Being a female in sales for 30 years, I understand the responsibilities of taking care of your family while trying to grow a successful sales career. It can mean a lot of early mornings, late nights, and making decisions that put our families first, even if it’s not the best financial decision for our careers.
Taking care of your family while working full-time is challenging. Juggling family responsibilities and work hours is not easy. But I realize that one of my biggest struggles as a female in sales was getting my managers to listen to me. To listen not only to my ideas and suggestions, but to listen to what I needed to be successful at home and at work.
I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it, to be very clear about what I need by using exact and concise words and ideas. I’ve learned how to plan my day to get the most out of a workday, and I’ve learned to cut back on using the phrase “I’m sorry” so much.
Do you see a lot of unconscious bias in your companies?
Let me ask you, are most of the higher-ups in your company men?
According to Vanderbilt University, “unconscious bias is often defined as prejudice or unsupported judgements in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair. … As a result of unconscious biases, certain people benefit and other people are penalized.”
The University of California, San Francisco goes on to say that “unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.”
Which means that many companies don’t even realize they are doing this! The good thing is, with more social awareness and responsibility, many companies are changing and adopting healthier ways. But it’s slow going and it won’t happen overnight.
According to a recent study by Equileap, only 6% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women. A report by Xactly in their State of Gender Equality in Sales states that only 26% of sales leadership roles are women. And according to LinkedIn, only 21% of sales vice presidents are women, yet we represent 39% of the sales force.
I think a lot of the reason why sales has been such a male-dominated industry in the past is because sales people used to be encouraged to be aggressive and pushy. But thankfully, it’s changing. For one, because prospects are much more knowledgeable and informed than they were in the past, and they are looking for salespeople who are more consultative. Someone that will listen to their wants and needs, instead of someone pushing the deal-of-the-day down their throat.
I’m going to share with you some things I learned as a female in sales that I believe will help you.
Don’t be afraid of self-promotion.
We as women believe that our accomplishments should speak for themselves, including when we are being considered for higher positions. However, if we don’t speak up and share what we have achieved, how will anyone ever know? There is no room for meekness in sales – speak up and be heard.
As a female in sales, I often feel underestimated in my knowledge and sometimes being seen as weak …
because I am more soft-spoken and don’t push issues unless I feel they’re really important. I don’t walk around telling people how important I am, I just do my job. And my focused intention of selling and staying away from drama has sometimes made me feel some people look at me as weak.
I think this happens to a lot of women, especially in sales. I’m not a man, and I won’t act like one. As a woman, I have different qualities to bring to a sale, such as my intuitiveness, my ability to authentically nuture a relationship, and my ability to create a conversation with the prospect to help them get the best result for them. Allow your natural tendencies as a woman to shine through. And don’t underestimate us.
One thing that I would recommend for any woman starting out on any type of sales is to find a mentor.
Having another woman you can talk to who can help you learn and grow is invaluable. Someone to help you not only grow your sales, but to help you move up the ladder into management, and to listen to your own personal struggles as a female in sales.
I am blessed to have many female mentors throughout my career, both paid and unpaid. Women who cared enough to teach me basic time management skills, help me become business savvy, and who taught me how to stand up for myself when necessary. When to speak up, and when to back down. Just like with your children, learn to pick your battles.
Unfortunately, as females in sales in 2021, something we still are seeing is degrading or derogatory comments and behavior towards us.
This recently happened to me while I was being clear in stating what I thought of a inappropriate comment someone had made. And the response to me was, “I think you’re being overly sensitive”. Intuitive yes, … sensitive, no. No one has ever described me as being sensitive. Especially as a Northerner living in the South. Unless it’s a response to my calling out an inappropriate comment.
A commission only pay scale is an equalizing factor.
I love that most sales jobs pay based on results. The more you sell, the more you get paid, right? It’s the same for men and women.
What specific challenges do you as a woman have in your sales career?
Leave your answer in the comments below.