How do we get more women into sales positions?
The Facts Are In…But Something Is Missing
When you think of someone in sales, what is the picture you see right away? Is it the sleazy person with the slick back hair wearing the plaid jacket who opens it up to ask you if you want to buy a watch? Well, that is the picture that most people conjure up and I want to tell you, it’s time to reset your mindset. Here are the facts:
Women are now 50% of the workforce. Women earn 57% of all college degrees and 60% of all graduate degrees, women now account for influencing 85% of all consumer purchasing, including everything from autos to health care, and spend about $5 trillion annually… Women are more likely to provide repeat business and to refer friends and family—92% of women pass information and refer others. Women have some inherent qualities that make them the perfect candidates for sales; they’re relationship builders, multi-taskers, nurturers, care-givers, organizers, good listeners and the list goes on and on. And yet, the percentage of women in sales is a fraction of men in the sales arena. Is it something “we” are doing wrong or are we just not doing the right things to attract women.
That’s where Sales and Gender Expert Judy Hoberman comes in. She knows what women are thinking and how they process an invitation to join your company. She is invited by CEO’s of companies as well as Business Owners to help them with their recruiting efforts. In my conversation with her, we hit on a few important points.
Let’s think about this for a moment. You want to bring women into your company and yet you aren’t thinking like a woman. When women are looking for a position with your company, they become detectives and go over your website with a magnifying glass.
First, they are looking to see what your company culture is about. Does she share your core values? Do you give back to the community? Is everything about money or is it about relationships?
Next, who is in your company? Is there a good mix of people? Are there women that are doing amazing things? Is there someone she can aspire to be?
Finally is there room for advancement and is there training? Is there a road map to get her to her level of success?
Believe it or not, the home page on your website can qualify or disqualify people immediately if they don’t see what they are looking for. Go beyond merely posting jobs and describing what you do. Your “about” page should also reflect your corporate culture. For example, use quotes from your female producers and sales leaders about their experience with coworkers, as a mentor/protégé, or experiences with your products and services.
Write in story form. Don’t just provide a bulleted list of facts. Have interesting articles that pertain to women in sales and business on topics that are relevant to them such as “A Balancing Act” or “Can A Woman Have It All?” It’s this sort of storytelling about long-term relationships that women want to hear. They want proof of your commitment to both their life and their career before they will close the deal. They want to envision themselves in the position. The salary, commission and bonus structure are important to them, but they want to be secure in knowing that they can count on your support for a long time to come. In other words: women want a home.
Now that you have gotten their attention, the next way to have more women in the sales side of your company is to continue the conversation that they have already started on your website. They will have a lot of questions and in order for them to move forward, they will need answers to all their questions, and they will expect you to ask them questions that show you are interested in them. So your questions should not just be about what she’s accomplished – you can read her resume for that. Instead, your questions should be aimed at finding out what she wants her skills – combined with the talents of your company – to do to improve her life. During the interview, let them share their concerns and let them share their vision.
Women want freedom, flexibility of time and no glass ceiling. But the last part is not the first in their minds. Telling a woman she’ll make a lot of money is not as important as telling her that she’ll be helped to make as much as she wants and to have freedom to do what she wants in her life.
For some women who are mothers, that might mean leaving work at 3pm to go to her daughter’s dance recital. For a single woman, it might mean buying herself a house. If you don’t know, ask. Because if you don’t know her picture of her perfect life, then you don’t know which way to steer the conversation.
The bottom line is this, when you are looking to bring more women into the sales side of business, you need to create a plan for building a relationship with them. You can start with these simple steps.
(1)Look for women where they congregate, don’t wait for them to come to you. Show them you care by sponsoring an event that shows your expertise and that you care about her needs. Make sure you are online and responsive.
(2)Speak their language. Ask questions and allow them to answer in story-form. Talk to them about the relationship they will have with your company. Explain where they fit in – and look them in the eye when you do it.
(3)Close the deal with a show of support that will make them a part of your company family – mentorship programs work very well here.
Women are relationship builders. When you think about sales and you think about on-going business, the answer is clear. It’s all about communication, both asking questions and listening.
A fact to end this article: less than 15% of sales executives are women. This number hasn’t changed in the past 20 years. Take one idea and implement it, and see if you can move the needle.