The sales field has a leadership gap in gender representation that is hard to deny. According to Gartner, though women account for 50% of the entry-level sales talent pool, only 30% of senior sales leadership, 23% of sales rep, and 15% of frontline sales manager roles are held by women.

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Let me start by saying, there are many great experts in the HR and talent fields who spend their entire day focused on inclusivity, particularly as it relates to diversifying our workforce.

Though I am not an HR professional, I am a seasoned sales consultant who has seen the power and impact of hiring and developing gender-balanced sales organizations. I have also seen the failures of well-intentioned teams who miss the mark when it comes to successfully adding women to their teams.

Times are changing. I can't tell you how delighted I am when I conduct on-site training and see more than three women sitting in the audience. It’s sad to say, but it is progress.. I'm seeing teams become more diverse and more inclusive of women in their sales force and on their leadership teams.

Having a more gender-balanced team creates a win-win for all. According to Harvard, teams that have a balanced gender mix bring in more sales and profits than male-dominated teams. They also found teams with fewer women report lower sales than those with a more equal gender mix.

Here are some ways you can create a more gender-balanced sales team.

1. Reach out to candidates directly.

LinkedIn reports women are 16% less likely than their male counterparts to apply for a job after viewing it. Furthermore, they found men apply to 20% more jobs than women do.

As you approach hiring for a sales team or hiring for any team for that matter, you may naturally find more male candidates coming inbound to you. Don’t limit your hiring efforts to inbound candidates.

If you are looking to hire more women, begin reaching out to candidates directly. The days of reaching out and saying "Hey, I have this great opportunity that I'd love to talk to you about" are over — companies have to lead with a more compelling message to win over talented candidates.

If you want a candidate, particularly a woman, to pay attention and notice your message, you need to take a different approach.

Consider the experience they’ve shared on their profile. Why would they be a good fit for your team? What is their potential for growth within the organization? What culturally are you doing to pave the way for women in the workplace.

While all of these points don’t necessarily need to be part of the initial conversation, highlighting one or two in your outbound efforts will increase the likelihood of you receiving a response. The interview and hiring process is a two-way street, and qualified candidates should want to work with your organization.

2. Include women in the interview process.

When interviewing for a role, I personally want to see myself mirrored within your organization. What does success for women look like at your company? How have you taken steps to include women in your leadership team? What impact does this have on your culture? Seeing and hearing from women currently working within the company helps me better understand what it would mean for me to join.

So what does this look like? I recommend having at least three different women involved in the interview process.

First, you’ll want to include an individual who is a peer — someone in the same role or on the same level of the organization as the candidate would be. The second is a direct line manager. This could be the candidate’s manager or another first-line manager in the company. And finally, a member of the senior leadership team. It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone in sales. It could be a leader of the product team, marketing, or operations.

The point is to model what leadership opportunities exist within the company. You want the candidate to have a clear example of what it looks like when women take the next step within the organization. Chances are, the candidate will have questions about their potential for growth within the organization, and can benefit from hearing a diverse set of perspectives.

3. Have candid conversations about company culture.

It is essential that all members of the interview process can candidly speak to the company culture.

I was raised to believe we are all judged by the company we keep. This is important to keep in mind when trying to get into the mindset of a potential hire.

Candidates don't just look at the job description anymore. They look at the company’s stance on important issues and the strength of the brand. And now that most professionals are using LinkedIn regularly, they are aware of what story they want to tell and what narrative they want to create about your career and journey.

A big part of that is assessing the company culture as they navigate the hiring process. That can include everything from your work flexibility policies to benefits and how your company handles matters such as maternity, paternity, and family leave.

The days of companies leading with "Hey, we play beer pong in the office, and we are a work-hard-play-hard kind of team" to attract candidates are completely gone, especially if the company aims to diversify its workforce.

I have a firm belief that everybody wants to be heard. Making sure your candidates and team members feel heard is incredibly important. I have gotten feedback from women who work on teams where they are in the minority who say they feel like their voices are not valued in their organizations.

That is hard to hear and it is on all of us as employers hiring managers and colleagues to build a team and create a culture where employees of all genders feel safe and empowered to share their ideas and concerns.

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Originally published Apr 27, 2020 7:30:00 AM, updated May 01 2020


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