Why Women Still Lack Representation In Sales Leadership By Ali Newton

Around 39% of salespeople are women. Women are underrepresented on sales teams, and even more so as sales leaders. There’s an old stereotype of salespeople as sales men with greasy hair and shiny suits. However, as with all professions, things have moved on according to Ali Newton, head of marketing consultancy at Exposure Ninja. Here in this article, Ali explains exactly why.

Sales is decreasingly a hard sell where the rep turns up at someone’s door and corners the unsuspecting customer until a sale is made. Modern selling is consultative and results in a positive outcome for both the salesperson and the client. The old stereotype is rarely borne out in successful modern selling.

The reality is that the debate isn’t whether women “stack up against” men in sales but, instead: Who is the best person for the job? 

The strongest companies are ones where there is diversity — firms with more female executives perform better. 70-80% of consumer purchasing decisions are made by women — if women are not represented in your team, how could you possibly expect to understand and sell to them?

A salesperson’s talent is not correlated to their gender but relies on their personality, their coachability, their training and their motivations. Whilst women are less likely to advocate for themselves than men when it comes to promotions and interviews, this is not something that I have seen reflected in their ability to ask for a sale — ever.

The underrepresentation we see of women in sales is systemic and is unfortunately perpetuated by some famous, but arguably outdated, sales trainers, such as the world-famous Grant Cardone, who has been known to say things such as “Powerful women flow power to their man”, how what women want “is for men to not cheat, abuse drugs and offer good sex” and even to boast in front of a conference audience about how he treated pursuing his wife as though she were a sale and how we was going to “get sex” when he finished his talk.

This old-school view feeds into a world where women in sales have a higher wall to climb than their male counterparts — NOT because of their selling ability or talent, but because the environment they’re in may well be preserving these useless and outdated stereotypes.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat this. We can withdraw from supporting trainers like this and their outdated views. We can be aware of the biases in hiring and ensure we are writing adverts that appeal to the person we’re trying to attract and aren’t simply written for the stereotypes. 

Lastly, we can give support and encourage women to advocate for themselves. This starts internally but could even extend to giving employees access to mentors from outside of the business.