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In the July 2017 SalesProChat episode, Lori Richardson talks with host Bill Banham about Women in Sales. Bill and Lori consider challenges faced by saleswomen in certain sectors, the opportunities to grow the numbers of women in B2B sales leadership roles and ways to create more gender balance at all levels of an organisation.
Bill Banham: Welcome to the July Sales Pro podcast, I'm your host, Bill Banham, and today I am very lucky to be joined by Lori Richardson.
Lori Richardson is founder and CEO of Score More Sales. Lori leads efforts for B2B frontline sales growth and works with technology brands worldwide. Lori's a people person, a super connector, and she gets great joy in helping newer SDRs, and other sales reps learn ways to grow net new revenues. Lori is also president of Women Sales Pros, an organization dedicated to helping smart, savvy women getting B2B sales positions and sales leadership.
Lori, welcome to the show.
Lori Richardson: Thank you, it's a pleasure to be here.
Bill Banham: We've got a lot to talk about today around the theme of women in sales and sales leadership. So, firstly, you're president of Women's Sales Pros, a group of top women B2B sales experts. You are keynote speakers, sales consultants, sales trainers, coaches, bloggers, and best selling authors. Can you tell us a bit about what it is, and what it does, and why this matters?
Lori Richardson: Absolutely, Women's Sales Pros has evolved just like everything else in the sales world, I think, and business in general. When Women's Sales Pros initially started it was a group, as you mentioned, of women sales experts to help show people where to find us, to invite us for main stage opportunities.
So, we went to a lot of conferences and they were mostly men on the stage talking about sales and this is actually championed by Jill Conrack a number of years ago. We wanted to have a place where when someone said "Well, I don't know any women sales experts" we could say, "Oh, go to this website." So, that's how it started and it's evolved to now include championing more women into sales roles through a number of ways and also to champion women who are in companies to either get into sales leadership or help support them as sales leaders. So, overall it's a big movement just for more women in sales.
Bill Banham: Which women in sales or sales leadership inspire you and why?
Lori Richardson: I've had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing women in the last couple of years. I definitely have to put Jill Konrack up at the top of my list. She's been a champion for women in sales for, gosh, I don't know, 10 or so years, maybe longer. She is an amazing speaker and author, best-selling sales author. She's always talked up women in sales and always is able and willing to speak to that, but, you know, I've met so many women who are VPs of sales, which a lot of us don't normally run into. Also, chief revenue officers who are women. It's been just enlightening to me to find all these amazing women. There's probably several hundred of them that I have a ... My list of women and I can't pick any one, but I can focus on people.
There's a woman named Lauren Chacone, who was VP of sales with Constant Contact, you're probably familiar with that, I'm sure your audience is, and they were acquired by a much bigger company, Endurance, and she was VP of sales for them now.
So, seeing women grow and move into bigger roles, I love seeing that, and I love talking about them and championing them.
Bill Banham: We're going to get to the nuts and bolts more a bit later, but on a higher level, what top bits of advice would you offer for women looking to get into sales?
Lori Richardson: I have to say that sales is the best career for unlimited earning and that's the first thing that I think is very important to talk about.
It is also a very black and white profession. And when I say that I mean, you know where you stand from a performance stand point. I always found that very comforting. It was not subjective based on what my manager thought or what my manager's manager. It was, I was doing my numbers or I was not doing my numbers. It was very clear cut.
And the great thing is, is that it can be a very flexible position. You know, it can be a remote role, which a lot of sales is. The whole inside sales profession has grown by leaps and bounds.
It could be more flexibility with hours. So, when I was a single mom I took advantage of that. I did my numbers and nobody bothered me. If I needed to leave early or come in late, I did that.
And those are the biggest things that I would say to women about whether to consider a role in sales.
Bill Banham: And how can companies develop more women sales leaders?
Lori Richardson: That's the tricky part because there are a lot of industries that I'm focused on, I'm not talking about every sales job in North America, but they're many roles in teams that are, what I call, male majority. So, a male majority sales team is not always a place that a woman might want to come and work.
For me, again, when I was a single mom, I sought out compensation that was equal to my male counterparts. So, the fact that I was working with mostly men, didn't bother me a bit. I wanted the pay and I wanted the opportunity. There's a lot of unconscious bias in how teams function, how leaders lead, how environments are set up. And so it take a lot of thought, and sometimes outside opinion, or a lot of input from employees to determine whether that there's an environmental issue in terms of recruiting more women, that can keep women out, so can job description.
Job descriptions often have male bias in them. It can be a real issue and so once you have the candidates in and women are hired and brought in more into companies, then things are smooth sailing. I find that sometimes the most difficult part are those early things and identifying are we really balanced and is it kind of a gender neutral environment or are there definitely issues?
Bill Banham: When it comes to getting more from sales teams, what are some of the unique challenges that using an organization, particularly in your case, medium sized organizations, what are some of those challenges and obstacles?
Lori Richardson: I don't think there are unique challenges, other than the fact that I think that a lot of young sales managers, if they are young male sales managers, a lot of the time managers aren't trained on how to manage. We just promote the good sales people and why our industry does that, I have no idea, but we have done it for years.
And without generalizing because there's no broad brush about every woman or every man, a lot of women tend to sell different differently and we are more collaborative in a lot of ways. We utilize things like, empathy and intuition, a little differently than men do and that's a lot because of how we were raised more than anything else. So, it makes us sell differently.
If you've ever followed ... Jill Konrath did a blog about, called, "I Sell Like a Girl," and it was kind of a take off of a commercial that was very popular. It's very, it's a really good read because it talks about how she never really felt like she was selling, she was just talking to people, and getting them excited, and sharing her enthusiasm, and excitement, and that led to sales.
So, I think that's probably the only issue. I think in every other sense, it's really not an issue.
Bill Banham: Do you believe that there's still a perception that many sales roles, for example, those in the automotive sector, are male dominated and is that a justified perception?
Lori Richardson: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's part of why I'm writing a book about it, that's why I speak all over North America about it. There are companies with male majority sales teams and sales leadership in technology, software as a service, staff, manufacturing, telecom, utilities, distribution, which would include automotive, some professional services. The only categories we don't really find much of an issue, because there will be people who say, "Oh we have lots of women on our sales team," and I would say, "Is it a marketing company or maybe educational with former teachers, also pharma?" Pharmaceutical as they have a different issue, they have a different gender issue but ...
Other than those we find it all over the board and when it comes to women in sales leadership roles it is just such an underserved area. It's remained flat for more than 10 years and only, depending on whose data you look at, 14-19% of sales leaders are women. And that's the second highest gender equity gap across all functions in a company, so, that's pretty big.
Bill Banham: Let's get a bit anecdotal for a moment and any stories that you can share about your career journey that might help other women rise to the top of sales like yourself?
Lori Richardson: You know, I often talk about how I've had to really talk my way into a company to be hired. I had a senior vice president who wanted me to go into customer service when I had a sales role at a competitor of theirs and they had never hired a woman in outside sales or sales of any type. And once they did hire me, which was after several excruciating interviews and a whole lot of time and a whole lot of hoops to jump, I closed a very large opportunity and showed them that they needed to be a little more open minded in the future. And it paved the way for more women to work in that company in sales.
Now, it's not always that easy to do, but what I've learned as a seller is if I'm new in a company I'm working really hard, I'm watching, I'm learning from the most successful people and I believe that results speak for themselves. And when you've earned the right through business that you've brought in through the job that you've done, you've earned the right to speak and your voice needs to be heard. So, that's an example of really just focusing on the task at hand, which is to grow revenue. That's what sales people are hired to do, to bring in net new business in most cases.
So, focus on that and do your job, and learn from the best, the most successful people in that role in your company, and outside of that company, and you'll be successful.
Bill Banham: You've previously spoken about how women have not traditionally stepped up to apply for management roles. You've also highlighted problems with how we recruit and interview for sales positions. Why are women underrepresented in sales and sales management roles? Can you give us your take on that?
Lori Richardson: There's a side of it that is upon the company to make some changes. Companies need to do certain things. I've actually found five different areas that I think companies need to work on and then I think women, ourselves, need to work on five different areas. And between the two that's what brings us more women on the sales team.
For sure, if a woman is interviewing in a company and she doesn't see women in leadership roles in a company, and this happens all the time, especially mid-market. So, perhaps the enterprise, very large companies, they have diversity officers and they're adding more women in sales, but if I go to a small mid-size company or mid-market of some type and I don't see a woman in executive leadership, I'm going to think that I probably don't have an opportunity to ever really grow in the organization.
If I go to Glassdoor, which is a great telling place to learn about how people treat their employees, online, if I read that as a woman, someone wasn't treated very well or something, that's going to limit me to be less interested in that company.
So there are many things companies can do and there are also things women can do to really, I don't say lean in, I say jump in. Jump in and step up and go for a role that maybe you don't feel you reach every qualification, but learn about it, meet people, get to know what the opportunity is about, get to know the company, and find companies that you resonate with. You like what they stand for and you like or admire them, and their products and services. We can sell those things that we really admire.
Bill Banham: Thank you. That question focused more on the individual. Now, let's switch focus and talk a bit about the companies. What are you top tips for recruiting women into sales?
Lori Richardson: I think the biggest idea is companies need to be more open minded. They need to have a conscious effort that we're going to recruit more women. Recently, there was a company I have been talking with and they were getting awards for being a great company to work for and even in diversity, but they had no women on their sales team. So, they made a conscious effort from the top of the company, the C-level, we're going to build a more diverse sales team. We want more women in sales and they took a lot of suggestions that I gave them to heart and put them in place and they've turned the tide on that.
And so, I think that if executive leadership is behind the changes and they're supportive and they're willing to invest in it, then change can happen. If they're not, then it's just a bunch of talk and it's rhetoric, and that's what we've been doing for many years. Now, it's time for things to really happen and for actions to be taken. And that's what I'm really excited about because I'm seeing it happen now.
Bill Banham: Part of the CPSA's magnate is to educate and promote the education of sales at all different levels. One of the most common first jobs after college is a sales career, of course, and yet, there are still not that many sales degree programs out there, for example. Why do you think this is and what can we do to encourage more women to enter a sales career, maybe at the university level and beyond, and then climb the sales career ladder?
Lori Richardson: Yes, that's a fascinating topic. I know that in the US there are probably at least 70 maybe more schools that do have sales programs. Now, that's not a lot compared to how many colleges and universities in North America, for sure, but there are some exciting things happening. I think I'd rather focus on those than the fact that there aren't as many.
I think that because sales gets a bad rap as a career, a lot of women and their parents, young women and their parents, probably don't think of that first as the best opportunity. And so, I encourage people to keep an open mind and to look into some of these programs. It will not hurt you to learn about sales, no matter what you do in your career because we all sell, as we know. And even if I go into marketing, I go into something else, I can learn the basic fundamentals about sales, which will help me as a person and it will help me in everything I do in my life.
So, I'm all for getting as much learning as I can, even online.
Bill Banham: Yes! Pretty much everyone is a sales person in some capacity. I believe that too.
Lori Richardson: Yeah.
Bill Banham: Lori, before we wrap things up for today, and I can't believe that this interview has gone so fast and we're at the end of it, almost. How can our listeners learn more about you?
Lori Richardson: Well, they can go to Women Sales Pros. We have a new site that we're launching, we're very excited about that. We are on Twitter @womensalespros. We are launching all sorts of different social media opportunities, so look for us on any social media that you happen to be on. Hopefully, you will find us, but for sure I can be reached at Lori at Score More Sales and Women's Sales Pros.
Bill Banham: Wonderful. Well, that just leaves me to say, Lori Richardson, thank you for being the guest on Sales Pro Chat this month.
Lori Richardson: Thank you Bill, it's been my pleasure.
Bill Banham: And listeners until next time, thanks very much for tuning in.
Listen to the interview with Lori Richardson
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