Welcome to the second installment of our Sell Like a Girl Series. Last week we explored gender bias in sales. Today, we’re continuing the conversation by celebrating a group of incredible women from a variety of sales organizations who have made their mark in the world of sales.
As we hear from this group of high-performing women, we want to remind our readers that this is not just a celebration of their accomplishments, but also a recognition of the obstacles they have overcome. As a quick refresher, here are some important statistics around gender diversity (and bias) in the world of sales:
- In 2022, Sales was ranked as the occupation with the tenth highest wage gap between men and women– with women earning $.91 to every $1 earned by their male counterparts (source).
- Although women make up just over half of the college educated workforce, they hold less than one third of B2B sales jobs (source).
- McKinsey & Company’s report “Diversity Wins” found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity in terms of leadership roles were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile. These same companies were less likely to have employee turnover rates (source).
We believe that the experiences and insights we share in this blog post will shine a light on both the struggles women in sales face but also on the strengths and achievements of women in sales. In doing so, we hope to show the next generation of women that sales is a viable career path for women.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it! Here are some of the incredible responses we received to the following question: What advice would you give your younger self before starting your career in sales?
Natália Senra Costa, Account Executive at Project44
“People buy from people and everyone needs support. Support your buyer, help them prove value when needed. Be the orchestrator behind the deal and always provide support.”
Chalen Schoyer, Principal Sales Engineer at Spiff
“Be confident in your negotiations. Whether that’s within a sales cycle or negotiating salary/benefits. Confidence comes from doing your research and knowing the market value. Every little bit counts and compounds over the life of the contract or the term of your employment!”
“With regards to negotiating salary, I think a lot of the pay disparity between men and women in the workforce comes from women tending to be non-confrontational and lacking the skills to negotiate when presented with an initial offer. One thing I’ve learned from sales is that the initial offer/quote is almost never the final offer and there are always creative ways to meet somewhere in the middle through negotiation.”
Kandace Banks, Senior Enterprise Business Development at SetSail
“Show up authentically. We often try to change who we are to fit in the perceived mold of what we think a great salesperson sounds like or how they perform, but we forget that we are each unique and that’s what makes us shine differently from our teammates. Don’t dim your light to impress someone else. Be authentic and make them dim theirs!”
Charlotte Glikman, AE at Amazon
“Sales doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all profession. If you fear you don’t fit the stereotypical “salesy” mold, lean into your strengths and what comes naturally to you. In my case, that’s teaching. My client meetings are led with education, not selling. Not only does this help me to earn the trust of my clients, it also helps me feel more confident when speaking to my clients because I’m tapping into my natural strengths.”
Amy Plante, Sales Engineer Team Lead at Spiff
“Don’t get discouraged by the losses as they’re inevitable and even necessary to become a better seller.”
Alexine Mudawar, CEO of Women in Sales
“If I could go back in time to my first sales job, I would tell myself to keep pushing forward! I was working countless hours and facing constant rejection. I’d tell my younger self that all of the hardships were to prepare me for something bigger. Keep pushing ahead, doing the right things, and controlling the controllables– you’ll soon see all of the work come to fruition and blossom into something even greater than you could have ever imagined!”
Jenny Ehrlich, Enterprise Account Executive at Spiff
“Love what you do and success will follow. Focus on the positive, learn from the losses, and always be your authentic self which will lend itself to building trusted relationships– having an impact on your success in the present and future.”
“The best combination in sales resulting in success is to work with a great team however you personally define that, a product you relate to and believe in, and an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Marissa McNeely, Senior Sales Manager at ZoomInfo
“My one piece of advice starting out is to not be afraid to fail– while it takes time to build resiliency against our fear of rejection, I wish I knew earlier how much I would learn from it. Some of my best sales stories came from my most difficult wins.”
Alison Varney, Sales Development Manager at Spiff
“Harbor relationships cross functionally with other teams sooner rather than later. By the time I was ready for a promotion, that was when I would begin networking with the hiring manager, the associated team, and I often found those who climbed the ladder faster were those who were networking within their company.”
“I would recommend to anyone new in a role or at a company to begin to build strong bonds not only with your existing team, but with the teams of where you eventually may want to land. Begin researching career paths to build laser focused goals to achieve!”
Kelsey Kaeding, Manager of Sales Development at Bottomline Technologies
“Stay curious. Ask questions and challenge the ‘norm’. In these moments is when we learn the most and grow fastest. Don’t settle for the status quo!”
Cassidy Snopek, Inbound BDR at Spiff
“Each day can be different, and it won’t always go your way but each encounter is a learning experience and you have to make the most of it to succeed.”
Allie Harrison, Partner Development Representative at Hotel Engine
“Being in sales isn’t just for cis men, especially tech sales. You have to stick with it and do the job with grit and perseverance as it’s a merit-based role. Lastly, give yourself some grace and be healthy in your working habits. You can’t do your job well if you aren’t truly taking care of yourself.”
Erica Bukowski, Inside Sales at Evolve Vacation Rentals
“Make the phone call. Stop hiding behind the email. For the greater half of my sales career I always feared talking to someone who had 20+ years of experience on me. If only I had picked up the phone and made a personal connection back then, it would have made a difference in my sale. Always remember you are the expert in what you are selling. Pick up the phone and own it, the results will be far greater.”
Angela Donato, Director of Mid-Market Sales at Spiff
“Be a sponge, listen, and be naturally curious. Do this with all successful AEs and leaders, not just with the ones you get along with.”
“In the beginning, I wanted to come in as confident and that I knew what I was doing. When you’re just starting out no one expects you to know everything or know how to answer specific questions or objections.”
“It’s OK to not know everything, but the best thing you can do for yourself is research and come prepared.”
Miram Ebrahim, Brand Sales Leader at Yelp
“Be humble and ask more questions!”
Kate VanLue, Director of Sales and Partnerships at The Juice
“I’ve been in sales for over 15 years. I’ve sold in all environments in a variety of markets, from direct-to-consumer transactional sales to Enterprise accounts with 6-12 months+ sales cycles and right in the middle with SMB and Mid-Market SaaS. I’ve been successful in all of these environments. I’ve had the privilege of leading teams in these environments. I’ve worked with so many talented sales professionals who have taught me and influenced how I’ve evolved along the way.”
“When I look back, what stands out about every top-performing individual and team I’ve worked with and been part of is that there’s no replacement for pure hard work. You can’t fake it and you can’t hide from it. In my experience, the loudest sales reps with the most opinions are usually not the top performers in the room. Don’t make excuses, blame other departments, your boss, etc. Do the work. Let your numbers speak for you.”
“Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean don’t ask questions or speak up or self-advocate. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m not shy with my opinions, but with likely few exceptions, I’ve always earned them. Keep your head down and do the work and you’ll be successful.”
Jessica Brooks, Inbound BDR at Spiff
“Activity isn’t productivity and in order to become the best at this job, you have to find the biggest challenge and face it head on. You’ll never grow if you only make the easy calls.”
Courtney Thompson, Enterprise Account Executive at 6sense
“You’re not going to have your dream job right away, but if you stay patient, ignore the noise, and work hard it will come faster than you think.”
Flannagh Fitzsimmons, Sales Representative at Jobcase, Inc.
“It will get easier because you’ll have the resources to deal with it. Try the things that scare you, make hard decisions.”
Shilo Riddle, VP of People at Spiff
“My first job ever was cold calling and booking appointments. Soul crushing in so many ways. If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of advice, I would have told myself to find the joy in the process. Find a gem in the day, and look for the silver linings all the time. Cold calling sucks! Turning a day of cold calling into fun and making your day a pursuit of joyful moments really does make the “hard calls” an easier part of the process to get through. Find the fun not the fear.”
Katie Lane, SDR Manager at UJET
“If I could give myself one piece of advice before starting my first sales job is that change is constant and you will always have to roll with the punches. Whether it’s the economy, the way people respond to prospecting or a new process thrown your way, embrace it. Push yourself to try new things, new ideas or new ways of doing things to adapt with the times.”
5 Most Common Pieces of Advice from Women in Sales
When we look at these individual responses as a whole, a few common themes stand out. Remember, these responses come from female sales leaders across different industries, experience levels, and locations– yet, there are some universal truths that seem to ring true for many women in sales.
- Authenticity is a super power. Be true to yourself. Don’t try to fit a stereotypical mold or be someone you’re not. Embrace your unique strengths and use them to your advantage.
- Start building relationships on day one. Trust and relationships are crucial in sales. Don’t wait to build strong connections with your colleagues or your potential buyers.
- Learn to be resilient and to persevere. Failure and rejection are inevitable, but they offer valuable opportunities for growth and learning.
- Curiosity and willingness to challenge the status quo will help you get ahead. Always be learning, asking questions, and seeking new ways to improve your craft.
- Preparation and confidence are key. Come prepared, do your research, and know your worth going into any kind of negotiations.
That just about wraps up today’s article. A big thank you to all of the wonderful women who participated. Join us next week for the third installment of our Selling Like a Girl Series– where we’ll be exploring the wage gap in sales and unpacking the contributing factors that ultimately lead to women earning less than male colleagues in sales roles. See you then!
Spiff is a new class of software that creates trust across the organization by delivering real-time automation of commission calculations and motivates teams to drive top-line growth. With a combination of an intuitive UI, real-time visibility, and seamless integrations into current systems, Spiff is the first choice among high-growth businesses. Spiff’s sales commission software enables finance and sales operations teams to self-manage complex incentive compensation plans and provides transparency for sales teams.