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Women Who Lack Confidence in a Sales Career


Women who Lack ConfidenceFor International Women’s Day this week, confidence, or lack of it – is a hot topic when it comes to women. Many studies have talked about women’s perceived lack of confidence.

I have a different opinion than most people when it comes to women and confidence because of what I’ve observed in sales offices across the United States. I can’t vouch for Europe or Asia or even Canada – but I have seen something powerful here in the U.S.

Our society rewards men for being tough, assertive, stoic, and confident.

Studies have shown that men tend to overvalue their strengths. Women continue to undervalue theirs. (LeanIn)

Women often underestimate their abilities so much so that many times they will not jump into a corporate project or opportunity per Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk.  Have you ever seen men and women in a board room? I’ve noticed a lot of women sitting in the outside chairs of the room rather than at the boardroom table itself.

So when I helped onboard over 1,000 new sales reps in 5 different companies over a 4 year period, I noticed two things:

  1. Women (new SDRs, BDRs, and ADRs) verbalized comments about being nervous for an upcoming phone conversation with a buyer or comments about not being sure if they will be successful in their role. Their male counterparts (also new SDRs, BDRs, and ADRs) generally kept quiet about it, but agreed they were also not fully confident every time I inquired in 1:1s.
  2. Men (often frontline managers who have not been very well trained in leadership themselves) didn’t understand that women are wired differently so we don’t behave exactly as our male sales peers. I observed women reps who were not able to jump on phones without research and not interested in repeatedly calling buyers who are not ready to buy just because their manager told them to “go make calls”.

Fortunately, sales has changed and the old ways of predominantly reaching people through cold calling and dialing those on a limited list – then repeatedly calling and calling the same people is not how most modern sales teams function.  The older sales leaders who have not come around to social selling and creating insight for buyers are going to retire soon, too.

Science shows women are wired for success. Daniel Amen, author of “Unleash the Power of the Female Brain” writes that the “CEO part of the brain” — the prefrontal cortex, which controls judgment, organization, impulse control, and planning — is more active in women, and we can use this for great success at work. It just seems that for so long, with so few women on the sales floor or in the sales team our style differences and lack of aggressiveness or “killer instincts” can seem like weaknesses.

Yes, women are more likely to share their doubts out loud- that does NOT mean they are less confident or less skilled.

Leaders – both male and female – need to better understand style differences of their sales reps. In addition to gender differences, there are cultural differences too. Are your front-line sales leaders trained on this?

We need to talk about this more. Stereotypes are holding women back, and it is slowing the pace of change.  That’s why we have few women in tech, SaaS. FinTech, manufacturing, distribution, utilities and telecom (among other sectors). Watch this blog for specific ways to make positive changes or contact me through Twitter at @WOMENSalesPros.

Lori Richardson is the “Women in Sales” woman, working furiously to change the face of business. She spent 20 years in sales and sales leadership roles in the tech, fintech, and distribution sectors helping companies grow revenues. Lori is CEO of Score More Sales, President of WOMEN Sales Pros, and is listed on Forbes as one of the “Top 30 Social Sales Influencers” 

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