While we can talk about the style of leadership, I think most agree that one of the primary mandates of a sales leader, is to ensure that they equip their team with the best resources; be that IT resources or human resources. We have seen sales tools grow exponentially over the years, as an example, a recent piece I read suggested that there are over 3,000 apps available on AppExchange. Many at best, offer an incremental gain. With limited budgets, and the fact that much of “what’s in their stack” has proven to be disruptive and negative impact it has the front line and their results. Knowing which resources to bet on can demand Solomon like wisdom.
So it is more than odd, and surprising, that sales as an industry, and a majority of sales leaders continue to miss, overlook or perhaps avoid, acquiring and fully exploiting a resource that is widely available, with a proven track record of not just delivering better results than the go-to alternative, but is usually in a more cost effective fashion.
What am I talking about? Women!
While this has been a focus for some, a topic of discussion for others, progress has been slow, which is a shame given that it is 2017, and that some 40% of existing sales reps will miss quota.
A survey from CEB (now Gartner), shows that sales ranks second to last in the percentage of women making in leadership rolls. Women made up only 19%, second to Logistics and Supply Chain (17%), and a far cry from Finance with 43%. The reality may be a bit better among the rank and file, but having spent a lot of time working with front line teams, the numbers are not much better. The fact that most leaders come from within the ranks, the number of women in leadership roles is like a factor of lack of women candidates in their ranks versus male candidates.
Some tell me that they are aware, but then rationalize that it takes a lot of effort, a lot of time, and while they would like to accelerate a new reality, they are up against the elements. Some may buy that, but those of us from Canada, know that it really comes down to three little things every corporate leader has, or should have. Vision, resolve, and execution. When our prime minister took office in 2015, he made it a policy to have his cabinet reflect the country, and then took steps to make it happen, no excuses. I guess he executed. I am not a Liberal Party fan, but you have to give credit where credit is due.
Other than the political halo, the outcomes for Trudeau may have been difficult to calculate upfront, the same is not true in sales. As you can see from the infographic below, adding women to your sales team is a no-brainer. A higher percentage of women attain quota than their male counterparts; they earn a lower average total variable pay and base pay is lower, including a lower commission rate; and they have a lower attrition rate, meaning when you train them, they drive a better return. On a daily basis I have sales leaders lament to me their inability to find good sales talent, it baffles me why they don’t look at the obvious.
This situation will change slowly, and the reality is that first movers will have not only an immediate advantage, but one that they will have for some time, here is why. As a woman, with skills, which organization would you join, a male dominated one, with “clear ties to the past”, or one where women are represented at all levels of the organization, front line to executive suite. As women gravitate to the latter, they will attract other women, giving them a further advantage of the upside women bring. Not only that, but since all but one other industry have more women in leadership roles, it is likely that they will steer their business to those organizations they can best relate to; I keep hearing people buy from people, and it is usually people like them.
It seems this challenge and opportunity have no barrier other than ones outlook and will to win with a proven winning team.
You can learn more about this by checking out “Gaining the Talent Advantage: The Case for Gender Diversity in Sales”.