Gender diversity in sales organizations is lacking. Women represent fewer than one-third of all B2B sales and one-quarter of all B2B tech sales roles, even though research shows that company profits are close to 50% higher when women are well-represented at executive levels.
A few weeks ago, I attended Outreach's annual Unleash Conference. One of their sessions, "It's Time To Crack The B2B Sales Gender Diversity Code," was interesting to me. During the session, Mary Shea, VP & Global Innovation Evangelist at Outreach, spoke on gender diversity in the sales industry. She shared her executive-level findings from her research.
Some of the highlights:
Women tend to lack confidence in male-dominated careers. It is easy to feel like an outcast. Women in sales are more likely to be "Onlys" - the only or one of the only women in the room at work. McKinsey's Women in the Workplace 2020 study shares that senior-level women are nearly 2x as likely as women overall to be "Onlys". Women who are Onlys are more likely than women who work with other women to feel pressure to work more and experience microaggressions, including needing additional evidence of their competence.
Not surprisingly, senior-level women are significantly more likely than men at the same level to feel burned out and under pressure. As a woman in sales, building your confidence is essential. It can be the difference between you and that leadership role. Even if you don't feel it at times, fake it until you make it.
We all experience success and failure. Success will always feel amazing, and failure will oftentimes leave you feeling down and discouraged. We all have heard the saying, “Don’t beat yourself up over failures. Learn from them.” But to actually take the lessons from your failures and apply them to your future endeavors will make all the difference.
Whether you experience success or failure, take time to uncover what went well and what didn’t. Replicate or learn from your experience and apply it in the future. Training yourself not to get down or feel embarrassed by your failures will boost your confidence in the long run. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes make you better when you learn from them.
Do you find yourself saying “I’m sorry” all the time? Even if you didn’t do anything wrong? Over-apologizing can undermine your authority and negatively impact your career.
“Apologizing when we have done something wrong is a real strength, but compulsive apologizing presents as a weakness at work and in personal relationships."
- Tara Swart, neuroscientist, Forbes contributor, and author of the book, The Source: Open Your Mind, Change Your Life
It’s time for women to ditch the apology habit. One way to help your efforts is to be more intentional in how you express yourself. Try to be more direct in your communications. By speaking more straightforwardly, you will feel and come across as more confident.
In their article How Women Can Stop Apologizing And Take Their Power Back, Forbes shares mind priming is one technique that can help women build their confidence. The basic idea of mind priming is to write about an occasion when you felt especially powerful, happy, or proud. Research shows that you will perform—and be perceived as performing—far more effectively than you otherwise would by doing this immediately before a meeting or presentation.
It’s not a matter of eliminating “I’m sorry” from your vocabulary but to instead only use it when it’s warranted. Eliminate apologizing for things that are out of your control. Intentionally or unintentionally, apologizing excessively can project a poor image to customers and co-workers.
Industry statistics show that only 25% of salespeople in the tech industry are women, and only 12% of that number are female sales leaders. It is okay to feel overwhelmed at times, but don’t let it consume you. It can be extremely helpful to learn from and network with female leaders in the industry. Listen to stories and experiences and gather valuable information that can help you advance in your career.
One of the best resources for current insights and everything about gender diversity in sales is Women Sales Pros. The website is full of articles and engaging podcasts designed to help women advance their sales careers.
The importance of body language is often overlooked. Body language works by sending a silent message to whomever you are communicating with. In the workplace, you want to appear knowledgeable and confident; this starts with your body language. Stand up straight and avoid any nervous habits, such as fidgeting. Changing your physiology can make you feel more confident.
Mirroring has to do with the psychology of the mirror neurons in our brains. These mirror neurons help us connect with others. You can mirror someone by using similar body language, matching their tone of voice, or adjusting your words to better communicate with them. Nodding and smiling also shows the person that you’re listening and allows you to build further rapport. Doing this deepens your connection to the person and leads them to feel more comfortable with you.
Being a woman in sales comes with challenges at times. However, the male dominance in the sales tech world will never change unless confident women stand up and fight for their rightful spot in the industry. After all, according to research, companies with higher levels of gender diversity in their sales force significantly outperformed on their revenue goals over those sales teams who did not have high numbers of women among their ranks.
The sales industry needs confident women in order for companies to succeed.