Request demo

Women in sales part-1: Their Challenges and the ways they can overcome them

7 minutes read

Try to form a mental image of the following people,

  • A door-to-door salesman

  • A car salesman

  • A pushy closer

I’m going to venture a guess here. Most of you have had a mental image of a man for all those three, correct? This is quite natural as sales has historically been perceived as a male-dominated industry.

“The women make up only 29% of sales reps and just 26% of sales managers.”

And yet they are proven to outperform their male colleagues. This lack of representation of women in sales can be attributed to many things, such as,

  • Negative stereotypes

  • Sexism

  • Poor Recruitment Methods

  • Gender wage gap etc

Nevertheless, organizations around the world have now realized the greater benefits of having more women in sales. And they are consciously moving towards establishing more gender-diverse sales teams.

Challenges that women face in sales

One of the largest challenges that women face in sales is overcoming bias and stereotypes. Many think of sales as the industry where men excel because of the aggressive nature associated with it.

Women’s sales abilities are often underestimated, and this viewpoint creates real obstacles for women in sales as they often,
  • Receive unsolicited advice to change fields
  • Get fewer promotion opportunities
  • Earn a lower salary than their male colleagues

Gender bias experienced by women in sales, combined with the fact that women make up less than a third of sales reps, results in women feeling as though they don’t have a community. They constantly feel undervalued and underrepresented.

Benefits of having women in sales

Despite the challenges that women face in sales, studies show that they actually outperform men in various aspects of sales.

Here are some findings from the studies,
  • Women-led sales teams tend to be more gender-diverse than men-led sales teams
  • Women sales employees have an 86% win and quota attainment rate which is three percent higher than male employees
  • A greater representation of women in sales leads to a more diverse client group
  • Apart from these, women tend to focus more on
    • Building stronger client relationships
    • Shaping innovative solutions
    • And being great team players
These qualities are highly relevant in today’s virtual sales world

Steps to attract and retain women in sales

Now let’s look at various measures that organizations should take in order to attract and retain good female sales talent.

1. Make gender-diversity focused recruitments

Make gender diversity an explicit goal of your sales recruitments. The language in a job description is a great place to start when focusing on recruiting a diverse pool of applicants.

For example, you could

  • Avoid using terms like “salesman” and instead, use “salesperson”
  • Tone down masculine words like “aggressive” and “compete”. Replace them with gender-neutral words such as “customer-focused” and “succeed”
Also, include more women sales leaders on the candidate interview panels.

This makes your sales positions more attractive for women and reinforces a female-friendly culture that attracts women applicants.

2. Eradicate the unconscious bias in the workplace

One of the most common challenges that women face in sales is unconscious bias from their coworkers. Most often women come across co-workers who,

  • Underestimate their capabilities

  • Fail to understand the extent of their knowledge and skills

  • Or consider them weak

However, one in four male employees say that women don’t experience any sort of bias in their workplace. This is because the unconscious bias is exactly that– it is unconscious. Those perpetuating them aren’t even aware that they hold these beliefs and that they’re reinforcing harmful stereotypes that significantly impact the career and job performance of their female peers.

So, in order to eliminate this bias, you need to eliminate the perception of sales as an old boys’ club. You need to educate your salesforce about
  • The diversity of the workplace
  • The unconscious bias
  • The negative stereotypes
  • And how they affect the career and self-confidence of their female colleagues

You can add this education as a part of your workplace behavior training program. This helps in creating a more female-friendly culture at your organization.

3. Run female Mentorship Programs

It’s not easy being a woman in sales, and especially being a young woman (fresher). While getting acclimated into a new company, the new female reps would need another female companion/ mentor who can guide them and answer their questions which they would normally be reluctant to ask their male colleagues (e.g. traveling alone, late-night shifts, maternity leave, etc).

So, we recommend a professional buddy/ mentor system where each new female salesperson is paired with a female mentor.

You can assign in-person or virtual mentors to the new employees. The mentees can then interact with their mentors on a daily basis and communicate,

  • What is working for them?
  • What is not working for them?
  • What are their grievances?

This will help the new hires to not feel alone in the male-dominated world

You can also organize “lunch and learn” sessions where all the female salespeople get together and talk openly about their challenges and solutions. This way women can build good relationships with each other and feel comfortable confiding in themselves.

4. Encourage them to approach their career boldly

Sales as a profession isn’t always hospitable to women. But could women also be holding themselves back?

For example: “Research has proven that men will apply for a job for which they have 70 to 80% of skills. On the other hand women won’t apply for a job unless they have 100% of skills”. And the same goes for the working saleswomen as well. Many of them, often, shy away from

  • Taking a stand at work

  • Presenting their point strongly

  • Getting involved in major projects or events

  • And making their presence felt

Encourage them to
  • Lean in
  • Speak out
  • Have a voice in the organization
  • And never use the word 'sorry’
Encouraged women to seize each and every opportunity that sales presents. The sales profession is probably at the most exciting time ever in history. It's a great time for women to get involved and prove themselves to be the best salespeople.

5. Encourage them not to try to be a man

Are there skills that women bring to sales that men often don’t? People often wonder

If you ask me I’d say yes there are. Women are more naturally intuitive than men. And trusting their intuition can help them succeed.

I think one of the things that women do really wonderfully is-- bringing a level of intimacy to the relationship with a customer. They are capable of building deeper and stronger customer relationships with the customers than their male colleagues.

So encourage your saleswomen not to try to be like men. Instead ask them to bring their whole self to the sales calls, meetings, sales events, and even while closing deals.

6. Provide good promotion opportunities

In order to retain your top female sales talent, you need to offer opportunities for their growth. Ensuring that women from within the company have the opportunities to apply for higher-level positions will help increase diversity and offer career momentum. Additionally, having women in leadership positions will attract more women to the industry because it shows there is a definitive place for them.

Don’t leave us yet: We hope that you have enjoyed this first part of the blog series “Women in Sales”. Click here to read the next part where we tell you some very inspiring stories of some of the most influential women in sales.

Want to learn some interesting techniques to overcome sales objections?

Read: 10 Effective Techniques to overcome Sales Objections

Learn about the 6 crucial buyer personas and the techniques to sell to them efficiently

The 6 Buyer Personas and how to train your team to sell to them

Learn about the sales methodologies that are highly effective in closing deals

Top 6 Sales Methodologies for Closing Complex Deals

Published on Mon Jun 28 2021

Ready to double your sales numbers?

Schedule a demo with our team to see how SmartWinnr can drive sales productivity in your organization. Or talk to us about your challenges and if SmartWinnr can help.

Request demo Free Consultation