By Cynthia Barnes
Founder and CEO
National Association of Women Sales Professionals (NAWSP)
Women in general face challenges in the workplace, but women in sales are in a unique position. First, they are underrepresented. According to a report in Forbes, about 39% of the sales force is made up of women—but this figure only represents an increase of about 3% over the last decade. And, only 21% of Vice Presidents of sales companies are women—and the percentage of CEOs and company presidents doesn’t even chart. While women may be woefully represented in upper management and the sales industry may not adept at attracting new talent, but there are women in sales who are thriving. Here’s why:
Women Are Great Communicators
It may be a cliché, but most women like to talk. We’ll talk in the grocery store, we’ll talk on the train, we’ll talk on our smart phones on and off all day. Women who are good at sales are also good at communication. It’s not just about talking, though. It’s about listening and responding with the right replies. If you listen to aggressive sales people, the type that most of us will run from at the car dealership or in appliance store, you find that they have an agenda—a load of bullet points they’re bound and determined to hit. But nobody wants to feel bombarded. Women who are effective in sales handle these interactions with finesse—they’re able to shift gears based on what customers are saying.
Women Are Supportive
We all know them—the best of the best. Women who are born to nurture their family, friends, and, sometimes, even complete strangers. Their kindness is inspiring. These are the types of women that make exceptional team players because they’re supportive of one another. Women in sales have to compete, but let’s face it—everyone in the workplace is forced to compete on some level these days. But rather than compete with one another, women can use their nurturing skills to build a supportive team designed to compete with other companies—not with one another.
Women are Self-Reliant
The idea of building a team where women encourage and support one another is great—but what about women who are all alone in male-dominated sales departments? In these situations, women have to exhibit self-reliance, especially if she’s left to feel unwelcome in ‘the boys’ club.’ What can the lonely-only sales female do in this situation? Learn the product or services inside and out. Learn them—master them. Knowledge is powerful and when you are struggling to fit into an office culture, learning new information and skills can ground you and set you up for what’s next on your career path.
If you’re a woman and are thriving in sales, think about sharing your best bit of advice to our Facebook community. If you’re a woman and feel like you’re struggling, tell us why. Help us to understand what you go through. We’d like to spotlight some topics that are most relevant to our membership. Feel free to send us an email and let us know what subjects would be most helpful to read about. As our women in sales community grows, we want to inspire one another with meaningful content designed to enhance our careers and lives.
Cynthia Barnes is passionate about women sales professionals. She created a movement by founding the National Association of Women Sales Professionals to create support and community to help women break through barriers and succeed exponentially in corporate sales roles. With over 12,800 members and growing, she has her finger on the pulse of women in sales. While her commitment to women in sales takes her around the world, she is proud to call Southeast Michigan home. Connect with her on Twitter @cynthiambarnes