Women in Sales
What would you say if you were asked to describe a salesperson? Unfortunately, most would describe a man, likely in a suit, with his briefcase and phone. A long-standing stereotype. No room for women in sales is what most of us have been privy to, however, that is slowly but surely starting to change and there are ways you can help.
Statistics from LinkedIn have shown the following:
- Women occupy only 39% of the sales community, up only 3% over the last 10 years.
- The percentage drops further, the higher the sales position.
- Only 19% of leadership positions in sales are held by women.
- Of the women who are in sales, only 30% of them actually intended that as their profession.
So why are there so few women in sales?
From a very young age, women don’t identify sales as a career path or a future ambition they would like to pursue. This probably owes to the fact that there were little or no role models to guide women into a prosperous career in sales. I personally didn’t even know what it meant to be in sales until I was 22 years old. Currently only 5% of colleges across the US offer sales programs, most of these starting after 2007. Unfortunately for my generation and younger, there likely were not any sales programs offered at all.
Then there is a women’s tendency to be over critical of her qualifications. When I first learned about sales as a career, I was quickly frustrated and almost gave up looking due to the list of experiences most employers were looking for that I simply didn’t meet. Every post that I looked at, I only matched a portion of their criteria. After seeking advice (from my now husband) I learned the way that he looked at their requirements were much different than the lense that I took. With that knowledge I started applying, and BAAMM got my first sales job!
Another consideration that employers as well as women likely consider is potential travel and how that affects their home life as well. I really hope that a women would not be rejected due to assumption she wouldn’t be able to be away from a family if needed, but I’m sure it crosses employers minds. Add in overnight travel and her chances of being considered over a male are drastically reduced. Part of that is our own fault. Early on in my career I bought in to this stereotype, and even personally rejected offers that maybe had travel, and I hadn’t even started a family yet! I can say from experience now that doing both is very possible, and am happy to be setting the example for my daughter that I can work the job I want to have while also being a great wife and mom.
Sales for women can be a rewarding and life changing opportunity. Current statistics show that women close on average 11% more of their deals. I’d personally attribute this to our listening skills (based on personal experience J). Often times when you show empathy and that you understand your buyers problem, and can listen, this makes all the difference.
How to encourage women to embrace the sales world
Luckily we’ve started to see a shift where employers are seeking women in their sales line-up for diversification and other peculiar reasons. Although I think this is great, I’d like to see the change being reflective of their work and value they bring over their potential male counterparts. The barricades raised in the subconscious minds about women getting into sales need to be safely eradicated.
4 quick tips to help be the change…
- Employers: Be generous with job explanations to help women get attracted to the sales world. Break down criteria that is a nice to have verse a requirement so it’s clear. Remember, a woman has a lot going on in her head; work, children, taking care of the home, and a host of others. You want her on your team!
- Women: Decide what is important to you. Have your own set of goals and requirements for the role you want. You should be interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.
- Employers: Employ a gender-neutral policy. Do you want to give women their well-deserved chance in the sales world? Give them a reason to feel in the game by placing no specificity to gender.
- Women: Give yourself a shot! If you don’t meet 100% of their needs, you likely offer other experiences they haven’t even considered. You certainly won’t get the job that you don’t even apply for.
- Employers: Provide feedback after the interview. We are hard on ourselves, and if left hanging without any reasons why we didn’t land the job, we’ll make assumptions that may not be true. Most people put a lot of work in to the interview process and deserve some honesty about why they didn’t make it through.
- Women: Seek a mentor! Having someone you can vent or brainstorm with not only about landing a job in sales, but if you already are in a sales career can be a game changer. There are a lot of people who have already been in your shoes, so why not have help with some of your challenges.
Sales can be an intimidating move for some, but if you think you have what it takes you should go for it!