Why Having More Women on Your Sales Team Makes Financial Sense

Angie Joerin & Robert McLaws
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Out-Performing Yet Under-Represented

The facts are clear. These powerful stats appeared in Harvard Business Review.

  • Women make up more than 50 percent of the college-educated workforce but under a third of B2B sales jobs.
  • Women outperform men in sales. One study revealed that 86 percent of women hit quota, compared to 78 percent of men.

Gong.io, which recently appointed a woman as President and COO, used AI to validate these statistics. They analyzed conversations and compared details like speaking time, pauses, and other factors to “unpack” style and performance differences.

Generalizing about the style of one gender over the other is, in itself, sexist. But as you build out your own sales organization, look at the facts and commit to creating a truly inclusive environment in which all salespeople can thrive.

Building Relationships Versus Smiling and Dialing

One common theory is that women are better active listeners than men. They often delve into the backgrounds and pain points of prospects and take the time to get to know someone before asking for the sale. A Gong study revealed that women listen 16 percent more than men on sales calls.

That means that organizations must commit to empowering women sales professionals as they apply different types of approaches to building the business.

Recruiting With Both Genders in Mind

Organizations may sometimes turn women candidates off with language in their job ads that clearly signals a “bro culture.” Automated recruiting platforms may also be guilty of sexism. In fact, Facebook was called out for advertisements targeted based on age and gender. Here are 70 language principles that you should consider in your own management vocabulary when recruiting and all year long.

As with all sales planning efforts, match the sales team to the prospect persona. I recently heard of a woman decision-maker who shut down a big sales pitch because she felt the (male) salesperson was condescending. Bias (in both directions) can cost your company millions. As more women rise in the ranks in business, your buyer is as likely to be a woman as a man.

Send your top women sales leaders into colleges (in-person or via webinar) to recruit that next generation of talent. Women will be more likely to join your organization if they see credible and relatable role models.

Don’t discount older women in the hiring process. Ageism is as toxic as sexism, and women often are excluded from consideration by organizations that skew younger. Just because a woman is older doesn’t mean she is tech-challenged or can’t be a super sales quota crusher.

But above all, don’t fall victim to quota-setting. Your goal should be to hire the most qualified professionals of both genders.

Training That Works

Once you hire women into your organization, make sure you have the infrastructure to support and develop every salesperson from BDR through VP. Promote inclusion by educating leaders to develop coaching skills that enable them to manage a broader range of people. Train leaders to flex their style when coaching women vs men and encourage sales staff to seek out mentors to whom they can relate.

Take chances on new sales hires. For example, if a woman was performing well in a retail environment, she may be easily trained to sell a complex SaaS product. Check your own biases at the door and don’t dismiss candidates because they don’t have extensive experience in tech or business products and services.

Many inspirational stories exist of women who have rocked the SaaS sales world. Encourage your seasoned sales leaders to mentor and train others. If women see a clear career path (in your organization or others) they will be motivated to seek out development opportunities.

Retention Through Rewards and Flexibility

Sad but true, women continue to bear the brunt of household responsibilities, especially during the pandemic. As a result, job flexibility and location, ample PTO, and vacation time during school holidays may all be benefits that your women sales leaders may appreciate. Know your employees’ limits and plan accordingly.

As with all employees, get to know each person as an individual. As you create your capacity plan, take time off and other personal needs into consideration. Believe it or not, having the right capacity planning tool can be a huge benefit to overworked sales managers and leaders. Rather than updating and re-updating Excel spreadsheets, having a cloud-based system can save hours every month and incorporate the “human side” of selling.

Make Inclusion Part of Your Conversations

And remember to set your defenses aside and demonstrate leadership by staying calm and listening more than talking.

If you’re having difficulty attracting women in sales, ask yourself why and talk to candidates who turned you down about what you could have done better.

“Casual sexism” is a form of discrimination that can be invisible. Watch for these subtle signs in your organization and be prepared to deal with them.

Talking about biases and behaviors is uncomfortable for everyone, but creating a culture of listening and responding is key. Bring in an outside facilitator if necessary to open up the lines of communication and reflect on why your organization is imbalanced. At Burnrate, we have an on-staff mental health professional to support the team and promote a psychologically safe environment.

Jessica Klepper, Co-founder of the Society of Saleswomen (SOS) sums up the role of women in sales when she says, "Inclusion extends way beyond inviting the one woman on the team out for a happy hour or creating an internal women's support group...leaders must look at every aspect of their recruiting, culture, communication, and reward structure to make sure high performers are empowered and retained -- regardless of gender." The non-profit even has a special annual event called “Manvember,” during which women sales leaders can talk about their observations, goals, and needs, while men are invited to listen and respond.

Only through these types of honest, open, and direct convos can we be sure we’re building the best team and delivering better sales results.

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