What do most people think of when they hear someone say, “I’m in sales”? I think to a majority of people, the image of the “old car salesman” of yore comes to the forefront and the word “sales” can have a very off-putting connotation.
The truth is, the sales industry has changed immensely over the last few decades, and our collective impression of what it means to be a salesman is starting to change with it, but one important factor that we should also pay closer attention to is the fact that few people probably even noticed that I used the word “salesMAN”.
Women have been entering the workforce at a higher percentage than anytime before. However, the sales industry has remained male-dominated, and women are even less represented in VP and C-Level positions in sales, according to this LinkedIn report.
As a woman that has been in a sales-related position the majority of my career, and considering that I have experienced a lot of success and happiness from my profession, I often wonder why this is the case. However, instead of delving into the complicated historical intersections of societal/gender pressures and preconceptions, I’d rather jump on this women job-place advancement train and make a case for why going forward, more women should consider a career in sales.
The Characteristics Most Closely Associated With Being A Woman Are Directly Aligned With What Makes A Great Salesperson Too.
Sales is more than cold calling and closing deals, especially at the more senior and strategic level (sayonara, #crushingit#crushingit, and boiler-room-style sales floors). Ultimately, what makes a great and successful salesperson is their ability to ask questions, listen, and be empathetic.
It’s about building a relationship with your client and making them feel like you understand their needs, pain points, and goals. It involves developing trust and having the patience to put in the effort to build that foundation, and the intuition to then know when it’s the right time to work in your value proposition.
It is no secret that the adjectives: empathetic, intuitive, attentive and inquisitive, tend to be characteristics that most people associate with women. I’m not saying that men are incapable of possessing these qualities as well, but it’s important to challenge the preconceptions of what it means to be a salesperson; that it’s not about being aggressive and a “shark”, and that women are perfectly capable of possessing the attributes necessary to be successful in a sales role too.
Having A Large Portion Of Your Salary Rely On Commission Challenges The Gender Pay Gap.
Gender pay inequality has been at the forefront of politics and news for the last several years. The most recent research shows that Women in the United States make $0.80 on the dollar compared to men, and according to the Institute for Women’s Policy and Research, that gap is wider for Black and Hispanic Women, who earn 62.5% and 54.4% respectively.
I’ve attended a lot of “Women in Sales” meetups and events, and the common theme at these events across the board is that commission-based pay helps to bridge the gender pay gap because no matter your race, gender or background: if you work harder, stay late and make a few more calls, and are better at your job, in sales, you usually make more money.
You have control over your paycheck, and that should resonate with a lot of women. People are working longer and more strenuous hours as a trend in general, but in sales, it is nice to know that literally putting in more work and hours will lead to a larger commission check. I have had jobs in the past in which I had a full-time base salary, and no matter how successful or productive I was, I still made the same paycheck every month.
Now, I know that if I want to go on that trip to Greece this summer that is somewhat outside of my normal day-to-day expenses because city life is expensive, I just need to grind it out and go full beast mode for a few weeks to get myself to that Mediterranean oasis. There is a sense of self-sufficiency and ownership that comes with this experience, that you can’t get from most professions.
Diversity Hiring Is Your Friend
Because of the increasing social consciousness around the disparity in opportunity for all potential employees, a lot of forward-thinking companies are making diversity recruiting a priority, particularly in positions of leadership.
As a recruitment manager for the tech sales industry, I work with a number of clients that are attacking a lack of diversity in their sales hierarchy head-on by working with me to help eradicate this problem and ensure that their ratio of diverse-to-non diverse interviews is representative of the population.
Considering that there are far fewer women, and especially women of color, in sales roles, this means that if you are successful in the sales industry, the numbers are in your favor, for once.
Finding your right career path is a long, confusing and exciting journey. I often ask candidates that I speak with, what are the 3-4 most important things to you, when you are considering your happiness and fulfillment in your career? If your answer has something to do with; ownership, autonomy, opportunity, and equality, then sales just might be for you.
Julie Olsson is a Recruitment Manager at Captivate Talent, a recruitment and consulting firm. Contact Julie to learn more about job opportunities in the sales industry.