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Founder @ Avenue Talent Partners l Strategic Advisor l Keynote Speaker
Achieving gender equality in sales is not just about fairness and justice – it also has several benefits for both businesses and society.
According to a study from Gong, women close deals at a higher and faster rate than men, with win rates being 11% higher than men’s (on average). Why is this?
Women’s approach to selling goes beyond superficial objection handling or pushing for a sale – it involves creating relationships built on trust, empathy, and collaboration. In contrast, men tend to focus more on improving outcomes and driving results.
As a sales leader, it is your responsibility to contribute towards bridging the gender gap in sales. Embracing gender diversity can help create a more inclusive, innovative, and prosperous sales industry, ultimately benefiting everyone involved.
In this episode of Closing Time, Amy Volas breaks down the gender gap in sales and provides valuable insights for sales managers on how to overcome it.
Women in sales have long faced challenges and underrepresentation in the field. Currently, in the United States, there are approximately 2.7 million individuals employed in sales roles. Of this total, a staggering 70.5% are men, while only 29.5% are women. These statistics reveal a significant disparity, indicating that the odds are not in favor of women in sales. Closing the gender gap in sales is not only a matter of fairness and equality, but it also brings numerous advantages to businesses and society as a whole.
1. Equality and Fairness: Gender equality is a fundamental principle of a just society. It ensures that individuals, regardless of their gender, have equal opportunities, rights, and access to resources. By closing the gender gap in sales, we create a level playing field where both men and women can succeed based on their merits, skills, and abilities.
2. Diverse Perspectives and Innovation: Gender diversity brings a variety of perspectives, experiences, and insights to the table. When women are underrepresented in sales, their unique viewpoints and problem-solving approaches are often missing from decision-making processes. By increasing the participation of women in sales, we unlock a wealth of fresh ideas, creativity, and innovation that can lead to better problem-solving, more effective strategies, and improved business outcomes.
3. Enhanced Customer Relationships: Sales is all about building relationships with customers. Women, who constitute a significant consumer segment, can offer valuable insights into the preferences, needs, and challenges faced by female customers. By having more women in sales, businesses can foster stronger connections with their female clientele, leading to improved customer satisfaction, loyalty, and increased revenue.
4. Expanded Talent Pool: By actively promoting gender diversity in sales, organizations tap into a broader talent pool. This enables them to attract highly skilled and capable individuals, irrespective of their gender.
5. Economic Benefits: Studies consistently show that gender diversity in the workforce positively impacts a company’s financial performance. Organizations that prioritize gender equality and inclusivity tend to experience higher profitability, improved decision-making, better problem-solving, and enhanced employee morale and engagement.
By shedding light on the current state of women in sales, we can foster discussions, initiatives, and policies that promote inclusivity, equality, and opportunities for women to thrive in this field. It’s time to work towards a more balanced and diverse sales workforce, where women can excel and contribute their valuable skills and perspectives.
A Harvard Business Review study explores the attributes that contribute to success in sales, differentiating between high-performing women and men. The research suggests that high-performing women in sales excel at emphasizing connection, shaping solutions, and collaboration. On the other hand, high-performing men tend to focus more on improving outcomes and driving results.
In today’s sales landscape, where buyers are digitally savvy, self-sufficient, and well-informed, the role of sales professionals has evolved. Customers now enter the buyer journey armed with ample information, seeking value beyond mere product demonstrations or superficial interactions – this is where women in sales have a unique advantage.
Women’s ability to connect with clients, shape tailored solutions, and collaborate closely with buyers resonates strongly with modern consumers. People want to be seen, heard, understood, valued, and validated. By prioritizing genuine connections and understanding the deeper motivations and needs of buyers, women are able to establish trust and build meaningful relationships more effectively than men.
Harvard Business Review’s data suggests that the emphasis on connection and understanding is a key factor in women’s success in sales. Rather than solely focusing on the end outcome, women invest time in comprehensive discovery, exploring the “why,” “where,” “what,” and “with whom” aspects of the buyer’s journey. This deep understanding allows them to navigate complex sales processes and engage in multithreaded interactions with diverse stakeholders.
To achieve success, women in sales adopt a discovery mindset, actively listening and delving beneath the surface to uncover hidden challenges, goals, and aspirations. This approach goes beyond superficial objection handling or pushing for a sale. It involves building relationships built on trust, empathy, and collaboration.
In today’s marketplace, where revenue and retention are paramount, the focus has shifted beyond the initial sale. The true value lies in the post-sale experience, especially in the context of enterprise sales. This is where collaboration, connecting the dots, and truly understanding the client’s business become critical, rather than solely fixating on closing the deal. Many companies that have experienced layoffs or faced challenges in recent times have learned this lesson the hard way. While they may have focused heavily on acquiring new customers, they neglected the vital aspects of nurturing, sustaining, and growing those relationships. By adapting to the changing dynamics of the buyer’s journey and focusing on post-sale relationship-building, women sellers can leverage their strengths. Their ability to connect, collaborate, and prioritize customer satisfaction positions them well in a market that increasingly values revenue generation and retention.
Studies have shown that millennials, who form a significant portion of the workforce, actually prefer having female bosses. For example, 80% of Insightly’s workforce is comprised of millennials. However, despite this preference, there remains a significant gender discrepancy in sales leadership roles. The latest U.S. census data indicates that 76.3% of individuals in sales are men. When we specifically examine sales leadership positions, these numbers further diminish. Desiring more female leaders is not enough; actionable steps need to be taken to address this issue.
One aspect to consider is leadership training. In the past, leadership training programs were more prevalent, but their prominence has waned in recent times, especially for smaller companies. To foster more women in sales leadership, companies must prioritize bringing women into the profession and providing them with the necessary support, resources, and understanding to thrive. This challenge extends beyond gender and applies to fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in sales leadership as a whole.
Research by McKinsey has revealed the increasing difficulty faced by individuals, particularly women, as they climb the corporate ladder. Getting promoted becomes exponentially harder, creating additional barriers for women to reach leadership positions. One contributing factor is the inherent differences in the ways women present themselves during interviews compared to men. Women may not exhibit the same level of assertiveness or use the same language as their male counterparts. These differences do not equate to inferiority but rather reflect diverse perspectives and problem-solving approaches that are valuable assets in a leadership role. To address this, organizations should focus on identifying the competencies and skills required for the job rather than adhering to preconceived notions rooted in a “bro culture” mentality. Embracing the unique strengths and ways of thinking that women bring to the table can enrich the leadership landscape and drive better outcomes.
Additionally, inspiring women into leadership positions requires a comprehensive understanding of their multifaceted lives. Many women are mothers or have other responsibilities that necessitate a thoughtful approach to support their journey to leadership. The pandemic has further emphasized the challenges faced by women in balancing work and personal life, leading to a significant drop in female workforce participation. To foster more female representation at the leadership table, companies need to acknowledge and address these complexities, providing the necessary support systems to ensure their success.
Aspiring women sales leaders often face the challenge of the “bottom rung effect.” This refers to the difficulty women encounter in climbing up to high-level sales positions because of limited opportunities for early leadership roles. Often, their value and skills may not have been recognized or appreciated to the same extent as their male colleagues, resulting in missed promotions and a perpetual lag in career advancement.
To address this issue, we need to redefine what constitutes effective leadership and recognize that competency can manifest in different ways. Success in sales does not adhere to a one-size-fits-all approach. Different individuals can achieve the same goals using distinct strategies and strengths. Embracing this diversity and understanding that successful outcomes can vary is a takeaway for everyone. Instead of searching for the traditional sales leadership stereotype, leaders should focus on identifying the competencies required to excel in the role and evaluate candidates based on their ability to fulfill those requirements.
Bringing more women to the leadership table is only the first step – it is equally important to ensure that they are not merely token hires or treated as obligatory checkboxes. Women have earned their positions through their intelligence and skills, and it is imperative to provide them with genuine seats at the table. Failure to do so not only hampers the growth and retention of talented women but also sends a negative message to the rest of the team. By perpetuating this problem, organizations face greater difficulties in attracting and retaining diverse talent in the future, creating compounding effects that hinder progress.
Female salespeople talk more and interrupt more, yet still close more deals. We’re digging into the data on this episode of Closing Time. Hi, I’m Val Riley head of content marketing at Insightly. Today I’m joined by Amy Volas, Amy is a strategic advisor, owner of Avenue Talent Partners, she’s also a three time founder with two successful exits. Welcome to the show, Amy. Hi, Val. It’s lovely to be here. Thank you for having me. I’m super jazzed about this topic because obviously I’ve been a woman in revenue for more than 20 years. And I can say in my experience, men have far outnumbered women in sales positions, that I’ve been exposed to. It sounds like my experience is the norm? You’re not alone. Same, same, same. And I actually pulled some data thinking about our conversation. So there are over, it’s almost 2.7 million people in sales that are employed in the U.S. today. 70.5% of them are men. And 29 and a half percent of salespeople are women. So, yeah, the odds are not in our favor. So we we dug around here at Insightly, we found a research report from our friends at Gong and we’ll put a link in the video description for it. But it states that men on sales calls tend to listen more and interrupt less. So you would think the guys would be crushing it. Can we dig into that a little bit? I read this same piece of data from Gong and so then that got my wheels turning and I found really interesting data from Harvard. Business Review, and they broke down seven different attributes that equaled success in sales. And so their data said high performing women were more likely to emphasize connecting and shaping solutions and collaborating, while high performing men relied more on improving and driving outcomes. So when you think about that. So we’re more focused on connection and trying to figure out a solution and figuring that out and shaping that and then really collaborating. And our male counterparts are really focused on improving and driving the outcome and by the way, all these things are important. But if that’s really where we shine. Let’s fast forward to today’s modern buyer. Today’s digital savvy, savvy, self-sufficient, well informed buyer. They have a plethora of information before we ever get involved in the buyer journey. And so by the time that we start to materialize those conversations, they want value beyond a demo, beyond what they can see socially, beyond what they can see in a website, a white paper, content, whatever the case may be. And so I think our ability as women to connect, to shape solutions. Ultimately, people want to be seen, heard, understood, valued and validated. That’s why I think that stat rings true of the performance between the man and the woman is we’re craving real connection, not just thinking about the outcome. So the way to get to the outcome, you have to think about the why, the where, the what, the with whom, all of the things to get to the outcome. And the only way to do that is to put our discovery hat on and to truly lean in with our buyer. And that’s where that collaboration piece comes into play. So Harvard Business Review’s data points to, I think those factors of it’s not showing up and just doing a demo and hoping that something sticks It’s being part of that multithreaded journey with a variety of buyers, understanding what they stand for, what’s important to them, what problems they’re trying to solve, what goals they’re trying to reach, what is keeping them I hate this this question, but what is keeping them up at night? Don’t ask that question. Protip do not ask that question. But, you know, it’s one of those things that the magic is below the surface. And I think we are more apt to spend time digging below the surface, putting our listening ears on, not our happy ears to objection handle, sell, push et cetera. And because of that, we realize more success. Well,. I mean, you’re preaching to the choir because I love analysis of how that buyer’s journey has changed and how the self-directed buyer really is entering at a totally different point now than they were, say, like five, ten years ago. So it seems like that change in the buyer’s journey might be an advantage for the female salesperson. Well, and let’s think about what we’re seeing in the marketplace right now. The market is shifting. And the rhetoric that everyone is talking about is revenue and retention solve all problems. And so when you think about that, most value doesn’t come from the initial sale, especially if we’re talking about enterprise sales. It comes after the fact. And so when we’re putting that collaboration, that connecting the dots, that search for understanding their business and not our quest to make the sale that’s going to help us realize more revenue and retention and growth. Right. So I think it’s not just the initial sale that’s all well and good. And I think we’re seeing that with sadly all the layoffs that we’re talking about. A lot of those companies that have gone through layoffs that got a bunch of funding, they were running real hot and they were focusing on net new, net new, net new, net new. But they failed to realize after the fact, well, it’s one thing to get something. It’s a whole other ball of wax to keep it, to grow it, to nurture it and to sustain it for the long haul. That mindset is the mindset that wins. Gotcha. Let’s switch gears a little bit. And talk about female sales leaders. I have another link to share about a study about millennials actually preferring female bosses. In fact, we did a data poll here at Inslightly, Amy, and we discovered that 80% of our workforce is millennials. So millennials in tech is a huge factor, and they seem to prefer to have female leaders. What do you take from there? My biggest take is, well, what are we doing about it then? Because if we know that there is a big discrepancy between, so the U.S. so I rattled off some stats before, but the last U.S. census data that I got around women in sales as a function was 76.3% of people in sales were men. And then when you slice out the leadership piece those numbers aren’t the same. They’re actually smaller. And so it doesn’t, you can’t create leadership that doesn’t exist. And so I want to go back to the basics. When I first started in my career, the term leadership training still existed. And in this day and age, it seems to have dissipated a bit unless you are a very big company. But as it relates to your question, it starts with bringing people in. And so this is a challenge that I give to every founder. If you want more women in sales leadership, you’ve got to bring them in. So we do a really good job of bringing people into the function from an overall DENI perspective, not just women, but if you want more people in leadership, whether it’s women or anybody else, it’s, well, what are you doing to bring them into the profession? Support them, enable them, understand them and their nuances, and then bolster them.. Because there’s a lot of data, McKinsey has a lot of data around this that as we continue to go up the chain, It becomes exponentially harder to get promoted And I’ve seen this in the work that I do as well. Women display differently in interviews than men do. We are not as aggressive. We don’t use the same language the way that we think. And we just talked about this with the different traits. The way that we think about solving problems or approaching business is different. It’s not bad. It’s different. So the way to approach it is get real clear about the competency of the work that you need to get done and look for that, not the traits that have been ingrained in our brain of a lot of the bro culture stuff of like 100% or go home or we’re going to crush it. Women may not necessarily think about that. Also think about what it takes to inspire women into leadership. Some of us are moms. Some of us have other things, especially with the pandemic of what it’s taught us. We lost over 5.3 million women in the workforce because they had to go to work in a different way. It was called being a mom full time. So I think it’s just understanding the complexity of if you want more of us at that table, you have to understand what it takes to get us to that table, to support us along the journey for that table and to not push us down because we don’t look the same or act the same or talk the same at the table as our male counterparts. Absolutely. I mean, certainly I can relate, you know, to more than 20 years in revenue, it certainly has happened. I like what you’re talking about because I’ve heard it coined as that bottom rung effect, meaning like we don’t have females to promote into high sales positions because they didn’t get that first leadership position. Or that first promotion way before because their value and skills perhaps weren’t recognized in the same way that a male colleagues skills were so they didn’t get that first step. And they’re always like a rung or two behind. Then it’s compounding effects, right? Yeah.. So if I didn’t get that first one, how on earth can I get the next one and the next one and the next one after that? And so I think it’s about understanding what good looks like with different kinds of people. And it’s, it’s the biggest takeaway for anybody listening. What is the work that is required to do the job well and center around that because competency displays in different ways. So you and I could talk about being successful and how you cross the finish line, Val, is going to be very different than than the way that I do. And we both did it. And that was a really good lesson that I learned early on in my career. We are conditioned to look for the stereotype in sales of that’s good leadership. You know, so leading with the carrot and the stick, you know, or some of these old kind of mentalities. And in fact,. I think the reason why people like reporting to women is they feel seen, heard and understood. They crave connection. People want to belong to something, especially in the generations that are younger than yours truly. The way that I came up is not the way that people are coming up now. And it’s that ability to understand that. And I think that’s what it’s going to take to get more of us at that table. And to stay at that table, because it’s one thing to bring us to the table. It’s another thing to pull out the chair and keep us sitting at that table. Because one thing to know is. I can’t tell you how many times people tell me. I need to hire a woman for this role. And I say, Why? And it’s to tick a box And the problem with that is a woman is smart, right? She’s got that seat at that table. She earned that role. If you are just treating her like the obligatory bobblehead doll of a woman and you treat her as such and she doesn’t truly have a seat, you’re not going to keep her. And then what message does that send to the rest of your team? And then you’re perpetuating the problem of you can’t keep them, which makes it a hell of a lot harder for you to do anything else in the future. Compounding effects. Gosh, Amy, so much to unpack here. We will definitely link all of the resources we talked about in the show notes. So go take a look there. Amy, thank you so much for joining me. You’re welcome. Thank you. This was an important conversation to have. Thank you for having it with me, Val.. I appreciate it. All right. We’re going to sign off, remember, like this video, subscribe to the channel and take that bill for notifications so you don’t miss another episode. We’ll see you next time on closing time