The Future of Women in Sales

September 29, 2021
The Future of Women in Sales

Need to improve your sales team’s results? Hire more women. That’s the advice from a recent Harvard Business Review article that concluded, women are the future of B2B sales. If you are skeptical, ask yourself this: Which do you think is more likely to have a positive impact on your sales results next year — more women on your sales team or less? If you believe diversity on your sales team will improve sales performance, keep reading because there is plenty of science to back that up.

The evidence clearly shows that a gender-diverse sales team historically outperforms a non-diverse sales team. A 2019 study by Xactly that researched 100,000 women in sales roles, including sales reps, account managers, and sales managers, found that 86% of women achieved quota, compared to only 78% of men. Even though women make up 50% of the population, most companies’ sales forces only include about 25% women. This means, statistically speaking, if you are hiring sales reps, you can improve your results by hiring more women.

A Gallop study from 2014 of more than 800 companies found that gender-diverse companies had better financial outcomes than those dominated by men. The numbers are remarkable. The gender-diverse companies had a 14% higher revenue compared to the non-diverse companies. Additionally, the diverse companies had a 19% higher quarterly profit than the non-diverse companies. The results show that gender-diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams.

If companies with more women on their sales team generate more sales, why are there fewer women in sales? The main reason for the imbalance is the lack of women in sales leadership roles. Based on Harvard’s study and other research it’s been proven that people subconsciously favor others who are like them. Since men represent the majority of sales leaders, they tend to favor hiring sales reps, who are like them. This unconscious bias tends to exaggerate simple commonalities, like “You were in the Boy Scouts, me too.” Unfortunately, not all Boy Scouts should be salespeople.

Another reason there are fewer women in sales is because of the old-school perception of the sales role. You know the stereotype–the aggressive closer who is a road warrior with lots of overnight travel and is part of the old boys club. This misconception has evolved over time and especially so with COVID and the emergence of virtual selling. The modern salesperson is collaborating with prospects with digital tools virtually and not physically traveling to the prospect’s place of business as often. By default, modern selling is becoming more female-friendly.

Can anyone make a blanket statement and claim, women are better at sales than men? Absolutely not. Regardless of gender, there are certain traits and characteristics that make for a successful salesperson. In general, high-performing salespeople are naturally curious, competitive, and creative. They are also resilient, persistent, and optimistic. But as modern selling evolves, sales roles and sales leadership roles are becoming more of a natural fit for women.

Diverse sales teams make effective sales teams.  Driving future sales success will hinge on attracting more women into sales roles, not less.  If you have decided your team can benefit from more diversity, here are three drivers to consider:

Attract More Women: To attract more women for sales roles create gender-neutral job descriptions. Include in the job description your commitment to equality and diversity. How you describe your sales position is important, so choose your words carefully.

Promote More Women:  If you want to attract more women in sales, promote more women to sales leadership roles. This is one of the fastest paths to more diversity. If potential sales reps see that your organization has other females in leadership positions that will intuitively know the opportunity for promotion exists. Alternatively, if every Sales Manager, Territory Manager, National Sales Director, and VP of Sales is a male, the message you are sending is clear as well.

Better Coaching. Giving access to better coaching is key to developing future sales leaders. When team members see the company is investing in career development, it breaks down stigmas and ensures everyone is receiving objective feedback. It does not matter what your gender as no one becomes an expert salesperson overnight.

Forward-thinking companies realize diversity in sales is not about political correctness, it’s about increased performance. Research suggests bringing more women into sales roles at every level will improve performance. Companies that do better in the marketplace today are companies that are diversified. If someone can be innovative, remain optimistic and solve problems for clients, then, regardless of gender, sales will be a viable career that will provide opportunity and growth.  It is the responsibility of everyone in a sales leadership role to ensure we are not restricting career opportunities for any candidate based on gender.