Sales is still a boys’ club. Women in sales explain why

Although women in the workforce has increased to 46 per cent in the UK, women are still underrepresented in sales. durhamlane's female sales specialists, sales recruiters and an accredited leadership coach explain why sales is still seen as a boys' club.

What image comes to mind when you hear the words “sales person”? Even today, in 2017, the phrase still conjures up stereotypes of an aggressive, pushy car salesman, probably wearing a shiny suit. The vision in people’s minds will most likely be that of a ‘salesman

Amy Palmer, sales team leader at durhamlane and responsible for building and developing the UK sales team for simPRO, believes that this misconception is holding women back from considering sales as a career. “Unfortunately, I feel women still think that a sales job would be more suited to a man and that men would more likely have the skills.”

In fact, only 39 per cent of sales related roles are represented by women. When it comes to leadership level, 81 per cent are taken by men and this hasn’t changed over the last ten years. It seems that we are stuck in a perpetual cycle. “In most of the sales roles I’ve been in, I’ve been one of a couple of women or the only female,” she remembers. “This male dominated industry can be quite daunting when you start in a role.”

Women just do things differently

A sales executive at durhamlane, choosing to be called just Millie, knows about the stigma women in sales are facing: “Women can not sell. This is an objection we face as soon as someone answers the phone. But I always break the ice when I’m having a longer conversation with the customer, because I am listening to them.”

“Women naturally take more of a consultative approach to sales which gives a level of relationship building”, Palmer explains further. “I don’t think women give off the vibe of a hard sell.”

Alison Freer, durhamlane’s accredited leadership coach, confirms these observations: “Analysis of personality types against the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and Insights framework shows a clear gender difference in three key areas: women tend to be more extraverted and engage others in conversations more than men. Relationships, interpersonal harmony and integrity of values are key drivers for women, who are more likely than men to report a preference for planning and decisive actions.”

Whilst there are always exceptions to these trends, female sales professionals will more often achieve sales success by nurturing trusted relationships with a wide variety of customer personalities. Women are more likely to be driven to succeed in sales by relying on these skills to sustain long-term partnerships with customers and sales colleagues.  

Women change the sales game

Smart sales leaders understand the value saleswomen bring to the table. “Where consultative selling is now the norm, women have a distinctive edge”, says Carol Ann Tomlinson, managing director at CLS Performance Solutions.

Phil Mulvain, sales recruitment manager, adds: “We are currently in the process of recruiting sales people for CLS Performance Solutions and the female candidates are all very capable in building strong, ongoing, trusting relationships. That’s what the modern buyer is looking for and it creates value for both the customer and the vendor.”

“It’s not only their skills and attitudes that make women top sales candidates”, Mulvain continues. “Companies must also take into account that women are increasingly influential decision makers in B2B and B2C. So, missing their perspective at the table can lead to costly mistakes.”

Helping women thrive

There are ways we can escape the vicious cycle of attracting more women for sales roles and enable personal development. durhamlane’s Freer sees the first action in creating inclusive workplaces: “Inclusion means respecting everyone and including them for who they are. It is the responsibility of company leaders to identify and develop the strengths each individual brings to the table.”

“At durhamlane, we use personality dynamics analysis in our sales training with team leaders, team members and with customers to ensure people are aware of different personality traits and so they learn how to effectively interact with each other and with clients,” Freer continues.

It is durhamlane’s mission to raise the bar of the sales profession and to make it a profession EVERYBODY is proud of. The women in their team play an important role in making this change happen. The female members at durhamlane proactively take responsibility to attract more women to the team. “We want to be role models”, Lauren, the third woman in the durhamlane team explains. “Sales can be very rewarding and I was lucky enough to work in such a light hearted and supportive environment where I can rely on help when I might hit a wall.”

Ultimately, if you’re thinking of a career in sales go for it, concludes durhamlane’s sales lead, Palmer. “Make sure that you stand out and don’t be afraid to be heard. Always be yourself and don’t try and be like anyone else in sales. My 15 year career in sales has helped me grow as a person, meet some amazing people from all walks of life and most of all it has built my confidence up over the years not just in my job role but in everyday life! I couldn’t see myself in any other job role.”

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.