For female sales reps, knowing what to avoid might be as important as knowing how to succeed.

Multiple studies have linked gender-diverse sales forces with higher levels of profitability. Yet there remains a disturbingly disproportionate number of female sales reps who are celebrated for their successes, especially as measured by the number of women who hold leadership positions in the sales industry. And even though men are terminated from their sales positions at a rate 38% higher than women.

If you’re intimidated by a male-dominated sales room – don’t be! A recent study of more than 30,000 sales calls showed that women have an 11% higher win-rate than men. Other studies have shown this is especially true, maybe even higher, when working with other women. And here’s a fun fact: women make up more than 90% of purchasing decisions in their households, according to Harvard Business Review. So whether you’re selling home insurance, real estate, cleaning services, or anything else home-related, you already have an advantage with the majority of most B2C sales.

female sales reps

Women in sales

According to the infographic cited above, as of 2014, women comprised about 39% of the sales workforce. While that number represents a 3% increase over a ten-year period, it still demonstrates an under-representation of female sales reps compared to their male counterparts.

Some factors may explain these statistics, but one thing is sure: If gender-diverse businesses tend to be more profitable, it follows that hiring more female sales reps is good business.

But are women and men measured equally when it comes to success? If your sales floor is measured by the numbers, as most are, then you are. Salary? That’s another can of worms we’ll touch on in a second. However, women unfortunately still struggle with being viewed the same as their male counterparts, even when the numbers are the same.

And while it’s unacceptable to put all the onus of change on the women— the system itself needs an overhaul —there are some things women can consider to help advance their sales careers while society continues to play catch-up with gender equality.

lead-managerlead-managerWomen help improve profitability, and so does sales CRM software that puts your needs first. Schedule a free demo for an in-depth look at how our software can raise your bottom line.

female sales rep

How to get ahead

First and foremost, among things that contribute to success, is to be persistent. Whether male or female, the success of so many sales reps can be attributed to never giving up. This is more challenging if the barrier to success is gender-biased, but letting the system get you down won’t do much to change it. When female sales reps believe in themselves, they position themselves to succeed. Knowing that you have an advantage on the sales floor in B2C sales, as proven above, should add a huge boost to your confidence.

Another success factor is to embrace the qualities of femininity that enhance selling performance. For example, many studies suggest that women are better listeners and tend to pay more attention to detail. (Except for this one, that said women interrupt more and listen less). Use these traits to your advantage. All the best salespeople listen to the needs of their prospects, noting all the nuances of the business problem and finding ways to meet each of those needs. If the studies bear any truth, women should be somewhat better at this than men.

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Katrena Friel, author of Sex Sells, says that women have such a huge benefit in sales because it’s typically a male-dominated field with a masculine energy, and women bring a feminine energy which naturally lends itself to sales:

“This makes the experience of selling, a more rounded and balanced affair compared to the way it used to be done in decades past,” she says.

“Skills typically seen as feminine give women a natural advantage over men,” Friel says.

“Women have access to feminine energy so they can help nurture a client, multi-task with a client and be social with a client.”

“They also have no problem accessing their masculine energy to close a sale.”

“Men can also be just as good at sales, as long as they can access their feminine energy.”

Distinguish yourself as a leader amongst female sales reps. Identify a niche in your market and build upon it. Make a reputation for yourself that overshadows gender bias. Doing so often requires the vigilance mentioned earlier, but establishing yourself as an industry expert is a surefire way to find success in a male-dominated industry.

female sales reps

What not to do

So what should female sales reps avoid? Most importantly, don’t try to sell like a man. Gender equality doesn’t mean men and women do things the same way. As the studies above have shown, men and women tend to have different strengths in sales, and while they can overlap across all genders, embracing the differences that do exist, empowers you to use your personal selling advantage to get ahead.

In the past, LeanIn.org founder and Facebook COO, and Sheryl Sandberg has advised women to combine assertive messages with traditionally female characteristics, like empathy and friendliness. If you’re in, say, car sales, it’s been shown that females are considered more trustworthy than their male counterparts in sales, so trying to mimic your male colleagues actually puts you at a disadvantage.

Also, don’t give answers when you can ask questions. While this is generally good sales advice across the board, it’s critical for women since it has been shown in study after study, they are often viewed negatively when they assert dominance. Of course, women should display confidence, but you can also lead prospects, coworkers, and superiors to their own answers by listening to their responses to your questions. This is good sales advice for anyone.

Perhaps most importantly, don’t stay silent. When opinions or ideas are offered, throw yours into the mix. Don’t wait to be asked for your ideas, don’t worry about how your male colleagues might view you, and don’t worry about being wrong. Female sales reps who aren’t afraid to make mistakes will enjoy more success than those who are afraid to step out on the limb. This is also helpful in salary negotiations, as studies have shown that women are less likely to ask for what they want than their male colleagues.

female sales rep

Women make sales better

At the end of the day, the numbers all suggest that increased numbers of female sales reps contribute to more profitable businesses. Women have been shown to make the most purchasing decisions in their households, and prefer to work with other women in sales. Additionally, female salespeople bring new ideas and fresh approaches to the table and are crucial to making businesses successful. Just as gender diversity improves all other aspects of life, so also does it improve the ins and outs of the sales industry.

lead-managerlead-managerWomen help improve profitability, and so does sales CRM software that puts your needs first. Schedule a free demo for an in-depth look at how our software can raise your bottom line.

Are you a woman in sales? To what do you contribute your success? What advice would you have for other women out there? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.