That’s what my wife told me after staring out the window over the kitchen sink last week.
Actually, before you start drafting angry emails, that never happened. But it does highlight the truth that there is still an unconscious bias when it comes to men vs women in the work place. Notably, in the sales force.
And if my wife had said this to me, she would have been correct.
A successful sales person in today’s discerning market is a very different beast to what they were a decade ago. A forceful, direct, pushy and (more than a little) unpleasant approach has given way to a more moderate and judicious professional.
It is no surprise then that these qualities are found more and more in a successful sales team – dressed in heels.
Yes, women are a very real asset in a sales force. But don’t just take my word for it.
A study conducted by Arch Profile using Salesperson Personality Profile software revealed that “women tend to possess a higher level of integrity and are more helpful, attentive to detail, and organized” than their male counterparts. This bodes very well in a sales role which requires a great deal of customer service and strong relationship building skills. A higher percentage of men may possess the hunter-type personality, but it isn’t all about hunting.
In fact, in their book Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business, Michael Gurian and Barbara Annis highlight an interesting point. Women are better at reading facial cues than men. What does this mean in the work place, and more importantly, in a critical client negotiation?
Gurian gives an example of a $50 million negotiation which went pear-shaped when the aggressive salesman ignored the leanings of his female counterpart and forged ahead – completely missing the facial cues of the senior manager who needed more information, which wasn’t forthcoming.
In a male dominated world of sales, it’s a fact that a woman is more likely to get in the door than a man. Whether that’s to do with the ego, or something more primal, there is some truth to the prototypical attractive female sale rep gaining better access to decision makers. But it’s not all about that. Women sales reps with inadequate product or poor sales and service skills will still fail.
To be fair, many women are excelling in technical sales roles because of this stereotype and are ensuring that they are well versed and as competent as any man when it comes to their product. Especially in the technical field. Whatever their motivation, any company should be thrilled to have a sales person who is determined to be the very best that she can be.
When it comes to women in the sales force, it’s not a matter of being better – it’s about being different.
Women – with their ability to focus, empathize and build long-term relationships – are succeeding in style.
Ken Lazar, Principal
Ability Professional Network, LLC
Recruiting Sales and Business Development Professionals