Did you know in a recent study women outperform men in closing deals, hitting their sales goals, and lead more successful sales teams?
Despite these amazing results, women are still paid less and hold fewer leadership positions than men in sales. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor found that women represent just 30.9% of sales management roles across all industries, and only 12% of leadership roles in tech sales. And although women make up just over half of the college-educated workforce, they hold less than one third of B2B sales jobs.
Even for the most capable saleswoman, navigating these inequities can be a steep learning curve. Selling can be intimidating, no matter how many statistics continually demonstrate our natural ability to thrive in sales. As a business and career coach for women of color, I’ve witnessed my clients overcome immense challenges when it comes to selling–whether that’s through overcoming imposter syndrome to confidently sell their own services or proving their worth and fighting their way to the top of their corporate sales career. Whether you’re a woman in sales, a vice president or just starting to gain confidence running your own business, developing and honing the skills needed to become a sales expert can be incredibly rewarding. In this article, we’ll explore tangible advice so that you can feel confident and empowered to create your own aligned legacy in your business or career.
Why Women Thrive in Sales
Sales is all about building relationships and connecting with customers, which are areas where many women feel at home. From a young age, girls are taught both subtly and explicitly, to read people’s expressions, anticipate emotions, and understand body language. We were taught to be the supporting role for everyone from our father, parents, siblings and loved ones. Women tend to be effective communicators, relationship builders, and empathetic, which are essential traits for success in sales. These skills are highly sought-after skills in sales organizations. As women, we can provide diverse perspectives that help companies better understand and cater to diverse customer needs.
As a woman, you are also a hugely valuable asset to a sales team because gender diversity positively impacts organizations. A report by Hubspot shows that women are 5% more likely to close a deal than men due to their well-rounded social skills. According to Xactly, teams with female sales leaders have higher win and quota attainment rates, at 94%, compared to teams led by men, at 91%. When sales calls were recorded and analyzed, it was found that while women and men tend to actively sell in similar ways, women succeeded more often because they were better listeners. As a woman, you likely are more adept at listening to a client and understanding their unique needs, rather than just thinking about the next line of a sales script.
The evidence is clear: as a woman, you likely already have most of what you need to become a magnificent seller. But since we are all about developing our leadership skills here, let’s dive into what skills you can hone to become confident in your natural ability.
Essential Skills for Women in Sales
If you are a woman in sales, there are some skill sets you can work on developing to increase your performance in the sales force.
Like we already explored, active listening can really set you apart from other sales professionals. Active listening involves truly understanding customer needs and providing solutions that meet those needs. On sales calls, ask yourself what the client is sharing that is unique to their industry or organization, and always reflect back an understanding of those problems or needs. Active listening allows you to build better and more authentic connections with your clients, which opens up more space for trust, collaboration, and even upsells.
Here’s some scripts you can use:
“I hear that you need support in x, y and z.”
“It seems like you are really frustrated in x, y and z.”
“What would success look like for you? This is what I’m hearing, does that sound accurate or what feedback do you have for me?”
Adaptability is crucial in an ever-changing sales landscape and enables you to pivot and adjust to new customer demands. Being trained on a sales script can be helpful for beginners, but you need to be able to scrap the script and adjust to the unique needs of your client that you learned from your active listening. It’s been found that women who divert from the typical sales script do better overall than those that stick to it without being flexible to customer needs. Feeling confident in your ability to pivot to a different type of sale or to change your strategy depending on a client’s personality can make all the difference in your sales and leadership performance. Remember, being a salesperson is no longer about selling a one size fits all product–it’s about authentically helping a client address a problem area and investing in customer success. Creating authenticity in sales always requires some level of adaptability.
This is why my business doesn’t have a step by step formula to help our clients. We use the Color Your Dreams approach, which doesn’t follow in no particular order. This process is adaptable to meet where my clients are at, and there’s no pressure to do it at any timeline that doesn’t honor you. I share more about my process in this 22-minute podcast episode, “Staying True to You: The Color Your Dreams Approach.” You can listen to this episode on Apple or Spotify.
I’ve talked before all about how women are rarely ever taught to negotiate to the same degree men are taught. In fact, most women don’t ever want to negotiate their own salary and often don’t feel they deserve to negotiate. If you relate to that, don’t worry, it’s not your fault that you feel a lack of negotiation power.
Linda Babcock of Harvard Business School and author of Women Don‘t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, shares in this article that women are “socialized from an early age not to promote their own interests and to focus instead on the needs of others.” When it comes to sales, negotiation is key and you’d better start getting comfortable with it as soon as you can. To get started, you can read my blog Negotiation Advice for Women.
And if you want the exact scripts on how you can negotiate your salary and manage up, download these scripts.
Because meeting quotas is so important to a sales career, developing your ability to set realistic goals and plan your road map to succeeding those goals is essential. In my group coaching program, Color Your Dreams Inner Circle, goal setting is a regular practice I instill in my clients. Learn to regularly audit your business and career to learn what’s working, what’s not working, and where you want to be in the next month, quarter, or year. The more practice you have with mapping and achieving a goal, the more comfortable you will feel to meet challenging sales goals.
- If you need further support on goal setting, check out this 26-minute podcast episode on Time and Energy Management to get your life back. You can listen on Apple or Spotify.
- And for more support on sales, check out the 26th Color Your Dreams Podcast Episode, Simplify Your Business by Knowing More and Doing Less. You can listen on Apple or Spotify.
Learning from Others
Women in sales can advance their careers and businesses by seeking out mentorship, and networking opportunities. Mentorship provides guidance, support, and access to new opportunities. You should seek out mentors who can provide valuable insights into the sales profession, help you navigate challenges, and provide access to new networks. Networking is crucial in building a personal brand, expanding one’s network, and creating new business opportunities. I highly encourage you to attend industry events, participate in online forums, and connect with colleagues on social media to build your networks in the sales sector.
If you would like to learn from me and my team, schedule a call to see if it’s a good fit to work together by clicking here.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Nothing will hold you back more from achieving your own version of success than believing you aren’t cut out for that success. I see imposter syndrome affect women business owners to a frightening degree, and I’m sure it’s something we have all struggled with at some point. When it comes to getting comfortable selling when you run your own business, it’s essential to know your worth and feel confident that you deserve success. After all, if you don’t know it, how are you supposed to convince a potential client to pay you for your services?
For more help overcoming imposter syndrome, check out these two episodes of my Color Your Dreams Podcast:
- Dealing with Stress and Burnout as a BIPOC Leader with Nicole Caruth on Apple or Spotify
- Charging Your Worth as a WOC and Being an Imperfect Ally with Erica Courdae and India Jackson on Apple or Spotify
As a woman in sales, you have unique strengths that make you a valuable asset to sales teams.. By developing essential skills such as active listening, problem-solving, negotiation, and adaptability, you can succeed and advance your sales career. To create a lasting impact, women need to battle the inequities by seeking out mentorship, networking, and taking on leadership roles that challenge the status quo.
And let’s not place the burden of success all on the individual women in sales; sales organizations can also do their part in promoting diverse sales teams to attract more women by implementing inclusive policies and practices, fostering a culture of inclusion and diversity, and providing equal opportunities for career growth and advancement.
By embracing diversity and relying on the natural strengths of women in sales, we can create a more equitable and sustainable future for all. Together, we can create a sales force that is representative of the diverse customers sales organizations serve, leading to better customer experiences, stronger relationships, and ultimately, more business success.
As an executive coach for women of color, I’m working to create a movement where women of color and allies embody their values while leading teams, sustaining culture, doing less, and living more. If you’re currently navigating challenges as a woman in leadership and if you are interested in working with me as your executive leadership coach, schedule a call to see if it’s a good fit to work together.