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If you look at the data, things look a little bleak when it comes to the number of women working as sales professionals in Canada. A recent Stats Canada report demonstrated that more than half of women in the workplace are still employed in “traditionally-female occupations”: “teaching, nursing and related health occupations, social work, clerical or other administrative positions, or [retail] sales and services.”. Yes, it is certainly true that sales is still a male-dominated profession.
However, in the new customer-first, internet-based society in which we live, there is more room than ever for women to rise to the top of sales. And the reason, according to Professor Lynette Ryals, pro-vice-chancellor of education at Cranfield University, is that “the changing role of sales is well suited to women who offer valuable skills to complement those of their male colleagues.”
While in the past the dominant characteristics of a sales pro focused on “masculine characteristics” such drive and the will to win, she argues that in today’s workplace, the skills needed for sales success are more female: “enjoying problem-solving and being responsive to social cues from others.”
So just what exactly are the skills that women are using to rise to the top of sales? Note: While none of the skills listed here are exclusively female, they are considered stereotypically female traits.
1. Building Connections
Women, it can be argued, are generally better at social skills than men and, as you know, creating connections is everything when it comes to clinching a sale. In our digital age, the ability to build connections online is vital; social selling is becoming an increasingly important sales channel. According to the Pew Research Center, women are still more active overall on social media than men and women in sales are using their social media edge to create connections with prospects. Rather than a barrage of pushy sales postings, women online are positioning themselves as thought-leaders and helping customers solve their business problems, becoming a valuable and trusted resource.
2. Establishing Trust and Collaborating
Which brings us to the next way that women are rising to the top of sales, they are using their social skills to establish trust with prospects and working with them collaboratively rather than simply selling at them. With the ability to google a product or service and have reviews at the click of a button, your prospective customers have never been more dubious of sales pros.
Aggressive sales tactics are a turn-off. Both online and in person, women can be especially good at presenting a softer approach. By being able to engage in a genuine conversation, either in person, on the phone, or online, a sales pro can achieve success by positioning themselves as a trusted adviser who cares about solving their customer’s problems rather than someone overly pushy who simply wants to make a sale.
3. Active Listening and Empathizing
Women are often perceived as better listeners, and whether this is true or not, women in sales are using this to their advantage. Female sales pros are using active listening skills to truly be present with their prospects and by empathizing, making them feel like they are really being heard. Success in this area comes down to emotional intelligence, and the ability read a person and make them feel comfortable enough to open up. Whether the interaction takes place over the phone, online or in person, by empathizing and learning more about the problem, a sales professional can position their product or service as the solution needed. In short, they are not selling; they are helping someone buy.
When all's said and done though, none of these skills are solely at the command of women. Indeed, there are many women who may not possess these skills at all. However, in today’s marketplace, connection is key, and many female sales professionals are using their strengths in collaboration, creating connections and active listening to rise to the top and shatter the glass ceiling.
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