Go ahead and picture a B2B sales leader in your head. You know the type. This person crushes their quota every quarter, always ranks at the top of their company’s sales leaderboards, and was seemingly born to sell.
No really, do it. We’ll wait.
Is the person you’re picturing a man? We don’t blame you. Despite women making up over half of the college-educated workforce, women are still severely underrepresented in B2B sales across most industries. Yet a 2019 study found that, on average, women in sales outperform their male counterparts when it comes to making quota—with 86% of women making quota, compared to 78% of men.
The bottom line? Too many powerful female sales leaders are missing out on opportunities to show their C-suite what they’re made of—and too many companies are missing out on the quota-crushing results an empowered female sales leader can deliver.
We sat down with two of our own women in sales—Rebecca Earle Marsh, Business Development Representative, and Anne-Sophie Maenhout, Regional Sales Manager—to learn more about their experiences as women in sales leadership and to get their advice for the next generation of female sales leaders.
Why do you think companies would benefit from having more women in sales leadership?
“In general, having a diverse sales team is better for your bottom line,” says Anne-Sophie. “You need diversity of thought, especially when it comes to leadership. If your leadership team is made up of the same kind of person, you’re always going to think in the same direction.”
Rebecca also sees the unique value that women bring to a sales team. “We’re proactive listeners,” she says, “we get to the root of a challenge while we’re solving it.”
“There is so much research out there about the different skills that women bring to the workplace,” says Anne-Sophie. “For example, women tend to have better listening skills that we can use as a competitive advantage—in both sales operational roles as well as sales leadership roles where you need to manage people.”
Can businesses support their female sales leaders better? And do you feel supported at work?
“Continue the support that is happening now,” says Rebecca. “Keep running committees for women in their field of work‚ like Women in Sales, Women in Engineering, and so on.” Showpad has a Women of Showpad resource group that organizes keynote speakers, mentorship programming, networking opportunities, and live events to better support women’s personal and professional goals at Showpad—both at work and at home.
“Resource groups and keynote speakers are great to have,” agrees Anne-Sophie. “But the most important thing a business can do to better support its female sales leaders is to focus on day-to-day support. Like having a maternity policy and compensation policy in place that are clearly communicated, so women don’t feel the need to ask about it. ‘What happens to the enterprise deals I was working on that close while I’m on maternity leave?’ is a great example of a question to address upfront with the women on your sales teams, without them having to ask it.”
Companies also need to be mindful of the imposter syndrome and self-doubt many women feel at work. “Women often avoid applying to jobs where there are a lot of requirements they don’t believe they are good enough at, even though they are typically things you can learn on the job,” says Anne-Sophie, “businesses need to be more flexible with that.”
The same is true for internal promotions. “Sometimes women need more convincing from a mentor or senior leader to believe in their own abilities and potential for success,” says Anne-Sophie. “For example, if a sales manager thinks a woman on their team has the right skill set to go from a BDR to an AE, they should encourage her to apply. Sometimes a gentle nudge or a pep talk is all that’s needed. It’s our responsibility as managers to help our team members grow and promote them up when they’re ready.”
Who are the women in your life who inspire you? Tell us about them.
“My colleagues,” says Rebecca. “They’ve all started in entry-level roles and worked their way up. While I’m sure there were always some feelings of self-doubt that they grappled with, they never let it stop them.”
“I was inspired to go into sales by a former AE at Showpad,” says Anne-Sophie, “She was the only female AE at that point, but she never let it get to her. She knew what she wanted and let the numbers speak for themselves. I learned a lot from her. She took me under her wing, showed me everything she knew, and truly wanted to see me be successful. I owe her a lot.”
What advice or encouragement would you give to the next generation of female sales leaders?
“Don’t settle for less—know your self-worth”, says Rebecca. “Remember, there are a lot of things you can do that no one else can. Run with it!”
“Speak up,” says Anne-Sophie. “It can be difficult to make your voice heard in a room of loud voices, but you’ve got to trust in yourself. And stay true to who you are. Don’t try to be someone you’re not just to fit the image of what you think a salesperson should be.”
What would you say to a woman considering going into sales?
“Just do it,” says Anne-Sophie. “Don’t overthink it. Today, especially in tech, managers are working harder to amplify the voices of the women on their sales teams, to ensure they’re supported. I know this because I’ve seen and felt this support at Showpad.”
March 8 is International Women’s Day. It’s time to #BreakTheBias and work together to create a gender equal world. You can start by rethinking your image of what a top sales leader looks like—and empowering the women in your own sales teams.