My Thoughts on The Women in Sales Summit

Janice B Gordon Women-Sales-Summit-Diversity-300x300

The Women in Sales Summit held on 27th June 2019 was the first but by no means the first Women in events for the organisers Maddox Events

I was speaking and focused on my contribution to the audience before lunch. After that, I engaged in conversations with many interesting participants and speakers. There were five concurrent streams and so I missed many of the sessions and therefore this article is not an overview of the day, only my thoughts.

Why a Need For Women In events?

I had a recent conference call with a young man for the Netherlands who felt that positive discrimination was against men. I presented the evidence on why it is not against men but for everyone. Why without these initiatives that system, processes unconsciously designed to negatively impact women, and unconscious bias, will continue to keep organisations in imbalance. The impact on the parity of pay and opportunity means we have better and balanced decision-making, innovation and business growth which benefits everyone.

Although we were talking about positive discrimination at the Women in Sales Summit, however, it is a safe environment to discuss any issue affecting women in sales and to share the experiences of others who have broken through the barriers. The Summit highlights the contribution women have already made in the Sales sector that, and like many other sectors, struggle to attract women and strive to open senior-level opportunities for women in sales.

The business advantage of all diversity (not just gender) to apply a range of diverse perspectives to the problems that companies face and must solve, will always deliver broad and considered solutions.

Why Diversity Helps Companies Sell More?

One reason, says Claire Edmunds, CEO of Clarify and leader of the APS community group on diversity and inclusion (D&I), “is that people from a wider variety of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds, including both sexes and a range of age groups, will inevitably come up with a more imaginative range of solutions when they hit a problem.” Edmunds adds. “Equally, the cultural match between seller and buyer is a predictor of sales success.”

The Harvard Business Review demonstrates if there is a connection between buyer and seller, the team member who shares a client’s ethnicity is 152% more likely to understand the client’s perspective. “Without diverse leadership, women are 20% less likely than straight white men to win endorsement for their ideas; people of colour are 24% less likely, and LGBTs are 21% less likely. This costs companies crucial market opportunities because inherently diverse contributors understand the unmet needs in under-leveraged markets.”

To discover more, there is an excellent report from APS and EY on Performance Leadership. The study compared the performance of 22,000 account teams and showed a significant difference in performance between the diverse groups and those that were not.

Back to The Women in Sales Summit

First, Veronica Hollingsworth did a marvellous job chairing the day’s panel discussions on the main stage, Brave New World.

My highlight

The Summit focused on five themes, Sales: Diversity, Technology, Toolkit, Mindset and Strategies. All talks and workshops were about sharing personal experiences, best practice, challenging the status quo and giving takeaways to increase sales.

Although I learned from the content as it was on my knowledge level, it was the experiences shared that inspired me most. ‘How I Got Here’ on the main stage, was Cassi Roper presentation.  Not a confident speaker but her story and the authentic way she shared it with no ego and all heart, got me emotionally.  If you can do this as a speaker, you are a compelling presenter. I learnt that it is not confidence that wins it is commitment and determination.  The message of persistence also came through in Nasma Qurban presentation.

The Diversity Panel Discussions

Colt Technology,‏ Paula Cogan, women’s network founder and VP Enterprise & Partner Sales said, summed up the sentiment of the panel saying, “diversity was the cornerstone of a successful sales force”.

The lunch and breaks were long enough that you got into great conversations with a variety of people.

My Three Takeaways

  1. Model other women, there are not nearly enough women role models, which means you must go out and find them. You only know who they are if you get out of the office to events like this Summit and find them.
  2. Many of the panels iterated the importance of finding a mentor, ideally an internal sponsor or an external mentor or coach. Mentoring does not have to be a formal arrangement; network and arrange a coffee with women further ahead and ask questions. Many of the speakers credited their journey saying they did not get to where they were today without the help of a mentor/coach.
  3. I have carried with me the words of Richard Branson for 20 years, “say yes and find out how after” The positive message from the main stage was that persistence pays off.

Well done to the wonderful Maddox team for delivering a memorable event Women in Sales Summit. I connected with the most remarkable Women in Sales and enjoyed the insights from the day.

Although not everyone will buy into Women focused events or even positive discrimination initiates but as I ask my Netherlands friend, if you can come up with a better way to address the imbalance, I would like to hear it. (silence;-)

When I attend events like the Women in Sales Summit I am always impressed with the high calibre of people, the quality of content and the collaboration within the network, such that you do not see in mainstream events.  I come away energised to do more and inspired to keep up the persistence!

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