Did you know that women make up just over half of the U.S. workforce? Did you also know, they hold less than one-third of B2B sales positions?
According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review companies could be missing a huge opportunity by not consciously recruiting more women into these roles. The article cites a study by Xactly that showed that 86 per cent of women in sales positions achieved quota, compared to 78 per cent of their male colleagues.
The article argues that companies should rely on better recruiting, coaching, mentoring and promotion opportunities to hire more women. I think this misses the point, or at least starts in the wrong place. In my experience, the biggest barrier to women having sales roles in B2B companies is that sales leadership often doesn’t think about hiring women in the first place. To me, the real starting point for making change is to openly consider hiring women in these positions.
The piece highlights seven key skills that high-performing salespeople possess and utilize regularly, no matter their gender:
1. Analyzing: understanding cause and effect and seeing big picture implications
2. Connecting: building a network of customers, team members, and other resources
3. Collaborating: working cooperatively with others
4. Shaping solutions: understanding customer needs and adapting the offer accordingly
5. Influencing: shaping their messages and style to maximize impact
6. Driving: applying structured and planned approaches to deliver outcomes
7. Improving: constantly seeking to do things better and being prepared to try new things
Women are more likely to emphasize connecting, shaping solutions, and collaborating. These are increasingly important traits when we consider a world after Covid-19. Interestingly, high-performing men are more apt to focus on improving and driving outcomes.
Current buyers have new expectations of salespeople. They want sellers to engage and collaborate with customers, help shape solutions and effectively address customer needs. These are skills that women more routinely excel at.
During this unprecedented time, companies and teams have pivoted and embraced new ways to connect, develop solutions and collaborate more than ever before. Sound familiar? Some industries may never be the same. Hiring more women in B2B sales roles may help organizations to adapt, embrace the change and thrive in this evolving landscape.
Use of video and digital channels will most likely not go away, once the pandemic is over. These tools make balancing career and family easier, not only for women. I think they will continue to be used and help salespeople travel less, while maintaining relationships with their customers. Like it or not, connecting with potential new hires, customers, clients and staff has changed.
To attract more women into traditionally male-dominated industries like B2B sales, and build a culture that welcomes women, companies need to ensure female B2B sales staff feel supported. By showing that the organization accepts women for their differences and providing coaching, mentoring and recognition more women will want to follow their lead.
Today, more than ever, companies need to be creative and look for skills that can help candidates be successful. Finding the perfect person for a sales role with exactly the right industry and background is difficult. Do you get candidates that are natural relationship builders? Do they want to help others? Are they open to change? Do you subconsciously discount candidates because the applicant is female?
Expand your search parameters and consider hiring more women for sales roles. It will open the door to enhancing relationships with your customers and building your business.
Does this topic pique your interest? Check out our list of 100 exceptional women in B2B and join us in celebrating these changemakers, risk-takers, and leaders: