Why are Women the Future of B2B Sales?
They seldom say “You can’t be what you can’t see,” and the B2B sales floor is no exception…
Over the years, sales and business development roles have been male-dominated and competitive job functions.
And historically, a major chunk of the workplace diversity dilemma came down to a matter of resources. That simply put, there weren’t enough women in the sales market.
But, while many B2B companies are taking positive steps to improve diversity, it’s crucial to recognize that much work remains to be done.
Although women make up just over half of the college-educated workforce, yet they still hold less than one-third of B2B sales jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data (2019), females are underrepresented in B2B sales in most industries, including wholesale, manufacturing (27%), and financial services (30%).
However, research shows that female sales reps often outperform men.
They’re the real movers-and-shakers who are creating powerful ripple effects and paving the path for the next generation of women sales leaders.
Another 2019 study reported that 86% of women achieved sales quota, as compared to 78% of men.
The Changing B2B Sales Scenario for Women (Today) :
The B2B sales landscape has been shifting in ways that favor females in sales roles.
We think the COVID pandemic will lead to a step-change further in this trend.
Research shows that women succeed in sales by excelling at different capabilities than men.
It analyzed the performance of 500+ salespeople across several industries, including financial services, industrial services, and health care.
Well.. high-performing women were more likely to emphasize connecting, shaping solutions, and collaborating. While high-performing men relied more on improving and driving outcomes.
For analyzing and influencing, there was hardly any measurable difference between the genders.
Today’s digitally-savvy, self-sufficient, and more informed B2B buyers have new expectations of sales reps. Buyers expect them to add value beyond what digital tools provide.
To do this effectively, B2B salespeople need capabilities for collaborating with clients and shaping solutions.
And these capabilities, focused on addressing client’s needs, have become more important for B2B sales success than persuasion capabilities, such as influencing clients and driving outcomes.
This plays to women’s strengths.
The crisis we’re facing today has put a deep freeze on many industries. As we emerge from this pandemic and commerce thrives again, the shift to remote selling using digital channels will have a lasting impact on sales.
This will additionally boost the power of women, as capabilities at which women excel align perfectly with the morphing world of B2B sales and the evolving needs of clients.
How can women bring revolution in B2B sales?
Now let’s consider the traditionally male-dominated industry of financial investment sales.
In this case, technology makes clients (investors) less reliant on financial advisors for many needs.
The “Robo-advisor” computer algorithms can analyze investments and make portfolio recommendations. B2B investors can execute their own financial transactions online. But even highly self-sufficient investors are more likely to turn to advisors for help with longer-term financial and estate planning needs.
All the decisions involved in these issues are complex and emotional. Advisors thus create value by listening, empathizing, and sharing perspective to facilitate agreement among family members. And hence, the capabilities at which women excel — connecting, shaping solutions, and collaborating — have become increasingly important for success in a financial advisor role.
The skills of women are also becoming more and more relevant in the fast-growing, once male-dominated field of high-tech B2B sales.
Growing proportions of business technology sales are subscription-based (such as SaaS products) or consumption-based (such as cloud services), rather than one-time purchases.
The most value comes not just with the initial sale, but rather over time as clients benefit from the purchase and expand purchasing.
This trend has resulted in growth of the number of customer success managers (CSMs) — salespeople who encourage customer loyalty and retention by helping customers realize ongoing value.
The CSMs succeed by connecting, collaborating, and shaping solutions; once again, these are capabilities that are women’s strengths. Although women hold just a quarter of high-tech B2B sales jobs, career data sources report that at least 50% and as high as 70% of CSMs are females.
As of April 2020, women were leading global client success teams at some major tech companies, including Oracle and Salesforce.
And if you believe us, that’s just the start!
RELATED POST: The Impact of COVID on Women
What Can B2B Companies Do To Boost the Number of Women Employees in Sales?
Future sales success for many B2B companies in the rebounding economy will hinge on attracting and retaining more women employees for sales roles.
This can further require eliminating the perception of sales as an old boys’ club and creating a more female-friendly culture.
Several programs are helping B2B sales organizations attract and retain more women. We’ve tried to enlist few of them below:
1. More diversity-focused recruiting
Many B2B companies are making gender diversity an explicit goal of sales recruiting, committing to specific objectives for sourcing, selecting, and attracting women.
Companies are reaching out to sources of female job applicants, such as professional associations for women in business-to-business sales.
They are making job descriptions more attractive to females by toning down the masculine language. For instance, replacing words like “aggressive” and “compete” with gender-neutral language such as “client-focused” and “succeed.”
Job descriptions are also emphasizing problem-solving over client entertainment responsibilities.
Further, by including more women B2B sales leaders on job candidate interview panels, companies are getting a diverse perspective about candidates’ qualifications while reinforcing a female-friendly culture that attracts female applicants.
2. Run female mentorship programs
A financial service firm fostered community among women in its male-dominated sales organization by assigning each new female sales rep a female mentor in the B2B sales organization.
Female mentors can help sales reps get acclimated and answered questions about topics that females were earlier reluctant to discuss with male colleagues. Few Examples are traveling alone, having dinner with male clients, maternity leave.
Another idea is to host a “lunch and learn” session where female sales reps can talk openly about sales’ challenges and their solutions.
With female mentorship programs, women can build relationships with others they once looked up to and felt comfortable confiding in.
3. Grant more promotions
In an insight study, we found that women-led sales teams had roughly equal numbers of men and women, while men-led teams had more than three-quarters men.
Therefore, promoting more women to sales management and leadership roles is a clear cut path to attracting and retaining more female sales reps.
Another great way to develop female leaders is to champion women for stretch roles and responsibilities that test and develop their managerial skills.
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for all you do:
Gender diversity in B2B sales is not just about social justice.
Today, it is about increased performance and better results.
The solutions we mentioned above are just a start, but there is more work to be done.
Our B2B Sales & Marketing Consultancy firm can help you build your sales and marketing strategy effectively and efficiently.
As client’s expectations of sales reps continue to evolve, attracting and retaining more women for sales roles will be a key to future B2B sales force success.
Note to all the women out there ruling in the world of B2B sales:
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for all you do!