Closing Time

How Sales Leaders Can Foster an Environment Where Women in Sales Thrive

Women in sales close, on average, 11% more deals than men, but only hold 1/3 of B2B sales roles. So, why is the profession STILL male-dominated when saleswomen are statistically proven to have better outcomes (e.g. more wins) than their male colleagues?

In this episode of Closing Time, sales leader Charlotte Lloyd dives into this phenomenon, looking at what attracts and repels women from the profession, how sales leaders can create an environment where saleswomen thrive, and how women can find the right businesses to use their talents and find success.

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Gender Gap in Sales

Women who join the sales force face a lot of pressure and rejection. They feel that they need to work harder than their male counterparts to prove themselves because often, their pay is not equal to that of their male colleagues.

This may be due to the fact that there are so few women in sales roles, making it harder for them to succeed. As someone who has been in sales for 20 years, I can attest that this was especially difficult early on when I was one of only two women in a large sales team.

Microaggressions Towards Women in Sales

Women in sales often face microaggressions from their male counterparts. These microaggressions can be difficult to prove, such as being excluded from invitations to social events or after-parties.

In the past, women in sales have had to listen to male locker room talk on the sales floor and have been deliberately excluded from social events. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to prove these situations, and many women are afraid to document them for fear of negative consequences, such as losing their jobs.

However, now that more work is done online, it is easier to record conversations or keep a record of what happens. When women overhear derogatory conversations about female salespeople or experience other microaggressions, it’s important to document them and discuss them more openly.

Addressing Biases and Microaggressions

As a female salesperson, it can be difficult to address biases and microaggressions from male colleagues, especially if your boss is male. However, there are strategies you can use to address these issues.

First, if you notice any microaggressions, be sure to document them and record them if possible. Then, be transparent with your male boss and let him know what you have observed. Don’t be afraid to speak up and say, “Look, when I heard this, I recorded this on my phone. I’ve documented this has happened.”

If you feel that your male boss is not taking the issue seriously or is not addressing it, you can also reach out to your human resources team. They are there to help and need to know about these things.

Addressing biases and microaggressions is crucial for creating a positive and inclusive work environment, and you have the power to make a difference.

Interview Questions for Women in Sales

When preparing for an interview for a sales position, it’s important to ask questions to give you insight into the team’s attitude towards female sales success. You could ask about the ratio of male to female salespeople on the team, as well as the ratio of female sellers who hit their quota and stay for more than a year. You can also ask about pay opportunities and whether there is transparency in salary.

You can ask about the experience of women on the sales team and how the company ensures equal opportunities for advancement regardless of gender, what steps the company is taking to address gender bias and stereotypes, and whether there are programs or initiatives that support the career development of women.

Tips for Sales Leaders

Leaders should ensure that the language used in sales is appropriate and inclusive. Using language like “We’re in the trenches,” “crushing quota,” “slamming targets,” or “smashing targets” is not appropriate and can turn women off. 

Changing the language used in sales can make a big difference in how both male and female sellers perceive the work environment.


What are some of the obstacles facing women in sales and how can we challenge them? That’s up next on this episode of Closing Time. Hi, I’m Val Riley, head of content marketing at Insightly. Welcome to Closing Time, the show for go to market leaders.. Today I’m joined by Charlotte Lloyd. Charlotte is a sales leader, coach and speaker specializing in cold calling and social selling. Welcome to the show, Charlotte. Thanks for having me, Val. It’s great to be here. Great. So sales can be a great career for anyone who wants a little more flexibility and autonomy. So on paper, you think women would be lining up for this kind of opportunity? However, women only hold about 30% of sales roles when we’re looking at the U.S. I hosted an episode of Closing Time with Amy Volas, as a sales leader and owner of Avenue. Talent Partners, with tons of data about how female salespeople are 11% more likely to win deals. So why the mismatch? Yeah, I mean, women, 29% of us are, you know, represent the sales force globally. I’m still the only woman in the corporate company that I work for on the sales team.. And an 11% more likely to win deals, I think this is all because first off women are drawn away from having a sales career. It’s not being made attractive by you know the boiler room type tactics and you know from years ago and you know the Wolf of Wall Street and there’s still this sort of perception that it’s shouldn’t be for women somehow. And I think when women get into the sales force and they start working, you know, it’s tough. There’s a lot of pressure.. There’s a lot of rejection. We feel that we need to work harder than our male counterparts. This is huge. And this, especially early on, I’ve been in sales for 20 years. This was massive. You know, it was like I was, again, one of two sales women, a huge sales team and women, you know, we just worked hard. We worked really hard because, you know, often our pay at the time wasn’t as equal as male pay. And we felt that we had to prove ourselves more because I guess that comes from just having so few female counterparts, female sellers, you know who are also in the same role. Sometimes I hear about like microaggressions that can be really hard to prove. So for instance, you’re being left out of an invitation to hit the pub during a conference when you’re the sole female, or perhaps there’s a party and you’re omitted from the after party. So it could be a genuine omission, but it doesn’t feel likely. Yeah, this is the thing I’ve overheard early in my career conversations. I worked at a corporate, a well known brand and women, you know, the way that men behave towards female saleswomen, you know, they would be openly sharing these kind of male locker room talk on the sales floor. They make the arrangements to go out to the bar, deliberately exclude female sellers who are on the teams, so it was me it was another girl at the time and I agree with you that often it can be hard to prove because at the time, you know, and I think even now women don’t want to document this. Now we can now we work online, we work virtually. We can record. We can get proof that these things happen. Still, a lot of women are afraid. You know, they’re afraid to do this because they’re afraid that, you know, if they call it out, they might lose their job or some negative consequence. So, you know, it’s it’s all about documenting what happens, keeping a record. You know, when you overhear these conversations or if you’re on a call and you can somehow record these conversations where, you know, men are being derogatory, salesmen are being derogatory to saleswomen, that definitely needs to, it needs to be aired, you know, it needs to be talked about more. Yeah. Another microaggression that we sometimes hear about is where the accomplishments of female salespeople might be diminished because there’s an implication that your gender or your appearance, maybe you helped achieve a sales goal. And that’s could be especially disheartening. Yeah, it is. And I was contacted a few weeks ago by a female seller who said that, you know, in her team there was a male and a female. So there were two top sellers, one was male one was female, and somehow the sales guy, he got more praise for being, you know, sort of top of the leaderboard and they were looking for excuses to sort of not praise the female, you know, the saleswoman saying, oh, well, she had more inbound leads, but she still hit her metrics. You know, she did as well as the sales guy. So this is still happening now and it happened years ago. And I think while we’ve made some progress, we need to go such a long way Right. I think it’s a game with just still a small voice within the sales world. And we need to speak out more. And again, I think it ties back into this. You know, the person that contacted me, the saleswoman, she was saying, this is terrible and I can’t believe this is happening and nothing’s being done about it. So this is where it’s hard, you know, and women, especially now, we’re in a tougher economic climate. Women feel that they can’t speak out for fear of losing their job or fear of not finding another job. And this has to stop. Yeah, you mentioned earlier documenting, right when something comes up. Let’s talk about strategies for maybe bringing this up when particularly when you have a male boss, which is more than likely given the numbers. Yeah. Yeah. I think be 100% direct with your male boss, if your boss is a male boss. And I’ve only ever had one female boss, she was actually the CRO, and she was my best boss. I’ve had male bosses all through my career. I started out and I was very bad at documenting my success, keeping a record of all of, you know, a track of everything, even at conferences, you know, not just sales wins, but all those sort of things that eventually lead to your success and being able to bring in the sale. as again, I said, you know, if you feel that there’s this kind of microaggression happening in the sales team, document it, record it, just be 100% transparent with your male boss. Don’t be afraid. To say, look, when I heard this,. I recorded this on my phone. I’ve documented this has happened. And, you know, and if you feel that it’s something that can’t be addressed by a male boss, talk to your human resources team because that’s what they’re there for and they need to know these things as well. So yeah, let’s zero in on HR there. Because i’m thinking when you’re about to join an organization, what types of questions could you ask on an interview that might give you some insight ahead of time on the tone of a sales team with regard to females and female sales success? Yeah. So you want to be asking what’s the ratio of male to female salespeople in the team? What ratio hit quota? you know, what ratio females sellers are staying after 12 months?. What are the pay opportunities? Can you be 100% transparent about the pay opportunities? They are earning the same in terms of salary. And I think perhaps we’ve closed that barrier now. How many women are on the sales team? What’s the experience been like? These are questions that you should also be asking, you know, how do you ensure that all members of the sales team, regardless of the gender, have equal opportunities for advancement and also for their professional future? How do you address this gender bias and these stereotypes? These are questions that I’d want to ask. Also, sort of what steps are they taking at the company to make sure that everyone in the team feels valued regardless of their background? So that also includes not just gender but diversity. Are there any specific programs there, any specific initiatives that support the career development of women? Have they had any instances where there’s been sexism, gender bias in the sales team? How is it handled? So these are just, you know, five to six key questions that if you’re interviewing for a role, you’re a woman, you should be asking these questions at every single interview that you have. Yeah. One thing came to my mind, too, is, is there a female on the sales team that I could speak with prior to accepting a position? That’s a great one. So can I speak with a with a member of an existing member of the sales team and see how she’s doing and what’s the environment like? So let’s say you ask that question and they say, well, there are zero women on our sales organization. What would be your advice to a woman considering joining that team? I would say don’t be afraid of that. It’s not a red flag. It might seem like a red flag, but it’s also an opportunity. So I say go forth and conquer, right? Change the bias. You can be the first female salesperson. I mean, that’s something big, right, that you can, you take that with you. You can say that you joined this company. There was there were no sales women.. You were the first one. You want to create a culture of diversity, of inclusion. You can also be actively getting involved in why are we not recruiting more women? How can we make this company more attractive so that more women want to join the team? You know, don’t ever feel as a as a saleswoman that just because you’re going to be the first on the team and there’s lots of other men that you’re somehow different or somehow not worthy or valued is mocked. It’s complete opposite so go and destroy the stereotype. Yeah. I mean, I think it could be intimidating, but at the same time, you can be a trailblazer. So that could be exciting. So let’s talk about men and women who are in leadership. What are some ways they can use their seniority to create an environment where both male and female sellers feel welcomed and appreciated? One really important thing that leaders need to focus on and it has to come from the top down, is language. So using the right language in sales. I’m sick of this, We’re in the trenches.. We are crushing quota. We’re slamming our targets or smashing our targets. This isn’t appropriate language, it turns women off. And it’s also, you know, linking sales to war. Being in the trenches isn’t something that, sales is hard, It’s very hard. You know, it can be. You’ve got to get out there, have conversations with people that you don’t know. And prospecting can be difficult. Most salespeople don’t like to prospect or they’re trying to go prospecting, saying that you’re in the trenches. I think we have to change that language because it’s insulting to situations where there is a war happening And I was even cold in my previous role. I had a nickname and it was the shark. So again, using that language, because it was endearing. It wasn’t negative. But I look at it now and I think it probably wasn’t the best word to use because I was very determined to close sales and to get business. So, you know, I was called a shark because I had a bit of a bite. And I think this kind of language needs to stop because women need to feel that, you know, they’re going to be on equal footing with men somehow. You need to be more aggressive or more pushy or, you know, physically stronger, these kind of things. All of this imagery of you know, it just has to stop. Yeah. And truthfully, if they want to see their numbers go up, they really should start including more women, because the data shows that women are killing it. They’re crushing it. They’re making deals and they’re doing a great job. Yeah, and I think also as well because you know, historically, women have probably avoided sales because of you know, the work life balance, wanting to be a mother, wanting to be able to take time off. You know, historically, they’ve taken more time off. And the pressure of sales is you know, you take very little time off. And I think there needs to be you know, that sales leaders need to address this topic a lot more. And you know, make it more attractive for women to join a sales team because right now it’s that sort of how are they, you know, they’re saying, well, it’s a man’s world. It’s like it’s for men. It’s always been for men traditionally. So it’s really taking some of those you know, traditional stereotypes and knocking them on the head and making it attractive for women. You know, women can be, as, as we said, they typically will sell 11% more than the male counterparts. So I think there needs to be a lot of work on that messaging and to make it more attractive from women to join sales team. Those are really great insights Charlotte and that’s all the time we have for this episode of Closing Time. Really appreciate you joining us. Thanks for having me, Val.. It’s been great. All right. Well, thanks to all of you for joining us on Closing Time. Remember to subscribe to the channel, like the video, and click that button for notifications so you don’t miss an episode. We’ll see you next time.

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