women in salesWomen have everything it takes to succeed in sales.

Ask any B2B sales leader about their lead generation challenges, and you’ll get specific answers about why their teams can’t get access to buyers, how sales processes have gotten too long, or why they’re losing to the competition. Ask them why there aren’t more women in technology sales, and they’re not quite sure. Their answers get vague: Perhaps women don’t have the requisite skills, or they don’t raise their hands enough, or hiring managers don’t know how to find qualified female candidates.

Let me set the record straight: Women absolutely have the requisite skills. Succeeding in tech sales takes more than technical expertise. It takes great relationships to score meetings and seal deals, and women in sales have those in spades. Women build trust and credibility upfront. We ask insightful questions, listen intently to the answers, remember details, and collaborate to find solutions. And, of course, we’re just as capable as salesmen of figuring out how the technology works.

Yet, saleswomen are still lagging behind salesmen in B2B tech companies. Just consider the eye-opening data in Carolyn Betts’ Mashable article, “Why are women still underrepresented in tech sales?” According to her research, 25 percent of salespeople in tech companies are women, and women hold only 12 percent of sales leadership roles.

So, why don’t tech companies have more women in sales? And how can sales leaders attract and retain them?

Why the Gender Gap in Tech Sales?

As CEO for a recruiting firm, Betts helps tech companies find qualified female candidates. She thinks the problem is two-fold. She writes:

Why are so many women not making a bigger demographic dent in the tech world? Does society still only see men as sales savvy? Are women not going after that competitive edge like their male counterparts are? Perhaps it is a bit of both.  

These days, most companies’ hearts are in the right place; they want women to apply, and to succeed. And, although many hiring managers start out wanting to create a more balanced workspace, their good intentions get overrun by the day-to-day pressure to fill a quota-carrying role quickly. Time is money, so the first qualified candidate–usually a male–often gets the role. This is a huge dose of cognitive dissonance for the company—leadership wants diversity, but the reality is just more of the same.  

How can sales organizations break these patterns and pave the way for more women in sales? Betts suggests three strategies—put diversity hiring practices in place, institute gender bias training, and encourage women to nominate themselves for promotions and other opportunities. (Read the rest of her article for more on these strategies.)

Women in Sales: The Challenges That Remain

There’s plenty companies can do to attract and retain more talented women, but it’s also the responsibility of women in sales to stand out and get their voices heard. Women often don’t raise their hands, toot their own horns, or share their ideas.

What’s the lesson here for women in sales? Know your stuff and have confidence in yourself. Seek out mentors and sponsors—male and female. Build the strong relationships you’re so good at building. Never stop learning and sharing your wisdom, with your clients and with women coming up the ranks behind you. The more saleswomen support each other, the more quickly all of us will succeed.

For more on how women in sales can get ahead, read “3 Things It Takes for Women in Sales to Be Bulldogs.”

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