Ms. Sales Professional
Do Women Have a Sales Advantage Over Men?
When many think of someone in sales, they think of a well-dressed man. While many in sales are male, women have earned a well earned and much-respected position in the sales industry. Ultimately, the level of success that a sales professional enjoys is up to them: How hard they work, how dedicated they are to improving their sales skills and how focused they are on providing excellent service to their customers.
There are, for better or for worse, certain traits that seem to increase a sales professional's chances of success and some that, due to prejudices or limitations, restrict or make success more challenging for some. A factor that many wonder about is whether or not being a woman creates an advantage in the sales industry over men.
Attention to Detail
In many sales positions, being attentive to details is a key element of success. Not listening closely during conversations with customers often causes a sales rep to miss important statements, concerns or opportunities. While certainly not governing all, women have a strong tendency to be stronger when it comes to paying attention to details than do men.
If true, this attention to detail not only gives women an advantage over less attentive men when it comes to customer face-to-face time but also when learning about trends in a particular industry. Someone who is attentive to trend-details may be better equipped to provide more timely solutions to customers as well as to be aware of potential industry contractions.
Many sales trainers, coaches and experts will agree that "telling is not selling." This means that it is more important to listen than it is to talk. Much like being more attentive, several studies suggest that women listen better and more closely than do men.
Writer Carolyn Cohn has suggested that women in sales spend as much as 80% of their "sales time" listening to others and only 20% of their time talking. This factor alone could be the reason why many women are successful in sales.
Entrepreneur, author and business professional Even Carmichael suggests that in many of the critical success factors needed for long-term sales success, men and women are equal. However, Carmichael suggests that women are 25% more likely to make cold calls than are men.
Prospecting reluctance is very common in the sales industry, so the more likely a sales rep will make prospecting calls, the more likely they will be involved or exposed to more sales opportunities. Making the calls that most don't want to, it seems, is a key factor in why women may have an advantage over men in the sales arena.
More Motivated for Success?
A major motivating factor for many in sales is the opportunity for advancement to management or leadership position. According to the Harvard Business Review, as of 2013, only 3% of the "C" level positions were held by women. This limited number of women in leadership roles has inspired some companies and corporations to be more eager to promote successful women.
Ultimately, successful businesses promote the most qualified people for leadership positions, but if all things are equal, there may be more benefits realized by a company to promote a woman over a man.
Are women better at sales? Is there any substantial evidence that points to this conclusion? As with success in any industry, it comes down to the individual. If it is true that women are more attentive, better listeners, more inclined to prospect, and have more opportunities for advancement that do men, then women should have an advantage over men in the sales industry.
But like any advantage, if the advantage is not used, then it ceases being an advantage at all.