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We have a serious women-in-sales leadership problem. According to LinkedIn, the percentage of women professionals decreases across the board as seniority increases, the lowest percentage of women being represented at VP and CXO level. On average, only 27% of women who work in sales are working at a Director position or higher. In industries such as technology software, that figure is as low as 12%. This is a problem because women in sales leadership roles have been shown to be particularly effective, in fact, studies show that companies perform better when they have a leadership team constituted of both men and women.
So what can we do to empower women to achieve sales leadership roles? Here are some tips how sales leaders can empower women in sales to reach the top.
Show Them Their Skills Matter
Sales has changed, we all know that. Gone are the days where product pitches and scripted talks ruled. Today, success in sales requires consultative selling which is based on collaboration with a customer through strategic questioning, empathy, and active listening to help them buy rather than forcing a product upon them. Despite the fact that almost all top sellers possess these skills, they are often considered “female attributes” and are not always championed across a sales team. As a sales leader, it is your job to effect a change in company culture and highlight that these skills are of vital importance. Not only will valuing these skills improve your team’s ability to reach targets, but by showing that you value them as much as, or above, aggression and drive, you can instill greater confidence in your female team members and empower them to achieve more.
Remove Gender Bias From Recruitment Campaigns
One way you can show you value these skills is to remove gender bias from recruitment campaigns. Do your job descriptions call for strong, assertive, and ambitious candidates? Nothing wrong with calling for these attributes per se, but they are not the only characteristics that a seller needs to be successful. According to Lori Richardson of Score More Sales, these are “more male-focused than female-focused” and may be off-putting to female candidates at all levels. We know that “female-focused” characteristics work well in sales and a successful sales team will need to be constituted of both male and female sellers. If you want to empower women to achieve sales leadership roles, you need to start first by getting more women into your sales team. That means having job postings that call for empathetic, sociable candidates who work well in teams and are great listeners. Showing that you value both male and female characteristics will give you a great pool of potential candidates who may, one day, be your sales leaders.
Use Effective Coaching Techniques
To get the best out of your sales team, coaching and mentorship are important whether the team member is male or female. Having a supportive line manager or, in a perfect world, a mentorship program, can do wonders in helping a sales rep grow and develop. Too often, women in sales complain that they have been belittled or undervalued by their superiors, told that they don’t have a “killer instinct” or that they “are not a closer.” That’s not to say that many women don’t possess those characteristics, but if one of your team members does not, there must be another reason why you hired them. An effective leader nurtures the positive skills that are inherent in a person; they do not dismiss them. If a team member is lacking in certain areas, a good leader will help them cultivate those skills. Believe in your female team members; develop them to be the best they can be. It’s an investment that will pay off in the long term.
It is an unfortunate truth that the skills required to be an excellent sales rep do not necessarily mean that a person will be great leadership material. This is just a fact. To be a great leader, one must possess great decision making and critical thinking skills; they must be able to look from a wider perspective and see the whole picture rather than a single role or target. To be a great leader means being proactive and having excellent communication and collaboration skills. While some people possess these skills innately, they are also all skills that can be honed. As a sales leader, you can help grow women that show potential into leadership roles by helping them develop these skills. You’ll be helping them and also adding value to your organization as they reach the top.
Widen Your View of What Selling is About
If you haven’t got women in sales leadership roles in your organization, you really need to ask yourself, why not? Many companies are working to actively increase diversity in their organizations and with great results on their bottom line. If you don’t have enough women staying in sales in your organization or reaching leadership levels, it may be time for a culture change and for you to widen your view of what selling is about. There is room for different approaches in sales, and in fact, the most successful organizations will find that their teams are constituted of a diverse team with diverse styles to meet the needs of diverse clients. Sales is changing, and women in sales leadership positions are making waves. Make sure your company doesn’t get left behind.
About the Canadian Professional Sales Association
Since 1874, we’ve been developing and serving sales professionals by providing programs, benefits, and resources that help you sell more, and sell smarter.
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