'Remember the Ladies': 5 Reasons Your Sales Team Needs (More) Women
Forget Abigail Adams' famous exhortation: Women in sales, clear and simple, outperform their male colleagues.
Despite the introduction of sales enablement technologies, sales ops departments and support personnel, sales-force performance has been steadily declining since 2013. In fact, a study by the company SalesForce found that a mere 20 percent of B2B sales teams it looked at met the "high-performing" threshold.
While numerous interrelated factors contribute to sales-team underperformance of course, what can't be overlooked are the implications of a homogeneous, male-dominated sales force.
Industry data shows that only 25 percent of salespeople in tech companies are women, and the Enterprise Sales Forum found that only 12 percent of the women it surveyed held senior sales executive roles.
These statistics shouldn't come as a surprise: The sales industry has typically been a boys' club. But today, some of the world's best-performing companies have changed their approach and are harnessing the wealth of talent and value that women bring.
And that's a good thing, on multiple fronts. For starters, McKinsey reported that companies it looked at in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. And a report by Catalyst found that those businesses it surveyed that had the most females had on average, a 42 percent greater return on sales, a 53 percent better return on equity and a 66 percent greater return on invested capital.
The message, here, is clear: It's time for business leaders to drive transformational change by implementing talent-acquisition strategies and tactics that will result in the hiring of more female sales talent. Need more convincing? Here are five more reasons your sales team needs more women:
1. Female representatives are outperforming men.
While there aren't enough women in sales, those in the workforce are outselling their male colleagues. Gartner CEB Blogs reported that women are achieving quota at a higher rate than men -- 70 percent for women vs. 67 percent for men. And companies with sales teams comprised of 45 percent or more women achieved a 15-times higher average in sales revenue, compared with companies with less than 20 percent of women in sales positions.
Moreover, from a productivity and workforce health perspective, a recent Gallup study found that women surveyed had greater levels of engagement, commitment and passion in the workplace and stayed in their jobs longer.
2. Women have proven themselves as leaders.
According to research by Zenger Folkman, women surveyed outscored men in all but 1 of 16 identified leadership competencies. In fact, in 12 of the 16, women were far more equipped by a significant margin.
Notably, as one excerpt from the report pointed out, "Two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree- -- taking initiative and driving for results -- have long been thought of as particularly male strengths."
3. Female sales leaders today are driving success.
Top companies of all sizes are succeeding with women in senior level sales positions. Google Senior Vice President Susan Wojcicki is credited with having achieved 96 percent of the company's $37.9 billion-dollar revenue in 2011. SalesForce president of Sales and Customer Success Maria Martinez helped that company become the number one CRM platform in the world. And Cisco Vice President Ehrika C. Gladden leads a $19 billion business unit and recently created a new revenue stream by leading Cisco's cloud-consumption models startup to a $3.2 billion value.
4. More women are becoming B2B buyers.
A recent study by A.T. Kearney, which surveyed 200 B2B companies, from Google and HSBC to small startups, found that nearly half of them reported an increase in female decision-makers among their B2B customers. Because of this change, as more women ascend to deserved positions of corporate power, sales teams need to tweak their selling approaches accordingly.
After failing to close a multimillion dollar deal, due to its inability to connect with the women being targeted by its pitch, Deloitte invested in a study called Deloitte's Women's Initiative (WIN) which was chronicled in a fascinating Harvard Business Review article.
Deloitte surveyed buyers from 18 large organizations, including Hewlett-Packard and Blue Shield of California. The study found that women treat B2B buying as a journey whereas men view it as a mission. Women were found to take a more collaborative approach and to be more inquisitive than men: They seek to build consensus before a final decision is made, the study found.
Deloitte found these revelations so insightful that it moved to implement them into its own selling processes. The consulting firm even went so far as to hire actors to role-play selling to women.
5. Women's presence improves company culture and productivity.
Having a positive company culture has an enormous impact on performance. A study by the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick found that happier workers surveyed were 12 percent more productive. Having a diverse workforce seemed to be the solution here. Including diversity of gender, race and background will infuse a company's culture with creativity, fresh perspectives and energy.
Studies in fact have shown that sales teams with women often enjoy a higher level of morale and productivity. Economists from George Washington University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology studied eight years of employee survey data from a professional-services firm with more than 60 employees. The economists found that those teams that had an even split of men and women brought in higher revenues.
While many top companies have seen the impact of women in sales leadership roles, it's time to institute widespread adoption of this trend. By adding more women to your sales team, your company will become more diverse, productive and profitable.
Keith Johnstone is the head of marketing at Peak Sales Recruiting, a B2B sales recruiting company, launched in 2006. Johnstone leads all marketing activities and has successfully grown revenue and lead-volume every quarter. He's played a key role in driving Peak Sales Recruiting to become known in its industry for its success rate of 50 percent above the industry average. The company works with a wide range of clients, including boutique, mid-size and world-class companies, including P&G, Gartner, Deloitte, Merck, Taser and others.