The first time I ever walked onto a tech sales floor I immediately noticed the disproportionate gender gap. Most of the floor was filled with men and I was one of 3 women on a team of 35 sales reps. I wasn’t initially bothered by it, but it did surprise me. I knew that sales attracts more men than women, but I didn’t know the ratios were still so disparate.
A recent 2016 study called “Women In the Workplace” released by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company indicates that the state of women in corporate America still needs a lot of improvement. Statistics show that women hit a glass ceiling much earlier than men and according to the study: “For every 100 women who are promoted, every 130 men are promoted.” We clearly still have work to do.
Many of my female friends tell me that they couldn’t do what I’m doing or wouldn’t ever want to get into sales. This reveals that there is a slight misconception of what it takes to be in sales, which, I think, keeps women away. The traditional notion that good salespeople need to be aggressive, pushy and sales-y is outdated and ineffective, particularly in tech sales. These stereotypes not only implicitly exclude women, they are simply bad for business. Women probably often shy away from this field because they don’t want to be associated with these stereotypes or they might feel like they don’t have what it takes to succeed in sales.
I believe being a high-achieving woman gives me an advantage in sales. If you look around the sales industry you’ll notice that there are definitely fewer women in sales, but those who are there tend to be the best.
The reason women are often at the top of the leaderboard is because we have always had to work a little bit harder than the boys in order to stand out. We are used to the hustle. Women also have personality characteristics that lend themselves well to sales: a successful salesperson needs to be good at relationship building, listening, gaining trust, attention to detail and communication, all areas in which women often excel.
Sales also requires a certain type of resilience, grit, fearlessness and comfort with rejection. Many people don’t want to face constant rejection and feedback in their daily work. For those ambitious women who can see the value in such work, though, there can be big rewards as a result. Sales roles force you to get better every day, master your communication, and learn to influence others. It has always been a high risk, high reward type of career and that’s what makes it fun. The kinds of women who like winning, improving, leveraging innate skills, helping people solve problems and are internally motivated to succeed...we need you on the sales floor!
The truth is we need more women in sales and leadership not only because it will help diversify companies, but also because it will contribute to the transformation of the industry and the to art of selling. Women, and other underrepresented groups, bring experiences and knowledge that will reshape the industry and have a direct impact on the evolution and growth of any company.