thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know. My mother always did it that way. Why don’t you ask your grandmother?” So the little girl asked her grandmother why she trimmed the ham before putting it in the pan. The grandmother said, “That’s simple. The pan wasn’t big enough.”

In with the New

Don’t accept tired sales techniques that aren’t working, just because it’s what other people are doing. Truth is, they’re probably not getting great results either. Instead, challenge the status quo and find your own groove.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Ask for advice from people you respect—men or women. Listen carefully and adopt what makes sense.
  • Step out of your comfort zone.Test new ways of working. It’s better to apologize (if appropriate) than to ask for permission.
  • Get your voice heard.Share your points of view and insights. Yours are just as valid as the next person’s. Trust your intuition.

Above all, make time for yourself and the 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.

To find out why women make great salespeople—and the one lesson we could learn from men about sales success—check out my latest speaking topic, “Big Deals and High Heels™: Why Women Are Naturals at Selling.”

Portions of this post originally appeared on the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog.

Connect with No More Cold Calling

Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.