Equal players

November 23, 2018

As companies grow, so does the need for expert sales professionals of both genders. Yet, traditionally, and still today, the majority of people selling are men. Why?

One reason lies in inaccurate but persistent stereotypes about what selling is. There is a myth that those who succeed at the highest level in this role are aggressive, pressure-based, talking heads who blab on endlessly about their product features to anyone and everyone they think is in a position to buy. This approach is distasteful to many women, a fact that reduces the number of women who aim to sell for a living. Another reason is simple discrimination: many of the men doing the hiring have a bias that men make better salespeople.

Both of these assumptions are untrue. Women who have entered the field of sales are making spectacular contributions and transforming the profession, one saleswoman at a time. How? First and foremost, by embracing their own right to be players in the game, and by understanding that there is no need to apologize for being a saleswoman, much less for being a woman.

Specifically, saleswomen are breaking down traditional barriers and beating the odds by focusing on four fronts: changing their attitudes and beliefs about themselves and the selling role, so as to deepen their own self-respect; leveraging their natural attributes; connecting their goals to their daily behaviors; and embracing a process that is a direct challenge to the traditional feature-based approach to selling that is so strongly associated in popular culture with pushy, and inevitably male, salespeople.

What is the profile of a successful saleswoman—the kind you should hire and retain if you want to grow your company?

she respects who she is

A successful saleswoman respects herself as a human being first. She understands her own core values and recognizes that no one can take them away. She believes herself to be a good and capable person, comfortable in her own skin. I am referring here to a woman’s self-concept, her impression of herself without external roles. Note that a role is what she does: salesperson, mother, dog walker, car driver, and so on. She has lots of roles. In her sales role, she may occasionally perform a task poorly, such as failing to pick up the phone to make a sales call. She knows that is part of her external self or role. She also knows that this lapse does not mean she is any less valuable as a human being—her internal self is intrinsically valuable.

By learning to separate who she is from what she does, she avoids taking difficult selling situations personally, and she is better able to maintain self-confidence. For example, when a buyer is not so nice, she can say to herself, “It is not me personally they are attacking, it is my role as a salesperson.” Being dissatisfied with how a sales conversation goes actually helps her to figure out which areas she needs to get better in, or get coaching support for role improvement. But note that it is not the same as being dissatisfied with ‘herself’.

Believing in herself is the first and most important step to achieving success, and is vital to gaining the buyer’s respect.

she leverages her natural attributes

Women have a lot of experience helping others work through problems big and small. In fact, I will go so far as to suggest that they may have ‘more’ experience in this area than the average man. Surely, this experience is relevant to the aspirations of a professional saleswoman.

When her best friend comes to her with a situation that needs resolving, she listens intently. When something is not clearly presented, she tactfully asks questions for clarity, and requests a play-by-play so she can figure out exactly what happened. There is genuine interest in helping the person in need, and in creating a comfortable environment where the friend can honestly tell all. At times, she knows that good communication requires her to be assertive as she asks her friend tough questions.

Successful saleswomen deploy these very same strategies when faced with a business problem they may be able to solve. Rather than come in locked and loaded with product features and benefits, effective saleswomen utilize their natural inquisitiveness and curiosity to ask questions and encourage the customer to tell all. They use their ability to nurture to create a comfortable, trusting environment, which pays off, because people buy from people they like and trust. They have a two-way conversation in which both parties are equally working to learn whether a problem can be solved. Not only does this approach result in gathering more information from the buyer, it distinguishes her from the competition because it is a refreshing approach without undue pressure on
either party.

she links goals with activities

All too often, sales managers focus exclusively on the financial outcomes—on the sales results. When the results are not there, the salesperson feels pressure to ‘do something about it’. But what—beyond the useless advice to ‘close more deals’? Sometimes the answers are not all that clear. Successful saleswomen change this dynamic. They are not focused ‘only’ on the results (which are important). They focus first on the ‘activities’ that will lead to the results. They begin by asking themselves, “What will success look like at the end of this year?”, “What do I need to do activity wise, and how frequently, to accomplish the results?”

Successful saleswomen link their personal and company goals to a written sales plan for accomplishing them. They give careful thought to such questions as [to] what percentage of business will come from new as opposed to existing buyers, and the specific activities needed to accomplish the goal. These women are putting their energy into what they can control—their activities, the actions they take day in and day out. They know that if they get the activities right, and do the right amount of each, there is a very high likelihood that the results they want will follow.


she embraces a no-pressure, conversational selling process

Effective saleswomen are transforming the sales conversation by creating a positive relationship environment within which the sales process can unfold.

The professional saleswoman likes to know where she is headed next. That means she is process oriented. She does not move forward to the next step of the process until she has completed the one she is on. Embracing a proven selling system for moving the sales conversation forward—starting with establishing a relationship, moving to the qualifying stage, and then executing the closing stage–goes a long way toward reinforcing her confidence in herself and gaining the respect of the buyer.

Thousands of successful saleswomen have found that Sandler Selling System’s no-pressure, conversational approach fits like a glove. This system provides the tools and strategies for creating an equal business stature using a woman’s natural bonding and communication skills, which are often several steps ahead of those of her male competitors. They offer help and guidance. After all, that is what they do for their friends, naturally.

‘No pressure’ does not mean ‘no assertiveness’. Specifically, starting and ending a conversation with a clear mutual agreement of what is going to happen next not only keeps the saleswoman in control, it shows the buyer that she knows exactly where she is headed at all times. This system also empowers women to be okay with walking away from business that is not a good fit, teaching them that assertiveness and collaboration is the winning way.

unconditional commitment and support

Today’s most effective saleswomen are not waiting for something to happen. They are making things happen, and they are unconditionally committed to their own success. There is no room in their world for a ‘take me out, coach’ mindset. They are intensely focused on their own success and that of their buyers.

They have learned that their chosen profession, sales, is something to be proud of: a journey to mastery that takes time, effort, and support. They know none of this is easy, and success does not come overnight. They know transformation starts with personal commitment, and requires help along the way. They surround themselves with a network of like-minded professionals who support each other and celebrate each other’s successes. And they never, ever apologize for what they do. Historically, sales teams have not taken full advantage of them. Odds are your competition is not taking full advantage of them. But if you make your company the exception, if you make moving closer to gender equity on your team a priority, you can put your organization at a significant advantage in the marketplace.

* https://hbr.org/2018/06/whats-holding-women-in-medicine-back-from-leadership