Women in sales: promoting diversity in the workplace
In an increasingly competitive sales landscape, companies are searching for fresh tactics to stay ahead. We see a lot of focus on topics like cold outreach, sales objection management, and networking. "Pipeline" and "sales enablement" are trending. Sales teams want to know the best strategies that’ll drive the best sales results.
Diversity in sales is a topic with less buzz, but it could hold the most exciting future of all. Creating a more diverse sales team could be the key to more revenue, higher returns, and better client relationships. What sales organizations would not want that?
In this article, we're going to explore gender diversity within sales teams: how we should look at diversity, concrete benefits it can provide your company, and ideas on how to make progress in the new decade.
Let's jump right into it.
Diversity as a methodology
I like to think of gender diversity in sales as a methodology or model, similar to Challenger Sales, customer centric selling, or change management. With something like Challenger Sales, companies see the benefit and go on to implement it in order to maximize success and profit. It’s a no brainer when the process is systematic and the benefits are easily correlated.
But when it comes to diversity in sales, companies are slow to adopt. It's seen more as a "wish-list" item rather than a core principle to live by.
A survey by CEB Global showed that women only make up 19% of sales leadership roles. When compared to 16 other major job functions, it sits at the bottom of the totem pole, only beating out “supply chain/logistics” by two percent.
There's more corporate awareness of diversity than ever, but unfortunately it has yet to be translated into practice. Looking back at the last decade, the percentage of women in sales has only increased by three percent. One reason for this might be the way we perceive diversity: it's an optional "would-be nice to have" goal rather than a crucial model that provides real and measurable benefits.
Diversity means additional profits
Gender diversity in sales is not simply an ethical decision — it can have a real effect on your bottom line. CEB Global reports that companies who had sales teams made up of 45% or more women, drove more profit than less diverse sales teams.
In addition to profit, closing the gender gap can provide more stability within your sales team. Women tend to stay in their roles about 1 year longer than men, according to Xactly.
Not only will there be less shuffle within your sales organization by adding more women to the team, but it'll also save your company money long term. Accounting for hiring costs and training, a new salesperson can cost your company up to $35K.
Diversity can bring new perspectives
In her book ‘Braving the Wilderness’ Berne Browne mentions the tendency people have to want to surround themselves with people that share similar ideals and views. The danger of this, in a corporate setting, is that it can handicap your company's progress: It creates an echo chamber. It protects the status quo. It leads to stagnation.
More diversity in the workplace means more diversity of ideas and perspectives. This can be extremely valuable for developing new strategies, challenging outdated practices, and reaching a broader customer base.
We should want to be part of a team where people are different from one another. A sales team should not only be built on talent and merit, but also on the unique mix and contrast they can provide — whether that be sales views, experience, culture, age, etc. More women on your sales team can help achieve this.
Empathy in a diverse workplace
Entrepreneur and author Minter Dial explored the idea of workplace diversity and empathy in “Heartificial Empathy: Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence”, a 2019 Book Excellence award winner.
In his quest to see if we can give AI empathy, Dial uncovered a number of empathy based principles that can be applied to improve human interaction as well:
- Mirroring speech patterns
- Exhibiting transparency to gain trust
- Using a modern style of communication
- Recognition of indirect expressions of emotion
- Sharing control with others
In sales, empathy is imperative for closing deals and understanding customers, but also aids in the development of a more successful sales team.
Through his study of empathy, Minter asserts that to be successful we need to “explore our differences and immerse ourselves in the diverse experience of others.” This thinking can clearly be applied to gender diversity in sales teams. By celebrating individual strengths across a team, we can create a more collaborative and productive work environment.
Making real progress in diversity
Sales recruitment can definitely play a role in hiring diverse candidates, but ultimately sales teams are the ones that need to actively campaign for a more dynamic personnel mix. It's okay to be slightly prescriptive and request that candidates be diverse.
Sales recruitment will often focus on competency and results, but that’s a very broad approach. To truly make progress with diversity, there needs to be a concerted, laser-focused effort on the hiring front, driven by you and your team. And again, this isn’t diversity for diversity’s sake. It should be part of your hiring criteria if you want to create a dynamic sales team that’ll maximize profits for your company.
Whether you’re a sales manager or a sales rep, you can help drive diversity in the workplace. It could be as simple as making sure you have a good balance of candidates for your next available sales role, and being cognizant of where your current team is lacking — be that in terms of gender, cultures, or experience levels.
Or it could be having a healthy discussion with your coworkers: dispelling stereotypes and highlighting the tangible benefits diversity brings to an organization. We’re headed in the right direction, but there’s much more work to be done.
Sales people are at the forefront of the companies they represent. We are keen to lead the charge with new technology, software, and tools...so why not diversity? Diversity is about future proofing and maximizing sales by fostering a healthy mix of people and perspectives.
There is no defined quota, org chart, how-to manual, or install it and go, but nonetheless diversity still offers huge benefits, and making progress is more important than ever.
To become real and more than just a phrase, diversity needs to have a much wider adoption in sales, and we can all do our part to make that happen this new decade.
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