How to Succeed as a Female in Sales: 21 Tips from the Experts

Times are changing. Women now have a significant presence in many industries, including sales. LinkedIn statistics indicate that women represent 41% of the active sales workforce — and this number continues to grow. World-class organization know there is a strong business rationale for ensuring gender diversity on their sales teams because women bring different skills and perspectives to sales. As a result, companies with a sufficient female presence on their sales forces outperform less diverse companies.

As more women seek to advance their careers and move up the corporate ladder, we have compiled a list of 21 tips from Women Sales Experts.

Here are 21 tips from female sales experts on how to succeed as a woman in sales:

1. Learn agility

Jill-KonrathJill Konrath

Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author of More Sales, Less Time, SNAP Selling and Agile Selling

“Want to succeed as a female in sales? With our ever-changing business environment, the key to success is learning agility. Personally you need to keep up on trends, stretch your knowledge, develop new skills, and experiment with fresh approaches. Also, create an environment that challenges your reps and managers to grow and find better ways. Before long, with everyone working at the edge of their comfort zone, you’ve up-skilled your entire team. Plus, you’ve captured their spirit; they’ll work harder and feel good about it.”

 

2. Have a sponsor within your company

lori-richardsonLori Richardson

President, WOMEN Sales Pros and CEO of Score More Sales

“Understand the difference between mentors and sponsors — and have a sponsor within your company. Mentors can be very helpful in building a sales leadership career to improve specific skills or learn to maneuver within corporate politics. A sponsor is a senior leader with power and influence within an organization who can get your name in front of others with power and influence. This is critical as a woman leader because someone may not consider you for a new role or project simply because you are not on their radar.”

 

3. Distinguish yourself

kendra-leeKendra Lee

President of KLA Group and Author of The Sales Magnet

“Successful female sales pros distinguish themselves. Differentiate yourself from other people in your sales role, both within your company and outside it. Figure out what you do really well and perfect it. Become known for it. Be the person that everyone turns to for advice on how to do it. Your leadership and peers will seek you out. Customers will recognize you do it well and value you for it. Your differentiation may be as broad as using a collection of prospecting strategies to gain access faster and more creatively than your peers. Or, it may be as specific as using social selling to research and foster relationships with target prospects.”

 

4. Ask questions

shari-levitinShari Levitin

CEO and Professional Speaker at Levitin Group and Author of Heart and Sell

“One thing that helped me succeed as a female sales professional is remembering that anything that can be told can be asked. You may have heard the term “bossy” is a gendered word. Women are often labeled as “bossy” when using the exact same phrases as their male counterparts. So what’s the solution? Rather than making accusations or statements when you disagree or intend to motivate, ask questions. Stop talking. Listen empathetically to the response. Statements trigger logical and even fear responses. Questions, on the other hand, trigger creative thinking and emotions. Don’t you think?”

 

5. Keep up or get left behind

colleen-stanleyColleen Stanley

President and Chief Selling Officer of SalesLeadership Inc. and Author of Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success

“Growing up in a family with four brothers taught me quite a few lessons — one that has helped me throughout my career both as a seller and a leader: Keep up or get left behind. Gender doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can keep up with the top players’ pace and activities. I am comfortable selling to both men and women because my focus is on ‘keeping up’ and staying relevant. Buyers don’t have time to waste and if you aren’t adding value to the conversation, you will quickly be left behind.”

 

6. Own the success of you

trish-bertuzziTrish Bertuzzi

President and Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group, Inc. and Author of The Sales Development Playbook

“The rules of success for achieving as a salesperson are no different for a man than they are for a woman. The #1 tip I would tell anyone moving into the sales profession is to set goals for yourself that are outside of your quota and make sure one of them is perfecting your craft. If you rely solely on your company to provide you with the skills that you need you will be sorely disappointed. You own the success of you.”

 

7. Stop trying to be something you are not

ann-davisAnn Davis

VP of Sales at Journey Sales

“Most female sales executives, at some point in their careers, get caught in the trap of thinking, believing, or acting like they need to be part of the boy’s club. Focus on being your authentic self. Understand your skills, strengths and areas of development and most important believe you bring qualities to the team which makes everyone better. Being a valued member of the team and making others better is something female executives do very well. Don’t be afraid to take risks, trust your gut and reach beyond your comfort zone as you are often very surprised at the positive results you can achieve.”

 

8. Be both confident and curious

bridget-gleasonBridget Gleason

Executive Advisor/Consultant at Sumo Logic

“Be both confident and curious. Many studies have shown that women feel the need to ‘check all the boxes’ before applying for a job or taking on a new challenge. Men don’t have that same inclination. In order to lead, a woman must exude confidence, and be comfortable with the fact that she might not have all the answers and that mistakes and failure are part of the package. Equally important is the quality of curiosity. Curiosity strengthens relationships. It fosters agile thinking. It facilitates deeper insights.”

 

9. Get rid of the head trash

liz-cainLiz Cain

VP of Go-To-Market at OpenView Venture Partners

“Want to succeed as a female salesperson? Get rid of the head trash. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to be something you’re not; trying to fit the mold of the ‘sales persona’ the tech industry has coined. You cannot listen to the nay-sayers, care about the stereotypes, or consider reasons to doubt yourself. There is no inherent difference that makes women less qualified or able to do the job. Wipe the slate clean and focus on being an exceptional leader – invest in people, care about the customer, and relentlessly drive to results.”

 

10. Have a sales mentor

christina-mcquillanChristina McQuillan

Client Engagement Manager at Peak Sales Recruiting

“If you want to succeed as a female in sales, I highly recommend finding a sales mentor. Having a sales mentor has been a key factor to my success. The benefits of a mentor are endless: it helps boost your self-confidence as a sales professional, provides you with the insights needed to tackle aggressive goals, and helps you take control of your career. Consulting with industry experts will allow you to gain valuable guidance and challenge your perspective.”

 

11. Know your product

dianna-geairnDianna Geairn

The Irreverent Sales Girl

“The fabulous thing about being in sales is that it is a merit-based profession. If you make your numbers, exceed your goals, get more sales, you will be a top performer – no matter whether you are a man or a woman. Personally, I have always made it my business to know my product better than anyone else. I also have studied, studied, and studied the masters. And, I’ve gotten to know myself well. Know your strengths, play to them, and never stop learning or trying. If you adopt a “whatever it takes” attitude, nothing can stop you!”

 

12. Be curious

joanne-blackJoanne Black

Founder of No More Cold Calling and Author of Pick up the Damn Phone! and No More Cold Calling

“Want to succeed as a female salesperson? Speak your mind with confidence, tout your ideas, and come prepared to defend them with data. Ask for advice from people you respect. Your most important trait is curiosity. Be curious about your company and how it will grow. Be curious about your clients. Learn their businesses, broker innovative solutions, and continue to learn and grow based on your curiosity. Above all, be genuine. The best way for women to succeed in our profession—and any other—is to believe they have what it takes and then prove it.”

 

13. Keep the faith

bernadette-mcclellandBernadette McClelland

Founder and Director of Sales Leaders Global Pty Ltd

“It’s the road less travelled in many instances for women in business — in sales or leadership — and most times we second guess ourselves based on so many different factors — feedback, lack of feedback, uninvited feedback. My advice to women who are emerging leaders or established leaders is to keep the faith. Keeping the faith, to me, is a knowing. Just knowing that by putting one foot in front of the other and with an intention that is to make a difference, you will succeed.”

 

14. Be visible and vocal

natasha-sekkatNatasha Sekkat

VP of Sales Development at Turbonomic

“Many women shy away from the spotlight and don’t assert themselves enough in the workplace. This is a challenge because, in fact, you must be visible and vocal in order for leadership to see what you bring to the table and how you can add value to the business! Three ways to accomplish this are to: get to your meetings early and make sure you get a seat at the table; come prepared with meaningful questions or thoughtful insights on the topic at hand; and don’t wait for someone to call on you to speak, jump in the conversation even if it means forcing your way in. Being visible and vocal will help you build your reputation and further your advancement.”

 

15. Don’t wait to speak up

emmanuelle-skalaEmmanuelle Skala

VP Sales & Customer Success at Digital Ocean

“Don’t wait to speak up until you have all the answers. No one wants to be wrong – but women tend to care about this more than men.  Women will hold back until they are 100% certain while men are ok with tossing out some hypothesis and guesses.  This leaves you out of the conversation.  Don’t wait until you have all the facts – your judgement and instinct are your assets so use them.”

 

16. Emulate a top leader

janice-marsJanice Mars

Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude

“As a female sales leader in a male-dominated sales world, you still have to make your numbers and keep your margins down but your leadership presence will be more scrutinized. Think about the meetings you’ve attended. Is there someone who listens intently, and when they do provide their insights, everyone in the room hangs on to their every word? You know the leader I am talking about. Be genuine to yourself, but to the best of your ability, emulate that leader.”

 

17. Play your strengths

mary-jacobsMary Jacobs

Director of Center for Sales Innovation at St Catherine University

“My recommendation for women in sales is to play to their strengths as good listeners and strong communicators. Don’t be afraid to let your intuition and instincts guide you in decisions when you are reading a situation and people in a sales meeting. Your gut reaction is usually right on.”

 

18. Take up more space

juliana-crispoJuliana Crispo

Founder of Startup Sales Bootcamp

“By nature as women, we take up less space and space plays a role in the energy in the room and one’s confidence levels. So physically force yourself take up more space than you normally do. By this, I mean stretch, spread out, and hold your head a little higher. Once you start doing that, your confidence will increase and the results will show up in the quality of your work.”

 

19. Excel at being excellent

alice-kemperAlice Kemper

Founder of Sales Training Werks

“In order to succeed as a female sales leader you need to do 5 things. Firstly, you must excel at being excellent — don’t settle for mediocre. Secondly, you need to get recognized. Toot your own horn and be your own champion. Do not leave this up to others. Thirdly, Get out of the office and into the field with your reps. Build your team with them in the real world. Fourthly, talk with your reps often. Learn how to have effective and efficient conversations for great coaching and the unplanned conversations. And finally, hire a coach. Your time to performance escalates and you’ll end up in fewer land mines.”

 

20. Lead like a woman

jane-gentryJane Gentry

Principal of JaneGentry & Company

“Want to be a top sales leader? You don’t need to lead like a man – gaining compliance through rewards and punishments. Although this has been a successful leadership style in the past, Millennials, who will soon be the majority of your workforce, respond well to a more authentic, collaborative, transparent kind of leadership – a leadership style more naturally attributed to women. Historically, women have made accomplishments in business through influence or inspiration because they didn’t have the authority to make things happen. Now that you do have the authority, don’t fool yourself into thinking you need to behave like a man. Your natural leadership style will make you very successful – embrace it!”

 

21. Stand up for yourself

barbara-giamancoBarbara Giamanco

President and Social Selling Advisor at Social Centered Selling LLC

“Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. It is not uncommon for women to share an idea in a team meeting only to have a male counterpart subsequently take credit for it, whether accidentally or on purpose. Don’t let that go. Additionally, always be confident in your abilities and when you believe in a clear path forward don’t be afraid to stand your ground, even if others don’t agree.”

 

Put these 21 tips to use and visit the Peak Sales Career Blog for the latest actionable insights on how to advance your sales career.

 

Taylor Dumouchel

Marketing Specialist at Peak Sales Recruiting
Taylor spent her first years in the recruiting business helping employers find top performing sales executives and then worked her way up through the ranks, becoming a specialist in marketing and an expert in B2B sales and hiring matters. A graduate from the University of Ottawa, she regularly contributes to the Peak Sales blog.
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