Does age really matter in sales?


“Explain it so your grandmother would understand.”

That’s exactly what the CMO of a tech company said about how to explain your mission statement. I was listening to his podcast at 7:00 on a Monday morning, and I was ready to kick butt. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the grandmother reference. I’ve heard it for mothers, as well, but never for fathers or grandfathers.

It’s insulting and degrading to suggest dumbing anything down for grandmothers, because we’re not dumb or out of touch with the modern world. There are grandmothers in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Many of us are still in the workforce and still listening to business podcasts.

I doubt this CMO knew he was insulting women. This is only one example of the unconscious bias that continues today, against women and against people of a certain age. (If you’d like to weigh in on the conversation, you can do it here.)

Also, be sure to check out “The True Gift and Grit of Working Grandmothers,” plus other posts you might have missed from No More Cold Calling this month:

The True Gift and Grit of Working Grandmothers

It was 2007. At a luncheon hosted by a major magazine, a panel of four women discussed their careers and what inspired them. The oldest was 53 years old, a business owner with two children at home. The youngest was 20 years old, working in a family business. The other two were in their 40s and worked for large corporations. One of them had children.

I felt restless and disengaged. They weren’t speaking to me. They couldn’t possibly relate to my experience and my challenges. I’d been there, done that. I have two daughters and four grandchildren. I’m a working mother and a working grandmother. (You never stop being a mother—no matter how old your kids are.) It dawned on me that no one was speaking to my demographic, so I decided that I needed to write something. I interviewed eight working grandmothers between the ages of 46 and 68 about themes or trends common to all of us. (Read “The True Gift and Grit of Working Grandmothers.”)

Why Women in Sales Don’t Want to Work for You

It was 1936. My mom graduated with a degree in finance from Syracuse University, but she couldn’t get a job at a bank. They didn’t hire women, not even as tellers. That was 16 years after the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted suffrage for women. We’ve come a long way since then, but some industries and professions still have miles and miles to go.

There’s always been bias against women in sales, and anyone with different color skin, ethnicity, or beliefs than decision-makers and hiring managers. Today, many organizations genuinely want to change that, either because it’s the right thing to do or because it’s the smart thing to do for the bottom line. Nearly 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies have implemented rigorous initiatives to hire more women, according to PwC. Whatever the reason for the change, the rallying cry is to attract women in sales. But what if women don’t want a career in sales? (Read “Why Women in Sales Don’t Want to Work for You.”)

What You Can Do About the Glass Ceiling

When I published “The Glass Ceiling Hasn’t Shattered Just Yet” in February 2015, the post sparked more than 80 comments. Many said the same bias exists for immigrants, even those who are extremely qualified and speak English fluently. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time reading, writing, and talking about women in sales. We know the wage gap between women and men continues to exist and that companies with women leaders perform better. However, not much has changed in the last number of years. We understand that unconscious bias exists, and sometimes it’s not so “unconscious.” Yet, we still hear of discrimination against women and, frankly, anyone who looks different than decision-makers and hiring managers. Sure, it takes time for change to occur, and many organizations are taking steps to enable change.

But how do we drive change? Nicole Merrill, in her post, “Why Investing in Women is Good for Your Business,” provides startling data and four steps to get started. (Read “What You Can Do About the Glass Ceiling.”)

What Saleswomen Do Really, Really Well

When you think about salespeople, you probably picture men. History and Hollywood have made sure of that. Yet, many saleswomen outperform their male colleagues, and many men have admitted that to me when the other guys were out of earshot.

Women in sales understand that relationships are built on trust, and we have the savvy and patience to foster strong personal and business relationships. That’s why we’re great at getting referrals. We don’t wait for clients to refer us. We understand the power of proactively asking. We also understand that to get referrals, we must continue to invest in building our referral networks. But despite our natural advantages, many saleswomen still struggle to get their voices heard. (Read “What Saleswomen Do Really, Really Well.”)


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