This is part two of Scale Your Sales podcast expert interviews compendium of experience and insights that answer how diversity in sales has progressed and the interviewees offer of tried and tested strategies to scale sales.
On the question of whether the B2B sales industry has progressed around diversity?
Tom Williams stated that there just is not enough diversity in sales leadership positions.
Rakhi Voria quoted a recent study by Gartner that revealed that women are underrepresented at all levels in sales. And according to a recent LinkedIn report, women represent 39% of the workforce in sales overall. This percentage increased by only 3% over the past decade. Not surprisingly, the percentage decreases as seniority increases, with the lowest rate of women represented in VP and CXO positions. Rakhi said only 21% of Vice Presidents in Sales are female. Shockingly, the CEB Global reports that the sales function has the second largest gender equity gap of all corporate functions after supply chain. The lack of diversity goes beyond women, stating that it is essential to recruit from non-traditional sources, we need a sales force that reflects our overall customer base and world population to connect with prospects.
It is the reason for her new book, She Sells, says Lori Richardson. Lori believes right now we have an opportunity to improve sales leadership with more diversity and inclusion – and hopes that the time is not squandered. This is a difficult time for women sellers, said Lori, women have many demands while working from home, with home-schooling, worried about elderly relatives and increased the potential for illness to happen.
Nikki Finucan said diversity is the key to every aspect of an organisation and not just Sales. When we are buying something or looking to advance our careers, we all want someone we can relate to on many different levels. More must be done, said Nikki, to consciously to achieve this result. Companies need straightforward programmes, explicit quotas, as this will be the only way to turn the tide. Naturally, you can argue that the best person deserves the job, and that is true, however, with ingrained bias, to begin shifting mindsets, drastic short term actions are needed.
Enza Burgio said we have a long way to go on diversity in sales. Enza was lucky to work for a large US Corporate who put diversity extremely high on its agenda. Hence, she worked in sales teams where 50% were women although much reduced when it came to minority groups. It is positive that Sales have always been predicated on capability, but there is still deep bias.
Similarly, Carole Railton said she was lucky enough to feel there is no glass ceiling. Carole managed nine sales and marketing operations in the Middle East for Xerox, another major American corporation. Carole ran an international software house and was the first female sales training manager in Xerox UK. She has been in the unusual position of being the only businesswoman in first class on a BA flight she said the cabin crew had no idea what to do with her.
Carole Railton’s advice is to call out any and everyone at every opportunity even if it is your manager, as only by improving behaviours can we learn and become the society we deserve to be.
Bev Hancock said the sales industry is a place that all people can thrive. As a woman in business, she has found that my ability to connect and find common ground has been one of her greatest assets. In South Africa, Bev sees the industry opening up, especially with young millennials coming into their own, bringing a breath of fresh air into the world of business and sales.
Colleen Stanley said diversity in sales needs to first start in the home and schools, and not corporate America or the UK. How many parents are encouraging their children to go into the sales profession? Universities are finally catching up by creating minors and majors in sales, demonstrating that this is a career path, just like accounting or medicine.
Kristie Jones said diversity is slowly, at best and racism is alive and thriving. She admits that some of it is unconscious bias in hiring, but some are not unconscious. As someone who works almost exclusively with tech start-up companies, Kristie sees more diversity in companies with Millennial Founders. However, Kristie said, women, minorities, and LGBTQ founders are still being underfunded by white-male run VCs. Until we increase minorities founders, Kristie does not think you can expect to see an increase in diversity and inclusion. Kristie said, “we can fix the diversity issue, but the concept of inclusion is in the eye of the beholder. Just because we hire women, minorities or LGBTQ, doesn’t mean we will feel included or equal”.
Some sectors are promising when it comes to diversity and inclusivity, said Leigh Ashton, but most salespeople and sales leaders in the 21st century are men. There are initiatives to attract more women, and from my experience of being a judge at the Women in Sales Awards, there are some amazingly talented women in sales that manage their careers and family commitments with grace and grit.
In episode 42 of Scale Your Sales podcast, Lisa Earl McLeod and I discussed Black Lives Matter, with our personal experience of growing up for Lisa in the USA, and me the UK. We discuss the inequalities of our experiences, so check this out.
Answering what one tried and tested strategy experts would you offer on how to scale their sales, there was a wealth of insights:
McLeod offered three tired and tested discovery questions:
- Identify how you make a difference? So, you are moving from pleasing customers to improving customers.
- How your offer makes a difference? How do we do it differently than the competition?
- On my best day, (self-reflection) what I love about my job?
These three questions help you to shifts the lens of how you bring your Noble Purpose to life in your sales process.
Rakhi Voria said they split inbound and outbound – Topo benchmark report suggests 59% of companies have already moved to this model. Helps build the competence of skill to focus on the two activities separately –the Initial results have been positive.
Talk to your client about potential next steps early in your relationship, said Enza Burgio. Show that you are there for the long term, not merely to get the sale and turn a transaction. She said it is not just about giving hires the initial tools and formula for sales success but being there over time with a road map to help them achieve the next level.
Everyone has a list of prospects, existing clients and past clients. Lori Richardson says an often overlooked way to grow sales is the third list of those who could refer multiple clients on an ongoing basis. These are your strategic referrers, follow up methodically with them in the same way as prospects and clients.
Know the macro and the micro, said Tom English Get a handle on the pains and opportunities of the market you serve and then zoom in on your customers to understand more about their needs and how you can help them specifically.
Bev Hancock said to get your foot in the door and then focus on the relationship, relationship, relationship. The old adage that people buy from people remains true even in this digital age.
My recipe has always been to strategically partner with my clients. Make a point of getting to know their business, always give more value than they pay for. After the first couple of deals, it is not a sales conversation but rather a continuation of the relationship.
Colleen Stanley said consistency is key! Consistency in executing sales activity. Consistency in setting aside time to develop into a trusted advisor. Consistency in practising new skills. Consistency in reaching out to mentors for advice. Talent is overrated; sellers and sales leaders are consistent.
Building sales processes and strategies for clients, it is always in the back of her mind, said Kristie Jones, that it must scale. Maybe there are only three sales reps now, but it must be sustainable at ten or more. Have a solid and formal sales process that is proven to be successful said Kristie.
Carole Railton body language expert said, understand yourself and your actions/body better. Only by knowing yourself and how others perceive you, can you adapt to the needs of your client. When you can do this, she said, then you can manage, understand and adapt to many different situations that will help you succeed faster than you thought possible.
Nikki Finucan said to be human. Especially right now. Relate to people and stop pushing! Do not call or email, vomiting how great you and your company are, instead, identify and understand the problem the client is facing. Once you know their specific pain point, you can fix it as partners or walk away. Set a task to follow up 12-months continue to interact with them on social media without expectation. You never know what may happen and be OK with recognising right now is not the right time.
Leigh Ashton said a crucial element to scaling your sales is to understand how your thoughts impact your results. Change your thoughts that get in the way of sales success, to thoughts that have a positive impact on sales growth.
Tom Williams said to manage your time diligently. Set aside a block of time each day to prospect and do not let naysayers get in your way of getting it done. If you have a full-funnel of opportunities and are good at service customer needs, you will always make or exceed your sales quota.
If you missed part one, the expert interviewees discussed how customer-centric the B2B selling environment is and offered practical strategies to enable buyers to buy and seller to build long-term trusted customer relationship. Make sure you check it out.
Scale Your Sales podcast is a weekly show interviewing experts and influencers that offer insights to scale your sales. It is a platform for B2B executives, sales leaders, key account managers and customer serving professionals engage with lively conversations on customer experience and buyer behaviours, business growth and modern sales know-how. You can view the show on YouTube, iTunes or the popular podcast platform.