How Women In Sales Can Succeed In The Male-Dominated Industry

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Sales used to be an industry dominated by men. Why do you think we still default to “salesman” rather than “salesperson”?

However, there are more women in the job market today than ever before. In fact, women make up about 45% of the workforce in the United States. And sales is no different; as the number of women in the workplace rises, so does the number of women in sales.

Men vs. Women in Sales

Like men, women can be excellent at sales. And like men, some women struggle at it. The qualities of a top salesperson are the same. Everyone needs confidence. And everyone needs a process for collecting leads, following up, and closing sales. But a person’s level of confidence and the quality of their sales system depend much more on the individual than on their gender.

That being said, there are parts of sales where women generally have an advantage. For example, many women get better results in prospecting. Women listen differently than men. And whereas men may listen to see how their solution fits your problem, women hear the emotional undertones of the conversation. They can often figure out a customer’s real problem and offer the best next step. Men, however, often push people to the next step without considering what the correct next step should be.

That also means men generally close more sales, more quickly. They’re less concerned with the emotional implications, not overthinking each step, so they negotiate to close and then move on.

Yet, these are just stereotyped advantages. While some women hold an advantage in face-to-face or phone prospecting and men take the advantage in negotiation, individual work ethic is much more important.

The Most Successful Women in Sales

Some of the most outstanding salespeople I know are women. And, though the sales industry is often perceived as a “man’s world”, some of our most groundbreaking leaders have been women. From Mary Musgrave, who used fur trading posts to establish peace with the Europeans during the 1700s, to Estee Lauder, who introduced the idea of incentivizing purchases, to Oprah Winfrey, who is often called “the most powerful woman in the world”, women have been revolutionizing sales for hundreds of years.

Those women were successful in their own right. They didn’t do the same thing as everyone else in their time. They didn’t learn how to succeed in sales by copying the people before them. Instead, they listened to others and found the approach that worked best for the surrounding needs. They didn’t let gender stand in the way of using their strengths to succeed.

Sales Tips for Women

People who make it in sales are disciplined and intentional. They have a plan for how to do business and who to work with, and they make it all better with their personal strengths. So, if you’re wondering how to succeed in sales, here are three tips for moving in the right direction.

1. Have a System

The single biggest differentiator in your performance is how you move prospects through your pipeline. Man or woman, you need a way to keep track of people, no matter where they are in the sales process.

2. Capitalize on Your Own Talents

What are your talents as an individual? Leverage those to your advantage in the sales process. Whether your strengths are gender-specific is irrelevant. It’s all about how you use your best qualities to move clients through your system. Focus on your own strengths.

3. Look for Leadership

It’s always helpful to work with and for strong leaders. It’s not as common as we’d hope for new salespeople to surpass the leaders who train them. Usually, you’ll find the best people in sales have a good leader… and good leaders have good salespeople.

There aren’t just good salesmen. There are great salespeople. And today, we’re glad that more of those people are women.

3 Characteristics of Successful Salespeople

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Salespeople come in all forms. Some are pushy. Some play hard to get. Either way, the best in sales have a charisma that seems to come naturally. They connect with prospects, gain trust quickly, and can find conversation points with anyone.

Yet sales require more than charm. There’s a difference in being a charismatic person and a top salesperson. Whether you were born charming or not, success in sales means capitalizing on the skills you have.

Think of your natural strengths as muscles. Yes, you were born with them, but if you don’t build them up, they won’t amount to much.

By practicing these three characteristics of successful salespeople, you’ll develop your sales instincts to their potential.

1. Tenacity

Obstacles are inevitable when you’re trying to make a sale. Top salespeople power through those hindrances to move the sale forward. You’ll hear “no” repeatedly. The tenacious person persists and keeps chipping away at the stumbling blocks.

Related: A Day in the Life of a Successful Salesperson

There are plenty of opportunities to give up. Yet the most successful salespeople understand that the customer may not really mean “no.” Often, the customer just needs help overcoming an obstacle and better understanding the product. Determination can turn that initial “no” into a successful sale!

2. Prospecting

A strong salesperson markets constantly. Most people close a sale, get busy working with that client, and temporarily stop generating new leads. This natural mistake leads to inconsistent sales numbers. Never stop looking for new deals, even right after a big deal.

The best salespeople do this to a fault. A true hunter can’t help but go out and get the kill, making sale after sale. As soon as one deal closes, they’re on to the next potential client. Often, they’ll even neglect a new customer because they’ve filled their time prospecting.

Instead, be intentional about your post-sale relationships. Pass your new clients to a customer support team if one is available. If not, build time into your schedule for existing and potential customers. When you allot time for each, your schedule can work to your benefit.

3. Mastering the Schedule

Schedules aren’t cages, but rather guidelines to maximize each day. Choose a time frame for phone calls to follow up with prospects and make appointments for the next day. Then spend the rest of your day going to appointments.

Successful sales people schedule appointments based on location. They focus on one area of town at a time rather than driving back and forth from one meeting to the next. Choose a location. Then see as many people in that area as you can. If you find a nearby prospect, stop by (even unexpectedly) to maximize your time in each place.

Related: How to Write the Perfect Sales Email

When you categorize your day by task, just looking at the clock tells you what you should be doing. I always spent my mornings booking appointments for the next day and following up from the office. Then, after lunch, I went from one appointment to the next. If it was after noon, I knew I should be out making face-to-face contact. If I didn’t have an appointment, I found a way to meet someone and generate business.

Developing Your Sales Team’s Skills

As a manager, promote these traits among your sales team. Choose people that have really developed one of these characteristics and showcase their success. 

For example, if you have a tenacious salesperson, set up mock presentations where they can demonstrate how to overcome objections. As your determined salesperson unpacks the “no” and tries to turn it into a “yes,” they’ll teach others some strategies for jumping common hurdles. If you have team members who really need improvement, use the mock presentations to help them cultivate these skills.

Sales strategy may be rooted in natural ability, but it doesn’t stop there. If you want to learn how to be a successful salesperson, develop these traits and build yourself into the sales typhoon you hope to be.

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