Lessons to Learn From Women in Sales

Do women sales reps have an advantage over men?

Retail manager holding meeting with employees
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Though women in corporate leadership roles are still underrepresented, women make up a large portion of the sales force in many companies. Multiple research studies have shown that, due to differences in social conditioning, work environment, and cognitive development, women in sales often approach their work differently than their male counterparts.

While there are multiple strategies that can be used to make sales successfully, the tactics used by women in sales provide a new blueprint for customer interaction that can benefit both sales reps and companies.

Nonverbal Communication Matters When Selling

Studies have suggested that women pay more attention to nonverbal communication, which can give them an advantage on the sales floor.

Failing to listen closely ​during conversations with customers can cause a sales rep to miss important concerns or opportunities in the sale cycle. But the words customers say are only part of how they communicate. You can also learn more about customers by paying attention to body language and nonverbal cues such as:

  • Vocal tone
  • Posture
  • Hand gestures
  • Physical orientation
  • Eye contact

These cues can provide insight into customers' interests and concerns. They can also indicate how customers feel about your suggestions, questions, and sales tactics.

Picking up on these subtle signals can help sales reps decide whether to stick to a certain sales tactic or change course. This can give you an edge over less attentive coworkers when it comes to in-person time with customers.

Customers Want Sales Reps to Listen, Not Talk

Some research suggests that women have a tendency to listen more closely in conversation than men do. Women in sales may spend as much as 80 percent of their sales time listening to what customers are saying and only 20 percent of their time talking.

Sales reps who spend most of their time talking are likely to focus on the product being sold and its features, without taking time to understand whether those features are relevant to what the customer wants.

By contrast, listening closely to the concerns and needs of customers creates a more personal relationship and helps you understand what benefits will actually influence their purchasing decision. When customers feel like you understand their problem, they are more likely to trust you and eventually purchase the solution you present.

A common phrase in sales states than, "telling is not selling." In other words, it's more important for salespeople to listen to their customers than to talk.

Focus on Work Ethic to Advance in Sales

Since women have been largely excluded from the traditions of leadership within sales, they've found themselves outside the contemporary power circles of the world's largest companies, regardless of their willingness to work hard and close deals.

In spite of these structural limitations, however, women have continued to push toward inclusion and equality, both on the sales floor and at the executive level. The biggest lesson to learn from women in the sales force is the drive to stay focused, listen tirelessly, and remain dedicated to improving one's unique value—even when others don't fully recognize your worth.

Article Sources

  1. Itti, L. and Shen, J. (2012). Top-down influences on visual attention during listening are modulated by observer sex. Vision Research, [online] 65, pp.62-76. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004269891200171X.

  2. Cohn, Carolyn. Why Women Are Successful Sales People Online and Off. [online] CompuKol Communications. Available at: http://www.compukol.com/why-women-are-successful-sales-people-online-and-off. 2019.

  3. Tinsley, C. and Purmal, K. (2019). Research: Board Experience Is Helping More Women Get CEO Jobs. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2019/07/research-board-experience-is-helping-more-women-get-ceo-jobs. September 16, 2019.