This post is written by Amy Volas, a sales fanatic, recruiter and entrepreneur for 20 years, working both for and with household brands like ZipRecruiter, Indeed, Jacobson, Yahoo! and DataTrend. She is currently the Head of Avenue Talent Partners.
Sales, like so many other industries, often has the perception of being a man’s world or a “boy’s club.” But while there tend to be more men than women in sales, this doesn’t mean that women should steer clear or can’t be equally, if not more, successful. Quite the opposite. In fact, an increasing number of people are starting to recognize that women can thrive in and even dominate in the dynamic world of sales—and much of this has to do with the unique qualities that women bring to the table.
By no stretch of the imagination does this mean that men can’t own their craft in the sales world. In fact, I’ve worked with more men than women over the years, many who have shown me ‘how it’s done’ while displaying the utmost respect for me and my work. There are many talented men who represent their brands with excellence and get remarkable results for their clients. But at the same time, there’s no denying that there are certain things women innately tend to do better than men.
Because of this, hiring the best people to balance your sales team with talented men and women may ultimately be what makes all the difference in scaling your business.
To complete this article, I interviewed several successful women in the space and identified three key attributes they shared.
Listening has long been cited as one of the important things any salesperson can do to engage their buyer and ultimately close the sale. Listening enables salespeople to truly understand a prospect’s pain points, to engage on an emotional level, and to perceive what aspect of their product or service will best fulfill that prospect’s needs. It’s all about grasping what’s important to the person on the other side of the “table” and taking meaningful steps to help them win. When they win, you win.
Of course, the real challenge is genuinely staying focused to remain an active listener during any and every conversation or interaction. Research has found that this is where women tend to do better. Much of this stems from the listening styles between men and women.
In general, men are “action-oriented listeners” while women are “people-oriented listeners.” This results in some key differences. Action-oriented listeners tend to be great at focusing on information they think is relevant to their current task—in this case, selling a product or service. However, this means that if a sales prospect seemingly goes off topic or starts to ramble, the action-oriented listener may stop paying attention.
People-oriented listeners, on the other hand, are more focused on the emotional undertones of the conversation, regardless of what is being said. This means that they’re better able to remember anecdotes and clue in to emotional cues that can better guide the conversation. They’re less likely to interrupt, and more likely to ask meaningful questions to glean further insights from the prospect.
In other words, you won’t see them doing other things or thinking about the next call while in the middle of a conversation. They’ll be actively engaged the entire time.
Nurturing Emotional Connections
Women’s capabilities as people-oriented listeners naturally lend themselves to another successful sales attribute: the ability to build emotional connections. When your female sales rep is listening to a customer, they’re subconsciously listening for those cues that indicate how a prospect feels about the issues they face.
This is because women are generally better at emotional empathy—being able to feel what someone else is feeling. This spurs a nurturing and supportive response, one that is geared towards forming a genuine emotional bond with other people. These bonds build trust and create a meaningful foundation for the long haul. They illustrate that you care about the customer’s needs rather than just closing a sale—and, ironically, this makes you more likely to achieve that very goal.
The power of emotions is frequently overlooked, but in the vast majority of cases, the way we feel about a particular product or service can play a significant role—and sometimes even the main role—as we make a final decision.
For my fellow ladies in sales, listening for emotional pain points and then building empathy around those issues allows them to hone in on the factors that truly matter most to a sales prospect. They form an actual bond with the sales prospect during the conversation, which makes it that much easier to demonstrate how their product or service will fill an emotional need.
There may be some pushback against referring to women as “nurturers” these days, but that’s exactly what they do in sales—and this is what makes them successful along with highly effective sales leaders. After all, don’t we describe the process of getting a prospect to make a purchase “lead nurturing”? When actual nurturing and bonding takes place, a sale is that much more likely.
The sales world is undeniably complex and dynamic. As nice as it would be to only have to worry about one client or sales prospect at a time, the very nature of the work means that you’ll often be trying to close a deal at the same time you’re nurturing another lead or following up on an initial information request.
Essentially, this requires a lot of multitasking throughout the day as you establish priorities and spread your focus between many different responsibilities—and once again, research has found that women perform better than men in this area.
While it’s true that managing many competing priorities can still be a challenge for women, studies have found that women are less likely to struggle when changing ‘gears’. They don’t take as long to make the mental “switch” when changing to a different task. It is believed that this is partly due to the fact that women tend to be less impulsive than men. Women take a little more time to think things through before jumping straight into something, which ultimately results in improved output when there is more than one priority to juggle.
In sales, this attribute translates to being better able to manage intricate relationships with a wide variety of prospects and clients who are in differing stages of their buyer’s journey. Being able to effectively switch gears from closing one sale to onboarding to performing initial outreach with a new client helps your female sales performer stay organized and form stronger relationships.
Research has consistently shown that diverse organizations—including those with women in leadership positions—perform better than those that continue to limit opportunities to a select few.
As these characteristics illustrate, women have a lot to offer for any sales-driven company. The most successful teams aren’t going to be a boy’s club. Rather, they’ll be those who are willing to tap into the unique strengths that both men and women have to offer.
Women have all of the fundamentals to crush it in the world of sales. But we also have the ability to leverage our know-how to improve the performance for the sales organization as a whole. Studies show that companies with women in leadership perform 15% better than those with only men.
The rewards of bringing women into the sales trenches are many. As women take a more active role within your sales organization, significant improvements to your company’s bottom line are sure to follow.