Sue wasn't the most technical person in the world, but now she's selling technology in a male-dominated industry. At first, she struggled to embrace the technology at a deeper level. Then she realized she didn't need to get into the weeds. She had access to technical experts if a client required more details.She didn’t have to understand everything about how the technology worked, just how it could solve problems for her clients.
This doesn’t mean women in sales should neglect their homework. Sue explained that the more saleswomen understand the technology they sell, the more credibility they bring into client engagements. The more they educate themselves on the industry and trends, the deeper conversations they have, and the faster their sales processes accelerate.
However, as a successful field sales manager in a tech company, Sue has learned that it takes more than technical expertise to seal the deal. It takes great relationships, and women in sales have those in spades.
Why Women Are Great at Tech Sales
Technology might still be a male-dominated industry, but that doesn’t mean women aren’t welcome in most companies. When I asked Sue what gives women in sales an advantage in her industry, she said clients view saleswomen as less intimidating.
“They're tired of seeing guys walk in the door in suits, pushing their agendas with high levels of intensity to sell, sell, sell,” Sue explained.“They find it refreshing when someone comes in with new perspectives and a willingness and openness to engage them in conversation.We're allowed to be a bit more flexible and get to know the customer.”
Case in point: Sue attended her company-sponsored roundtable summit with CEOs. A customer Sue had known for several years approached her and gave her a hug. He didn't sit with his sales rep at the roundtable; he sat with her. Sue hadn’t been his rep for years, and he wanted to catch up. When the summit ended, Sue walked him over to his current sales rep. It was then that the conversation abruptly changed. The rep was all business.
No wonder the client wanted to sit with her! Sue took time to get to know him; the new sales rep only had money on his mind.
Relationships Pave the Way for Women in Sales
Women like Sue are terrific at building relationships, which is the key to successful selling in most any industry. Women build trust and credibility upfront. We ask insightful questions, listen intently to the answers, remember details, and collaborate to find solutions, rather than pushing people to do what we want.
As Sue pointed out,many men also understand the importance of relationships. But it's innate for women. Sue sees this in the women she's hired and mentored.
Neuroscience backs up Sue’s observations. The right and left hemispheres of women’s brains have more connective tissue. We move easily between left and right brain functions. We see the big picture. Our brains are always on. We remember details that most men don’t, and we build phenomenal, deep, long-lasting relationships.
This doesn’t just make us great at winning over prospects. Our rich relationships also set us up to get referrals, which convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time.
Women in Sales: The Challenges That Remain
Sue says it’s still challenging to improve herself in a male-dominated sales world, and she must work smarter and harder than many of her male colleagues. There are still so few women in leadership, and finding mentors is not always easy.
But that hasn’t stopped Sue.Getting both male and female perspectives is essential for anyone in sales, so Sue has found successful women and men to mentor and coach her. Many of them came to her without her asking. Now, when she's struggling with a deal or having challenges on her team, she can ask them,“What would you do?”
What’s the lesson here for women in sales? Know your stuff. Seek out mentors and sponsors. Build the strong relationships you’re so good at building. Never stop learning and sharing your wisdom—with your clients and with women coming up the ranks behind you. The more saleswomen support each other, the more quickly all of us will succeed.
Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. To learn more, visit www.NoMoreColdCalling.com
Want to learn more about women in sales? Check out Joanne’s latest speaking topic: “Big Deals and High Heels: Why Women Are Naturals at Selling.”