Skimming through my LinkedIn I saw a notification about a new update post on women in sales – in technology specifically.
It was posted by the co-founder and Chief Evangelist of Terminus, Sangram Vajre, who I admire very much, and am glad to be acquainted with.
Sangram shared a great recording (Flip My Funnel Podcast, episode #136 Fireside Chat with Women in Tech) of a panel event on the topic of getting more women into tech and sales.
The questions in his LinkedIn post got my attention, since I think about this every day. He wrote:
The world of technology and sales is obviously not just for men.
Is this still an issue?
And if so, what can we do to be a more inclusive tech world?
I commented on the post in several places and realized I had more to say, so here goes.
There is a powerful, concurrence of factors that have caused the lack of women in sales roles in technology, SaaS, manufacturing, distribution, telecom, utilities, financial services, and a few other sectors where “male majority” sales teams persist. In companies with more than a handful of women sellers, often there is a lack of women sales leaders.
Here are some main reasons why this has persisted for at least the last 30 years I’ve been involved in tech, distribution, and financial services:
Company leadership has had some successful reps in the past and they look for the same characteristics to get more of the same results. Example: college athletes
Fact: There is no data that shows college athletes make better sales reps as a whole. Before you argue with me, know that I raised a male, Division 1 college athlete. Many top former athletes DO make great sellers, and a bunch of former athletes have been average at best. Consider athletes, and also consider college grads who created and ran a fundraising project, or who set a big goal and achieved it, or who overcame adversity to get to where they are now.
Company leadership has looked in many of the same places for talent as they have for years. Example: Engineering grads for technical sales positions.
Fact: There are many places to find great sales talent outside of standard locations. Get creative.
Job ads for sales roles are often written with too many bullet points and use common words that show male bias. Example: Most tech sales job descriptions.
Fact: Patterns of bias run deep, and we can use technology (like Textio) to help fix this.
Women, like most people, have seen negative stereotypes of sales professionals.
Fact: In most surveys, even sales reps say negative things about sellers. Time to change that.
Many women want a degree in the field of study they will get a career in. We’ve had a lack of sales minors and majors in higher ed, so many women will go for marketing or other degree.
Fact: The most common job students get after graduating? Sales!
Women who do come in to an office to interview often get turned off by the atmosphere or environment on the sales floor – or the lack of women executives.
Fact: Leadership must be intentional to create a welcoming environment for women sellers.
The business world is full of unconscious and conscious bias. Define in your own mind what someone who has “executive presence” looks like and sounds like.
Fact: Companies with more women in senior management positions financially outperform companies with proportionally less women at the top. (Catalyst study)
Women will be hired into a sales position, but many times will leave because she feels that her opinions are not valued or that she does not seem valuable to the organization.
Fact: Research done by Joel LeBon and me this past year, with 700 respondents in sales roles showed that women in sales positions want a clearly defined path of advancement, and want to be socialized from the start into the larger sales group as a whole, among other things.
Change happens collectively. Women are talking about the lack of sellers reflecting who the buyers are in their niche, and male allies are talking too – just like Sangram started this fantastic conversation on LinkedIn. Sangram also made sure to have women, in addition to men, on the main stage of his annual event, #FlipMyFunnel. If you haven’t heard his podcast, by the way, you should check it out – and you’ll learn a lot about the intersection of marketing and sales.
I’m hosting a panel of women and men in various sales and sales leadership roles next week and our topic is about creating a great sales environment for ALL – “Salesvana” if you will. Watch for an update.
Lori Richardson is President of Women Sales Pros and is working to get more women into B2B sales and sales leadership roles. Join forces by visiting Women Sales Pros, tweeting @WomenSalesPros and connecting on Instagram @WomenSalesPros.