No two customers are the same and an organization’s sales force needs to be as diverse as its customer base. More inclusive and diverse workforces better understand the customer and have a higher chance to outperform the competition.
Sales organizations and teams that embrace diversity have a more solid footing in the market, achieve higher customer and employee retention and earn more wins. A study by Xactly showed that the most diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their competition. To implement diversity and inclusive behaviors is no easy task, but small steps taken by leadership can make a large impact.
Diversity Can Lead to Company Success
Peers are the real influencers and our peers are rising. When the company selling embraces diversity and can offer varying perspectives, it can greatly impact a purchasing decision. We are seeing more women executives, more women senior leaders and more women buyers. In a 2019 Benchmark Study, respondents concluded that customers increasingly consider diversity when making buying decisions. A good – or great – diversity record correlates positively to all sales performance indicators and expertise, word‐of‐mouth, and reputation are still highly valued.
Studies have also found, including the Xactly report referenced and a 2019 report from Accenture, that a company with more diverse representation in senior management will likely achieve greater profits. Gartner Research also found that 62% of companies with 45% or more women in their sales ranks drive higher-than-average levels of profitable revenue. Sales has long been a white male-dominated profession, but anyone can reach the top. When they do, it tends to pay off for companies.
Steps to Achieving Diverse Success
It’s important to note that there are typically two types of sales organizations when it comes to wanting to achieve diversity. The first type is that they haven’t looked at diversity inclusion before but have seen the “diversity trend” and feel that it is important to follow suit. This group is metrics driven and is looking to achieve a certain amount of either racial or gender diversity on their boards, on their sales teams or in their entire workforce.
Typically, the second type is a company dealing with retention issues and think that diversity, and an open environment will enhance employee happiness, achieve higher customer retention and lead to business success. Both motives are not wrong, but boil down to the vision and intentions the leadership has. Bottom line, if you want your company to grow, and develop at a global scale, diversity is non-negotiable. To reach diverse customers with diverse backgrounds, you need diverse sellers, which includes ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender.
Every sales leader can take these steps to promote diversity and inclusion, whether you’re at a Fortune 500 tech company or a growing start-up:
Be transparent. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to share your story. Why are you committed to diversity? What will you be doing to make a change? This will encourage employees to become involved and invested in the initiative, and feel comfortable addressing the problems or offering up creative solutions. It will also keep you accountable, because once you inform the team, you need to execute.
Reward inclusive behaviors. This is such an easy and simple thing to do that can go a long way. One of the best ways I’ve found is to encourage and reward employees for doing something that was inclusive is a simple note through a chat channel or email. I let them know that I, and leadership, both recognized their behavior and appreciated their work and attentiveness to the initiative. This small gesture will show that their actions can impact others and prove that you take it seriously as a boss and/or leader.
Be open to ideas. Believe it or not anyone can be impacted by exclusive behavior. When you roll out your inclusive vision and potential initiatives for your team or organization, it’s likely that some employees will become excited and have creative ideas to suggest. This is a good thing, and it’s important to let people help you. While it might not be something you originally thought of, or perhaps it’s outside of your comfort zone, it’s another person’s perspective, which is exactly what diversity is all about. When employees feel involved and excited about promoting diversity and inclusion, they will be more comfortable in their workplace and achieve higher success.
There is still much to be done to achieve equality and diversity, but there are choices we can control. By taking simple steps in the right direction, organizations can move toward a common goal and build more diverse sales teams to reach more customers, leading to a more desirable workplace and increased revenue.
Jacklyn Walsh serves as an Enterprise Account Executive at Upland Altlify, where she works with B2B customers to make their revenue teams more successful through world-class methodology and smart enterprise cloud software.