Sales lacks women. Let's change that right now.

Korina OrtizLast updated on April 10, 2024
5 min

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Earlier this year, I hired a sales leader to join my team. Throughout the recruitment process, one question stuck out to me—where were all the female applicants? 

Overall, only 10% of those applying for the role were women. This unfortunately fits with the wider picture where, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 33% of sales managers are women. 

I struggled to wrap my head around this. Especially when I’m surrounded by great women like Christell Cherenfant, Megan Cull, Kimberly Katz, Elizabeth Beggs, Rachelle Sylvia, Madelyn DePrey, Andrea Dennhardt, Samantha Avillo, Natasha Nema, Leyann Smili, Nikki Matsuoka, and many more!

So, this raises a couple of big questions: Why is it important to increase women’s representation in sales, and how can we do it? 

What women bring to sales

If your image of a salesperson consists of a blue shirt, white collar, braces, and a lot of toxic energy—then you’re not alone. Sales stereotypes are stubborn and quite often wrong. One misnomer, for instance, is that sales suits men more than women.

I know women that are bold, forward, and very direct—myself included. I also know women that are a little more introverted and slower-paced. All have equal success in sales because selling is no longer two-dimensional, and what matters most today are human connections with our customers and prospects.

Further, the bigger picture is that gender-diverse teams perform better when it comes to sales and profit—creating an environment of better processes and relationships. While gender diversity will increasingly matter to your customers—for instance, if customers are only ever getting calls from men then they’ll doubt your company is taking its diversity seriously.

So, if all this is true, what’s keeping women from sales?

4 harmful misconceptions about sales

One thing stopping more women from joining sales are the misconceptions about the job. Below I explore some of the main ones and why these shouldn’t hold your sales team back.

Sales is too loud, forceful, and aggressive

Sales shouldn’t be the Wild West, and a situation where every rep is out for themselves is out of fashion. What’s needed for a high-performing sales team is joined-up thinking—between reps, but also across the organisation. 

Today, aggressive selling has been replaced with human connections that require relationship building. And for those times when negotiations do escalate, we need to banish discriminatory ideas that suggest women will be less successful or assertive—when what matters is the skill to connect, negotiate, and deliver value.

Sales needs to be emotion-free

One of the most outdated stereotypes about women is that they’re more emotional than men. However, women do outperform men when it comes to emotional intelligence and empathy—key skills in modern-day selling.

Further, as Aircall’s CSO Fred Viet writes, emotion in sales is a good thing. It can help develop pivotal human relationships and create meaningful conversations that take the bond between a rep and a customer to the next level—making all the difference to brand loyalty.

Sales is too stressful

Sure, working in sales is stressful. That’s one assumption I’m not about to dispel! But the truth is that women are typically more resilient and better at inspiring and motivating others.

We are natural problem-solvers, and as ideal customer profiles (ICPs) grow more nuanced—especially for small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs), with the balance between results and resources becoming more challenging—solving problems creatively will become increasingly important. 

So, it’s no longer a question of whether women can work in sales. What we should be asking is can sales work without women?

How do we recruit more women?

So, when it comes to sales roles, how do we get more women to apply? Remember that the recruiting experience I shared earlier wasn’t down to me turning away applicants, but a lack of people applying in the first place. Below, I explore some ideas around how we can get more candidates through the door.

Sell sales

It’s time to put our sales skills to the test and sell our profession. To bring female candidates, or anyone for that matter, to the job, we need to highlight what’s in it for them. This requires a two-pronged approach that outlines how exactly sales has moved on from a growth at all costs culture to a more nuanced, rewarding profession for all. But also how it can be a great career for building autonomy and achieving personal ambitions—whether those are based on money, development, relationship building, or something else.

Highlight excellent work

We need to get better at praising and hyping each other up. Taking my own advice, I’m going to give Kimi Katz on our North America team another shout-out. She was the number-one performing rep globally—an incredible achievement and I don’t intend to stop talking about it anytime soon. 

But this isn’t entirely for Kimi’s benefit. Seeing high-performing superstars like her can help other, more junior, reps see that there are great female sales leaders out there. Mentorship programs can also help this, creating role models in the process. Similarly, internal working groups within a business can help promote knowledge-sharing. This helps create a culture where people aren't afraid to open their mouths and where failure is seen as a part of learning.

Find more allies

One thing most people fail to understand about gender equality is that men have a role to play too. And a great way for women to feel empowered in the world of sales is through allyship. This doesn’t mean token actions, but promoting women and talking about them in a positive way when they are not in the room. This is one fight where everyone needs to play their part in repairing the broken rung in the career ladder for women.

Becoming a better ally, today

If you want to build a high-performing sales team, then today is when you need to start becoming a better ally. If you know women who are great prospecting heroes—give them a shout out right now. Much like Saad Kahn did for our very own Leyann.  If you’re a man who works in sales, or any other department for that matter, ask yourself how you’re being a good ally? And if you’re not sure, ask your colleagues.

More female sales leaders means better sales teams. And if there’s one thing we need in today’s business climate, it’s teams that are innovative, diverse, and bring new solutions to the table. During Women’s History Month, we saw a lot of articles out there arguing for the same. But this is an argument that is relevant every month, because—with disparities not just across the workforce, but across pay, compensation, and mindset too—we have our work cut out for us.

Published on April 10, 2024.

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