As Inside Sales teams grow at explosive rates, so do the leadership roles and job openings that support them. A recent AA-ISP study indicated that finding qualified talent was a key challenge as was developing tomorrow’s leaders. On top of this huge challenge, the association sees an imbalance of the percentage of male to female leaders. The CEB just reported their research that only 19% of sales leadership (department head to GM level) are held by women. Last year, LinkedIn’s research indicated a similar 20% of VP level sales jobs were held by women.
Well known sales author and speaker, Jill Konrath, states “A career in sales plays to a women’s natural strengths of connection, collaboration, and preparation” http://bit.ly/1SDmgd9. If this is the case, why don’t we see more women in sales leadership roles?
Representation by women in business starts to fall somewhere between mid-level manager to executive ranks. The opposite is true for their male counterparts. (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 2011 Job Patterns for Minorities and Women in Private Industry). Some of the reasons are widely being bantered about these days – here is some of what Women Sales Pros President Lori Richardson reports:
- The pipeline is not big enough – there are not enough women in the system – already in roles serving as a farm team for the next sales leaders.
- Unintentional discrimination – often a CEO looking for his next VP Sales will look for someone with characteristics like him if he came through the sales ranks. VP Sales often do this when hiring or promoting team leaders and frontline sales managers.
- Strong potential candidates, both male and female, need to be sponsored, not just mentored – it is not enough to offer advice and support to an up-and-comer, it often takes sponsorship by an executive to help pave their path and speak up on their behalf. This does not happen enough for women in the sales organization, or if it does, it is usually a mentorship by a lower-than-executive level person in their company.
- Women themselves need to stretch out of their comfort zone – learn what is needed for them to shine and succeed. Step up and go for that seat at the table.
With leadership at its core, the AA-ISP believes in the importance of such attributes as caring, empathetic, decisiveness, a good listener and highly collaborative… skills which many women possess.
It’s time we take this challenge seriously! As the industry leader for a growing community of Inside Sales professionals, The AA-ISP is taking a stand in support of women in sales and sales leadership roles. Here are some of the things we are doing:
- MENTORSHIP – The AA-ISP has a mentorship program which is made available to all members. Women are encouraged to participate as both protégé’s and mentors.
- DISCUSSION GROUPS – Most AA-ISP conferences now include a discussion group focused specifically on the advancement of women in sales. We work with local businesses and thought leaders in selecting women in leadership roles to sit on these panels.
- SUPPORT FOR WOMEN SALES PROS- The AA-ISP has teamed up with Women Sales Pros, a community where women sales leaders, sales reps, and sales thought leaders are showcased – and we are working with them in the coming year to identify potential speakers, connect companies to candidates, and gain key research. You will probably see WSP at a sponsor table at many of our events in 2016 because we are committed to action.
- WOMEN IN SALES AWARDS – The AA-ISP supports WIS Awards program which includes mentoring the winner of the annual Inside Sales professional award recipient.
The above areas are certainly a start, and we have a long way to go. I am encouraging everyone within the Inside Sales community to consider the following:
- MORE WOMEN PRESENTERS in your company and at events: Women who present provide an excellent opportunity to act as visible “role models” for other women. AA-ISP conference sponsors are encouraged to consider selecting women to present their topic. AA-ISP Chapter Presidents and Officers are similarly encouraged to search for women presenters for appropriate meeting topics.
- DEVELOPING & PROMOTING: I would encourage current Inside Sales leaders, whether male or female, to support the advancement of women in sales at your current organization.
- FEEL COMFORTABLE TO DISCUSS: Change can be tough, and change can be slow. By working together we can see progress sooner. Start by talking about it with any of us at AA-ISP.
We encourage a push for more women sales leaders not because we think you should, but because it makes business sense. Overlooking top candidates who happen to be female can cost your company in a number of ways. Xactly Insights discovered that women reach higher quota attainment than their male counterparts, and we know that companies who add women to their board of directors are 42% more profitable. Let’s work together and see some forward movement in 2016!