Research tells us that diversity in sales organizations is positively correlated with revenue. But the number of women in sales is still dramatically lower than men.
According to CEB, women represent:
- 4 out of every 10 entry-level sales employees
- 3 in 10 first- and mid-level management roles
- 2 in 10 department head or general manager types
That’s why there are a lot of women out there who have made it their mission to talk about women in sales. A few of these sales leaders recently came together for a #WomenInSales Leadership Panel, hosted by SalesLoft Director of Marketing Tami McQueen. The panel featured:
- Emmanuelle Skala, VP of Sales for Influitive
- Trish Bertuzzi, CEO & Chief Strategist at The Bridge Group
- Lori Richardson, Founder of Score More Sales
They discussed everything from what it takes to be a women in sales to sharing tactical information for seeking industry mentors. Here are some key takeaways from their discussion. (Check out the recording here).
5 Tips from Women in Modern Sales Leader Roles
1. You can have it all — but probably not at the same time.
Trish pointed out that women are planners, joking that they have their whole lives planned out by age 12. In that plan, Trish said, women don’t take risks, and a career in sales can seem like a risk.
But Trish urged all women who are considering going into sales to embrace the present and be willing to take on an experience where they’ll learn a sales skill set.
“We sell every day of our lives. You just need to embrace that fact and know that learning more about the craft of sales is a solid foundation you can take with you no matter where else you go,” she said. “Don’t worry about [your] plan so much, and look at right now and what you can accomplish.”
Emmanuelle added that women often set up expectations for what they are, what they should be, what they need to be and when they need to be that particular thing. Because of that, they are often hesitant to take on new things, because it might seem like they won’t be able to do all the other things they want. But that’s not necessarily the case.
“You can do all of those things in your life plan. You can do every single one of them. You might not do them in the order that you planned, and you might not be able to do them all at once,” Emmanuelle said. “It doesn’t mean that you can’t do them.”
2. Be curious, optimistic and coachable.
When asked what soft skills women in sales or interested in sales should strive for, Emmanuelle and Lori highlighted three qualities:
- Curious: Emmanuelle emphasized having an insatiable thirst for information: “Someone who wants to learn because, by definition, they’re going to ask a lot of questions. They’re gonna be more approachable. They’re gonna have better relationships when they do that.”
- Optimistic: Lori highlighted being an optimist: “Know that you’re in an abundant world. You’re in an abundant business market. There’s more business out there if you lose a deal. The ability to pick yourself back up — that’s got to happen much like athletes, [knowing that when] you had a tough day, tomorrow is a new day. And the ability to move on.”
- Coachable: According to Lori, coachability is crucial. “If you don’t have [coachability], along with the grit and tenacity [it takes], I don’t think you’re going to be successful.”
Emmanuelle also added that women who want to be sales reps should also be competitive — not in terms of beating others at all costs, but having a consistent attitude where they want to win, for their organization to collectively win and for their industry or group of fellow women in sales to win.
3. Ask for what you want (and then shut up).
One big piece of advice Trish had for women in sales is to ask for what you want, and then just shut up.
Emmanuelle elaborated: “We tend to have this dialogue in our head where we have to justify everything. But you don’t. You don’t have to justify why you’re asking for the raise. Just ask for the raise.”
They emphasized that this is critical for getting into sales. Not only should women be comfortable asking for things for themselves, but they will also need to be fearless as a salesperson and not be afraid to ask things from their prospects. Rejection is inevitable in sales, which is why they also said women in sales should…
4. Take advantage of rejection.
When someone tells you “No,” Trish said to not think of it as a negative. Instead, think of it as a learning experience, where you can follow up by simply asking why.
“I’ve learned so much about myself, my sales process, my services, my message — you name it — just by taking a ‘No’ as a learning experience,” Trish said.
She went on to say that by nature, you can’t win them all. So when someone tells you “No,” don’t be afraid to ask why. You might learn something new or see it in a brand new way.
5. Find mentors and advocates.
All four agreed that connecting with other women in the sales industry is vital. They each shared a unique and valuable tip for doing this:
- Emmanuelle recommended proactively asking for mentors: “I go to people and say, ‘Will you be my mentor?’ Of course, no one is going to say no, because it’s flattering … My suggestion is to line up mentors who serve different purposes. Don’t limit yourself to just one or two mentors.”
- Tami added that in seeking mentors, it’s important to be intentional about your outreach: “When you reach out to them, say ‘I would like to sit down for coffee to discuss X, Y and Z’ or ‘Can I have 10 minutes of your time to talk about this topic?’ ”
- Trish urged women to seek out peer mentors, as well: “I think peer networking is amazing. Get out of the office. Go to the event…there are so many places you can go now to get peer-to-peer information: Sales Hacker conferences, AA-ISP events. Rainmaker was awesome for that. I learned a ton there.”
- Lori emphasized finding advocates in addition to mentors: “Mentors are important. Mentors can show you the ropes. But an advocate can walk you down the hall to the meeting that not everyone is invited to, and bring you into it.”
They concluded by stressing the importance of not only creating these relationships, but maintaining them. As Tami said during the discussion, your network is your net worth.
These are only five of the many takeaways for women from this leadership panel. Interested in learning more? Click here to view the entire discussion, or leave a comment with your experiences and advice for women in sales.