Over the past decade, the number of women in sales has increased by just three percent. Today, approximately 39 percent of people working in the sales industry are women. As the level of responsibility increases, the number of women represented decreases.
Among those who hold the title of Vice President in a sales role, only 21 percent are female. Before anyone can resolve this issue, it’s important to understand the reasons behind the disparity between the number of men vs women in sales.
Obstacles to Women Working in Sales
Part of the reason this field attracts fewer women is the perception that women themselves have of the sales industry. They have probably encountered aggressive men trying to sell them something in the past and want no part of treating others the same way. They may have also attached words like pushy and annoying to salespeople due to their own experiences.
The ads that companies place to fill sales positions are another part of the problem. That is because they tend to use traditionally masculine words like competitive and aggressive. Another issue with help wanted ads is that women are not likely to apply unless they feel they meet every qualification while men feel qualified when meeting only approximately two-thirds of them.
How Women Can Help Shape the Sales Profession for the Better
Women are more closely associated with qualities such as collaboration, building relationships, and paying close attention to detail than men tend to be. While not true of every woman, just the presence of more women in sales can help to soften the industry’s reputation.
Empathy with customers is becoming more important all the time. This is good news for companies with many female salespeople because it’s a trait they are more likely to have. Because they are naturally more collaborative, women are willing to work with people from different parts of the company to meet the shared goal of serving the customer.
Sales organizations would do well to revamp how they attract new associates and consider whether current job opportunities are more skewered towards men. Far from being a threat to the status quo, a balanced workforce benefits employees, customers, and the company’s bottom line.
Tips for Women Who Want to Break into Sales
Although the sales industry is more female-friendly than ever, it can still be intimidating for women trying to land their first job. It can be helpful to find a mentor and work with that person for several months before submitting a resume for an open position. It should be someone that the person seeking mentorship trusts and who has a proven record of success. Prospective female sales associates shouldn’t be afraid to ask for honest feedback on their selling style and how they can play to their strengths and weaknesses.
After landing a position, it’s important to dress professionally and to continually adjust selling techniques to find the ones that work best. Unfortunately, women may also need to learn to stand up for themselves when men seem not to take them seriously or try to take credit for their ideas. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but women need to make their voices heard for their own sake as well as helping to create the expectation of equality in sales.
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